Genre & Material
Where can I find this in Berlin?
The construction of the Ishtar Gate was carried out in several phases, especially during the extension of the Royal Place under Nebuchadnezzar II from 605 to 562 BC.
The Ishtar Gate was one of a total of five gates of Babylon, located at the river Euphrates in today’s Iraq. It served as the northern gate, the smaller in contrast to the southern gate located directly behind it, which had even greater dimensions and was made from cedar wood. Both gates had to be passed in order to enter the city. The Ishtar Gate was constructed in the form displayed here under Nebuchadnezzar II (605-652 BC). The Walls of Babylon, the capital city of Babylon, were among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – and thus also the Ishtar Gate and the associated Processional Way, which is also here in the museum.
The Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way leading up to it have been in the Vorderasiatische Museum, which in turn is located in the Pergamom Museum, since the 1930s. The monumental Ishtar Gate, which the Processional Way leads up to, was the smaller northern gate at 28 metres’ width and 11 metres’ depth – behind it lay the gigantic southern gate. As it was made of cedar wood, however, no remains have been conserved. The monumental constructions were excavated by Robert Koldewey among others, who travelled from Berlin to Babylon for the first time in 1897: “At my first stay in Babylon on the 3rd and 4th of June 1897, and during my second visit from 29th to 31st of December 1897, I saw many fragments of enamelled brick reliefs, of which I took several back to Berlin. The strange beauty and the art-historical importance of these pieces (…) were included in my decision to excavate the capital of the Babylonian world empire”, he recalls later in an excavation report. The particular artistic works of master craftsmen can be seen in the gates and walls, in the creation of decorative clay bricks, on which lions, snake-like creatures, bulls, flowers and further elements were modelled in relief and subsequently glazed. They had to take into account that the bricks shrunk during the firing process and ensure that no brick joints ran through any relevant motif areas. The animal symbols depicted on the Ishtar Gate are lions, the symbols of the goddess Ištar (mistress of the sky, goddess of love and protector of the army), the snake-like creatures (Mušḫuššu or Bel) show Marduk, the god of the city providing eternal life and fertility, the bulls represent the weather god Adad.