Babel pix

Biblical myths have been known to hold a timeless charm owing to which they have always served as topics of discussion through generations. Particularly interesting amongst these is the myth pertaining to Tower of Babel and in addition to sparking debate, it has also led interested parties to explore if there have been any parallels to it in history.

As it turns out, there are indeed several parallels to the Tower of Babel myth and what is more interesting is that most of them revolve around a tower which appears to be similar in structure to the one that was the focal point in the city of Babel. Known as a ziggurat, its construction was popular across civilizations existing during that epoch and it was regarded as a representative of aspirations of human beings to reach out to heaven. Tower of Babel was definitely a ziggurat and likewise, myths parallel to it have also been found to revolve around a ziggurat.

White Temple, Uruk

A very close parallel to the Tower of Babel myth has its origins in Sumer wherein Enmerker decided to build a ziggurat in Eridu, a city in the kingdom of Uruk. For achieving this purpose, he sent a request to the Lord of Aratta to supply gemstones and precious metals that could be used to embellish the structure. What ensued was a controversy wherein the request was turned down, thus causing Enmerker to resort to more persuasive methods like writing on tablets, incantations and even a military contest.

An outcome of all this was a ziggurat that was simplicity personified and has been referred to by subsequent generations as the White Temple of Uruk. Initially, this ziggurat comprised of three steps but gradually these were increased to seven, thus leading to the White Temple perched on the topmost step. The intention was to raise the White Temple as close to the heavens as possible so that it could establish a connection between heaven and earth.

Chogha Zanbil, Iran

Ziggurats were popular beyond Mesopotamian borders too and one that has been preserved over several centuries is Chogha Zanbil, meaning ‘basket mound’, located in Iran’s Khuzestan Province. Dated to have been built around 1250 BC by the ruling monarch it was meant to serve as a temple city segregated into three sections, each separated by a concentric wall. Believed to have been constructed over two phases, it did not bear any sign of having been inhabited but still bears all the typical hallmarks characteristic of a ziggurat.

Incidentally, Iran is also home to the oldest ziggurat in the world, namely Sialk, and it conforms to the typical pattern of several bases constructed one above the other with the temple forming the pinnacle.

Other civilizations

Central America turned out to be a happy hunting ground for historians as far as myths parallel to Tower of Babel was concerned, most noteworthy being the Great Pyramid at Cholula. Legend has it that when giants, having failed in their quest to find the sun’s rays, decided to build a high tower that would touch the sun, they angered the divine power. Eventually, the tower was destroyed and the inhabitants scattered all over the land.

Likewise, a story concerning Totltecs claims that when members of this race constructed a tower as a means of preservation, they ended up losing their language and thus migrated to live in different parts of the planet.

Similar tales have been discovered about multiple African tribes and ethnic races in India, Myanmar and Nepal wherein a common point shared by them pertains to an attempt to construct sky-high buildings only to be thwarted by greater powers.

Concept of Ziggurat

So why were people around the world obsessed with constructing a ziggurat? To begin with, it was the closest man-made structure that resembled a mountain and secondly it served a number of objectives, primary amongst them being ease of star gazing. Standing on the highest echelon of the ziggurat, not only could people acquire a panoramic view of their surroundings but also fortify their knowledge about celestial bodies.

For commoners, ziggurat was a building that traced a path leading from mortal earth on to the immortal heavens and hence was a center point of their religious existence.