Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Babylon, a victim of war

In nearly all cases, our heritage is suffering from wars and Babylon is no exception. I treated the subject already in “Poor Babylon” and it seems things are slowly moving in the good direction since the World Monument Funds (WMF) is presently assisting the Iraqis to restore their heritage. The WMF and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) have joined efforts and created a program called The Future of Babylon to preserve Babylon. On the long term, they aim to maintain and inventory the site and its content, and even to build a museum in order to attract tourists.

This historical city has been heavily damaged during the Iraqi War when the American army used the place as military camp, destroying part of the city in the process. The old paved roads leading to the different city gates have crumbled under the weight of heavy tanks. Much of the rubble (often precious archaeological material) has been used in the construction of airfields for helicopters and parking lots. Smaller archaeological material was also used to fill sandbags. The scanty remains of the Ishtar-Gate (the Gate itself is at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin) have also suffered. Underground or non-exposed pieces may have been damaged by the rolling tanks or leaks of combustibles and chemicals. To be fair, we cannot ignore that under Saddam Hussein Babylon has not been treated with much consideration either; the ruins were not guarded and the restorations were badly executed.

Babylon definitely deserves a place on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Although its Hanging Gardens belong to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the city strangely enough has not yet been officially added to this list. WMF is now helping the Iraqis to achieve this goal although this is quite a challenge since the Iraqi government will have to provide for maintenance, research and presentation of the site and that in spite of ongoing internal conflicts and the general unstable situation.

Over the centuries, Babylon has seen many conquerors entering through its city gates. We will remember that this is where King Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) wrote the very first laws etched in stone, now one of the proud possessions of the Louvre Museum. This is the place where King Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 BC), out of love for his homesick wife, built the famous hanging gardens; and where the biblical and historical Tower of Babel ruled over the complex including the Temple of Ishtar. It also is the site where from the sixth century BC onwards the Achaemenid kings lived in their luxurious palaces till in 331 BC King Darius III of Persia was defeated by Alexander the Great, who died within its very walls in 323 BC. After his death, Alexander’s kingdom was divided among his generals and successors. Babylon lost its mythical status in the centuries that followed and slid away in the margins of world history. The city was finally re-discovered in the 19th century but excavations were intermittent and slow due to the instability of Iraq.

I find it heartbreaking to see such a famous and once grand city being neglected while we live in times where modern technology can do wonders – except stop the wars and their inconsiderate destructions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to resuscitate Babylon from the dust and rubble after 2,000 years of neglect and find the very palace room in which Alexander the Great died?

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