“Come here boy,” said the old wrinkly man leaning on a pillow. “I will tell you a story that my father once told me, I am old and might not have the chance again. Come here and listen to what I have to tell you.” He said it in a very authoritative manner which made it plain, that a simple “no” would not be an acceptable reply. So, once again the boy was forced to listen to the overdrawn stories of his grandfather.
“Long before you were born… There was a horrible empire: The Assyrian. They had no regard for what was good and sacked our beautiful city of Babylon many a time. But, we did conquer it in the end. Yes, we did.” In this way he started his story.
“Come on! I know this already grandpa.” The boy exclaimed.
“Be quiet. Do you know that your great grandfather was there? In Nineveh? No? Then listen!” So he continued. “Your great grandfather was one of the soldiers in Nineveh during the final assault. He was separated from his people and was alone pushing through the burning city trying to find them. He did not find them, but he found someone else, though… A lone Assyrian warrior noticed him fighting through the smoke and struck him with a dagger. Your great grandfather managed to overpower this man with a blow to his head using a clay tablet. He then pushed him into the nearest building which collapsed separating them.”
“Cool, I never heard this story before. Can you teach me to fight like that some day?” asked the kid.
“I am too old… Now listen!” Replied the old man. “Your great grandfather made it a couple of steps before collapsing at the wall of that same building. He thought he was done for. He sat there for a while looking at the burning city, when he heard a voice coming from the cracks in the wall. It was the Assyrian, he was alive, and he was screaming our founder’s name: Hammurabi.
Remember Hammurabi? He was the one that first expanded our city and called the land Babylonia. He was the Amorite that conquered all of the lands, even the Assyrians. He heightened the walls of our city and built temples and canals. This city was beautiful, full of people… and the tower! Oh my God “Marduk”, the tower so magnificent! He also created rules, almost 300 of them, you know: The Hammurabi code. He was a true king.”
“Grandpa, you are going off topic again. It’s so hard to follow you sometimes, you start telling me one thing and end up going off on a rant. Plus, the tower is still here, you can even see it from here.” Said the boy pointing at it, “Please keep telling me about great grandpa.”
“Right, so after hearing Hammurabi name screamed in vain, your great grandfather laughed loudly so that the other could hear. He knew that there was nothing the Assyrian could say now; they have lost the war. The Assyrian then started to taunt your great grandfather, reminding him that Hammurabi’s sons were not able to keep Babylon from weakening.
He remembered how after Hammurabi died, the Hittites, and Kassites took over our city. For a second he felt bad for the dying Assyrian.
As bad as he felt, he also remembered how the Assyrians ruthlessly took over Babylon. He yelled at the crack in the wall “you are cruel.” To which the Assyrian warrior started to pray to his god Ashur.
That’s when your great grandpa realized that the Assyrian was not himself anymore and would not be able to hold his end of the conversation. “I guess I will have to die all by myself today,” he thought.
He heard the crazed man screaming through the wall how he was a good person and how even though Takutli sacked Babylon and destroyed the temples, he was assassinated because of his wrong doings, which made it all better. The Assyrian recalled how Esarhaddon, Takutli’s son, rebuilt Babylon. He also talked about the peace that the conqueror Adad Nirari pushed on us and so on and so forth…
To that your great grandfather answered: “But you continued to wage war. More than ever. You built siege engines and expanded your empire even more. Because of that, and also your cruelty, there were rebellions.” To that he also added: “The problem is that you seem to be repeating your mistakes over and over. It seems to be a closed loop. Sennacherib took over, attacked Babylon and pillaged their temples. For that he was killed.”
The Assyrian then argued for Sennacherib’s son, Ashurbanipal, who rebuilt Babylon.
To which your great grandfather replied: “Ashurbanipal was ruthless, almost one of the worst. Also, what good will come of his library if we burn it to the ground?”
He could hear pain and fear in the Assyrian man’s voice and for some reason for just another moment, your great grandfather, felt bad for him. He began to calm him by softly telling the young Assyrian warrior that nothing can be done now and that everything is in the past. Maybe he was feeling himself getting weak, but sympathy started to overwhelm him… For a brief moment they were brothers, in the same predicament.
Okay story over… go play.”
“What, that’s it? I want to know what happened next.” The boy asked bewildered not expecting the story to end so abruptly.
“What do you mean “what happened next?” Your great grandfather was found a minute later by his party and his wounds treated. Nineveh was burned to the ground. Nabopolasser took the throne and expanded our beautiful Babylon. Then his son Nebuchadnezzar II Expanded Babylon even more and we had our Babylonia back again, just like during Hammurabi. Nebuchadnezzar II conquered the Hebrews and turned them into slaves, around the time the Talmud was written, and built the great hanging gardens you see today. By the way, do you know the rumor? No? He built them for his mistress, yep. It was because she was a Persian, and we all know how they like their gardens!
Well, the rest you know. Cyrus the Great came and saved us. Now Babylon is a part of beautiful Persia.
That’s it, now don’t bug me again or I will give you something to cry about,” The old man started waving his walking stick at the poor confused boy, just missing him.
“But, but…” Realizing that there will be nothing more coherent coming about of this old man’s mouth anytime soon, the boy picked up his own stick and smashed the ground with it. He then made a funny face at the old man to aggravate him further and, laughing loudly, ran down the street towards where the other boys were playing.
The old man lay back on his pillow and gazed into the blue sky.