The original list of the seven wonders of the Ancient World included the following:

One:  The Great Pyramid of Giza
Two:  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Three:  The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Four:  The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
Five:  The Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
Six:  The Colossus of Rhodes
Seven:  The Ishtar Gate of Babylon

The Ishtar Gate was later dropped in favor of the lighthouse at Alexandria during the early middle ages.  However, we must bear in mind that it was the Greeks who complied the original list of “Wonders” of the world, so it is natural to expect things pertaining to the Greeks (Statue of Zues, Temple of Artemis, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Colossus of Rhodes, etc.) to dominate such a list.  But in reality, we don’t need the Greeks at all in order to come up with a list of seven wonders of the Ancient world.  In fact we don’t even need the Egyptians.  All we need is the city of Babylon.  So, let me count the ways:

One:  The Hanging Gardens
Two:  The Royal Palace built by Nebuchadnezzar
Three:  The Ishtar Gate
Four:  The walls of Babylon
Five:  The Bridge over the Euphrates
Six:  The Ziggurat
Seven:  The Temple of Marduk


The Hanging Gardens of Babylon need no introduction, however there has always been a mystery as to exactly where in Babylon they were located and exactly how they were constructed and watered.  Archaeological excavations in the past century uncovered a large vaulted room on the northeast corner of Nebuchadnezzar’s royal palace and scholars once thought that that was the site of the “hanging” gardens.  That vaulted room, however, was subsequently found to possess thousands of clay tablets including the census and rosters of people transported from the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia during the time of Nebuchadnezzar.  These tablets also included records of the lands and monies given by the government to these relocated peoples.  Consequently, the scholars have determined that the vaulted room was the royal library, or archives—a depository of official records covering several decades.

Once the “vaulted” room had been eliminated as a possible location for the “hanging” gardens, the next most logical place was the southwest corner of the palace complex.  The so-called “western outwork” was a massive structure that rose up above the top of the four story palace.  This location makes the most sense since the fortress walls of the “outwork” would have provided the solid structure upon which to base the terraced levels of the garden, and it was located near the banks of the Euphrates making it easier to provide the water. 

The latest thinking on the “hanging” gardens is that they were a series of terraces that descended in Ziggurat style off of the top of the southern wall of the outwork with each terrace being larger than the one above it.  The bottom terrace was buttressed by a forest of immense brick pillars supporting a huge platform upon which was heaped tons of soil and then planted with trees and bushes of various sorts.  The bottom terrace would then support the next level, and so on. 

This interpretation makes sense because the original Greek word meant “overhanging” which was mistranslated by westerners as “hanging.”  Indeed, the Greek Historian Diodorus Siculus said that the approach to the garden “slopped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier, the appearance of the whole resembled that of a theater.”  The Roman writer Quintus Curtius Rufus added that each terrace supports so much vegetation that it gives “the impression of woods overhanging their native mountains.”


Rufus added that the foundations for this structure were sunk thirty feet into the ground and supported a structure that soared eighty feet high, equal to the height of Babylon’s defensive city walls.  Diodorus Siculus places the height of the structure at seventy-five feet, while agreeing that it was equal to the height of the city walls.  Both writers describe supporting columns on the ground level that were twenty to twenty-two feet thick with a space of ten or eleven feet between each column, or turret.  Thus a person could walk under the gardens adding to the impression that they were “hanging.” 

According to Diodorus Siculus, the floor of each terrace was constructed first with a layer of reeds plastered with bitumen then over this were two courses of baked brick bonded by cement, and on top of that a covering of lead.  The purpose of the lead was to prevent moisture from the soil penetrating and weakening the structure.  On top of the lead-covered floor they heaped up the earth to a depth adequate for the roots of even the largest trees.  Quintus Curtius Rufus claimed that some of these trees had trunks twelve feet thick and soared fifty feet into the air.  The Classical Geographer Strabo stated that the twenty-plus foot thick columns were cube-shaped and were “hollow and filled with earth.”  This would allow the roots of the largest of the trees, if planted directly above the pillars, to grow down through soil placed in the columns.


As for the location of the gardens, Quintus Curtius Rufus stated that they are built off of the “citadel,” or what modern writers call the “western outwork.”  In other words, the top of the “citadel” would have served as the top tier, or terrace, of the hanging gardens with the remaining terraces descending off of that towards the south of the palace.  This area makes sense since it is adjacent to the Euphrates river.  But how the water was conveyed from the river to the upper levels of the garden remains a mystery. 


