What you need to know about Babylon

There is no person who does not know anything about Babylon. Everyone has heard of the Tower of Babel, the confusion of tongues, the Babylonian pandemonium, the harlot on the seven-headed beast. All this is the legendary Babylon. But what was he really like? We'll tell you.

God's Gate

Babylon was founded by representatives of the very first civilization in the world - the Sumerians, in the III millennium BC. Then it was a small settlement that did not play any significant role in the life of the country, despite its big name - Kandingirr, which in Sumerian means "the gate of God". Subsequently, the city more than once passed under the rule of the kings of Akkad - a state that eventually swallowed up Sumer. In 1894 BC. BC, when the city was captured by the Amorite leader Sumuabum, the first king of Babylon and the founder of the I Babylonian dynasty, the population of the city was already predominantly Akkadian. Therefore, Sumuabum began his reign by renaming Kandingirr. More precisely, he simply translated the ancient name into Akkadian, which henceforth began to sound like "Bab-or" - Babylon, "the gate of God." Only what god the Sumerians had in mind first, and then the Akkadians, is unknown.

Ancient metropolis

To say that Babylon was a major city is to say nothing. It was a real metropolis, which for 15 centuries remained the main trade, economic, political and cultural center of the East. What are written, what archaeological sources say about the unprecedented size of the capital of ancient Mesopotamia. According to Herodotus, Babylon had the form of a quadrangle, where each side contained 120 stadia, which is equal to 22 km. That is, according to his description, the total perimeter of the city was 88 km! And this is only within the city walls, not counting the adjacent large latifundia and villas of wealthy citizens.

Archaeologists, however, believe that the "father of history", as always, slightly exaggerated. The results of the excavations show that the total area of ​​Babylon during its heyday, that is, in the 7-6 centuries BC, did not exceed 10 square kilometers with a population of at least half a million people. But in this case, Babylon was a large city even by modern standards, and compared to other ancient cities, it was a real giant, with a very high population density. Judging by the documents that have come down to us, the inhabitants of Babylon faced the same problems as any modern inhabitant of Moscow, London, Tokyo or New York. Urban land and real estate were very expensive, conflicts on this basis arose constantly. They even sued from behind the walls. A story has come down to us how one of the tenants of two houses with a common wall, a certain Marduk, called the wall his property and demanded from his neighbor Zababa-iddin, with whom he did not have a good relationship, to remove the beams of the roof of his house from the strange wall. That is, he actually asked Zababa to destroy his house with his own hands. When he disagreed, Marduk sued him and won the case. Zababa was forced to remove his beams and make amends.

Sin City

In Christian and Jewish eschatology, Babylon appears to us as a completely immoral city, which sooner or later will share the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Apocalypse from John, the image of the Babylonian harlot reminds of him, and the city itself says: "Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." It is precisely such an indelible impression that Babylon made on the Jews during the famous Babylonian captivity under King Nebuchadnezzar II, when the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judah were forcibly resettled to Babylonia.

But it was not only the prejudice of the Jews that created the apocalyptic Babylon. Wealthy neighborhoods with luxurious mansions of wealthy citizens were contrasted with impoverished neighborhoods with shacks of the poor, brothels and suspicious taverns that served as havens for various rabble. The Babylonian criminal world in ancient times was famous no less than modern Italian and American gangsters. There one could even get a kind of diploma of a master of criminal cases. So, in April 629, a certain Nabu-utsalli undertook to teach the Babylonian Bel-ahkhe-riba the craft of a bandit and a pimp in 2 years 5 months. For this, the teacher was entitled, in addition to the percentage of the student's "work", 17 grams of silver "for tips." In case of failure, the student had the right to collect compensation from the teacher. We learn about this due to the fact that the agreement was formalized and fixed. The success of such transactions can be judged if only because it was not recommended to walk around the city at night. The story of Sin-idinn, the prefect of one of the country's temples, whose acquaintance with the city began with the fact that on the first day a donkey with its luggage was taken away from him, has come down to us.

Entertainment establishments also flourished in Babylon. Moreover, not only slaves and representatives of marginal estates were involved in this industry, but also girls from wealthy families. Herodotus in his "History" said that every Babylonian woman had to once in her life fulfill her duty to the goddess Militta, the local version of Aphrodite or Venus - to surrender herself to a stranger for money. Arriving at the temple, she could not return home until some foreigner threw money into her hem and united with her outside the sacred site. "Having fulfilled the sacred duty to the goddess, the woman went home, and then for no money you will not possess her again." According to one version, it was this description of temple prostitution that subsequently created the "Babylonian harlot."

Reach God with your hand

Babylon disappeared from the face of the earth in 165 AD. during one of the attacks of the Romans. But the glory survived the city itself. Most of all, travelers were haunted by the legend of the Tower of Babel - the Old Testament reason for the origin of various languages. For her at different times were taken the ruins on the hill Bierse Nimrud (a suburb of Babylon), the ruins near the city of Gilla, where there is a mass of bricks cemented with earthen resin, as stated in the Bible. Her search continues, although today it is believed that the tallest ziggurat in Ancient Mesopotamia in Babylon became the prototype of the Tower of Babel. The stepped tower-ziggurat was an indispensable attribute of the main temple of every Assyrian-Babylonian city. At its top, religious rites were performed and astronomical observations were carried out. The tradition of building ziggurats goes back to the Sumerians, who worshiped their gods first on the tops of the mountains, and after moving to the low-lying Mesopotamia, they began to erect special embankments "connecting" heaven and earth. The prototype of the Tower of Babel is considered to be the ziggurat of Etemenanki at the temple of the supreme god Marduk, which in translation means: "The house where heaven and earth converge." It is somewhat reminiscent of the story of the legendary tower "with a height to heaven".

Herodotus describes Etemenanki as follows: “In the middle of the temple stands a massive tower, one stage (185 m) long and wide. Above this tower was placed another, above the second a third, and so on up to the eighth. The ascent to them is made from the outside: it goes in a circle around all the towers. Rising to the middle of the ascent, you find a place to rest with benches: those who climb the tower sit here to rest. On the last tower there is a large temple, and in the temple there is a large, beautifully decorated couch with a golden table in front of it. Nobody is allowed to spend the night in the temple, except for one native woman, whom the deity chooses. "

It is not known when Etemenanki was built, but in the II millennium BC it already existed. It was regularly rebuilt and reconstructed, perhaps the legend of the Tower of Babel describes its largest reconstruction under Nebuchadnezzar, when the tower reached 91 meters in height.