kids encyclopedia robot

Babylon facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Babylon
Bābilim
From the foot of Saddam Hussein's summer palace a Humvee is seen driving down a road towards the left. Palm trees grow near the road and the ruins of Babylon can be seen in the background.
A partial view of the ruins of Babylon from Saddam Hussein's Summer Palace
Lua error in Module:Location_map at line 412: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
Location Hillah, Babil, Iraq
Region Mesopotamia
Type Settlement
Part of Babylonia
Area 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi)
History
Founded c. 1894 BC
Abandoned c. AD 1000
Cultures Akkadian, Amorite, Kassite, Assyrian, Chaldean, Achaemenid, Hellenistic, Parthian, Sasanian
Site notes
Archaeologists Hormuzd Rassam, Robert Koldewey
Condition Ruined
Ownership Public
Hammurabi's Babylonia 1
Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi's ascension in 1792 BC and upon his death in 1750 BC
Babylon relief
Detail of the Ishtar Gate

Babylon was a city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, in present-day Iraq, about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad. All that remains of the original ancient city of Babylon today is a mound of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Babylon was at first a small town which sprung up at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE. The town flourished and became well-known and important. Babylon eclipsed Nippur as the 'holy city' of Mesopotamia. This was about from 612 to 539 BCE. It was the time Hammurabi first unified the Babylonian Empire. Babylon became the capital city of the Neo-Babylonian Empire .

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Interesting Facts about Babylon for kids

  • In Babylon both men and women could get an education. Hammurabi built schools and there were libraries as well.
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Nebuchadnezzar II. They were called hanging gardens as the gardens were tiered in platforms or steps so the gardens would “overhang”. It was said to be a paradise.
  • Unlike other ancient societies, women could become priests, have businesses and have equal rights with their husband's property.
  •  The Code of Hammurabi is the earliest set of laws. They are on a stone tablet. This guided the people of Babylonia during their daily life.
  • The Babylonians main god was Marduk but they also worshipped the gods and goddesses of the Sumerians.
  • A famous story about Babylon in the Bible is the story of the Tower of Babel.

Geography

Plan of Ruins of Babylon 1905
Plan of ruins of Babylon, 1905
Babylon, 1932
Babylon in 1932

The remains of the city are in present-day Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq, about 85 kilometers (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris. The site at Babylon consists of a number of mounds covering an area of about 2 by 1 kilometer (1.24 mi × 0.62 mi), oriented north to south, along the Euphrates to the west. Originally, the river roughly bisected the city, but the course of the river has since shifted so that most of the remains of the former western part of the city are now inundated. Some portions of the city wall to the west of the river also remain.

Remains of the city include:

  • Kasr - also called Palace or Castle, it is the location of the Neo-Babylonian ziggurat Etemenanki and lies in the center of the site.
  • Amran Ibn Ali - the highest of the mounds at 25 meters, to the south. It is the site of Esagila, a temple of Marduk which also contained shrines to Ea and Nabu.
  • Homera - a reddish colored mound on the west side. Most of the Hellenistic remains are here.
  • Babil - a mound about 22 meters high at the northern end of the site. Its bricks have been subject to looting since ancient times. It held a palace built by Nebuchadnezzar.

Nearby ancient settlements are Kish, Borsippa, Dilbat, and Kutha. Marad and Sippar were 60 km in either direction along the Euphrates.

Assyrian period

During the reign of Sennacherib of Assyria, Babylonia was in a constant state of revolt, It was only pacified by the complete destruction of the city of Babylon. In 689 BCE, its walls, temples and palaces were razed, and the rubble was thrown into the Arakhtu, the river on the south side of the city. This act shocked the religious conscience of Mesopotamia. After the murder of Sennacherib by two of his sons, his successor Esarhaddon hurried to rebuild the old city. He was crowned there, and it was where he lived for part of the year.

In the later overthrow of the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonians saw another example of divine vengeance.

Neo-Babylonian Chaldean Empire

Ogrody semiramidy
Gardens of Babylon, 20th century interpretation

Babylon threw off the Assyrian rule in 612 BCE and became the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Chaldean Empire.

