The Ishtar Gate is one of the most striking discoveries from ancient Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar II constructed and named this gate in honor of goddess Ishtar. Historyplex reveals a plethora of intriguing facts about the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.
In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein ordered for a reconstruction, a smaller replica, of the Ishtar Gate, as an entrance to a museum. However, the reconstruction was never finished completely as it was damaged during war.
The splendid gates of Babylon are a depiction of their glorious culture. Their construction demonstrates the power they held. The sculptures depict their aestheticism. All this came into perfect harmony for the construction of the Ishtar Gate and gave it a look that was out of this world.
Dimensions: Height – 47 ft; Width – 32 ft
Date of Excavation: 1899 – 1914
Excavated by: Robert Koldewey
Reconstructed in: Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Material used: Remains of the original gate; glazed bricks
Layout of the Ishtar Gate showing the Processional Way
During the late 7th century, the Babylonians gained power and dominated the Near East, which was earlier ruled by the Assyrian Empire. The period was, hence, called Neo-Babylonian, during which even Babylon wasn’t left far behind and became an independent city-state.
Neo-Babylonians are acknowledged for their architectural designs, and it was Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II who rebuilt the entire Babylon city including its walls and seven gates. The king also built the Ishtar Gate in 575 BCE, the eight gate and the main entrance to the city of Babylon (now present-day Iraq). So outstanding was the construction of the gate that it made it into the initial list of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but later on, it was put back by the Lighthouse of Alexandria. It underwent excavation and is now present in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
◈ Babylon came to be known as one of the majestic cities of ancient times under king Nebuchadnezzar’s (605 BC-562 BC) reign.
◈ He wished to build a city with a purpose to reflect the power that a king held, display his love for the public, and prove that his subjects were happy with him.
◈ He arranged for the reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate, apart from rebuilding the Etemenanki and the imperial grounds.
◈ He fortified the city with great walls and eight gates; the walls were about 50 ft tall (15.2 m). The Ishtar Gate, the eighth gate that circulated around the perimeter of Babylon, was, thus, was of great importance.
◈ The king was also credited for constructing the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.
How Did the Gate Get its Name?
The gate derived its name from Goddess Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex, depicting both masculine as well as feminine traits. The naming depicts that city of Babylon is prosperous due to boon given by goddess Ishtar and is protected by her strength. Apart from dedicating the name to Goddess Ishtar, King Nebuchadnezzar paid tribute to other deities they worshiped by having carvings of animals, mere representation of gods and goddess they believed in, on the walls of the gate.
◈ The gate is covered by lapis lazuli (blue, turquoise, white and yellow)-glazed blocks that gleams and provides the facade with a beautiful shine.
◈ The gate is adorned with alternating rows of dragons and bulls. The beasts are represented in yellow and brown slabs with the surroundings in blue.
◈ The gate is adorned with a brick-paved corridor called the Processional Way that is more than half a mile long. The walls are 50 ft tall on either side.
◈ The walls are beautified with flowers, 120 sculptural lions moving in a procession, and yellow tiles.
Lions seen in procession
◈ Each stone bears an inscription underneath it―a prayer from the king to god Marduk.
◈ All the ritual parades pass through this street, and the passage leads to Marduk’s temple.
◈ You will also find a dedication plaque written by the king on the gate, which talks about the gate’s purpose in detail.
Dedication plaque written on the wall
Here are some of the translated versions of it.
“… 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. …”
◈ Though the outer walls appear to be strong, the inner walls can perish because of groundwater, as they are made of mud brick.
The animals on the gate and walls represent the deities worshiped. The lions represent goddess Ishtar, the bulls (aurochs) stand for Adad (God of storms), and the dragons (sirrush) for Marduk (chief of gods). These structures act as a warning to the enemy that, it’ll be foolish to encroach upon a city protected by the almighty. Though the bull and lion are real, they are symbols of religious veneration.
It was during 1902 to 1914 CE that the original foundation of the gate was discovered. The excavation was carried out by Robert Koldewey, and the material from there was used in the reconstruction of the gate and the Processional Way. The reconstruction was completed in 1930 CE and is now found at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
◈ Although it was a double gate initially, due to size constraints, only the frontal part was used.
◈ The original gate had a door and gate made of bronze and cedar, which was not utilized while reconstructing.
◈ Many museums the world over have obtained portions of this gate. Among them are the Louvre, Munich’s State Museum of Egyptian Art, the Royal Ontario Museum, etc.
◈ Saddam Hussein government requested the Pergamon Museum in 2002 to return the original gate to Iraq, believing it to be removed illegally.
The architecture reflects that the civilization was technologically advanced. The facts about the architecture of the Akkadians give us the estimation of the technology they used and their engineering skills. The sculptures on the walls and gates give us a fair idea that they encouraged art, which also tell us about their religious beliefs. The plaquette on the gate is an evidence that even their script was well-developed. Thus, the Ishtar Gate and other ruins speak for this amazing civilization.