Introduction

Authored by: Gwendolyn Leick

The Babylonian World

Print publication date:  August  2007
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415353465
eBook ISBN: 9780203946237
Adobe ISBN: 9781134261284

10.4324/9780203946237.ch1

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Abstract

In the book of Genesis (XI, 9) the etymology of ‘Babel’ is given as ‘confusion’, the result of divine intervention in order to punish a people for their wish ‘to make a name for themselves’ by building ‘a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven’. Language or indeed the proliferation of languages, urbanism (it is the first mention of a city in the Bible), monumental architecture and historical memory, are thus all associated with the toponym ‘Babel’. In the later Biblical books a great deal more will be said about Babylon and its kings who waged war against Judah. While in these accounts, the Babylonians, just like other powerful and repressive nations of the Ancient Near East, were to be doomed to destruction and annihilation, the Biblical writings did keep their memory alive until the post-Enlightenment explorers brought back tangible evidence of ancient writings, monuments and cities.

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