A history of ancient Babylon (Babylonia) including its cities, laws, kings and legacy to civilization

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Babylonia, A history of ancient Babylon (Babylonia) including its cities, laws, kings and legacy to civilization.

Part two

Civilization And Culture In The Kassite Period

 

123. The earliest and by no means the least impressive instance of the

power of civilization to dominate a rude people and mould them to its will

is furnished in the relations of Babylonia to the Kassites.  Tribes,

vigorous and wild, hitherto possessing but slight traces of organization and

culture, descended from the hills upon a region in which dwelt a nation of

high social and political development, possessing a long history of

achievements in culture, distinguished for the peaceful acquisitions of

wealth and the enjoyment of the refinements of civilization.  The outcome,

it might seem, was likely to be the overthrow of the political structure,

and the disappearance of the high attainment in science and the arts of

life, reached by slow stages through two thousand years, to be followed by

a painful rebuilding of the political and social edifice on new foundations.

In reality the very opposite of this took place.  The splendid work of

Babylonian civilization stood intact; the conquerors entered into the

inheritance of its traditions and achievements, and within a century were

found laboring for its advancement and perfection.  The Kassites were

absorbed into the Babylonian life without a struggle.  They even lost all

attachment to the mountain homes whence they came and to the peoples from

which they sprang, and permitted them, at last, to pass into the possession

of Assyria.

 

     124. The Kassite regime was not, however, without its influence upon

Babylonian history and life.  The direct contributions of purely Kassite

elements were, indeed, few.  Some words enriched the language; the new

speech became a dialect which must be mastered by the scholars; some cults

of Kassite gods were established and remained.  A new racial ingredient was

poured into the already varied complex which made up the Babylonian people,

- an ingredient not without value in infusing fresh and vigorous elements

into the doubtless somewhat enfeebled stock.  For the incoming of the

invaders was sufficient evidence that the native population was no longer

able to defend itself against assaults, and the service of Agumkakrime, of

which he boasts in his inscription (sect. 106), is an example of what the

Kassites were to do for Babylonia.  That such a work was not only necessary

but appreciated by the nation is abundantly proved by the length of time

during which the Kassite kings sat upon the throne, in spite of the

difficulties which encompassed them.

 

     125. Not as Kassite but as Babylonian kings, therefore, did these

rulers contribute to the development of the land between the rivers.

Entering into the heritage of preceding dynasties, they ruled like them in

accordance with Babylonian precedent, and in many respects were worthy of

the succession.  In one thing they surpassed their predecessors; they gave

to Babylonia a common name.  Up to their time, the kings had been rulers of

cities whose authority extended over districts round about, a state of

things true even of the age of Khammurabi, when all the land was united

under the sway of the city-state of Babylon.  Yet these foreign conquerors

were able to succeed where that great king had failed.  They called

themselves kings of Karduniash.  This name was not that of a city, and while

it was at first attached to one of the southern districts (sect. 105), soon

came to be applied to the whole country, so that, when later kings of

Assyria would assert their lordship over their ancestral enemy in the south,

they proudly assumed the old Kassite designation "King of Karduniash." This

achievement was significant of the new unity attained under this dynasty.

Reference has already been made (sect. 100) to the religious policy which

guided the unifiers of Babylonia in the days of Khammurabi.  It centred in

the exaltation of the city-god Marduk of Babylon, and the systematic

abasement of the other religious shrines, particularly that of Nippur.  But

in this period that very temple of Bel at Nippur seems to have returned to

prominence and its god received high honor.  The American explorers on that

site note that one of the Kurigalzus rebuilt the ancient ziggurat, another

Kassite king "built the great structure containing the Court of Columns,"

and the memorials of this dynasty, in the shape of votive offerings and

temple archives, are the characteristic and dominating element among the

objects unearthed on the site (Peters, Nippur, II. p. 259 and passim).