Some ancient writers spoke of “hydraulic pumps.”  Diodorus Siculus spoke of “machines” that raised “the water in great abundance from the river, although no one from the outside could see it being done.”  Strabo also mentioned “water engines” used to raise the water from the river to the top of the garden.  He added that “persons” were appointed expressly for the purpose of operating these machines.

Modern writers have speculated that the machines in question were “chain pumps.”  That is, a series of buckets attached to a long chain.  In other words, there would be a large wheel at the source of the water, and another large wheel at the top.  A large chain made the circuit around both of the wheels, and buckets were attached to the chain at close intervals so that when the buckets were circling the bottom wheel they entered the river and scooped up water, then traveled up the chain and as they circled the top wheel, this caused them to tilt and they dumped their contents into a large pool there at the top.  The buckets would then continue riding the chain down to the river and repeat the entire process while other buckets were traveling up the other side of the chain. 

According to this theory, slaves working in shifts would have been employed to turn cranks inserted into the center of these wheels.  Another possibility is that oxen could have been used to turn a large, horizontally-set wheel gear that in turn caused the bottom wheel to turn.  “Persons” would then be in charge of the oxen. 

Once the water had gathered in the pool at the top, irrigation canals (which the Babylonians were very good at) distributed the water to all the various parts of the gardens on each level.  Perhaps in some cases the water was allowed to waterfall over the side of one terrace down to the next.  Ancient sources have claimed that the gardens measured 400 feet by 400 feet at their base, but that is likely an exaggeration. 
According to legend, Nebuchadnezzar built the gardens to please his Mede wife Ahumiyyah (Amytis in Greek) who missed her mountainous and forested homeland.  So, the gardens were constructed to look like a mountain covered with trees and brush.


As wondrous as the “hanging” gardens were they were dwarfed by the royal palace itself.  A half dozen American football fields could fit comfortably inside of each of its four levels with room left over for numerous tennis courts.  More precisely, it was 1,072 feet by 726 feet.  The throne room itself was about 75 by 150 feet.  Anyone summoned before the king (or foreign visitors paying a courtesy call) would have been intimidated by the size of the palace, by the size of the throne room, by the long walk from the entrance of the throne room to the king’s throne half a football field away, and by the paintings illustrating Nebuchadnezzar’s military exploits that covered the walls in larger than life-sized details. 

The hydraulic system that provided water for the hanging gardens would have also provided a way for water to be channeled via clay pipes to all of the kitchens, baths, and toilets throughout the entire palace with gravity supplied water pressure.


The Ishtar Gate, like most of the other splendors of Babylon, was constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II early in the 6th century B.C.  The Ishtar gate, like Babylon’s other eight gates, was constructed as part of the great wall of Babylon which will be discussed below. 

The Ishtar Gate, like the wall itself, was a double gate with the inner gate being larger than the outer.  A model of the smaller outer gate is on display at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany.  It was constructed by using the actual bricks of the original found on the ground by German archaeologists.  Unfortunately, many of the original bricks could not be found, having been used to construct other buildings throughout history, but just by using only the bricks they could actually find, the Germans have come up with a reconstructed height of the smaller outer gate of 47 feet, and a width of a hundred feet (that is side-to-side, not thickness). 

The actual height would have likely been considerably higher, but how much higher we can only guess.  And this is only the smaller of the two gates.  The foundations for the larger, inner gate go down 45 feet under the surface in existence at the time of Nebuchadnezzar.  A foundation of that magnitude indicates a massive structure above-ground, though most likely nowhere near the 300 feet given by Herodotus.  The best guess, based on all of this, is that the (larger) inner gate may have been about 90 feet high, with a pair of battlement towers that may have extended up another ten or fifteen feet.  (Note that the classical writers mentioned above estimated the wall of Babylon to have been approximately 75-80 feet.  The Ishtar Gate would most likely have been higher than the walls to which it was connected. 

