Maurice Bardin (after a watercolor by Herbert Anger)
A View of the City of Babylon
Oil on canvas
1936
OIM P28753

 

In this painting of Babylon, the artist has recreated the view of the eastern portion of the city as it is thought to have looked during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (ca. 604-562 B.C.). In the foreground is the Euphrates River, which ran through the center of the city. Next to the Euphrates is the sacred temple complex of the god Marduk (the "Esagila") including the ziggurat, a stepped tower, which probably gave rise to the famed Biblical account of the Tower of Babel. Beyond the Esagila lies the rest of the eastern section of Babylon and its defensive walls. Beyond the walls are the open cultivated fields of the Mesopotamian plains. The city of Babylon (ca. 600 B.C.) was considered a marvel of the ancient world, with a population of 200,000, and system of defensive walls that ringed the city for ten miles.

For the ancient Mesopotamians, their cities were the centers of life. When they looked back to the beginning of time, they did not see a Garden of Eden, but rather an ancient site called Eridu, which they believed was the first city ever to be created. Ancient Mesopotamia is where the world's first cities appeared around 4000 - 3500 B.C.

No one knows for sure why urbanization began in Mesopotamia. The development of cities could have occurred due to environmental conditions. Lack of rainfall might have been the inspiration for people to organize themselves in a common effort to build canals for the irrigation of farmland. Another reason may have been the need for protection on the open plain, which could have led people to gather together to create walled enclaves. Whatever the reasons, this was the first time in history that humankind channeled its energies towards addressing the needs of a community as a whole.