World

Babylon, the historic city in Iraq, named UNESCO world heritage site

Iraq on Friday celebrated the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's decision to name the historic city of Babylon a world heritage site in a vote held in Azerbaijan's capital, years after Baghdad began campaigning for the site to be added to the list.

4,300-year-old archeological site was home to dynasties since early civilization

The 4,300-year-old ancient city of Babylon near Hilla, Iraq, has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. The decision comes years after ISIS militants damaged other important sites in the country. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

Iraq on Friday celebrated the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's decision to name the historic city of Babylon a world heritage site in a vote held in Azerbaijan's capital, years after Baghdad began campaigning for the site to be added to the list.

The city on the Euphrates River is about 85 kilometres south of Baghdad and was once a tourist attraction before Iraq suffered one war after another in the past four decades.

The 4,300-year-old Babylon — now mainly an archeological ruin and two important museums — is where dynasties have risen and fallen since the earliest days of settled human civilization.

King Hammurabi wrote his famous code of laws in Babylon, while Nebuchadnezzar, another king, sent his vast army from the city to Jerusalem to put down an uprising and bring the Jews back as slaves.

Some say Alexander the Great, who led his army out of Macedonia to conquer most of the known world, died in Babylon in 332 BC.

People visit the ancient city of Babylon on Friday. Now an archeological site with museums, it sits along the Euphrates River, south of Iraq's capital, Baghdad. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

Dozens of Iraqis waving their national flag gathered at the city's Ishtar Gate to celebrate the new international status.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi described the vote as "another victory for the Iraq of civilizations that was and will always be a lighthouse to the world."

A man on Friday looks at the statue of the Lion of Babylon that stands in the ancient city. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

President Barham Saleh tweeted that after Babylon, more ancient sites will be added to the list, restoring the status Iraq deserves.

Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and Minister of Culture Abdul-Amir al-Hamadani congratulated the Iraqi people on the announcement.

A person opens the doors of Ishtar Gate at the ancient site of Babylon on June 29. (Hussein Faleh/AFP/Getty Images)

The vote came years after ISIS militants damaged another Iraq world heritage site in the country's north, the ancient city of Hatra.

The extremists also destroyed other sites in Iraq, including Nimrud where giant winged bulls that once stood at the nearly 3,000-year-old palace were hacked to pieces.

A man walks in front of the Ishtar Gate. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee's voted to name the historic city a world heritage site. (Khalid Mohammed/Associated Press)

Along with Babylon and Hatra, Iraq has three other world heritage sites, the archeological city of Samarra in central Iraq, Ashur in the north and the citadel of the northern city of Erbil.

UNESCO said in its statement that Babylon's "remains, outer and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples, are a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world."

"The city's association with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — the Hanging Gardens — has also inspired artistic, popular and religious culture on a global scale," UNESCO said.

A view of the ancient city of Babylon. Some say it's where Alexander the Great took his last breath. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

now