Ziggurat is what? Symbols of architecture of ziggurats

Ziggurat is a massive architecturala structure consisting of several tiers. The basis of it, as a rule, is square or rectangular. This feature makes the ziggurat look like a stepped pyramid. The lower levels of the building are terraces. The roof of the upper tier is flat.

The builders of ancient ziggurats were Sumerians,Babylonians, Akkadians, Assyrians, as well as residents of Elam. The ruins of their cities were preserved in the territory of modern Iraq and in the western part of Iran. Each ziggurat was part of the temple complex, which included other buildings.

Historical overview

The structures in the form of large towering platformsbegan to build in Mesopotamia in the fourth millennium BC. Nothing is known about their purpose. According to one version, such artificial elevations were used to preserve the most valuable property, including sacred relics, during the spill of rivers.

Over time, architectural technologyimproved. If the stepped structures of the early Sumerians were two-tiered, the ziggurat in Babylon had as many as seven levels. The interior of such structures was made from sun-dried building blocks. For external cladding, baked bricks were used.

ziggurat is

The last ziggurats of Mesopotamia were built inthe sixth century BC. These were the most impressive architectural structures of their time. They amazed contemporaries not only in size, but also in the richness of the exterior design. It is no accident that the ziggurat of Etemenanka built during this period became the prototype of the Babel tower mentioned in the Bible.

The Purpose of Ziggurats

In many cultures the dwelling of higher forces was consideredtops of the mountains. It is generally known that, for example, the gods of ancient Greece lived on Olympus. The Sumerians probably had a similar worldview. Thus, the ziggurat is a man-made mountain, which was created in order for the gods to settle. After all, in the desert of the Mesopotamia there were no natural elevations of such a height.

At the top of the ziggurat was the sanctuary. There were no public religious ceremonies there. For this, there were temples at the foot of the ziggurat. Only priests could rise to the top, whose duty it was to take care of the gods. The clergy were the most respected and influential class of Sumerian society.

Ziggurat in Ur

Near the modern Iraqi city of Nasiriyahthere are remains of the most well-preserved structure of ancient Mesopotamia. This ziggurat, built in the 21st century BC by the ruler of Ur-Nammu. The grandiose building had a base of 64 to 45 meters, towered over 30 meters and consisted of three levels. At the top was the sanctuary of the moon god Nanna, who was considered the patron saint of the city.

By the sixth century BC, the building stronglydecayed and partially destroyed. But the last ruler of the Second Babylonian kingdom, Nabonidus, ordered the restoration of the ziggurat in Ur. His appearance underwent significant changes - instead of the original three, seven tiers were built.

ziggurat in Ur

The remains of the ziggurat were first describedEuropean scientists in the early 19th century. Large-scale archaeological excavations were carried out by specialists of the British Museum in the period from 1922 to 1934. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the facade and the staircase leading to the top were reconstructed.

The most famous ziggurat

One of the most grandiose architectural structuresin the history of mankind is the Tower of Babel. The size of the building was so impressive that a legend was born, according to which the Babylonians wanted to reach it to the sky with its help.

Today, most researchers agreethe opinion that the Tower of Babel is not a fiction, but the actual existence of the Etemenanki ziggurat. Its height was 91 meters. Such a building would look impressive even by today's standards. After all, it was three times higher than the usual nine-storey panel houses.

When exactly the ziggurat was erected in Babylon,is unknown. Mention of it is contained in cuneiform sources, dated to the second millennium BC. In 689 BC, the Assyrian ruler of Sinakhherib destroyed Babylon and the ziggurat there. After 88 years the city was rebuilt. Etemenanki was also rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar II, the ruler of the New Babylonian kingdom.

Finally, the ziggurat was destroyed in 331 BC.AD by the order of Alexander the Great. Demolition of the building was to be the first stage of its large-scale reconstruction, but the death of the commander prevented the implementation of these plans.

Exterior of the Tower of Babel

Ancient books and modern excavations enabledit is enough to reconstruct the image of the legendary ziggurat. It was a building with a square base. The length of each of its sides, like the height, was 91.5 meters. Etemenanki consisted of seven tiers, each of which was painted in its own color.

To climb to the top of the ziggurat, it was necessaryfirst climb up one of the three central staircases. But this is only half way. According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, climbing a large staircase, you could rest before further rise. For this purpose, special places, protected by canopies from the scorching sun, were equipped. Steps for further ascent encircled the walls of the upper levels of the ziggurat. At the top was a large temple dedicated to Marduk - the patron god of Babylon.

ziggurat in Babylon

Ethnic women was famous not only for its incredibleits time dimensions, but also the wealth of exterior decoration. By order of Nebuchadnezzar II, gold, silver, copper, stones of various colors, enameled bricks, as well as fir and pine were used as decoration materials for the walls of the Tower of Babel.

The first lower tier of the ziggurat was black, the second - white, the third was painted in purple, the fourth - in blue, the fifth - in red, the sixth was covered with silver, and the seventh - with gold.

Religious significance

The Babylonian ziggurat was dedicated to Marduk,who was considered the patron of the city. This is the local name of the Mesopotamian god Bel. In the Semitic tribes, he was known as Baal. In the upper tier of the ziggurat was a sanctuary. There lived a priestess, who was considered the wife of Marduk. Every year a new girl was chosen for this role. It must have been a beautiful young virgin from a noble family.

