Legend, History and the Ancient Cityre

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Book Details
 380 p
 File Size 
 4,277 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 978 1 84885 701 8  
 978 0 85773 607 9
 2014 Michael Seymour 

About the Author
Michael Seymour is Research Associate in the Department of Ancient Near
Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Prior to joining the
Metropolitan Museum he worked for the Department of the Middle East at the
British Museum, where he was co-curator of the special exhibition Babylon:
Myth and Reality. He is a consultant to the World Monuments Fund on the site
of Babylon, and an editor of the journal Iraq. He is co-author (with I. L. Finkel)
of Babylon: Myth and Reality (2008).

‘The city of Babylon and the idea of Babylon have co-existed as intertwined
threads of intellectual and historical engagement for centuries. In the recent past
Babylon was an emblem for Saddam Hussein’s control over Iraq’s past (ancient
Babylon), present (reconstructed Babylon), and future (eternal Babylon). Since
at least the sixth century BC, and up to modern times, Babylon has been
entangled in discourses that transgress the boundaries between history, myth,
fantasy and bias, while over the past century scientific archaeology has
contributed to the mix. Michael Seymour teases apart the golden threads of
Babylon’s discourses, tracing each one in meticulous detail before reweaving
them into a new and brilliant tapestry, presenting us in this adroit and learned
book with a Babylon fit for the scrutiny of our age.’

– Roger Matthews, Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology, University of
Reading ‘In this ambitious and all encompassing account of how the ancient city
of Babylon has been studied, interpreted and received throughout history,
Michael Seymour offers an exemplary study in the reception of the ancient
world. Multiple manifestations of the notion of Babylon are explored, revealing
the extent to which ancient civilisations have been appropriated according to
different cultural contexts and priorities. The book presents an intoxicating mix
of mythology, interpretation and fact from a wide variety of sources: both textual
and visual. Through each of the chapters we see the exciting and complex
journey that antiquities undertake once retrieved from the earth in which they
were buried. One of the most important findings of the work is the extent to
which ancient Mesopotamian culture is shown to have “lived on” in a range of
conflicting and successive contexts. In this thoughtful and probing analysis,
Seymour unravels the very idea of Babylon, revealing it to be a complex bundle
of meanings and significances. He does a great service to archaeology, ancient
history and cultural studies in telling this story of entanglement.’
– Stephanie Moser, Professor of Archaeology, 
University of Southampton

‘This is a brilliant first book by a rising star in Ancient Near Eastern studies. It
comes at a critical moment when the ancient city of Babylon is under the
spotlight as never before. After the coalition invasion of 2003 Babylon was
turned into a military camp to universal international condemnation. Now the
World Monuments Fund is helping with the conservation of the site and
application has been made for Babylon to become a World Heritage Site. There
have also been three major exhibitions about Babylon in the last few years, in
Paris, Berlin and London, all with sumptuous catalogues, and the famous Cyrus
Cylinder, found at Babylon in 1879, is currently the subject of a touring
exhibition. Yet until now there existed no book that traced the exploration and
excavation of Babylon against the wider backdrop of developments in European
intellectual thinking and understanding. Michael Seymour does this with great
skill and clarity, and has produced a book that not only examines the importance
and significance of Babylon in the western and eastern traditions, but also
provides a readable account of the history and excavation of the city. This will be
an indispensable book both for scholars in a number of different fields and for
laymen interested in the Ancient Near East.’
– John Curtis, OBE, 
Keeper of Special Middle Eastern Projects, The British Museum

Table of Contents
List of illustrations
1. A city and its ghosts
2. Ancient Babylon
3. Tyrants and wonders: The biblical and classical sources
4. The Earthly City: Medieval and Renaissance approaches
5. Discoveries and fantasies: Enlightenment and modern approaches
6. The German experience: Excavation and reception
7. The Library of Babel: Babylon and its representation after the excavations
8. Culture and knowledge
Postscript: The Babylon exhibitions
Plate Section


This publication is supported by the AHRC.

Each year the AHRC provides funding from the Government to support research
and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities. Only applications of the
highest quality are funded and the range of research supported by this investment
of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes
to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please

Published in 2014 by I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd 6 Salem Road, London W2 4BU
175 Fifth Avenue, New York NY 10010

Distributed in the United States and Canada
Exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan
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