When Donald Trump campaigned for the U.S. presidency last year, his signature promise was to stop illegal immigration along the nearly 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico by building “a big, beautiful wall” there. Occasionally, Mr. Trump said this wall that he envisioned would be fifty feet tall or more. That is pretty tall.
One time I played golf in Morocco–in the king’s tournament. I and some of my family who accompanied me did group travel to the ancient city of Marrakech. It has a wall which surrounds the city which is thousands of years old. We felt like we were back in Bible days. That wall was quite thick, and it stood about thirty feet tall.
No matter what each American voter thought about Donald Trump as the U.S. president, or his idea of building a wall along our entire southwestern border with Mexico, most of them surely trusted that this former billionaire contractor and still a real estate mogul would be most qualified as the U.S. president to instigate and oversee such a project. But his constant assertion that “Mexico will pay for it” was much doubted, especially since he offered no details on how that would be or even how he would overcome many other obstacles, such as the sometimes very irregular terrain on our southwestern border.
This week, President Trump began his wall program by publishing a bidding process that will start with each selected contractor building a 30-foot long prototype wall of between 18 and (preferably) 30 feet in height, with 30 days in which to complete it, all in the San Diego area near the border. I call it “the 30-by-30-by-30 plan.” This wall is very important to the residents of my state, since our Arizona is one of a total of four states that share the border with Mexico. We thus experience illegal immigration in our state as much as any.
All of this detail and much more is contained in two nearly identical, 132-page documents called Requests for Proposals posted online Friday night. Over 640 U.S. contractors reportedly have expressed interest. Their submitted plans will be evaluated, and between 20 and 40 contractors will be selected to build prototypes. Each of these contractors also will submit bids for the entire wall. It is unclear if the entire wall will be built of concrete or only some of it will, with the remainder a fence. The RFP requires that the first 12 feet of the wall must incorporate a method for seeing through it to the other side.
No matter how big and beautiful President Trump believes his wall on the U.S.-Mexico border will be, if it does get done, it will be a miniature compared to the wall that surrounded the greatest city during much of antiquity–Babylon. The Jewish exiles during the fifth century would have seen that wall.
Greek historian and geographer Herodotus (c. 484–c. 425 B.C.) is recognized as “the father of history.” He traveled throughout much of the Middle East. In his book entitled The Histories–published in 425, the year of his death, but read aloud earlier at the Olympic games–he provides ample description of the city of Babylon. Though he does not say he visited the city, some of this writing suggests it.
Herodotus relates that during that mid-fifth century B.C., Babylon was still the greatest and largest city in the world. He provides some history about it that covers previous centuries. He says the city was square-shaped and located on a flat plain. All of Babylon’s streets were a criss-cross grid. Interestingly, the city was bisected by the Euphrates River.
All sizable cities during antiquity had either one or two walls surrounding them for protection from intruders. During Herodotus’ time, he says Babylon had two walls that surrounded the city–a very large outer wall, with a moat just outside of it, and an inner wall. He says the outer wall was “fifty royal cubits thick,” and its height was “200 cubits.” The royal cubit was 22 inches, and the common cubit, to which Herodotus likely referred next, was 20 inches. So, Babylon’s outer wall was an astounding 90 feet thick and 335 feet high. Herodotus explains that this outer wall was that thick in order to accommodate a four-horse driven chariot being able to turn on the road between two guard houses placed at intervals, all of which was built on the top of this wall.
Although the most famous wall in human history is surely the Great Wall of China, it’s thickness and height throughout do not even come close to matching the great wall of the ancient city of Babylon, much less the about-to-be Great Wall of Donald Trump.