Sunday, October 12, 2014

Early Babylonian Empire

Mesopotamia was a cradle of civilization and among the empires that it catered was the great Babylonian Empire. Before the Babylonian Empire, for thousands of years, the Fertile Crescent, as it was known, was home to many communities. The Sumerians group themselves into small city-states and fought each other for dominance. About 2330 BCE, a Semitic tribe led by Sargon rose to establish one of the earliest known empire - the Akkadian Empire.  But after 300 years, the Akkadian Empire crumble due to its diverse population. Then a hundred years after fall of the Akkadian Empire, a new empire rose to prominence in the Mesopotamia. From the same ethnoliguistic group as the Akkadians – the Babylonians – would unite the region once more under one rule.

The Babylonian empire’s history dated back from 2000 BCE. A group of Semitic speaking people invaded the Mesopotamia. The people were known to the Sumerians as the Martu. But the Akkadians called them the Amurru, which later became Amorite. The Amorites entered region from the western deserts after the Third Dynasty of Ur fell in disarray. The Amorites then establish themselves at the city of Babylon near the Euphrates River. In 1894 BCE, the Babylonian ruler Aumu-aban founded a dynasty. From his son, Sumu-la-el, the Babylonians expanded their territories capturing Sipar, Kish, and Dilbat.

The economy of Babylonia was based on trade and textile. Slaves were popular trading item during those times. Captives from war they were sold to wealthy citizens of the land. Another vital trade item for the Babylonian Empire was copper. Copper, from the Persian Gulf and modern day Afghanistan helped Babylon to manufacture weapons vital for their war efforts. In exchange for copper, the Babylonians traded their cloth in exchange for copper. Other vital part of the economy was agriculture, which highly dependent to the fertile lands provided by the Euphrates River.

But the prominence of the Bablyonians would come from a great general and a lawgiver ruler – Hammurabi. He ruled from 1792 to 1750 CE.

As a military leader, he led the expansion of Babylonia’s borders. At the start of Hammurabi’s reign, Babylon’s domain had become small as previous leader failed to maintain its strength. Babylon, then, only controlled a 55 mile stretch of lands from its city walls. But with the decade following 1770 BCE, Hammurabi embarked in a massive expansionist campaign. He first secured a defensive alliance with the powerful southern leader of the city state of Larsa, Rum-Sin. Also, he maintain closed relations with Zimri-Lim of the city state of Mari in the north. Then in 1764, he launched an attack against the joined forces of Elam, Assyria, and Eshnunna. On the following year, he broke the defensive pact with Rim-Sin and invaded his territories, hence, leading to the expansion of Babylon to the southern regions of Mesopotamia. And in 1761, in order to complete conquest of the Fertile Crescent, he also turned against his ally, Zimri-Lim, and invaded Mari. He then took the title used by the Akkadian king, Naram-Sin – King of the Four Quarters or the King of the World.

His greatness in military affairs also reflects his concern to his people. He instituted a code of law which was called the Code of Hammurabi. The code list around three hundred rules encompassing vast range of concerns, from prostitution, to beer, to adultery, and many more. The Code of Hammurabi became the most well-known earliest form of a written law in the ancient world.

After the reign Hammurabi, however, the Babylonian Empire crumble again. His successors not keep up to the challenges that faced them. The size of Babylon reverted back to its size before Hammurabi and to confinement of its city walls. The final blow for the Early Babylon came in 1595 when the Hittites captured the city. And it would be for almost another one thousand years before Babylon would once again rise as a great empire. 

Ackermann, M. et. al. (eds.). Encyclopedia of World History v. 1. New York: Facts On File, 2008.

Beck, R. et. al. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Florida: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pub. Co., 2012.

Hansen, V. Voyages in World History. Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013.

Woolf, G. (ed.). Ancient Civilizations: The Illustrated Guide to Belief, Mythology, and Art. California: Thunder Bay Press, 2005.

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