Ancient Mesopotamia by Tom Head

By Tom Head

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2 This began what historians refer to as the Sumerian Dynastic Age, in which the Sumerian city-states united as a federation under individual rulers. Later documents claimed Sumer had always had kings, dating back to the beginning of time. These were more obviously mythological figures said to have reigned for thousands of years at a time and possessed supernatural powers. indd 32 11/17/14 11:04 AM reigns might have made the transition from high priestesses to kings seem more natural and in keeping with ancient cultural traditions.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are more mysterious. Although classified as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, they remain frustratingly elusive to historians today, even though ancient historians seemed to be casually familiar with them. One of these historians was the Babylonian priest and astrologer Berosus. He was in touch with the ancient traditions of his people, but he also communicated well in the Greek language of the Macedonian Empire that ruled over Babylon during his lifetime.

Even the traditional religions would gradually fall away as imperial colonists and missionaries from other faiths pushed out the old ways. By traditional measurements, the Babylon of 560 BCE did not look like the capital of an empire in decline. The 300-foot (91 m) Etemenanki dominated a Babylonian landscape that was walled, densely populated, and eight miles (13 km) wide. 4 But it would not remain so for long. The enormous walls and gates of Babylon defended it against competing cities and armies.

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