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Today, only the ruins of Babylon remain as an archaeological site around 53 mi (85 km) south of Baghdad but the city of Babylon was once the center of art, learning, and commerce.
Babylon was the capital city of the Babylonian empire, and it was first a small town but expanded and gained importance after the fall of the Akkadian empire. The Akkadian empire was divided into the Assyrian empire towards the north and the Babylonian empire towards the south.
Babylon existed as a city-state in the heart of ancient Mesopotamia for a long time but it was in 1792 BC under the reign of King Hammurabi that the city developed as one of the biggest of the ancient world. King Hammurabi was an ambitious leader and began to conquer all the nearby lands as he took reigns including the northern parts of the Assyrian empire. Ancient Babylon was situated on the banks of the Euphrates River, helping the old city be recognized as a trade center in the ancient world. The people living in the ancient city spoke the Akkadian language. The city of Babylon reached its peak when the entire southern Mesopotamia was known as a part of the Babylonian empire. Hammurabi became the first emperor to establish written laws; they were known as Hammurabi's Code and were recorded on pillars of stones, clay tablets.
After the death of Hammurabi, the Babylonian empire was taken charge of by his sons but they couldn't succeed and the empire fell. After the fall of the Babylonian empire, it was ruled by several empires, firstly by the Kassite dynasty in 1595 BC followed by the Assyrian rule from around 1220 BC then by the Chaldean from 734 BC, once again by the Assyrian king in 729 BC followed by the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II from 605 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar II played a vital role in the re-establishment of the Babylonian empire. He was the one who built the Ishtar Gate, the north entry gate to the city of Babylon but it was soon captured by the Persian army marking the fall of the Babylonian empire. The city of Babylon was then under the rule of the Persian empire for several centuries. As a fact about the Babylonian beliefs, Marduk was known as the patron god of Babylon.
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The city of Babylon was the highlight of ancient Mesopotamia. The city was famous for trade, commerce, its unique architecture some of which are present even today. The city of Babylon was also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. They were built in ancient times under the rules of King Nebuchadnezzar II, and the gardens were on top of one another and were known as heaven.
The architectural marvel of the great city of Babylon was the temples known as a ziggurat. There were several of those built-in Mesopotamia, in general, and in the city of Babylon, in particular. The first one was built by the Sumerians in around 4000 BC and the last ever was built by King Nebuchadnezzar II in the city of Babylon in 600 BC. The most iconic ziggurat was in the center of the city, archaeological surveys say that it was around 300 ft (91.5 m) tall. It was shaped like a pyramid but had a flat top, unlike the Egyptian pyramids.
Historical readings and surveys revealed that the city of Babylon lacked in the availability of stone but had an abundance of clay. This led to massive use of mudbrick in the structures built in the city. The walls of the city of Babylon were colored, some of them even plated with gold or zinc or with tiles. The Babylonian civilization was also the first one to incorporate the use of gems and other metals into jewelry making. The people living in the Babylonian cities were quite skilled and it was reflected in their intricate jewelry designing, as well as their architectural marvels. Even the walls of Babylon were higher than that of any other city in the world, and they were around 320 ft (97.5 m) high. However, it is believed that this measurement was quite possibly an exaggeration.
From the times of Hammurabi, good quality education was available to both men, as well as, women. Everyone got equal rights at every stage, and there were libraries too to enhance the education system of the empire. The Sumerian term for the schools present in Babylon was 'the house of the tablets'. It was so because people were educated by writing on soft clay tablets using bamboo or bone, and these tablets were later dried and reused.
The Babylonians wrote in cuneiform using around 350 symbols in their writing just like the Sumerians. Babylonians even adopted some of their cultures from the Sumerians. Archaeological discoveries all over Mesopotamia in the cities of Nippur, Sippar, Ur have shown that there were private buildings containing school texts where one generation taught to the other. Babylonians have also made significant contributions to the world of literature, some of their most notable pieces are the creation myth 'Enûma Eliš' and the epic poem named 'Gilgamesh'.
As a fact about the name 'Babylon', its meaning is 'gate of the god(s)'. The primary reason behind the city of Babylon turning into a trade hub was its geographical location. The city was located on the banks of the Euphrates River due to which people from different lands came to Babylon, in particular, and Mesopotamia, in general, for trade purposes, and hence, Babylon was important to Mesopotamia. The kingdom was later expanded to the Mediterranean Sea covering most of the middle east during the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II.
Babylonians were the world leaders when it came to trade and commerce and not only were they recognized as the main market but also brought in a number of new rules and practices. The concept of a seal into the contract and formation of a sales contract first began in Babylon, and it was later spread and carried forward for ages. Life in Babylon for adults revolved a lot around trade and agriculture as these two were the main ways of earning a living. There were even laws regarding rental rates, wages, trade established as a part of Hammurabi's code. The city of Babylon was known for importing items like salt, silver, copper, gold, and wood. In exchange, it exported items including oil, leather goods, grain, and clay pots to other places. During the peak of Babylon under Hammurabi, there inhabited around 200,000 Babylonians, most in a city at that time, speaking volumes about the massive impact of Babylon on world trade.
The Babylonian empire can be divided into two parts, the first one was ruled by the Amorites until 1595 BC which marked the invasion of Hittites. The second one is the Neo-Babylonian empire, often regarded as the Second Babylonian Empire. After the fall of the latter, it marked the ultimate fall of Babylonia as it was never again ruled by an emperor native to Mesopotamia.
The death of Hammurabi marked the beginning of the decline of Babylonia as his sons weren't capable enough to run the entire empire. They were neither strong enough to rule the existing Babylonians and nor were they ambitious to expand the empire any further. As the empire became weak, there were constant attacks from foreign invaders and eventually, it led to the fall of ancient Babylonia. Kassite dynasty then ruled Babylonia for around 400 years followed by the Assyrian rule but the empire never rose to the levels of its former glory until 612 BC. The emergence of Nebuchadnezzar II in 612 BC marked the birth of the Neo-Babylonian empire, he was a great leader and once again took the Babylonians to their ancient glory. However, roughly a century later in 539 BC, it was the ultimate fall of Babylonia as it was conquered by Cyrus of Persia. Although Babylonia was the administrative capital of the Persian rule, it was never again ruled by its native people.
The Chaldean rule from 626-539 BC marked the lifetime of the Neo-Babylonian empire. The Neo-Babylonian empire is known as the Second Babylonian Empire, and during this time owing to Nabopolassar and his eldest son, Nebuchadnezzar II the empire of Babylonia rose to its former glory.
Although the duration of the Neo Babylonian empire was short-lived and was only a century-long, as it was then captured by the Persians, the empire once again became the cultural center of the world. During this period, Nebuchadnezzar II re-established the glory of the kingdom, restoring the temples of the city. He also expanded the empire to the Mediterranean Sea, covering a large part of the Middle East. The architecture of the Neo-Babylonian empire was also very well known, and structures like Ishtar Gate and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built during this period. The fall of the Neo-Babylonian empire was the ultimate fall of Babylon as there was never again a native ruler of Babylon.
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