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Tower of Babel

Brueghel babel
Breughel's medieval painting of the Tower of Babel

According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, after the Flood men again began to get wicked, and they had an awful idea. They wanted to build a tower which would go all the way up to Heaven, so they could be famous. The tower was called Bab-el, the Gate to God (This is a different version of the word "Babylon", which means the same thing.) This story may have been inspired by Jewish hatred of Sumerian ziggurats, which were built with very much this idea in mind. In the Bible story, God hates this idea, and so he wrecks the tower, and also makes everybody speak different languages, so they will not be able to cooperate on big projects like this anymore. In Hebrew, just as in English, God makes the people *babble*.

The story of Babel is related to a Sumerian story in the Epic of Gilgamesh where Enlil, the chief of the gods, is annoyed by all the noise people make. He can't sleep. So he sends a flood to kill all the people, as in the Bible story of Noah.

Here's a version of the story of the Tower of Babel told in Fritz Lang's Metropolis:

To buy an excellent Child's Bible, click on the picture (this is the one
I learned from, and the one I give my own kids):

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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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