Babylon was once the center of the Babylonian Empire and was considered to have been a center of commerce, art, and learning. It was Babylon that conquered and destroyed the Kingdom of Judea as recorded in the Bible forcing the inhabitants into a 70 year-long exile. Few people visit Iraq now because of ongoing security issues, but it was once one of the popular places people would go.

Iraq is host to many of the world's oldest cities, it has the lion's share of the Fertile Crescent and has been dubbed the Cradle of Civilization. It was here that agriculture, writing, and the first empires developed.

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History Of Babylon

At its height, it is estimated to have been the largest early city in the world and its population could have been the first to rise to above 200,000. The Babylonian Empire has left its market and was where some of the most influential empires of the ancient world once ruled.

  • Empires: Old Babylonian Empire And Neo Babylonian Empire

There were two Babylonian Empires to bear the name. The first was the Old Babylonian Empire and the most famous ruler of this empire was Hammurabi who reigned from 1,792 BC to 1750 BC.

He was famous for his Code of Hammurabi - it is the longest, best-organized, best-preserved legal text from the ancient Near East. It is hailed as one of the great achievements of codified laws. In it, Hammurabi claims divine mandate to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak. Some of the laws seem very unjust to us today

Code of Hammurabi: Lines 200-201, 209-210, 

"If a man knocks out a tooth of a man of his own rank, they shall knock out his toothIf he knocks out a tooth of a plebeian, he shall pay one-third mina of silver"

"If a man has struck a free woman with child, and has caused her to miscarry, he shall pay ten shekels for her miscarriage. If that woman dies, his daughter shall be killed."

But the most famous empire is the Neo-Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar II (from 604 to 561 BC). This is when many of the great buildings and constructions were built. These constructions included the imperial grounds, the Etemenanki Ziggurat, the Ishtar Gate, and possibly the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

  • Population: Perhaps the First To Top 200,000

It is the site of the most mysterious of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. These gardens have never been found, leading some to question if they ever existed or existed in another city. Still, it is also quite likely they remain to be discovered.

  • Location of: The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon

Today it is an archeological site in Iraq and is around 85 kilometers or 53 miles south of Baghdad. It covers an area of about 1054 hectares and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Related: This Is What It's Like To Be Inside The Great Pyramid Of Giza

Visiting Babylon Today

Most of the visitors to the site are Iraqis - as Iraqi is not deemed a safe country to tour. Unfortunately, Babylon is located in what is today an impoverished and insecure part of Iraq and so is only for the most intrepid of travelers. A safer part of Iraq to visit is Iraqi Kurdistan in the north of the country.

  • Visa Policy: Iraq Is Now Visa On Arrival For Almost All Western Countries

As one visits Babylon, one will pass through the archways of the reconstructed palace of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Around 3,000 years after his reign visitors can still admire a brick frieze depicting the strange creatures looking like lions with eagle claws.

Unfortunately, there is not so much to see today. The site has suffered from colonial looting, and then the crazy dreams of Saddam Hussein. If that wasn't enough, the site was further damaged by the Americans after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as they established a military base nearby and drove heavy machinery around the site. There were even reports by UNSECO of the multinational soldiers smashing age-old bricks.

Related: What You Need To Know About Visiting The Pyramids Of Egypt

4-Day Tour Of Baghdad & Ancient Babylon

Tours of Babylon are few as Iraq is not a very secure country and most governments recommend against travel there. But for the intrepid travelers who are prepared for what it takes, visiting Iraq and Babylon can be very rewarding.

Tour HQ offers their 4-Day Tour of Baghdad & Ancient Babylon. On this tour, one can see the numerous artifacts on display at the National Museum of Iraq, visit the minaret of the Great Mosque of Samarra, visit the majestic Saddam Palace Museum, and explore the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon.

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Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive In Baghdad

Day 2: Baghdad Tour

Day 3: Malwiy Minaret Tour

Day 4: Ancient Babylon Tour

  • Language: English
  • Cost: From $1,500

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