Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Babylon of Egypt

Babylon of Egypt: The Archaeology of Old Cairo and the Origins of the City (Revised Edition)

Peter Sheehan
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Babylon of Egypt
    Book Description:

    This book presents a history of Old Cairo based on new archaeological evidence gathered between 2000 and 2006 during a major project to lower the groundwater level affecting the churches and monuments of this area of Cairo known by the Romans as Babylon. Examination of the material and structural remains revealed a sequence of continuous occupation extending from the sixth century BC to the present day. These include the massive stone walls of the canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea, and the harbor constructed by Trajan at its entrance around AD 110. The Emperor Diocletian built the fortress of Babylon around the harbor and the canal in AD 300, and much new information has come to light concerning the construction and internal layout of the fortress, which continues to enclose and define the enclave of Old Cairo. Important evidence for the early medieval transformation of the area into the nucleus of the Arab city of al-Fustat and its later medieval development is also presented.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-609-4
    Subjects: Archaeology, History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Gerry D. Scott and Michael Jones

    The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) first supported a project in Old Cairo in 1999 that was conducted by Mallinson Architects under the auspices of ARCE’s Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP), generously funded with a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This project identified some ways in which the rich cultural heritage of Old Cairo could be conserved for the benefit of current visitors and future generations.

    When USAID decided to fund a project to lower the ground water in Old Cairo in 1999, ARCE/EAP also decided to fund an archaeological monitoring component to accompany it....

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Timeline of Significant Events
    (pp. xvii-xxiii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book presents a history of Old Cairo based on new archaeological evidence gathered over a six-year period between 2000 and 2006. During this period, a small archaeological team representing the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) continually monitored the construction activities of a major USAID funded project to lower the groundwater level affecting the churches and other monuments of Old Cairo. The wealth of diverse data and the information this work has produced on the origins and development of Old Cairo make it among the most important archaeological projects ever undertaken in the city. Boreholes, tunnels, and excavations deep...

  8. Part 1 The Making of Babylon

    • Chapter 1 The Ancient Landscape of Cairo
      (pp. 23-34)

      This succinct medieval description of the east bank landscape of the city of Cairo indicates the elemental forces that have shaped the development of the city. In fact, the wider landscape of Cairo has been formed within the last ten thousand years by the movements of the Nile channel within far more ancient geological formations defining the edges of its valley. These natural formations and the shifting course and rhythms of the Nile have dictated the human relationship to the landscape and shaped the impact of this relationship.² The scale of these natural and human forces has meant that it...

    • Chapter 2 The River of Trajan
      (pp. 35-54)

      Ancient and modern writers alike have linked the reign of the emperor Trajan (AD 98–115) with the Roman fortress of Babylon.² Although the archaeological evidence presented in Chapter 3 reveals that the fortress itself was not built until nearly two hundred years after Trajan, his reign does indeed constitute a defining moment in the making of Old Cairo and the topography of the entire city of Cairo. For at Old Cairo Trajan built a stone harbor and incorporated within it the entrance to a great canal named after himself, the Amnis Traianus. This canal linked the Nile with the...

    • Chapter 3 Diocletian and the Roman Fortress of Babylon
      (pp. 55-76)

      The previous chapters have provided a broad picture of the development of both the natural and human landscape of Old Cairo up to the end of the third century AD, when the present fortress of Babylon was built during the visits of the Emperor Diocletian to Egypt. As we have seen, the most striking features of the pre-Diocletianic landscape (and the one for which we now have substantial evidence) were the great stone river walls forming the harbor of Old Cairo and the entrance to the Amnis Traianus. Other settlement and building probably lay along the eastern edge of the...

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
  9. Part 2 The Making of Old Cairo

    • Chapter 4 Al-Fustat and the Making of Old Cairo
      (pp. 79-96)

      Throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods Egypt was an integral part of the wider Mediterranean world, and for nearly a thousand years this relationship was channeled through, and dominated by, the great port city of Alexandria.¹ In AD 641–42 Egypt was conquered by an Arab army under the command of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As.² For seven months over the winter of 641 and the spring of 642 the Arab army laid siege to the strategically vital Roman fortress of Babylon. The death of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, who had previously wrested back Egypt and much of Syria from the Sassanians,...

    • Chapter 5 Cycles of Decline and Revival: Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman Old Cairo
      (pp. 97-120)

      We have seen in the previous chapters how the archaeology of Old Cairo reflects the area’s fundamental role in the origins of the city and its strategic importance to Roman rule, as well as its central position in the foundation and development of al-Fustat/Misr in the early medieval period. The events of the eleventh century and the abandonment of al- Fustat left Old Cairo physically isolated from the new center, but this did not stop its subsequent development from being shaped by the same political and economic conditions that underpinned urban formation processes in the rest of the medieval city....

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 6 The Re-Making of Old Cairo in the Image of Its Past
      (pp. 121-142)

      Archival photographs and increasingly detailed travelers’ descriptions show that the eighteenth-century revival in Old Cairo was relatively short-lived. The general state of the area by the end of the nineteenth century is shown in a pair of panoramic photographs taken from the top of the northern round tower after the destruction of the Church of St. George by fire in 1904. The photographs show that at this point much of the interior of the fortress was occupied by low-quality or run-down buildings clustered around the churches and the synagogue. The recently whitewashed walls of the synagogue, completely rebuilt only a...

    • Plates
      (pp. None)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 143-156)
  11. References
    (pp. 157-166)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 167-170)
  13. Index
    (pp. 171-180)