Belshazzar’s Throne Room

Nearly all of the narrative sections of the book of Daniel (Dan 1-6) took place in and around the capital, Babylon. Daniel 5 records the night on which Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. The crown prince, Belshazzar, was having a drinking party in the palace. Although exact details are lacking in the text, this probably took place in the throne room of the palace and the courtyard that faced it.

The palace where Belshazzar lived was the one that had been built by Nebuchadnezzar a few decades earlier. It was situated roughly between the Ishtar Gate and the Etemenanki, a ziggurat dedicated to the god Marduk. This satellite photo shows the location of the so-called South Palace, which included the throne room.

 

Palace complex of Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon

The southern palace has been thoroughly excavated by archaeologists over many decades, and much of it has been reconstructed to give some idea of what it once looked like. A closer view of the throne room and the courtyard that it faced can be seen in the cover photo for this post. The niche along the long back wall, which is accompanied by a raised platform, is considered by archaeologists to be the location of the throne itself. It is thought that this room was decorated in the same blue glazed brick that was found along the processional way and the Ishtar Gate. The photo below gives some idea of the magnificent effect this had on the structure.

Blue glazed brick from the Ishtar Gate in Babylon

Finally, the next photo shows the platform on which Belshazzar’s throne likely sat. Most of the construction that is visible in this photo is reconstructed, but its shape is dictated by the foundation structures uncovered by archaeologists.

Throne platform of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar

It is not difficult to image Belshazzar sitting on this platform at night, surrounded by his guests, when suddenly a hand appears and begins to write a cryptic message on the plaster behind the lampstand.

Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt

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