Cultures > Babylonia > Old Babylonian Kingdom

Old Babylonian Kingdom

Assyria-Babylonia Decoration

Background

Since the area near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers emptied into the Persian Gulf had two dominant groups -- the Sumerians and Akkadians -- it is often referred to as Sumer-Akkad. As part of an almost endless pattern other people kept trying to take control of this area's land -- mineral resources -- and trade routes ...Eventually they succeeded. Semitic Amorites from the Arabian Peninsula gained control over most of Mesopotamia by about 1900 BC. They centralized their monarchical government over the city-state just north of Sumer -- in Babylon -- the area formerly called Akkad (Agade). The three centuries of their domination is known as the Old Babylonian Period ...Babylonians believed the king held power because of the gods; moreover they thought their king was a god. To maximize his power and control a bureaucracy and centralized government were established along with the inevitable adjuncts -- taxation -- and involuntary military service ...The Sumerians already had laws but they were administered jointly by individuals and the state. With a divine monarch came divinely inspired laws -- violation of which was an offense to the state as well as the gods. The Babylonian King (1728-1686 BC) Hammurabi codified the laws in which (as distinct from the Sumerian) the state could prosecute on its own behalf. The Code of Hammurabi is famous for demanding punishment to fit the crime (lex talionis or an eye for an eye) with different treatment for each social class. The Code is thought to be Sumerian in spirit but with a Babylonian inspired harshness ...Hammurabi also united the Assyrians to the north and the Akkadians and Sumerians to the south. Trade with Anatolia -- Syria -- and Palestine spread Babylonian influence further. He further consolidated his Mesopotamian empire by building a network of roads and a postal system ...In religion there was not much change from Sumer/Akkad to Babylonia. Hammurabi added a Babylonian Marduk -- as chief god -- to the Sumerian pantheon. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian compilation of Sumerian tales about a legendary king of the city-state of Uruk and a flood story ...When in the reign of Hammurabi's son the horse-back invaders known as the Kassites made incursions into Babylonian territory the Babylonians thought it punishment from the gods; but they managed to recover and stayed in (limited) power until the beginning of the 16th century B.C. when the Hittites sacked Babylon -- only to withdraw later because the city was too distant from their own capital. Eventually the Assyrians suppressed them but even that was not the end of the Babylonians for they rose again in the Chaldean (or Neo-Babylonian) era from 612-539 BC; made famous by their great King Nebuchadnezzar. In 539 the Persian King Cyrus invaded. Babylonia remained under Persian rule until the time of Alexander the Great.
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