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This article is about the ancient (pre-539 BC) empires. Mesopotamia, including the city of Babylon.
For the region called Babylonia by Jewish sources in
the later, Talmudic period, see Talmudic Academies in
Babylonia. For other uses, see Babylonia (disambigua- 1 Periods

1.1 Pre-Babylonian Sumero-Akkadian period in Mesopotamia

Babylonia (/bbloni/) was an ancient Akkadianspeaking Semitic state and cultural region based in
central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). A
small Amorite-ruled state emerged in 1894 BC, which
contained at this time the minor city of Babylon. Babylon greatly expanded during the reign of Hammurabi in
the rst half of the 18th century BC, becoming a major
capital city. During the reign of Hammurabi and afterwards, Babylonia was called Mt Akkad the country of
Akkad in Akkadian.[1] It was often involved in rivalry
with its older fellow Akkadian state of Assyria in northern
Mesopotamia. Babylonia briey became the major power
in the region after Hammurabi (. c. 1792 1752 BC
middle chronology, or c. 1696 1654 BC, short chronology) created a short-lived empire, succeeding the earlier
Akkadian Empire, Neo-Sumerian Empire, and Old Assyrian Empire; however, the Babylonian empire rapidly
fell apart after the death of Hammurabi.
The Babylonian state retained the written Semitic
Akkadian language for ocial use (the language of its native populace), despite its Amorite founders and Kassite
successors not being native Akkadians, and speaking a
Northwest Semitic Canaanite language and a Language
Isolate respectively. It retained the Sumerian language
for religious use (as did Assyria), but by the time Babylon
was founded this was no longer a spoken language, having
been wholly subsumed by Akkadian. The earlier Akkadian and Sumerian traditions played a major role in Babylonian (and Assyrian) culture, and the region would remain an important cultural center, even under protracted
periods of outside rule.

The extent of the Babylonian Empire at the start and end of Hammurabis reign

Mesopotamia had already enjoyed a long history prior

to the emergence of Babylon. During the third millennium BC, there had developed an intimate cultural
symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians,
which included widespread bilingualism.[2] The inuence
of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all
areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.[2]
This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and
Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund.[2]

The earliest mention of the city of Babylon can be found

in a tablet from the reign of Sargon of Akkad (2334
2279 BC), dating back to the 23rd century BC. Babylon
was merely a religious and cultural centre at this point
and neither an independent state nor a large city; like the
rest of Mesopotamia, it was subject to the Akkadian Empire which united all the Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule. After the collapse of the Akkadian empire, the south Mesopotamian region was dominated by the Gutians for a few decades before the rise of
the Neo-Sumerian Empire (third dynasty of Ur), which,
apart from northern Assyria, encompassed the whole of

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Mesopotamia somewhere around the turn of the
third and the second millennium BC (the precise timeframe being a matter of debate),[3] but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientic language in Mesopotamia as late as the 1st century
From c. 3500 BC until the rise of the Akkadian Empire in
the 24th century BC, Mesopotamia had been dominated
by largely Sumerian city states, such as Ur, Lagash, Uruk,
Kish, Isin, Larsa, Adab, Eridu, Nuzi, Awan, Hamazi,


Akshak and Umma, although Semitic Akkadian names 1.2 First Babylonian Dynasty Amorite
began to appear on the king lists of some of these states
Dynasty 18941595 BC
(such as Eshnunna and Assyria) between the 29th and
25th centuries BC. Traditionally, the major religious center of all Mesopotamia was the city of Nippur, and it
Main article: First Babylonian Dynasty
would remain so until replaced by Babylon during the
reign of Hammurabi in the mid 18th century BC.
One of these Canaanite speaking Amorite dynasties
The Akkadian Empire (23342154 BC) saw the Akkafounded a small kingdom which included the then still
dian Semites and Sumerians of Mesopotamia unite under
minor town of Babylon circa 1894 BC, which would ultione rule, and the Akkadians fully attain ascendancy over
mately take over the others and form the short-lived rst
the Sumerians and indeed come to dominate much of the
Babylonian empire, also called the Old Babylonian Peancient Near East.
The empire eventually disintegrated due to economic deAn Amorite chieftain named Sumuabum appropriated
cline, climate change and civil war, followed by attacks by
a tract of land which included the then relatively small
the Gutians from the Zagros Mountains. The Sumerians
city of Babylon from the neighbouring Amorite ruled
rose up with the Neo-Sumerian Empire (Third Dynasty
Mesopotamian city state of Kazallu, of which it had iniof Ur) in the late 22nd century BC, and ejected the
tially been a territory, turning it into a state in its own
Gutians from southern Mesopotamia. They also seem to
right. His reign was concerned with establishing statehave gained ascendancy over most of the territory of the
hood amongst a sea of other minor city states and kingAkkadian kings of Assyria in northern Mesopotamia for
doms in the region. However Sumuabum appears never
a time.
to have bothered to give himself the title of King of BabyFollowing the collapse of the Sumerian Ur-III dynasty lon, suggesting that Babylon itself was still only a minor
at the hands of the Elamites in 2002 BC, the Amorites, a town or city, and not worthy of kingship.[5]
foreign Northwest Semitic people who spoke a Canaanite
He was followed by Sumu-la-El, Sabium, Apil-Sin, who
language, began to migrate into southern Mesopotamia
each ruled in the same vague manner as Sumuabum, with
from the northern Levant, gradually gained control over
no reference to kingship of Babylon being made in any
most of southern Mesopotamia, where they formed a sewritten records of the time. Sin-muballit was the rst of
ries of small kingdoms, while the native Assyrians rethese Amorite rulers to be regarded ocially as a king of
asserted their independence in the north. The SumeroBabylon, and then only on one single clay tablet. Under
Akkadian states of the south were unable to stem the
these kings, the nation in which Babylon lay remained a
Amorite advance.
small nation which controlled very little territory, and was
King Ilushuma (ca. 20081975 BC) of Assyria in a overshadowed by neighbouring kingdoms that were both
known inscription describes his exploits to the south as older, larger, and more powerful, such as; Isin, Larsa,
follows: The freedom[nb 1] of the Akkadians and their Assyria and Elam. The Elamites in particular, occupied
children I established. I puried their copper. I established huge swathes of southern Mesopotamia, and the early
their freedom from the border of the marshes and Ur and Amorite rulers were largely held in vassalage to Elam.
Nippur, Awal, and Kish, Der of the goddess Ishtar, as far
The Empire of Hammurabi
as the City of (Ashur). [4] Past scholars originally extrapolated from this text that it means he defeated the invading Babylon remained a minor territory for a century after
Amorites to the south, but there is no explicit record of it was founded, until the reign of its sixth Amorite ruler,
that. More recently, the text has been taken to mean that Hammurabi (1792- 1750 BC, or . c. 1728 1686 BC
Asshur supplied the south with copper from Anatolia and (short). He conducted major building work in Babylon,
expanding it from a minor town into a great city worthy
established freedom from tax duties.
of kingship. He was a very ecient ruler, establishing a
These policies were continued by his successors Erishum
bureaucracy, with taxation and centralized government.
I and Ikunum.
Hammurabi freed Babylon from Elamite dominance,
However, when Sargon I (19201881 BC) succeeded as and indeed drove them from southern Mesopotamia enking in Assyria in 1920 BC he eventually withdrew As- tirely. He then gradually expanded Babylonian domisyria from the region, preferring to concentrate on con- nance over the whole of southern Mesopotamia, conquertinuing to vigorously expand Assyrian colonies in Asia ing the cities and states of the region, such as; Isin, Larsa,
Minor, and eventually southern Mesopotamia fell to the Eshnunna, Kish, Lagash, Nippur, Borsippa, Ur, Uruk,
Amorites. During the rst centuries of what is called Umma, Adab and Eridu. The conquests of Hammurabi
the Amorite period, the most powerful city states in gave the region stability after turbulent times and coathe south were Isin, Eshnunna and Larsa, together with lesced the patchwork of states of southern and central
Assyria in the north.
Mesopotamia into one single nation, and it is only from
the time of Hammurabi that southern Mesopotamia came
to be known historically as Babylonia.


First Babylonian Dynasty Amorite Dynasty 18941595 BC

The armies of Babylonia under Hammurabi were welldisciplined. He turned eastwards and invaded what was
a thousand years later to become Persia (Iran), conquering the pre Iranic Elamites, Gutians and Kassites. To the
west, the Semitic states of the Levant (modern Syria) including the powerful kingdom of Mari were conquered.

