1. A celebrated city situated on the Euphrates, the original foundation of which is described under the word Babel. Wit this coincide many ancient traditions, while some speak of Semiramis as the founder, and others of Nebuchadnezzar. These accounts may all be reconciled, by supposing that Semiramis rebuilt the ancient city, and the Nebuchadnezzar. These accounts may all be reconciled, by supposing that Semiramis rebuilt the ancient city, and that Nebuchadnezzar afterwards greatly enlarged and adorned it.
Babylon lay in a vast and fertile plain watered by the Euphrates, with flowed through the city. Its walls are described as 60 miles in circumference, 300 feet high, and 75 feet wide, Jeremiah 51:44- 58. A deep trench ran parallel with the walls. In each of the four sides were 25 brazen gates, from which roads crossed to the opposite gates. On the squares thus formed countless houses and gardens were made. Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was in an inclosure six miles in circumference. Within this were also "the hanging gardens," an immense artificial mound 400 feet high, sustained by archers upon arches, terraced off for trees and flowers, the water for which was drawn from the river by machinery concealed in the mound, Daniel 4:29,30.
Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon reached the summit of her greatness and splendor. She was renowned for learning especially in astronomy, and for skill in various arts, as the making of carpets and cloths, of perfumes, jewelry, etc. Her location gave her to a great extent the control of the traffic, by the Euphrates and by caravans, between Central Asia and Arabia and Egypt. She was "a city of merchants," Isaiah 43:14 Ezekiel 17:4; and into her lap flowed, either through conquest or commerce, the wealth of almost all known lands. Justly therefore might the prophets call her "the great," Daniel 4:20; "the praise of the whole earth," Jeremiah 51:41; "the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency," Isaiah 13:19; "the lady of kingdoms," Isaiah 47:5; but also "the tender and delicate," and "given to pleasures," Isaiah 47:1,8. In consequence of the opulence and luxury of the inhabitants, corruptness and licentiousness of manners and morals were carried to a frightful extreme. Bel, Nebo, Nergal, Merodach, Succoth-benoth, and other idols, were there worshipped with rites in which impurity was made a matter of religion. Well might we expect Jehovah to bring down vengeance on her crimes. Indeed, the woes denounced against Babylon by the prophets constitute some of the most awfully splendid and sublime portions of the whole Bible, Isaiah 13:1-22 14:22 21:9 47:1-15 Jeremiah 25:1-38 50:1-46 51:1-64, etc.
The city did not long remain the capital of the world. Under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. Nabonnidus, the Belshazzar of the Scriptures, it was besieged and taken by Cyrus. The accounts of Greek historians harmonize here with that of the Bible: that Cyrus made his successful assault on a night when the whole city, relying on the strength of the walls, had given themselves up to the riot and debauchery of a grand public festival, and the king and his nobles were reveling at a splendid entertainment. Cyrus had previously caused a canal, which ran west of the city, and carried off the superfluous water of the Euphrates into the lake of Nitocris, to be cleared out, in order to turn the river into it; which, by this means, was rendered so shallow, that his soldiers were able to penetrate along its bed into the city, Daniel 5:1-31. 538 B.C. From this time its importance declined, for Cyrus made Susa the capital of his kingdom. It revolted against Darius Hystapis, who again subdued it, broke down all its gates, and reduced its walls to the height of fifty cubits. According to Strabo, Xerxes destroyed the tower of Belus. Under the Persians, and under Alexander’s successors, Babylon continued to decline, especially after Seleucus Nicator had founded Selencia, and made it his residence. A great portion of the inhabitants of Babylon removed thither; and in Strabo’s time, that is, under Augustus Babylon had become so desolate, that it might be called a vast desert. There was a town on its site until the fourth century, and many Jews dwelt there, 1 Peter 5:13. But from this time onward, Babylon ceases almost to be mentioned; even its ruins have not been discovered until within the last two centuries; and it is only within the present century that these ruins have been traced and described. These consist of numerous mounds, usually of brick, deeply furrowed and decayed by time, strewn with fragments of brick, bitumen, pottery, etc. One of these is described above. See BABEL. Another, four miles northwest of Hilleh, and called by the natives Kasr, is thought to mark the site of the hanging gardens. These ruins are 2,400 feet long, and 1,800 broad. Another near by, called Mujellibah, is of similar dimensions. From these mounds thousands of bricks have been dug, bearing arrow-headed inscriptions as ancient as the time of Nebuchadnezzar, whose name often occurs. The aspect of the whole region is dreary and forlorn. It is infested by noxious animals, and perhaps in no place under heaven is the contrast between ancient magnificence and present desolation greater than here. The awful prophecy of Isaiah, uttered more than a century before, has been most literally fulfilled, Isaiah 13:14.
The name of Babylon is used symbolically in Revelation 14:8 16:1-21 17:1-18 18:1-24, to mark the idolatry, superstition, lewdness luxury, and persecution of the people of God, which characterized heathen Rome and modern Antichrist. Some thus interpret 1 Peter 5:13 2. There was also a Babylon in Egypt, a city not far from Heliopolis. Some suppose this to be the Babylon mentioned 1 Peter 5:13; but this is not probable.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'BABYLON'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".