Ancient History & Civilisation

Babylon: Legend, History and the Ancient City

Babylon: Legend, History and the Ancient City

Babylon: for eons its very name has been a byword for luxury and wickedness. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept," wrote the psalmist, "as we remembered Zion." One of the greatest cities of the ancient world, Babylon - home to the fabulous hanging gardens - has been eclipsed by its own sinful reputation. For two thousand years the real, physical metropolis lay buried while another, ghostly city lived on, engorged on accounts of its own destruction. More recently the site of Babylon has been the centre of major excavation: yet the spectacular results of this work have done little displace the many other fascinating ways in which the city has endured and reinvented itself in culture. Saddam Hussein, for one, notoriously exploited the Babylonian myth to associate himself and his regime with its glorious past. Why has Babylon so creatively fired the human imagination, with results both good and ill? Why has it been so enthralling to so many, and for so long? In exploring answers, Michael Seymour ranges across art, archaeology, history, politics and literature. From Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar to Brueghel, Rembrandt, Voltaire, William Blake and modern interpreters like Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino and Gore Vidal, the author explores a carnival of disparate sources dominated by the intoxicating idea of depravity.

Chapter 1. A city and its ghosts

Chapter 2. Ancient Babylon

Chapter 3. Tyrants and wonders: The biblical and classical sources

Chapter 4. The Earthly City: Medieval and Renaissance approaches

Chapter 5. Discoveries and fantasies: Enlightenment and modern approaches

Chapter 6. The German experience: Excavation and reception

Chapter 7. The Library of Babel: Babylon and its representation after the excavations

Chapter 8. Culture and knowledge

Postscript: The Babylon exhibitions



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