Architecture as a product of culture, history, science, technology, economics, society, religion, and state




A journey through five thousand years of architecture and urban planning in the Western world



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Each generation writes its autobiography in the buildings it creates.

Louis Mumford

Friday, December 3, 2010


Mesopotamia Architecture
Historical background
        In Mesopotamia (a term coined by ancient Greek historians. Literally in Greek [the country] between the two rivers; Mesos-middle, Potamos-River) which is located in the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates, Iraq today, the world's ancient civilizations were born. In a region where the biblical Garden of Eden (Genesis, 2   8-15) is found, a rich culture has developed. Even before 3100 BCE the Sumerians invented the cuneiform script (cuneiform Symbols carved on tablets of soft material), a practical method of writing that brought a revolution in the media, followed by economic, spiritual, and cultural progress. Cuneiform was first Pictographic, and gradually developed into signs representing syllablesthe alphabetic scripts from which derived all the alphabetic scripts customary today, including Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Latin and Cyrillic.
        The Sumerians made laws as the basis for a legal system; they also were the first to develope methods for determining astronomical boards and calendars; many celestial systems have already been mapped by them. a mathematical system based on 60 units which is still used to measure time today, was invented. The first concepts of algebra and geometry were created. Weight measurement and other measurement methods were set and were used until the Roman period. Here developed a culture out of which grew three religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
        Every spring, in March through June, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were overflowing and enriching the soil. The flat structure of the valley between two rivers caused swamps after the floods. These swamps were drained into canals and enabled easy irrigation in the summer when rivers were flowing in them. The rivers served as convenient transportation arteries as well.
        Merchants moved their wares on the boats in the rivers, and crossed the deserts in camel caravans. They exported grain, olives, dates, gems and carpets, and mostly imported stone, wood, and metals.
        Along the Fertile Crescent, between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers developed the first cities - states. The rivers provided an abundance of water for agriculture and sometimes flooded the ground. Population grew and the crops were insufficient for its purposes. This situation led peoples to take over agricultural areas. The flat structure of the ground did not provide natural protection. As a result, the history of Mesopotamia was repeatedly fraught with invasion, conquest, reconquest, and destruction accompanying them.
        Unfortunately, archaeological findings from Mesopotamia very few findings from other cultures than girls of her time, like ancient Egypt.
        Recently it is customary to divide the history of Mesopotamia into the following periods:
The Ubaid period: 3750 -2900 BCE. In the middle of the fourth millennium BCE the climate began to gradually become cool and dry in northern Mesopotamia. These weather conditions were not suitable for farmers dependent on rain for their livelihood. As a result, residents of Northern Mesopotamia were moving south, where they found a fertile land and water in abundance. Here were built the first cities in southern Mesopotamia - Uruk, Jemdat Nasr, and other cities. The use of writing first appeared in Uruk in 3300 BCE.
        During this time, the first Sumerian settlers arrived in Mesopotamia. These were the Ubaids whose origin is unknown. They were called Ubaids after the small village of Tel el Ubaid, near the ancient city of Ur, where its remains were found a century ago. The Ubaids lived in large rural towns, in huts made of reeds covered with plastered mud. During their period, The first temples were built, which at first were modest and grew as time went on.
        The Sumerians, who arrived in Sumer around 3100 BCE after the Ubaids, are considered as the first to develop civilization in Mesopotamia. Their cuneiform script, which is a practical method of writing, was adopted by the Babylonians, who adopted their religious faith as well. Sumerian culture has left its mark in the entire Middle East and its effects are still evident today.
        During the Ubaid period, the Sumerians established cities of unprecedented political power and wealth. They founded the first towns in history, which were actually cities-states. Among them were Uruk, Eridu, Kish, and Ur, which was the greatest.
 Jemdet Nasr Period - the end of the fourth millennium BCE. This period of the Sumerian culture is characterized by an increase in population, expansion of commerce, specialization of artisans and development    of irrigation systems. Cities were dominated by temples. The use of writing and cylinder seals spread. Production of bronze enabled manufacture of new weapons. Walls were built around cities.
Early dynastic period of Sumer: 2900 – 2334 BCE. The changing climate in northern Mesopotamia began moving toward the Southern Mesopotamia. As a result, rivers have dried up and there was a shortage of fertile lands. Residents have overcome this problem by construction of irrigation canals. In order to build the canals joint effort and concentric rule were required.  City - states fought over water resources and sought to expand their borders. Even though, Mesopotamia was blessed with a sufficient quantity of water and fertile soil. Surpluses of agricultural crops and products manufacturedby the local people, such as textile, allowed economic prosperity and purchase of raw materials that were available. Under these circumstances developed the magnificent culture of the Sumerians.
        Cities that flourished during this period were Kish, Isin, Nippur, Shuruppak, larch, Uruk, Larsa,  and Eridu. Most of these cities were controlled by dynasties of kings, hence the name of the period - the early dynastic period.
Akkadian Dynasty: c.2193-2334 BCE. Sargon (in Akkadian: Sharru Kinu, literally: true king) the Great (reigned 2334 – 2279 BCE), king of Akkad, took over Umma and Sumer in 2334. He was the first ruler who created a religious and political unity between Sumer and the northern part of Mesopotamia. The Akkadian Empire expanded to Lebanon, and its rule lasted two centuries. The Akkadians (named, apparently, after the city of Agade in southern Mesopotamia, near the city of Kish), were originally Semites speaking the Akkadian language, which was completely different from the Sumerian; nevertheless they absorbed the Sumerian culture. Their Akkadian language became the dominant language in Mesopotamia and the Middle East.
        Akkadian Empire, ruled by military force and expanded by Sargon's successors to Iran and Armenia, fell as a result of the pressure of the Hurrians (who came from Anatolia), the Hitties (Indu - European people who came to Anatolia at the beginning of the third millennium BCE),  the Gutians (barbarians from the Zagros mountains), and other invaders. The Gutians conquerors who ruled Mesopotamia for a century, absorbed the local culture.
Lagash period:  2155-2111 BCE. During this period, the prominent ruler was King Gudea (reigned 2144 -2121 BCE), who was a great builder, known due to the many stone sculptures depicting him.
The Third Dynasty of Ur: 2112 -2004 BCE. The Sumerians were back in power and formed city centers in Ur, Lagash, Erech and Eridu. The city of Ur, which entered the period of darkness since being taken over by Sargon, returned to glory when King Ur -nammu, Literally in Akkadian: joy of Ur) (ruled 2112 - 2095) seized power by force and established the third Neo - Sumerian dynasty of Ur, which united Sumer an Akkad. He was a strong and capable ruler, considered the first legislator in history. His laws were forcefully enforced. Although he was interested in centralized ruling, he strengthened local interests of cities, and built temples for them. His son Shulgi and his grandson Aram Sin fulfilled his expansionist ambitions.
        The third dynasty came to an end in 2004 BCE, when the people of Elam, who are considered descendants of Noah, arrived to Ur from the southwest of today's Iran and destroyed it. It was a period of drought then, and layers of sand covered Ur.
Isin and Larsa Period: 2000-1800 BCE. Following the destruction of Ur, the control over Mesopotamia passed to Isin and Larsa, two cities in southern Mesopotamia, who fought each other for power in the region. During this period, was founded the first dynasty of Babylon in northern Mesopotamia.
The Babylonian Empire: 1900-1595 BCE. In the 18th century BCE Babylon was known throughout the ancient world of the Near East because of Hammurabi (literally in Akkadian: the great Amorite God; Hammu-Amorite god, Rabi-large) (ruled 1792 -1750 BCE), the sixth king of the Amorite dynasty (Amurru, literally in Akkadian: west) – a Semite semi-nomad people from the area to the   north of the Euphrates. Hammurabi conquered the Sumerian cities and united them and then expanded his Babylon Empire all the way to Asia Minor. He united the various Mesopotamian ethnic groups who enjoyed calm and prosperity under his rule, and merged their cultures.  His rule and the rule of his successors in the Babylonian Empire was based on unification by the laws of Hammurabi - set of laws issued throughout all the cities in the Empire to protect their residents.
        In 1595 BCE Hammurabi's empire fell to the hands of the Hittites who returned to Anatolia, which was the center of their power. They left Babylon to the Chaldeans  (Chaldees or Cassites), warlike people who came to Babylon from the mountains to the east. Since then Babylon had continued to be a cultural center for more than a thousand years.
The Chaldean Dynasty (1595 -1157 BCE) during this period Chaldean kings ruled Mesopotamia. They respected the Babylonian culture and its religious tradition, and adopted them. The victory of the Elamites over the Chaldeans brought an end to this dynasty.
The Second Isin Dynasty: (1025-1156 BCE) after the Elamites withdrew from Babylon, the second dynasty of Isin (also known as the Fourth Dynasty of Babylon) was founded. During this period the first Nebuchadnezzar (1124 -1103 BCE) ruled.
The New Assyrian Empire: 911 - 612 BCE. The Assyrians, Indo-European people who arrived from the east, and apparently was named after Ashur (the god of war, the main god in the Assyrian pantheon), settled in Mesopotamia around 2400 BCE, and their city-state Assyria was under the rulership of Babylon. In the tenth century BCE, after taking over the northern part (now northern Iraq) of Mesopotamia, Assyria appeared as an important powerful independent political entity. The Assyrian army, which was the first army equipped with iron weapons, developed the art of siege, to such an extent that no fortified site could resist it. Another area where the Assyrian army was good at was building a system of roads linking the ends of the empire.
        The Rule of the Assyrians came to an end when in c.1500 BCE the Hurrians (Anatolian tribes who had already arrived to Mesopotamia 2,400 years BCE) defeated them and established a centralized state named Mitanni which subjugated the Assyrians. Its inhabitants worked the land and rebuilt destroyed temples.
        In mid-14th century BCE the Hittites attacked the Mitanni , and Assyria once again gained independence. Under the rule of a series of rulers of Assyria, Assyrians expanded the boundaries that included not only Mesopotamia itself. At the height of its power, in the ninth century BCE, the Assyrian Empire spread and stretched from the Sinai Peninsula to Armenia. The Power of the rulers was reflected in the use of force, intimidation, and military capability. The result was revolts throughout the empire.
        The Assyrian rulers who stood out in their building plants were Sargon II (721-705 BCE) who built a new capital city – Dur-Sharrukin ("Fortress of Sargon"), and his son Sennacherib (681-704 BC), who founded in 700 BCE the city of Nineveh (located in today's Iraq near the city of Mosul) as a sister capital city to the city of Kalhu (Biblical Nimrod).

The new Babylonian empire: 625-539 BCE. In 612 BCE Nineveh was destroyed by the Chaldeans and the Medians who overtook the city after three months of siege. The Assyrian King Sin Sharaishkun perished in the flames and the Assyrian Empire came to its end. Babylon returned and became the dominant empire in Mesopotamia.
        13 years before the fall of Nineveh, a new dynasty was founded in Babylon by the King Naboplasar (625 - 605 BCE). At the time Mesopotamian culture reached full flower. Naboplasar's son, Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned in 604 -562 BCE) whose army destroyed Jerusalem, demolished the Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon, conquered the entire Assyrian Empire.
        Although Babylon suffered economic instability, its kings spent huge amounts of money on construction projects throughout the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar invested much on restoration of the ruins of Babylonian cities, and especially on renovating the city of Babylon, which at the time reached the peak of its glory.
The Persian Empire: 539 -331 BCE. In 539 BCE Babylon was conquered by the Persian King Cyrus (557 -529 BCE). The Sumerian and Semite rule in the Near East, which lasted more than 5,500 years, came to an end. Cyrus, one of the greatest conquerors in history, established an empire that stretched from the Hindus River to the Mediterranean, from the Caucasus to the Indian Ocean. Under his rule, stability and order prevailed due to his good attitude toward the peoples in the occupied territories. The Jews, who had been exiled from the Land of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar, were allowed to return to Jerusalem. His son Cambyses (reigned 529 -522 BCE), who succeeded him to the throne, conquered Egypt and decided to conquer Carthage. After his death, after infighting, King Darius (ruled 521- 485 BCE) came to power. He divided his empire into districts, paved roads running through the length and breadth of the empire, and established a complex mail system. The Persian rule, which, unlike the cruel rule of the Assyrians was characterized by tolerance, generosity and respecting local customs, continued until the region was conquered by Alexander the Great.
The Hittite Empire
Mesopotamian architecture discussion is incomplete without reference to the Hittite Empire (1200-1500 BC), which stretched from the Aegean peninsula to the Euphrates River. The capital city of the Hittites whose center was in Asia Minor, was Hattousha (Hattusa) (near the village Bogazköy in modern Turkey). This City, which survived the ruins of monumental buildings and gates decorated with figurative reliefs from 1360 BCE, was fortified. One of the city gates is of the Lions Gate Type - two lions carved on both sides. The entrance is flanked by Cyclopean stones (giant stones), which are very different from the Mesopotamian bricks in texture, size and resistance.

