Skip to main content
Select Source:

Babylon (ancient city, Mesopotamia)

Babylon (băb´əlŏn), ancient city of Mesopotamia. One of the most important cities of the ancient Middle East, it was on the Euphrates River and was north of the cities that flourished in S Mesopotamia in the 3d millennium BC It became important when Hammurabi made it the capital of his kingdom of Babylonia. The patron god of Babylon, Marduk (identical with Bel), became a leading deity in the Neo-Babylonian pantheon. The city was destroyed (c.689 BC) by the Assyrians under Sennacherib, and its real spendor belongs to the later period of Babylonia after the city was rebuilt. The brilliant color and luxury of Babylon became legendary from the days of Nebuchadnezzar (d. 562 BC). The Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The walls of Babylon, its palace, and the processional way with the famous Ishtar Gate were decorated with colorfully glazed brick. Among the Hebrews (who suffered the Babylonian captivity under Nebuchadnezzar) and the later Greeks the city was famed for its sensual living. Under the rule of Nabonidus the city was captured (538 BC) by Cyrus the Great and was used as one of the administrative capitals of the Persian Empire. In 275 BC its inhabitants were removed to Seleucia, which replaced Babylon as a commercial center.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon (ancient city, Mesopotamia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon (ancient city, Mesopotamia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon-ancient-city-mesopotamia

"Babylon (ancient city, Mesopotamia)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon-ancient-city-mesopotamia

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Babylon

Babylon an ancient city in Mesopotamia, the capital of Babylonia in the 2nd millennium bc under Hammurabi. The city (of which only ruins now remain) lay on the Euphrates and was noted by Classical writers for its luxury, its fortifications, and its legendary Hanging Gardens. The name is also given in Revelation to the mystical city of the Apocalypse, and it is taken as the type of a great and decadent city. Babylon is also used (chiefly among Rastafarians) as a contemptuous or dismissive term for aspects of white culture seen as degenerate or oppressive, especially the police.
Babylonian Captivity the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon, lasting from their deportation by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 bc until their release by Cyrus the Great in 539 bc. It is taken as a type of grieving exile.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/babylon

"Babylon." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/babylon

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Babylon

Babylon Ancient city on the River Euphrates in Mesopotamia, capital of the empire Babylonia. It was rebuilt after being destroyed by Assyria c.689 bc, and its new buildings included the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This was the period, under Nebuchadnezzar, of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews. Babylon declined after 275 bc, as Seleucia ascended.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon

"Babylon." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Babylon (village, United States)

Babylon, residential village (1990 pop. 12,249), Suffolk co., SE N.Y., on Long Island, on Great South Bay; settled 1689, inc. 1893. The first U.S. wireless station was built there by Marconi.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon (village, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon (village, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon-village-united-states

"Babylon (village, United States)." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon-village-united-states

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Babylon

Babylon •radon • Chalcedon • Proudhon •Mogadon • pteranodon • iguanodon •mastodon • chiffon • Ctesiphon •bouffant • balafon • Xenophon •Bellerophon •argon, Sargon •Dagon • woebegone • bygone •doggone, logon •dodecagon • Dijon • demijohn • ancon •archon • racon • Comecon • emoticon •stereopticon • icon • walk-on • neocon •Yukon • zircon • salon • Fablon •decathlon • Teflon • Dralon • Simplon •Babylon • papillon • propylon •epsilon • nylon • Orlon •eidolon, roll-on, Solon •mouflon • Ascalon • Ashqelon •echelon • Avalon •gnomon, Jomon

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/babylon-0

"Babylon." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/babylon-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Babylon

BABYLON

BABYLON (Heb. Bavel, בָּבֶל, Gk. Βαβυλὼν), ancient city on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq. (In contemporary convention, "Babylon" is used for the city name and "Babylonia" for the country. In biblical Hebrew בבל is used for both.) Its ruins lie within the suburbs of the modern city of Baghdad. No satisfactory etymology for the city's name has been proposed. Akkadian scribes derived the name from the words bāb-ili ("gate of god"), but in Genesis 11:9 the name is explained derogatorily as a derivation from the root bll ("to confuse"). The English word follows the Greek spelling.

