“I [Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon] covered their roofs by laying majestic cedars length-wise over them. I hung doors of cedar adorned with bronze at all the gate openings. I placed wild bulls and ferocious dragons in the gateways and thus adorned them with luxurious splendour so that people might gaze on them in wonder” – Part of the dedicatory inscription on the Ishtar Gate.
Built around 575 BC, the Ishtar Gate became the eighth fortified gate of the ancient city of Babylon, a region now in modern day Iraq. Today, its remnants are housed in the Pergamon Museum as a testament to its scale and grandeur.
During the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II (604 – 562 BC), the already ancient city of Babylon was rebuilt and “beautified”. As part of the walls of the newly expanding and rejuvenating city, the Ishtar Gate was erected as a dedication to the goddess of fertility and love, Ishtar. In antiquity, Ishtar could also be called upon in times of battle to seek courage, protection, strength and victory. Her representation in the form of a lion can be seen in the Processional Way leading towards the gate, which would have undoubtedly intimated and warned foreigners of Babylon’s power upon their entry into the city. The depiction of dragons also signifies the presence of the patron god of Babylon, Marduk, whereas bulls symbolise the god of storms, Adad.
The reconstruction of this once Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World does not fail to impress. The intense mixture of red, orange, yellow and, of course, blue tiles overwhelmed me as I tried to imagine it in its entirety. This seemed like an unfathomable task. Moreover, what we see before us in an Ishtar Gate and Processional Way reduced in size due to limited space within the Pergamon. I was left wondering what the modern day equivalent of the Ishtar Gate might be, something that I am still yet to find an answer to.
A stunning piece of art and architecture that should be treasured for centuries to come, it is unsurprising and understandable that Iraq has appealed to Berlin for its return to home soil.