Babylonian Decline

One of the most important works of this "First Dynasty of

Babylon", as it was called by the native historians, was the
compilation of a code of laws which were both inuenced
by and improved upon the much earlier written laws of
Sumer, Akkad and Assyria. This was made by order of
Hammurabi after the expulsion of the Elamites and the
settlement of his kingdom. In 1901, a copy of the Code
of Hammurabi was discovered on a stele by J. De Morgan
and V. Scheil at Susa, where it had later been taken as
plunder. That copy is now in the Louvre.

cessor Bel-bani.

However, southern Mesopotamia had no natural, defensible boundaries, making it vulnerable to attack. After
the death of Hammurabi, his empire began to disintegrate rapidly. Under his successor Samsu-iluna (1749
1712 BC) the far south of Mesopotamia was lost to a
Hammurabi then entered into a protracted war with the native Akkadian king called Ilum-ma-ili and became the
Old Assyrian Empire for control of Mesopotamia and the Sealand Dynasty, remaining free of Babylon for the next
Near East. Assyria had extended control over parts of 272 years.[7]
Asia Minor from the 21st century BC, and from the lat- Both the Babylonians and their Amorite rulers were
ter part of the 19th century BC had asserted itself over driven from Assyria to the north by an Assyriannorth east Syria and central Mesopotamia also. After a Akkadian governor named Puzur-Sin c. 1740 BC, who
protracted unresolved struggle over decades with the As- regarded Mut-Ashkur as a foreign Amorite and a former
syrian king Ishme-Dagan, Hammurabi forced his succes- lackey of Babylon. After six years of civil war in Assor Mut-Ashkur to pay tribute to Babylon c. 1751 BC, syria, a native king named Adasi seized power c. 1735
thus giving Babylonia control over Assyrias centuries old BC, and went on to appropriate former Babylonian and
Hattian and Hurrian colonies in Asia Minor.[6]
Amorite territory in central Mesopotamia, as did his suc-

From before 3000 BC until the reign of Hammurabi,

the major cultural and religious center of southern
Mesopotamia had been the ancient city of Nippur, where
the god Enlil was supreme. However, with the rise of
Hammurabi, this honour was transferred to Babylon, and
the south Mesopotamian god Marduk rose to supremacy
in the pantheon of southern Mesopotamia (with the god
Ashur remaining the dominant deity in the northern
Mesopotamian state of Assyria). The city of Babylon became known as a holy city where any legitimate ruler
of southern Mesopotamia had to be crowned. Hammurabi
turned what had previously been a minor administrative
town into a major city, increasing its size and population
dramatically, and conducting a number of impressive architectural works.
The Babylonians, like their predecessor SumeroAkkadian states, engaged in regular trade with the
Amorite and Canaanite city-states to the west; with
Babylonian ocials or troops sometimes passing to the
Levant and Canaan, with Amorite merchants operating freely throughout Mesopotamia. The Babylonian
monarchys western connections remained strong for
quite some time. An Amorite chieftain named Abi-ramu
or Abram (possibly the Biblical Abraham) was the
father of a witness to a deed dated to the reign of Hammurabis grandfather; Ammi-Ditana, great-grandson of
Hammurabi, still titled himself king of the land of the
Amorites. Ammi-Ditanas father and son also bore
Canaanite names: Abi-Eshuh and Ammisaduqa.

Amorite rule survived in a much reduced Babylon,

Samshu-ilunas successor Abi-Eshuh made a vain attempt
to recapture the Sealand Dynasty for Babylon, but met defeat at the hands of king Damqi-ilishu II. By the end of
his reign Babylonia had shrunk to the small and relatively
weak nation it had been upon its foundation, although the
city itself was far larger than it had been prior to the rise
of Hammurabi..
He was followed by Ammi-Ditana and then
Ammisaduqa, both of whom were in too weak a
position to make any attempt to regain the many territories lost after the death of Hammurabi, contenting
themselves with peaceful building projects in Babylon
Samsu-Ditana was to be the last Amorite ruler of Babylon. Early in his reign he came under pressure from
the Kassites, a people originating in the mountains of
north west Iran. Babylon was then attacked by the IndoEuropean speaking and Asia Minor based Hittite Empire in 1595 BC. Shamshu-Ditana was overthrown following the sack of Babylon by the Hittite king Mursili
I. The Hittites did not remain for long, but the destruction wrought by them nally enabled the Kassites to gain

1.2.1 The sack of Babylon and ancient Near East

The date of the sack of Babylon by the Hittite king
Mursili I is considered crucial to the various calculations
of the early chronology of the ancient Near East, since
both a solar and a lunar eclipse are said to have occurred
in the month of Sivan that year, according to ancient
The fall of Babylon is taken as a xed point in the discussion of the chronology of the ancient Near East. Suggestions for its precise date vary by as much as 230 years,

corresponding to the uncertainty regarding the length of

the Dark Age of the ensuing Bronze Age collapse, resulting in the shift of the entire Bronze Age chronology
of Mesopotamia with regard to the chronology of Ancient
Egypt. Possible dates for the sack of Babylon are:
ultra-short chronology: 1499 BC
short chronology: 1531 BC
middle chronology: 1595 BC
long chronology: 1651 BC
ultra-long chronology: 1736 BC



This new foreign dominion oers a striking analogy to

the roughly contemporary rule of the Semitic Hyksos
in ancient Egypt. Most divine attributes ascribed to
the Semitic Amorite kings of Babylonia disappeared at
this time; the title of God was never given to a Kassite
sovereign. However, Babylon continued to be the capital of the kingdom and one of the 'holy' cities of western
Asia, where the priests of Mesopotamian Religion were
all-powerful, and the only place where the right to inheritance of the short lived old Babylonian empire could be
Babylonia experienced short periods of power, but in general proved to be relatively weak under the long rule of
the Kassites, and spent long periods under Assyrian and
Elamite domination and interference.


Kassite Dynasty 15951155 BC

It is not clear precisely when Kassite rule of Babylon began, but the Indo-European Hittites from Asia Minor did
Main article: Kassites
not remain in Babylonia for long after the sacking of the
The Kassite dynasty was founded by Gandash of Mari. city, and it is likely the Kassites moved in soon afterwards.
Agum II took the throne for the Kassites in 1595 BC,
and ruled a state that extended from Iran to the middle
Euphrates; The new king retained peaceful relations with
Assyria, but successfully went to war with the Hittite EmZubeidi
pire of Asia Minor, and twenty four years after the HitMari
tites took the sacred statue of Marduk, he recovered it and
declared the god equal to the Kassite deity Shuqamuna.







at the time of the


13th century BC



The extent of the Babylonian Empire during the Kassite dynasty

The Kassites, like the Amorite rulers who had preceded

them, were not originally native to Mesopotamia. Rather,
they had rst appeared in the Zagros Mountains of what
is today northwestern Iran.
The ethnic aliation of the Kassites is unclear, though
like the Sumerian and Akkadian Mesopotamian peoples
and the Amorites, the Kassites were Caucasoid in appearance. However their Kassite language was not Semitic,
and is thought to have been either a language isolate or
possibly related to the Hurro-Urartian family of Asia Minor,[9] although the evidence for its genetic aliation is
meager due to the scarcity of extant texts. However,
several Kassite leaders bore Indo-European names, and
they may have had an Indo-European elite similar to the
Mitanni elite that ruled over the Hurrians of central and
eastern Asia Minor.[10][11]

Burnaburiash I succeeded him and drew up a peace treaty

with the Assyrian king Puzur-Ashur III, and had a largely
uneventful reign, as did his successor Kashtiliash III.
Southern Mesopotamia (The Sealand Dynasty) remained
independent of Babylonia and in native Akkadian hands.
However Ulamburiash managed to attack it conquered
parts of the land from Ea-gamil, a king with a distinctly
Sumerian name, around 1450 BC, whereupon Ea-Gamil
ed to Elam. The Sealand Dynasty region remained independent however, and the Kassite king seems to have
been unable to nally conquer it. Ulamburiash began
making treaties with the Egyptians then ruling in the
southern Levant, and Assyria to the north. Karaindash
built a bas-relief temple in Uruk and Kurigalzu I (1415
1390 BC) built a new capital named after himself.
Both of these kings continued to struggle unsuccessfully
against The Sealand Dynasty.
Agum II also campaigned against the Sealand Dynasty,
nally wholly conquering the far south of Mesopotamia
for Babylon, destroying its capital Dur-Enlil in the process. From there Agum III extended further south still,
conquering the pre-Arab state of Dilmun (in modern
Karaindash strengthened diplomatic ties with the Assyrian king Ashur-bel-nisheshu and the Egyptian Pharaoh
Thutmosis III and protected Babylonian borders with

The Kassites renamed Babylon Kar-Duniash, and their Kadaman-arbe I succeeded Karaindash, and briey inrule lasted for 576 years, the longest dynasty in Babylo- vaded Elam before being eventually ejected by its king
nian history.


