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Enlightenment: Ancient Scripts
John Martin, The Fall of Babylon, a mezzotint with etching
John Martin (1789-1854) first interpreted the biblical scene of the destruction of Babylon in a huge painting exhibited at the British Institution in 1819. The scene draws on Jeremiah 51:58, which says 'The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people shall labour in vain...'
The romantic reconstruction of Martin's image illustrates both the Tower of Babel and, on the right, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Claudius James Rich (1786-1821) had discovered the remains of the city of Babylon by the time Martin produced his painting and prints from it. Rich's discovery was a great inspiration to artists and writers. Like Martin, however, they did not necessarily base their interpretations on the archaeological evidence that Rich unearthed.