London, British Museum: ‘Babylon, Myth and Reality’

Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world with its hanging gardens, is the theme of an extraordinary exhibition at the British Museum in London until 15th March:  “Babylon, Myth and Reality”.

In Sumerian language, Babylon means “Gateway to God” and was an ancient Mesopotamian city, situated on the Euphrates river, whose ruins are today around the city of Al Hillah in Iraq, about 80km south of Baghdad.  It was the sacred city of the rulers of the same name in 2300 B.C., the city where King Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.) drew up one of the oldest legislative penal codes.  After various dominations, Babylon was at its most glorious with the sovereign Nebuchadnezzar II (624-582 B.C.), the person who destroyed the temple of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., and deported the population (an episode reported in the biblical book of Ezekiel).  The city was then annexed to the empire of Alexander The Great of Mesopotamia, following his great victory against the Persian King Dario III at Gaugamela in 331 B.C.

Considered to be the first example of a modern metropolis, during the époque of the great Macedonian leader, Babylon is thought to have had over one million inhabitants.

The city was famous in ancient times, above all for its ziggurat, the tower erected in homage to the god Marduk, giving origin to the myth of the Tower of Babel.  Babylon was also famous for its processional road, which commenced with the Ishtar Gate (a reconstruction can be seen today at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin), its temples and hanging gardens.  Centre of astronomy and astrology, civil engineering and military power dominated Babylon, without forgetting that the Babylon people invented the first true form of human writing, cuneiform, which was incised on thousands of terracotta stone tablets.

For 2000 years, the myth of Babylon has stimulated European imagination, inspiring artists, writers, poets, philosophers and cinema producers.

And so, after the exhibition of Hadrian, the illustrious director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, man-of-the-year in England, is hosting the exhibition on the city of Babylon, exposing the reality and myths that it has created.

Amazing in itself, the reality was that of an extraordinary civilization that lasted two thousand years and, as if not enough, the myths were even more.  Even before the discovery of the clay tablets, Greek historians refer to Babylon, almost always in terms of admiration, while in the Old Testament of the Bible, Babylon is attributed with fame as a decadent, sinful city, “the great meretricious city” sitting on the exhibition of the seven heads (Book of Apocalypse), transforming the great ziggurat in the city centre into the wicked Tower of Babel (Book of Genesis).

Babylon was never destroyed, and neither was Cyrus the Great, who conquered it in 539 B.C., as well as Alexander the Great, who died there in 323 B.C.  Falling into decay with the passing centuries, victim of its own power:  the so-resistant bricks, which sustained a ziggurat as high as the sky, were stolen for more modest buildings.  On the ruins, in the 80s, the dictator Saddam Hussein built a presidential palace worthy of a modern Satrap (leader/governor).  Arriving to bring democracy, even the Americans made good use them but in a more practical way:  they created a parking area for armoured vehicles.  The war in Iraq during the last decade has unfortunately destroyed what had remained of the legendary Mesopotamian city.

The “Babylon: Myth and Reality” exhibition therefore offers the possibility of admiring some of the most evocative works from Babylon, which reveal the beauty amongst myth and reality.  Among the numerous works on show are:  the Cyrus the Great cylinder, the Mesopotamian World Map, the Nabodino stele (stone), the cuneiform tablets with some parts of the history of Babylon and the fall of Nineveh and  the Code of Hammurabi.  To enjoy the magic of Babylon and stay in a place worthy of an English lord, we propose three charming hotels in London.

Threadneedles is a prestigious boutique hotel in the financial area of London.  In fact, built as a bank in the Victorian age, it was later transformed into a luxury hotel, maintaining its architectonic beauty, including the great area illuminated by light filtering through the wonderful coloured glass of its 19th-century dome.  From this luxurious residence in the heart of the City area, you can explore both the older parts of London, visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Tower of London, and the more modern part of the city, admiring the Lloyds Building and the Swiss Re Tower, also known as “The Gherkin” (for its shape), two of the most interesting skyscrapers on the city’s skyline.

There is also “The Colonnade”, a simple and delightful residential house in the centre of romantic Little Venice, one of the most panoramic areas in London, situated near Regent’s Canal.  This picturesque waterway offers many entertainments, from walks along the canal to boat trips towards Camden, the Bohemian district of London.

“The Colonnade” spoils its guests, with top-quality hospitality and service, where comfort will make you feel right at home:  large bedrooms with large bathrooms and the possibility of have private spa treatments.

Finally, “The Egerton House”, an enchanting residential house built in 1843, meticulously renovated with style and artistic creativity.  The 5-star luxury hotel is situated along a tree-lined street in one of the most prestigious areas of London, in the heart of the fascinating Knightsbridge district, an area which attracts shoppers from all over the world.  Guests will find themselves just a stone’s throw away from the most famous museums, Harrods and the lovely shops of Sloane Street and King’s Road, making Egerton House the ideal base for discovering and enjoying the attractions of London.

From the top floor of the residence, you can enjoy a splendid view over Egerton Gardens and the Victoria and Albert Museum.  First-class and luxurious facilities are the strong point of Egerton House, a residence which offers unique hospitality, making your stay unforgettable.

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