Early Iron Age Native Rule, Second Dynasty of Isin 11551026 BC

Tepti Ahar. He then had to contend with the Suteans,

a Semitic people from the western Levant who invaded
Babylonia and sacked Uruk. He describes having annihilated their extensive forces, then constructed fortresses
in a mountain region called ii, in the desert to the
west (modern Syria) as security outposts, and he dug
wells and settled people on fertile lands, to strengthen the
Kurigalzu III succeeded the throne, and soon came into
conict with Elam, to the east. When ur-batila, the
successor of Tepti Ahar took the throne of Elam, he began raiding the Babylonia, taunting Kurigalzu to do battle
with him at Dr-ulgi. Kurigalzu launched a campaign
which resulted in the abject defeat and capture of urbatila, who appears in no other inscriptions. He went on
to conquer the eastern lands of Susiana and Elam. This
took his army to the Elamite capital, the city of Susa,
which was sacked. After this a puppet ruler was placed
on the Elamite throne. Kurigalzu III maintained friendly
relations with Assyria, Egypt and the Hittites throughout
his reign. Kadashman-Enlil I (1374-1360 BC) succeeded
him, and continued his diplomatic policies.
Burnaburiash II ascended to the throne in 1359 BC, he
retained friendly relations with Egypt, but the resurgent
Middle Assyrian Empire to the north was now encroaching into northern Babylonia, and as a symbol of peace,
the Babylonian king took the daughter of the powerful
Assyrian king Ashur-uballit I in marriage. He also maintained friendly relations with Suppiluliuma I, ruler of the
Hittite Empire.
He was succeeded by Kara-hardash (who was half Assyrian, and the grandson of the Assyrian king) in 1333
BC, however a usurper named Nazi-Bugash deposed him,
enraging Ashur-uballit I, who invaded and sacked Babylon, slew Nazi-Bugash, annexed Babylonian territory for
the Middle Assyrian Empire, and installed Kurigalzu II
(13451324 BC) as his vassal ruler.

was placed on the throne to rule as viceroy to TukultiNinurta I, and Kadashman-Harbe II and Adad-shumaiddina succeeded as Assyrian governor/kings, subject to
Tukulti-Ninurta I until 1216 BC.
Babylon did not begin to recover until late in the reign
of Adad-shuma-usur (12161189 BC), as he remained a
vassal of Assyria until 1193 BC. However, he was able
to prevent the Assyrian king Enlil-kudurri-usur from retaking Babylonia, which, apart from its northern reaches,
had mostly shrugged o Assyrian domination during a
period of civil war in Assyria, in the years after the death
of Tukulti-Ninurta.
Meli-Shipak II (11881172 BC) seems to have had a
peaceful reign. Despite not being able to regain northern Babylonia from Assyria, no further territory was lost,
Elam did not threaten, and the Bronze Age Collapse now
aecting the Levant, Canaan, Egypt, The Caucasus, Asia
Minor, Mediterranean and Balkans seemed to have little
impact on Babylonia (or indeed Assyria).
War resumed under subsequent kings such as Mardukapla-iddina I (11711159 BC) and Zababa-shuma-iddin
(1158 BC). The Assyrian king Ashur-Dan I conquered
further parts of northern Babylonia from both kings,
and the Elamite ruler Shutruk-Nahhunte eventually conquered most of eastern Babylonia. Enlil-nadin-ahhe
(11571155 BC) was nally overthrown and the Kassite
Dynasty ended after Ashur-Dan I conquered yet more
of northern and central Babylonia, and the Elamite king
Shutruk-Nahhunte pushed deep into the heart of Babylonia itself, sacking the city and slaying the king. Poetical
works have been found lamenting this disaster.

Despite the loss of territory, military weakness, and evident reduction in literacy and culture, the Kassite dynasty was the longest-lived dynasty of Babylon, lasting
until 1157 BC, when Babylon was conquered by ShutrukNahhunte of Elam, and reconquered a few years later by
the native Akkadian-Babylonian Nebuchadrezzar I, part
Soon after Arik-den-ili succeeded the throne of Assyria of the larger Bronze Age collapse.
in 1327 BC, Kurigalzu III attacked Assyria in an attempt
to reassert Babylonian power. After some impressive initial successes he was ultimately defeated, and lost yet 1.4 Early Iron Age Native Rule, Second
more territory to Assyria. Between 1307 BC and 1232
Dynasty of Isin 11551026 BC
BC his successors, such as Nazi-Maruttash, KadashmanTurgu, Kadashman-Enlil II, Kudur-Enlil and ShagaraktiThe Elamites did not remain in control of Babylonia long,
Shuriash, allied with the empires of the Hittites and the
and Marduk-kabit-ahheshu (11551139 BC) established
Mitanni, (who were both also losing swathes of territory
the Second Dynasty of Isin. This was the very rst native
to the Assyrians). in a failed attempt to stop Assyrian
Akkadian speaking south Mesopotamian dynasty to rule
expansion, which continued unchecked.
Babylon, and was to remain in power for some 125 years.
Kashtiliash IV's (12421235 BC) reign ended catastroph- The new king successfully drove out the Elamites and preically as the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I routed his vented any possible Kassite revival. Later in his reign he
armies, sacked and burned Babylon and set himself up as went to war with Assyria, and had some initial success,
king, ironically becoming the rst native Mesopotamian briey capturing the city of Ekallatum before suering
to rule the state, its previous rulers having all been defeat at the hands of the Assyrian king Ashur-Dan I.
non Mesopotamian Amorites and Kassites.[7] Kashtiliash
Itti-Marduk-balatu succeeded his father in 1138 BC, and
himself was taken to Ashur as a prisoner of war.
successfully repelled Elamite attacks on Babylonia during
An Assyrian governor/king named Enlil-nadin-shumi his 8-year reign. He too made attempts to attack Assyria,

but also met with failure.
Ninurta-nadin-shumi took the throne in 1137 BC, and
also attempted an invasion of Assyria, his armies seem
to have skirted through eastern Syria and then made an
attempt to attack the Assyrian city of Arbela (modern
Erbil) from the west. However this bold move met with
defeat at the hands of Ashur-resh-ishi I who then forced
a treaty in his favour upon Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar I (11241103 BC) was the most famous
ruler of this dynasty. He fought and defeated the Elamites
and drove them from Babylonian territory, invading Elam
itself, sacking the Elamite capital Susa, and recovering
the sacred statue of Marduk that had been carried o
from Babylon. Shortly afterwards, the king of Elam was
assassinated and his kingdom disintegrated into civil war.
However, Nebuchadnezzar failed to extend Babylonian
territory further, being defeated a number of times by
Ashur-resh-ishi I, king of the Assyrians for control of
formerly Hittite controlled territories in Aramea (Syria).
The Hittite Empire had been largely annexed by Assyria,
and its heartland nally overrun by invading Phrygians. In
the later years of his reign, he devoted himself to peaceful
building projects and securing Babylonias borders.
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his two sons, rstly
Enlil-nadin-apli (11031100), who lost territory to Assyria. The second of them, Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1098
1081 BC) also went to war with Assyria. Some initial success in these conicts gave way to catastrophic defeat at
the hands of Tiglath-pileser I who annexed huge swathes
of Babylonian territory, thus further expanding the Assyrian Empire. Following this a terrible famine gripped
Babylon, inviting attacks from Semitic Aramean tribes
from the west.
In 1072 BC Marduk-shapik-zeri signed a peace treaty
with Ashur-bel-kala of Assyria, however his successor
Kadaman-Buria was not so friendly to Assyria, prompting the Assyrian king to invade Babylonia and depose
him, placing Adad-apla-iddina on the throne as his vassal.
Assyrian domination continued until c. 1050 BC, with
Marduk-ahhe-eriba and Marduk-zer-X regarded as vassals of Assyria. After 1050 BC Assyria descended into
a period of civil war, followed by constant warfare with
the Arameans and Phrygians, allowing Babylonia to once
more largely free itself from the Assyrian yoke for a few


