A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Architecture

By Gwendolyn Leick | Go to book overview

B

babanu

An Assyrian word that designates the private sector (courtyard and apartments) in an Assyrian palace, usually situated behind the throne room, as opposed to the BITANU, the public sector. The central unit of both is a large courtyard.

Babylon (modern Babil)

Mesopotamia, see map p. xviii. Very little remains of the ancient Mesopotamian metropolis except an extensive ruin-field in the vicinity of the Arab village of Hilla. The Euphrates, which used to run straight through the town, has shifted its course and almost all the remains of the early Babylon—it was the capital of the Amorite dynasty during the 2nd millennium BC—are below ground-water level and therefore out of reach for the predominantly German archaeologists who have been working on the site since 1899. They concentrated on the Babylon of the Neo-Babylonian period (c. 625-539 BC). It was Nebukadrezzar II (c. 605-562 BC) who was responsible for making the town into one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world. The site was inhabited until the 2nd C BC.

The royal and holy city of Babylon was surrounded by a rectangular, impressively strong double wall built of baked brick. A second, outer wall, some ten miles long, protected parts of the city’s large suburbs, and its ‘green belt’ consisted mainly of date palm groves. The normal population was around 100,000 but it has been estimated that up to a quarter of a million people may have actually lived in ‘greater Babylon’. Most of the public buildings were situated in the Inner City of roughly square plan, bisected by the Euphrates into two unequal parts. The famous double walls were pierced by eight gates, all named after gods, and the most splendidly decorated one was the Ishtar Gate since the ritual processions on the occasion of the Babylonian New Year festival had to pass through it. It was a double gate corresponding to the double wall with an arched doorway and projecting towers. The facade and the passage were decorated with symbolic emblems of the city’s patron-god Marduk, fashioned of especially moulded, colourful glazed bricks set off against a deep blue background (now in the Berlin Museum).

A similar scheme of decoration was applied to the walls bordering the city’s most magnificent street, the Processional Way which linked the Ishtar Gate to the festival-temple (see BÎT-AKITU) in the northern part of the town. The street was c. 20m wide and paved with limestone and red bracchia. A single large gate led from this road to the Southern Palace (‘Südburg’) which Nebukadrezzar erected over the smaller palace built by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon and his own father Nabupolassar. Afterwards it was extended by Nabonidus (c. 556-539 BC), and used as a royal residence under the Persians. The huge complex is composed of several palace-units disposed around a

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A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Architecture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • A 1
  • B 26
  • C 41
  • D 59
  • E 68
  • F 75
  • G 82
  • H 92
  • I 102
  • J 105
  • K 108
  • L 121
  • M 127
  • N 145
  • O 152
  • P 155
  • Q 172
  • R 173
  • S 181
  • T 199
  • U 229
  • V 238
  • W 241
  • Y 245
  • Z 246
  • Alphabetical List of Entries 249
  • Index 253
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