Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4
THE BEGINNING OF CULTURE: URUK AND KISH

WE MAY be consoled by the realization that what is left of the cities of ancient Babylonia is more than a pile of rubble -- it is a culture upon which our own culture is based.

And though it may be true that none of the cities of the two-river country is as old as Jericho, they are incomparably larger, more "city-like", and more numerous than the burghs of Canaan.

In the beginning of city culture and of culture in general, we have the Babylonian cities of the fourth millennium B.C., the most prominent being Eridu, Ur, Lagash, Uruk, Nippur, and Kish -- with Ur, Uruk, and Kish probably being the oldest.

It is probably not wrong to state that Uruk (called Erech in the Bible; today called Warka) was the biggest city on earth during the third millennium. From the ruins of Warka, the archaeologists have unearthed eighteen prehistoric layers of settlements dating back to the fifth millennium.

About 2700 B.C., Uruk, the mightiest city of Babylonia, had the most tremendous system of fortifications known to the world until the rise of Nineveh: the double-ring wall already mentioned, nearly six miles long and fortified by 900 towers. It was believed to be the work of King Gilgamesh, the legendary Mesopotamian hero. Gilgamesh's walls encircled a city area of approximately two square miles. The fortifications also enclosed suburbs, palm groves, and two large temple areas, the latter separated from the rest by special walls. The dimensions of these temple areas contrasted remarkably with the narrow lanes of the residential section.

The estimated number of inhabitants ranges from 50,000 to 150,000, which lends probability to the assumption that Uruk was the world's first, and for a long time the only metropolis, as we understand the word today.

The larger of the two temple-cities of Uruk, the sanctuary of the mother goddess Innana, was built about 2800 B.C., three hundred years prior to the construction of the large pyramids in Egypt. The temples with their tremendous measurements are probably the oldest monumental architecture in the world. The mud bricks, of which they were built, were covered with a layer of clay, into

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