1.5 Period of Chaos 1026911 BC

The native dynasty, then ruled by Nabu-shum-libur was
deposed by marauding Arameans in 1026 BC, and the
heart of Babylonia, including the capital city itself descended into anarchic state, and no king was to rule Babylon for over 20 years.
However, in southern Mesopotamia (a region corresponding with the old Dynasty of the Sealand), Dynasty V
(10251004 BC) arose, this was ruled by Simbar-shipak,
leader of a Kassite clan, and was in eect a separate state
from Babylon. The state of anarchy allowed the Assyrian
ruler Ashur-nirari IV the opportunity to attack Babylonia
in 1018 BC, and he invaded and captured the Babylonian
city of Atlila and some northern regions for Assyria.
This dynasty was replaced by another Kassite Dynasty
(Dynasty VI; 1003984 BC) which also seems to have regained control over Babylon. The Elamites deposed this
brief Kassite revival, with king Mar-biti-apla-usur founding Dynasty VII (984977 BC). However, this dynasty
too fell, when the Arameans once more ravaged Babylon.
Native rule was restored by Nabu-mukin-apli in 977
BC, ushering in Dynasty VIII. Dynasty IX begins with
Ninurta-kudurri-usur II, who ruled from 941 BC. Babylonia remained weak during this period, with whole areas
of Babylonia now under rm Aramean and Sutean control, and by 850 BC the migrant Chaldeans had established their own land in the extreme south east. Babylonian rulers were often forced to bow to pressure from
Assyria and Elam, both of which had appropriated Babylonian territory.

1.6 Assyrian Rule 911619 BC

From 911 BC with the founding of the Neo-Assyrian
Empire by Adad-nirari II, Babylon found itself under the
domination and rule of its fellow Mesopotamian state for
the next three centuries. Adad-nirari II twice attacked
and defeated Shamash-mudammiq of Babylonia, annexing a large area of land north of the Diyala River and the
towns of Ht and Zanqu in mid Mesopotamia. He made
further gains over Babylonia under Nabu-shuma-ukin I
later in his reign. Tukulti-Ninurta II and Ashurnasirpal II
also forced Babylonia into vassalage, and Shalmaneser III
sacked Babylon itself, slew king Nabu-apla-iddina, subjugated the Aramean, Sutean and Chaldean tribes settled within Babylonia, and installed Marduk-zakir-shumi
I (855819 BC) followed by Marduk-balassu-iqbi (819
813 BC) as his vassals. It was during the late 850s BC,
in the annals of Shalmaneser III, that the Chaldeans and
Arabs are rst mentioned in the pages of written recorded

However East Semitic Babylonia soon began to suer

repeated incursions from West Semitic nomadic peoples migrating from The Levant, and during the 11th
century BC large swathes of Babylonia were appropriated and occupied by these newly arrived Arameans and
Suteans, followed in the late 10th or early 9th century BC
by the Chaldeans . The Chaldeans (not to be confused
with modern Chaldean Catholics who are in fact ethnic
Upon the death of Shalmaneser II, Baba-aha-iddina
Assyrians) settled in the far south east of Babylonia, the
was reduced to vassalage by the Assyrian queen
Arameans much of the countryside in eastern and central
Shammuramat ( known as Semiramis to the Persians and
Babylonia and the Suteans in the western deserts.
Greeks), acting as regent to his successor Adad-nirari III


Assyrian Rule 911619 BC

who was merely a boy. Adad-nirari III eventually killed

him and ruled there directly until 800 BC until Ninurtaapla-X was crowned. However he too was subjugated by
Adad-Nirari II. The next Assyrian king, Shamshi-Adad
V then made a vassal of Marduk-bel-zeri.
Babylonia briey fell to another foreign ruler when
Marduk-apla-usur ascended the throne in 780 BC, taking advantage of a period of civil war in Assyria. He was
a member of the Chaldean tribe who had a century or
so earlier settled in a small region in the far south eastern corner of Mesopotamia, bordering the Persian Gulf
and south western Iran. Shamshi-Adad V attacked him
and retook northern Babylonia, forcing a border treaty in
Assyrias favour upon him. However he was allowed to
remain on the throne, and successfully stabilised Babylonia. Eriba-Marduk, another Chaldean, succeeded him
in 769 BC and his son, Nabu-shuma-ishkun in 761 BC.
Babylonia appears to have been in a state of chaos during
this time, with the north occupied by Assyria, its throne
occupied by foreign Chaldeans, and civil unrest prominent throughout the land.
A native Babylonian king named Nabonassar overthrew
the Chaldean usurpers in 748 BC, and successfully stabilised Babylonia, remaining untroubled by Ashur-nirari
V of Assyria. However with the accession of TiglathPileser III (745-727 BC) Babylonia came under renewed
attack. Babylon was invaded and sacked and Nabonassar reduced to vassalage. His successors Nabu-nadinzeri, Nabu-suma-ukin II and Nabu-mukin-zeri were also
in servitude to Tiglath-Pileser III, until in 729 BC the Assyrian king decided to rule Babylon directly as its king
instead of allowing Babylonian kings to remain as vassals
of Assyria as his predecessors had done for two hundred
It was during this period that an Akkadian inuenced
form of Eastern Aramaic was introduced by the Assyrians as the lingua franca of their vast empire, and
Mesopotamian Aramaic began to supplant Akkadian as
the spoken language of the general populace of both Assyria and Babylonia.
The Assyrian king Shalmaneser V was declared king of
Babylon in 727 BC, but died whilst besieging Samaria in
722 BC.
Revolt was then fomented against Assyrian domination
by Merodach-Baladan, a Chaldean malka (chieftain) of
the far south east of Mesopotamia, with strong Elamite
support. Merodach-Baladan managed to take the throne
of Babylon itself between 721- 710 BC whilst the Assyrian king Sargon II were otherwise occupied in defeating the Scythians and Cimmerians who had attacked
Assyrias Persian and Median vassal colonies in Ancient
Iran. Merodach-Baladan was eventually defeated and
ejected by Sargon II of Assyria, and ed to his protectors
in Elam. Sargon II was then declared king in Babylon.

on the throne. However Merodach-Baladan and the
Elamites continued to unsuccessfully agitate against Assyrian rule. Nergal-ushezib, an Elamite, murdered the
Assyrian prince and briey took the throne. This led to
the infuriated Assyrian king Sennacherib invading and
subjugating Elam and sacking Babylon, laying waste to
and largely destroying the city. Babylon was regarded as
a sacred city by all Mesopotamians, including Assyrians,
and this act eventually led Sennacherib to be murdered by
his own sons while praying to the god Nisroch in Nineveh.
A puppet king Marduk-zakir-shumi II was placed on the
throne by the new Assyrian king Esarhaddon. However, Merodach-Baladan returned from exile in Elam,
and briey deposed him, forcing Esarhaddon to attack
and defeat him, whereupon he once more ed to his masters in Elam, where he died in exile.
Esarhaddon (681669 BC) ruled Babylon personally, he
completely rebuilt the city, bringing rejuvenation and
peace to the region. Upon his death, and in an effort to maintain harmony within his vast empire (which
stretched from the Caucasus to Nubia and from Cyprus to
Persia), he installed his eldest son Shamash-shum-ukin as
a subject king in Babylon, and his youngest, Ashurbanipal
in the more senior position as king of Assyria and overlord of Shamash-shum-ukin.
Shamash-shum-ukin, after decades peacefully subject to
his brother Ashurbanipal, eventually became infused with
Babylonian nationalism despite being an Assyrian himself, declaring that the city of Babylon (and not the Assyrian city of Nineveh) should be the seat of the immense
empire. He raised a major revolt against his brother,
Ashurbanipal. He led a powerful coalition of peoples
also resentful of Assyrian subjugation and rule, including;
Elam, the Persians, Medes, the Babylonians, Chaldeans
and Suteans of southern Mesopotamia, the Arameans of
the Levant and southwest Mesopotamia, the Arabs of the
Arabian Peninsula and the Canaanites-Phoenicians. After a bitter struggle Babylon was sacked and its allies vanquished, Shamash-shum-ukim being killed in the process.
Elam was destroyed once and for all, and the Babylonians,
Persians, Chaldeans, Arabs, Medes, Elamites, Arameans,
Suteans and Canaanites were violently subjugated, with
Assyrian troops exacting savage revenge on the rebelling
peoples. An Assyrian governor named Kandalanu was
placed on the throne to rule on behalf of the Assyrian
king.[7] Upon Ashurbanipals death in 627 BC, his son
Ashur-etil-ilani became ruler of Babylon and Assyria.