Saddam Hussein built a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate on the site of Babylon which is often pictured in books and on the internet as representative of the way the Ishtar Gate looked.  However Saddam’s reconstruction was only a shell of the reconstruction exhibited in the Berlin Museum, which in turn is only a shell of the original Ishtar Gate as built by Nebuchadnezzar.
To put the size of this gate in perspective, imagine that you were standing at the base of a 10 or 12 story building and looking up towards the top.  That is what a visitor to Babylon would see upon entering the Ishtar Gate.  Rather intimidating, no?


While the bulk of these gates were built of baked brick, the massive doors were made of cedar plated with bronze.  Fortunately for us, king Nebuchadnezzar left us his dedicatory inscription for the Ishtar Gate which reads as follows:

“Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the faithful prince appointed by the will of Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar, the highest of princely princes, beloved of Nabu, Nebuchadnezzar of prudent counsel, who has learned to embrace wisdom, who comprehends the divine beings of the gods, and reveres their majesty, Nebuchadnezzar, the untiring governor who always takes to heart the care of the cult of HAY SAGILA and HAY ZIDA and is constantly concerned with the well-being of Babylon and Borsippa, Nebuchadnezzar the wise, the humble, the caretaker of HAY SAGILA and HAY ZIDA, Nebuchadnezzar the firstborn son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon.

“Both gate entrances of IMGUR-ELLIL (inner wall) and NIMITTI-ELLIL (outer wall) following the filling of the street from Babylon had become increasingly lower (meaning that over the passage of time, dust and dirt piled up making the roads and surrounding ground higher in elevation and thus burying the lower portions of the original gates).  Therefore, I pulled down these gates and laid their foundations at the water table with asphalt and bricks and had them make bricks with blue stone on which wonderful bulls and dragons were depicted.  I covered their roofs (roofs of the gates) by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them.  I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings.  I placed (depictions of) wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder.”


Approaching the Ishtar Gate from the north, one would enter upon the great processional way, a broad street paved with glazed bricks.  Massive buildings with battlements flanked both sides of the street and a row of sculpted lions stood guard facing the street to intimidate visitors.  The surfaces of both Ishtar gates were decorated with blue glazed bricks into which were constructed bas-relief Aurochs bulls and Marduk dragons.  Entering the gates themselves, the visitor would be flanked by hundreds of base-relief lions. 

The lions were colored yellow, as were the bulls and dragons on the outer faces of the gates.  The significance of these animals is as follows:  The lion was sacred to Ishtar, goddess of love and war.  The Aurochs bull (a species much larger and more ferocious than modern cattle) was sacred to Adad the storm god.  And the dragon was sacred to Marduk.  The purpose of the depictions of these animals was to strike a sense of awe and wonder in the eyes of visitors, as Nebuchadnezzar himself said.

While the lion and the Aurochs bull were animals well-known to the Babylonians, the Marduk dragon (often called a “griffen” by modern scholars, as if by doing so they could erase the mystery) raises interesting questions.   This issue deserves its own discussion which will be conducted in a future essay entitled “The Dragons of Babylon.”


Exactly how big were the walls of Babylon?  Herodotus claimed that they were 300 feet high, 25 feet thick, and 56 miles in length, and that they were broad enough so that a large four-horse chariot could make a U turn on the top of the wall.   Herodotus seems to have confused the figures for several constructions and applied them to Babylon’s walls.  The height of 300 feet was the height of the Ziggurat, which he somehow confused with the height of the defensive walls that surrounded the city.  The length of 56 miles applied to a separate wall far north of Babylon that extended from the Euphrates to the Tigris just north of the city of Sippar and generally divided Babylonia from Assyria.  The Greek historian Xenophon called this wall the “Mede” wall, because in his day, most of the inhabitants north of that wall were Medes (as today they are Kurds). 

Other classical writers such as Ctesias, and Cleitarchus mention a wall of some 40 miles in length and 75 feet or so in height which must have been the above-mentioned “Mede” wall.  Modern archaeologists have found traces of this wall near Sippar.  Inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar also speak of a second “outer” wall, this one to the south, beginning at Babylon and extending to the city of Kish in Sumer.  Traces of this wall have also been found. 

But the real wonder was the system of defensive walls and moats that surrounded the city of Babylon itself.  Before describing the dimensions of the walls we should first look at the layout of the city itself because that alone was rather remarkable for the age and possibly worth inclusion among the “wonders of the world” in its own right.  (Can we have eight wonders of Babylon?). 


