The Tower of Babel (Hebrew: מגדל בבל Migdal Bavel Arabic: برج بابل Burj Babil), according to the Book of Genesis, was an enormous tower built in the plain of Shinar, a tower so tall it offended God.
According to the biblical account, a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east, came to the land of Shinar, where they resolved to build a city with a tower "with its top in the heavens...lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the Earth." God came down to see what they did and said: "They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do." So God said, "Come, let us go down and confound their speech." And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages
, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel "because God there confounded the language of all the Earth."(Genesis 11:5-8).
The Tower of Babel has often been associated with known structures, notably the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to Marduk by Nabopolassar (c. 610 BC). The Great Ziggurat of Babylon base was square (not round), 91 metres (300 ft) in height, but demolished by Alexander the Great before his death in an attempt to rebuild it. A Sumerian story with some similar elements is preserved in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.
This page is for allusions and references to the legend; for the trope about ominously imposing skyscrapers in general, see The Tower
. See also Curse of Babel
for the language mix-up and Space Elevator
for the Sci Fi
version. As to whether the successful completion of one will lead to God confounding our tongues even more
, stay tuned!
References in Fiction:
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Anime and Manga
- In the A Certain Magical Index movie Miracle of Endymion, Academy City debuts a Space Elevator called Endymion. Index compares it to the Tower of Babel. It turns out the elevator's creators deliberately modeled Endymion to be like the Tower of Babel in an attempt to ruin the world by recreating the original Biblical disaster.
- In Animal Land, the biblical tower is alluded to with a location named after it however, unlike the biblical one which caused all languages to be separated, it contains a device that will enable all animals to understand one another.
- The Tarot card "The Tower" (currently described at The Tower) gains its implications of overweening pride and impending disaster by reference to the Tower of Babel.
- Tower of Babel in Yu-Gi-Oh!. As spell cards are played, it gains spell counters. When it has 4 or more, it collapses, dealing 3000 damage to whoever played that fourth spell.
- Metropolis: The city's ruler lives in the unsubtly-named skyscraper "New Tower of Babel". Maria's sermon/allegory of Why Metropolis Is Messed Up is a retelling of the Babel legend.
- A model of the tower is used by future One Nation Earth agents preparing for the coming one-world order and its Religion of Evil in the Apocalypse film series movie Tribulation. It's also on the cover of Franco Macalousso's book Babel Becomes One.
- According to the DVD Commentary, the Oscorp tower in The Amazing Spider-Man was designed to invoke the image of a Tower of Babel, the tallest building in New York where scientists play God.
- The Bible, obviously.
- Snow Crash references the Tower of Babel as part of its mythology mashup about linguistics and thought. The Tower of Babel is a metaphor for the scattering of language away from Sumerian, which was analogous to assembly binary code. It sort of makes more sense in context, but really doesn't.
- In Terry Pratchett's science fiction novel The Dark Side of the Sun, set in the distant future, the people have a legend which is a sequel to the Tower of Babel. It tells of how, in the late twentieth century, mankind once again attempted to reach heaven, and God caused them to be unable to communicate with one another by striking them with the curse of Jargon.
- C.S. Lewis was alluding to this in That Hideous Strength, the third book of the Space Trilogy. While the bad guys weren't making a big tower, they were planning to go against God's will by perverting science. The title of the novel even comes from Sir David Lindsay's Ane Dialog, describing the original Tower of Babel.
- In the short story Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang, the tower has been built over centuries to well past the moon, with people living on it their entire lives, and everyone a little nervous because God has remained silent on the issue. They finally hit a ceiling, and the protagonist is part of a group of miners brought in to dig their way into Heaven...
Live Action Tv
- Castiel from Supernatural remembers when the Tower Of Babel fell...all thirty-five feet of it. And it didn't fall because of divine retribution, it fell because dried dung can only be stacked so high.
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Journey to Babel". The Enterprise carries a group of Federation ambassadors to a planetoid named Babel. Several of the ambassadors quarrel with each other repeatedly during the trip, almost as if they were speaking different languages.
- Babylon 5 was named in reference to this, with the titular station being the fifth of a series of stations that were built by the humans to serve as a meeting place for all the major alien powers to talk out their differences rather than risk another massive interstellar war like the Earth-Minbari War. Why was it the fifth such station? The first three were destroyed during construction, and the fourth one just plain disappeared. What did they expect with a name like that?
Music and Theatre
- According to the Demon The Fallen lore, there was never a literal "tower", but the "Time of Babel", when Lucifer executed the last-ditch scheme to elevate humanity to godhood. Just when it was so close to success, his own lieutenants ruined it all, and the Rebellion was pretty much done for.
