This MLA essay discusses the historical and cultural implications of the ancient city of Babylon. This sample essay was written at the undergraduate level to serve as a sample for the Ultius blog.
The Ancient City of Babylon
Babylon is one of history’s most controversial cities, especially when placed against the supposed background of humanity’s own ‘fall’ from grace. The legacy of Babylon, though destroyed long ago, continues on in modern culture as an apocalyptic, ideological force. This association is certainly stirred and strengthened by numerous biblical references that range from Genesis to Revelations with Babylon being mentioned 260 times throughout scripture (Babylon 23). The history, myth, and legacy of Babylon are discussed in this paper with reflection upon what, if any, significance exists for modern day seekers.
What is Babylon? That is a great question for Babylon has long been associated with chaos and confusion. Artist Franks Micheel sings “Speak to Me, from the Towers of Babylon, the beat gees on- All voices of the insincere. Confusion is middle C, your frequency is what I need to hear” (Babylon Falls Quotes). Strangely, when interpreting Babylon, confusion turns out to one its major providences. According to the Bible, this muddle is actually the handiwork of God who punished men for their attempts to create a tower that would rise to the heavens.
Genesis 11 contains the passage that the people of the world found a plain in Shinar, Babylonia, and once settled there called to one another, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11: 1-9). The Lord however had a much different plan for these builders for it is also stated “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other” (Genesis 11: 1-9). Thus, the Lord is said to have scattered the people over all the earth, and the building of the city and tower was stopped. For this reason, the name Babel has been given, for the Lord hath scattered people over the face of the Earth so thoroughly that in conversation with one another the words not but babbling.
And so a direct response for what Babylon is may be shrouded by the many attributes and myths that surround this once real city. Instantly, from these opening pages of the Bible, one of humanity’s most enduring sources for spiritual revelation, there is mass confusion; for why should the Lord so vehemently despise humanity’s own longing to raise themselves through architecture? The mystery is furthered when the Lord speaks in a manner most similar to the people of Babel stating in the same meter as the builders, “Come, let us go down and confuse their languages” (Genesis 11: 1-9). The oddity of the plurality of the word us may be explained by nothing more than the completion of the Lord’s will to confuse the people so. Nevertheless, the motivation behind the intention and where to go from whence being scattered remains a mystery to be solved by Babel’s descendants.
The city of Babylon was once located inside ancient Mesopotamia in what is present-day Iraq just 59 miles southwest of Baghad (Mark A 1). Babylon is believed to have begun with the rule of Hammurabi in roughly 1728 B.C which was achieved through the overthrowing of several rivals in the region and the establishment of his law, Hammurabi’s code which is famously known for the maxim, eye for an eye (History of Babylon). Even so, no exact date for Babylon’s founding can be specified. Rather, Babylon is deeply shrouded in the mists of antiquity which certainly fits with the Biblical judgement (Budge 17). Apparently, from this time region, very few civilizations have managed to leave a lasting legacy that had endured to the present day with the exception of Babylonia and Egypt.
According to History World, Babylon was destroyed in 1531 B.C. by the Hittites, invaders from the North West but was re-established a century later by the Kassites, invaders from the mountainous North Eastern regions of Iran. The city then fared well for another three centuries, enjoying reasonable stability (History of Babylon). During this time, the Northern region of Babylonia grew in power with its center in the city Ashur, the city from which the Assyrians took their name (History of Babylon). In 700 B.C., the Assyrians overwhelmed the Babylonians under the direction of Sennacherib. Nevertheless, his rule was short-lived as he was disfavored by those in Mesopotamia who saw his behavior as too brutal.
Thus, with prolonged unrest, outright rebellion, and eventually devastating revenge caused Sennacherib to be overthrown and the rise of a new Babylonian age this time led by a Chaldean named Nabopolassar (History of Babylon). This leader would ruthlessly pursue the Assyrian neighbors to the North with the assistance of the Medes, Assyrian neighbors to the East. After a three month siege, Assyria’s Nineveh is captured and destroyed thus ending the empire of Assyria which would soon be absorbed by the Persian Empire (History of Babylon).
From this period onwards, in the sixth century, the power of Bablyonia would grow under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. Nebuchadnezzar is one of Babylon’s greatest and most famous of kings. Ascending to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar addressed the Gods in his inaugural address stating “O merciful Marduk, may the house that I have built endure forever, may I be satiated with its splendor, attain old age therein, with abundant offspring, and receive therein tribute of the kings of all regions, from all mankind” (Mark B 1). Perhaps with this prayer, or possibly his alliance with the Medes, secured through marriage with Amytis, Nebuchadnezzar II achieved a great deal of his desires as warrior-king including the defeat of Egypt, the takeover of Palestine and dominion over Syria thus granting him full control for all Mesopotamia trade routes from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea (Mark B 1). With the vast amount of money gathered through taxation on these regions and routes, Nebuchadnezzar II lifted his city of Babylon to legendary heights in the ancient world.
One of his greatest accomplishments was no doubt the Ishtar gate, an item that has been recognized by Herodotus as one of the initial Seven Wonders of the World. The Ishtar gate, built in 575 B.C. was the eighth gate of the city of Babylon and once was covered in magnificent hanging gardens (Garcia 1). The Ishtar Gate was so named due to the goddess Ishtar to whom Nebuchadnezzar pay tribute through the artistry of his architecture. On the gate are several key images including young bulls, lions, and dragons who were respectively associated with Ishtar, goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex, Adad, a weather god, and Marduk, Babylon’s patron deity (Garcia 1).