The original city of Babylon was destroyed in 689 B.C. by the Assyrian conqueror Sennacherib who, it is claimed, threw all of the rubble into the southern sea (called the Arab-Persian gulf today).  Because of the numerous and important temples that had existed in Babylon for over a thousand years prior to that time, Sennacherib’s total leveling of the city shocked the religious sensibilities of most of the people in Mesopotamia. 

Consequently, his son and heir, Esarhaddon rebuilt the city when he became king of Assyria so as to mitigate the anger of the gods.  Starting from scratch he was able to lay the city out in a nearly perfect square spanning both sides of the Euphrates.  All of the streets ran north-south and east-west making the city an urban planner’s dream. 


Over the years, defensive walls were added to enclose this square-rectangular urban center.  With Babylon regaining its independence from Assyria under the first “Neo-Babylonian” king Nabopolassar in 626 B.C. construction on Babylon’s defensive walls began in earnest.  The finishing touches were installed by Nabopolassar’s son and heir Nebuchadnezzar II who ruled from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C. 

It is Nebuchadnezzar’s walls that we are to discuss.   It is believed that the square-rectangular shape of Babylon’s inner city enclosed by these walls was intended to represent the Babylonian constellation of the horse (Pegasus in Greek, and MULANSHE-KUR-RA in cuneiform).  This constellation, in turn, was associated with the Babylonian Sun God Shamash, one of the major Gods of Babylon.  (As in the heavens, so upon the face of the earth).


So, how big were these walls?  Herodotus claimed that these walls stretched for 14 miles on each side, which would give a total length of 56 miles, about the length of the above-mentioned “Mede” wall.  Diodorus Siculus gives a length of 6 miles on the long sides and 4 miles on the short sides which would more closely describe the actual rectangle that modern archaeologists recognize as Babylon’s inner city.  This would give a total length (or circumference of the inner city) of about twenty miles which is probably fairly accurate and seems to nearly conform to the conclusions of modern excavators, although Koldewey (the first major excavator) estimated the total circuit of the walls to be only about 14 miles. 

The classical geographer Strabo lists the walls as being 75 feet in height with battlement towers reaching up to 90 feet, which would put the walls somewhat lower than the Ishtar Gate, as mentioned above.  He adds that a pair of four-horse chariots could pass each other on the top of the wall.  We are assuming here that he was referring "Imgur-Ellil," the larger inner wall.  The other classical authors give similar dimensions. 

The inner wall of "Imgur-Ellil" appears to have been 22 feet thick (wide enough for a couple of chariots to pass each other), and the outer wall of "Nimitti-Ellil" about 13 feet thick.  They were spaced about 23 feet apart.  This area in between was probably used as a military road so that troops could be transported to various sections of the outer wall as needed.


These two walls, the inner wall of "Imgur-Ellil" and the outer wall of "Nimitti-Ellil," actually formed together only one set of the many walls that surrounded Babylon.  Out beyond the two major walls, was another pair of walls of somewhat lesser height.  The innermost of this pair of outer walls was 23 feet thick, and 36 feet further out was its mate which is described as being slightly thicker.  Beyond this wall was yet another wall about 10 feet thick, and this was the moat wall.  The moat itself is estimated to have been 330 feet wide.  About this moat Nebuchadnezzar says:

“In order to strengthen the defenses of HAY SAGILA that the evil and the wicked might not oppress Babylon, I did that which no king before me had done.  At the outskirts of Babylon to the east I put about a great wall.  Its moat I dug and its inner moat-wall with mortar and brick I raised mountain-high.  About the sides of Babylon great banks of earth I heaped up.  Great floods of destroying waters like the great waves of the sea I made to flow about it; with marsh I surrounded it.”

It would appear from Nebuchadnezzar’s depiction that the moat went around only the eastern part of the city, leaving the western part of the city defended only by the two sets of the above-mentioned inner and outer walls.  It is not clear from any of the sources whether the 330 foot width of the moat included the marshy area as well as the water within the moat itself, or just the moat.  I am of the view that the 330 feet included both the marshy area and the moat itself.

