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Processional Way, Babylon

unknown6th century BCE

Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin
Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin

As it entered the square in front of the Ishtar Gate (see pp. 14–15), the Processional Way was flanked by two magnificently decorated monumental walls at least 180 metres long. Assembled from hundreds of thousands of brick fragments, the presentation of these walls is based on information about their construction gained in the course of the excavation, and involved reconstructing the patterned bands, the rosettes and the frieze of striding lions from sometimes tiny pieces. Parts of the base, the plastered upper wall and the stepped battlements at the top, however, are modern additions from 1928–30. This magnificent street, called 'May the Enemy not Prevail', was given this special decorative treatment to provide a suitably impressive backdrop for the celebrations at the beginning of spring that marked the Babylonian New Year: after several days of festivities the cult images of the principal Babylonian gods were paraded along this colourfully decorated street, paved in flagstones, as they were returned to the city. The depiction on these walls – which are defensive in nature, towers alternating with curtain wall – of the striding lions sacred to the goddess Ishtar, expresses her ambivalent character as the goddess of both love and war.

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