Years after the Great Flood, once most of humanity had settled in Shinar, Babel became one of the first cities founded by Nimrod. Babel is best known for being the site of a fruitless grand-scale attempt to build a colossal structure that would reach Heaven. However, God descended and confused the speech of the people, making them speak in different languages. This confusion made them scatter across the world according to their new language, therefore disrupting the construction of the tower.
Babel's former location later became the site where the city of Babylon would be erected.
According to Genesis, the city received the name "Babel" after the dispersion of the peoples. "Babel" resembles the Hebrew word balal, meaning to jumble or to confuse.
It's also thought to be derived from the Akkadian word Bab-il («Gateway of God»).
Many years after the Great Flood had ended and the descendants of Noah flourished, all of humanity shared a common speech. At some point, people started to migrate eastwards until they established themselves in a plain in the region of Shinar. It's commonly thought that Nimrod, a powerful figure, led most of the people to Mesopotamia. Civilization arose once people reached Shinar, and there Nimrod founded many prominent settlements, Babel being among the four originals, alongside Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh.
Those who built Babel wanted it to become the center of all humanity. They also agreed to construct a large tower that reaches to the heavens. Though the Bible does not specifically mention that Nimrod himself ordered the building of the tower, many other sources have associated its construction with Nimrod. The men of Babel fully committed to this endeavor, applying novel methods and materials to build the tower. This project, however, contradicted God's commandment, as he intended mankind to fill the Earth, instead of concentrating in a single place. So God came down and confounded their speech, giving rise to many different tongues and languages. The construction of the tower was paralyzed as many people now couldn't understand each other, and now had to spread through the land. This scattering gave origin to the distinct peoples, cultures, and nations.
At some later pont, Babel gave origin to Babylon, which would became a major city on its own right.