Picture of the Lions Gate Hattusha  (Bogazkoy), Turkey

Religion and Faith in Mesopotamia
        Religion and faith played a central role in public and private life of the residents of Mesopotamia, and largely influenced all aspects of life including architecture. The central position of religion in the life of the residents came from a sense of absolute dependence they had the will of the gods.
        In Sumer, a polytheistic religion had developed and was later adopted by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Every city-state had a god (or several gods) of its own, well respected by the neighboring cities. The gods were perceived as immortals and as having needs and lusts just like humans. The most important and powerful among them were those identified with heavenly bodies.
        The knowledge of the Mesopotamians in astronomy helped them in setting the calendar, listing the dates of sowing and harvesting, religious festivals and the like. The New Year was celebrated in spring, with the sun entering Aries on March 21, the vernal equinox.
        In Babylon the priests learned the celestial phenomena, ascribing to the position of the planets in the sky and to the relationships among them an impact on life on earth. Contemporary people believed that astronomical phenomena affected their political, military, and economic affairs. The same prophetic significance they attributed to their dreams. Forecasting the future by priests was an integral part of religious worship of the Babylonians.
        The gods were called "Anunanki", literally in Babylonian: those who came from heaven and earth), which indicates that they were perceived to be everywhere. Historical events were conceived of as being a result of the intervention of the gods. According to a text called "The Curse of Akkad", King Naram Sin, the grandson of Sargon of Akkad, lived happily, until he destroyed E-Kur the Temple of Enlil in Nippur which was holy to the Sumerians. Following the destruction of the Temple (in fact, researchers believe that Naram Sin  did destroy the Temple but rebuilt it), the gods spurred the residents of the mountains from the east into destroying Akkad and thus the Akkad Empire fell. The prevailing belief was that the gods controlled all aspects of human life and made man happy, sad, healthy or ill.
        The Sun, moon, and planets had been identified as gods. The moon was the Sumerian god Nannar and the Babylonian god Sin. The sun was the Sumerian god Utu and the Babylonian god Shamash. Jupiter was the god Marduk (literally in Chaldean: King of the Mountain), who was also called Bel (in Canaanite - Baal, meaning Lord); Venus was the Sumerian goddess Innana, the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, and the Canaanite Astarte;  Saturn was the Lord Ninutra, also known as Ningirsu; planet Mars was the god Nergal, and Mercury was the god Nabu, or Nebu - the equivalent of the Sumerian  Ningizzida.
        God Nabu, whose name is associated with prophecy, was the scribe of the gods, who wrote the deeds of man and maintained his writings so that they would serve as testimony after man's death. Like Ningizzida he is considered the equivalent of the Greek god Hermes.
        There were gods who were identified with several heavenly bodies. Among these we find Marduk, who apart from being identified with the planet Jupiter was identified with Mercury, Mars and the sign Pisces which was called "the fish of Ea".  
Extensive Babylonian literature was written on signs from heaven. Since Nergal (Mars) was the god of war, when Mars was clearly visible in the sky during the summer, it was a sign for a good time to start a war. During spring, when Venus (Ishtar) was clearly visible in the sky, it was a sign for a good time for love. About 600 years BCE, the Babylonians introduced the Zodiac.
        In Mesopotamian mythology the god Anu (Sumerian An and Babylonian Anu) was perceived as God of Heaven whose soldiers were the stars of heaven. Part of the Milky Way, known as "the way of Anu", was his way. He lived in the sky and descended to earth with his wife Antu (also known as Ki), in times of crisis or when he was invited to the ceremonies. As time passed, the god Anu became less important, and was replaced by the god Enlil (literally in Babylonian: En - Lord; Lil – air, breathing). In Akkad he was called "Elil", hence the word Elil (idol) in Hebrew and Allah in Arabic. The name Enlil is associated with air, wind and the soul of the world. Enlil was also called the "father of the gods", "king of heaven and earth", "King of All lands" and "founder of kingdoms".
        Enlil, like Anu, had a regular route of trip in heaven. According to Sumerian mythology, he raped Ninlil, the goddess of grain, who bore him the moon god Nanar (Nana or Sin). Nanar was married to Ningal and begot  Innana the goddess of love, fertility and war, god An's (anu)  companion, and Otto  the sun and justice god, who descended into the underground every day and decided the fate of the dead. Perception of the moon as the son of  sun indicates that the moon changes impressed the Sumerians more than the rising of the sun every day.
        Innana, who was considered the Queen of Heaven, was mainly associated with the planet Venus, but sometimes with the moon. She was a powerful warrior, riding a carriage pulled by lions. In Mesopotamian writings, she is described as a sensual lover, a source of fertility, creativity, and passion. In order to celebrate the realization of the courtship relationship between her and God Damuzi, their wedding was held every year in the Sumerian New Year's celebration that took place in the spring of every year.
        According to one Sumerian creation story, first there was Nammu, the ancient goddess of the sea. From the union between Heaven god Anu and the earth goddess Ki, Ninhursag was born. The latter, the goddess of mountaintop  and the mother of gods whose nickname was Mammu, gave birth to Enlil. The birth of Enlil was the event that separated heaven and earth and gave each of them its shape and destiny.
        According to Sumerian writings humans were  created by Ninhursag according to God Enki's instructions.
        According to another version of the story of creation (Enûma Elish version, the Akkadian creation epic), the creation began with the union  between god Apsu and goddess Tiamat. God Apsu represented the sweet water    of the rivers while Tiamat represented the salty water of the ocean. God Anu is the great grandson of Apsu and Tiamat.
        God Ea, pronounced Eya and by the Hittites Ya. (literally in Babylonian and Sumerian: he who lives in water) a term indicating that perhaps there was a  connection between him and the Hebrew God called "Ya". In Sumer he was called Enki - literally, master of the country), Anu, god of fresh water and wisdom, patron of magic, arts and crafts.
        When the Babylonians adopted the Sumerian gods,  they had worshiped  the god Enlil (Akkadian: idol) as  Marduk and called him "Bel", meaning Lord. Canaanites referred to him  as "Baal". According to the Babylonian mythology, Marduk (equivalent of Roman Jupiter and Greek Zeus) was the son of God Ea and Goddess Dumkina. After Ea killed Apsu, and let Tiamat survive, the latter tried to seize power, but was defeated by Marduk, who bashed her skull and used half of it to create the sky. He became the supreme god, organized stars systems, and made the changing shapes of the moon. Every year, he decided the destinies of all the people.
Each region had its own god according to its needs. In the south, in the marshes region, the main gods were associated with fishing, while areas in the north and east, where the inhabitants engaged in agriculture, the major gods are the gods of winds and grain.
        The gods were perceived as unpredictable like nature and as those who determine the fate of the people.  The Mesopotamians believed that man was created to serve the gods. This principle was interpreted literally, and consequently, they built temples, sacrificed offerings   and were constantly worshiping their gods.
        Temple staff took care of the god, feeding (In fact, the food served the temple staff and their families) and dressing him. Stone sculptures were placed in the temples in a constant pose of prayer in front of the god, serving as a substitute for people. 
        Hoping that they will be rewarded with life of prosperity and welfare, the Mesopotamians thought that they had to please the gods. They also believed that if they would make the gods angry, the latter would abandon them not protecting them from evil spirits who cause grief and sickness. Plenty of water was perceived as an expression of joy of their gods, while floods were conceived of as an expression of their destructive rage.
The temples were considered as places of worship although in fact only priests were allowed into them. According to ancient Babylonian texts, there were individuals who contributed small chapels to the temple. Rulers were proud of their positions as builders of temples. Reliefs depicting them participating in the construction testify to this. King Urnamu was presented as carrying building tools on his shoulders. King Gudea  is displayed as a statue with the temple plan on his knees. text found in Lagash describes him designing a brick and  looking with full satisfaction while looking at the seal carved into it. Nabulpasar in his writings boasts that he had rolled up his sleeves and dragged clay and bricks to the temple of Marduk.
Every city concentrated on worship in the temple built in honor of its main god (sometimes several gods were worshiped). In order to serve the god the temple was designed as the king's palace, which was equipped with kitchens to which daily enormous quantities of food were delivered, hospitality rooms, bedrooms and other rooms to serve the god's family. Likewise, there were courtyard and stables in the temple.
        Religion was closely connected with construction, even when private homes were concerned. A religious ceremony was held at the beginning, during and after the construction was completed. Ritual sacrifices to the gods and witchcraft, were intended to sanctify the new building, purify it and protect its inhabitants and their property against demons and disease. When the temple was built in an utterly new home, the foundation trenches were purified with fire, and filled with pure soil mixed with precious stones, metals and grass. First brick was prepared from mud mixed with honey, wine, and beer. Figurines were placed at various points in the foundations to keep away evil spirits. Each of these actions were based on rigid ritual practice.
          Since the first dynasty of Isin, there had been the god of bricks named Kulla and the god of Architecture named Mushdammu. The latter oversaw the laying of the foundations, building houses and cleansing ceremonies.
         In Mesopotamia, much importance was ascribed to picking the best date for important events, including the beginning of construction. In Mesopotamia, writings were found in which it was written that if the foundations were laid in a particular month, the owner would not be a by happy in that house. Laying the foundations in another particular month would bring honor to the property owner. There were such lists presenting each day and month of the year with predictions for the various construction phases, such as demolition of an old house, laying the first brick, building the house and the like.
             The fear of gods and the intent to please them, led the Mesopotamians to build their temples on the foundations of the primordial temples. According to their perceptions, failure of performing this task may arouse the wrath of the gods, which is why they insisted on finding the original foundations of the temples.
                  As opposed to the Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian religions, Persian Zoroastrian religion (Zoroastrianism), which focused on devotion to the good and battle against the forces of evil, temples were not needed for worship. Persians sacrificed to the gods on mountaintops, which is why their dominant architecture was not related to religious worship, but to palaces, which empowered the rulers.
        While in ancient Egypt emphasis was placed on burial structures, in Mesopotamia construction of temples and palaces occupied a central place. The Mesopotamians, like the Egyptians, believed in life after death though, for them it did not depend on preserving the corpse.
Building Materials in Mesopotamia
        In southern Mesopotamia, stone and wood for construction were scarce. When necessary, wood was imported from the mountains in the north and east, and from Lebanon, which was known for its cedar forests. Instead of wood, the Mesopotamians used bundles of reeds that grew in the rivers, and instead of stone, they used sun-dried mud or burned bricks, which they molded of silt, which was abundant due to the frequent floods.
        The most durable mud bricks were those burned in   furnaces but due to lack of wood as burning material usually sun-dried bricks were used. The latter were not long-lasting as the burned, especially when they were exposed to rain floods. The best time to produce sun-dried brick was in the summer when the temperature reaches 55 degrees Celsius in the shade, which is why the first month of the summer was called "bricks' month".
        The Mud bricks were formed in wooden templates of various sizes and shapes. Afterwards, the templates were removed and the bricks were left exposed to the heat of the sun, or transferred to an furnace. Excavations in Uruk at the site of the temple of Inanna exposed  kilns which were used for burning mud, with no residential buildings between them. The archaeologists who discovered it called this area "industrial area".
Mud was often mixed with straw to improve the durability of the bricks. The advantage of bricks over other building materials was their being cheap and affordable. Another advantage was the ease of their production, which allowed each family to build the house on her own without the help of professional builders. The latter dealt with the construction of public buildings.
           Mud usually served as mortar, both for mud bricks dried in the sun and bricks burned in a kiln. In order to protect the outer walls from weather damages they were covered with burnt bricks coated with plaster and bitumen, ("pitch" in the Bible) which is actually old asphalt. This is an oil-like material, waterproof, located along the rivers of Babylon in Iraq, where it is leaking to the surface and creates a sticky black layer. Presence of this material on the surface is closely related to oil being in the subsurface.
        As a waterproof material, bitumen was mainly used to pave the way for running water. Sometimes bitumen was used in a construction phase, when mixed with clay to create cement to glue the bricks to one another.
        Climate, where temperature fluctuations are extreme, mud bricks were used as an excellent isolating material. To increase, the isolation, particularly thick walls                                                   were built.
       The brick size and shape changed from one period to another. Each period has its own characteristic bricks. The earliest bricks were long and narrow. Since the fourth millennium BCE to the third millennium BCE, they were of a uniform rectangular shape – their length was twice their breadth. During the early dynasties, they had a curved shape and thus the walls had uneven surface.  During the Akkadian period, quadratic bricks were used. Changes in the design of bricks from one period to another help researchers to date buildings.
Readers who are interested in expanding their knowledge about mud-brick construction technique will find detailed descriptions in Sauvage, M., La Brique et sa mise en Oeuvre en Mésopotamie Des Origines à L'époque Achéménide, listed in the bibliography.
        Mud-brick were used for building walls, strengthening towns, castles, private and public buildings. This material was suitable for building in Mesopotamia's dry climate and was relatively durable, but of course, unlike stone.
        The longevity of a building built of mud-bricks depended on several factors: the thickness of the walls (as the thicker wall is more durable), strength of connection between the bricks, protection of sensitive parts from erosion, and steady maintenance.
        A building built with sun-dried bricks without a strong roof and external plaster walls would gradually turn into a mound called "tell". The more durable buildings had to be repeatedly fixed after the winter rains. When too many improvements were required, the building would be destroyed and a new one would be built on the top of its ruins. This process of rebuilding repeated for centuries, and created tells which were scattered over the plain.  Such tells became a distinctive feature of the Mesopotamian landscape

