Tower of Babel – An Ancient Enigma


The purpose of ancient travelers in Babylon was the Tower of Babel. Artists rushed to paint it with vague ancient clues. The tower appears at first in the Roman era, in Saint Savin’s mural paintings, in the mosaics of the Monreale cathedral, Sicily, in the sculpture at the Dogi Palace of Venice.

Bruegel the Elder, Rafael, in the decorative ensemble of Vatican loggia that includes scenes of the Old Testament, and other painters approached this subject, so that an anthology of tower representations could be made in relation to the centuries in which the tower was painted.

It was belived that the Tower of Babel was at Borsippa (current Birs Nimrud) or at Aquarquf, 30 km from Baghdad, where important vestiges of the ziggurats were preserved. The speculations about the locations of the famous tower are natural because the ziggurat from Babylon had been destroyed and, with all its solidity, there is nothing left of it.

German archaeologists began digging here fourteen years after the site was opened. With all the rigorous reserch, it would have hardly come to the famous tower, if there weren’t some clues. First, the comparasion that could be made with the other cities, quite well preserved (Ur and Tchoga Zarbil, in Susiana). Then, a brief description of the Greek historian Herodotus who visited Babylon in the fifth century BC; he only saw the ruins of the tower, because it had been destroyed by Xerxes after conquest.

Finally, there is a very precious document, namely a clay tablet, which is now at the Louvre Museum, discovered by priest Vincent Schell in a private colletion.

In all likelihood, the base of the tower was square, each side was about 91 meters. It was found that all documents indicate this size. Herodot estimated it at half of a stadium, that is 92 meters, and the Lovre table at 180 cubits, that is just over 89 meters. The German archaeologists who measured it indicated the exact size: 91.55 meters.

As for the height of the tower there is less data, but we don’t question the figure on the tablet, that shows that it was equal to the length of the side, that is 91 meters.


Pieter Bruegel the Elder  – The Tower of Babel

 The tower consisted of several floors, seven, so seven parallelepipedes superimposed over one another; the tower was built of unburned bricks, and the floor was of burned bricks.The tower impressed by its sizes, and the workload to make it was huge. An inscription said “All the people from many countries worked there”.

King Nabopolassar, who reigned between 625 and 605 BC, was the one who decided to build the tower because it was the will of the gods revealed by oracle, which gave him all the necessary indications. The works were continued and completed during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

The impressive Tower of Babel had a fairly short existance, at most a century and a half, because Xerxes destroyed it. After the defeat of Darius (331 BC), Alexander the Great, appreciating the economic and strategic possibilities of Babylon, intended to restore the Tower of Babel in honor of the protector god of Babylon, Marduk.

The death of the great Macedonian put an end to the restauration attempts, because no one had ever wanted to take on the responsability of such a great work.

SOURCE: Britanica, Tower of Babel

Ancient Origins, The Legendary Tower of Babel

Olivier Souchon, Enigmes of Archeology

Ancient Roman Units of Measurment – Wikipedia

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