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Esaĝila (also Esangila, Esaĝil, šešgallu ) was the name of a temple in Babylon in honor of Marduk , the highest deity of the Babylonians. Marduk was later worshiped throughout Mesopotamia , probably because of Babylon's position of power . Esaĝila is Sumerian and means house "raised head" .

Location of the temple

In the belief of the Babylonians, the Esaĝil shrine was the center of their world. This can also be seen in the fact that Esaĝila was built in the middle of the Babylonian city complex. The Esaĝila temple complex was first entered through a courtyard measuring approximately 40 by 70 meters. Then one had to cross a second courtyard (40 by 25 meters) before standing in front of the Esaĝil shrine. The shrine consisted of two consecrated chambers, the antechamber and the "Holy of Holies", in which the statues of Marduk and his wife Ṣarpanitu stood.

The Etemenanki (Sumerian: house "foundation of heaven and earth") bordered north of the Esaĝila temple . A temple tower ( ziggurat ) was built on the Etemenanki . The Etemenanki ziggurat is usually interpreted as the Tower of Babel .

Cult acts in the temple

The beginning of the cultic year in honor of Marduk was celebrated in the Esaĝila temple at the beginning of spring. The Akitu festival lasted 12 days. With the ceremonies, among other things, the performance of the epic Enûma elîš on the fourth day reminded us of how Marduk had created the universe, Esaĝila and Babylon. The other days were filled with ritual cleansing, sacrifices, prophecies, penance and reconciliation ceremonies between Marduk and the king, but above all with processions.

Destruction and reconstruction

Tukulti-Ninurta I. destroyed the walls of Babylon and sacked the temples of Esaĝila, the Marduk statue was brought to Assyria.

689 BC Chr .: According to the annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib (Sennacherib), he is said to have destroyed the temple complexes Esaĝila and Etemenanki during the sack of Babylon.

His successor Assurhaddon had Esaĝila rebuilt, as numerous building inscriptions attest.

484 BC BC: According to Herodotus, the Persian King Xerxes I had statues removed from Esaĝila when the city was sacked. It is not certain which statues are meant here. However, the Marduk cult in Esa gingila continued. So it can be assumed that it was not the statue of Marduk.

331 BC Chr .: Alexander the Great invaded Babylon and took part in ceremonies for the god Marduk. Before moving on, he ordered the reconstruction of Esaĝila and Etemenanki. In the first century AD, the temple of Esaĝila was still in function, as contemporary texts show.

Temple land expropriations

In the course of reforms, the temple lands were repeatedly expropriated in order to curtail the economic power of the priesthoods. Without the income, no great influence could be exerted on the decisive official responsibilities. In addition, the dependent workers were tied to the temples, which represented additional economic factors out of concern for the supply of the families .

Expropriations under Nabonidus

The neo-Babylonian king Nabonid implemented the cautious expropriation that had begun under Nebuchadnezzar II . Under his rule, the temples of Marduk lost their ample income. Many temple officials lost their jobs.

New distribution mechanisms

Nabonid leased the temple lands to the country's economically strong families. The previously lower temple fees were replaced by a two-tier lease system. The Babylonian king received a reliably calculable income, which was not linked to the harvest yield, through the temple land that had been transferred to his responsibility and the specified minimum levy. In addition, a saddled tax was levied through participation in the sales proceeds of the country products.

Garden land taxes

The tenants had to pay 28 Kor (1 Kor = 180 liters) dates per hectare of garden land to the king and 4 Kor dates to the gardeners. After the subsequent harvest, one kor tax levy on the district overseers, clerks, surveyors and storage clerks was waived for 12 kor dates. About 23% of this was deducted for food. This leaves about 77% as direct tax, which corresponds to an effective tax rate of about 6.33% as harvest tax. Esagila Temple did not receive any garden land income.

Farmland taxes

The usual calculation unit for arable land was called 1 plow and corresponded to about 33 hectares, which was cultivated by the tenant with at least 4 iron plows , 2 cows and 4 plowers. 300 Kor barley had to be paid to the king as a basic tax without any deductions. The tax was divided into several sections: 20% of the harvest for transport costs and wages of the district overseers, clerks, surveyors and the storage staff. 8.33% tax to the Esagila temple, which in turn had to pay 23% of this to the servants of the king. This resulted in the effective harvest tax rates of about 26.33% for the king's personnel costs and 6% as a temple fee. Overall, the tenants had to pay 32.33% about a third as a harvest tax payment.

See also


  • Friedrich Wetzel, Franz Heinrich Weißbach : The main sanctuary of Marduk in Babylon, Esagila and Etemenanki. (= Scientific publication of the German Orient Society. No. 59). JC Hinrichs Verlag, Leipzig 1938 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Bernd Jankowski, Gernot Wilhelm: Texts on legal and economic life. Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Gütersloh 2004, ISBN 3-579-05289-6 ( Texts from the environment of the Old Testament. New series. Volume 1) pp. 101-102.

Coordinates: 32 ° 32 ′ 2 "  N , 44 ° 25 ′ 17"  E