Monday, April 7, 2014

Babylon – Ancient Mesopotamia

Babylon 1
Gwendolyn Leick has been successful in bringing together a group of international scholars each with the liberty of focusing on the topic and specialty of their choice and her survey portrays a great deal about the people of Babylon, their culture and the reality that lies behind the popular myth of Babylon. Some 1800 years ago, the history of the Babylonians right from the time of Hammurabi, who was famous for his Law Code till the time when Alexander and his heirs ruled the Near East, Gwendolyn’s archaeological discoveries as well as the cuneiform tablets which was discovered in the city of Babylon provides us some insight of the people of Babylon and their society, together with their intellectual and spiritual information.

Interesting insight with regards to the lives of kings, merchants, women and slaves together with their social, historical, geographical as well as cultural context which flourished for many centuries have come to light, providing scholars and students a glimpse of this amazing world. Being the builders of a towering monumental urban city and the layers of the foundation of modern science and mathematics, the people of Babylon were an insistent lot of the ancient world at that time. From the discoveries of the cuneiform tablets, epigraphic research together with the latest archaeological advances, Leick’s findings relates reference resources as well as introductory text for university students.

Babylon 2
The main areas, like ecology, urbanism, plurality and complexity, power relations; all these offer variety of insight reflecting their academic approach and focus and the Babylonian World portrays a kaleidoscopic view with patterns and fragments of the lost world in the most amazing way with information on the various aspects of Babylon details on the complexity and the richness of this country. The ruins of the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamian lie in modern day Iraq, around 59 miles southwest of Baghdad which according to Akkadian language at that time meant `Gate of God or Gate of the Gods’, Babylon was founded at some time before the reign of Sargon of Akkad or Sargon the Great who reigned from 2334 – 2279 BC claiming to have built many temples in Babylon.

The history of Babylon came to be known with the famous king Hammurabi who reigned between 1795 -1750 who ascended the throne on the death of his father, King Sin-Muballit and transformed the city into a powerful and influential country of Mesopotamia. His law codes have been very popular though they are only an example of the policies which he implemented to maintain peace and prosperity. He was also responsible in enlarging and heightening the walls of the city, engagement in great public works including temples, making diplomats an integral part of his administration. He was so successful in war and diplomacy that he managed to unite all of Mesopotamia under the rule of Babylon in 1763 BC, which at that time was one of the major cities of the world and named it Babylonia.

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After the death of Hammurabi, his empire got disintegrated and Babylonia reduced in size and was taken over by Hittites in 1595 BC and later by the Kassites. Thereafter the Assyrians dominated the region and the Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib had the city razed, sacked with the ruins scattered and Babylon revolted against him. He was soon assassinated by his sons and succeeded by Esrhaddon who rebuilt Babylon returning it to its original glory. The city once again revolted against Ashurbanipal of Nineveh who had taken control though did not damage it but had made efforts to purify Babylon of the evil spirits prowling around that had been the cause of all the prevailing troubles.

Thereafter the Assyrian Empire fell and a Chaldean, Nabopolassar took charge of the throne of Babylon and created the Neo Babylonian Empire and his son Nebuchadnezzar in 604 -561, renovated the city covering an area of 900 hectares of land with some of the most impressive and beautiful structures in the whole of Mesopotamia where every ancient writer had made a mention of the city of Babylon with reverence and awe. The Neo Babylonian Empire prolonged after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II where Babylon continued to play an important role under the reign of Nabonidus together with his successor, Belshazzar. Towards 539 BC, the empire fell into the hands of the Persian under Cyrus the Great during the Battle of Opis.

 Since the walls of Babylon were impregnable, the Persians devised a plan and diverted the course of the Euphrates River that fell to a manageable depth and while the people of the city were engaged in their great religious feast, the army waded through the river and marched under the walls of Babylon unnoticed. It is believed that the city was taken over without a fight though the documents at that time indicate that the repairs had to be done to the walls as well as some areas of the city and hence the invasion was not much of an effort.

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Geographically, Babylonia can be defined as the southern half of Mesopotamia where the rivers, Tigris and Euphrates meet each other forming a strip of land. Towards the south lies the marshes, beyond which lies the waters of the Persian Gulf and the northern half of Mesopotamia was known as Assyria. Though most of the Assyrian cities were situated along the Tigris, those of Babylonia located along the Euphrates were a major trade route or the intermediary canals.

The Arabian desert to the west and the Zagros Mountains to the east formed its natural border with its climate being hotter and drier in the southern Mesopotamia. Agriculture was possible only through irrigation while the landscape was marked by a dense network of canals and dams. Babylon city was considered as the seat of kingship which was lavishly endowed with temples and palaces which were so unique that it attracted the cupidity of far away ruler from distant place namely the Hittite king Mursili who came down to Euphrates to attack and plunder its riches.

The Old Babylonian language was replaced with the previously spoken Sumerian and only the learned scholars were familiar with that language. Another group of immigrants this time from the east known as Kassites took political control of the Babylonian culture, their kings bearing outlandish Kassite names while the later one adopted `good Babylonia’ titles and names.

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