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Rise and Fall of Ancient Babylon

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Danida is an enthusiastic learner who enjoys researching various subjects and relaying their findings to others.

This article will teach you about Mesopotamia and the ancient civilization of Babylonia, including information on Hammurabi, the Kassites, and Nebuchadnezzar II.

This article will teach you about Mesopotamia and the ancient civilization of Babylonia, including information on Hammurabi, the Kassites, and Nebuchadnezzar II.

What Is Mesopotamia?

Many people have heard of Mesopotamia, either in elementary or middle school or by word of mouth. Mesopotamia is the term used for a region of land in the modern-day Middle East that is known as one of seven “cradles of civilization,” a phrase designating a place where civilization independently emerged.

Mesopotamia was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which provided that geographical area with rich, fertile soil and plenty of water for irrigation ad the emergence of agriculture.

A map showing the Babylonian Empire in approximately 606-536 BCE, during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II.

A map showing the Babylonian Empire in approximately 606-536 BCE, during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II.

Appearance of the Amorites

Around 1900BCE, the Amorites (a people from Syria) moved into Mesopotamia. These people were skilled in all sorts of crafts such as metalworking, perfumery and beekeeping. They herded sheep and goats and farmed barley.

Hammurabi and Babylonia

The Amorite king Hammurabi designated the city of Babylon near the Euphrates, about 50 miles south of present-day Baghdad, Afghanistan. During the late 1700s BCE, king Hammurabi conquered the whole of Mesopotamia, which then became known as Babylonia.

Hammurabi started his reign peacefully. He also improved Babylon's walls and was skilled at diplomacy, forming alliances with other cities to the north. Later, he used manipulation of the Euphrates river to help him control Lower Mesopotamia. He would block the flow of water to kill crops downriver and then release stored waters to flood the same areas.

King Hammurabi

King Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

The land they had conquered contained people of many different cultures and laws, so king Hammurabi decided to unify the laws, which were inscribed on a stone stela, or tablet, of black basalt rock. This set of laws would later become known as the “Code of Hammurabi.”

They include laws about money, property, the family and the rights of slaves. The phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth from a tooth” comes from Hammurabi’s laws. According to the law, a wrongdoer had to be punished in a way that suited the crime.

The code of Hammurabi, written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian.

The code of Hammurabi, written in the Old Babylonian dialect of Akkadian.

Sexagesimal Numbering System

Babylon became a sophisticated city and a great center for science, literature and learning. Babylonian scholars developed a sexagesimal numbering system based on groups of 60 – this is how we get our 60-minute hour and 360-degree circle.

A stone map showing the known land masses surrounded by a ring of ocean. This map was made by Babylonian scholars more than 3000 years ago. They labelled it with wedge-shaped cuneiform writing.

A stone map showing the known land masses surrounded by a ring of ocean. This map was made by Babylonian scholars more than 3000 years ago. They labelled it with wedge-shaped cuneiform writing.

The dragon symbolized Marduk, supreme god of the Babylonians. They worshipped many gods, incluing the sun god Shamash, and Ishtar, the goddess of War and love.

The dragon symbolized Marduk, supreme god of the Babylonians. They worshipped many gods, incluing the sun god Shamash, and Ishtar, the goddess of War and love.

Hittite Raids and Kassite Rule

Many of the neighboring rulers were jealous of Babylon’s power and the wealth Babylonians acquired from trade. The city was attacked many times. Hittites (from the area that is now Turkey) raided Babylon, an event that is shrouded in time, as we lack archeological information to help us clearly understand it.

One thing that is clear is that the Kassites, from mountains to the east, were engaged in fights throughout the region during this time, and they eventually invaded and took over the city. The Kassites would rule for approximately 400 years, and they turned Babylon into an important religious center, erecting a large temple to their supreme God, Marduk.

The Ishtar Gate, decorated with blue stone, was the eigth gate to the inner city of Babylon.  It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. It was speckled with images of lions.

The Ishtar Gate, decorated with blue stone, was the eigth gate to the inner city of Babylon. It was constructed in about 575 BC by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II. It was speckled with images of lions.

King Nebuchadnezzar II

At around 900BCE, Babylon was invaded again by the Chaldeans, horsemen from the Gulf coast. Their greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar II, rebuilt the city magnificently. He gave it massive mud-brick walls, strong gates, and a seven-story ziggurat.

Ziggurats were architectural structures somewhat akin to pyramids, that had a religious significance. They had terraced steps or levels and sometimes included exterior stairways or spiral staircases. They had no internal chambers and sometimes a temple sat on the peak where priests made offerings.

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King Nebuchadnezzar II also built a palace for himself and the Hanging Gardens, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and also built on a ziggurat-like structure.

King Nebuchadnezzar built fabulous hanging, or terraced, gardens for his wife Amytis to remind her of the green hill country of her home in Media. No one today really knows what the gardens looked like, and some even question their existence.

King Nebuchadnezzar built fabulous hanging, or terraced, gardens for his wife Amytis to remind her of the green hill country of her home in Media. No one today really knows what the gardens looked like, and some even question their existence.

Key Dates

1900BC: Babylon becomes chief city of the Amorites.

1792-1750BC: Reign of King Hammurabi, law-giver and conqueror of Mesopotamia.

1595-1155BC: The Kassites rule the city of Babylon.

900BC: The Chaldeans take over Babylon and begin to rebuild it.

605-562BC: Reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. He builds the great Handing Gardens. Babylon is the most sophisticated city in the Near East.

Persia Conquers Babylon

Babylon became the largest city in western Asia. The trade along the rivers and via the caravan routes leading eastward to Iran made it wealthy once more. This glorious city survived until it was again invaded, this time by the Persians.

Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, defeating the Babylonian army near Opis. After this defeat, much of outer Babylon willingly surrendered the Persian army.

The Ancient City of Babylon: History of the Babylonian Empire

Sources and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Danida (author) from London on May 26, 2014:

@AudreyHowitt: Thank you!

Audrey Howitt from California on May 08, 2014:

Such an interesting hub!!

Danida (author) from London on March 24, 2014:

@Eiddwen: Thank you!

Eiddwen from Wales on March 24, 2014:

A brilliant hub; so interesting, well presented and voted up.

eddy.

Danida (author) from London on March 24, 2014:

@Searchinsany: Thanks :)

Alexander Gibb from UK on March 22, 2014:

Very interesting and informative.

Danida (author) from London on March 22, 2014:

@NathaNater: Yup :) I love learning about ancient civilizations. I wonder what they'll teach people about us in thousands of years...

Danida (author) from London on March 22, 2014:

@Lady Guinevere: It's crazy how many people invaded the place! I agree that it's jealousy though, that's generally the drive for all battles and hate. Thanks for vote and share!

Debra Allen from West By God on March 22, 2014:

Love this! Rome also conquered this land some years later and I do believe that when Christians say bad things about this place that they are very jealous too. Heck Rome wants all and everything and to some extent still does. I voted up , interesting and useful and I am going to share it.

NathaNater on March 22, 2014:

That is very fascinating. It's interesting to learn about some of the oldest civilizations on Earth.

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