>Babylon: Restoration or Profit?

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Image: Ishtar Gate

Iraqis are divided whether to restore the ancient city of Babylon and preserve its historical heritage or to open the place for tourism. Forbes has an excellent article on this controversy. Below is an excerpt from the article:

BABYLON, Iraq — A U.S.-funded program to restore the ruins of Iraq’s ancient city of Babylon is threatened by a dispute among Iraqi officials over whether the priority should be preserving the site or making money off it.

Local officials want swift work done to restore the crumbling ruins and start building restaurants and gift shops to draw in tourists, while antiquities officials in Baghdad favor a more painstaking approach to avoid the gaudy restoration mistakes of the past.

The ruins of the millennia-old city, famed for its Hanging Gardens and the Tower of Babel, have suffered heavily over the past decades. Deep in Iraq’s verdant south, the cluster of excavated temples and palaces were mostly rebuilt by former ruler Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, using modern yellow brick to erect towering structures that marred the fragile remains of the original mud brick ruins.

Founded in the 3rd millennium B.C., Babylon rose to prominence nearly 4,000 years ago under King Hammurabi, whose famous law tablet resides in Paris’ Louvre Museum. In subsequent centuries the city was conquered, razed and rebuilt several times, becoming the largest city in the world with 250,000 inhabitants under King Nebuchadnezzar II in 600 B.C.

Nebuchadnezzar built the famed hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the world, for his homesick wife. He also exiled the Jewish people from Israel, gaining Babylon a bad rap in the Judeo-Christian tradition and the name of the city has since become synonymous with sin.

Read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

Personally, I would like to see the preservation of the old city. The ancient city of Babylon has a rich historical tradition that must be preserved for future generations. However, as a student of ancient history, I would like to see the ancient ruins open to tourists. I would love to visit the ruins of ancient Babylon. If I knew that the journey to the ancient ruins would be safe, I would go to Iraq this summer and visit what has been called “the center of ancient civilization.”

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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