Ancient--Mesopotamia: Babylon 1) Akkadian Kingdom 2) Babylonian Kingdom 3) Assyrian Kingdom Sumerian Kingdom (3500-2200 BCE) Akkadian
Kingdom (2400-2100 BCE) Babylonian Kingdom (1900-1500 BCE) Assyrian Kingdom (1300-900 BCE) Chaldean Period (600-540 BCE) Sumer (cont’d) Stories like Gilgamesh tell us that, like most ancient peoples, the Sumerians were polytheistic, worshipping many gods. These gods were thought to control every aspect of life, especially the forces of nature. Sumerians believed that gods & goddesses behaved like ordinary people. These gods ate, drank, married, and raised families. Although the gods favored truth and justice, they were also responsible for violence and suffering. To Sumerians, their highest duty was to keep these divine beings happy and thereby ensure the safety of their city-state. Each city-state had its own special god or goddess to whom people prayed and offered sacrifices of animals, grain, and wine. People celebrated many holy days with ceremonies and processions. The most important ceremony occurred at the new year when the king sought and won the favor of Inanna, the life-giving goddess of love. The ensi participated in a symbolic marriage with the goddess. This ritual, Sumerians believed, would make the new year fruitful and prosperous. Like the Egyptians, the Sumerians believed in an afterlife. At death, they believed, a person descended into a grim underworld from which there was no release. The gloomy Sumerian view of an afterlife contrasts with the Egyptian vision of the Happy Field of Food. Possibly differences in geography help account for this contrast. The floods of the Tigris and Euphrates were less regular and more destructive than the Nile floods. As a result, Sumerians may have developed a more pessimistic view of the world. Anyway…these are some of the dominant features of the early, Sumerian phase of Mesopotamian culture. And, as I noted earlier, the Sumerian phase of Mesopotamian culture lasted until roughly 2200 BCE.
3. Ancient Mesopotamia: a) Akkad and b) Babylon a) Akkad (2400-2100 BCE) --around that time (i.e., between 2400 and 2200 BCE) the cities of middle Mesopotamia began to jockey for political and military dominance, and a new player, the city of Akkad (or Agade), began to extend its control throughout the region --Akkad was located about 100 km (60 miles) north of the ancient city of Ur, about half way between the Tigris and the Euphrates, though its precise location remains unknown --Akkad’s first great ruler, Sargon (sometimes called Sargon the Great), worked to bring all of Mesopotamia under the control of his royal dynasty --Sargon lived between ca. 2330 and 2280 BCE and his greatest claim to fame is probably the fact that his name is the earliest human name known to history --between 2400 and 2100 BCE, Sargon and his heirs conquered virtually all the cities of Mesopotamia and put their stamp on the region --for example, the Akkadians insisted that all the defeated cities of the Euphrates watershed must tear down their walls and install an Akkadian governor --this governor was given wide-ranging authority over trade, religion and municipal regulations: his power was reinforced or supplemented by large garrisons of Akkadian troops --in return for their faithful service, the Akkadian kings gave their soldiers large tracts of land in the conquered territories: this had the effect of 1) stabilizing the Akkadian presence throughout Mesopotamia, and 2) giving the troops a tangible, personal reason for maintaining domestic security --once firmly in power, the Akkadians worked to bring uniformity to their growing empire: 1) Sargon implemented a system of standard weights and measures; 2) he ordered that cuneiform should be used throughout the kingdom; 3) standardized formats were used on all official documents (i.e., documents related to taxation, military documents, documents related to large-scale public works projects [dams, reservoirs, roads, temples, etc.]). --however, for reasons that are not entirely clear, the Akkadian empire began to deteriorate around 2100 BCE --as I mentioned last day, it seems that a combination of factors conspired against the late Akkadian rulers: 1) civil unrest in the cities, 2) warring tribes at the borders of the kingdom, 3) environmental or demographic factors --whatever the reasons, by 2100, the heirs of Sargon were overthrown and a series of small successor kingdoms competed for the crumbs of Akkadian civilization b) Babylon (1900-1500 BCE) --for almost 200 years, various small states competed with each other as well as with invaders from outside Mesopotamia for a share of power in the Ancient Near East
--and when the dust finally settled around 1900 BCE it was a group known to history as the Babylonians who exercised political control throughout the region --they established their capital at Babylon, a town near the ancient city of Akkad, and from this city, the Babylonians presided over Mesopotamia, with some interruptions, for more than 8 centuries --of all the successors to the Sumerians, it was the Babylonians who evolved the most elaborate, most politically-complex culture in Mesopotamia --and while there were a number of Babylonian rulers who contributed to the increasing complexity of Mesopotamian society, one name stands above all the others: Hammurabi, or, Hammurapi of Babylon: I’d like to spend a few moments telling you about Hammurabi and his importance to Babylonian culture Hammurabi --we don’t know precisely when King Hammurabi was born, though the dates of his reign appear to have been 1792-1750 BCE --the evidence seems to suggest that he began his reign as little more than a local king, an ensi (i.e., one of those municipal officials I told you about last class) --however, over the course of an extraordinarily successful reign, he managed to extend his authority over a huge swath of territory, one that encompassed all the old Akkadian territories and even more besides --indeed, by the end of his reign, he was the undisputed master of all Mesopotamia --of course, Hammurabi is most famous for promulgating a code of laws that bear his name: i.e., the “Code of Hammurabi” --while this was by no means the earliest body of royal legislation to issue out of Mesopotamia, it was certainly one of the most comprehensive law codes