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The Writing on the Wall

An exploration of the reasons behind the fall of the Babylonian empire, as documented in the Book of Daniel and other historical sources.

How did the Babylonian empire really fall? Assuming it wasn't the wrath of God after Belshazzar's feast - as the Bible testifies - but a strategic succession of economic, political and military factors. Unpicking the book of Daniel alongside wider historical sources, this is the story of Babylon's legendary downfall.

And it is a story which continues to be retold. Whatever history holds true, Daniel's image of the writing on the wall echoes through Western culture in many guises, from the medieval Pearl Poet to Simon & Garfunkel. It seems, far from their biblical context, those ominous little words still haunt us.

This interval talk is to be followed by two musical retellings of the story of the Babylonian king Belshazzar, by Sibelius and Walton.

Produced by Becky Ripley.

20 minutes

Music Played

  • Sibelius

    Belshazzar's Feast suite

    Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sakari Oramo.


Role Contributor
Producer Becky Ripley
Interviewed Guest Maggi Dawn
Interviewed Guest Tom Holland
Interviewed Guest Kevin Jackson
Reader Kaiti Soultana


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