However, Assyria soon descended into a series of brutal internal civil wars which were to cause its downfall.
Ashur-etil-ilani was deposed by one of his own generals,
named Sin-shumu-lishir in 623 BC, who also set himself up as king in Babylon. After only one year on the
throne amidst continual civil, Sin-shar-ishkun ousted him
as ruler of Assyria and Babylonia in 622 BC. However, he
too was beset by constant unremitting civil war in the AsSennacherib succeeded Sargon II, and after ruling di- syrian heartland. Babylonia took advantage of this and rerectly for a while, he placed his son Ashur-nadin-shumi belled under Nabopolassar, a previously unknown malka


(chieftain) of the Chaldeans, who had settled in south self, Cyaxares launched a surprise attack on the Assyreastern Mesopotamia c. 950 BC.
ian heartlands, sacking the cities of Kalhu (the Biblical
It was during the reign of Sin-shar-ishkun that Assyrias Calah, Nimrud) and Arrapkha (modern Kirkuk).
vast empire began to unravel, and many of its former
subject peoples ceased to pay tribute, most signicantly
for the Assyrians; the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes,
Persians, Scythians, Arameans and Cimmerians.

From this point on the coalition of Babylonians,

Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians, Cimmerians and
Arameans fought in unison against a civil war ravaged Assyria. Major Assyrian cities such as Ashur,
Arbela (modern Irbil), Guzana, Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad), Imgur-Enlil, Nibarti-Ashur, Kar Ashur1.7 Neo-Babylonian Empire (Chaldean nasipal and Tushhan fell to the alliance during 614 BC.
Sin-shar-ishkun somehow managed to rally against the
odds during 613 BC, and drove back the combined forces
Main articles: Neo-Babylonian Empire and Chaldea
ranged against him.
In 620 BC Nabopolassar seized control over much of
However, the alliance launched a renewed combined attack the following year, and after ve years of erce ghting Nineveh was sacked in late 612 BC after a bitter
prolonged siege, followed by street by street ghting, in
which Sin-shar-ishkun was killed defending his capital.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire

Babylonia with the support of most of the inhabitants,

with only the city of Nippur and some northern regions
showing any loyalty to the Assyrian king.[7] Nabopolassar was unable to yet utterly secure Babylonia, and for
the next four years he was forced to contend with an occupying Assyrian army encamped in Babylonia trying to
unseat him. However, the Assyrian king, Sin-shar-ishkun
was plagued by constant revolts among his own people in
Nineveh, and was thus prevented from ejecting Nabopolassar.
The stalemate ended in 615 BC, when Nabopolassar entered the Babylonians and Chaldeans into alliance with
Cyaxares, an erstwhile vassal of Assyria, and king of
the Medes, Persians and Parthians. Cyaxares had also
taken advantage of the Assyrian destruction of the formerly regionally dominant Elam and the subsequent anarchy in Assyria to free the Iranic peoples from three centuries of the Assyrian yoke and regional Elamite domination. The Scythians from north of the Caucasus, and the
Cimmerians from the Black Sea who had both also been
subjugated by Assyria, joined the alliance, as did regional
Aramean tribes.

House to house ghting continued in Nineveh, and an Assyrian general and member of the royal household, took
the throne as Ashur-uballit II. He was oered the chance
of accepting a position of vassalage by the leaders of the
alliance according to the Babylonian Chronicle. However
he refused and managed to somehow successfully ght his
way out of Nineveh and to the northern Assyrian city of
Harran in Upper Mesopotamia where he founded a new
capital. The ghting continued, as the Assyrian king held
out against the alliance until 608 BC, when he was eventually ejected by the Medes, Babylonians, Scythians and
their allies, and prevented in an attempt to regain the city
the same year.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II, whose dynasty had been
installed as vassals of Assyria in 671 BC, belatedly tried to
aid Egypts former Assyrian masters, possibly out of fear
that Egypt would be next to succumb to the new powers
without Assyria to protect them. The Assyrians fought
on with Egyptian aid until a nal victory was achieved
against them at Carchemish in north western Assyria in
605 BC.
The seat of empire was thus transferred to Babylonia for
the rst time since Hammurabi over a thousand years before.
Nabopolassar was followed by his son Nebuchadnezzar
II (605562 BC), whose reign of 43 years made Babylon
once more the mistress of much of the civilized world,
taking over a fair portion of the former Assyrian Empire
once ruled by its Assyrian brethren, the eastern and north
eastern portion being taken by the Medes and the far north
by the Scythians.
The Scythians and Cimmerians, erstwhile allies of Babylonia under Nabopolassar, now became a threat, and Nebuchadnezzar II was forced to march into Asia Minor and
rout their forces, ending the northern threat to his Empire.

In 615 BC, while the Assyrian king was fully occu- The Egyptians attempted to remain in the Near East, pospied ghting rebels in both Babylonia and Assyria it- sibly in an eort to aid in restoring Assyria as a secure


Neo-Babylonian Empire (Chaldean Era)

buer against Babylonia and the Medes and Persians, or

to carve out an empire of their own. Nebuchadnezzar II
campaigned against the Egyptians and drove them back
over the Sinai. However an attempt to take Egypt itself as his Assyrian predecessors had succeeded, failed,
mainly due to a series of rebellions among the Judeans,
Phoenicians of Caanan and the Levant. The Babylonian
king crushed these rebellions, deposed Jehoiakim, the
king of Judah and deported a sizeable part of the population to Babylonia. Cities like Tyre, Sidon and Damascus
were also subjugated. The Arabs who dwelt in the deserts
to the south of the borders of Mesopotamia were then also

account of his antiquarian tastes. He seemed to have left

the defense of his kingdom to Belshazzar (a capable soldier but poor diplomat who alienated the political elite),
occupying himself with the more congenial work of excavating the foundation records of the temples and determining the dates of their builders. He also spent time outside Babylonia, rebuilding temples in the Assyrian city of
Harran, and also among his Arab subjects in the deserts to
the south of Mesopotamia. Nabonidus and Belshazzars
Assyrian heritage is also likely to have added to this resentment. In addition, Mesopotamian military might had
usually been concentrated in the martial state of Assyria.
Babylonia had always been more vulnerable to conquest
In 567 BC he went to war with Pharaoh Amasis, and and invasion than its northern neighbour, and without the
might of Assyria to keep foreign powers in check, Babybriey invaded Egypt itself. After securing his empire,
which included marrying a Median princess, he devoted lonia was ultimately exposed.
himself to maintaining the empire and conducting numer- It was in the sixth year of Nabonidus (549 BC) that Cyrus
ous impressive building projects in Babylon. He is cred- the Great, the Achaemenid Persian king of Anshan" in
ited with building the fabled Hanging Gardens of Baby- Elam, revolted against his suzerain Astyages, king of
the Manda or Medes, at Ecbatana. Astyages army beAmel-Marduk succeeded to the throne and reigned for trayed him to his enemy, and Cyrus established himself
only two years. Little contemporary record of his rule at Ecbatana, thus putting an end to the empire of the
survives, though Berosus later stated that he was deposed Medes and making the Persian faction dominant among
and murdered in 560 BC by his successor Neriglissar for the Iranic peoples. Three years later Cyrus had become
king of all Persia, and was engaged in a campaign to
conducting himself in an improper manner.
put down a revolt among the Assyrians. Meanwhile,
Neriglissar (560556 BC) also had a short reign. He was Nabonidus had established a camp in the desert of his
the son in law of Nebuchadnezzar II, and it is unclear if colony of Arabia, near the southern frontier of his kinghe was a Chaldean or native Babylonian who married into dom, leaving his son Belshazzar (Belsharutsur) in comthe dynasty. He campaigned in Aram and Phoenicia, suc- mand of the army.
cessfully maintaining Babylonian rule in these regions.
Neriglissar died young however, and was succeeded by In 539 BC Cyrus invaded Babylonia. A battle was fought
his son Labashi-Marduk (556 BC), who was still a boy. at Opis in the month of June, where the Babylonians were
He was deposed and killed during the same year in a defeated; and immediately afterwards Sippar surrendered
to the invader. Nabonidus ed to Babylon, where he was
palace conspiracy.
pursued by Gobryas, and on the 16th day of Tammuz,
Of the reign of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus two days after the capture of Sippar, the soldiers of
(Nabu-na'id, 556539 BC) who is the son of the As- Cyrus entered Babylon without ghting. Nabonidus was
syrian priestess Adda-Guppi and who managed to kill dragged from his hiding place, where the services conthe last Chaldean king, Labashi-Marduk, and took the tinued without interruption. Cyrus did not arrive until
reign, there is a fair amount of information available. the 3rd of Marchesvan (October), Gobryas having acted
Nabonidus (hence his son, the regent Belshazzar) was, for him in his absence. Gobryas was now made governor
at least from the mothers side, neither Chaldean nor of the province of Babylon, and a few days afterwards
Babylonian, but ironically Assyrian, hailing from its - Belshazzar the son of Nabonidus died in battle. A pubnal capital of Harran (Kharranu). Information regard- lic mourning followed, lasting six days, and Cyrus son
ing Nabonidus is chiey derived from a chronological Cambyses accompanied the corpse to the tomb.
tablet containing the annals of Nabonidus, supplemented
by another inscription of Nabonidus where he recounts One of the rst acts of Cyrus accordingly was to allow the
Jewish exiles to return to their own homes, carrying with
his restoration of the temple of the Moon-god Sin at Harran; as well as by a proclamation of Cyrus issued shortly them their sacred temple vessels. The permission to do so
was embodied in a proclamation, whereby the conqueror
after his formal recognition as king of Babylonia.
endeavored to justify his claim to the Babylonian throne.
A number of factors arose which would ultimately lead to
the fall of Babylon. The population of Babylonia became Cyrus now claimed to be the legitimate successor of
restive and increasingly disaected under Nabonidus. He the ancient Babylonian kings and the avenger of Belexcited a strong feeling against himself by attempting Marduk, who was assumed to be wrathful at the impiety
to centralize the religion of Babylonia in the temple of of Nabonidus in removing the images of the local gods
Marduk at Babylon, and while he had thus alienated the from their ancestral shrines to his capital Babylon.
local priesthoods, the military party also despised him on The Chaldean tribe had lost control of Babylonia decades