          Tells were created also as a result of the abandonment of the city by its inhabitants following wars, floods and disease. The remaining buildings were demolished and turned into tells. On the ruins of the destroyed city, a new city was founded and the city's level rose.
          Due to the lack of flammable materials in southern Mesopotamia, only the most important buildings were built of bricks burnt in furnaces.  In Babylon burnt bricks were connected to each other by bitumen cement and lime, and were used on an unprecedented scale. These Babylonian bricks were of high quality. They were large, and an official seal intended for public monuments was embedded in each of them.
        Except for the city of Eridu, where limestone was quarried locally, Sumerian cities were all built of mud-bricks. Using this perishable material for building led to the surviving of very few works of architecture in Mesopotamia except for the foundations. Therefore, our knowledge of this architecture is based on fragments of the remains.
        In Mesopotamia stone was rarely used. When the stone had to be brought from far away in most cases it was the volcanic rock basalt.
        Limestone and Alabaster were found in Assyria and were used in sculpture building and as secondary building materials for temples and palaces. Alabaster stone which was used in Assyria is known today as Mosul marble. It was easy to obtain it in local quarries and large blocks. However, there was no substitute for mud-brick as the main building material in Assyria and Babylon.
        Less common building material was imported wood. Royal writings testify that the wooden walls were brought from Lebanon or Elam. Cedar tree was the most expensive.
        Ceramics, whose invention is ascribed to the Babylonians during the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II, also served for architectural design. The most prominent example is Ishtar Gate (see below).
Ground Plans and Building Methods in Mesopotamia
        The Sumerian architects  used ground plans to design buildings. Evidence of a Sumerian ground plan is found in the statue of Prince Gudea, who sits with the ground plan on his knees. The inscription on the side of the sculpture indicates that Gudea is holding on his knees the plan of the god's Temple. This sculpture was presented as an offering to the god by Gudea to save Lagash from disasters which were perceived as an expression of dissatisfaction of the gods. Less magnificent ground plans were found on clay tablets. The measurements  mentioned on the plans always indicate the number of the bricks without referring to the thickness of the cement. Likewise, the plan notes the type of bricks (whole brick, halves of brick, quarters of brick, L-shaped brick, etc.) used.
Picture of Sculture of Gudea with ground plan on his knees, c. 2150 BCE. Louvre, Paris
        Ground plans of temples, as well as programs of other public buildings, were conducted according to the king's initiative. The king gained fame and glory as the builder who planned and financed the monuments, while the architects remained anonymous. Local legend has it that God Ningirsu, the patron deity of Lagash, appeared in the dream of Prince Gudea and passed him the temple's program.
        Perhaps in order to plan the temple, a model was first built in a small scale. This is probably indicated by the miniature bricks, which were found in one of the ancient temples.
        The limitations of building materials in Mesopotamia influenced the construction plan. Sun-dried bricks require thick walls and small openings to ensure durability. As a result, narrow rooms were built or halls with many supporting columns. A system of canals drilled into the walls ensured full drying of the heart of thick walls built of semi-dried bricks. Such channels were found by archaeologist Leonard Woolley (1880-1960), in the ziggurat built by King Urnamu in Ur, but he referred to them as drainage channels. Researchers have found the Egyptian builders implemented the same method when they used sun-dried mud bricks. For rainwater drainage, burnt mud-brick gutters were built.  These were found in ziggurats in Ur, Uruk, and Nippur.
        To produce cement the same materials used for creating bricks were used, mixed with chopped straw. Often bitumen was added to the mixture. Lime and plaster cement have been found starting from the new Babylonian kingdom. The thickness of cement layer used varied, but usually it was an inch thick.
        Construction of doors and passages for houses in Mesopotamia set a challenge to the builders. They solved it by using the post and lintel method. Two vertical columns supported a horizontal beam. The largest opening's length was just as long as the longest beam available, practically meaning the tallest tree trunk, or the largest stone slab quarried. However, too hard pressure on the beam might cause it to crack or collapse. Apart from the large openings there were also small ones in the upper parts of the walls, which were designed to create ventilation in the buildings. Such vents have been found in houses from as early as the Ubaid period and maybe even sooner.
In order to enable construction of very large openings and spaces, arches and vaults of various types were built. Two types of arches were developed: corbel arch (formed of rows of horizontal stones one on the top of the other, leaving an open arch), and a standard arch (stones arranged in a radiant shape with a keystone, so that their mutual pressure makes them support one another). As early as the fourth millennium BCE corbel arches were built by the Sumerians.
        Building vaults enabled roofing a large area without the need for interim supports to alleviate the weight of the ceiling, because the walls have provided support from the sides. Massive vaults and arches were built in palaces, probably in coronation rooms, to judge by the thick enough walls to support the vaults. The Greek geographer Strabo (63 BCE - 23 CE) wrote that all the houses in Babylon had vaults. In the old city of Nippur there were arches with keystone built of burnt bricks. The roofs were usually flat and separated from the vaults by a layer of mud bricks. To support those heavy vaults it took particularly thick walls.
        Mud brick walls were usually built, without first laying foundations. This construction method was dangerous because the walls were prone to collapse. There were structures which were built with burnt brick foundations. To ensure the strength of the steps of the ziggurats which were built with sun-dried bricks, burnt bricks were used for coating them. Sometimes the steps were built upon an arch.
        Assyrian palaces were built of mud bricks on stone construction. Stone slabs decorated with low reliefs served as walls.
        Since the 13th century BCE the Assyrians began using enamel for coating mud bricks. Evidence to this is found in contemporary texts. The earliest archaeological evidence testifying to the use of enameled bricks is from the ninth and eighth centuries BCE. In Babylon the three entrances in the main courtyard leading to the Royal Coronation room were decorated with enamel-coated panels.
The Mesopotamian Temple
        In every city, there was a monumental temple that served as the residence of its chief god. The temple was the tallest structure in the city sticking out in the skyline and seen from afar. Ancient Sumerian texts described the temples as similar to mountains linking heaven and earth.
In Sumer in every city were built several temples, which formed the basis of social organization and strengthened the local pride of the residents. The main god was the owner of the most important temple, but also the other gods, who were considered his relatives or associates, had temples. From the archaeological remains we can learn that the rulers in Mesopotamia saw in the defense of their capital cities and in the maintenance of the temples of their gods a paramount importance to preserve their eternal glory.
        According to the Sumerian theology, every temple was considered the private estate of the god who lived in it. The god was the owner of the temple, the buildings, and the property in his compound. The temple of the god, apart from being primarily a center of religious activity, was also a social and economic organization dominating the industries of the city. The temple served as the bank, granary, and storage space. The property of the temple, as being owned by the god, also included the out of town land, animal farms, tools, crops, vines and more. Today it is estimated that one-third of the fertile lands surrounding the cities belonged to the temples. Thus the income of the temple, was significant.
In ancient times, the temple built of mud bricks, stood on a platform to which a ramp was leading. It included a shrine – a rectangular room where an altar of bricks or a table of offerings to the god to whom the temple has been devoted was placed. The shrine was connected to rooms, which were designated for priests and priestesses, who conducted daily public ceremonies of sacrifices and bringing offerings to the gods.
Unlike present day worship centers, the interior of the temple was not intended to contain the crowd of believers. It was rather intended to serve as the seat of the statue of the god and as the residence of the priests. During religious occasions, a crowd of believers gathered in the courtyard of the Temple, rather than in the interior of the building.
The oldest temple in Mesopotamia to date is the temple in the south of the city Eridu dated to the fifth millennium BCE. In this temple there was one room  sized approximately 4x5 square meters and in its center stood a table offerings. On the wall in front of it was a niche with a base of the statue of god. Access to the sacred room was through a simple opening.
During the fourth millennium BCE, larger temples were built and their inner space was divided into a central hall and a series of rooms to the sides of this hall. The outside walls were supported by external supports. The temple stood on a platform and the access to it was via a staircase. There were times when the platform reached a height of 13 meters and even more.
         Temples were repeatedly repaired and renewed. When too many repairs were required, they had been demolished and new were built on their ruins. Thus, they gradually rose above the surface around them.
        In one city, there were several temples. Sometimes they were interconnected by courtyards, thus creating a large complex of temples. The largest temple was usually dedicated to the patron god of the city.
There were cities where a special temple was built outside the city walls. Temples of this type were used as destinations of religious processions celebrating the New Year.
The corners of the temple were directed to the four winds with an entrance on one side only, established in the northeast or southeast of the Temple.
        With time, the number of platforms above which the room of the god was built increased, and the result was step tower called ziggurat - the most characteristic structure of religious worship in Mesopotamia, which was the great achievement of the Sumerians. The word "ziggurat" is etymologically related to the verb "zaqaru " in Akkadian. In Hebrew, it corresponds to the root זקר , (zkr) meaning "sticking up".
The ziggurat was built high above the surrounding surface and was encircled by a courtyard enclosed by a double wall. It was shaped as a rectangular or square-based step pyramid (the base side length was usually about 50 meters), and each floor was a step (of the pyramid) with sloping exterior walls without openings. The number of floors (steps) was not fixed. The horizontal lines of the ziggurat were characterized by a light curve. The outer walls were covered with painted and glazed mud tiles.
Ziggurat structures were built during the years 2150-500 BCE, and the remains of more than 30 of them are still standing today. Their shape, representing ascending to heaven, shows man's effort to create architecture, which touches the sky and gets him closer to the house of the god.
The ziggurat, like the temples that preceded it, had included a central temple or a central inner room in which the god's statue stood, and rooms for priests, whose job was to supply all the needs of the gods. At the top of the ziggurat was a small holy room, which only the priest and a few other people were allowed to enter.    The god's statue stood in a niche in which there were always a bed and fresh food stored, ready for the god who was thus invited to descend to the ground. The prevalent belief was that on the New Year day the god came down to his room, and the sacred wedding ceremony was celebrated at the festival in his honor. Some think that the room was also an observatory.
Most of the ritual was held outside the temple, in courtyards, beside purification fountains and altars of offerings.  The construction of the temple was a religious act. All the participants in the construction process were required to be good and worthy people. During the construction, often offerings were devoted to the gods and, when the construction was completed, a great celebration that lasted several days was held.
 The Sumerians prettified the ziggurats with protruding supports and walls carved with concentric rectangles into the depth of the wall. In addition, they also made use of mud-brick pillars attached to the walls and pilasters decorated with zigzag, diagonal, and triangle patterns. The interior walls were decorated with frescoes depicting human figures, animals, and geometric motifs
 The ziggurat may reflect nostalgia to mountainous area. It is estimated that such an area was the place of origin of the Sumerians, who tried to provide a suitable accommodation to their gods by creating an artificial mountain. Some believe the structure of the ziggurat symbolizes the idea that mountain peaks are the place of residence of the gods, from where they rule the world.  Ascribing holiness to mountains appears in various cultures in human history. Sinai, where Moses received the Tablets of the Law, Mount Olympus, which serves as the abode of the gods according to Greek mythology, are examples of this.
        Some of the names given to ziggurats  - "The Mountain House", "World Mountain House," "the House  of Connection between Heaven and Earth "- attest to symbolic cosmological architecture. In all cases the ziggurat's name indicates a link between heaven and earth, and starts with E (literally in Sumerian: house, Temple (.
In the city of Borsippa, located about 20 km southwest of Babylon, was built a ziggurat named E-Ur-Imin-An-Ki (literally in Sumerian: the house of the seven leading in heaven and on earth) - a clear indication to the seven spheres where moved the seven planets that were known at this time in Mesopotamia. Each floor-step of the ziggurat was painted with the color associated with the planet which it represented.
The first floor was painted black and was associated with the planet Saturn (God Nirig also known as Ninip).