To sum up, here is what any prospective invader of Babylon would have to face:  First they would have to traverse a marshy area caused by the waters of the moat, then they would have to traverse the moat itself—a total distance of some 330 feet or more.  All of this would slow them down considerably making them vulnerable to the arrows and spears from defenders on the walls.  Then they would have to storm the moat wall only to find themselves facing the outer wall of the outer set of walls.  Were they able to take that wall, then they would be vulnerable to the missiles from defenders on the inner wall of the outer set of walls who would have the advantage of height.  Were they able to storm this inner wall of the outer set of walls then they would be faced with the even more impregnable inner set of walls with each set of walls being higher than the one before it.

It is also worthy to note in this regard that the approaches to Babylon required one to ascend a slope making the walls appear to be higher than they really were, and increasing the advantages of the defenders.  An additional feature of the walls of Babylon is that they did not present a flat face to the potential invader.  They were indented, or notched, creating a greater surface area so that more archers could be put in position to shoot at the enemy.   This feature also added to the aesthetic beauty of the walls.  The walls were also punctuated every 100 feet or so with battlement towers, and the tops of the walls were crenelated partly for artistic effect and partly to provide additional protection to the defenders. 

As if all of this were not enough, there is one more wall worth mentioning.  This wall began several miles north of the city enclosing the so-called “summer palace” and extended eastward and southward around the city before bending west to meet the Euphrates.  It thus just protected the portions of the city and its suburbs that were situated east of the Euphrates.  The reasons for the extra defenses on the east side of the Euphrates  probably had to do with the fact that most of the important government buildings, palaces, and major temples were located on the east side of the river, thus deserving of more protection than the western side of the river which was inhabited mostly by foreigners.


To defend the city against a possible invasion via the river Euphrates which ran through the middle of the city, Nebuchadnezzar built iron grates to span the river which would be set in place during the evening and then raised in the morning to allow boat traffic to pass through.  Here is what Nebuchadnezzar said about that:

“In order that no pillaging robber might enter into this water course, with bright iron bars I closed the entrance to the river, in gratings of iron I set it and fastened it with hinges.  The defenses of HAY SAGILA and Babylon I strengthened and secured for my reign an enduring name.”

Babylon was thus rendered impregnable to military assault.  However, in the end, when Babylon faced its hour of decision with the Persians in 539 B.C., all of these massive defensive measures became nothing more than a type of “Maginot line.”  The Persians ended up not needing to assault the walls of Babylon because the gates were opened to them from the inside while the King, Nabu Na’id, was out in the field directing military operations against Persian forces in northern Babylonia near the city of Sippar.  How this “opening of the gates of Babylon” likely came about will be covered in volume III of The Last King of Babylon trilogy.


This bridge, like most of the great monuments of Ancient Babylon, was built by Nebuchadnezzar II.  It is thought to have been the first bridge in the world built upon permanent pillars (other than one of the Assyrian aqueducts that used a stone-supported arched bridge to cross a river), and it was certainly the largest bridge built in the ancient world.  Herodotus claimed that it was a half mile long, though that, like many of Herodotus’s claims, was an exaggeration. 

Built of baked brick the bridge was actually two-hundred and fifty cubits long, or just under 400 feet (far short of Herodotus’s half a mile, though still impressive), and it was twenty cubits (thirty feet) wide.  The structure was supported by seven huge pylons, or piers, each of which were nineteen cubits wide and over forty cubits long (or 30 by 60 feet).  But the really amazing thing about these piers is that each of them was shaped like a duck with their snouts facing upriver against the current and their wings gradually tapering into their tails along the length of their bodies.  With each duck rounded at the front and tapered at the end it greatly reduced the erosive pressures of the river, which indicates that Nebuchadnezzar’s builders had at least rudimentary knowledge of aerodynamic properties.  Each of these giant stone ducks were coated with bitumen to add further protection against erosion.  The roadway over the bridge, or at least portions of it, was constructed of wood so that sections could be removed like a drawbridge. 


In order to build the bridge Nebuchadnezzar had diverted the waters of the Euphrates to go around the city instead of through it—which was a God-like feat in itself.  The Greek Historian Herodotus said that Cyrus II the Great, King of Persia, was the one who diverted the Euphrates River so he could enter the city through the river channel bypassing the walls in his conquest of the city.  However, that is incorrect.  Herodotus confused Nebuchadnezzar’s changing of the course of the river with the Persian conquest of Babylon.   (See above at the end of the discussion on the walls of Babylon).  (Also, as noted in the 3rd book of "The Last King of Babylon" trilogy, the Persian forces entered Babylon through the gates which had been opened from the inside by domestic opponents of Nabu Na’id). 