of the ancient world --indeed, many of the traits that made Hammurabi a successful warrior-king also made him a great legislator --for example, Hammurabi appears to have been a meticulous governor, someone who was preoccupied with every detail of his government; he also appears to have had a profound interest in administration and a desire for control --in today’s parlance, he was a “micromanager” --fortunately, this tendency was balanced by an equally strong passion for what we might call the principles of social justice --for example, when he ascended the throne of Babylon, he issued a proclamation forgiving people’s public and private debts: he simply said, “no one owes anyone anything—we’re going to start from scratch” --if you were a lender, you might have been outraged, but if you were a borrower, you would have been over the moon with happiness --and, like now, there were far more borrowers than lenders; it was a staggeringly popular decision
--Hammurabi also renovated all of Babylon’s ziggurats and other temples; he gave special attention to the temple of Marduk, Babylon’s divine patron and an extremely popular local deity --both of these measures brought Hammurabi instant popularity, and allowed him to consolidate his power at home --with the city of Babylon secure, Hammurabi was able to concentrate on foreign affairs --in a five year period, he managed to conquer or subdue most of the lands to the south and east of Babylon --here, he installed Babylonian governors and garrisons --a little later, he pushed north and west, until, by 1760 BCE, he had built the largest empire the world had known up to that time --it encompassed most of modern Iraq as well as portions of Iran, Syria and parts of southern Turkey --throughout it all, he imposed his own form of royal justice, the document I mentioned a few moments ago, the “Code of Hammurabi” Code of Hammurabi --Hammurabi’s law code was discovered slightly more than a hundred years ago, in 1901, when archeologists were digging through the remains of a Babylonian city named Susa, in what is now southwestern Iran --during the course of their investigations, they came upon an 8 foot tall stele of black granite --at the top, the stele bore a picture of the bearded god Shamash, seated on his throne; Shamash (also called Utu) was the god of the sun; and because he is the bringer of divine light, Babylonians believed that he could see all things from heavenly throne --in many ways, he is the equivalent of Zeus, or Odin (a father figure) --anyway, on the stele Shamash holds a scepter (an ancient symbol of royal and divine power) in his right hand --facing him is Hammurabi; the king holds one hand to his lips as he receives legal enlightenment from his god --the message is clear, with the stele Hammurabi dispenses not only his own will, but also that of the gods --while the image is an excellent example of Babylonian art, it is the rest of the stele that captures the attention and imagination of historians --here, an ancient sculptor has inscribed an exhaustive list of the laws and punishments of Hammurabi’s kingdom --the stele, which is now located in the Louvre Museum in Paris, originally contained 282 numbered laws written in the Old Babylonian language; unfortunately, some of the granite has been chipped away, so at least 34 of the laws are missing
--of those that remain, the focus is on laws concerning theft, farming, property damage, women's rights, marriage rights, children's rights, slave rights, murder, death, and injury. --it’s a positive goldmine of information on the values, beliefs and everyday affairs of Babylonians in the 2nd millennium BCE --the document anticipates a wide range of legal and social problems; it discusses such matters as: false accusations, bad legal decisions, the ransom of prisoners of war, penalties for sexual misconduct, penalties for shoddy construction work, medical malpractice, etc. --it even deals with such arcane topics as what to do with victims of shipwreck who appear in your community --significantly, the code stipulates that punishments should be different for different classes of offenders and victims. --so, if a slave kills another slave, there’s one penalty, but if a slave kills an aristocrat there’s quite another --similarly, if a woman of child-bearing years is assaulted, there’s one form of recompense, if the woman is beyond menopause, there’s another penalty --by modern standards, the laws seem rather harsh --for example, no allowance is made for mistakes or faults --there is no room for excuses or explanations --the reason that Hammurabi didn’t allow even minor breaches of the law was because the Code was on display for everyone to see (i.e., there were similar stele in all the towns and villages of Babylon) --so, because of this, Hammurabi appears to have believed that because his laws were in plain view, no one should try to plead ignorance --even those who were illiterate (i.e., the great majority of the population) could have the law read to them—so there was absolutely no excuse for anyone to transgress the law --also, the punishment for many crimes (even crimes that we might consider comparatively minor) was death or disfigurement --for example: “If a son of a…prostitute says to his adoptive father or mother: ‘You are not my father, or my mother,’ his tongue shall be cut off.” --or: “If any one steal the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.” --what made this law code so appealing to the general populace was the fact that it was written at all --even though the laws were harsh, at least people now had a legally defined relationship with the king, his agents and with each other --average Babylonians were no longer subject to the whims or capriciousness of individual kings or aristocrats --they now knew what their legal obligations to the state were, and they knew, at least for the most part, how to avoid running afoul of the law
