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BABEL AND THE TOWER OF BABEL
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor - 1915
BABEL, TOWER OF:
This expression does not occur in the Old Testament, but is used popularly for the tower mighdol built by the inhabitants of the world who, traveling in the East, built a city on the Plain of Shinar, with a tower "whose top may reach unto heaven"-- an expression which is regarded as meaning "a very high tower."
1. General Form of Babylonian Temple-Towers:
There was a great difference, however, between a Canaanite mighdol or watchtower, and the great Tower at Babylon. The watchtower was simply a high structure, probably without any special shape or form, which depended upon the will of the architect and the nature of the ground upon which it was erected. The Tower of Babel or Babylon, however, was a structure peculiar to Babylonia and Assyria. According to all accounts, and judging from the ruins of the various erections extant in those countries, Babylonian towers were always rectangular, built in stages, and provided with an inclined ascent continued along each side to the top. As religious ceremonies were performed thereon, they were generally surmounted by a chapel in which sacred objects or images were kept.
2. Their Babylonian Name:
These erections had, with the Babylonians, a special name: ziqquratu, meaning, apparently, "peak," or the highest point of a mountain, this word being applied to the mountain-height upon which Ut-napishtim, the Babylonian Noah, offered sacrifices on coming forth from the ark (or ship) when the waters of the great Flood had sufficiently subsided. It has also been thought that they were used as observatories when the Babylonians studied the starry heavens. This is probable, but as these structures were of no great height, it is possible that, in the clear atmosphere of the Babylonian plains, there was no real necessity to go above the surface of the earth when making their observations.
3. Whereabouts of the Tower of Babel:
There has been much difference of opinion as to the geographical position of the Tower of Babel. Most writers upon the subject, following the tradition handed down by the Jews and Arabs, have identified it with the great Temple of Nebo in the city of Borsippa, now called the Birs-Nimroud (explained as a corruption of Birj Nimroud, "Tower of Nimrod"). This building, however, notwithstanding its importance, was to all appearance never regarded by the Babylonians as the Tower of Babel, for the very good reason that it was not situated in Babylon, but in Borsippa, which, though called, in later times, "the second Babylon," was naturally not the original city of that name. The erection regarded by the Babylonians as the great Tower of their ancient city was E-temen-ana-ki, "the Temple of the foundation of heaven and earth," called by Nabopolassar and Nebuchadrezzar ziqqurat Babili, "the Tower of Babylon"--the world-renowned temple dedicated to Merodach and his consort Zer- panitum, Babylon's chief deities.
4. Its Position at Babylon:
This structure was situated in the southern portion of the city, not far from the right bank of the Euphrates, and according to Weissbach, is now represented by a depression within which is the original rectangular core of unbaked brick. From its shape, the Arabs have made this site Sahan, "the dish." These remains of the great temple-tower of Babylon, within the memory of men not so very old, towered, even in its ruined state, high above the surrounding plain. The burnt bricks of the ancient Babylonians, however, who "had brick for stone, and slime (bitumen) for mortar" (Ge 11:3), are still good and have a commercial value, so they were all cleared out, with whatever precious material in the way of antiquities they may have contained, to repair, it is said, the banks of the Hindiyeh Canal. Certain records in the shape of conical "cylinders," however, came into the market, and were acquired by the museums of Europe and America. As these refer to the restoration of the building by Nabopolassar, and the part taken by his sons Nebuchadrezzar and Nabu-sum-lisir in the ceremonies attending the rebuilding, it is very probable that they formed part of the spoils acquired.
5. A Babylonian Description of the Tower:
E-temen-ana-ki, to give the Babylonian (Sumerian) name, consisted of six stages built upon a platform, and provided with a sanctuary at the top. A tablet seemingly giving a detailed description of this building was for a time in the hands of the late George Smith in the year 1876. Unfortunately he had not time to give a translation of the document, or to publish the text, but his detailed account of it (Athenaeum, February 12, 1876) is exceedingly interesting. First there was the outer court called the "grand court," measuring, according to G. Smith's estimate, 1,156 ft. by 900 ft., and a smaller one, called "the court of Ishtar and Zagaga," 1,056 ft. by 450 ft. Round the court were six gates admitting to the temples:
(1) the grand gate;
(2) the gate of the rising sun (east);
(3) the great gate;
(4) the gate of the colossi;
(5) the gate of the canal; and
(6) the gate of the tower-view.
6. The Platform:
After this came a space or platform apparently walled--a ki-gallu square in form, and measuring 3 ku each way. Its size is doubtful, as the value of the ku is unknown. The sides of this enclosure faced the cardinal points. In its walls were four gates, one on each side, and named from the points toward which they looked. Within this enclosure stood a large building measuring 10 gar (Smith: 200 ft.) each way. Unfortunately, the name of this erection was damaged, so that its nature and use are uncertain.
7. The Chapels and Shrines:
Round the base of the Tower were small temples or chapels dedicated to the various gods of the Babylonians. On the East were 16 shrines, the principal of them being dedicated to Nebo and Tasmetu, his spouse; on thee North were two temples dedicated to Ea. (Ae) and Nusku respectively; on the South was a single temple to the two great gods, Anu and Bel (Enlil?). It was on the West, however, that the principal buildings lay--a double house with a court between the wings 35 cubits (Smith: 58 ft.) wide. These two wings were not alike in dimensions, the erection on one side being 100 cubits by 20 (166 ft. by 34 ft.) and on the other 100 cubits by 65 (166 ft. by 108 ft.). In these western chambers stood the couch of the god, and the golden throne mentioned by Herodotus, with other objects of great value. The couch was stated to have measured 9 cubits by 4 (15 ft. by 6 feet 8 inches).
8. The Tower in Its First Stage:
In the center of these groups of buildings stood the great Tower in stages, called by the Babylonians "the Tower of Babel" (ziqqurat Babili). The stages decreased from the lowest upward, but each was square in plan. The first or foundation-stage was 15 gar each way by 5 1/2 gar high (300 ft. by 110 ft. high), and seems to have been decorated with the usual double recesses which are a characteristic of Assyr-Bab architecture.
9. The Remaining Stages:
The second stage was 13 gar square and 3 gar high (260 ft. by 60 ft.). A term was applied to it which G. Smith did not understand, but he notes that it probably had sloping sides. The stages from the 3rd to the 5th were all of equal height, namely, 1 gar (20 ft.), and were respectively 10 gar (200 ft.), 8 1/3 gar (170 ft.) and 7 gar (140 ft.) square. The dimensions of the 6th stage were omitted, but may be restored in accordance with the others, namely, 5 1/2 gar square (110 ft.) by 1 gar (20 ft.) high.
10. The Chapel at the Top:
On this was raised what Smith calls the 7th stage, namely, the upper temple or sanctuary of the god Bel-Merodach, 4 gar long, 3 1/2 gar broad and 2 1/2 gar high (80 ft., 60 ft., and 50 ft., respectively). He does not mention the statue of the god, but it may be supposed that it was set up in this topmost erection. The total height of the tower above its foundation was therefore 15 gar (300 ft.), the same as the breadth of its base. It cannot be said that it was by any means a beautiful erection, but there was probably some symbolism in its measurements, and in appearance it probably resembled (except the decoration) the temple tower of Calah as restored in the frontispiece to Layard's Monuments of Nineveh, 1st series, in which a step-pyramid with a similarly highbasement stage is shown.