There is a great deal of controversy among scholars as to whether the Ziggurat had seven levels with a temple on top making eight levels altogether, or whether there were only six levels with the temple on top making the seventh level.  One tablet from Babylonia lists just the seven levels, giving the dimensions of each, with no mention of a temple on top leading some scholars to believe that the seventh level was the temple. 

Other sources, however, provide the color scheme for each of the levels and here seven separate levels are given with their colors while adding the temple on top in a completely different color from the seventh level.  That has led me to adopt the view that there were indeed seven full levels plus a temple as described below.  The scribe who compiled the list of just seven levels actually forgot to give the height of the sixth level, meaning that he could have just as easily forgotten to mention the temple on the top, or perhaps confused the temple with the seventh level.


Called the HAY TEMEN ANKI in “Babylonianized” Sumerian (literally “the house of the link of heaven and earth), the Ziggurat stood three hundred feet high and was the tallest building in the Iron Age world outside of Egypt’s tallest two pyramids.  From a distance the Ziggurat looked like a massive flight of multicolored stairs reaching for the heavens. 

The color of the levels went like this:  The larger bottom level was white, the second level was black, third was red, fourth blue-ish white, or light blue, fifth rust orange, sixth silver, and seventh gold.  The temple on top was Blue in honor of Ishtar, the planet Venus which is looks blue to our eyes.  Each of the seven levels had a blue strip around the top.  The seven levels represented the seven notes of the musical scale with the temple on top being the octave.  The blue building on top contained not only the Ishtar temple, but also an observatory where Babylon's star gazers kept track of the movements of the heavenly bodies.


The dimensions of the Ziggurat were geometrically precise.  Each of the four sides of the first level measured three-hundred feet by three-hundred feet.  This level alone stood one hundred and ten feet high.  The second level, set in from the first level measured two-hundred and sixty feet to a side and stood sixty feet high.  The third level was two-hundred feet to a side and twenty feet high, the fourth level was one-hundred and seventy feet to a side and twenty feet high.  The fifth level was one-hundred and forty feet on each side and twenty feet high.  The sixth step was one hundred and ten feet to a side and twenty feet high, and the seventh and final step was eighty feet to a side and reached up another fifty feet in height. 

The blue Ishtar temple sat on the top of the seventh step three-hundred feet above ground.  The dimensions of the temple are not known, but can probably be inferred from the descending dimensions of each of the levels.  Using this analogy it would have been approximately fifty/sixty feet by fifty/sixty feet.  Based on the analogy of the Ziggurat in Borsippa which Nebuchadnezzar constructed after having completed the Ziggurat in Babylon saying he wanted it built on the same design as that of Babylon, we can deduce the following:  One, The Borsippa Ziggurat had seven levels plus a temple on top, therefore the Ziggurat in Babylon must have had seven levels plus the temple on top as stated above.  Two, the temple on the top of the Borsippa ziggurat was the residence of its patron god Nabu, and also had rooms for servants and priests to attend to the god.  The temple on top of Babylon’s Ziggurat, which was dedicated to Ishtar, must have served as her residence.  There must have also been rooms for the priestesses and servants to attend to her ritual needs.   


Knowing that the bricks of which the Ziggurat was constructed would absorb water every time it rained, and that large amounts of water taken in by a building of that size could cause the bricks of the lower level to crumble from the weight, the Babylonians had to devise a way to eliminate that water.  In constructing the huge Ziggurat the Babylonian engineers built in a series of ingenious drainage canals to prevent the building from absorbing excessive water.


The name of the Ziggurat in Babylon HAY TEMEN ANKI, or “the house where heaven and earth meet,” dictated the geometry of its construction.  The four sides of the Ziggurat represented the four quarters of the earth.  The four sides, along with the exact middle point represented the five days that were added on to the end of the year to equal the 365 days required to complete the calendar containing 12 months of 30 days each.  The cycle of the year was conceived as a circle which was identified with eternity, infinity, and perfection (which is why they gave the circle 360 degrees) (i.e. the cycle of the year was 360 days + five extra days during the AKITU festival in April which was the beginning of the Babylonian yearly calendar). 