Moreover, among the few Kassite inscriptions found elsewhere, are records of

temple-building at other points.  Kara-indash built at Uruk, Burnaburyash at

Larsam, and Kurigalzu at Larsam and Ur.  These facts have led to the

inference that the Kassites represented a reaction from the systematic

glorification of Marduk of Babylon as god of gods, in favor of the older

deities and the provincial shrines, and that this attitude illustrates their

general position in opposition to the policy of Khammurabi, whereby they

favored the people of the country at large as over against the capital city,

Babylon.  It is true that Agumkakrime's inscription is largely occupied with

his services to the temple of Marduk, and that the other kings seem to have

continued to dwell at Babylon, but these facts do not deter an eminent

scholar from summing up the contribution of the Kassite dynasty to the

development of Babylonia in these words: "By restoring the former glory of

Ekur, the ancient national sanctuary in Nippur, so deeply rooted in the

hearts of the Babylonian people, and by stepping forward as the champions of

the sacred rights of the 'father of the gods,' they were able to bring about

a reconciliation and a final melting together of the Kassite and Semitic

elements" (Hilprecht, OBT, I. i. p. 31).

 

     126. The civilization of Karduniash - to use the name characteristic of

this age - was, in the Kassite period, influenced as never before by

international relations.  The great nations had come into intimate

communication with one another, and their intercourse demanded a code of

customs for its proper regulation.  Hence came the beginnings of

international law.  The first treaty known to history belongs to this

period, - that of the Pharaoh Rameses II. with the king of the Hittites,

containing the famous so-called "extradition" clause.  Hints of a kind of

compact between Babylonian kings and the Pharaohs are given in the Tel-el-

Amarna letters.  We hear now for the first time of the "brotherhood of

nations." "First establish good brotherhood between us" are words contained

in a letter of Amenhotep III. to Kadashman Bel (Winckler, TAL, letter 1).

Ambassadors pass to and fro between the courts on the Euphrates and the

Nile.  They carry safe-conducts for passage through the Egyptian provinces

of Syria.  Their persons are sacred, and the king in whose provinces an

insult has been offered to them must punish the offender.  Between the royal

personages who figure in these letters, it has been thought that the

relations were something more than formal, and the message of a Mitannian

king to Amenhotep IV. on hearing of the death of his father, has a pathetic

ring: "Never did Nimmuriya, your father, break his promises - I have mourned

for him deeply, and when he died, I wished to die myself!  May he, whom I

loved, live with God" (Tiele-Western Asia, p. 12).

 

     127. The influence of Egypt upon the life of the Babylonians, resulting

from this enlarged intercourse, cannot be followed into detail with any

materials at present available.  Medical science may have been improved.

One might expect that religion would have been affected.  The dogma of the

divinity of the Pharaoh might be regarded as likely to emphasize and

encourage claims of the Babylonian kings for like honors not unknown in the

past (sect. 75); yet not only is no evidence presented for this, but it is

even maintained that the Kassite kings definitely set aside the remnants of

the Babylonian usage in the case, and regarded themselves as delegates and

representatives of the gods of whom they were the adopted sons (Sayce, BA,

p. 171).  In the sphere of trade and commerce the influence of Egypt was

unmistakable and far reaching.  No doubt, at the beginning of the advance of

Egypt into Asia and throughout her domination of Syria, Babylonian commerce

with the west suffered, and was at times entirely cut off.  But the traders

on the Euphrates directed their energies only the more toward opening and

developing new markets in the north and east.  According to testimony drawn

from the "finds" at Nippur, they brought gypsum from Mesopotamia, marble and

limestone from the Persian mountains, cedar and cypress from the Zagros,

lapis lazuli from Bactria, and cobalt for coloring material, "presumably"

from China (Peters, Nippur, II. p. 134).  It is not impossible that the

eastern affinities of the Kassite kings assisted the development of trade in

this direction.  On the other hand, when with some possible restrictions

commerce was revived with the Egyptian provinces of Syria under royal

agreements, the unification of these regions under one authority gave at

that time, as often later, a substantial stimulus to trade both in its

security and its extent.  This fact is proved by the striking discovery at

Nippur of votive offerings of magnesite, which must have been brought for

the Kassite kings from the island of Euboea (Nippur, ibid.).  Egypt itself

had, in its Nubian mines, the pre-eminent source of gold for the oriental

world world, and the letters of the eastern kings to their brethren the

Pharaohs are full of requests for gifts of more of the precious metal and of

better quality, for which they send in return lapis lazuli, enamel, horses

and chariots, slaves, costly furniture, and works of art.

