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Ishtar Gate from Babylon

unknown604 BCE - 562 BCE

Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin

Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin

Only one of Babylon's city gates, the Gate of Ishtar – northern entrance to the city at the end of the Processional Way [...] – was particularly richly decorated, in polychrome glazed bricks with animals in relief. The reconstruction here presents only the smaller outer gate. Given the thickness of the fortified inner wall, the inner gate must have been significantly higher and, even having seen the already colossal scale of the outer gate, it is hard to imagine the monumental effect of the whole. The entire richly decorated architectural ensemble presented here acted as a functional unit in the context of the Babylonian New Year celebrations. The festive procession passed through the Ishtar Gate as it continued to the temple district. As with the Processional Way, the animals represented in relief on the gate have a concrete religious significance: in alternating rows, one above the other, the surfaces are covered with representations of striding wild bulls and composite mythical creatures. Here they are the symbolic manifestations of the weather god Adad (the bull) and of the Babylonian supreme god Marduk (the dragon). The ensemble formed by the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way with its lions is thus presided over by the sacred animals of the Babylonian triad of divinities.

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