… although damaged by Saddam Hussein’s reconstructions and by an American-build helicopter pad. The BBC has a report from the site, with a brief video and pictures. It seems there is plenty of the ancient city still in place, mostly unexcavated. Nebuchadnezzar’s palace can be seen alongside Saddam’s. There is work there for generations of archaeologists in uncovering a city which was already ancient in the time of the biblical Nebuchadnezzar.
See also this audio slideshow which is a trailer for an exhibition ‘Babylon: Myth and Reality’ at the British Museum in London, from now until March 2009. I’m not sure how many of the original tiles of the Ishtar Gate, now rebuilt by Saddam, are in London. But when I saw some of them in their regular museum home in Istanbul, I was stunned by their beauty and magnificence.
Right through the Bible Babylon (or Babel) is a symbol of evil, megalomania, and resistance to God. Saddam Hussein was perhaps consciously continuing this tradition. But in the New Testament Babylon is not just the physical city which was already in ruins. The lament over Babylon in Revelation 18 seems to be less for the city and more for the system of world trade which it symbolised. That system is now also in ruins, it seems – perhaps it will recover in part, but the time will surely come when God will put a final end to it.