The Ishtar Gate was the most famous part of the walls of Babylon. They were built by the order of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 605-562 BC. The gate was located in the northern part of the city and was the main entrance of the city. It was one of the most famous architectural monuments of the ancient Babylonian kingdom.
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The ancient gate was first discovered in 1902 by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey. It was a truly wonderful creation, enough to amaze with its scale and beauty even today. Besides, there was a pathway leading from the entrance of the ancient gate called the Processional Way, which was full of animal sculptures including lions, bulls & dragons.
The walls of the gate were covered with beautiful bas-reliefs, which depict images of several animals. There were around 500 animal figures on the gate, and some of them still unknown. But one the figure of the dragon (sirrush) is astonishing.
Nowadays, dragons are considered to be mythical beasts. But there are facts that sign their existence. In Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions, Sirrush is referred as Mušḫuššu, which can be translated as “splendor serpent.”
In 1983, under the leadership of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the rebuilding of the Ishtar Gate began, as well as its adjacent walls, and the ruins of the ancient city. But later, it was canceled.
In the Pergamon Museum, Berlin, the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way were reconstructed from the material excavated by archaeologist Robert Koldewey.
Koldewey himself considered Sirrush to have been not a mythical creature but a portrayal of a real animal. Its depiction had not changed over thousands of years, which is not characteristic of other fantastic creatures of the Babylonians. In early Babylonian art, Sirrush appeared in a recognizable form, and it was still painted under Nebuchadnezzar.
To date, it is already known for certain that the Babylonians were completely ignorant of paleontology. What’s more, no evidence of dinosaurs’ fossils has been found near Babylon, so they could not know the figure of a dragon.
Sirrush is either a real animal that existed or a miracle of imagination that completely coincides with reality. And the most mysterious thing is that the portrayal of Sirrush was clearly made from nature which suggests that ancient Babylonians saw a real dragon.
According to some scholars from Central Africa, dragons perhaps appeared in Sumerian history. Dragons are certainly mythical creatures, but the legends of dragons and snakes roam from millennium to millennium across all continents of the Earth, and there is a striking similarity in them.
Florida State University zoologist W. Auffenberg believed the legends were too similar for mere coincidence. He assumed that for the first time, the dragon myth arose 100,000 years ago. But the first evidence that can be accurately identified as “dragon” refers to the Sumerian culture that arose 5,000 years ago.
Sumerian dragons had features of vultures, hyenas, snakes, or lizards. And they fed on carrion, quite logically could symbolize the connection between the living and the inanimate.
- The Ishtar Gate and the Deities of Babylon: Ancient Origins
- Ishtar Gate: Wikipedia