The second floor was painted in red (some contend that it was painted in blue) and was associated with the planet Mercury (the god Nebo), writing, and wisdom.
The third floor was painted white (some say that it was painted orange) and was associated with the planet Jupiter (the god Marduk).
The fourth floor was painted in blue (some say yellow) and was associated with the planet Venus (Ishtar ), the goddess of fertility, love and war.
The fifth floor was painted in yellow (some say red) and was associated with the planet Mars (god Nergal), the war god.
The sixth floor was coated with gold and was associated with the sun (god Shamash), the god of justice.
The seventh floor was painted silver or gray and was associated with the moon (the god Sin).
There is no consensus among scholars about the color attributed to some of the planets, but they all agree that there is a connection between the planets and the floors and colors representing them. Presenting the floors and colors as representing planets is related with the use made of the ziggurats as observatories. The priests, who were also astrologers, would watch the stars to guide them in matters of policy. The relationship between the temples and ziggurats, and structure of the cosmos is reflected also in the four corners of the ziggurat which were set according to directions of the compass.
The prototype of ziggurat had already been built 3,500 years BCE. This was the temple of the city of Eridu, which was established in honor of Ea the patron god of the city. This temple, built of mud bricks on an artificial platform, was a new architectural design of a temple and served as a model for the future temples.  
The Babylonians, who worshiped the gods of the Sumerians, also adopted their ziggurats. They believed that they had to please the god and not to irritate him, so that he would not move to a foreign country. Processions of priests would march in anticipation of the god to descend from heaven to the shrine in his temple. This was the customary way to ensure prosperity and fertility to the city.
It is difficult to study the structures by examining their remains, that none of them survived with the original height. The ziggurat of Lagash has no trace, and even its whereabouts are unclear. Ruins of the ziggurats however, survived the in Nipur, Larsa, Erech, and Mari.  In fact, these are the main remains discovered in these cities.
Sources helping us to restore the ziggurats are  reliefs depicting ziggurats, which were found on monuments, written descriptions of ziggurats, which were found in Babylonian literature, and references to them in the writings of Herodotus (460 BCE).
During the period of Hammurabi, the temple, apart from being a worship center, also served as a commercial and banking center. Here people signed contracts, lent money, and redeemed prisoners from slavery. The temples have also expanded their economic activities and       added facilities for artisans. Thus, worship, entertaining, activities of priests, writers, artisans, soldiers, merchants, musicians, slaves, and even prostitutes were incorporated into the temple. The temple also participated in agricultural and commercial activities for which warehouses and silos were required. The latter were included in the temple compound. In many ways, the temple resembled a modern corporation, whose general manager is the high priest.
Sumerian Architecture
Sumer, considered cradle of civilization, was the first to develop magnificent temple architecture. King Urnamu, who ruled the kingdom of Ur, which included Sumer and Akkad, built between the years 2125- 2025 to BCE, one of the earliest ziggurats. This ziggurat was called E-Temen-Ni-Gur (literally in Sumerian: house with impressive foundations), and was dedicated to the moon god Nanar and his wife Ningal moon (literally in Sumerian: the great lady; nin-lady, gal-great).
This ziggurat, which was the most sacred building in Ur, had the form of a step pyramid with rectangular base (60x45 meter) and corners facing the four cardinal points as was customary in Mesopotamian temples. The first floor, whose height is 15 meters, has been preserved in good condition. The walls of the floors-terraces were built with a slight curve. It is unclear whether this was done intentionally, to create the impression of a massive structure, or is this the result of pressure caused by the weight of the upper floors. At the top of ziggurat was built a small room that served as a shrine to the moon god .
Pictures of the ziggurat of Ur
Trees were planted in compound of the ziggurat, apparently to make it look like a mountain sticking out into the sky. Three flights of stairs - each with a hundred steps - were placed at right angles to the building on three sides. The main staircase between the first and second floors, a large gate was designed to emphasize the central axis of the ziggurat and its symmetric structure. This gate lead up to the small temple of the moon god.
The ziggurat was built of bricks, which were manufactured from a mixture of mud and woven reeds, dried in the sun. These bricks were strong but porous, so further layers of burnt mud bricks were needed to cover   the sun-dried brick walls. The outer walls were coated with bitumen.
This ziggurat has been relatively preserved in good condition, probably thanks to the exterior walls design which is rich in shallow channels experts that allows mud-brick to "breathe" and thus prevent cracking in the wet season. The only floor, which remained, has been restored recently.
As the huge monuments built in Ancient Egypt, this ziggurat, as all the others built in Sumer, were built by local residents rather than by slaves. Peasants have worked in construction between sowing and harvest.
The construction work of Urnamu was completed by his son Shulgi, who ruled Sumer and Akkad for 48 years (2094-2046 BCE) and was a patron of the arts. The temple is still impressive, although the upper floors did not survive.
Assyrian Architecture
The Assyrians settled in northern Mesopotamia in the city-state Assyria, overlooking the Tigris River. The name "Assyria" originates in the name of the national god and his worship. Under the rule of King Shamashi-Adad I (1830-1776 BCE), contemporary of Hammurabi,  the city of Assyria was fortified, and its fortresses were designed like half a circle.
When the Assyrian empire was at its peak (1000-612 BCE), the Assyrians adopted the culture of the lands that they occupied in Mesopotamia. They created a unique culture, in which to some extent kings took the place of the gods. The importance of the temples declined, while the importance of the palaces of kings rose. In 870 c. BCE, when the city of Calah (or Calhu) inherited the city of Assyria as the capital city of the  Assyrian Empire, the royal palace was built on a hill on which rose the temples of the gods.
Assyrian art was similar in nature to the Babylonian art and to the art of other peoples of Mesopotamia. Unique Assyrian style developed around the year 1400 BCE. During this period, the Assyrians decorated their buildings with murals and brightly colored bricks. Later, during the years 900-600 BCE, they decorated the walls of their palaces with stone reliefs presenting religious ceremonies or military victories .
The Assyrians usually built their buildings out of sun-dried mud bricks. Some of the foundations and decorations were made of stone. All buildings had flat ceilings, and the larger ones also had only one floor. The height of some of the rooms reached nine meters.
In Building the ziggurat, the Assyrians adopted the Babylonian and Sumerian model, but put some changes in it. While in the Babylonian ziggurat three flights of stairs lead to the top of the temple, in the Assyrian ziggurat a spiral ramp surrounded the structure from the first to the upper floor.
In the construction of the Assyrian palaces, the kings created their own style, which was marked with huge scale and unprecedented splendor. In each Assyrian capital city, several palaces were built. Moving the Assyrian capital from place to place during the years 900-610 BCE, has brought the construction of many palaces.
The Assyrian palace, besides being a place of residence, fortress, and administration center, was in his splendor and enormous size, a visual expression of the fortitude of the Assyrian empire. It was intended to impress the city's residents and guests of the king - ambassadors and allies.
The gates of the Assyrian palaces and cities were set in high places, to enable viewing them from a long distance. Scenes showing the winning Assyrian army were presented in reliefs all over the empire. On either side of the road leading to the gates were placed images of guards in high relief. These reliefs carved on the vertical stone slabs, were usually intended to strengthen the bottom of the walls of some important buildings. The technique of strengthening the walls, was probably learned by Assyrians from the Hittites. In the provincial palaces there were paintings on plaster instead of reliefs  on stone slabs.
The Palace in Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad)
One of the most magnificent palaces built in the Kingdom of Assyria was the palace in the city of Dur Sharrukin (literally in Assyrian: fortress of Sargon) which is located near the modern village Khorsabad, about 20 km northeast to Mosul in Iraq. It was built by King Sargon II (ruled in 721-705 BCE) adjacent to the city wall of Dur Sharrukin. Locating the palace adjacent to the city wall was typical of the Late Assyrian building.
The general shape of the palace was rectangular, and its corners faced the four cardinal points. The entire compound was complex and symmetric in design, and walled by a special fortress. It stood on a platform (called "tamlūin Akkadian) of 16 meters height which was coated with blocks of  2.7 meters in length each. American archaeologists digging there found rows of stone slabs laid in place, which must have been designed with reliefs at the construction site before the upper structure was built with bricks. Apparently, this platform was designed to raise the palace over the area, which was flooded as a result of the tidal rivers. Locating the palace above its surroundings had another goal as well - to place the King's quarters above his subjects, between them and the gods.
The palace walls were built of mud bricks, which underwent partial drying after casting, and were placed as they were soft and supple. Cement was rarely used. Burnt bricks were used in large quantities for coating the floor. For topping alabaster from local stone quarries  was used as well. Cedar beams from Lebanon were used to build the flat floors and ceilings. These beams were covered with sun-dried mud bricks. One of the reliefs in the palace describes the transporting of huge wooden beams by the Phoenicians from the stage of logging them until they reached the land of Assyria.
In the palace, there were 200 rooms organized around 30 open courtyards. The courtyards were  designed in a shape close to a square and the rooms were mostly small, long and narrow, with walls, as thick as four to nine meters. These sets of rooms and courtyards were grouped around a large front yard.
Picture of the Palace of Dur Sharrukin  Recovery
Picture of the Palace of Dur Sharrukin - ground plan
As was customary in other Assyrian palaces, in the palace of Dur Sharrukin there were two main parts: babanu – the civil or administrative part of the palace, and bîtanu - the private part of the palace where the King's family lived. The coronation room marks the border between these two parts.
A large front yard in the babanu led to the tall, narrow, and rectangular-shaped coronation room. This room is surrounded by a suite of rooms, followed by the bitanu in which is placed a small square back yard, surrounded by the private rooms of the palace.
In the coronation room whose walls were covered with stone panels or tiles, and decorated with frescoes, the king would receive guests and foreign emissaries. Visitors would enter the great courtyard and pass through the main entrance between huge statues of demons four meters in height, intended to serve as guards.
The coronation room was the largest hall in the building. In each wing of the side-wings were several rooms, built around small courtyards. Two main design features characterized the coronation room: a spiral staircase leading to the roof, which served as an observatory and for ceremonies and a floor with stone track for the portable heater on wheels, which was used for heating the king during the winter.
In some places, floors were built of stone tiles or Alabaster, but usually dried clay was used and carpets were deployed above it. Mud-brick material was used to build the palace walls, and local stone was used for sculpture. The outer walls were decorated with pilasters arranged in groups in the shape of concentric rectangles carved into the wall – a customary decoration in Babylonian architecture. Reliefs, murals, and engraved bronze bands depicted themes from the life of the king that were designed to glorify his name.
The palace compound, which was a city within a city, was surrounded by a massive wall, and the two gates leading into it from the east and south, were decorated with stone sculptures called "Lamassu" - Couples of huge winged bulls with human head standing upright as guards. Their job was to guard the place and move away visible and invisible enemies (sometimes statues of lions also served for this purpose). In an inscription found in the palace, detailing the work of Sargon II, is expressed the hope of Sargon that the sculpted bull, which was perceived by him as a guard and god who provided perfection, would dwell day and night at the gate of the palace and would never leave the place.
In the southern part of the palace compound, on a separate platform than the palace, towered the god Nabu Temple. The main temples were dedicated to the gods Nabu, Shamash and Sin, while Adad, Ningal and Ninurta had smaller shrines. A delegation of archaeologists from Chicago that investigated the southern corner of the palace during the years 1935-1931 discovered inscriptions on stone door thresholds with the names of these gods. The temples of these gods are also mentioned in the inscriptions left by Sargon.
Nabu Temple was surrounded by what must have been the residences of Sargon's highest officials marked the by the Chicago delegation with the letters K, L, J, and M. Among these homes, L was the largest. The thresholds of this house were decorated with the inscription "Sinahusur"- the name of Sargon's brother and vizier.
The thresholds of the second-largest residence K   also of stone, was decorated but no inscription was found. The decorations appeared in three passages that led from the court to a hall whose walls were painted in colors blue, red and black, against white lime painted on a layer of gray mud. After the house was abandoned, the southwestern wall of the hall collapsed, and the ruins have fallen on the other walls. Thus, part of the painting in front of the main entrance hall has been preserved in its entirety. It should be noted that archaeologists had conducted excavations there before, thinking mistakenly that this part of the palace was the harem.
  While their predecessors placed the temple in the city center, the Assyrians placed the king's palace near the temple. A stone bridge connected the palace to temple, as the Assyrian king was the high priest of the state, and the public and religious functions were intertwined and very close to each other. Thus, through architecture is expressed the subjection of the religious activity to the ruler.
The ziggurat, located north-west to the temples, stood on a square area of 43 m x 43 m or so. Out of the seven floors of the ziggurat only four survived. The height of each floor was about six meters. Thus, the height of the building equaled the side of the base, a detail already mentioned by Herodotus and by Strabo. Each of the floors was painted in a different enamel color  (the first - white,  the second - black, the third - red- purple, and the fourth - blue). A spiral ramp ran around the structure connecting the floors
Architecture of The New Babylonian Kingdom