before the end of the era that sometimes bears their name,
and they appear to have blended into the general populace
of Babylonia, and during the Persian Achaemenid Empire
Chaldeans disappeared as a distinct people, and the term
Chaldean ceased to refer to a race of men and instead to
a social class only, regardless of ethnicity.

tury AD) had become the dominant religion among the

native populace, who had never adopted the Zoroastrian
or Hellenic religions of their rulers. Apart from the
small 1st century BC to 3rd century AD independent
Assyrian states of Adiabene, Osroene and Assur in the
north, Mesopotamia remained under largely Persian control until the Arab Islamic conquest in the 7th century AD. After this Asuristan-Assyria was also dissolved
as a geopolitical entity, and the native Aramaic speak1.8 Persian Babylonia
ing and largely Christian populace of southern and cenFurther information: Achaemenid Assyria and Fall of tral Mesopotamia gradually underwent an (often forced)
process of Arabisation and Islamication, with only the
Assyrians of the north (known as Ashuriyun by the Arabs)
and Mandeans of the south retaining their religions and a
Babylonia was absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire in
distinct Mesopotamian identity, culture, history and lan539 BC.
guage, which they still do to this day.
A year before Cyrus death, in 529 BC, he elevated his
son Cambyses II in the government, making him king of
Babylon, while he reserved for himself the fuller title of
2 Babylonian culture
king of the (other) provinces of the empire. It was only
when Darius Hystaspis acquired the Persian throne and
ruled it as a representative of the Zoroastrian religion, that Bronze Age to Early Iron Age Mesopotamian culture is
the old tradition was broken and the claim of Babylon to sometimes summarized as Assyro-Babylonian, because
confer legitimacy on the rulers of western Asia ceased to of the close cultural interdependence of the two political centers. The term Babylonia, especially in writbe acknowledged.
ings from around AD 1900, was formerly used to include
Immediately after Darius seized Persia, Babylonia briey Southern Mesopotamias earliest history, and not only in
recovered its independence under a native ruler, Nidinta- reference to the later city-state of Babylon proper. This
Bel, who took the name of Nebuchadnezzar III, and geographic usage of the name Babylonia' has generally
reigned from October 522 BC to August 520 BC, when been replaced by the more accurate term Sumer in more
Darius took the city by storm, during this period Assyria recent writing.
to the north also rebelled. A few years later, probably 514
BC, Babylon again revolted under the Armenian King
Arakha; on this occasion, after its capture by the Persians, 2.1 Babylonian culture
the walls were partly destroyed. E-Saggila, the great temple of Bel, however, still continued to be kept in repair
and to be a center of Babylonian religious feelings.
Alexander the Great conquered Babylon in 333 BC for
the Greeks, and died there in 323 BC. Babylonia and Assyria then became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. It
has long been maintained that the foundation of Seleucia
diverted the population to the new capital of Babylonia,
and that the ruins of the old city became a quarry for the
builders of the new seat of government, but the recent
publication of the Babylonian Chronicles of the Hellenistic Period has shown that urban life was still very much
the same well into the Parthian age (150 BC to 226 AD). Old Babylonian Cylinder Seal, hematite, The king makes an anThe Parthian king Mithridates conquered the region into imal oering to Shamash. This seal was probably made in a
the Arsacid Empire in 150 BC, and the region became workshop at Sippar.[14]
something of a battleground between Greeks and Parthians.
There was a brief interlude of Roman conquest (Roman 2.1.1 Art and architecture
Assyria, Roman Mesopotamia; AD 116 to 118) under
Further information: Architecture of Mesopotamia and
Trajan, after which the Parthians reasserted control.
The satrapy of Babylonia was absorbed into Asuristan Art of Mesopotamia
(Assyria) in the Sassanid period, which began in 226 AD,
and by this time Eastern Rite Syriac Christianity (which In Babylonia, an abundance of clay, and lack of stone,
emerged in Assyria and Upper Mesopotamia the 1st cen- led to greater use of mudbrick; Babylonian temples


Babylonian culture

were massive structures of crude brick, supported by

buttresses, the rain being carried o by drains. One
such drain at Ur was made of lead. The use of brick
led to the early development of the pilaster and column, and of frescoes and enameled tiles. The walls were
brilliantly coloured, and sometimes plated with zinc or
gold, as well as with tiles. Painted terra-cotta cones for
torches were also embedded in the plaster. In Babylonia, in place of the bas-relief, there was greater use
of three-dimensional guresthe earliest examples being the Statues of Gudea, that are realistic if somewhat
clumsy. The paucity of stone in Babylonia made every
pebble precious, and led to a high perfection in the art of

science of symptoms, with its double character, diagnostic, explaining past and present,
and prognostic, suggesting likely future....
Carlo Ginzburg[18]
The oldest Babylonian texts on medicine date back to
the First Babylonian Dynasty in the rst half of the 2nd
millennium BC. The most extensive Babylonian medical
text, however, is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the
ummn, or chief scholar, Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa,[19]
during the reign of the Babylonian king Adad-apla-iddina
(1069-1046 BC).[20]

