Rivers of Babylon: 4 unusual facts about cradle of civilization

As UNESCO names Babylon a World Heritage Site, the 'Post' presents five little-known facts about how the fame of the ancient kingdom is still with us today.

July 6, 2019 22:40
2 minute read.
Rivers of Babylon: 4 unusual facts about cradle of civilization

A man looks at the statue of the Lion of Babylon in the ancient city of Babylon near Hilla, Iraq July 5, 2019. . (photo credit: THAIER AL-SUDANI/REUTERS)


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The ancient city of Babylon, first referenced in a clay tablet from the 23rd century BCE, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Friday, after a vote that followed decades of lobbying by Iraq.

The influence which Babylon had on Jewish civilization was immense, as was the cause of the Babylonian captivity and, much later, being the place were the Babylonian Talmud was composed. But the influence of Babylon still exists until our own time. 
1. "Babylon Must Fall" - Inspired by the intense imagery of the Jewish captivity in Babylon, which began with the first wave of deportations from Judea in 597 BCE, Africans in the New World found strength and inspiration in the spiritual triumph of the Jews even under such harsh conditions. 

The social and religious movement of Rastafari, which originated in Jamaica, often uses the term Babylon to signify Western society. Reflecting the violent history of the African experience in the New World in the context of the slave trade, those who follow Rastafari often use Babylon to mean that modern Western-style capitalism as a negative thing.

Policemen and soldiers,who defend the existing social order, are seen as those who serve Babylon. However, those who believe in Rastafari also have hope that Babylon will eventually be replaced by a better and just world. Hence songs calling to see through its lies and hasten its fall. 

2. Babalon Woman - In the complex occult magical system created by English writer Aleister Crowley, a special place is reserved for the concept of Babalon. The concept includes both the principle of fertility and female sexuality as well as an actual woman who takes on the role of "scarlet woman." 

In his own lifetime, Crowley expected romantic partners to take on the role of Babalon for his occult needs. Among them were Jeanne Robert Foster and Leah Hirsig. 

Crowley, who attempted to shock the norms of his day and age, might have been influenced by Jewish and Christian concepts of ancient Babylon as a place of sexual excess. The "Whore of Babylon" is referred to many times in the Book of Revelation. Crowley also saw himself as "the great beast."  

3. The bricks of Babylon - The former ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, ordered that the famous site be rebuilt with bricks bearing his own name, ABC News reported in 2003. The bricks bore the inscription "Saddam Hussein, the protector of Iraq, rebuilt civilization and rebuilt Babylon." Saddam did not invent the concept, as it was also done by the ancient kings and city builders of Mesopotamia.

These bricks are now collectors items and many of them have been removed from the site by now. 

4. Babylon and the Polish army - During the Iraq War from  2003-2011, the Polish army was stationed in Babylon for 16 months.

Reports about military vehicles crushing the ancient pavements and the looting of historic treasures led the Polish military to deny all charges that its troops or anyone under its command had harmed the site, the Irish Times reported in 2005.

The Poles claimed that all work done to increase security of Camp Babylon was done after consultations with Iraqi authorities.

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