Berlin – Babylon: Mythos und Wahrheit / Myth and Truth

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by Neil Godfrey

Have just visited some of the most spectacular museums and galleries, and one exhibit with the theme of the “myth and truths of Babylon” at the Pergamon Museum. Lower floor consists of displays of artefacts and reconstructions from ancient and medieval Mesopotamia – from Sumerian to Arabian arts and sciences (along with monuments from Pergamon); upper floor looks at the myth of Babylon through the ages up to modern times, and includes spectacular arts from medieval scripts right through to 20th century film. 

By the way I do love these late night Berlin (or rather Lichtenberg) internet cafes (where I am right now ) that are more like mini-bars — beer, smoke, music, warm conversation noise — than anything like the functional but sterile internet cafes I know in Australia. Wonder if this is a more general European (East European??) thing?

But was struck by the displays that related to two or three biblical areas –

Babylonian medicine is often seen as remarkably advanced (surgery, diagnoses and remedies etc.) — but we also saw the evidence here that that apparent “science” was in league with “faith” of sorts. All those healing “sciences” were really only a part of a more comprehensive religious practice. The real goal of healing physically was to assist restoring the body in the right relationship with the deity who had, presumably, been offended, and so effected the disease in the first place. It reminded me of the healings of Jesus. After all, what is “forgiveness of sin” if not a restoration of a “right relationship with the deity”? In the context of this Museum exhibit, the healings of Jesus in the Bible are nothing more than an extension of ancient Mid/Near East medicine. Or at least just as “magical”.

Another biblical theme paralled at this exhibit was the myth (though on the “fact” floor) of the king — chosen by the deity etc, but especially noted as “a shepherd” of his people.

Do those who love the biblical myths really want to restore ancient Babylonian concepts of governance and medicine?

There was another feature I was going to mention here but it is getting late (takes a long time to master the subtle intracies of a European keyboard!) and I have a day of workshops tomorrow so it will have to wait.

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Neil Godfrey

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