The Ishtar Gate. Babylon
The Ishtar Gate, one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon, was built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (604- 562 BC). Only the foundations of the gate were found, going down some 45 feet, with molded, unglazed figures. The gateway has been reconstructed in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, from the glazed bricks found, so its original height is different in size. Reconstructed height is 47 feet.
It was one of the eight gates of the inner city of Babylon. It was built in about 575 BC, the eighth fortified gate in the city. It is one of the most impressive monuments rediscovered in the ancient Near East. The Ishtar gate was decorated with glazed brick reliefs, in tiers, of dragons and young bulls. The gate itself was a double one, and on its south side was a vast antechamber. Through the gatehouse ran a stone-and brick-paved avenue, the so-called Processional Way, which has been traced over a length of more than half a mile.
King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon dedicated the great Ishtar Gate to the goddess Ishtar. It was the main entrance into Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar II performed elaborate building projects in Babylon around 604-562 BC. His goal was to beautify his capital. He restored the temple of Marduk, the chief god, and also built himself a magnificent palace with the famous Hanging Gardens, which was reported by the Greek historian Herodotus to have been one of the wonders of the world.
The Bible records that it was Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed Jerusalem, brought the kingdom of Judah to an end, and carried off the Jews into exile. The Ishtar Gate was the starting point for processions. The Babylonians would assemble in front of it and march through the triumphal arch and proceed along the Sacred Way to the 7-story Ziggurat, which was crowned near the temple of Marduk.
The gateway was completely covered with beautifully colored glazed bricks. Its reliefs of dragons and bulls symbolized the gods Marduk and Adad. Enameled tiles of glorious blue surrounded the brightly colored yellow and brown beasts. In front of the gateway outside the city was a road with walls decorated with reliefs of lions and glazed yellow tiles. The Ishtar gate was reconstructed in Berlin out of material excavated by Robert Koldeway.
The Dedicatory Inscription on the Ishtar Gate reads:
"Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the faithful prince appointed by the will of Marduk, the highest of princely princes, beloved of Nabu, of prudent counsel, who has learned to embrace wisdom, who fathomed their divine being and reveres their majesty, the untiring governor, who always takes to heart the care of the cult of Esagila and Ezida and is constantly concerned with the well-being of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the humble, the caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, the firstborn son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon.
Both gate entrances of Imgur-Ellil and Nemetti-Ellil following the filling of the street from Babylon had become increasingly lower. Therefore, I pulled down these gates and laid their foundations at the water table with asphalt and bricks and had them made of bricks with blue stone on which wonderful bulls and dragons were depicted. I covered their roofs by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them. I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings. I placed wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendor so that people might gaze on them in wonder.
I let the temple of Esiskursiskur (the highest festival house of Markduk, the Lord of the Gods a place of joy and celebration for the major and minor gods) be built firm like a mountain in the precinct of Babylon of asphalt and fired bricks."