11. Herodotus' Description:
With this detailed description, which is quite what would be expected in a Babylonian account of such a celebrated temple, the description in Herodotus (i.181 ff) agrees. He states that it was a temple square in form, two furlongs (1,213 ft.) each way, in the midst of which was built a solid tower a furlong square (nearly 607 ft.). This, however, must have been the platform, which, with the six stages and the chapel on the top, would make up the total of eight stages of which Herodotus speaks. The ascent by which the top was reached he describes as running "outside round about all the towers"--wording which suggests, though not necessarily, that it was spiral--i.e. one had to walk round the structure 7 times to reach the top. Representations on Babylonian boundary-stones suggest that this view would be correct, though a symmetrical arrangement of inclined paths might have been constructed which would have greatly improved the design. At the middle of the ascent, Herodotus says, there was a stopping-place with seats to rest upon, which rather favors this idea. At the top of the last tower there was a large cell, and in the cell a large couch was laid, well covered; and by it a golden table. There was no image there, nor did any human being spend the night there, except only a woman of the natives of the place chosen by the god, "as say the Chaldeans who are the priests of this god." These men told Herodotus that the god often came to the cell, and rested upon the couch, "but," he adds, "I do not believe them." After mentioning parallels to this at Egyptian Thebes and Patam in Lycia, he goes on to speak of another cell below (that referred to in G. Smith's tablet) wherein was a great image of Zeus (Bel-Merodach) sitting, with a footstool and a large table, all of gold, and weighing no less than 800 talents. Outside of this cell was an altar to the god, made of gold; and also another altar, whereon full-grown animals were sacrificed, the golden altar being for sucklings only. The Chaldeans also told him that there was, in the precincts of the building, a statue 12 cubits high, and of solid gold. Darius Hystaspis desired to take possession of this valuable object, but did not venture. His son Xerxes, however, was not so considerate of the feelings of the people and the priesthood, for he also killed the priest when he forbade him to meddle with it.
12. The Builders of the Tower:
The Bible record does not state who the people were who journeyed in the East and built the city and the Tower. The indefinite "they" might be taken to mean whatever people were there at the time the record was written, and probably presupposes that the reader would certainly know. As the Tower of Babel bears, in the native inscriptions, a Sumero-Akkadian name, it may be supposed that the builders referred to belonged to that race.
13. Traditions Concerning Its Destruction:
It is noteworthy that nothing is said in Ge concerning the stoppage of the erection, though they ceased to build the city. Bochart records a Jewish tradition which makes the tower to have been split through to its foundation by fire which fell from heaven--suggested probably by the condition of the tower at "the second Babylon," i.e. the Birs Nimroud. Another tradition, recorded by Eusebius (Prep. Evang., ix; Chronicon, 13; Syncel. Chron., 44) makes it to have been blown down by the winds; "but when it approached the heavens, the winds assisted the gods, and overturned the work upon its contrivers: and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among men, who, until that time, had all spoken the same language."
14. The Meaning of "Babel":
The place where they built the Tower was called Babylon, on account of the confusion of languages. Here we have again the statement as in Ge that the meaning of Babel is "confusion." This, as is well known, is based upon the purely Hebrew etymological law, which makes balal, "to confuse," or "mingle," assume a reduplicate form; but as far as the cuneiform inscriptions, which are now very numerous, give us information, Babel, from baldlu, "to mingle" (the root in question), was an impossibility. But on the Babylonian side, that the rendering of the name as Bab-ili (-ilani), "gate of god" ("of the gods") was a folk-etymology, is undoubted, notwithstanding that the Sumero-Akkadian form Ka-dingira, with the same meaning, is far from rare. It is noteworthy, however, that one of the forms used by Nebuchadrezzar is Babilam, with the mimmation or "emming," which is a characteristic of the Babylonian language; moreover, a place-name Babalam also occurs, which may be a still earlier, and perhaps the original, form. Notwithstanding that one would like to see in Babalam, "the place of bringing together," and in Babilam, "the bringer together," the termination -am would seem to be an insurmountable difficulty.
15. The Ultimate Destruction of the Tower:
That the building of the city would have been stopped when the confusion of tongues took place is natural--the departure of the greater part of the inhabitants made this inevitable. When the population increased again, the building of the city was continued, with the result that Babylon ultimately became the greatest city of then known world. The Tower, notwithstanding what had been said as to its destruction, remained, and when, as happened from time to time, its condition became ruinous, some energetic Babylonian king would restore it. Alexander and Philip of Macedon began clearing away the rubbish to rebuild the great temple of Bclus (Bel-Merodach) connected with it and there is hardly any doubt that the Tower would have been restored likewise, but the untimely death of the former, and the deficient mental caliber of the latter for the ruling of a great empire, put an end to the work. The Tower therefore remained unrepaired--"The tower was exceedingly tall. The third part of it sank down into the ground, a second third was burned down, and the remaining third was standing until the time of the destruction of Babylon" (Rabbi Yehanan, Sanhedhrin, 109, 1).
16. No Idea of Reaching Heaven:
Concerning the reputed intention of the builders of the Tower, to carry it as high as the heavens, that, notwithstanding the Talmud and other writings, may be dismissed at once. The intention was to build a very high tower, and that is all that is implied by the words employed. That the Babylonians would have liked their tower to reach heaven may be conceded, and the idea may be taken as symbolical of Babylon's pride, the more especially as they regarded it as "the house of the foundation of heaven and earth." Though at present brought lower than the other temple-towers of Babylonia, its renown remains as one of the great glories of that renowned capital. Dedicated as it was to the gods whom they worshipped, and chiefly to the glory of Merodach, the representative of Babylonian monotheism, the Babylonians' descendants, the native Christians, have no reason to remember this erection of their forefathers with shame, but rather with pride. The rallyingpoint of nations, Babylon, while it existed, was always a great commercial center, and many are the languages which have resounded in the Tower's vicinity. The confusion of tongues led to the Jewish fiction that the air of Babylon and Borsippa caused forgetfulness, and was therefore injurious to students of the Law, causing them to forget it as the builders of the Tower had of old forgotten their speech (Rashi, Sanhedhrin, 109, 1). This, however, did not prevent the rabbis of Babylon from being more celebrated than those of the Holy Land, and even of Jerusalem itself.
See also ASTRONOMY.
T. G. Pinches
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor - 1915
ba'-bel, bab'-i-lon (Topographical): Babylon was the Greek name of the city written in the cuneiform script of the Babylonians, bab-ili, which means in Semitic, "the gate of god." The Hebrews called the country, as well as the city, Babhel. This name they considered came from the' root, balal, "to confound" (Ge 11:9). The name in Sumerian ideographs was written Din-tir, which means "life of the forest," and yet ancient etymologists explained it as meaning "place of the seat of life" (shubat balaTe). Ka-ding'irra, which also means "gate of god," was another form of the name in Sumerian. It was also called Su-anna (which is of uncertain meaning) and Uru-azagga, "the holy city."
