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North Palace at Babylon

a Pleiades place resource

Creators: Jamie Novotny
Contributors: Jeffrey Becker
Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Jan 26, 2021 10:18 AM History
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The Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562 BC) constructed a new royal residence for himself at Babylon. This grand palace was constructed north of the so-called “South Palace,” the traditional royal residence of the kings of Babylon. The building, which is referred to as the “new palace” (ēkallu eššu) in Achaemenid-period texts, is generally called the “North Palace,” “Nordburg,” and “New Palace.”

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The North Palace (Nordburg) was excavated by Robert Koldewey in 1899–1900 and in 1913–14, as well as by Iraqi archaeologists in 1958 and the early 1980s. This palace was less extensively excavated than the South Palace, the traditional palace at Babylon.  This might have been because this royal residence built upon a complicated terraced structure. The plan, as far as it is preserved, is identical to the western wing of the South Palace and the Summer Palace.

In an Akkadian inscription written on large stone tablets, Nebuchadnezzar II records the following about the construction of his new palace: “In Babylon, the private chambers of my residence were not decorous enough for my status as king. Because worshiping the god Marduk, my lord, was present in my heart, in order to widen the residence of my royal majesty, in Babylon, the city (under) his (Marduk’s) protection, I did not change its street(s), displace its dais(es), nor block up its canal(s). I searched far and wide for (the site of a new) kummu-building and, so that no arrow (during) battle can come close to Imgur-Enlil, the wall of Babylon, 490 cubits distance outside of Nēmetti-Enlil, the outer wall of Babylon, I built two strong embankments with bitumen and baked brick (and) a wall like a mountain. I fashioned a baked brick structure between them and, on top of it, I built a large kummu-building as the residence of my royal majesty with bitumen and baked brick to a great height. I added (it) to the palace of my father and in a favorable month, on an auspicious day, I secured its foundation on the surface (lit. “breast”) of the netherworld and raised its superstructure as high as a mountain. I completed its construction in (just) fifteen days and made the seat of my lordly majesty resplendent. I had (beams of) hard cedar originating from the holy mountain (Lebanon), thick pine, and the best selection of cypress stretched (over it) as its roof. At each of its gates, I fixed doors (made) of musukkannu-wood, cedar, cypress, ebony, and ivory with mounting(s) of silver (and) gold and a facing of bronze, (and) threshold(s) and nukuššû-fittings of cast copper. I surrounded its summit with parapets (colored with) blue glaze. I surrounded it with a fortified wall of bitumen and baked brick like a mountain. Beside the wall of baked brick, I built a great wall using strong stone(s) (and) large (slabs) quarried from the mountains and (then) I raised its superstructure like a mountain. I had that building built to be an object of wonder and I filled it with splendor for all of the people to see. Dignity, anger, reverence, (and) brilliance of kingship surround it so that criminals (and) the unrighteous cannot enter inside it. As for the merciless, evil doer in the outskirts of the wall of Ka-dingirra, I drove away his arrows by reinforcing the wall of Babylon like a mountain.” 

In another text inscribed on clay cylinders, this Babylonian king states: “At that time, I constantly stove (to do things) to strengthen the protection [of] Esagil and Babylon. Beside Nēmetti-Enlil, the outer wall of Babylon, from the bank of the Euphrates River up to the lower enclosure Nēmetti-Enlil, which faces East, (at) a distance of 335 cubits from the outskirts of Nēmetti-Enlil, I built with bitumen and baked brick [o]ne embankment (whose width was) thirty-two baked bricks (and) a second embankment (whose width was) twenty-three baked bricks, [two] strong embankments, one in front of the other. I secured their foundation(s) directly on the apsû, [i]n the water table far below and raised their superstructure(s) as high as mountain(s). I fashion[ed] a baked brick structure between them [and, on t]op of them, I built a kummu-building, a large sacred building, to a great height. I skillfully the strengthen (Esagil’s and Babylon’s) protection and established the city of Babylon as a fortress.”

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Jamie Novotny, and Jeffrey Becker, 'North Palace at Babylon: a Pleiades place resource', Pleiades: A Gazetteer of Past Places, 2021 <> [accessed: 01 October 2023]

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