Besides being decorated in these sacred animals, gates were composed of lovely yellow and brown tiles with blue bricks built of Lapis Lazuli (Garcia 1). The total height of these gates measured more than 38 feet high and thus served as a form of protection as well. Through these gates, Babylonians would host terrific parades in honor and celebration for their chosen deities and political candidates. These gardens lasted for some time although they likely decayed with the rest of the region when Babylon did actually fall to the Persians in 539 B.C. (Mark A 1).
Analysis of Babylon
Babylonia is the name of the empire from which Babylon, its capital city, derived its name (Budge 18). The empire had several names including Kaldu, Sumir, and Akkad which were to describe South and North Babylon respectively. The inscriptions from Babylon read the name of city as KA DINGIRRA KI which may be translated “Gate + of God + the Place” thus creating the full translation ‘the place which is the gate of God’ (Budge 18). Furthermore, there is the description of E KI, meaning the ‘house’ or ‘the hollow’. Both these definitions posit Babylon as an important metropolis in the Universe (Budge 19).
Despite these positive descriptions, Babylon is called a doomed and terrible city of moral corruption by innumerable artists and biblical references. This connection may however be a confusion of its own. Apparently, the Semites consciously degraded of the city following their imprisonment in Babylon by using the word ‘Balal’, meaning to confuse, to mix’ in description of Babylon. Even so, scholar Rabbi Johanan when asked why it was termed this way states that actually, Babylon is intended to mean ‘dark places’ which is a reference to the Talmudic scripture saying “He [the Lord] hat set me in dark places” (Budge 19). Hence, Babylonian lore is actually more closely associated to things of darkness rather than to evil or wickedness.
Babalon v. Babylon
One of the latest developments regarding Babylon has been the significant and widespread revival of a magical system whose basis is the worship of femaleness expressed by Babalon. Spelt in this fashion, Babalon is considered to be a version of the Egyptian goddess Heka, whose name means magic. Therefore she possesses the same functions of Heka including liberation of the spirit, stewardship for the Dead in the Underworld, guardianship over the principles of life, and also direction of Vengeance. As the great liberator, Babalon is known to rule over serpentine wisdom and power which is intimately related to life and sexual experience (Templum Babalonis).
Babalon is most potently recognized as the Great Liberating Mother, a triune goddess who presides over and through the Earth, Sky, and Underworld. Each of these Mother Goddess of ancient times are said to be unified in the Goddess of Babalon whose main dwelling is in the Underworld, the place of restoration and regeneration (Templum Babalonis). Sometimes, Babylon is called “Babalon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations” which is a reference to the way this Goddess serves living and dead as a sacrament to the All-Father in the form of wine.
For a sampling of Babalon’s function and worship, follow the words of Aleister Crowley, a prophet of the emergent worship of Babalon. He relates,
This is the Mystery of Babylon, the Mother of Abomination, and this is the mystery of her adulteries, for she hath yielded up herself to everything that liveth, and hath become a partaker in its mystery. And because she hath made herself the servant of each, therefore is she become the mistress of all. Not as yet canst thou comprehend her glory. Beautiful art thou, O Babylon, and desirable, for thou hast given thyself to everything that liveth, and thy weakness hath subdued their strength. (Crowley 12th Aethyr).
This passage sheds light on why it may be that Babylon is so consistently called ‘fallen’ for the central mystery of Babalon is that of unity, an aim that is achieved through her total subjugation to each. Hence why Babalon may certainly appear as ‘Fallen’, however, according to the magickal tradition this is a service of Grace delivered with the intention of raising the Spirit to the pinnacle of divinity, understanding and power. The type of awareness described is the providence of death’s utter annihilation of inhibition, to be realized through Babalon’s sacrament. This connection helps to explain the many apocalyptic connotations designated to Babalon, especially those of Revelations.
The term “apocalypse”, though it may be termed as an ending, may also refer to an unveiling of love or divinity. Hence, Babylon may be a production of God in more way that one and makes for an extremely interesting study subject for both historians and seekers of metaphysical interest.
Did you enjoy this? Order your own custom essay from Ultius today.
Babylon Falls Quotes. Lyrics as Quotes, 2016. Web. Jun. 4, 2016.
Budge, Sir Ernest Aflred Wallis. Babylonian Life and History. Religious Tract Society, 1981. Print. Jun. 4, 2016.
Crowley, Aliester. The Best of the Equinox, Enochian Magic. Weiser Books, 2012. Print.
Garcia, Brittany. Ishtar Gate. Ancient.eu, 2013. Web. Jun. 4, 2016. http://www.ancient.eu/Ishtar_Gate/.
History of Babylon. History World, n.d. Web. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa10
Mark, Joshua, A. Babylon Ancient.eu, 2011. Web. June, 3. http://www.ancient.eu/babylon/
Mark, Joshua. B. Nebuchadnezzar II. Ancient.eu, 2011. Web. June, 3. http://www.ancient.eu/babylon/
Templum Babalonis. Who or What is Babalon? Temple of Babalon, 2016. Web. http://www.templeofbabalon.com/babalon.asp.