Herodotus, the Greek historian, has given us a picture of Babylon in his day. He says that the city was a great square, 42 miles in circuit. Ctesias makes it 56 miles. This, he writes, was surrounded by a moat or rampart 300 ft. high, and 75 ft. broad. The earliest mention of Babylon is in the time of Sargon I, about 2700 BC. That monarch laid the foundations of the temple of Annnit, and also those of the temple of Amal. In the time of Dungi we learn that the place was sacked. The city evidently played a very unimportant part in the political history of Babylonia of the early period, for besides these references it is almost unknown until the time of Hammurabi, when its rise brought about a new epoch in the history of Babylonia. The seat of power was then transferred permanently from the southern states. This resulted in the closing of the political history of the Sumerians. The organization of the empire by Hammurabi, with Babylon as its capital, placed it in a position from which it was never dislodged dur ing the remaining history of Babylonia.
The mounds covering the ancient city have frequently been explored, but systematic excavations of the city were not undertaken until 1899, when Koldewey, the German excavator, began to uncover its ancient ruins in a methodical manner. In spite of what ancient writers say, certain scholars maintain that they grossly exaggerated the size of the city, which was comparatively small, especially when considered in connection with large cities of the present era.
In the northern part of the city there was situated what is called the North Palace on the east side of the Euphrates, which passed through the city. A little distance below this point the Arakhtu canal left the Euphrates, and passing through the southern wall rejoined the river. There was also a Middle and Southern Palace. Near the latter was located the Ishtar gate. The temple E-makh was close to the east side of the gate. Other canals in the city were called Merodach and Libilkhegala. In the southern portion of the city was located the famous temple E-sag-ila. This temple was called by the Greek historian, "the temple of Belus." Marduk or Merodach (as written in the Old Testament), the patron deity of the city, received from Enlil, as Hammurabi informs us, after he had driven the Elamites out of Babylonia, the title "bel matate," "lord of lands," not the name which Enlil of Nippur had possessed. In the past there has been a confusion. The idcogram Enlil or Ellil had been incorrectly read Bel. This necessitated speaking of the old Bel and the young Bel. Beyond being called bel, "lord," as all other gods were called; Enlil's name was not Bel. Marduk is the Bel of the Old Testament, as well as the god called Bel in the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions.
The temple area included an outer, central and inner court. The shrine of Ishtar and Zamama occupied the central court, and the ziggurrat the inner court. In the temple proper, the shrine Ekua was located, in which stood the golden image of Marduk. This, the ancient writers say, was 40 ft. high. On the topmost stage there was a shrine dedicated to Marduk. It is assumed that it was 50 ft. long by 70 ft. broad and 50 ft. in height. Nabopolassar rebuilt the temple and its tower. Nebuchadrezzar enlarged and embellished the sanctuary. He raised the tower so that "its head was in the heavens," an expression found in the story of the Tower of Babel in Gen, as well as in many of the building inscriptions. See Clay, LOTB, Babel, 121 ff, and the article on BABEL, TOWER OF. One of the chief works of Nebuchadrezzar was the building of Aiburshabu, the famous procession street of the city, which extended from the Ishtar gate to E-sag-ila. It was a great and magnificent causeway, built higher than the houses. Walls lined it on either side, which were decorated with glazed tiles, portraying lions, life size in relief. The pavement was laid with blocks of stone brought from the mountains. This procession street figured prominently on the New Year's festal day, when the procession of the gods took place.
A knowledge of the work Nebuchadrezzar did serves as a fitting commentary to the passage in Da 4:30: "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?" He had made the city one of the wonders of the world.
The two sieges by Darius Hystaspes and the one by Xerxes destroyed much of the beauty of the city. Alexander desired to make it again a great center and to build an immense fortress in the city; but in the midst of this undertaking he was murdered, while living in the palace of Nebuchadrezzar. The temple, though frequently destroyed, was in existence in the time of the Seleucids, but the city had long since ceased to be of any importance.
See also BABYLONIA.
A. T. Clay
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
James Orr, M.A., D.D., General Editor - 1915
@babhel; Assyro-Bab Bab-ili, (Bab-ilani, "gate of god," or "of the gods," rendered in Sumerian as Ka-dingira, "gate of god," regarded as a folk-etymology):
See BABEL, TOWER OF, section 14.
1. Names by Which the City Was Known
2. Probable Date of Its Foundation
3. Its Walls and Gates from Herodotus
4. Its Position, Divisions, Streets and Temple
5. The Works of Semiramis and Nitocris
6. Ctesias' Description--the Palaces and Their Decorated Walls
7. The Temple of Belus and the Hanging Gardens
8. Other Descriptions
9. Nebuchadrezzar's Account
10. Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work at Babylon
11. The Royal Palaces
12. Quick Building
13. The Temples Restored by Nebuchadrezzar
14. The Extent of Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work
15. Details Concerning the City from Contract-Tablets
16. Details Concerning Babylon from Other Sources
17. Modern Exploration
18. Description of the Ruins--the Eastern Walls
19. The Western Walls
20. The Palaces
21. The Site of Babylon's Great Tower
22. The Central and Southern Ruins
23. A Walk through Babylon
24. The Ishtar-Gate and the Middle Palace
25. The Festival-Street
26. The Chamber of the Fates
27. The Northern Palace and the Gardens
28. Historical References to Babylonian Buildings
1. Names by Which the City Was Known:
The name of the great capital of ancient Babylonia, the Shinar of Ge 10:10; 14:1, other names of the city being Tin- dir, "seat of life," E (ki), probably an abbreviation of Eridu (ki) "the good city" (=Paradise), Babylonia having seemingly been regarded as the Garden of Eden (PSBA, June 1911, p. 161); and Su-anna, "the high-handed" (meaning, apparently, "high- walled," "hand" and "defense" being interchangeable terms). It is possible that these various names are due to the incorporation of outlying districts as Babylon grew in size.
2. Probable Date of Its Foundation:
According to Ge 10:9, the founder of Babylon was Nimrod, but among the Babylonians, it was Merodach who built the city, together with Erech and Niffer (Calneh) and their renowned temples. The date of its foundation is unknown, but it certainly went back to primitive times, and Babylon may even have equaled Niffer in antiquity (the American explorers of that site have estimated that its lowest strata of habitations go back to 8,000 years BC). Babylon's late assumption of the position of capital of the country would therefore be due to its rulers not having attained power and influence at an earlier period. Having once acquired that position, however, it retained it to the end, and its great god, Merodach, became the head of the Babylonian pantheon--partly through the influence of Babylon as capital, partly because the city was the center of his worship, and the place of the great Tower of Babel, concerning which many wonderful things were said.
See BABEL, TOWER OF; CONFUSION OF TONGUES.