With the recovery of Babylonian independence, a new era of building followed, and Nebuchadnezzar II (604–561 BCE) made Babylon into one of the wonders of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar ordered the complete reconstruction of the imperial grounds, including rebuilding the Etemenanki ziggurat and the construction of the Ishtar Gate — the most spectacular of eight gates that ringed the perimeter of Babylon. All that was ever found of the Original Ishtar gate was the foundation and scattered bricks.

Nebuchadnezzar is also credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), said to have been built for his homesick wife Amyitis. Whether the gardens did exist is a matter of dispute. Historians disagree about the location, and some believe it may have been confused with gardens in Nineveh.

Persia captures Babylon

In 539 BCE, the Neo-Babylonian Empire fell to Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, in the Battle of Opis. The walls of Babylon were very high and very thick. The only way into the city was through one of its many gates. The Euphrates flowed next to the walls and Cyrus decided to use the river to get into the city. Cyrus' troops diverted the Euphrates river. This caused the level of the river to drop allowing soldiers to enter the city.

Olympic Park Cyrus
Statue of Cyrus the great at Olympic Park in Sydney

The Babylonians had held a celebration that evening. The Persian Army took over most of the city before the Babylonians had become aware that the Persians had gotten into the city. The account was reported by Herodotus, and is also mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Cyrus claimed the city by walking through the gates of Babylon with little or no resistance from the drunken Babylonians.

Cyrus later issued a decree allowing people, including the Jews, to return to their own land. This is mentioned in the Old Testament. It allowed Jews' temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.

Under Cyrus and the subsequent Persian king Darius the Great, Babylon became the capital city of the 9th Satrapy (Babylonia in the south and Athura in the north). It was a centre of learning and scientific advancement. In Achaemenid Persia, the Babylonian arts of astronomy and mathematics were revitalised. Babylonian scholars made maps of constellations. The city was the administrative capital of the Persian Empire. This empire was the most powerful of the then known world. Many important archaeological discoveries have been made that improve our understanding of that era.

The early Persian kings had tried to keep the religious ceremonies of Marduk. By the reign of Darius III, over-taxation and numerous wars had led to a deterioration of Babylon's main shrines and canals, and the disintegration of the region. Despite three rebellions in 522 BCE, 521 BCE and 482 BCE, the land and city of Babylon remained under Persian rule for two centuries. In 331 BCE, Alexander the Great took over. Under the Parthian Empire, Babylon continued to shrink and lose importance.

Cultural importance

Before modern archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia, the appearance of Babylon was largely a mystery, and typically envisioned by Western artists as a hybrid between ancient Egyptian, classical Greek, and contemporary Ottoman culture.

Due to Babylon's historical significance as well as references to it in the Bible, the word "Babylon" in various languages has acquired a generic meaning of a large, bustling diverse city. Examples include:

  • Babylon is used in reggae music as a concept in the Rastafari belief system, denoting the materialistic capitalist world.
  • Freemasonry, which has its own versions of biblical legends, classically considered Babylon as its birthplace and a haven for science and knowledge.
  • Babylon 5—a science fiction series about a multi-racial futuristic space station.
  • Babylon A.D. takes place in New York City, decades in the future.
  • Babilonas (Lithuanian name for "Babylon")—a real estate development in Lithuania.

Biblical narrative

In Genesis 10:10, Babel (Babylon) is described as founded by Nimrod along with Uruk, Akkad and perhaps Calneh—all of them in Shinar. ("Calneh" is now sometimes translated not as a proper name but as the phrase "all of them".) Another story is given in Genesis 11, which describes a united human race, speaking one language, migrating to Shinar to establish a city and tower.

Babylon appears throughout the Hebrew Bible, including descriptions of the Babylonian Captivity, and also features prominently in several prophecies. The New Testament Book of Revelation refers to Babylon many centuries after it ceased to be a major political center, which some scholars of apocalyptic literature believe to be a dysphemism for the Roman Empire.

Related pages

Images for kids

kids search engine
Babylon Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.