The Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia are only 20 miles apart at some points.
The land between these rivers was once crisscrossed with canals and covered with fields of golden grain. But the course of these rivers has changed many times over the centuries. In some places, the old course of the rivers, and old canals, can still be traced across what is now barren desert.
The city of Babylon owed its birth and death to the changeable course of Mesopotamia’s rivers. Sometime before 2000 B.C., the Euphrates changed its course, leaving the city of Kish, then the greatest in the region, far from the river. The center of Mesopotamia shifted to another city that lay along the new course of the river: Babylon.
Babylon was the first great city on earth. It was the capital of many civilizations that flourished in Mesopotamia. One ancient writer claimed that the walls of Babylon were 14 miles on a side (they were probably much shorter).
Babylon was the site of both the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the Tower of Babel, a 300-foot tower that was once the tallest structure in Asia.
But the course of the Euphrates shifted again, leaving Babylon without its waterway. Today, the site of Babylon is surrounded by desert, and not a single building remains.