- Devil Survivor runs on this with Babel being the final boss and the focus of much of the story.
- In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the Tower of Kagutsuchi has some damn strong vibes of this, as it not only leads to the Avatar of God Almighty himself, but is 666 floors tall.
- In Shin Megami Tensei Imagine, mankind erected a 666-floor tower in the ruins of Shinjuku to celebrate mankind's retaking the world from the demons that threatened to destroy them. The tower's creation, however, caused three obilisks to emerge, as well as a resurgence in demon activity. Thus, the tower came to be known as "Shinjuku Babel". The Babel mythology is also recounted in the game's intro.
- Golbez and the Four Fiends of Final Fantasy IV erect the Tower of Bab-il. Based in the underworld, it rises through the Earth's surface into the sky. It's powered by the stolen Crystals.
- The Tower Of Babel in Illusion of Gaia. It serves as the final dungeon of the game, as well as being a point of interest and recurring element in the plot. The main character actually joined an expedition (headed by his father alongside the father of one of his friends) that was meant to "discover" and explore the Tower... which ultimately went south, leaving the protagonist with partial amnesia of the expedition and setting up the events of the game.
- The Tower of Souls from Act Raiser 2 seems to be an analogue of the Tower of Babel. Your angelic servant in the game says when speaking of it, "Master, they are devising a preposterous plan. They... they are trying to become masters themselves. They are constructing a tower to try and reach the sky castle."
- The Shinra Tower from Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, which was even based on the Story of Babel. The people from Alche City built the tower so that they could meet God, but when it was finished, they found out that they still had to go higher to reach heaven, so it was abandoned.
- The Tower of Babel is the last monument to be built in Doshin The Giant. Bad stuff happens immediately afterwards.
- The Tower of Babel, the final map of the second episode of Doom, is where you fight the Cyberdemon, quite possibly the toughest monster in the entire series. Quite unusually, no climbing is involved.
- The orbital elevator which goes all the way to the moon, where the last act of Mega Man X: Command Mission takes place, is named Babel.
- The Quest Of Ki opens with the backstory of the Babylonian Castle Saga, which implies that Druaga's tower was really the Tower of Babylim. The tower and its 60 floors were originally built in the kingdom of Babylim after it was invaded by the Sumer Empire to harness the power of the Blue Crystal Rod. The tower was destroyed by the god Anu, but Druaga resurrected it.
- Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones takes place in Babylon, with the royal palace built as an immense circular tower, slowly tapering as the tower rises. Considering that there are several wooden gantries with counterweights and ropes around the walls of the palace, it is apparently still in a state of construction, even as big as it is. The parallel with the Tower of Babel is probably intentional.
- Xenogears has Babel Tower. In order to contact Shevat, the party must climb to the top of it, never mind the fact that Gears can fly. There aren't really any stairs, so you progress by jumping across platforms. Xenogears has a jump button, but it is by no means a platformer. If a random encounter is loading, you lose the ability to jump, and if you're doing this while approaching the edge of a platform and the button doesn't respond, you fall. When you fall, you go all the way down to the bottom of the tower and have to do the whole godforsaken thing over again. Scrappy Level doesn't even begin to describe it. The truth about the tower is it's actually a remnant of a giant spaceship that crashed into the planet thousands of years ago.
- The Masons use a ceremonial 'Tower' to represent the Tower of Babel in their ceremonies.
- A real life referent for the collapsing tower of Babel may not be in Babylonia at all, but in Egypt. The anomalous structure at Maidun, appearing to be a crude massive obelisk set on a small hillock, puzzled archaeologists for generations. It is roughly rectangular, but its upper part is sloped on four sides and rises to a point, suggesting a pyramidical shape. Then one day, an archaeologist wondered what shape would be formed if the squared-off point of the apex were extrapolated down to ground level. This formed a hypothetical pyramid which neatly encompassed much of the apparent hillock. Further explorations were made and computer simulations run. These suggested the Maidun site had been intended to be a pyramid, but one which had collapsed under structural instabilities inadvertantly built into it. The "hillock" was in fact the mound of rubble that had formed around the stable central core. Neighbouring pyramids had begun at a fairly steep angle, but halfway up, this had been changed to a far shallower side angle, suggesting more than one edifice was being built at the same time, and the collapse of one had forced the architects back to their drawing-boards. Now the People of Israel, who wrote down the Tower of Babel "myth", were guests of Pharoah about this time, assisting in his building projects...