Biblical tradition lists the city with Erech and Akkad in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:10), as one of the earliest cities in Babylonia. This view of the antiquity of Babylon was also current in Babylon itself in the period after *Hammurapi, but in fact before 2050 b.c.e. the city was only a small provincial town.

The first certain mention of Babylon in cuneiform texts is from the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112–2004 b.c.e.), when it served as a provincial capital and seat of a governor. During the Isin-Larsa period (2017–1794) it became the capital of a small independent kingdom under an Amorite dynasty. Its kings enjoyed unusually long reigns, and this may symbolize the stability which allowed them eventually to take a dominant role in Mesopotamian politics. The city gained fame during the time of Hammurapi (1792–1750 b.c.e.), when it extended its influence over most of southern Mesopotamia through diplomacy and then military conquest. The kings of Babylon saw themselves as heirs of the Old Akkadian rulers who had first unified Mesopotamia 400 years before. Under Hammurapi's son Samsu-iluna, however, the southern part of the kingdom was lost.

During the subsequent Middle Babylonian period Babylon continued as a capital city in southern Mesopotamia. Assyria in northern Iraq tinkered in Babylon's politics. Under the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta i (1244–1208), Babylon was partially destroyed. When Tiglath-Pileser iii (745–727) took Babylon, he gave it the status of an independent kingdomunited to Assyria. In Babylon he reigned under another name, Pulu, which is found in the Bible (ii Kings 15:19). Shalmaneser v (726–722) continued the practice of employing another name in Babylon, Ululayu, an adjective meaning "of the sixth month," commemorating the month of his birth. The Chaldean Marduk-apla-iddina (biblical *Merodach-Baladan (Akk. Marduk-apla-iddina)) proclaimed an independent kingdom upon Shalmaneser's death, but *Sargon II (722–705) overthrew him in 710; and, though he did not adopt a different throne name in Babylon, he made it his residence for a time and added "the king of Akkad, governor of Babylon" to his titles.

Following Sargon's death Merodach-Baladan Mardukapla-iddina returned, and this may be the time of his correspondence with *Hezekiah of Judah (2 Kgs. 20:12–19, ii Chr. 32:31). Babylon again became a center of resistance to Assyria, inspiring the Assyrian king Sennacherib to destroy the city in 689, an act widely viewed as sacrilegious. His son Esarhaddon (680–669) rebuilt the city and expressed piety toward its gods. At the end of his life he divided his kingdom between his two sons, making Shamash-shum-ukin his heir in Babylon and Assurbanipal in Assyria. But Shamash-shum-ukin thwarted his father's plans by trying to make southern Mesopotamia completely independent of Assyria. Assurbanipal besieged Babylon and recovered it from his brother, but at considerable cost to the strength of the empire.

As Assyria was collapsing, in 626 Nabopolassar, a Chaldean, made himself king of Akkad at Babylon. He and his successor, *Nebuchadnezzarii, proceeded to build the Neo-Babylonian empire at the expense of the Assyrians.

As the capital of the Neo-Babylonian empire, to which Judah was forcibly annexed in 586, Babylon underwent a vast program of public building and fortification. After the fall of the empire to the Persians, Babylon still maintained its dominant position. With the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great, Babylon offered no resistance and was made the capital of his new empire. But Seleucus i Nicator (312–281), Alexander's successor, founded Seleucia not far away on the Tigris, and the inhabitants of Babylon slowly moved to Seleucia, deserting Babylon, which may have been uninhabited in the first centuries of our era.

As early as the 1780s visitors observed that the site had been looted. Major excavations were conducted by the German architect R. Koldewey (1855–1925) from 1899 to 1917. These excavations revealed data for all levels of occupation from Old Babylonian (1894–1595 b.c.e.) to Parthian times (250 b.c.e.–224 c.e.), but their main importance lay in the extensive evidence for the Neo-Babylonian period (625–539 b.c.e.). Old Babylonian levels were rarely reached, and the high water table impeded excavation of early periods. The excavations are important also in the history of archaeology because Koldewey was the first European systematically to try to trace mud brick architecture and to distinguish between buildings and later pits, leading to what we call stratigraphy.