3. Its Walls and Gates from Herodotus:
According to Herodotus, the city, which lay in a great plain, was square in its plan and measured 120 furlongs (stadia) each way--480 in all. Each side was therefore about 14 miles long, making a circuit of nearly 56 miles, and an area of nearly 196 square miles. As the space enclosed is so great, and traces of the walls would seem to be wanting, these figures may be regarded as open to question. Around the city, Herodotus says, there was a deep and broad moat full of water, and then came a wall 50 royal cubits thick and 200 cubits high, pierced by 100 gateways with brazen gates and lintels. Reckoning the cubit at 18 2/3 inches, this would mean that Babylon's walls were no less than 311 ft. high; and regarding the royal cubit as being equal to 21 inches, their thickness would be something like 87 ft. Notwithstanding that Babylon has been the quarry of the neighboring builders for two millenniums, it is surprising that such extensive masses of brickwork should have disappeared without leaving at least a few recognizable traces.
4. It Position, Divisions, Streets, and Temple:
The city was built on both sides of the Euphrates, and at the point where the wall met the river there was a return-wall running along its banks, forming a rampart. The houses of Babylon were of 3 and 4 stories. The roads which ran through the city were straight, and apparently intersected each other at right angles, like the great cities of America. The river-end of each of the streets leading to the river was guarded by a brazen gate. Within the great outer wall was another, not much weaker, but enclosing a smaller space. Each division of the city contained a great building, the one being the king's palace, strongly fortified around, and the other the temple of Zeus Boles--an erection with brazen gates measuring two furlongs each way. Within this sacred precinct was a solid tower measuring a furlong each way, and surmounted by other towers to the number of eight. An ascent ran around these towers, with a stopping-place about the middle where the visitor might rest. Upou the topmost tower a large cell was built, wherein was a couch and a golden table. No image was placed in the cell, and no one passed the night there, except a woman of the people, chosen by the god. In another cell below was a golden image of Zeus sitting, his seat and footstool being likewise of gold, with, near by, a large golden table. The total weight of the precious metal here was 800 talents. Upon a small golden altar outside the cell young sucklings only were sacrificed, and upon another (not of gold) full-grown animals were offered.
5. The Works of Semiramis and Nitocris:
The hydraulic works of Babylon are attributed by Herodotus to two queens, Semiramis and Nitoeris. The former made banks of earth on the plain which were worth seeing, preventing the river from flooding the plain like a sea. The second, Nitocris, altered the channel of the river in such a way that it flowed three times in its course to the village Andericca, and the traveler by water therefore took three days to pass this spot. She also raised the banks of the river, and dug a great lake above Babylon. The place which was dug out she made into a swamp, the object being to retard the course of the river. The many bends and the swamp were on the shortest route to Media, to prevent the Medes from having dealings with her kingdom and learning of her affairs. Other works were a bridge across the Euphrates, and a tomb for herself over the most frequented gate of the city.
Both Herodotus and Ctesias were eyewitnesses of the glory of Babylon, though only at the period when it had begun to wane. It is exceedingly probable, however, that their accounts will be superseded in the end, by those of the people who best knew the city, namely, the inhabitants of Babylon itself.
6. Ctesias' Description--the Palaces and Their Decorated Walls:
According to Ctesias, the circuit of the city was not 480, but. 360 furlongs--the number of the days in the Babylonian year- -and somewhat under 42 miles. The East and West districts were joined by a bridge 5 furlongs or 1,080 yards long, and 30 ft. broad. At each end of the bridge was a royal palace, that on the eastern bank being the more magnificent of the two. This palace was defended by three walls, the outermost being 60 furlongs or 7 miles in circuit; the second, a circular wall, 40 furlongs (4 1/2 miles), and the third 20 furlongs (2 1/2 miles). The height of the middle wall was 300 ft., and that of its towers 420 ft., but this was exceeded by the height of the inmost wall. Ctesias states that the walls of the second and third enclosures were of colored brick, showing hunting scenes--the chase of the leopard and the lion, with male and female figures, which he regarded as Ninus and Semiramis. The other palace (that on the West bank) was smaller and less ornate, and was enclosed only by a single wall 30 furlongs (3 1/2 miles) in circuit. This also had representations of hunting scenes and bronze statues of Ninus, Semiramis and Jupiter-Belus (Bel-Merodach). Besides the bridge, he states that there was also a tunnel under the river. He seems to speak of the temple of Belus (see BABEL, TOWER OF) as being surmounted by three statues--Bel (Bel-Merodach), 40 ft. high, his mother Rhea (Dawkina, the Dauke of Damascius), and Bel-Merodach's spouse Juno or Beltis (Zer-panitum).
7. The Temple of Belus and the Hanging Gardens:
The celebrated Hanging Gardens he seems to describe as a square of which each side measured 400 ft., rising in terraces, the topmost of which was planted with trees of various kinds. If this was the case, it must have resembled a temple-tower covered with verdure. The Assyrian sculptures, however, indicate something different (see section 27).
8. Other Descriptions:
With regard to the size of the city as given by other authorities, Pliny copies Herodotus, and makes its circuit 480 furlongs (Nat. Hist. vi.26); Strabo (xvi. i. section 5), 385; Q. Curtius (v. i. section 26), 368; Clitarchus (apud Diod. Sic. ii.7), 365. Though the difference between the highest and the lowest is considerable, it is only what might be expected from independent estimates, for it is doubtful whether any of them are based on actual measurements. Diodorus (ii.9, end) states that but a small part of the enclosure was inhabited in his time (he was a contemporary of Caesar and Augustus), but the abandonment of the city must then have been practically completed, and the greater part given over, as he states, to cultivation--even, perhaps, within the space enclosed by the remains of walls today. It is noteworthy that Q. Curtius says (v. i. section 27) that as much as nine-tenths consisted, even during Babylon's most prosperous period, of gardens, parks, paradises, fields and orchards; and this the later contract-tablets confirm. Though there is no confirmation of the height of the walls as given by these different authorities, the name given to the city, Su-anna, "the high walled" (see above), indicated that it was renowned for the height of its defensive structures.
9. Nebuchadrezzar's Account:
Among the native accounts of the city, that of Nebuchadrezzar is the best and most instructive. From this record it would seem that there were two principal defensive structures, Imgur-Enlil and Nemitti-Enlil--"Enlil has been gracious" and "Enlil's foundation" respectively. The construction of these, which protected the inner city only, on the eastern and western sides of the Euphrates, he attributes to his father Nabonidus, as well as the digging of the moat, with the two "strong walls" on its banks, and the embankment of the Arabtu canal. He had also lined the Euphrates with quays or embankments--probably the structures to which the Greek writers refer--but he had not finished the work. Within Babylon itself he made a roadway from Du-azaga, the place where the fates were declared, to Aa-ibur-sabu, Babylon's festival-street, which lay by the gate of Beltis or Mah, for the great New-Year's festival of Merodach and the gods.
10. Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work at Babylon:
Nebuchadrezzar, after his accession, completed the two great walls, lined the ditches with brick, and increased the thickness of the two walls which his father had built. He also built a wall, traces of which are apparently extant, on the West side of Babylon (he apparently refers to what may be called the "city," in contradistinction to "greater Babylon"), and raised the level of Aa-ibur-sabu from the "holy gate" to the gate of Nana; together with the gateways (in consequence of the higher level of the pathway) through which it passed. The gates themselves were constructed of cedar overlaid with copper (bronze), most likely in the same manner as the gates of Imgur-Bel (Balawat) in Assyria (reign of Shalmaneser II, circa 850 BC). Probably none of Babylon's gates were of solid bronze, notwithstanding the statements of Herodotus; but the thresholds were wholly of that metal, stone being very rare, and perhaps less durable. These gates were guarded by images of bulls and giant serpents or composite dragons of the same metal. Nebuchadrezzar also built a wall on the East bank of the river, 4,000 cubits distant, "high like a mountain," to prevent the approach of an enemy. This wall also had cedar gates covered with copper. An additional defense made by him was an enormous lake, "like unto the broad sea to cross," which was kept in by embankments.
11. The Royal Palaces:
The royal palaces next claimed the great king's attention. The palace in which Nabopolassar had lived, and wherein, in all probability, Nebuchadrezzar had passed his younger days, had suffered from the floods when the river was high. The foundations of this extensive edifice, which extended from the wall called Imgur-Enlil to Libil-hegala, the eastern canal, and from the banks of the Euphrates to Aa-ibur-sabu, the festival-street, were thoroughly repaired with burnt brick and bitumen, and the doorways, which had become too low in consequence of the raising of that street, were raised to a suitable height. He caused the whole to tower aloft, as he has it, "mountainlike" (suggesting a building more than one story high). The roof of this palace was built of cedar, and the doors were of the same wood covered with bronze. Their thresholds, as in other cases, were bronze, and the interior of the palace was decorated with gold, silver, precious stones and other costly material.
12. Quick Building:
Four hundred and ninety cubits from Nemitti-Enlil lay, as the king says, the principal wall, Imgur-Enlil, and in order to guarantee the former against attack, he built two strong embankments, and an outer wall "like a mountain," with a great building between which served both as a fortress and a palace, and attached to the old palace built by his father. According to Nebuchadrezzar's account, which is confirmed by Berosus (as quoted by Josephus and Eusebius), all this work was completed in 15 days. The decorations were like those of the other palace, and blocks of alabaster, brought, apparently, from Assyria, strengthened the battlements. Other defenses surrounded this stronghold.
13. The Temples Restored by Nebuchadrezzar:
Among the temples which Nebuchadrezzar restored or rebuilt may be mentioned E-kua, the shrine of Merodach within E-sagila (the temple of Belus); the sanctuary called Du-azaga, the place of fate, where, on every New-Year's festival, on the 8th and 9th of Nisan, "the king of the gods of heaven and earth" was placed, and the future of the Babylonian monarch and his people declared. Every whit as important as E-sagila, however, was the restoration of E-temen-an-ki, called "the Tower of Babylon" (see BABEL, TOWER OF), within the city; and connected, as will be seen from the plan, with that structure. Among the numerous temples of Babylon which he rebuilt or restored were E-mah, for the goddess Nin-mah, near the Ishtar-gate; the white limestone temple for Sin, the Moon-god; E-ditur-kalama, "the house of the judge of the land," for Samas, the Sun-god; E-sa-tila for Gula, the goddess of healing; E-hursag-ella, "the house of the holy mountain," etc.
14. The Extent of Nebuchadrezzar's Architectural Work:
The amount of work accomplished by this king, who, when walking on the roof of his palace, lifted up with pride, exclaimed "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?" (Da 4:30), was, according to his own records and the Greek writers, enormous, and the claim he made fully justified. But if he boasts of the work he did, he is just in attributing much to his father Nabopolassar; though in connection with this it is to be noted that his ascribing the building of the walls of Babylon to his father is not to be taken literally in all probability he only restored them, though he may have added supplementary defenses, as Nebuchadrezzar himself did.
15. Details Concerning the City from Contract-Tablets:
Besides Nebuchadrezzar's inscriptions, various other texts give details concerning the topography of Babylon, among them being the contract-tablets, which mention various districts or quarters of the city, such as Te which is within Babylon; the city of Sula which is within Babylon; the new city which is within Babylon, upon the new canal. Within the city were also several Hussetu--perhaps "farms," such as Hussetu sa Iddina-Marduk, "Iddina-Marduk's farm," etc. The various gates are also referred to, such as the gate of Samas, the city-gate of Uras, and the gate of Zagaga, which seems to have lain in "the province of Babylon," and had a field in front of it, as had also the gate of Enlil.
16. Details Concerning Babylon from Other Sources:
According to an Assyrian and a Babylonian list of gates, the streets bore names connected with those of the gates to which they led. Thus, the street of the gate of Zagaga, one of the gods of war, was called "the street of Zagaga, who expels his enemies"; that of the gate of Merodach was "the street of Merodach, shepherd of his land"; while the street of Ishtar's gate was "the street of Ishtar, patron of her people." The city-gates named after Enlil, Addu (Hadad or Rimmon), Samas the Sun- god, Sin the Moon-god, etc., had streets similarly indicated. Certain of the streets of Babylon are also referred to on the contract-tablets, and such descriptive indications as "the broad street which is at the southern gate of the temple E-tur- kalama" seem to show that they were not in all cases systematically named. If the streets of Babylon were really, as Herodotus states, straight, and arranged at right angles, this was probably outside the walls of the ancient (inner) city, and most likely due to some wise Babylonian king or ruler. Details of the streets have been obtained at the point called Merkes (sec. 22) and elsewhere, and seem to show that the BabyIonians liked the rooms of their houses to be square. Such streets as slanted were therefore full of rectangles, and must have presented a quite peculiar appearance.
17. Modern Exploration:
It is this inner city which has most attracted the attention of explorers, both English and German, and it is on its site that the latter have carried on their systematic excavations. Indeed, it is probable that the houses of the most numerous class of the people--artisans, merchants, workmen, etc--lay outside the walls to which the Babylonian royal inscriptions refer. It may be supposed that the houses in this district were mainly low buildings of unbaked city (of which, indeed, portions of the temples and palaces were built), and these would naturally disappear more easily than if they had been built of baked brick. Even when baked, however, the brick-built ruins of Babylonia Assyria have a tendency to disappear, owing to the value which bricks, both baked and unbaked, have for the erection of new houses in the neighborhood. Concerning the extent of the exterior city much doubt naturally exists, but it may well have covered the tract attributed to it (see section 3, above). Nineveh, at the time of its prosperity, also had enormous suburbs (see NINEVEH).