Tower of Babel
Despite the economic instability of the independent rule of Babylon in Mesopotamia (612-539 BCE), the king of Babylon spent huge amounts on construction projects throughout the land. The most famous of them is the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible. The tower, which the researchers identified with the Tower of Babel, rose to a height 91 meters, and was the highest of any of the ziggurats.
The shape of a ziggurat was described in cuneiform tablets dating to the fourth century BCE by the official scribe Anu-Bel-Shunu. This text, a copy of an earlier version written in the second millennium BCE, served as the basic plan for the ziggurat Tower of Babel (E-Temen-Anki). According to the text, the most important are the side walls of the base that should equal the height of the tower: the length of the side of the temple's square base  = height = 92 m or so.
The original Tower of Babel, whose story is told in Genesis, was built over a thousand years before the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, probably by Hammurabi. Over the years, it was destroyed, built, and destroyed. Its last restoration was done by Naboplassar (reigned 626-605 BCE), who headed the Chaldeans, and with the help of the Medians (residents of Media, located southwest to the Caspian Sea), gave a deathblow to the Assyrian empire and took control of Babylon.
Restoring the Tower of Babel went on in the sixth century BCE during the rule of Naboplassar's son, Nebuchadnezzar II, known as he who destroyed the Temple of Solomon and ordered to build a tower with its head in the sky. Nebuchadnezzar turned the Tower of Babel to the temple of god Marduk that was part of the palace compound, linked to the palace by the way of processions.
Nabonidus (reigned 555 -539 BCE), who came to power after Nebuchadnezzar, completed the construction of the ziggurat of Marduk, but instead of three steps-floors built seven steps-floors. Looking at the temple complex has created an impressive dramatic effect. Like the ziggurat of Ur, three a staircases led from ground to the most sacred place. The height of floors got shorter as they were upper. At the top of the ziggurat stood a small shrine of the moon god Nanar; its base was square shaped and it was topped with a gilded dome. The ziggurat of Ur was taller than that of Babel. This description matches the writings of Herodotus. According to the description of Herodotus, the temple of Bel, who was identified with Marduk, was built like a tower, towering additional towers, a total of eight towers. Herodotus goes on to note an external spiral staircase around the towers. Towards the middle of the way up there was a room where one could sit and rest on his way to the top of the tower. At the top, in the last tower, tells   Herodotus, a great temple stood and inside it was a bed with a cover richly decorated beside a gold table. There was no statue in this room. As he writes, the priests told him that in the room was only a local woman chosen by the god of all women in the country, and the god himself would descend into the room and sleep on the couch.
The historian Diodorus Siculus, wrote in the first century BCE, that the Tower of Babel was the Chaldeans' observatory, and the great altitude of the tower enabled them to accurately track the rising and setting of stars.
Some believe that the ziggurat was designed to ensure the protection of the god's temple from floods damages. According to another explanation, the builders  imitated the topography of their country of origin, where they believed that gods inhabited the mountain peaks. Names given to the ziggurats, such as "The Mountain House", and "Mountain Storm" support the opinion that the ziggurat represents a man-made mountain.
Image - Restoration of the Tower of Babel of his ground plan
On a black stele, found in Babylon and dated between the years 604 -562 BCE, appears a relief describing the Tower of Babel from the side, with its seven story- steps. To the right of the tower, stands Nebuchadnezzar II, wearing a cone-shaped cap.
The  Tower of Babel may have been multi-colored, as was common in the ziggurats. Each floor of the seven floors was devoted to a god who was considered as dominating its planet, and was painted in the color ascribed to it.
The first floor, dedicated to Ninip the god of the planet Saturn, was painted black;
The second floor, dedicated to Marduk the god of the planet Jupiter was painted in white;
 The third floor dedicated to Nebo the god of planet  Mercury was painted in red;
  The fourth, dedicated to Ishtar, the goddess of the planet Venus and was painted in blue;
 The fifth was dedicated to Nergal the god of planet Mars, and was painted in yellow;
The sixth was dedicated to Sin the moon god and was painted in gray or silver;
The upper floor was dedicated to Shamash the sun god and was painted in gold.

The Sumerian name of the ziggurat of Babel was "a foundation of heaven and earth" (E-Temen-An-Ki; Literally in Sumerian: E-House, Temen-contact, An-sky, Ki-Land), a name that matches the biblical description of the Tower of Babel: " Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens" (Genesis 11, 4). The description of the construction itself and a the  preparation of bricks also matches the biblical description:  "“Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. " (Genesis 11,3).
Even after the destruction of Babylon, the Tower of Babel went on to ignite the imagination. Alexander the Great, who conquered the region in 331 BCE and destroyed the tower to the ground, planned to rebuild it to symbolize his victory, but his plan was not implemented.
Persian Architecture

Persepolis Palace
One of the most impressive monuments built in the Near East was Persepolis palace. In 518 BCE Darius first began to build the palace of Persepolis, on the slopes of a mountain overlooking the plain. The construction plan  was designed in detail before construction work began. Evidence to this is found in the water system and the underground drainage system passing through the building's foundations. The palace of Persepolis was built  by employees who had lived out of the construction site and enjoyed comfortable life.                                                      Image of the palace in Persepolis
Image - the palace in Persepolis – ground plan.
The findings in the excavations in Persepolis show the grandeur and originality of the Royal Palace, which served for ceremonial purposes only. The construction work was carried out mostly during the rule of Xerxes, verbal Persian: ruler of heroes) the son of Darius I, known also as Ahashverosh, who ruled between 485-465 BCE. Around the year 338 BCE, Artaxerxes III completed the construction of the palace.
The temples and other monuments in the palace compound towered on a rectangular platform (in altitude ranging from 8 to 18 meters, and an area of 450x300 meters). They were built of local stone and were reinforced by iron connections. Buildings laid out on the platform in four different levels, each higher than the lower one by two meters.
On the highest level was the king's palace, and on the lowest were located warehouses and offices. Building materials were brought from all the corners of the empire.
Access to the platform was via a double ceremonial staircase (northwest of the palace complex), whose construction had begun by Darius and was completed by Xerxes. The staircase was built of huge blocks and led to the monumental gate called "the Gate of all Lands". This gate, actually a structure comprised of three gates and a hall with pillars towering 15 meters or so (originally, probably 17 meters or so) and supporting the ceiling. As the Assyrian monumental gates, the gate is decorated with a couple of huge reliefs (five meters tall), carved in stone, in the form of two winged bulls with human faces. These were located at the passages flanking the gate structure on the east and west.
Each of the staircases had 110 steps of which every four or five were built from one stone. Each level was 6.90 meters long, 37.5 cm wide, and 10 cm high. It was a low slope enabling horses walk into the compound of the palace.
Through the Gate of all Lands, incoming delegations made their way to the coronation hall, where they met with the king.
Image - the Gate of all Lands in Persepolis
In the center of the west front of the palace was its largest building the Apanada - the audience hall, was the oldest building in Persepolis. In the main hall of the apanada there was enough place for 10,000 people. Here were held festivals and official receptions for provincial representatives who met with the king. The apanada's walls, about four and a half meters thick, were built of sun-dried brick. The ceiling was built of cedar, ebony and teak wood coated with gold, ivory, and precious stones. 36 massive stone columns approximately 20 meters in height, decorated with lotus shaped capitals supported it. 36 additional columns towered in the balconies on three sides of the building (west, north, and east, 12 from each side). All in all there were 72 columns, of which 13 survived. The columns standing before the entrances to this hall from the west and north were decorated with capitals shaped as double bull's head, and the columns before the entrance from the east were decorated with capitals shaped as double lion's head.
Monumental staircases survived to the north and east of the apanada. The steps were low and wide enough, so that ten horses could move on it in parallel. The walls flanking the stairs, were decorated with reliefs depicting scenes from festivals held every two years, in which representatives of countries from around the empire, accompanied by soldiers, guards and horses, bring gifts to the king.
The apanada is connected to the coronation hall also called "the hall of hundred columns") by a Triphilon (see below). The building of this hall whose ruins testify to the glory lost, began during the rule of Xerxes I continued during the rule of Artaxerxes I. It was the second largest building in Persepolis, where the king received nobles and important personalities.
A hundred wooden posts standing on (surviving) stone bases supported the ceiling. Eight doors led to square-shaped coronation hall (76x76 meters) with high ceiling (18 meters), and walls reaching thickness of three and a half meters. These walls built of mud bricks, included 44 openings for doors and windows. Reliefs flanking the entrances to the hall presented the king fighting demons, and surrounded by his court or receive foreign ambassadors.
Image - staircases leading to the apanada in Persepolis palace
In the southern part of the palace compound, Xerxes I built his palace and harem. Double staircase east of the southeastern corner of the apanada led to a Tripylon ("triple gate") - a building used both as a passageway and audience hall, which also served to connect the public buildings with the private ones in the palace compound. Two gates of the Tripylon the northern and the southern were protected by walls decorated with reliefs depicting King Artaxerxes I accompanied by two servants. Between the two gates, there was an internal hall with four columns.
To the south of the apanada Darius began to build a small palace whose construction was completed by Xerxes. To this palace, which was also built on the platform, was designed a vestibule from the south with a portico flanked by towers. Secondary front with a double staircase led to it from the west. In the main hall of the palace, there were 16 columns and two symmetrical "living rooms" to which side wings were attached. The decorations at the gates of the palace present images of the private life of the royal family - courtiers carrying napkins, perfume bottles and other household objects. Other palaces, few of whom survived, were built in the southern part of the palace by the successors of Darius.
In the southeastern corner of the palace Darius built  a palace which was modified and extended several times, but ultimately was designed to serve as a treasury. Its rooms, all rich with columns, surrounded the inner courtyard according to the tradition of residential construction. Originally, its only courtyard (in the south), with its four porticos, led to separate apartments and two sets of large rooms separated by a central corridor. Series of narrow rooms that their inner walls were probably higher than the outer ones surrounded the building and allowed the construction of high windows. After a short while, to the north of these buildings were built additional buildings, also with an inner courtyard surrounded by porticos. Two rooms that were originally there were replaced by a large square hall with 121 columns.
The plan of the palace of Persepolis differed from the customary plan of Mesopotamian palaces. In Persepolis buildings were built side by side in a square plan, with no open courtyards that characterized the construction of palaces in Mesopotamia. Another innovation was the construction of large halls with tall columns supporting the ceilings. In Persepolis were also created large rectangular stone windows and doorframes, which became basic elements in Western construction.
The complex of the palace of Persepolis was magnificent, and survived until Alexander the Great burned it in 331 BCE. Most of the walls built of mud bricks did not survive, leaving only some columns, decorated staircases, and thresholds of palaces.

