Babylon: Visions of Vice

PER-ANDERS PETTERSSON / REPORTAGE/GETTY FOR TIME

BABYLON REVISITED: For centuries, the Tower of Babel has been a recurring subject of paintings, including this one by John Martin

The Bible paints an unflattering portrait of Babylon as a corrupt civilization cursed by ambition, excess and power-hungry kings. In the Book of Genesis, its residents build the Tower of Babel in a vainglorious effort to reach heaven — and God strikes it down, angered by man's overweening pride. By the time of the New Testament, Babylon's image is even more sinister: the Book of Revelation personifies it as a whore seated on a dragon, condemning the city as "the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth."

Reviled and admired, envied and feared, Babylon —...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!