18. Description of the Ruins--The Eastern Walls:
The ruins of Babylon lie between 80 and 90 kilometers (50 miles or less) from Bagdad. The first thing seen on approaching them is the broad high ridge of Babil, which marks the site of the ruins of the Northern Palace. After some time, the ruins of the ancient walls are reached. They are still several yards high, and slope down gently to the plain. Starting to the North of Babil, the wall stretches for about 875 yds. due East, and then runs southwards for another 930 yds., taking at that point a course to the Southeast for about 2 miles 160 yds. (3,300 meters). A wide gap occurs here, after which it runs to the Southwest, and is lost in the open fields at the end of about miles (2 kilometers). "That this is the old citywall," says Weissbach, "there can be no doubt, and the name Sur, `city-wall,' given it by the Arabs, proves that they have fully recognized its nature." At the northern end it exists in its original extent, the plain out of which it rises being the old bed of the Euphrates, which, in the course of the centuries, has become filled up by the desertsand. At the period of Babylon's glory, the river had a much straighter course than at present, but it reoccupies its old bed about 600 meters (656 yds.) South of Babil, leaving it afterward to make a sharp bend to the West. From the point where the city wall first becomes recognizable on the North to its apparent southernmost extremity is about 3 miles.
19. The Western Walls:
On the West side of the river the traces of the wall are much less, the two angles, with the parts adjoining them, being all that is recognizable. Beginning on the North where the Euphrates has reached its midpoint in its course through the city, it runs westward about 547 yds. (500 meters) West-Southwest, and then, bending almost at a right angle South-Southeast, turns East again toward the Euphrates, but is lost in the plain before reaching the river. The distance of the two angles from each other is about 1 mile, 208 yds. (1,800 meters), and its distance from the Euphrates is at most 5/8 of a mile (1 kilometer). The western portion of the city therefore formed a rectangle with an area of about 1.8 miles, and the eastern quarter, with the projection on the North, 6 1/4 square miles. According to Fried. Delitzsch, the size of Babylon was about the same as Munich or Dresden. This, of course, is an estimate from the extant remains--as has been indicated above, there was probably a large suburban extension beyond the walls, which would account for the enormous size attributed to the city by the ancients.
20. The Palaces:
Among the Arabs, the northern ruin is called Babil, though it is only the remains of a palace. Its present height is 30 meters (98 feet, 5 inches), and its rectangular outline is still easily recognizable. Its sides face the cardinal points, the longest being those of the North and South. This building, which measures 100 meters (109 yds.), was well protected by the city wall on the North and East, the Euphrates protecting it on the West. Continuing to the South, the path at present leads through orchards and palm-groves, beyond which is a rugged tract evidently containing the remains of ancient structures, probably of inconsiderable height. After further palm groves, an enormous ruin is encountered, steep on the East and South, sloping on the North and West. This is the Gasr (Qasr), also called Emjellibeh (Mujellibah), "the overturned," identical with the great palace of Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadrezzar, referred to so prominently by the latter king in his records. Its longest side skirts the old Euphrates bed, and measures 300 meters (328 yds.). Its surface is very uneven, projections of 15 meters (over 49 ft.) alternating with deep depressions. On the Northwest side enormous walls of exceedingly hard yellow brick still tower to a considerable height. South of this the plain, broken only by a few inconsiderable mounds, extends for a distance of half a kilometer (5/16 mile), and terminates on the South with another enormous ruin-mound, called Ishan Amran ibn `Ali. It measures 600 meters (656 yds.) from North to South, and 400 (437 yds.) from East to West, its average height being 25 meters (82 ft.). About the middle, and close to each other, are two Moslem domed tombs, the first called Ibrahim al-Khalil ("Abraham the Friend" (of God)--probably a late addition to the name of another Abraham than the Patriarch), and the other Areran ibn `Ali, from which the ruin receives its modern name.
21. The Site of Babylon's Great Tower:
Near the South termination of the plain on which the village of Jim-jimeh lies, there is a square depression several yards deep, measuring nearly 100 meters (over 100 yds.) each way. In the middle of this depression, the sides of which do not quite face the cardinal points, there rises, to a height of about 13 ft., a platform of sun-dried brick about 60 meters (197 ft.) each way, its sides being parallel with the outer boundary of the depression. This depression, at present called Sahan, "the dish," is partly filled with foundation-water. Centered in its southern side is a rectangular hollowing-out similarly formed, about 50 meters (164 ft.) long, extending toward the ruin called Areran.
22. The Central and Southern Ruins:
East of the Qasr and Emjellibeh are several mounds bearing the name of Ehmereh, so called from the principal mound on the Southeast, named Ishan al-Oheimar, "the red ruin," from the color of its bricks. Close to the Southeast corner of the Qasr lies the ruin called Merkes, "the central-point," and to the South of that again is a long and irregularly shaped mound bearing the name of Ishan al-Aswad, "the black ruin." From this enumeration of the principal remains on the site of Babylon, it will be easily seen that public buildings in this, the most ancient quarter of the city, were exceedingly numerous. Indeed, the district was regarded as being of such importance that the surrounding walls were not thought altogether sufficient to protect it, so another seemingly isolated rampart, on the East, was built, running North and South, as an additional protection. The remains on the western side of the river are insignificant, the changed course of the river being in all probability responsible for the destruction of at least some of the buildings.
23. A Walk through Babylon:
There is much work to be done before a really complete reconstruction of the oldest quarter of Babylon can be attempted; but somc thing may be said about the sights to be seen when taking a walk through the more interesting portion, which, as we know from Herodotus' narrative, could be visited by strangers, though it is possible that permission had to be obtained beforehand. Entering by the Urash-gate, some distance to the East of the Euphrates, one found oneself in Aa-ibursabu, the Festival-street, which was a continuation of the royal roadway without the inner wall, coming from the South. This street ran alongside the Arahtu canal, on its western bank. After a time, one had the small temple of Ninip on the right (on the other side of the canal), and E-sagila, the great temple of Belus, on the left. This celebrated shrine was dedicated to Merodach and other deities associated with him, notably his spouse Zer-panitum ( = Juno), and Nebo, "the teacher," probably as the one who inculcated Merodach's faith. The shrine of Merodach therein, which was called E-kua, is said by Nebuchadrezzar to have been magnificently decorated, and into the temple itself that king had caused to be brought many costly gifts, acquired by him in the lands over which he had dominion. Connected with E-sagila on the Northwest by a causeway and probably a staircase, was the great temple-tower E-temen-an-ki, which, as is indicated above, is not now represented by a tower, but by a depression, the bricks having been employed, it is said, to repair the Hindiyeh canal. This great building was a striking monument of the city, and must have been visible for a considerable distance, its height being something over 300 ft. The stages of which it was composed are thought to have been colored like those of the similar tower laid bare by the French excavations at Khorsabad (DurSarru-ukin) in Assyria. Causeways or streets united this building with Aa-ibur-sabu, the festival-street along which the traveler is supposed to be proceeding. Continuing to the North, the visitor crossed a canal at right angles, named Libilhegalli, "may he (the god) bring fertility," and found himself immediately opposite the royal palace--the extensive building now known as the Qasr. According to Weissbach, its area occupied no less than 4 1/2 hectares (rather more than 11 acres) and it was divided, as we know from the inscriptions of Nebuchadrezzar, into two parts, connected by a corridor. The building was richly decorated, as the Babylonians understood such things, the interior walls being lined with enameled brick and other material.
