Ancient Babylon

Lying on the shores of the Euphrates, these ruins were once the location of a prosperous civilization.

The ancient ruins of Babylon can be found just 85 km south of Baghdad. Today, these ruins are just a shadow of their former glory. For a long time, Babylon was just one of the many small kingdoms in Mesopotamia.

The ancient city of Babylon became the centre of Mesopotamian civilization when Hammurabi became its ruler around 1728 BC.

He established the rule of law and Babylon prospered under his reign. The Code of Hammurabi is the oldest complex law code. Soon after the death of Hammurabi, the city was destroyed and it took another 1,000 years for it to flourish again, this time under the rule of Nabopolassar followed by his son Nebuchadnezzar who became king in 605 BC.

Under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule Babylon became an impressive city with towering walls, the famous Hanging Gardens and upwards of 50 temples. His forty-three year reign was marked by the conquest of Jerusalem. He was the one that carried the Jews in their Babylonian captivity.

In 539 B.C. Babylon fells under Persian rule when one of Cyrus the Great’s generals enter the city without opposition. After this point, Babylon never regained its former glory. For a short while Babylon was conquered by Alexander the Great and the city prospered again, but following Alexander’s death in 323 B.C. the city fell into deserted ruins.

By the 10th century, Islamic scholars recorded finding only a poor village on the site. In the 19th century, it was just vacant desert when British and German archaeologists carted off anything of worth to London's British Museum and Berlin's Pergamon. The items remain in those museums today.



The Greek historian Herodotus listed the city as among the seven wonders of the ancient world, ranking alongside the Great Pyramid of Cheops, as "things to be seen."

They must really have been something special to impress the Greeks, who knew well the lush palaces of the fertile Adriatic, constructed extravagant gardens of their own, and travelled throughout the Middle East.

And an exceptional number of images and ideas from that civilization have survived, often through scenes in the Bible.

There is the tower of Babel; the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel in the lions' den; the exiled Jews by the rivers of Babylon; Belshazzar's feast, when a divine hand appeared to write a warning on the wall; and the Whore of Babylon. Very few ancient regimes have left so rich a legacy in the modern mind.