Monday, December 08, 2003

The Gate of Ishtar

Built by Nebuchadnezzar II (604- 562 BC), the Ishtar Gate was one of the main entries to the city of Bablyon, capital of the Babylonian Empire. It was built in about 575 BC, the eighth fortified gate in the city. It is one of the most impressive monuments rediscovered in the ancient Near East. Story has it that Nebuchadnezzar built the gate as to beautify his capital. He restored the temple of Marduk, the chief god, and also built himself a magnificent palace with the famous Hanging Gardens, which was reported by the Greek historian Herodotus to have been one of the wonders of the world. The Bible records that it was Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed Jerusalem, brought the kingdom of Judah to an end, and carried off the Jews into exile (Cyrus the Great later on helped Jews to return to their homeland).
The arched gate is made of brick glazed with a copper turquoise glaze alternating with unglazed brick covered with gold leaf. Lions, bulls, and dragons stride along in rows flanking the entrance. The top is crenelated (notched), and would have provided cover for archers defending the city entrances. At the right is another panel, this one from the throne room of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, mentioned in the Bible. On the throne room panel, lions are arranged in a frieze below a row of stylized palms.
The gateway has been reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, from the glazed bricks found, so its original height is different in size. Reconstructed height is 47 feet.
These reconstructed fragments of the Ishtar Gate are all that remain of Bablyon. The Hanging Gardens and the Ziggurat of Marduk exist only in written descriptions. The use of glazed brick and tile in architecture is a recurrent theme in building of the Middle East, and we will see it again later in places as far away as the mosques and madrasas of Samarqand and the Nazarid Palaces of Granada, Spain. ( to learn more about Ishtar reffer to The Epic of Gilgamesh in my blog).

The Dedicatory Inscription on the Ishtar Gate reads:
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the faithful prince appointed by the will of Marduk, the highest of princely princes, beloved of Nabu, of prudent counsel, who has learned to embrace wisdom, who fathomed their divine being and reveres their majesty, the untiring governor, who always takes to heart the care of the cult of Esagila and Ezida and is constantly concerned with the well-being of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the humble, the caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, the firstborn son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon.
Both gate entrances of Imgur-Ellil and Nemetti-Ellil following the filling of the street from Babylon had become increasingly lower. Therefore, I pulled down these gates and laid their foundations at the water table with asphalt and bricks and had them made of bricks with blue stone on which wonderful bulls and dragons were depicted. I covered their roofs by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them. I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings. I placed wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder
I let the temple of Esiskursiskur (the highest festival house of Markduk, the Lord of the Gods a place of joy and celebration for the major and minor gods) be built firm like a mountain in the precinct of Babylon of asphalt and fired bricks.

See Pictures of the Gate:


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7:21 PM  
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10:09 AM  

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