Passing along the eastern side of the palace, the visitor came to the Ishtar-gate--a massive doorway faced with enameled brick in Nebuchadrezzar's time, and decorated with colored enameled reliefs of the lion, the bull and the dragon of Babylon. On the right of this gateway was to be seen the temple of the goddess Nin-mah, Merodach's spouse--a temple of sun-dried brick with traces of white coloring. It was a celebrated shrine of the Babylonians, in the usual architectural style with recessed buttresses, but modest from our modern point of view. Nin-mah was the goddess of reproduction, who, under the name of Aruru, had aided Merodach to create mankind, hence the honor in which she was held by the Babylonians.
24. The Ishtar-Gate and the Middle Palace:
The Ishtar-gate was apparently a part of the more ancient fortifications of Babylon, but which portion of the primitive city it enclosed is doubtful. In the time of Nebuchadrezzar it pierced the continuation, as it were, of the wall on the western bank of the river. Passing through this gateway, the visitor saw, on the West, the "middle-palace," an enormous structure, built by Nebuchadrezzar, as he boasts, in 15 days--a statement which seems somewhat of an exaggeration, when we come to consider the massiveness of the walls, some of which have a thickness of several yards. He describes this as having been "a fortress" (duru), "mountainlike" (sadanis), and on its summit he built an abode for himself--a "great palace," which was joined with his father's palace on the South of the intervening wall. It is possibly this latter which was built in 15 days- -not the whole structure, including the fortress. It was raised "high as the forests," and decorated with cedar and all kinds of costly woods, its doors being of palm, cedar, cypress, ebony(?) and ivory, framed in silver and gold, and plated with copper. The thresholds and hinges of its gates were bronze, and the cornice round its top was in (an imitation of) lapis-lazuli. It was a house for men to admire; and it is not improbable that this was the palace upon which he was regarded as having been walking when he referred to "great Babylon," which he had built.
25. The Festival-Street:
But the street Aa-ibur-sabu, along which the visitor is conceived to be walking, was also a highly decorated causeway, fitted for the pathway of the great gods. Its width varied from 11 to 22 yds., and it was paved with regularly hewn and fitted natural stones--limestone and a brownish-red stone with white veins--while its walls were provided with a covering of brick enameled in various colors with representations of lions, some of them in relief. The inscriptions which it bore were white on a rich dark-blue ground, also enameled. There were various other streets in Babylon, but these have still to be identified.
26. The Chamber of the Fates:
At the end of the Procession-street, and at right angle to it, was the Merodach canal, which communicated directly with the Euphrares. At this point also, and forming its end-portion, was the Chamber of Fates (Patak simate), where, yearly, the oracles were asked and declared. In close connection with this was the Temple of Offerings (Bit nike) or festival-house (Bit akiti). Concerning these places more information is needed, but it would seem that, before Nebuchadrezzar's time, the Chamber of Fates was simply decorated with silver--he, however, made it glorious with pure gold. It is at this point that the Procession-street is at its widest. The position of the Temple of Offerings is at present uncertain.
27. The Northern Palace and the Gardens:
What may have lain on the other side of the Arabtu-canal, which here made a bend to the Northwest, and flowed out of the Euphrates somewhat higher up, is uncertain; but in the extreme North of the city was the palace now represented by the ruin called Babil. This was likewise built by Nebuchadrezzar, but it may be doubted whether it was really founded by him. The presence of traces of wells here made Hormuzd Rassam think that this was probably the site of the Hanging Gardens, but further exploration is needed to decide the point, though it may be regarded as not unlikely that this identification is correct. In that case it would represent the palace shown in the Assyrian saloon at the British Museum--a building apparently protected by three walls, and adorned with columns resting on the backs of lions in an attitude of walking. On the adjoining slab is a representation of a small building--also with columns--on a hill. A figure of a king sculptured on a stele is seen on the left, with an altar in front of it, showing that divine honors were paid to him. The hill is thickly wooded with trees which may be olives, poplars, etc., and on the right is a series of arches on which other trees are planted. Irrigation channels stretch in a long stream to the left and in shorter streams to the right. As this belongs to the time of Ashur-bani-apli, about 650 BC, and refers to that king's operations against his brother Samas-sum-ukin, the king of Babylon, it is clear that something similar to the Hanging Gardens existed before the time of Nebuchadrezzar, and therefore, if it was his queen who had them made, before the time of their reputed founder. This would be the point first reached by the Assyrian army when advancing to the attack. Such a park as is represented here with its hills and streams, and thickly planted trees, must have made the palace in the vicinity the pleasantest, in all probability, in all Babylonia, and excited the admiration of every one who visited the sights of the city.
28. Historical References to Babylonian Buildings:
The architectural history of the city of Babylon has still to be written, but something is already known about it, especially its central point of interest, the great temple E-sagila, wherein Merodach was wor shipped. The 5th year of Sumu- la-ila was known as that in which the great fortress of Babylon was built; and his 22nd was that in which a throne of gold and silver was completed and made for Merodach's supreme abode (paramaha). Later on Abil-Sin, in his 17th year, made a throne(?) for Samash of Babylon; and Hammu-rabi, in his 3rd, 12th and 14th years, also made thrones for the gods--Nannar of Babylon (the Moon-god), Zer-panitum, Merodach's consort, and Ishtar of Babylon. Samsuiluna, his son, in his 6th year, placed a "praying statue" in E-sagila before Merodach, followed, in his 8th, by the dedication of some bright-shining object (mace?) of gold and silver, to the god; and on that occasion it is stated that he made E-sagila to shine like the stars of heaven. Passing over many other references to kings who adorned the temples of the city, the work done there by Agukakrime (circa 1480 BC) may be mentioned. This ruler, who belonged to the Kassite dynasty, not only brought back the images of Merodach and Zer-panitum to their temple, but also restored the building and its shrine, and made rich offerings thereto. Later on, after the destruction of the city by Sennacherib, his son Esarhaddon, and his grandsons Samas-sum-ukin, king of Babylon, and Ashurbani-apli, king of Assyria, all took part in the restoration of Babylon's temples and palaces. The work of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadrezzar has already been referred to. In 330 BC (reign of Alexander the Great), an attempt was made, by the tithes of the pious, to clear away the rubbish around E-sangil (E-sagila), but to all appearance no real restorations were made--or, at least, the stage at which they could have been put in hand was not reached. In the year 269 BC Antiochus Soter claims, like Nebuchedrezzar and other Babylonian kings, to have restored the temples E-sagila and E-zida (the latter at Borsippa). Though in late times the temples were more or less dilapidated, the services to all appearance continued to be performed, and may even have gone on until well in the Christian era, Babylonian religion and philosophy being still held in honor as late as the 4th century. The downfall of Babylon as a city began with the founding of Seleucia on the Tigris, in the reign of Seleucus Nicator (after 312 BC). The inhabitants of Babylon soon began to migrate to this new site, and the ruined houses and walls of the old capital ultimately became the haunts of robbers and outlaws. It is said that the walls were demolished by later (Seleucid) kings on that account, and it is not improbable that, with the walls, any houses which may have remained habitable were cleared away. Fortunately, the palaces restored by Nebuchadrezzar were too firmly built to be easily demolished, hence their preservation to the present day.
