In ancient times, it was the custom for each city to select one god as their special patron. King Hammurabi built his city in honor of Marduk, and thus had to be the best city in the world. And indeed, it probably was.
Three thousand five hundred years ago (3500 years ago!), ancient Babylon was quite a place! It was a massive walled city, with a network of canals and vivid green crops. There was much to buy, like fresh fruits and vegetables, baked breads and cheese, warm coats, gold jewelry and date wine. Inside the walls, life teemed. Everyone lived inside the walled city. Farmers did not live on their farms but here in the city. Merchants, craftsmen, food vendors all made their homes here. Each family had their own home. The streets were narrow, flanked on each side by the three story houses of the inhabitants. In the center of the city was the great Ziggurat, the religious temple. Visitors could see the top of the 300 foot high ziggurat long before they reached the huge city gates. There was a beautiful palace for the king and the royals. And every family, be they rich or poor, had their own home inside the walled city.
Homes: Many of the houses of the nobles and common people were designed with three stories of living space, with flat roofs. Even the very poor, who lived in tiny townhouses, typically had three levels of living space. The courtyard, or first floor, in each house was very important. Behind the front door, a visitor might find a tiny garden and domesticated animals such as chickens.
Rooftops were also important. People had easy access to their roofs from inside their homes. Roofs were flat for a reason. Flat roofs provided a fourth living space. Much of their life was spent on the roof. They cooked and slept on their roofs. Remember - Babylon was a walled city. These roofs were inside the city walls. Some of the fancier roofs were designed with four walls for privacy, and some had grape arbors that provided food, privacy, and shelter from the sun.
Inside the walled city, the streets in
ancient Babylon were very narrow. Most streets were unpaved.
Streets or alleyways provided access to everyone’s front door.
The streets also served as a garage dump. People simply threw
their trash out the door. On occasion, the city covered the
streets with a new layer of clay. This buried the trash, but
made the level of the street higher. It soon became necessary to
build steps down to your front door. Most people filled in the
area between the road and their door, if needed, punched in a
new door, and built up.
Procession Avenue and the
Ishtar Gates: One of the most impressive sites was the
avenue that led into the city. This avenue was called Procession
Street (or Procession Avenue.) Huge pacing brick animals were
positioned along both sides of the avenue as decoration. The
avenue passed under the elaborate Ishtar Gates, the gate to the
walled city, which were designed with dragons and bulls in honor
of Marduk. Most mythical dragons have wings. Marduk’s dragon was
wingless. (It looked somewhat like a huge dragon dog.)
When the parade reached the Euphrates River, each statue was carefully placed into a waiting boat, one statue per boat. As they were loaded, the boats sailed or were rowed in a continuing parade towards the Garden Temple.
When the boats landed at the Garden Temple, each statue was transferred to a waiting chariot, one statue per chariot, and the procession continued. At the end of procession, the statues were returned to their temples.
Each major city in ancient Babylonia celebrated the festival of the New Year in much the same way. But many people braved the terrors of travel to visit the capital city Babylon at festival time because they so wanted to see this famous annual procession.