--this was probably a tremendous advancement over previous legal relationships of the ancient world --anyway, Hammurabi was, in many respects, the archetypal Mesopotamian ruler of the Babylonian era --by this, I mean that while he was remote, detached and entirely supreme, Hammurabi also had a deep and abiding concern for the welfare of his subjects --he built up the fortunes of his people, he extended his empire and he sent out embassies to all the corners of the known world --he inaugurated a system of government that would be measured in centuries rather than in decades --indeed, through his many political successes and legal reforms, Hammurabi laid the foundations for a system of government (and a view of civilization) that would far outlive his dynasty --in their turn, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians and even the successors of Alexander the Great would all use models of government that had been developed during the Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian periods The City of Babylon --of course, Hammurabi didn’t live to see what might be considered his greatest contribution to global culture: I’m speaking of course of the city of Babylon itself --under Hammurabi, the city had its first beginnings as an imperial capital --however, over the course of the next 1200 years, it would become one of the foremost cities of the ancient world: a centre of government, a seat of learning, a vital repository of ancient culture and ideas --and while it was never home to more than 50,000 people at any given time, Babylon was, nevertheless, the greatest city of the pre-modern era (well, at least before Rome) --for example, by 1600 BCE, the city was graced with a great number of well-designed public buildings and sturdy private dwellings; it contained sweeping, tree-lined boulevards and breezy public squares; it held a majestic array of terraced gardens where date-palms swayed and exotic animals prowled --it contained shops and markets and hostels and auditoriums (for both sporting events and theatre) --at the centre of it all was the great Ziggurat of Marduk, possibly the largest ziggurat ever constructed; indeed, this structure is probably the inspiration for the biblical “Tower of Babel” (what is this?) --while we don’t know its precise dimensions of Marduk’s ziggurat, it probably had a footprint of more than 300’ by 300’, and it probably rose more than 300’ in the air --so, while not as big as the biggest Egyptian pyramids, it was, nevertheless, a structure of immense proportions --anyway, over the course of time, a number of rulers extended the size and scope of ancient Babylon until it became a showcase of the ancient world
--in the 8th century BCE, the Babylonians appear to have built one of the greatest monuments to their civilization, the so-called “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World --according to one Greek observer, the geographer Strabo: The Garden is quadrangular, and each side is four plethra (approx. 400 feet?) long. It consists of arched vaults which are located on checkered cube-like foundations.. The ascent of the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway... --another writer claimed: The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators. --Strabo goes on to tell us: The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden. --Strabo touches on what, to the ancients, was probably the most amazing part of the garden. --you see, Babylon rarely received rain and for the garden to survive it would have had to been irrigated by using water from the nearby Euphrates River. --That meant lifting the water far into the air so it could flow down through the terraces, watering the plants at each level. This was probably done by means of a "chain pump." --a chain pump is two large wheels, one above the other, connected by a chain. --buckets are hung from the chain --below the bottom wheel is a pool with the water source --as the wheel is turned, the buckets dip into the pool and pick up water --the chain then lifts them to the upper wheel, where the buckets are tipped and dumped into an upper pool --the chain then carries the empty buckets back down to be refilled. --the pool at the top of the gardens could then be released by gates into channels which acted as artificial streams to water the gardens --the pump wheel below was attached to a shaft and a handle --by turning the handle slaves provided the power to run the contraption. --now, construction of the garden wasn't only complicated by getting the water up to the top, but also by having to avoid having the liquid ruin the foundation once it was released
--since stone was difficult to get on the Mesopotamian plain, most of the architecture in Babel utilized brick. --the bricks were composed of clay mixed with chopped straw and baked in the sun. --the bricks were then joined with bitumen, a slimy substance, which acted as a mortar --these bricks quickly dissolved when soaked with water --for most buildings in Babel this wasn't a problem because rain was so rare --however, the gardens were continually exposed to irrigation and the foundation had to be protected. --the Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone (otherwise unheard of in Babel), covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. --according to him, over this the Babylonians put a covering with sheets of lead, so that the moisture which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid earth of a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even and smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators. --modern researchers aren’t entirely sure whether the Hanging Gardens ever really existed --instead, they suggest that the Greeks were simply describing a view of the entire city of Babylon, not a separate, identifiable pleasure garden --regardless, it seems that Babylon must have been an extraordinary place, even by modern standards of architecture and urban planning --Seven Wonders 1) Pyramids at Giza 2) Hanging Gardens of Babylon 3) Statue of Zeus at Olympia 4) Temple of Artemis at Ephesus 5) Mausoleum of Halicarnassus 6) Colossus of Rhodes 7) Lighthouse of Alexandria c) Assyria (1300-900 BCE) In the northern section of the Tigris River of Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq, the ancient territory of Assyria was once a formidable empire. Named for Ashur, the original capital of the region, Assyria was populated around 2000 BC by Semitic-speaking individuals from the southwest. The area was organized after 1900 BC, as the Assyrian influence spread northward into Anatolia (the region now known as Turkey) through trading and the development of colonies in this area.