Along with contemporary ancient Egyptian medicine,

the Babylonians introduced the concepts of diagnosis,
prognosis, physical examination, and prescriptions. In
2.1.2 Astronomy
addition, the Diagnostic Handbook introduced the methods of therapy and aetiology and the use of empiricism,
Main article: Old Babylonian astronomy
logic and rationality in diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.
The text contains a list of medical symptoms and often
Tablets dating back to the Old Babylonian period doc- detailed empirical observations along with logical rules
ument the application of mathematics to the variation used in combining observed symptoms on the body of a
in the length of daylight over a solar year. Centuries patient with its diagnosis and prognosis.[21]
of Babylonian observations of celestial phenomena are
The symptoms and diseases of a patient were treated
recorded in the series of cuneiform tablets known as the
through therapeutic means such as bandages, creams and
'Enma Anu Enlil'. The oldest signicant astronomical
pills. If a patient could not be cured physically, the
text that we possess is Tablet 63 of 'Enma Anu Enlil',
Babylonian physicians often relied on exorcism to cleanse
the Venus tablet of Ammi-saduqa, which lists the rst
the patient from any curses. Esagil-kin-aplis Diagnostic
and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about
Handbook was based on a logical set of axioms and as21 years and is the earliest evidence that the phenomsumptions, including the modern view that through the
ena of a planet were recognized as periodic. The oldexamination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient,
est rectangular astrolabe dates back to Babylonia c. 1100
it is possible to determine the patients disease, its aetiolBC. The MUL.APIN, contains catalogues of stars and
ogy and future development, and the chances of the paconstellations as well as schemes for predicting heliacal
tients recovery.[19]
risings and the settings of the planets, lengths of daylight measured by a water-clock, gnomon, shadows, and Esagil-kin-apli discovered a variety of illnesses and disintercalations. The Babylonian GU text arranges stars in eases and described their symptoms in his Diagnostic
'strings that lie along declination circles and thus mea- Handbook. These include the symptoms for many vasure right-ascensions or time-intervals, and also employs rieties of epilepsy and related ailments along with their
the stars of the zenith, which are also separated by given diagnosis and prognosis.[22] Later Babylonian medicine
resembles early Greek medicine in many ways. In particright-ascensional dierences.[15][16][17]
ular, the early treatises of the Hippocratic Corpus show
the inuence of late Babylonian medicine in terms of both
2.1.3 Medicine
content and form.[23]
Medical diagnosis and prognosis
We nd [medical semiotics] in a whole
constellation of disciplines.... There was a real
common ground among these [Babylonian]
forms of knowledge... an approach involving
analysis of particular cases, constructed only
through traces, symptoms, hints.... In short,
we can speak about a symptomatic or divinatory [or conjectural] paradigm which could
be oriented toward past present or future,
depending on the form of knowledge called
upon. Toward future... that was the medical

2.1.4 Literature
Main article: Assyro-Babylonian literature
There were libraries in most towns and temples; an old
Sumerian proverb averred that he who would excel in the
school of the scribes must rise with the dawn. Women as
well as men learned to read and write,[24] and in Semitic
times, this involved knowledge of the extinct Sumerian
language, and a complicated and extensive syllabary.
A considerable amount of Babylonian literature was
translated from Sumerian originals, and the language of



religion and law long continued to be written in the old agglutinative language of Sumer. Vocabularies, grammars,
and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of
students, as well as commentaries on the older texts and
explanations of obscure words and phrases. The characters of the syllabary were all arranged and named, and
elaborate lists of them were drawn up.

were of a thoroughly scientic character; how much earlier their advanced knowledge and methods were developed is uncertain. The Babylonian development of methods for predicting the motions of the planets is considered
to be a major episode in the history of astronomy.
The only Babylonian astronomer known to have supported a heliocentric model of planetary motion was
Seleucus of Seleucia (b. 190 BC).[28][29][30] Seleucus is
known from the writings of Plutarch. He supported the
heliocentric theory where the Earth rotated around its
own axis which in turn revolved around the Sun. According to Plutarch, Seleucus even proved the heliocentric system, but it is not known what arguments he used.

There are many Babylonian literary works whose titles

have come down to us. One of the most famous of these
was the Epic of Gilgamesh, in twelve books, translated
from the original Sumerian by a certain Sin-liqi-unninni,
and arranged upon an astronomical principle. Each division contains the story of a single adventure in the career
of Gilgamesh. The whole story is a composite product,
and it is probable that some of the stories are articially
2.2.2 Mathematics
attached to the central gure.

Main article: Assyro-Babylonian mathematics


Neo-Babylonian culture

Babylonian mathematical texts are plentiful and well

The brief resurgence of a Babylonian identity in the 7th edited.[26] In respect of time they fall in two distinct
to 6th centuries BC was accompanied by a number of groups: one from the First Babylonian Dynasty period
important cultural developments.
(18301531 BC), the other mainly Seleucid from the last
three or four centuries BC. In respect of content there is
scarcely any dierence between the two groups of texts.
2.2.1 Astronomy
Thus Babylonian mathematics remained stale in character and content, with very little progress or innovation, for
Main article: Babylonian astronomy
nearly two millennia.[26]
Among the sciences, astronomy and astrology still occupied a conspicuous place in Babylonian society. Astronomy was of old standing in Babylonia. The zodiac was a
Babylonian invention of great antiquity; and eclipses of
the sun and moon could be foretold. There are dozens
of cuneiform records of original Mesopotamian eclipse
Babylonian astronomy was the basis for much of what
was done in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy, in classical Indian astronomy, in Sassanian, Byzantine and
Syrian astronomy, in medieval Islamic astronomy, and in
Central Asian and Western European astronomy.[15] NeoBabylonian astronomy can thus be considered the direct
predecessor of much of ancient Greek mathematics and
astronomy, which in turn is the historical predecessor of
the European (Western) scientic revolution.[26]

The Babylonian system of mathematics was sexagesimal,

or a base 60 numeral system (see: Babylonian numerals).
From this we derive the modern day usage of 60 seconds
in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 (60 x 6)
degrees in a circle. The Babylonians were able to make
great advances in mathematics for two reasons. First, the
number 60 has many divisors (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20,
and 30), making calculations easier. Additionally, unlike
the Egyptians and Romans, the Babylonians had a true
place-value system, where digits written in the left column represented larger values (much as in our base-ten
system: 734 = 7100 + 310 + 41). Among the Babylonians mathematical accomplishments were the determination of the square root of two correctly to seven places
(YBC 7289 clay tablet). They also demonstrated knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem well before Pythagoras,
as evidenced by this tablet translated by Dennis Ramsey
and dating to c. 1900 BC:

During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers developed a new approach to astronomy. They
began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal na4 is the length and 5 is the diagonal. What
ture of the early universe and began employing an
is the breadth? Its size is not known. 4 times 4
internal logic within their predictive planetary systems.
is 16. And 5 times 5 is 25. You take 16 from
This was an important contribution to astronomy and
25 and there remains 9. What times what shall
the philosophy of science and some scholars have thus
I take in order to get 9? 3 times 3 is 9. 3 is the
referred to this new approach as the rst scientic
revolution.[27] This new approach to astronomy was
adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic The ner of 600 and the sar of 3600 were formed from the
unit of 60, corresponding with a degree of the equator.
In Seleucid and Parthian times, the astronomical reports Tablets of squares and cubes, calculated from 1 to 60,

have been found at Senkera, and a people acquainted with some other archetype. The legendary Hanging Gardens
the sun-dial, the clepsydra, the lever and the pulley, must of Babylon and the Tower of Babel are seen as symbols
have had no mean knowledge of mechanics. A crystal of luxurious and arrogant power respectively.
lens, turned on the lathe, was discovered by Austen Henry
Layard at Nimrud along with glass vases bearing the name
of Sargon; this could explain the excessive minuteness of 4 See also
some of the writing on the Assyrian tablets, and a lens
may also have been used in the observation of the heav Ancient Near East
The Babylonians might have been familiar with the general rules for measuring the areas. They measured the
circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and
the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference,
which would be correct if were estimated as 3. The
volume of a cylinder was taken as the product of the base
and the height, however, the volume of the frustum of
a cone or a square pyramid was incorrectly taken as the
product of the height and half the sum of the bases. Also,
there was a recent discovery in which a tablet used as 3
and 1/8. The Babylonians are also known for the Babylonian mile, which was a measure of distance equal to about
seven miles today. This measurement for distances eventually was converted to a time-mile used for measuring
the travel of the Sun, therefore, representing time. (Eves,
Chapter 2)

Babylonian law
Babylonian numerals
Babylonian calendar
Chaldean mythology
Chronology of Babylonia and Assyria
Cuneiform script
Geography of Mesopotamia
History of Sumer
Kings of Babylon
Social life in Babylonia and Assyria



Further information: Babylonian literature: Philosophy

The origins of Babylonian philosophy can be traced back
to early Mesopotamian wisdom literature, which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics, in the
forms of dialectic, dialogs, epic poetry, folklore, hymns,
lyrics, prose, and proverbs. Babylonian reasoning and
rationality developed beyond empirical observation.[31]
It is possible that Babylonian philosophy had an inuence on Greek philosophy, particularly Hellenistic philosophy. The Babylonian text Dialogue of Pessimism
contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the
sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts, and the
dialogs of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic
Socratic method of Socrates.[32] The Milesian philosopher Thales is also known to have studied philosophy in


Babylonia, and particularly its capital city Babylon, has

long held a place in Abrahamic religions as a symbol of
excess and dissolute power. Many references are made to
Babylon in the Bible, both literally and allegorically. The
mentions in the Tanakh tend to be historical or prophetic,
while New Testament references are more likely gurative, or cryptic references possibly to pagan Rome, or

Many of these articles were originally based

on information from the 1911 edition of
Encyclopdia Britannica.

