The significance of ancient cities cannot be underestimated, as their existence allows historically tracing both the integration of technological advancements into urban life and the circumstances that created the necessity of their implementation. Two such cities that may be called the cradles of their respective civilizations are Babylon and Mohenjo-Daro, which had given rise to various breakthroughs in construction technologies, mathematics, urban planning, and irrigation (Rauh and Kraus 127). Between them, the two cities share a considerable number of scientific revelations, allowing contemporary research to continue building upon their findings. Therefore, an evaluation of the similarities and differences between these two geographically distinct cities in terms of resources available to their citizens and various geographical determinates may help identify their historical significance. Conducting a cross-comparison of Babylon and Mohenjo-Daro based on the specifics of their existence, thus, allows outlining their noteworthy weight within the progress of humanity across the ages.
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The city of Babylon, standing between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, may be attributed with a highly regarded and adhered to a custom of cultural and scientific advancement. Historians identify the city as “a hegemonic power in a politically unstable world,” making the Babylonian civilization one of the first compelling powers on the Asian continent that additionally possessed covetable security (Beaulieu 60). A grasp on their homeland’s resources allowed the Babylonians to achieve a stable social organization, able to build a long-standing city that could withstand not only political pressure from neighbors but also harsh weather conditions (Liverani 203). The impact of their geographical position and various bountiful resources available to the Babylonian people decided their importance in the Near East, supported by social and political stability.
A people with no bronze may not integrate it into their everyday life, but a people without a source of water cannot exist. Thus, it is essential and traditional to begin the enumeration of Babylon’s advantages from its position between two famous rivers, Tigris and Euphrates (Bianchi 13). The importance of water for Babylonian infrastructure, thus, became leading, influencing the lives of peasants through the necessity of irrigation and the lives of city-dwellers through the integration of water canals into the city’s infrastructure (Beaulieu 55; Postgate 176). The prevalence of clay, stone, reeds, and various metals, such as copper and bronze, determined the spread of weaponry, stonemasonry, and a clay-based cuneiform writing system (Postgate 227). Thus, a wide variety of nation-building resources became available and successfully integrated into the everyday lives of the city’s citizens.
The city of Babylon may be identified as being centered on both fresh and saltwater, as demonstrated by its urban infrastructure. Divided into “two principal residential districts, with the palace and ziggurat compounds located along the shore,” Babylon built temples, courtyards, terraces, flat-roofed buildings, and gates, with the most important of them decorated with glazed bricks (Ching et al. 115). The city’s plan is indicative of an attempt at grid planning, with most streets meeting at right angles, which some historians outline as a demonstration of Babylon’s power over both humankind and nature (Stanislawski 25; Yoffee 1058). Thus, the impact of weather conditions, available freshwater, and an abundance of decorative materials allowed creating a city that was demonstrative its citizens’ occupations, evident in its masonry and ornamental practices. Babylon’s importance lies in its achieved prosperity, general social stability, and excellent cultural achievements in an otherwise conflicted region, as the Babylonian civilization maintained control over inoperable conditions.
Further East, in South Asia, another civilization built the city of Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus River, creating another unique and unrepeatable Ancient Era city structure. Mohenjo-Daro may be outlined as continuing to influence modern-day India even in the 21st century, forming the basis for its cultural and urban development (Sridharan 48). The city’s citizens lived within a highly methodical urban infrastructure, handling the resources available to them to achieve impeccable grid planning long before any other civilization and, thus, permitting researchers to marvel at its achievements (Stanislawski 24). The regions harsh climate conditions may be the stimulus behind this meticulous city-building approach, which the city’s civil and urban engineering composition reflect.
The Indus Valley civilization maintained a variety of building materials and tradeable goods, as well as freshwater supplies, resulting in Mohenjo-Daro achieving a prominent place in the area. Accessible clay and fertile soil, as well as precious and strategic metals, outlined the face of the city, deciding its building materials and available craftsmanship courses (Liverani 224). However, life-brining water may create unlivable conditions if left unchecked, as the constant and unpredictable flooding of the Indus Valley, accompanied by vicious earthquakes, constitute the dangers of the region (Bianchi 7). Thus, the city’s people regarded water with reverence, using it for ritual purposes in the grand building of the Great Bath that luxurious Mesopotamian bitumen decorated, becoming additionally indicative of the citizen’s relationship with water (Ching et al. 32). Therefore, while located in a resource-bountiful area, the necessity of building on high ground with a widespread implementation of drainage systems became Mohenjo-Daro’s reality, along with an awe-striking feeling towards waterpower.
The historical meaning of the city lies in its differences from similar constructs, which the city’s practical, adaptable to flash-flooding architecture reflects. Mohenjo-Daro resembles “a square grid pattern of streets divided by main roads into 12 precisely measured neighborhoods,” with carefully arranged domestic quarters, traffic-reducing entryways, with water supply and drainage systems thoroughly integrated into its plan (Rauh and Kraus 126). The mathematical nature of its layout is evident, from right-angled street intersections to the standardization of used bricks when building residential houses, baths, granaries, and even fortifications (Sridharan 49). However, probably one of the most important conclusions drawn from the city’s plan is from the lack of one, powerful leader, leading researchers to explain Mohenjo-Daro as a state with no single head (Yoffee 1062). Thus, a city with a perfect, mathematical layout, an oligarchic leadership, and a survival tactic that helped its people withstand almost cataclysmic events may not be written off as insignificant to the history of humanity.
Cross-Comparison of Both Cities
The ancient cities of Mohejo-Daro and Babylon retain characteristics that help both comparing and contrasting them historically. Their relationship with water and their harnessing of its power may be seen as a bonding factor between them, even though the Indus civilization faced a heightened, life-threatening threat from natural flooding (Ching et al. 116; Rauh and Kraus 10). The scientific nature of Mohejo-Daro’s layout may stem from this omnipresent necessity to defend against natural disasters, necessitating a highly disciplined approach to city-building. Additionally, their leadership styles differ radically, with Babylon relying on the guidance of a tyrant, while Mohejo-Daro is identified as being ruled by a group of people, similar to a council. Thus, while sporting differing leadership styles and a unique gradation of reverence to water, the two civilizations retain similarities in their attained successes in construction and city planning.
The necessity to adapt to natural surroundings decided the course of development of Babylon and Mohenjo-Daro. Their historical meaning is maintained by their achievements in city building, urban structure, and successful opposition to natural disasters and human-made threats. The fact of their communication between each other across distances, which may be vast even by today’s standards, is additionally indicative of their contemporary advancement and importance.
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Bianchi, Thomas S. Deltas and Humans: A Long Relationship Now Threatened by Global Change. Oxford University Press, 2016.
Ching, Francis D. K., et al. A Global History of Architecture. 3rd ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
Liverani, Mario. Imagining Babylon: The Modern Story of an Ancient City. Translated by Ailsa Campbell, Walter de Gruyter, Inc., 2016.
Postgate, Nicholas. Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History. 1st ed., Routledge, 2015.
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Rauh, Nicholas K., and Heidi E. Kraus. A Short History of the Ancient World. University of Toronto Press, 2017.
Sridharan, N. “History of Indian Human Settlements – Lessons for Planning Education.” Urban and Regional Planning Education: Learning for India, edited by Ashok Kumar, Diwakar S. Meshram, and Krishne Gowda, Springer, 2016, pp. 47-60.
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Yoffee, Norman. “The Power of Infrastructures: A Counternarrative and a Speculation.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. 23, no. 4, 2016, pp. 1053-1065.