Residential Buildings in Mesopotamia
Before the growth of cities, the Sumerians were living in round huts. They dug a circle of pits and in each pit they stuck a bunch of high reeds. The upper ends of the reeds tilted toward the center of the circle and thus formed the roof. The reeds were coated with mud to create the walls and ceiling. Similarly, rectangular houses were built of two parallel rows of holes in which bundles of reeds were stuck.
During the Ubaid period, residential buildings were characterized by small rooms arranged on either side of a large room in the shape of a long rectangle or T-shaped. There were houses with several such units. As time passed, a large square room replaced the long main room. Inside the house were spaces designed for cooking, storage, sleep, and reception. In the absence of archaeological findings, the researchers assume that the poor lived in ramshackle huts built of reeds or other consumable materials. Their homes were located probably on the outskirts of the cities.
When cities were established and began to prosper, residents moved to rectangular courtyard centered houses. The walls of these houses were thick (about 2.5 meters thick) in order to insulate the internal space from extreme external thermal fluctuations. The external and internal walls covered half of the house's area. The ceiling was made of flat wooden beams, palms, or reeds over which soil was scattered to protect against the heat. In the absence of long wooden beams, the rooms were small and their doors and windows faced the inner courtyard where most of the activity took place. Often, a flight of stairs or a ladder led up to the roof, which enabled night's sleep in the cool nights.
The outer walls of the house except for the front door, were smooth, with no niches, bumps, decorations or windows (in rare cases the windows faced the street). They are painted in white to reflect the rays of the sun in the heat of summer. The floor was made of tamped earth that was sometimes covered with a layer of plaster. Layer of plaster mixed with mud also served to cover the walls.
Every summer it was necessary to cover the roof with another layer of clay in preparation for the winter rains. Occasionally it was necessary to raise the floor so that it would not be lower than the street level. The reason for that was the habit of the residents to throw trash into the street and thus raise its level. A house whose floor was not raised was expected to draw into it the trash with the rains. Archaeologists have found sometimes three or even more layers of floor in the houses.
Houses built of sun-dried mud bricks, were not durable enough, and often collapsed. The Code of Hammurabi blamed the crash on the builder. According to its laws, a builder who built a house that collapsed, and killed its owner, would be put to death. If it killed the son of the owner, the son of that builder would be put to death.
The construction plans, as the building materials, fitted to the climate. The thick walls allowed a comfortable life. Inside the houses, it was cool in the summer and warm in winter. The hot summer was the main reason for building inner courtyard, which faced the rooms of the house and enabled light and air to penetrate them. This courtyard allowed the occupants to sit in the shade outside the house all day long. Windows were covered with shutters to protect against the sun and to keep warm in the winter.
Such a house was protected from burglars more than a house whose windows opened onto the street. This also was the way of the rich to hide their wealth from tax collectors.
Image – Ground plan private residence uncovered at the Ur site by Sir Leonard Woolley.
Image - Section of a private house at Ur
A house planned around an open space or courtyard had already been found in the Near East in the most ancient cities. An example of such a house has been found in the city of Ur during Isin and Larsa period in ancient Babylon. A typical house had two floors whose exterior walls had no windows. Only one door faced the street. The windows of the house faced a paved courtyard, which enabled the penetration of dim light to the rooms, and was considered the protected area of the house. The walls were coated with plaster and whitewashed. The upper part was made of mud-brick and lower was built of burnt bricks connected with clay cement. The ground floor was designated for the servants and guests, and on the second floor, the landlord and his family lived. Steps in the inner courtyard led to the roof, which served as an additional residential area in summer. The doors, which were made of wood, were installed inside a wooden frame painted in red to frighten evil spirits.
Behind the house there was a home chapel - a long, narrow courtyard, partially roofed. In the roofed area was an altar made of bricks and a pillar on which were statues of the house's gods (personal gods - a personal god for each family member, who protects and links the family with the great gods.) In the non-roofed part of the courtyard under the brick floor was a vaulted tomb, where all the family members were buried except for the small children, who were buried in jars in the chapel or outside the home. Thus, the worship of the patron god and the ancestors were held in the house compound. The dead were no longer buried far away in cemeteries as was common in earlier periods, but continued to participate in family life.
 The size and the splendor of the residence reflected the social status of its owner. Sumerian society was a matriarchal society where women gained a respectable status. The social class system was based on economic and professional status, rather than on kinship. In the upper class, there were nobles, priests, government officials, and fighters; in the middle class, which constituted the majority of the population, there were farmers, merchants and craftsmen; the lower class was comprised of slave laborers who did manual labor.
There was a significant difference between the houses of the wealthy residents and the poor houses. The dimensions of the houses ranged from 100 sqm to 600 sqm. The rich families lived in mud-brick houses, one to three stories high. They were built around an inner courtyard providing privacy and shade to the occupants. The walls were thick and the roofs were flat. In the ground floor there were rooms for receiving guests, a kitchen, bathroom, servants' quarters, and sometimes also a private chapel. On the upper floors were the living rooms of the family. Under the house was often built a family mausoleum where family members were buried, though there were cemeteries outside the cities.
In Assyria, government officials and the rich lived in large private houses, including reception room which had access to the private rooms located behind it. Graves covered with vaults were built under these houses.
The poor lived in low quality houses built of mud and reeds and were located near the outer city walls.
During the third dynasty of Ur, one could see the residential area of the high government officials who lived in big houses planned by the architects. The plans of these houses resemble in shape the models of houses common today in the Middle East: One entrance door leads to a large courtyard surrounded by rooms and warehouses. Private rooms are arranged behind the reception room or at its sides. In the great houses, there was a separation between the public and the private space achieved by building additional courts.
The residential plans constantly changed. Single rooms were frequently bought and sold. Houses were divided after the death of the father. Given the population density in the cities, open spaces were often utilized to build more rooms.
Around 2000 BCE, with the takeover of the city of Nippur by the city of Isin or the city of Larsa, large residential units were divided into small units, indicating that hard times had befallen the residents.

The Mesopotamian City
The world's earliest cities developed in the middle of the fourth millennium BCE in Sumer in southern Mesopotamia and around Elam in southwest Persia. In a long process lasting from c.5500 to c.3500 BCE, the agricultural communities have become urban. The Earliest were among others: Uruk, Ur, Eridu, Larsa, Lagash, and Nippur. The Transition from village to town was accompanied by the emergence of political and religious authority and the formation of hierarchy expressed by different types of structures: temples, palaces, and homes.
Some believe the first cities functioned as ceremonial centers with religious connotations and therefore they conclude that religion has brought their formation. On the other hand, others attribute the formation of cities to trade with distant places to get products which were found in small amounts in Mesopotamia, such as wood and stone. The surplus of products traded with distant places was kept in the temple which was a central institution in the city.
According to the most accepted theory among researchers, the formation of cities was due to the development of agriculture, which caused permanent settlements raising agricultural products. The result was social stability and excess food. Specialization in food production and the need for mediators between the farmers and buyers, led to the formation of class groups who took the place of groups based on family ties. The upper class that controlled the administration and economy was the priestly class that was also mediating between the city and the gods.
The Mesopotamians referred to their cities as a continuation of past traditions that should be respected. Cities represented for them ancient culture perceived as a work of God. Likewise, they saw in the city a source of culture. Testimony to this is found in the writings of Berossus (third century BCE), the Babylonian priest who became a Hellenistic historian and described the birth of the first cities.
Describing the birth of the city of Babylon, he writes that foreign nations settled on the land of the Chaldeans and lived a life without culture, like the life of animals and beasts. In the first year, a scary monster came out of the Red Sea and appeared on the land of Babylon. Its name was Oannes as Berossus  called it, or U-An, literally in Akkadian: Son of Heaven; or Adapa, literally in Babylonian: the wise man, the Babylonian equivalent of the Biblical Adam). The monster that did not eat anything lived among the people and taught them writing, science, technology, founding cities, building temples, law, and geometry.
Sumerian culture, although mainly urban, was based on agriculture rather than on industry. On the soil of Sumer were 13 city-states, each surrounded by a wall beyond which sprawled the villages. Each city was a separate world, dominated by a king. Between these city-states, there was a constant struggle for the control of Mesopotamia.
Major cities in Mesopotamia, being in fact an extension of pre-historian villages did not have the advantage of urban planning. A typical city was surrounded by protective walls, but its territory expanded outside the walls. One could see a few areas in the city: a walled inner city, commercial area, suburbs, and fields and orchards adjacent to the suburbs.
In the inner city, most streets were narrow winding alleys providing residents protection from the sun and dust of the desert winds. Here and there, there were small shops clustered among the houses. Only rarely would streets cross the city all the way from a gate at one end to the gate at the other end. Such streets were more characteristic  in planned cities than in cities that have grown organically.
Surrounding walls were the most prominent feature of the city. They were designed not only to defend the city, but also to constitute a powerful visual statement. By building the walls, kings impressed the residents of their cities and were proud of their construction and improvement. A typical city consisted of concentric rings of fortified walls with towers at regular intervals. Around the city walls there were water channels. There were people who settled outside the city walls, and thus were allowed to possess unlimited spaces. When an enemy attacked, they could find refuge in the walled city.
According to the prevalent belief the Sumerians, the Babylonians and the Assyrians, that finds expression in Mesopotamian literature, the welfare of the residents depended on the kindness of the gods. When the god's relationship with its city was harmonious, the residents were successful and happy, but when the king's relations with the god were not harmonious, the god took revenge and made the residents miserable.
Each city had a patron god. The patron god of Lagash was Ningursu, the patron god of Umma was Shara, and the patron god of Ur was the moon god Nanar. (Babylonian Sin). Ishtar, the goddess of love, fertility, and war, was the patron goddess of the city of Uruk, which hosted within its borders the god Anu, the sky god. Such gods were supposed to protect the interests of their city at the gods' committee where critical decisions were made for humanity.
Building a city and building a temple for its patron god were intertwined. Testimony to this is found in Genesis: "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens…But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building…” (Genesis, 11, 3-5)" (the word "tower" represents a temple – ziggurat).
For the Mesopotamians, a city represented order while mountains and deserts represented chaos. In order that a settlement would be considered in the eyes of the Mesopotamians as a city, it was supposed to have a temple and a palace. In every city-state there was an area dedicated to the temples and an area dedicated to the ruler's palace. The temples area was fixed for religious reasons. As noted, fear of the gods led the Mesopotamians to build their temples on the foundations of their primordial temples. The ziggurat was located near the main temple or some distance away, with a series of courtyards linking them. it stood out in the city's skyline and its ground plan. Palaces were often located within the city, adjacent to the wall surrounding it.
The palace was the second most important monumental building in the city after the temple. It was a fortified structure. In the Assyrian cities, the palace was more important than the temple. It was enormous in size and  significant resources were invested in its construction and decoration.  Its fortified appearance and magnificence symbolized the supremacy of the king.
Some researchers believe that the cities of Mesopotamia were divided into various quarters according to the occupations of the residents. In Nippur there was a district of scribes , in Tutub (today located east of Baghdad), near the oval temple, was a walled area probably housing the temple staff, and in Abu Salabikh (12 miles northwest of the city of Nippur; the ancient name is unknown) was a group of two-story luxurious houses with heaters, where probably bakers lived.
The zoning was not rigid. In the excavations in Ur were found small shops, chapels and a school among houses where very spacious homes of merchants where located beside small houses. Texts found on clay tablets indicate the existence of the quarters of goldsmiths, blacksmiths, leather processors, etc. However, there is no proof that each craft had its own district. Industrial areas were located according to environmental conditions. In Larsa, for example, kilns were located in the southeast of the city that winds blew from the   northwest.
Woolley, who studied the residential area in Ur located to the southeast to the central temple complex in the city, found narrow streets flanked by modest homes. Narrow streets led to wide ones. At the intersections of several lanes, there were often small temples.
City streets were not paved until the Assyrian period of the first millennium BCE. They were muddy in winter and dusty in summer. Garbage thrown from houses on the street was piled and never collected. Animals, including pigs, were kept within the city. There may have been gardens within cities too. The streets were quiet and the traffic was minimal. They were too narrow to enable carts' movement. In the evening, people were crowding the streets and crossroads to listen to storytellers tell their tales.
Town houses were usually adjacent to each other. As time passed, some were extended. The same types of buildings were repeatedly built at the same sites for generations. The old walls often served as a basis for the new homes.
The Assyrian King Sennacherib (ruled in 705-681 BCE) paid particular attention to the appearance of the city and its ventilation. He extended the squares in Nineveh, and destructed buildings to allow light and air penetrate into the narrow streets and alleys. Likewise, he widened and straightened a few streets to create a main ceremonial avenue, which he built and paved of limestone blocks.
         Sennacherib described in his writings the expansion of streets in Nineveh, which he called "Market Streets" and noted that they were wide enough to be used as royal roads. In order to ensure that the wide streets would remain wide, he wrote a warning stating that if a resident of the city ever destroyed his old house and build a new one, whose foundations expand into the royal road, he would be hung on a pole over his house.
From the words of Sennacherib, we can conclude that each resident had permission to build a house wherever he wanted and in any plan he chose, so long as the royal road would not be invaded. The routes of the main streets paralleled the canals and rivers throughout the city and beyond. To these streets were connected  smaller ones vertical to them.
The characteristics of the development of the cities in northern Mesopotamia differed from those of the cities in the south. While cities in southern Mesopotamia developed organically from villages to cities, villages in northern Mesopotamia had suddenly spread and became cities, apparently influenced by the cities of the south. Northern city was characterized by the development of two separate areas – an upper and lower city. The upper city, which was surrounded by a wall within the city walls, rose above the surface and included the monumental buildings - the temples and the palace.
The Assyrian cities were more spacious than the Babylonian because parts of them were planned. In northern Mesopotamia water was abundant everywhere, enabling settlements everywhere with no need for artificial channels. Cities were grouped along the river as it was in the south. While in Babylon the central position of the temple was preserved, in Assyria the palace became the dominant structure.
In the 7th and 6th centuries BCE the kings of Babylon reshaped several cities. These restored cities were modeled and built after the cities of Babylon and Borsippa. The Architects of Naboplassar and the architects of his son Nebuchadnezzar engaged in the architectural designs, apparently being helped by earlier plans of Assyrian cities. The town was surrounded by a moat and a double wall. It was divided into square and rectangular areas called by the names of the city gates. In these areas, the texture of the city was less orderly. In the heart of the city was a religious quarter where the ziggurat stood out. This quarter was not elevated above its surroundings, but was separated from the rest of the city by a massive wall. The palace, however, was placed at the edge of the town and spread to the countryside beyond it. Here, not as in the Assyrian cities, the city wall did not surround the palace from all sides.
When choosing the location of a city the residents of Mesopotamia had the option to build a city in the valley, near a water source, or on a hill, which could be defended more easily. Usually they chose to build cities on the banks of rivers. These ensured drinking water and served as a means of transportation. When the fear of attacks from outside enemies was big, they preferred to build the city on a hill. To overcome the problem of water supply during a siege, water flowed into underground canals built below the fortifications.         
Underground aqueducts had already been built by Sargon II, Sennacherib's father, who learned the art of underground aqueduct construction from miners in Urartu (Armenia's ancient name) which he had conquered. He destroyed the aqueducts in Urartu and returning triumphantly to Assyria, he built underground aqueducts of his own. Later, the Persians learned the secret of building aqueducts and further later this knowledge reached the Near East.
Another means of water supply was a water system  including aqueduct of stone, like the one Sennacherib built near the modern city of Jerwan. The water flowed from Bavian along the 9.6 km, crossing the Gomel River on the way to Nineveh. The stone Aqueduct was built in the shape of corbel arches, about 9 meters above the river, and continued along 270 meters. For building the  aqueduct over two million stones were used, each weighing a quarter-ton. The water flowed on the floor of the aqueduct built of tamped earth coated with bitumen (to make it waterproof) and stone finish. The construction of the entire aqueduct lasted a year and a quarter. It was a brilliant engineering operation, imitated the Romans later.
In Sumer, the planners of water supply systems had already reached remarkable achievements. The Sumerians have developed complex sewage systems and toilets with running water. However, in Mesopotamia there were also cities with no urban sewage and garbage disposal system. In these places, garbage was thrown into the streets.
As a residential place organized and fortified, the city was perceived in Mesopotamia as a symbol of divine order. Nineveh was divided into nine large blocks, because number nine was considered a symbol of holiness. Planning the main boulevards of cities along the axes north - south and east - west, and the practice of determining the corners of the cities according to the  four main points (cardinal directions) of the compass, indicate the dominance of the heavenly bodies in the Mesopotamian culture.
To the cosmological approach was accompanied by mystical beliefs. The Assyrians, for example, were forbidden to mention the mystical names of their cities, a phenomenon that exists today among the inhabitants of the Caucasus. The latter keep the mystical names secret because of superstitions, whose origin may be similar.
        Faith and Economics joined together since the mid-second millennium BCE, when temples were centers of economic activity, aside from being centers of religious worship. Such temples served as storage rooms, kitchens, and workshops for artists. Religious, social, and commercial activity took place near the temple whose location was downtown, as it was later in Europe, during the Middle Ages, when the market square in many cities, was linked to the cathedral. The ideogram of the word "market" in Sumerian was Y-shaped, probably indicating the idea that the market was at a crossroads.
        Business activity also took place near the city gate, being accessible to traders, farmers, and foreigners. In the space near the city gate, outside the city limits were located bazaars, shops, and workshops. Here, residents of the surrounding villages used to sell their wares without the obligation to pay taxes to the city. Likewise, around the gate, social gatherings were held and disputes between residents were settled. More shops were scattered among the homes of the residents.
Several cities in Mesopotamia were spectacular, with large public buildings, parks, and streets arranged in a grid pattern. The city of Akkad, built on by Sargon the Great (reigned 2334-2279) in the 24th century BCE, was considered a great city. In the description of Akkad in the text "The Curse of Akkad", according to which the prosperity of the city depended on the connection between the king and the gods, the houses in Akkad were filled with gold. Its houses, shining with whiteness, were full of silver and in the warehouses copper, tin, and lumps of lapis lazuli were accumulated
The city's prosperity usually depended on the military victories of its king. The loot with which he returned from his military journeys and the gifts he received from threatened neighboring cities, have enriched the city and raised its standard of living. Temples became rich and were richly decorated.
In times of distress such as during war, fire, epidemic, earthquake, flood, or change in the path of the river, cities were abandoned in part or in whole. Houses that were not maintained properly collapsed and turned into tells. New residents who came to the abandoned city built their homes on the ruins of the abandoned houses. There were cities where this process repeated several times. Thus, the level of the city rose above its surroundings.
The City of Uruk
The Biblical city Erech (Genesis 10, 10 ; Uruk as the Sumerians called it, and Warka in modern Iraq) is located 250 km south of Baghdad. Modern Iraq is probably named after this old city, which has already been a major city about 3,300 years BCE and one of the first largest cities in Sumer. Some ascribe to it the title "the first city in Mesopotamia and the world."
Today it is believed that the legendary hero Gilgamesh was a real king, who ruled the city of Uruk during its first dynasty. He built its walls and the temple of the sky god An (Babylonian Anu). Erech, which began as two separate settlements, Kullab and E-Anna, was a very architecturally impressive city.
The united city, whose construction is attributed to Gilgamesh, was surrounded by a wall 9.5 kilometers long. Its population, which mostly engaged in farming and cattle breeding, reached (circa 2700 BCE) approximately 50,000  at its peak.
According to an ancient Sumerian text, which is a list of Sumerian Kings, the city was founded by Enmerkar, who had previously been the ruler of E-Anna. According to the Book of Genesis (10, 9-10), Erech was the second city founded by Nimrod.
In the city center there were two ziggurat temples: the temple of the god Anu, who originally belonged to the city of Kullab, and the temple of the goddess Innana, which originally belonged to the city of E-Anna. Her temple, originally called "E-Anna" (literally: the sky), was built on an artificial hill, about 13 meters above the ground, and accessed by stairs. The ziggurat of Anu towered above a white temple, probably built before 3000 BCE.
The overall effect of the city monuments in Erech was of well-planned public spaces. These monuments were designed to maximize the access to them.

