The Fallen Towers: Pride, Envy and Judgement in the Modern City

Graeme Davison


The Genesis narrative of the fall of the Tower of Babel links worldly pride to the rise and catastrophic fall of an imperial city. From Renaissance Florence to nineteenth century Melbourne, urban pride often seemed to presage a fall. The 1755 earthquake, which destroyed the city of Lisbon, provoked a vigorous debate among Enlightenment philosophers about the influence of divine judgment on the fortunes of the city, prefiguring the instant reactions of some commentators, in the United States and elsewhere, to the terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Center in 2001. In these diverse responses to 9/11, and their recurrent allusions to the Babel narrative, we gain a glimpse of the moral vulnerability of an imperial city.


city; Tower of Babel; judgement; civilisation

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391