Iraq: Babylon – Ancient Babylon

Babylon was the center of the large and advanced empire and perhaps the first city in the world to reach the population of 200k people. Mentions in the Bible, Babylon or Babel was one of the most important and famous cities of antiquity. It reached the height of its grandeur at around 7-6th centuries BC. King Nebuchadrezzar II was responsible for the construction of the magnificent palaces between 605–561 BC. The ancient Citi covered about 10 sq km with the Euphrates flowing through it (it has since changed course). Beautiful blue glazed gates led to the central point of the city – the tower of Babylon – a square temple which had a base of 91m on one side and rose up in seven stages, the top level being completely covered in blue glaze, reaching a total height equal to that of its base. Four other temples stood in other parts of the city. A grand Processional Way cut through the city, surrounded with walls covered with glazed lions and mythical creatures. A massive double wall, protected by a ditch enclosed the city on both sides of the Euphrates, and additional ramparts ran out some further distance. Approaching the river, there were also Hanging Gardens of Babylon. All in all – basically like ancient NYC! The major restoration of Babylon began in 1978 under Saddam Hussein – most of the construction happened on top of the existing ruins. Saddam had his name inscribed on many of the bricks, in imitation of King Nebuchadnezzar – “this was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq”. After Saddam’s fall, the site was under the control of the US Army and then the Polish contingent, both inflicting serious damage to the site by stationing and driving heavy military equipment at Babylon, and even razing a portion of ancient ruins to make space for a military helipad landing.