However, by 1800 BC, the Assyrians were driven to the south and out of Anatolia, by the Hittites, a group of Indo-European speaking people from north of the Black Sea. Assyrian strength in Mesopotamia continued to decline as the empire of Babylonia increased in power in the region and tended to usurp the position of the Assyrians. By 1550 BC, the Kingdom of Mitanni, an empire founded by Indo-Iranians (also called Aryans), seized control over the Assyrians. The Assyrians did not manage to gain their independence from the Mitannis until 1365 BC. After gaining their independence in 1365, and until 800 BC, the Assyrians managed to increase their dominance in northern Mesopotamia. By the time the control of the Assyrians began to wane in 800, numerous sections of the Middle East had fallen under their control at one time or another, if only temporarily. These sections include Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Persia (on the Iranian plateau), and Egypt. During the rule of Ashurbanipal (668-26), a recession occurred in Assyria, weakening the empire. By 612, the Mede, a group from Iran, and Babylonians worked together and destroyed one of the principle centers of power in Assyria, the city of Nineveh. Assyrian Art Assyrian art preserved to the present day predominantly dates to the Neo-Assyrian period. Art depicting battle scenes, and occasionally the impaling of whole villages in gory detail, was intended to show the power of the emperor, and was generally made for propaganda purposes. These stone reliefs lined the walls in the royal palaces where foreigners were received by the king. Other stone reliefs depict the king with different deities and conducting religious ceremonies. A lot of stone reliefs were discovered in the royal palaces at Nimrud (Kalhu) and Khorsabad (Dur-Sharrukin). A rare discovery of metal plates belonging to wooden doors was made at Balawat (Imgur-Enlil). Assyrian sculpture reached a high level of refinement in the Neo-Assyrian period. One prominent example is the winged bull Lamassu, or shedu that guard the entrances to the king's court. These were apotropaic meaning they were intended to ward off evil. C. W. Ceram states in The March of Archaeology that lamassi were typically sculpted with five legs so that four legs were always visible, whether the image were viewed frontally or in profile. Since works of precious gems and metals usually do not survive the ravages of time, we are lucky to have some fine pieces of Assyrian jewelry. These were found in royal tombs at Nimrud.
Astronomy There is ongoing discussion among academics over the nature of the Nimrud lens, a piece of rock crystal unearthed by Austen Henry Layard in 1850, in the Nimrud palace complex in northern Iraq. A small minority believe that it is evidence for the existence of ancient Assyrian telescopes, which could explain the great accuracy of Assyrian astronomy. The Nimrud Lens is held in the British Museum Assyria and Babylon Compared During the period when they were competing for dominance in Mesopotamia, the neighbouring sister-states of Babylonia and Assyria differed essentially in character. Babylonia was a land of merchants and agriculturists; Assyria became an organized military camp. The Assyrian dynasties were founded by successful generals; in Babylonia it was the priests whom a revolution raised to the throne. The Babylonian king remained a priest to the last, under the control of a powerful hierarchy; the Assyrian king was the autocratic general of an army, at whose side stood in early days a feudal nobility, aided from the reign of Tiglath-pileser III onwards by an elaborate bureaucracy. His palace was more sumptuous than the temples of the gods, from which it was quite separate. The people were soldiers and little else; even the sailor belonged to the state. Hence the sudden collapse of Assyria when drained of its fighting population in the age of Assurbani-pal.