The City of Nippur
The city of Nippur, the Biblical Calneh (Genesis 10, 10) and modern Nuffar (located about 150 km southeast of Baghdad) is one of the oldest cities in the world. The settlement began in a prehistoric town, around 4000 BC, during the period when the Ubaid people lived there.
The importance of Nippur lies in its topography. It is located on a high hill between Baghdad and Basra in southern Iraq. Euphrates River flowed into the city from the north and moved along its western side. Water was diverted from the river into a grand canal flowing from north to south across the city. The river was essential for a city not only as a transport path, but also because it was the main water source used for agriculture.
On a tablet from Nippur, which was discovered in Mesopotamia and dated to 1300 BCE, one can see the city's cartographic program and identify the canals, the River Euphrates, its walls and gates, and its temple E-Dur-An- Ki (literally: connection between heaven and earth). The tablet describes the work of people in the city: the large building described at the top, is probably the ruler's palace; at the bottom, people are sitting in tents or huts and engage in various types of crafts.
Nippur reached its largest territorial boundaries during the third dynasty of Ur. Large temples were built and residential districts spread to the south. The City wall was strengthened during the years 2026-2004 BCE. Between the years 2000-1700 BCE, the city's dimensions decreased; all its southern part was abandoned, but the eastern half remained settled. Disaster fell on Nippur in the 18th century BC, probably due to the Euphrates deviation from its course, leaving the city without water. The city was abandoned altogether in 1720 BCE and was covered with sand.
During the 14th and 13th centuries BCE, following the return of river that flew in the west of the city as seen antique maps, Nippur came back to life. Temples were built for Enlil and Inana and administration buildings were built as well. The city flourished again but did not return to its previous dimensions.
Between 1155-800 BCE, a period considered the dark period in Babylon, only rural settlements were left on the hill where the old temple was found. The city recovered again in the eighth century BCE, and grew in the seventh century. The main temples were rebuilt as were the residential areas. It is unclear where the Euphrates River was flowing during this period; may be downtown.
Nippur continued to exist as a city until the year 800 CE or so, when it was under Muslim occupation. Later it was abandoned and further later rural communities still existing today, have been scattered in the area.
        Image – Plan of the city of Nippur on a clay tablet from 1500 BCE.
 The survival of Nippur for so long is ascribed to the belief in Enlil. According to the Sumerian belief, Enlil, the supreme god in the Sumerian pantheon, created mankind. Nippur was unique in being a holy city, rather than a political capital. As a center of pilgrimage, it served as a kind of Mecca of the Sumerians and Babylonians. Likewise, it was the center of constriction for a dozen of kings, including Hammurabi the Babylonian and Ashurbanipal the Assyrian. Despite the successive wars in the region throughout history, Nippur was saved of the devastating military attacks that have befallen other cities in Mesopotamia, such as Ur, Ninveh and Babylon. Due to its religious nature, life in the city continued in sequence (with interruptions resulting from natural hazards) until 800 CE.
The religious significance of Nippur also gave it political importance. Kings, who came to power in cities like Kish, Ur and Isis, needed the recognition of God Enlil, for without his recognition their rule was considered illegal. As a reward for the legitimacy from the god whose temple was E-Kur (literally in Sumerian:  mountain house) in Nippur, Kings gave him land, metals, precious stones and other goods which were transferred to the city. After winning their wars, they would bring their loot and prisoners as an offering to Enlil, who continued to be popular even when Marduk became the chief god of the Babylonians (after 1800 BCE). Kings continued to seek legitimacy to their rule in the temple of Enlil in Nippur, and the city continued to receive gifts and get rich.   

The city of Babylon
The word "Babel" originates in the words Bab-ilu - literally in Akkadian: gate of God. Babylon was one of the most important cities in the Middle East when Hammurabi made it the capital of the kingdom of Babylon, which he ruled.  It is hard to imagine how it looked then, because in 689 BC it was totally destroyed, including its walls, palaces and temples, by the Assyrian king Sennacherib.
The descriptions of the city of Babylon written by Herodotus (5th century BCE) are not based on appearances, since he visited there after the destruction. He wrote that it had an exact square shape. A deep moat where water flowed from the Euphrates, surrounded the city. The wall that surrounded it had 100 gates, 25 gates on each side that were locked every evening. This wall was the outer wall, which served as the primary defense of the city. There was also a less thick inner wall, but no less resilient. The king's palace and the temple of the god Marduk in the city of Babylon, were also surrounded by walls. The streets were arranged in an orthogonal network, leading from the gates at one end of the city to the gates at the other end. Half of them were interrupted  by a river, and a boat was needed in order to cross them. Likewise, Herodotus tells that the houses were three or four stories high, and from this we can conclude that in Babylon there were apartment houses. This conclusion is supported by the words of the Greek geographer Strabo, who wrote (in the 1st century BCE) that the Babylonians built tall buildings to solve the problems of population growth.
Aristotle wrote in his book "Politics" that the perimeter of the city of Babylon was more like a country's perimeter than the perimeter of a city because it was told that when Babylon was conquered, the inhabitants of a significant part of the city were aware of it that only three days later. In fact, not all the parts of the city were inhabited. Its big dimensions were designed to impress and serve as a symbol of power.