 

     128. From the facts already stated it is clear that Karduniash

flourished under its Kassite rulers.  Industry was active.  Manufacturing

was represented not only by the objects already enumerated as gifts to the

Pharaohs, but by a multitude of materials found at Nippur and mentioned in

the royal inscriptions.  Among the former were the ornamental axe-heads.

These analysis has disclosed to be made of glass colored with cobalt and

copper and resembling in character "the famous Venetian glass of the

fourteenth century A. D.," moulded probably by Phoenician artists employed

at the temple (Nippur, II. p. 134) Agumkakrime's description of his

rehabilitation of the deities Marduk and Zarpanit of Babylon gives a picture

of the superabounding wealth of the king, who clothes the images of the

deities with gold-embroidered robes, heavy with jewels, and houses them in

a cella of cedar and cypress woods made by cunning workmen, its doors banded

with bronze, and its walls lined with strange carved animal figures.

Unfortunately, no large sculptures of these kings have yet been discovered,

nor do the remains of the Nippur temple ascribed to them afford any judgment

as to the architecture of the time.  The so-called boundary stones of

Milishikhu and Mardukbaliddin I., carved with rude representations of

animals and of the heavenly bodies, symbols of uncertain significance, were

probably the work of provincial artists (Smith, AD, pp. 236 ff.).  It is

strange that these stones are the chief evidence for the legal element in

the life of the time.  The inscription on that of Mardukbaliddin I. conveys

a tract of land to one of his officials as a reward.  The boundaries of the

tract are carefully stated, the ancestry of the beneficiary is traced to the

fifth generation, witnesses are named, and curses are invoked upon all who

in the future may interfere with this award.  Excavations yet to be made on

temple sites like that of Nippur will probably reveal in sufficient

abundance the deeds, contracts, and other documents which were indispensable

in so active and enterprising a commercial and industrial community as was

Babylonia in those days.  A similar silence broods over the literature.

Beyond the few royal inscriptions and letters already sufficiently

described, no evidence exists to show either that the masterpieces of old

were studied or that new works were being produced.  This gap in our

knowledge will also sometime be filled.

 

     129. If the successful seizure of the Babylonian throne by the Kassites

had given a mighty impetus to the development of Assyria as an independent

kingdom (sect. 112), their continued possession of Babylonia affected deeply

the history of the northern people.  The Assyrians were not thereby

alienated from the civilization of the south, for this had already been

wrought too deeply into the structure of their body politic.  It is

maintained, indeed, that the Assyrian cuneiform script of the time tends to

resemble the north Mesopotamian forms rather than the Babylonian (Winckler,

GBA, p. 165); but in all that may be regarded as fundamental in a people's

culture Assyria remained in Babylonian leading-strings.  The surprising

thing is that, as time wore on, the hostility between the Kassite and

Assyrian rulers did not relax, nor did it yield even when all interests were

in favor of peace.  The facts seem to show that the primary part in this

aggressive activity was taken by Assyria.  In other words, it became the

settled policy of the northern state to strive for the possession of

Babylonia, even when the actual Kassite element had long been absorbed into

the Semitic Babylonian.  The mere lust of conquest will not explain this

persistence.  It must have its ground in the political or economic

conditions of the state.  The original Assyria (sect. 111) had neither a

natural frontier nor sufficient arable land to protect and sustain a nation.