5 Notes
[1] Freedom = Akk. addurru.

6 References
[1] http://www.aliraqi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=69813
Aliraqi - Babylonian Empire
[2] Deutscher, Guy (2007). Syntactic Change in Akkadian:
The Evolution of Sentential Complementation. Oxford
University Press US. pp. 2021. ISBN 978-0-19953222-3.
[3] Woods C. 2006 Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the
Death of Sumerian. In S.L. Sanders (ed) Margins of
Writing, Origins of Culture: 91-120 Chicago
[4] A. K. Grayson (1972). Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, Volume 1. Otto Harrassowitz. pp. 78.
[5] Robert William Rogers, A History of Babylonia and Assyria, Volume I, Eaton and Mains, 1900.
[6] Oppenheim Ancient Mesopotamia
[7] Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq


[8] Eder, Christian., Assyrische Distanzangaben und die

absolute Chronologie Vorderasiens, AoF 31, 191236,
[9] Schneider, Thomas (2003). Kassitisch und HurroUrartisch.
Ein Diskussionsbeitrag zu mglichen
lexikalischen Isoglossen. Altorientalische Forschungen
(in German) (30): 372381.
[10] India: Early Vedic period. Encyclopdia Britannica
Online. Encyclopdia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8
September 2012.
[11] Iranian art and architecture. Encyclopdia Britannica Online. Encyclopdia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 8
September 2012.
[12] H. W. F. Saggs (2000). Babylonians. British Museum
Press. p. 117.
[13] World Wide Sechool. History of Phoenicia Part IV.
Retrieved 2007-01-09.
[14] Al-Gailani Werr, L., 1988. Studies in the chronology and
regional style of Old Babylonian Cylinder Seals. Bibliotheca Mesopotamica, Volume 23.
[15] Pingree, David (1998), Legacies in Astronomy and Celestial Omens, in Dalley, Stephanie, The Legacy of
Mesopotamia, Oxford University Press, pp. 125137,
ISBN 0-19-814946-8
[16] Rochberg, Francesca (2004), The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture, Cambridge University Press
[17] Evans, James (1998). The History and Practice of Ancient
Astronomy. Oxford University Press. pp. 2967. ISBN
978-0-19-509539-5. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
[18] Ginzburg, Carlo (1984). Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock
Holmes: Clues and Scientic Method. In Eco, Umberto;
Sebeok, Thomas. The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes,
Peirce. Bloomington, IN: History Workshop, Indiana University Press. pp. 81118. ISBN 978-0-253-35235-4.
LCCN 82049207. OCLC 9412985. Ginzburg stresses
the signicance of Babylonian medicine in his discussion
of the conjectural paradigm as evidenced by the methods of Giovanni Morelli, Sigmund Freud and Sherlock
Holmes in the light of Charles Sanders Peirce's logic of
making good guesses or abductive reasoning
[19] H. F. J. Horstmansho, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg
(2004), Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and
Graeco-Roman Medicine, p. 99, Brill Publishers, ISBN


[23] M. J. Geller (2004). H. F. J. Horstmansho, Marten Stol,

Cornelis Tilburg, ed. West Meets East: Early Greek and
Babylonian Diagnosis. Magic and rationality in ancient
Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman medicine (Brill Publishers). pp. 11186. ISBN 90-04-13666-5.
[24] Tatlow, Elisabeth Meier Women, Crime, and Punishment
in Ancient Law and Society: The ancient Near East Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (31 March
2005) ISBN 978-0-8264-1628-5 p.75
[25] See Chronology of Babylonia and Assyria.
[26] Aaboe, Asger. The culture of Babylonia: Babylonian
mathematics, astrology, and astronomy. The Assyrian
and Babylonian Empires and other States of the Near East,
from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries B.C. Eds. John
Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond, E. Sollberger and C. B. F. Walker. Cambridge University Press,
[27] D. Brown (2000), Mesopotamian Planetary AstronomyAstrology , Styx Publications, ISBN 90-5693-036-2.
[28] Otto E. Neugebauer (1945). The History of Ancient Astronomy Problems and Methods, Journal of Near Eastern
Studies 4 (1), pp. 138.
[29] George Sarton (1955). Chaldaean Astronomy of the Last
Three Centuries B. C., Journal of the American Oriental
Society 75 (3), pp. 166173 [169].
[30] William P. D. Wightman (1951, 1953), The Growth of
Scientic Ideas, Yale University Press p.38.
[31] Giorgio Buccellati (1981), Wisdom and Not: The Case
of Mesopotamia, Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), pp. 3547.
[32] Giorgio Buccellati (1981), Wisdom and Not: The Case
of Mesopotamia, Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), pp. 3547 [43].

7 Further reading
Ascalone, Enrico (2007). Mesopotamia: Assyrians,
Sumerians, Babylonians. University of California
Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25266-0.
Bryant, Tamera (2005). The Life and Times of
Hammurabi. Mitchell Lane. ISBN 978-1-58415338-2.

[20] Marten Stol (1993), Epilepsy in Babylonia, p. 55, Brill

Publishers, ISBN 90-72371-63-1.

Eves, Howard (1990). An Introduction to the History

of Mathematics (6th ed.). Brooks Cole. ISBN 9780-03-029558-4.

[21] H. F. J. Horstmansho, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg

(2004), Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern
and Graeco-Roman Medicine, p. 97-98, Brill Publishers,
ISBN 90-04-13666-5.

Leonard William (2003). Babylonian Religion and

Mythology. Fredonia Books. ISBN 978-1-41020459-2.

[22] Marten Stol (1993), Epilepsy in Babylonia, p. 5, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-72371-63-1.

Leick, Gwendolyn (2003). The Babylonians: An Introduction. Routledge.

Leick, Gwendolyn (2003). Mesopotamia. Penguin.
ISBN 978-0-14-026574-3.
Lloyd, Seton (1978).
The Archaeology of
Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian
Conquest. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-50078007-7.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babylonia and Assyria". Encyclopdia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Mieroop, Marc Van de (2004). King Hammurabi

Of Babylon: A Biography. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Babylonian and Assyrian Religion". Encyclopdia Britannica (11th
ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea (2002). Daily Life in

Ancient Mesopotamia. Hendrickson. ISBN 978-156563-712-2.

"Babylonia". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York:

Robert Appleton Company. 1913.

Oates, Joan (1986). Babylon. Thames & Hudson.

ISBN 978-0-500-27384-5.
Oppenheim, A. Leo (1977). Ancient Mesopotamia
: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. University Of
Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-63187-5.
Pallis, Svend Aage (1956). The antiquity of Iraq: A
handbook of Assyriology. Ejnar Munksgaard.
Roux, Georges (1993). Ancient Iraq (3rd ed.). Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-012523-8.
Saggs, Henry W.F. (1995). Babylonians. University
of Oklahoma. ISBN 978-0-8061-2765-1.
Saggs, Henry W.F. (1988). The Greatness That Was
Babylon: A Survey of the Ancient Civilization of
the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. Sidgwick & Jackson.
ISBN 978-0-283-99623-8.
Schomp, Virginia (2005). Ancient Mesopotamia:
The Sumerians, Babylonians, And Assyrians.
Franklin Watts. ISBN 978-0-531-16741-0.
Spence, Lewis (1995). Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 9781-56459-500-3.
Le Journal des Mdecines Cuniformes (published
twice-yearly from 2003 onwards)

Theophilus G. Pinches, The Religion of Babylonia

and Assyria (Many deities names are now read differently, but this detailed 1906 work is a classic.)

External links
From under the Dust of Ages by William St. Chad
The Chaldean account of Genesis by George Smith
Babylonian Mathematics
Babylonian Numerals
Babylonian Astronomy/Astrology
Bibliography of Babylonian Astronomy/Astrology

The History Files Ancient Mesopotamia

Legends of Babylon and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition, by Leonard W. King, 1918 (a
searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
The Babylonian Legends of the Creation and the
Fight between Bel and the Dragon, as told by Assyrian Tablets from Nineveh, 1921 (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu
& layered PDF format)
The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria; its remains, language, history, religion, commerce, law,
art, and literature, by Morris Jastrow, Jr. ... with
map and 164 illustrations, 1915 (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu
& layered PDF format or Readable HTML)
Recordings of modern scholars reading Babylonian poetry in the original language (http://www.



Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses



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