Fried. Delitzsch, Babel and Bible. 1903; French H. Weissbach, Das Stadtbild von Babylon, 1904; R. Koldeway, Die Tempel von Babylon und Borsippa. 1911. T. G. Pinches
Easton Bible Dictionary
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., published by Thomas Nelson, 1894.
BABEL, TOWER OF:
the name given to the tower which the primitive fathers of our race built in the land of Shinar after the Deluge (Gen. 11:1-9). Their object in building this tower was probably that it might be seen as a rallying-point in the extensive plain of Shinar, to which they had emigrated from the uplands of Armenia, and so prevent their being scattered abroad. But God interposed and defeated their design by condounding their language, and hence the name Babel, meaning "confusion." In the Babylonian tablets there is an account of this event, and also of the creation and the deluge. (See CHALDEA.)
The Temple of Belus, which is supposed to occupy its site, is described by the Greek historian Herodotus as a temple of great extent and magnificence, erected by the Babylonians for their god Belus. The treasures Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem were laid up in this temple (2 Chr. 36:7).
The Birs Nimrud, at ancient Borsippa, about 7 miles south-west of Hillah, the modern town which occupies a part of the site of ancient Babylon, and 6 miles from the Euphrates, is an immense mass of broken and fire-blasted fragments, of about 2,300 feet in circumference, rising suddenly to the height of 235 feet above the desert-plain, and is with probability regarded as the ruins of the tower of Babel. This is "one of the most imposing ruins in the country." Others think it to be the ruins of the Temple of Belus.
Hitchcock Bible Names Dictionary
from "Hitchcock's New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible," published in the late 1800's.
Smith's Bible Dictionary (1896)
(confusion), Bab’ylon (Greek form of Babel), is properly the capital city of the country which is called in Genesis Shinar, and in the later books Chaldea, or the land of the Chaldeans. The first rise of the Chaldean power was in the region close upon the Persian Gulf; thence the nation spread northward up the course of the rivers, and the seat of government moved in the same direction, being finally fixed at Babylon, perhaps not earlier than B.C, 1700.
I. Topography of Babylon
-Ancient description of the city.
-All the ancient writers appear to agree in the fact of a district of vast size, more or less inhabited having been enclosed within lofty walls and included under the name of Babylon. With respect to the exact extent of the circuit they differ. The estimate of Herodotus and of Pliny is 480 stades (60 Roman miles, 53 of our miles) of Strabo 385, of Q. Curtius 368, of Clitarchus 365 and of Ctesias 360 stades (40 miles). (George Smith, in his "Assyrian Discoveries," differs entirely from all these estimates, making the circuit of the city but eight miles.) Perhaps Herodotus spoke of the outer wall, which could be traced in his time. Taking the lowest estimate of the extent of the circuit, we shall have for the space within the rampart an area of above 100 square miles - nearly five times the size of London! It is evident that this vast space cannot have been entirely covered with houses. The city was situated on both sides of the river Euphrates, and the two parts were connected together by a stone bridge five stades (above 1000 yards) long and 30 feet broad. At either extremity of the bridge was a royal palace, that in the eastern city being the more magnificent of the two. The two palaces were joined not only by the bridge, but by a tunnel under the river. The houses, which were frequently three or four stories high, were laid out in straight streets crossing each other at right angles.
II. Present state of the ruins.
-A portion of the ruins is occupied by the modern town of Hillah . About five miles above Hillah, on the opposite or left bank of the Euphrates occurs a series of artificial mounds of enormous size. They consist chiefly of three great masses of building,
-the high pile of unbaked brickwork which is known to the Arabs as Babel, 600 feet square and 140 feet high; the building denominated the Kasr or palace, nearly 2000 feet square and 70 feet high, and a lofty mound upon which stands the modern tomb of Amram-ibn-’Alb . Scattered over the country on both sides of the Euphrates are a number of remarkable mounds, usually standing single, which are plainly of the same date with the great mass of ruins upon the river bank. Of these by far the most striking is the vast ruin called the Birs-Nimrud , which many regard as the tower of Babel, situated about six miles to the southwest of Hillah. [BABEL, TOWER OF]
III. Identification of sites.
-The great mound of Babel is probably the ancient temple of Beaus. The mound of the Kasr marks the site of the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. The mound of Amram is thought to represent the "hanging gardens" of Nebuchadnezzar; but most probably it represents the ancient palace, coeval with Babylon itself, of which Nebuchadnezzar speaks in his inscriptions as adjoining his own more magnificent residence.
IV. History of Babylon.
-Scripture represents the "beginning of the kingdom" as belonging to the time of Nimrod. (Genesis 10:6-10) The early annals of Babylon are filled by Berosus, the native historian, with three dynasties: one of 49 Chaldean kings, who reigned 458 years; another of 9 Arab kings, who reigned 245 years; and a third of 49 Assyrian monarchs, who held dominion for 526 years. The line of Babylonian kings becomes exactly known to us from B.C. 747. The "Canon of Ptolemy" gives us the succession of Babylonian monarchs from B.C. 747 to B.C. 331, when the last Persian king was dethroned by Alexander. On the fall of Nineveh, B.C. 625, Babylon became not only an independent kingdom, but an empire. The city was taken by surprise B.C. 539, as Jeremiah had prophesied, (Jeremiah 51:31) by Cyrus, under Darius, Daniel 5, as intimated 170 years earlier by Isaiah, (Isaiah 21:1-9) and, as Jeremiah had also foreshown, (Jeremiah 51:39) during a festival. With the conquest of Cyrus commenced the decay of Babylon, which has since been a quarry from which all the tribes in the vicinity have derived the bricks with which they have built their cities. The "great city" has thus emphatically "become heaps." (Jeremiah 51:37) Ba’bel, Tower of. The "tower of Babel" is only mentioned once in Scripture, (Genesis 11:4,5) and then as incomplete. It was built of bricks, and the "slime" used for mortar was probably bitumen. Such authorities as we possess represent the building as destroyed soon after its erection. When the Jews, however, were carried captive into Babylonia, they thought they recognized it in the famous temple of Beaus, the modern Birs Nimrod . But the Birs-Nimrrud though it cannot be the tower of Babel itself; may well be taken to show the probable shape and character of the edifice. This building appears to have been a sort of oblique pyramid built in seven receding stages, each successive one being nearer to the southwestern end which constituted the back of the building. The first, second and third stories were each 26 feet high the remaining four being 15 feet high. On the seventh stage there was probably placed the ark or tabernacle, which seems to have been again 15 feet high, and must have nearly, if not entirely, covered the top of the seventh story The entire original height, allowing three feet for the platform, would thus have been 156 feet, or, without the plat-form, 163 feet.