This concept was applied to the Ziggurat itself and the high point of the Ziggurat, or temple, was not only the exact geometric center of the square-sided Ziggurat representing the earth, but it was also the exact center of an imaginary circle enclosing the Ziggurat.  Thus the four sides of the Ziggurat represented the 360 degrees of the circle, as well as the 360 days of the twelve regular months of the year.  And, the exact center where the temple was, represented the extra five days of the year thus completing the 365 degrees, or days, of the full Babylonian year.

The temple on top, in addition to marking the exact center of the Ziggurat, was also symbolically the highest point on earth and the lowest point of heaven, therefore HAY TEMEN ANKI “the house where heaven and earth meet.”  The seven levels of the Ziggurat also represented the seven steps, or notes, of the musical scale with the temple on top representing the eighth note, or top of the octave, which was the same note as the first, thus completing the cycle.


There is perhaps more controversy over the appearance and design of the Temple of Marduk than there is over the Ziggurat.  The only physical evidence remaining of the once great temple are impressions in the ground where the large buildings once stood.  This gives the scholars some idea as to the length and width of the buildings, but everything beyond that is pure guess work except for what we can piece together from literary sources.  

Some scholars have made the mistake—in my view—of assuming that the Marduk temple would have been built along the same lines as that of the Ninmah temple near the Ishtar gate which has been better preserved.  It has been pictured as a  rectangular loaf of brown bread without windows or ornamentation.  I believe, however, that the Marduk temple, being the culture’s major temple due to Marduk’s position as its chief god, had a lot more to it than seen in the fanciful drawings found in books on Babylon and on the internet.  I base my view not only on logic but on linguistics. 

The name of the temple in Babylonian, as borrowed from Sumerian, was HAY SAGILA which has been translated variously as “The House whose Top is High,” and “The House that raises its head.”  In either case, the intent of the language is to indicate not the rectangular loaf of bread appearance as usually depicted, but rather one that featured another construction on top of the “loaf of bread.” 

For the purposes of "The Last King of Babylon" trilogy I have pictured the inner sanctum of the temple, or the “holy of holies,” to be situated on top of the “loaf of bread” portion of the temple.  The “loaf of bread” portion may have been four stories, and so the “holy of holies” would have risen significantly above that making it the “house that raises its head,” or the “house whose top is high.”  


In Nebuchadnezzar’s dedicatory inscription for the Ishtar Gate, he left us an enigmatic final paragraph dealing with the Marduk temple, rather that the Gate, which would seem to support my view.  It reads as follows:

“I let the temple of Esiskursiskur—the highest festival house of Marduk, the Lord of the Gods, be a place of joy and celebration for the major and minor gods—be built firm of asphalt and fired bricks like a mountain in the precinct of Babylon.”

Since the main Marduk temple situated to the south of the Ziggurat was the only temple in Babylon known to house ALL of the major and minor gods, and since the Marduk temple was also the place where the great religious festivals were enacted, especially during the akitu festival, Nebuchadnezzar had to be referring to this temple, and not the smaller Ishtar temple on top of the Ziggurat.  This passage would also seem to indicate that the inner sanctum, or most important part of the temple, sat on top in a position of superiority over the other portions of the temple.  “Like a mountain in the precinct of Babylon.”

For the purposes of "The Last King of Babylon" trilogy I have also pictured a broad staircase made out of imported marble leading from the forecourt to the roof of the “loaf of bread,” and then the roof of the “loaf of bread” would serve as a terrace, or portico, leading to the “holy of holies.”


Below is what we do know about the Temple of Marduk from literature and archaeology: 

Called the HAY SAGILA, the Temple of Marduk, though not as tall as the Ziggurat, was massive in its own right.  Half a dozen or so American football fields could easily fit within the grounds enclosed by the temple’s walls.  Approaching the temple from the east, from the Great Processional way, one would pass through the gateway leading into the temple grounds.  The gateway was approximately thirty-six feet high and was guarded by statues of the twin divine judges Madanu and Nergal who forbade entry to any evil-doer. 

After passing through the extensive forecourt one comes to a large fore building having two courtyards.  This structure measured about three-hundred and eighty-three feet on the east side by two-hundred and ninety-seven feet front to back.  It was connected with the so-called main part of the temple which measured approximately two-hundred and eighty feet by two-hundred and fifty seven feet.  These two buildings actually formed a contiguous whole and should be pictured as a single building of immense proportions.