Koldewey uncovered two palaces of Nebuchadnezzar and an ancient fortress that adjoined the interior wall of the city. The façade of one palace was made of enamel-covered bricks, decorated with pillars and capitals in various colors on a blue background. The royal throne was located in an alcove in the wall opposite the entrance. The hanging gardens referred to by Greek authors including Diodorus Siculus (60–30 b.c.e.) (2, 10:1, "the garden called hung") and considered one of the wonders of the world have never been identified archaeologically. In the palace were discovered clay tablets upon which were inscribed allocations of food for those who ate at the king's table, including *Jehoiachin, the last legitimate king of Judah.

To the east of the palaces passed the main road, which was used for processions of the Babylonian New Year celebration. At the road's northern end the processions passed into the inner city by way of the Ishtar Gate, which was decorated with reliefs of fanciful animals with lion's feet. This gate has been partly reconstructed in Berlin and features in all histories of Mesopotamian art.

South of Nebuchadnezzar's palace, at the end of the parade road, was a large temple of Marduk, Esagila ("The house lifting [its] head [proudly]") whose walls were made of trees decorated with gold, marble, and precious stones. North of it stood the ziqqurat, a pyramid-shaped structure built in stepped stages on a square base. Each of its sides was 295 ft. (91 m.) long. The highest tower had a great temple according to Herodotus (1:181), who, however, may never have visited the city. The city and its suburbs, which extended to the west of the Euphrates, were connected by a bridge. Herodotus said that the city had many three- and four-story buildings (1:180).

The greatness of Babylon left its mark in biblical sources. Isaiah 13:19 called Babylon "the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans" while praying for its fall. Jeremiah was deeply concerned about Babylon, and his book has more than half of the references to the city in the Bible; in his day how one was to relate to Babylon was a major issue, and the prophet himself may have been seen by the Babylonians as a collaborator since he counseled not resisting Babylonian power.

Babylon's city-god, Marduk, became the dominant state god perhaps when Nebuchadnezzar i (1125–1104) recovered Marduk's statue from *Elam; the god was represented in the Creation Epic as having supremacy over the entire pantheon conferred on him by the other gods. Later the god was called Bel, "lord." Both names are known in the Bible, in Jeremiah 50:2 ("Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed") and 51:44 ("and I will punish Bel in Babylon") and in Isaiah 46:1 ("Bel bows down, Nebo [another Babylonian god] stoops").

Babylon became synonymous in apocalyptic thought with decadence and evil and was sometimes equated with Rome and its empire. (For the figure in Christian apocalyptic see Rev. 17). But for most Jews it remained a real place where members of a thriving Jewish community made their homes. The Babylonian Talmud, for example, recalls that Babylon's Jewish community was healthy in terms of its orthodox practice in contrast to others in Media and Elam (Kid. 71b).

bibliography:

R. Koldewey, The Excavations at Babylon (1914); E. Unger, Babylon, die heilige Stadt (1931); S.A. Pallis, Early Exploration in Mesopotamia (1954) 11–15; A. Parrot, Babylon and the Old Testament (1958); S.N. Kramer, in: em, 2 (1965), 10–27; C.J. Gadd, in: cah, 1 (1965), ch. 22; H.W.F. Saggs, in: D.W. Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament Study (1967), 39–56; idem, The Greatness That Was Babylon (1962); J. Oates, Babylon (1979); R. Zadok, in: za, 74 (1984), 240–44; J.-C. Margueron, in: abd, 1:563–65; H.W.F. Saggs, Babylonians (1995); E. Klengel-Brandt in: E. Meyers (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East, 1 (1997), 251–56; J. Baer, in: Brill's New Pauly 5 (2004), 1125; M. Van de Mieroop, King Hammurabi of Babylon (2005).

[Daniel C. Snell (2nd ed.)]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Babylon." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Babylon." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon

"Babylon." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved September 20, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/babylon

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.