Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Fortress of Babylon

The Fortress of Babylon

Ruins of the Fortress of Babylon from the Description de l'Egypte
It has been said that many residents of Cairo know little about the Fort of Babylon, but certainly Christians do, because many of their ancient churches were built in or on the walls. These include El Muallaqa (the Hanging Church) and the Greek Church of St. George. A number of other Coptic churches are nearby. The area is called Old or Coptic Cairo (Masr el Atika), for it is indeed the oldest part of the city, and the rest of the fortress is the oldest original structure Cairo good. Indeed, Cairo owes its existence to this fort. However, the ancient Egyptians were aware almost from the beginning that this region on the border of Upper and Lower Egypt and originally two independent kingdoms, was the most strategic site in all of Egypt. Of course, the ancient Memphis, which was just south of modern Cairo, existed since at least the beginning of the unification of the two kingdoms, and was considered the "balance of the Two Lands." Although different leaders at different times moved the capital of Egypt at various locations in

Ruins of the Roman wall near the Ben Ezra Synagogue

Egypt, he always seems to have returned to this strategic location. In fact, double-sided stone tools were found in the gravel beds of Abbasiya quarter in the northern part of Cairo, which indicates that early human activity took place here. However, it is not until the Neolithic period, around the end of the sixth millennium BC, found human settlements near the apex of the delta. Yet at Fort Babylon human occupation on the east bank of the Nile in this area other than Babylon itself was confined to a bastion Tendunyas (Arabic "Umm Dunayn"), cemetery, Heliopolis several kilometers the north, which was then only a small village, and a few monasteries such as Theodorus (Dayr Tadrus). The history of the site dates back to the early history of Egypt, but must turn to textual references to find these roots. When the Nubian king, Piye Napata came to Egypt in the south, we are told that in 730 BC, he completed his conquest of the country by taking Memphis "like a shower." He celebrated this victory by going to Heliopolis to make sacrifices to ancient gods, and later by the erection of a monument in the Temple of Amun at Gebel Barkal. The stele tells us that after the eastward of the former capital (Memphis), which simply means he crossed the Nile, "Her Majesty has made Helopolis, to this mountain Kheraha on the way Sepa, which leads to Kheraha. "Sepa was a god centipedes and how SEPA leads to the heart of modern Cairo.

The south tower of the Roman wall of Babylon
The ancient city of Kheraha is mentioned once more in his stele as the place where the winner has made offerings to Atum. Kheraha was located north of Memphis, and is one of the three is pre-Islamic sites who grew up in the area where Cairo was later founded. In addition, it has been shown conclusively that Kheraha is in Old Cairo, which during the Byzantine period was bounded on one side by the fortress of Babylon. The mountain is Kheraha the spur of the Mokattam hills on which the fortress was built, and in ancient times, the Nile flooded almost at the foot of the ramparts. Kheraha means "battlefield", and it is one of the oldest traditions dating back to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, which is an episode in the struggle between Horus and Seth here. Thus, the site had been occupied since the beginning of the Egyptian civilization. We believe this is probably even earlier in Heliopolis, and it remained an important city for much of the history of ancient Egypt. There was a time, even the capital of the nome (province). There was, during the Arab period, colossal statues, some of which, observed in the immediate vicinity of the Roman walls, and they continued to testify to the antiquity of the site until they are destroyed from the eighth and fourteenth centuries.

Ruins of the Roman walls of Fort Babylon
Why the name of the town was changed in the first century is a matter of controversy. A view seems to be that the name Babylon, is derived from a corruption of the ancient Egyptian per-Hapi-n-On, which means the house on the Nile, which was what the Egyptians called the earlier island of Roda. But it is believed that there was an earlier settlement on the site, and Diodorus tells us that this settlement was inhabited by prisoners who bought Sesostris of the Mesopotamian city of Babylon, who gave him the name of their own town. When Strabo visited Heliopolis, he notes that "Going further upstream, you come to Babylon, a stronghold where a number of Babylonians rebelled and, after negotiations, received the king's permission to install. Aujourd 'Today, however, is the garrison town of one of the three legions stationed in Egypt. "According to tradition, the fort was built by the Persians in about the sixth century BC, but this time it was on the cliffs near the river. When the Romans took possession of Egypt, they used the old fort for a while, while recognizing its strategic importance on the Nile, but because of the problems of water supply, the Roman emperor Trajan relocated strong to its current location, which at the time was closer to the river. Since then, the Nile has moved some 400 meters north.

One of the towers of Babylon Fort
At the time of the Arab conquest of 640, the fort was expansive, with forty feet tall outer walls and a moat. It has a very successful port, two Nilometers and a channel connected with the Red Sea. The fortress was accessible by two monumental gates. The first was on the west side, between two large round towers and was right on the bank of the Nile. Today is the entrance to the Coptic Museum. Overcoming the north tower now resist the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which echoes the shape of the tower. The south tower is now ruined with its internal structure exposed. The second is located on the south side of the fortress, is framed by two semi-circular bastions are reminiscent of those of the Roman camp built around the temple of Luxor. It forms the basis of one of the most famous Coptic Churches in Egypt dedicated to the Virgin Maryand known Mu'allaqa (the Hanging Church).

The church of St. George, built on top of the north tower of the Roman wall.
An important element of ancient Babylon was the Canal Ity of Heliopolis, which in the Pharaonic era has provided a direct link between Kheraha and Heliopolis. He created a lasting impression on the Cairo, since its course was then almost completely adopted the famous Khalig, which ran along the western part of the Fatimid wall, old Cairo dividing into two parts. The Ity channel was initiated by Nekau II in the 26th Dynasty with the aim of linking the Nile to the Red Sea through Wadi Tumilat. It was completed by Darius and renovated by the Greeks. Not always is it forking of the Nile in the same place, because of the lateral shift of the river banks. The channel has been completely re-dug during the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan. Almost until it was finally completed in 1899, it was opened every year for the flooding of the Nile with great ceremonies, which were actually holdovers from the "celebration of Sepa" celebrated in antiquity.

Obviously, Babylon became a Christian stronghold, especially after problems arose between Western Christians and Copts. It became a refuge for those Christians who were persecuted by the Roman Christians of Alexandria.However, it was almost certainly its strategic location, with its access to the Nile and the canal, which made the city so important. And it was the fall of Babylon, April 9, 641, after a siege lasting more than six months, which marked the fall of Egypt by the Arabs under 'Amr ibnal-' As, especially when the actual fall of Alexandria, ofEgypt capital at that time.

The Hanging Church in Fort Babylon
After the ancient city of Fustat was founded just outside the fortress by the Arabs, the fortress continued to be called Babylon for the next century, and papyrus documents of the time, the names of Fustat and Babylon were used interchangeably. The Arab toponym was Qasr al-Sham, which means "fortress of the candle", the area is still known today

Interestingly, it was not until the Muslim conquest of Egypt that most ancient synagogues existing churches (and) Babylon were built. The Church of St. Cyrus (Aboukir), which was then dedicated to Saint Barbara After his relics were brought there Mu'allaqa church in the eleventh century, according to some sources, was founded in the fourth century. However, Muslim authorities have given permission for Christians to reconstruct pre-existing sanctuaries, as well as the construction of new churches. For example, the Hanging Church was probably built some fifty years after the Arab conquest, but the Arab legend attributes the construction of Balthazar, son of Nebuchadnezzar and a Coptic woman.
It is from this foundation that one of the largest cities in the world jumped, from its humble beginnings to one of the two biggest cities in the world. Today, the old fort is almost entirely a Christian enclave and one of the most visited tourist sites in Cairo.

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