The outer wall of this huge structure is believed to have been crenellated as was the wall surrounding the entire temple complex.  Throughout the temple were images of strange monsters:  serpents and dragons, lion-demons, scorpion men, bison, and mermen.  Statues of dragons, goat-men, and sphinxes stood guard at the various entrances to the building.  While the primary building material for the temple as a whole was the baked brick used in all Babylonian structures, king Nebuchadnezzar II said that he faced the walls of this temple with panels of lapis lazuli and alabaster. 


To enter the “holy of holies” one had to first pass through a monumental towered façade.  Nebuchadnezzar claims to have covered the inside walls of the holy of holies with “sparking gold, I caused it to shine like the sun.”  Here, according to Herodotus, sat the great figure of Marduk, made of solid gold and sitting on a golden throne which in turn was supported by a base of solid gold.  A golden table sat beside it.  To make these items, Herodotus claims that the Khaldeans told him that 22 tons of gold were used.  Outside of the temple (or perhaps just outside of the holy of holies??) sat a golden altar and a larger one of some undefined material.  Supposedly, during the AKITU festival each April, the Babylonians burned two and a half tons of incense on these altars.

For depictions of this, as well as all of the wonders of Babylon, please read the novel "The Last King of Babylon"


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What are the long-term, overarching historical laws and trends that tell us the West is doomed?

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Why did we turn Iraq over to the Iranians?

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Did we create ISIS?  If so, Why?

Why do virtually all Middle Easterners across the board think that the U.S. is a major  sponsor of terrorism?

Is Islam truly a "religion of peace?"

Why does Washington exert such Herculean bipartisan efforts to misunderstand these issues?

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 What if an ancient table was discovered that undermined the foundations of both Christianity and Islam while giving instructions for re-awakening an older god, a god who exacts frightful revenge while promising a utopia of eternal life, peace, and vast knowledge—in return for absolute devotion and loss of free will?

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 Highly original thriller by author with richly relevant background 

This thriller has movie written all over it. An ancient tablet is discovered that undercuts the foundations of both Christianity and Islam. That in itself is a gripping and original idea: imagine such a discovery in today's world, which in fact is the story's setting. But there's more. The tablet gives instructions for reawakening an older, vengeful god, who offers all humanity a kind of Faustian bargain: live forever, in peace, enjoying vast knowledge--but only in return for unquestioning devotion and surrender of free will.  This "god" is an artifact buried on the moon by ancient space travelers.

The Jericho Tablet does what a thriller is supposed to do, which in my view is: (1) keep you up all night reading, and then (2) keep you trying to mind-cast the movie.
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A Great Read 

The Jericho Tablet is a fast-paced novel that is a genuine page-turner. The author uses his extensive background in archaeology, languages, Middle East cultures, and the NSA to tell a contemporary (although set in 2020) and original story that both entertains and educates. The Jericho Tablet is filled with believable characters and incidents in the USA, Russia, and the Middle East. The ending both surprised and worked for me. The author also deftly interweaves simultaneous events taking place in different locales. The Jericho Tablet has all the ingredients to make a great film.

Donald Michael Platt, former script writer and author of the award-winning novel Rocamora




Government conspiracies, religious fanatics, ancient myths, global intrigue and science fiction spice this thriller. Barry Webb has used his knowledge of ancient history, near eastern culture and US government agencies to write a fast-moving story that is peopled with believable characters. I was caught up immediately and stayed captive until the end. Recommended reading!

Fran Marian, author of Carved in Stone and The Rug Broker

“This is one Exciting Read.  The Jericho Tablet is a thriller that has many parallels and similarities between our present world and what could very well happen in the future. Rich in history and understanding of the Middle Eastern mind renders this work extremely educational as well.  I learned a lot. The tempo never slackens and the author’s masterful ability to switch scenes on a global stage while retaining plot continuity at a heated pace keeps the reader wanting more.  Like a proverbial “literary box of chocolates,” after one or two chapters of this page-turner, I can assure you that you’ll be hooked!”   

Col. Richard F. "Dick" Brauer Jr. USAF (Ret.) Co-Founder of Special Operations Speaks.