Image -  Babylon - city plan
The new Babylonian kingdom, which was built by Nebuchadnezzar on the ruins of old Babylon, is the Babylon whose ruins we know today. Babylon probably became a city after the fall of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The Amorite ruler Samu-Abum (1881-1894), who founded a dynasty which ruled Babylon for 300 years, built the walls and fortresses and made it the center of his activity. Recent studies indicate that Babylon fell in 1499 BCE, when the Hittite king Murshili I destroyed the city and brought an end to the first Babylonian dynasty.
Under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar I (1126 -1105 BCE), Babylon was back the capital city, but his efforts to expand the borders of Babylon led the Assyrians to destroy several Mesopotamian cities, including Babylon. Babylon lost its independence and any attempt of the residents to revolt encountered acute response of the occupiers, culminating in the looting of Babylon in 689 BCE  led by the Assyrian King Sennacherib. The Assyrian kings have contributed to the city's beauty and especially to beautify the temple of Marduk - Esagila, (literally: the house that raised his head). Likewise, they  coated the streets with plaster and repaired the fortifications. However, the Babylonians had never accepted the rule of the Assyrians in Babylon.
After the death of Kandanalu, The last Assyrian king who ruled in Babylon, Nabopolassar established the new Babylonian dynasty in 626 BCE. He chose Babylon as the capital of the kingdom and ruled from the palace which was located near the Ishtar Gate. This choice was based on a long tradition, according to which  the city of Babylon was considered the center of the world.
After his victory over the Assyrians, Nabopolassar was called by the gods (or so he tells) to restore a temple which was neglected for a long time. The Dimensions of the structure were calculated according to the messages that he had received from the gods. Its height was supposed to be equal to the height of heaven, and equal to the base level, similar to the characteristics of the cosmos.
Nabopolassar began a construction work in his southern residential palace, built a temple to the god Ninutra, and began building the ziggurat called the Bible Tower of Babel. While the Assyrian ziggurats were modest in size, the Babylonian ones were enormous symbolizing the victory of Babylon over its enemies.
During the rule of Nebuchadnezzar II Babylon was the largest city in the world. Its streets were paved, a wall was built, and temples were rebuilt. Since the Euphrates River was an important transportation means, all the main streets led to it. One could cross the river on several bridges linking the two parts of the city, including one built of stone. The latter's length was about 115 meters, and it was supported by seven pillars (about 20 meters in length and approximately 8.5 meters in width) built of stone, brick and wood. More than 600 years after its construction, during the times of the historian Diodorus, the bridge was still standing. According to Diodorus, the width of the bridge's superstructure was about nine meters, and its floor was designed of wood from palm trees, cypress trees and cedars.
In the center of the city there was a religious compound, a large courtyard of the ziggurat A-Temen Enki with the temple of Marduk – Esagila to its south.           The temple functioned as a residence palace for the god, and accordingly, there was an area designated for visiting gods, kitchens, storage and administration rooms. However, the ziggurat A-Temen Enki which featured the statues of the god and served for holding special ceremonies, had only a symbolic role.
Like in Babylon, in twelve other cities throughout Mesopotamia temples were rebuilt. Nebuchadnezzar was in some cases an archaeologist as well. This finds its expression in his description of the restoration of the temples. Referring to the construction of temples, he repeatedly tells how he searched for their ancient foundations.
During the period of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian city wall extended more than eight kilometers. Structures in the city were lined with a few colors, and the exterior walls were painted yellow. The gates were blue, the palaces were yellow and red, and the temples were white with gilded domes. Reliefs of bulls, dragons and lions adorned the walls and gates.
Nebuchadnezzar decorated and glorified the city with temples, blooming gardens and the famous street processions, leading through the Ishtar Gate to the temple and the ziggurat associated with the Tower of Babel, which rose to a height of 91 meters.
Image of Ishtar Gate, Babylon
The building projects of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon testify to his individualistic innovation. In contrast, Nabonidus (555-539 BCE) who ruled after him, respected the tradition and was proud in preserving the old buildings exactly as they were originally planned.
The city walls of Babylon, which had been built for years by various kings, were the best defense against threat of attacks from the outside. Its double wall was 26 meters thick. According to Herodotus, the top surface of the wall was so wide as to have enough room for a carriage drawn by four horses to turn around. The western wall was built in the Euphrates River, to provide defense against invading armies and to create a colossal barrier to protect the city from flooding. Above the wall the tower of Babel could be seen.
Excavations carried out in the city of Babylon have discovered the remains of no less than five walls. Three formed the outer ring, and two formed the inner ring. They were built with varying degrees of thickness of burned and sun-dried bricks. Along the wall were towers equidistant from each other. The space between the walls was filled with gravel, creating a wide-scale basis as that described by Herodotus.
There were eight fortified gates in the double wall of Babylon. All were named after gods. The main gate of the city was the northern gate, Ishtar Gate (570 BCE). Ishtar, the Babylonian Venus, was considered divine and omnipotent. This ceremonial gate is one of the most impressive buildings in Babylon.
Like the city wall, this gate was also double. It consists of a pair of huge arches standing one after the other. The arches are flanked by square towers about 23 meters in height. Burned clay bricks were used to construct the gate and tar was used as glue. The fact that the gate has survived even after the destruction made by the Persians in the 6th century BCE, testifies to the strength of its structure.
Ishtar Gate demonstrates a real sense of urban decoration. For the first time entering the city is so decorative. The outer wall of the gate was decorated with low relief ceramic tiles painted individually. 575 reliefs show lions (symbolizing the goddess Ishtar), Dragons (symbolizing  the god Marduk) and bulls (symbolizing  Adad, the god of light). The animals are equidistant from each other, creating an impression of tough symmetry.
A wide impressive paved avenue led from the ziggurat to Ishtar Gate. To the east of this avenue stood the temple of Ishtar and to the west of it stood the temple of Nebo. This boulevard that led to the festival house outside the walls was used in processions. These were held every year in spring, when the Babylonian New Year (the first day of the lunar month Nissan, the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length), was celebrated in honor of the god Marduk. The statues of the gods would be brought from all the important cities. When they reached the river, they were transferred in boats, and for eleven days rituals such as purification, sacrifices and colorful processions were held. In the New Year's festival a ceremony of the "Wedding of the Gods" took place and the event culminated in the wedding of the god Marduk and his wife Sarpanitum in the sacred room crowning the ziggurat.
The avenue of processions was paved with hard limestone tiles and red marble. Its width was about 25 meters and on either side were high walls seven meters thick, above which were rising square towers. These walls were decorated with ceramic life size reliefs of lions on a dark blue background. Their original color was probably white or yellow (today the color is green) with red mane. As mentioned above, lions symbolized Ishtar, but they were also intended to drive away hostile unnatural forces.
Apart from religious purpose the avenue of processions had also a strategic purpose serving as a trap for the enemy soldiers: when they tried to attack the Ishtar Gate they were met with showered arrows from the surrounding walls.
High walls surrounded the city of Babylon along the 8.4 kilometers, and the towers of the gates rose above the walls. The two parts of the city of Babylon were connected by a bridge, 130 meters in length, raised above the Euphrates River. It was one of the oldest stone bridges, and was considered one of the wonders of the East.
Small farms and gardens were watered by trenches which regulated the flow of the Euphrates. A Large dam was built to keep the surplus water in times of flooding and increase the water supply when the water level in the rivers was low.
Archaeologists have uncovered in Babylon roads arranged in straight lines that cut each other at right angles, an innovation indicating a planned city and a strong centralized government. It turned out that 24 streets in Babylon were parallel or perpendicular to a river. These streets were narrow and in various width; they were built of raw earth and were not paved. Exceptions were the main streets which were paved.
The level of the streets of Babylon rose as a result of the accumulated rubbish which was thrown out by the residents to the street and was covered with layers of mud. Thus, the homes were built on elevated land.
Palaces, forts, docks, streets, gates and bridges were decorated with the most precious materials - gold, silver, lapis lazuli and hard wood. Their construction testified to  a special attention that was paid to the durability of buildings. There was no precedent for building such a great amount of buildings made of burnt bricks and using such large quantities of cement, lime and bitumen.
Apart from magnificent buildings, Babylon also had magnificent gardens. Due to its hanging gardens (which are ascribed to the period of Nebuchadnezzar's rule) Babylon was considered one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient world. Its glorious period did not last long. Less than one hundred years have passed until the city fell into the hands of the Persians, Greeks and Romans, who ruled it in succession.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
During the Hellenistic period Babylon was famous for having one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the Hanging Gardens to whose existence proof has never been found. Some researchers contend that they were located on the east bank of the Euphrates River (about 50 km south of Baghdad). According to these researchers, large stone terraces, supported by arches, raised a huge staircase 100 meters in height. The whole structure was supported by a surrounding wall, about seven meters thick. The gardens were watered by the Euphrates River using a sophisticated irrigation system.
        Researchers are still arguing about the location of the hanging gardens within the remains of the city of Babylon, their dating, irrigation method, and shape. In tablets discovered from the period of Nebuchadnezzar    the Hanging Gardens are not mentioned, though the palace, the city of Babylon and the walls are described. Greek historians who describe the Hanging Gardens had never seen them. The soldiers of Alexander the Great, who returned from Babylon full of admiration, told of its amazing gardens, the palm trees of Mesopotamia, the palace of Nebuchadnezzar and the ziggurats.
        Some identify the Hanging Gardens with gardens, which were planted on the roofs of houses of pleasure, whose layers of lead and bitumen made them waterproof. Others believe that the Greeks when describing the Hanging Gardens, actually described the gardens of  Nineveh (the modern city of Mosul in Iraq) which were irrigated by aqueducts. Another theory ascribes the construction of of the gardens to Sennacherib who preceded Nebuchadnezzar in 100 years or so. Recently new evidence associates the hanging gardens with the northern palace of Nebuchadnezzar.
    Herodotus and Roman historians attributed the Hanging Gardens to Semiramis, the legendary Assyrian Queen, about whom it was told that she conquered the entire Middle East and invaded India and Ethiopia. Perhaps they meant the Queen Sammuramat from the 9th  century BCE, who served as the regent of her son, but did nothing of the things attributed to Semiramis.
        Berossus, (contemporary of Alexander the Great) Babylonian priest who became Hellenistic historian wrote in 280 BCE his book "Babylonica", in which he attributes to Nebuchadnezzar the construction of the Hanging Gardens by creating terraces that looked like mountains, and on which grew trees of various kinds. Berossus also indicates that Nebuchadnezzar planted the gardens because his wife, who passed her childhood years in Media, missed the mountain environment.
 The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE), provides a detailed description of the Hanging Gardens attributing them to a "Syrian king." According to his version, the king wanted to please one of his mistresses, who was Persian, and missed the mountains asking the king to artificially imitate the landscape in her homeland.

               The City of Dur Sharrukin / Khorsabad
The Assyrian city Dur Sharrukin (near the modern village Khorsabad), about 20 km northeast of Mosul in modern Iraq, was built during the years 717-706 BCE by Sargon II as the new capital of the replacing Calneh. After the death of Sargon, Sennacherib his son moved the capital of Nineveh.
In inscriptions left by Sargon II, he writes that he built the city of Dur Sharrukin with the work of the people of the countries that he conquered. He also mentions the gods Ea, Sin, Ningal, Shamash and others who set their residence in the magnificent temples of Dur Sharrukin. King Sargon II was the only one who admitted that he built a new city, and compared himself to Adapa, one of the seven ancient sages, who was traditionally believed to build the wall of the city of Erech. Thus, he introduced himself as completing a primordial achievement. Sargon chose Adapa because, as already mentioned, he is considered the one who brought cultural life to Babylon and was the first who taught humanity to build cities.
The city was built on uninhabited land, enabling us to study the approach of the Assyrians to city planning. The city area was 1750 m x 1685 m or so, a huge area in terms of that time, and it was surrounded by sun-dried mud-brick wall 28 meters thick. The wall was coated with alabaster up to 1.1 meters. In places where there were stone slabs on either side of the wall, the space between them was filled with gravel. The corners of the city which was designed in a shape close to a square, faced the four cardinal points. Each side had two gates  in the wall. In the gates were found traces of barrel vaults.

Image – the plan of Dur Sharrukin
This city was the product of the aggressive Assyrian rule: The ziggurat lost its importance for the fortifications of the palace, and was not located in the center of the city, but in the palace compound on its edge. The complexes of the palaces invaded outside the nearly square-shaped city.
Like other Assyrian cities from this period, the temple and palaces were built on walled fortified tells (mounds) separating their compound from the rest of the city that was also surrounded by a wall. An inner city of this type can be found in the Kremlin in Moscow and in the "Forbidden City" in Beijing. The term kirhu was used to describe this model of inner city.
However, unlike other cities in Mesopotamia, which had heavily fortified compound in the center, the city of Dur Sharrukin, like other Assyrian capital cities built by Assyrian kings, the palace and temples were located against the wall surrounding the city. Entrance to the palace and temples was placed in the lower city, so that the king had to pass through the city every time he left the palace.
Dur Sharrukin was abandoned and destroyed with the fall of the Assyrian empire in 612 BCE.
The City of Persepolis
        The city of Persepolis was one of three capital cities of Persia. The other two, where the government administration was located, were Susa and Hamdan (also known as Ecbatana).
The ruins of Persepolis whose main builder was Darius I (550-485 BCE; ruled 521-485 BCE) were discovered about 58 kilometers from Shiraz. There are signs testifying that the administration of Cyrus and his son Canbuzi operated in this place, but there are no archaeological findings to verify this.
The name "Persepolis" (literally in Greek: Persian city) was given to the city by the Greeks. The Persians called it Pârsa. Its location on the river, surrounded by a ring of mountains, protected for 150 years until it was occupied by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE.
It is not known what the number of residents in Persepolis was, but it is believed that there were thousands or tens of thousands. The city living conditions were comfortable. As a contemporary modern city, homes had running water; there were a drainage system, mail service and roads linking the city to other cities throughout the empire.
The location of Persepolis in the mountainous, remote from other urban centers was not convenient as a residential and ruling center. The Persian kings lived in the palace in Persepolis mainly in the spring, when the ceremonies and celebrations were held in honor of the New Year on the spring equinox.
In 330 BCE the city was in flames when Alexander the Great conquered it and sacked its treasures, which he carried with him, so tells Plutarch, on the backs of 20,000 mules and 5,000 camels.


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