Berlin’s Pergamon Museum is a beloved place for visitors and art historians alike, not only thanks to its rich collections spreading from 7 BC to 19 AD, but also because it offers a life-scale experience of one of the astounding ancient Babylonian monuments – The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way. Though the eponymous Pergamon Altar has now closed until 2019, there’s still plenty of treasures to explore in this world-class museum. Join us on a journey through time and space!
By Anastasia Fisenko
The Ishtar Gate was built in the 7-6 century BC as one of the eight gates that formed part of the wall of the ancient city of Babylon. It soon became the main entrance to the city, as it was designed to inspire awe and respect towards the capital of the Babylonian Empire and its ruler – Nebuchadnezzar II, who is believed to be mentioned in the Book of Daniel in the Bible as a ruler of Babylon who destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.
The animals, real and mythical, decorating the gate represent various deities, who were worshipped by the Babylonians. Thus, lions are believed to be associated with Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, aurochs with Adad, the god of storm, and the mythical dragons with the hind legs of an eagle and a scorpion’s tail with Marduk- the patron deity of the city of Babylon. The animal motif is continued on the walls of the Processional Way, and clearly speaks of Nebuchadnezzar II 's power, riches and divine blessing.
Mesopotamia, the region where the city of Babylon and later the Babylonian Empire were located, is considered to be the place where one of the most sophisticated civilisations of the Ancient World emerged. It saw its beginning in urban centres such as Uruk, Nippur, Susa, and Ur. It was there that the cuneiform type of script was developed, and the Pergamon Museum, along with the Louvre and the British Museum, offers one of the richest world collections of these early written artifacts. The earliest examples of Mesopotamian script date from approximately the end of the 4th millennium BC. Image via Wiki Commons.
One of the parts of the cuneiform writing system was the cylinder seals. They were used in Mesopotamia and in the Near East for variety of purposes. They could have a decorative meaning and be used as a tool to quickly ornament household items, such as vases or caskets, and often would have a specific theme or a depiction of a historical episode. Some of them were used as personal signatures, with those cylinders being richly ornate and usually worn as a necklace by their wealthy owners.
Mesopotamian art, traditions and lifestyle have greatly influenced the communities which later adopted Islam as their religion. Upstairs, the Museum of Islamic Art holds outstanding artworks from the 8th to the 19th centuries, including the splendid Aleppo Room, tiled prayer niches from various countries across Middle East and Central Asia, and ancient temples of the Near East. Image via Wiki Commons.