On the day of the selection of the bride of Marduk in Babylona grandiose celebration was held, an important element of which was mass orgies. Traditionally, every woman should at least once in her life indulge in love with a stranger who will pay her money. At the same time, the first sentence could not be rejected, no matter how small the sum was. After all, the girl went to the celebration not for earnings, but only in order to fulfill the will of the gods.

Similar customs were found in manyMiddle Eastern peoples and were associated with a cult of fertility. However, the Romans, writing about Babylon, saw in such rituals something obscene. Thus, the historian Quintus Curtius Ruf with censure mentions the feasts, during which the ladies of noble families danced, gradually throwing off their clothes. A similar view is rooted in the Christian tradition, not without reason in Revelation there is such a phrase as "Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."


Symbols of architecture of ziggurats

Any tall building is associated with aspirationman to get closer to the sky. A structure stepped like a ladder leading upward. Thus, the ziggurat primarily symbolizes the link between the heavenly world of deities and people on earth. But, in addition to the general for all high-altitude constructions of sense, the architectural form invented by ancient Sumerians has other unique features.

On modern pictures depicting ziggurats,we see them from the top or side perspective. But the inhabitants of Mesopotamia looked at them, being at the foot of these magnificent buildings. From this point of view, the ziggurat is several walls that grow one by one, the uppermost of which is so high that it seems as if it touches the heavens.

symbols of architecture of ziggurats

What impression does the observer make?is such a spectacle? In ancient times, the wall surrounded the city to protect it from enemy troops. It was associated with power and inaccessibility. Thus, a series of huge walls hanging behind each other created the effect of absolute inaccessibility. No other architectural form could so convincingly demonstrate the boundless power and power of the deity at the top of the ziggurat.

In addition to unassailable walls, there were also giantdimensions of the ladder. Usually, there were three of them - one central and two side. They demonstrated the possibility of dialogue between man and gods. The priests ascended to the summit to speak with higher powers. Thus, the symbolism of the architecture of the ziggurats emphasized the power of the gods and the importance of the caste of the priests, called upon to speak with them on behalf of the whole people.

Making ziggurats

Not only the grandiose dimensions of the building are designedwere to amaze the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, but also their exterior decoration and layout. The most expensive materials, including gold and silver, were used for facing ziggurats. The walls were decorated with images of plants, animals and mythological creatures. At the top was a golden statue of a deity in whose honor the ziggurat was erected.

Ziggurats of Mesopotamia

The path from the foot to the top was not straight. It was something like a three-dimensional labyrinth with ascents, long transitions and numerous turns. The central staircase led only to the first or second level. Further it was necessary to move along a zigzag path - skirting the corners of the building, climbing on the side steps, and then, on a new level, go to the next span, located on the other side.

The purpose of this lay-out was tomake the climb longer. The priest during the ascent had to get rid of worldly thoughts and concentrate on the divine. Interestingly, the temples-labyrinths existed also in ancient Egypt and medieval Europe.

Ziggurats of Mesopotamia were surrounded by gardens. The shadow of the trees, the fragrance of flowers, the splashing of the fountains created a sense of paradise serenity, which, according to the architects, was to testify to the favor of the deities that lived on the summit. Also, we should not forget that the ziggurat was located in the center of the city. Residents came there to indulge in friendly conversations and joint entertainment.

Ziggurats in other parts of the world

Not only the rulers of Mesopotamia erectedmajestic buildings, trying with their help to leave their name in the centuries. In other parts of the world, too, there are structures whose shape resembles a ziggurat.

The most famous and well-preservedSuch structures are located on the American continent. Most of them look like a stepped pyramid. Ziggurat, as an architectural form, was known to the Aztecs, Mayans and other civilizations of pre-Columbian America.

Ziggurat Etemenanki

The most of the stepped pyramids collected inone place, can be found on the site of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which is located about fifty kilometers from the capital of Mexico. The architectural form of the ziggurat is clearly recognized in the guise of the famous temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo. This building is one of the symbols of Mexico.

In Europe there are also ancient ziggurats. One of them, named Kancho-Roano, is in Spain and is a monument to the Tartese civilization that once existed on the Iberian peninsula. It is assumed that it was built in the sixth century BC.

Another unusual construction for Europe is theThe Sardinian ziggurat. This is a very ancient megalithic structure, erected in the fourth millennium BC. Sardinian ziggurat was a cult place, for many centuries there were held religious rituals. The base of its platform was almost 42 meters long.

Modern ziggurats

Invented in ancient times, architecturalform inspires and modern designers. The most famous "ziggurat", built in the twentieth century, is the Lenin Mausoleum. This form of the tomb of the Soviet leader gave rise to conspiracy speculation about the connection of the Bolsheviks with the ancient Mesopotamian cults.

architecture of ziggurats

In fact, the similarity of Lenin's Mausoleum withziggurat - most likely - dictated by the artistic preferences of its architect Alexei Shchusev. To see this, it's enough to look at the building of Kazan Station of Moscow, the project of which the master presented in 1911. Its main structure also has a characteristic step structure. But the prototype was not the architecture of the Ziggurats of Mesopotamia, but the appearance of one of the towers of the Kazan Kremlin.

But not only Russian in the twentieth century came tothe idea of ​​building a ziggurat. In the US, too, there is a building of similar design. It is located in Western Sacramento, California. And this is the name of the Ziggurat Building. Its construction was completed in 1997. This eleven-story office building with a height of 47 and a half meters covers an area of ​​seven acres (28,000 m2) and has an underground parking lot, designed for more than fifteen hundred cars.

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