Ancient Civilizations: Babylonia (#5 of 18) cover

Ancient Civilizations: Babylonia (#5 of 18)

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Following the collapse of the Akkadians, the Babyloninan Empire flourished under Hammurabi who conquered many surrounding peoples and empires, in addition to developing an extensive code of law and establishing Babylon as a "holy city" of southern Mesopotamia.
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Ancient Civilizations: Babylonia (#5 of 18)

Flourishing Of An Empire

Following the collapse of the Akkadians, the Babyloninan Empire flourished under Hammurabi who conquered many surrounding peoples and empires, in addition to developing an extensive code of law and establishing Babylon as a "holy city" of southern Mesopotamia.

Learning Objective

Describe key characteristics of the Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi

Hammurabi’s Babylonia

Hammurabi’s Babylonia

"Hammurabi's Babylonia 1" by MapMaster - Own work

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Key Points

• A series of conflicts between the Amorites and the Assyrians followed the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, out of which Babylon arose as a powerful city-state c. 1894 BCE.

• Babylon remained a minor territory for a century after it was founded, until the reign of its sixth Amorite ruler, Hammurabi (1792- 1750 BCE), an extremely efficient ruler who established a bureaucracy with taxation and centralized government.

• Hammurabi also enjoyed various military successes over the whole of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iran and Syria, and the old Assyrian Empire in Asian Minor.

• The First Babylonian Dynasty eventually fell due to attacks from outside its borders after the death of Hammurabi.

Terms

Hammurabi Code

a code of law which echoed and improved upon earlier written laws of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria.

Hammurabi

the sixth king of Babylon, who saw Babylonian advancements both militarily and bureaucratically under his rule.

Amorites

an ancient Semitic-speaking people from ancient Syria who also occupied large parts of Mesopotamia in the 21st Century BCE.

Marduk

the south Mesopotamian god which rose to supremacy in the pantheon over the previous god, Enlil.

The God Marduk

The God Marduk

The god Marduk with his dragon, from a Babylonian cylinder seal.

Public Domain

The Rise Of The First Babylonian Dynasty

Following the disintegration of the Akkadians, the Sumerians rose up with the Third Dynasty of Ur in the late 22nd century BCE, and ejected the Gutians from southern Mesopotamia.

The Sumerian "Ur-III" dynasty eventually collapsed at the hands of the Elamites in 2002 BCE another Semitic people who had begun to migrate into Mesopotamia from the northern Levant and gradually gained control over most of southern Mesopotamia, where they formed a series of small kingdoms.

The Ur III Dynasty Is Destroyed

After the Ur III dynasty was destroyed by the Elamites, a fierce rivalry developed between the city-states of Larsa.

These were more under Elamite than Sumerian influence, and Isin, that was more Amorite (as the Western Semitic nomads were called). The Assyrians, meanwhile, reasserted their independence in the north. These conflicts between the Amorites and the Assyrians continued until Sargon I (1920-1881 BCE) succeeded as king in Assyria and withdrew Assyria from the region. The period of Amorite power that followed is referred to as the "Amorite Period. "

Old Babylonian Period

Old Babylonian Period

One of these Amorite dynasties founded the city-state of Babylon circa 1894 BCE, which would ultimately take over the others and form the short-lived first Babylonian empire, also called the Old Babylonian Period.

A Plan of the City of Babylon, engraving from A New History of the Holy Bible vol. 1 (1795 edition) by Thomas Stackhouse.

Sumuabum The Ruler

A chieftain named Sumuabum appropriated the then relatively small city of Babylon from the neighboring Mesopotamian city state of Kazallu.

Initially a territory, he turned it into a state in its own right. His reign was concerned with establishing Babylonian statehood amongst a sea of other minor city states and kingdoms in the region. However Sumuabum appears never to have been given the title of King, and it appears that he ruled the city tenuously as an occupying chieftain rather than an absolute ruler.

Babylonians Under Hammurabi

Babylon remained a minor territory for a century after it was founded, until the reign of its sixth Amorite ruler, Hammurabi (1792- 1750 BCE).

He was a very efficient ruler, establishing a bureaucracy with taxation and centralized government. Hammurabi freed Babylon from Elamite dominance, and indeed drove them from southern Mesopotamia entirely. He then gradually expanded Babylonian dominance over the whole of southern Mesopotamia, conquering the cities and states of the region, including: Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Kish, Lagash, Nippur, Borsippa, Ur, Uruk, Umma, Adab and Eridu.

Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

Artist unknown, between circa 1792 and circa 1750 BC

Image by Mbzt

(CC BY 3.0)

One Single Nation

The conquests of Hammurabi gave the region stability after turbulent times and coalesced the patchwork of states of southern and central Mesopotamia into one single nation.

It is only from the time of Hammurabi that southern Mesopotamia came to be known historically as Babylonia. The armies of Babylonia under Hammurabi were well-disciplined, and he was able to invade modern-day Iran to the east and conquer the pre-Iranic Elamites, Gutians and Kassites. To the west, Hammurabi enjoyed military success against the Semitic states of the Levant (modern Syria), including the powerful kingdom of Mari.

War With The Old Assyrian Empire

Hammurabi also entered into a protracted war with the Old Assyrian Empire for control of Mesopotamia and the Near East.

Assyria had extended control over parts of Asia Minor from the 21st century BCE, and from the latter part of the 19th century BCE had asserted itself over northeast Syria and central Mesopotamia as well. After a protracted unresolved struggle lasting decades with the Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan, Hammurabi forced his successor Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute to Babylon c. 1751 BCE, thus giving Babylonia control over Assyria's centuries old Hattian and Hurrian colonies in Asia Minor.

Hammurabi

Hammurabi

Hammurabi marble bas-relief, one of 23 reliefs of great historical lawgivers in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol. Sculpted by Thomas Hudson Jones in 1950. Diameter 28 inches in diameter.

Photo by the Architect of the Capitol

An Eye For An Eye

One of the most important works of this First Dynasty of Babylon was the compilation of a code of laws which echoed and improved upon the earlier written laws of Sumer, Akkad and Assyria.

This code of law is called the "Hammurabi Code" and was made by order of Hammurabi after the expulsion of the Elamites and the settlement of his kingdom. The code is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world.

The Code consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man. Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships.

Major Cultural And Religious Center

From before 3000 BC until the reign of Hammurabi, the major cultural and religious center of southern Mesopotamia had been the ancient city of Nippur, where the god Enlil reigned supreme.

However, with the rise of Hammurabi, this honor was transferred to Babylon, and the south Mesopotamian god Marduk rose to supremacy in the pantheon of southern Mesopotamia (with the god Ashur remaining the dominant deity in the northern Mesopotamian state of Assyria).

The Holy City

The city of Babylon became known as a "holy city" where any legitimate ruler of southern Mesopotamia had to be crowned.

Hammurabi turned what had previously been a minor administrative town into a major city, increasing its size and population dramatically, and conducting a number of impressive architectural works.

The Babylonians, like their predecessor Sumero-Akkadian states, engaged in regular trade with the Amorite and Canaanite city-states to the west.

The Fall Of Babylon

The Fall Of Babylon

The fall of Babylon; Cyrus the Great defeating the Chaldean army. Mezzotint by J. Martin, 1831, after himself, 1819.

Wellcome Images

(CC BY 4.0)

The Decline Of The 1st Babylonian Dynasty

Despite Hammurabi's various military successes, southern Mesopotamia had no natural, defensible boundaries, which made it vulnerable to attack.

After the death of Hammurabi, his empire began to disintegrate rapidly. Under his successor Samsu-iluna (1749-1712 BCE) the far south of Mesopotamia was lost to a native Akkadian king called Ilum-ma-ili and became the Sealand Dynasty, remaining free of Babylon for the next 272 years.

Back To Its Foundation

Both the Babylonians and their Amorite rulers were driven from Assyria to the north by an Assyrian-Akkadian governor named Puzur-Sin c. 1740 BCE.

Amorite rule survived in a much reduced Babylon, Samshu-iluna's successor Abi-Eshuh made a vain attempt to recapture the Sealand Dynasty for Babylon, but met defeat at the hands of king Damqi-ilishu II. By the end of his reign Babylonia had shrunk to the small and relatively weak nation it had been upon its foundation.

On Display at the Louvre

Law Code Stele of King Hammurabi, 1792-1750 B.C.E.

Video

Question

Hammurabi is considered one of history's greatest rulers. Which of the following did he do to build and improve his empire?

A He established a code of law by which his empire was governed.

B He allowed conquered states to self-govern freely.

C He conslidated power at Nippur.

D He opted to conquer regions with desired resources rather than engage in trade.

Answer

A He established a code of law by which his empire was governed.