Where Is Babylon and How Was It Destroyed?
Babylonia was an ancient kingdom in southern Mesopotamia on the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq, about 50 miles south of Baghdad. Named after its capital city, Babylon, it first became prominent about 2300 BC under the Amorite dynasty, whose most famous king was Hammurabi, who ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC. After Hammurabi conquered neighboring city-states, he brought much of southern and central Mesopotamia under unified Babylonian rule.
Hammurabi turned Babylon into a rich, powerful and influential city. He created one of the world’s earliest and most complete written legal codes. Known as the Code of Hammurabi, it helped Babylon surpass other cities in the region. The Babylonian Empire, however, rapidly fell apart after the death of Hammurabi and reverted to a small kingdom. After Hammurabi died, his sons took over.
However, they were not strong leaders and soon Babylon grew weak. In 1595 the Kassites conquered Babylon. They would rule for 400 years. Later, the Assyrians would take over. It wasn’t until 612 BC that Babylonia once again rose to power as the ruler of the empire over Mesopotamia. This second Babylonian Empire is called the neo-Babylonian Empire.
Around 616 BC King Nabopolassar took advantage of the fall of the Assyrian Empire to bring the seat of the empire back to Babylon. It was his son Nebuchadnezzar II who led Babylon back to its former glory. Nebuchadnezzar II ruled for 43 years. He was a great military leader and expanded the empire to include much of the Middle East all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. This included the conquering of the Hebrews and taking them into slavery for 70 years as told in the Bible. Under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, the city of Babylon and its temples were restored. It also became the cultural center of the world, just like during Hammurabi’s rule.
Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This was a large series of terraces that rose to around 75 feet high. They were covered with all sorts of trees, flowers, and plants. The gardens is considered one of the great wonders of the ancient world. After Nebuchadnezzar II died, the empire began to fall apart once again. In 529 BC, the Persians conquered Babylon and made it part of the Persian Empire.
All that remains of the city of Babylon is a mound of broken mud buildings about 55 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi government excavated Babylonian ruins and attempted to reconstruct certain features of the ancient city, including one of Nebuchadnezzar’s palaces. The actual ruins and artifacts are likely buried under the reconstruction. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, United States forces built a military base on the ruins of Babylon. The United Nations cultural heritage agency UNESCO reported the base caused “major damage” to the archaeological site. The site was reopened to tourists in 2009.