The Hanging Garden of Babylon
The ancient city of Babylon, located east of the Euphrates River near present-day Baghdad, developed in stages and reached its peak of expansion during the Neo-Babylonian dynasty under Nebuchadnezzar II. The city was the capital of a kingdom encompassing a large part of southwest Asia and was the largest city in the known world.
More About Hanging Garden : Babylon Introduction : Early History : Babylon History : Topography : Babylonia Period
Although the site was settled in prehistoric times, Babylon is first mentioned in documents only in the late 3rd millennium BC. About 2200 bc it was known as the site of a temple, and during the 21st century BC it was subject to the nearby city of Ur. Babylon became an independent city-state by 1894 bc, when the Amorite Sumu-abum founded a dynasty there. This dynasty reached its high point under Hammurabi. In 1595 BC the city was captured by Hittites, and shortly thereafter it came under the control of the Kassite dynasty (circa 1590-1155 bc). The Kassites transformed Babylon the city-state into the country of Babylonia by bringing all of southern Mesopotamia into permanent subjection and making Babylon its capital. The city thus became the administrative center of a large kingdom. Later, probably in the 12th century BC, it became the religious center as well, when its principal god, Marduk, was elevated to the head of the Mesopotamian pantheon.
After the Kassite dynasty collapsed under pressure from the Elamites to the east, Babylon was governed by several short-lived dynasties. From the late 8th century bc until the Assyrians were expelled by Nabopolassar, between 626 and 615 BC, the city was part of the Assyrian Empire.
BABYLONIAN CITY AND ITS DECLINE
Nabopolassar founded the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, and his son Nebuchadnezzar II expanded the kingdom until it became an empire embracing much of southwest Asia. The imperial capital at Babylon was refurbished with new temple and palace buildings, extensive fortification walls and gates, and paved processional ways; it was at that time the largest city of the known world, covering more than 1,000 hectares (some 2,500 acres).
The Neo-Babylonian Empire was of short duration. In 539 bc, Cyrus the Great captured Babylon and incorporated Babylonia into the newly founded Persian Empire. Under the Persians, Babylon for a time served as the official residence of the crown prince, until a local revolt in 482 led Xerxes I to raze the temples and ziggurat (temple tower) and to melt down the statue of the patron god Marduk.
Alexander the Great captured the city in 330 BC and planned to rebuild it and make it the capital of his vast empire, but he died before he could carry out his plans. After 312 bc, Babylon was for a while used as a capital by the Seleucid dynasty set up by Alexanderís successors. When the new capital of Seleucia on the Tigris was founded in the early 3rd century BC, however, most of Babylonís population was moved there. The temples continued in use for a time, but the city became insignificant and almost disappeared before the coming of Islam in the 7th century ad.
More About Hanging Garden : Babylon Introduction : Babylon Early History : Babylon History : Topography : Babylonia Period