Babylon/History

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Babylonia was a relatively late achiever in the Mesopotamian world, occupying southern Mesopotamia where Sumer was. Babylonia was built around 2300 B.C. Babylon was its main city, located about 55 miles south of where Baghdad is today in Iraq. Babylon is now in ruins, but thousands of years ago was a thriving city known for the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon," which were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

As heirs to the traditions and culture of the late Sumerian city-states, Babylon improved on their heritage further and eventually became a cultural power in the Middle East and beyond, reaching the zenith of its influence under the Chhaldaean dynasty, of whose kings Nebuchadnezzar is considered to be the greatest. Even after the Chaldaean line of rulers went extinct, its influence was such that it as considered as a holy site long after it had been eclipsed first by the Persians, and then by the Greeks. When Alexander the Great dismantled the Achaemenid Empire, he considered making Babylon the eastern capital of his new empire, which didn't just consist of Greece, but Persia, Egypt and the Middle East as well.

Dawn of the Gods[edit]

The region between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates was the center of the advanced Sumerian civilization before 3500 BCE. The Sumerians built cities and irrigated their land. They had a legal system and even a form of postal service. They developed a form of writing called cuneiform, based on wedge-shaped symbols made by pressing a stylus into tablets of wet clay, and a system of counting using base 60.

The Amorites invaded Mesopotamia and defeated and replaced the Sumerian culture around 2000 BC, establishing their capital at Babylon around 1900BCE. As a city Babylon was smaller and less important than Ur, which enjoyed several dynasties. But the constant fighting led to the fall of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, and an Amorite king named Sumuabum established a kingdom in 1894 B.C. there. His successors built it up, and then a brilliant ruler name Hammurabi took power as the sixth king of Babylon from 1792 to 1750 BCE. The reign of Hammurabi signaled the end of the early Mesopotamian civilization. He created a system of justice by promulgating an elaborate code of law (called the Code of Hammurabi, or "Hammurabi's Code"). The code imposed harsh punishment of "an eye for an eye," and lower classes of people received harsher punishment than higher classes of people. If you broke the bone of a "free man" (non-slave), then the punishment was to break one of your bones. That was simple and effective, and the Old Testament uses a similar approach in some ways (ask yourself: who used this first?). One of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament states, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Hammurabi's Code states if someone accuses another of doing something wrong, but cannot prove it, then the accuser shall be killed.

Hammurabi attempted to be righteous and much of his correspondence survives to this day. He encouraged legal contracts, but he also limited the amount of interest and wages that could be earned. After 29 years of establishing order, he then conquered all of Mesopotamia, making him the first king of the Babylonian Empire. To this day Hammurabi is considered a great leader who achieved an enormous amount of progress that benefits all of mankind.

The Kasites[edit]

Chaos resulted when Hammurabi died, a common result after the passing away of a powerful ruler. The Hittites were Indo-Europeans who migrated into Anatolia (now Turkey). The Hittites were famous for bringing iron smelting to many other groups, and using the superior iron weapons and tools. They attacked and weakened the Babylonian empire, ultimately defeating it in 1600 B.C. The Kassites, led by King Agumkakrine, then took advantage of situation and grabbed power, but continued to retain Babylonian culture for the next 4 centuries of their rule.

sources for reconstructing the Kassite Dynasty are kudurrus. Other revealing information is provided by the Amarna letters, which include correspondence from the Kassite Babylonian kings to the Egyptian pharaohs of the mid-fourteenth century BC. Babylonian wealth and influence at this time is reflected in the use of the cuneiform script and the Babylonian language as the main form of diplomatic communication.

It is thought that the Kassites originated as tribal groups in the Zagros Mountains to the north-east of Babylonia. Their leaders came to power in Babylon following the collapse of the ruling dynasty of the Old Babylonian Period in 1595 BC. The Kassites retained power for about four hundred years (until 1155 BC).

The Kassite Dynasty refurbished many of the ancient Babylonian cities and constructed a new city called Dur Kurigalzu (named after one of the Kassite kings) near modern Baghdad.

There is very little evidence for serious political problems before the thirteenth century BC when Assyria to the north and Elam to the west began to threaten Babylonia, and eventually brought an end to Kassite control. The chronology of the Kassite rulers is very uncertain.

The Chaldaeans[edit]

In 1124 B.C. the first Nebuchadnezzar rose to power over the Babylonian empire. He moved its capital to Babylon, then the world's largest city. Its spanned 10,000 hectares, which is slightly larger than San Francisco today.

Legacy?[edit]

Much of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is written with references to Babylon. The main reason is that Babylon rose to enormous power and captured the Hebrews, and held them in captivity. This is known as the Babylonian Exile or Babylonian Captivity. As an example of usage, the English author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, "the Babylonian halls of the big hotel," using the word "Babylonian" to denote luxurious extravagance.

References[edit]