This massive construction was the main entrance to the ancient city of Babylon. Mud brick masonry tiles make up the entire structure; the tiles were glazed to make the bright patterns and figures seen here. Three animal figures are repeated over the surface of the gate – lions, bulls and dragons. The lion was the symbol of the Assyrian goddess, Ishtar, for whom the gate was named. She was the goddess of fertility, love and war (she continued to be worshiped by the Romans as “Venus”) and many kings of Mesopotamia believed that their rise to power was contingent upon her personal involvement.
If you look at the top of the Ishtar Gate, you can see the decorative crenellations added by the builders. High quality craftmanship, as seen here, was only possible in societies that had significant agricultural success and surplus. This allowed individuals to develop their talents and specialize in a certain field, such as architecture or masonry work.
The bull and dragon tiles also on the Ishtar Gate represented the gods Marduk and Adad, respectively. King Nebuchadnezzar II was also known for restoring the temple of Marduk. His famed Hanging Gardens are one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.