What Was the Largest City in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, many cities rose to power and dominated their respective regions. However, one city stood above the rest in terms of size and influence – and that was Babylon.

The Rise of Babylon

Babylon was founded in the 3rd millennium BC by the Akkadian Empire. However, it was not until the reign of Hammurabi in the 18th century BC that Babylon truly began to rise to power.

Hammurabi is known for creating the Code of Hammurabi, one of the earliest known written laws. Under his rule, Babylon became a center for trade and commerce.

The Size of Babylon

At its height, Babylon covered an area of over 2,200 acres (8.9 square kilometers) and had a population estimated at over 200,000 people. The city was surrounded by walls that were up to 85 feet (26 meters) high and 40 feet (12 meters) thick. These walls were said to be impenetrable, with gates made of brass that could only be opened by a team of four horses pulling on chains.

The Hanging Gardens

One of the most famous wonders of the ancient world was located in Babylon – the Hanging Gardens. According to legend, they were created by King Nebuchadnezzar II as a gift for his homesick wife who missed her homeland’s greenery. The gardens were said to be a terraced oasis with trees and flowers growing on top of each other.

  • Some historians believe that these gardens may have been purely mythical.
  • Others suggest that they were real but have since been destroyed.
  • Regardless, their existence is still debated among scholars today.

The Fall of Babylon

Despite its size and power, Babylon eventually fell to the Persians in 539 BC. Cyrus the Great captured the city without a battle by diverting the Euphrates River, which ran through the city, and entering through its dry riverbed. With its walls breached, Babylon was easily conquered.


Babylon was the largest city in ancient times, with an impressive size and influence that still captures our imagination today. Its legacy lives on through stories like those of Hammurabi’s Code and the Hanging Gardens, as well as archaeological discoveries that continue to shed light on this ancient civilization.