Hence the people, if they were not constantly to stand on guard, must expand

until a natural barrier was met; they must also reach out to control the

only other source of wealth in the ancient world, commerce.  In the way of

the attainment of both these objects stood, primarily, Babylonia.  The

Babylonian war was, therefore, a vital condition of Assyria's progress.

Other motives may have entered in, - the feeling that the south was the

home-land, the seat of religion and culture, and therefore must be

recovered.  Nor is it unlikely that there was in Babylonia itself a longing

for union with Assyria, and consequently a pro-Assyrian party, always ready

to encourage interference from the north.  Yet the deeper motive is that

first mentioned.

 

     130. The fateful influence of this course into which Assyria was drawn

was to intensify a military bent already sufficiently encouraged by physical

surroundings.  The king became the warrior, the defender of his people from

wild beasts and from human enemies, the leader of an army.  "He breaks in

pieces the mass of his foes, he tramples down their countries," "he scatters

their armies" - are phrases of Adadnirari I. in his own inscription.  The

gods were those representing the fierce, wild elements of nature, as Adad

(Ramman), the god of the storm, the wind, and the rain, or Ishtar, the

goddess of Arbela, the fierce companion in arms of the warriors, or the

other Ishtar, of Nineveh, the mistress of the soldier returned from the

wars, the goddess of love and lust.  Above them stood Ashur, the divine king

of the military state, of whom the human king was the representative and

servant, - the god, who went out with the army to battle and received the

spoils.  The nation, thus affected and inspired, gathered close about its

divine head, and followed the king his vicegerent with unquestioning

obedience.  The city where he had his seat, whether Assur or Kalkhi or

Nineveh, became the headquarters of all activity.  All other cities, Arbela

excepted, were overshadowed and left to drag out a petty and insignificant

existence, their names hardly known.  Here the court with its aristocracy of

warriors, chiefs with their clansmen, formed the centre of national life.

The king usually gave his name to the first full year of his kingship; it

was the limu of the king by which all events were recorded; then followed,

given as official designation to year after year, the names of the warriors

of the court in due succession.  As king succeeded king, the limu lists were

preserved, formed a chronological framework for history (sect. 38), and

fostered the self-consciousness of the state as a living organism, having a

past wrought out by men of might, and moving on toward the future.  This

system had already been adopted by the time of Adadnirari I., whose stele

was set up in the year when Shalmanuasharid (Shalmaneser) was limu.  It was

Assyria's original contribution to historical progress, and passed over from

the east to reappear in Athens, where a similar official was called the

archon eponymos.

 

     131. In this military state all spheres of life felt the impulse to

realize practical results.  Religion was at the service of the kings.  They

were devoted to the gods, indeed, since they were proud constantly to build

temples.  Ashuruballit and his descendant Shalmaneser I. repaired and

enlarged a temple to Ishtar of Nineveh, and Adadnirari I., another to Ashur

at the capital.  They were equally proud of erecting palaces.  The

Adadnirari stele deals more fully with the warlike achievements of the king

and his ancestors than with his religious foundation.  The remains of

literature and art and the evidences of industry and manufacturing in this

age are too scanty to warrant any judgment, the few royal inscriptions, some

alabaster jars, and a bronze sword of Adadnirari I. (Maspero, SN, p. 607),

chariots and horses, lapis lazuli, slaves, and precious vases mentioned as

gifts sent to the Egyptian kings (Winckler, TAL, 15) being about all the

available material, - enough perhaps to indicate that Assyrian scribes and

merchants were following in the footsteps of their brethren on the

Euphrates.  Phoenician artists may have wrought in this period the ivory

carvings which were found on the site of Kalkhi, the capital of Shalmaneser

I. (BMG, p. 23).  While it is certain from documents of later periods that

the same legal forms were employed in business transactions as were in use

in Babylonia, no tablets of that character belonging to this time, with

possibly one exception, have been found.

 

     132. If the power of an ancient civilization to dominate a rude people

was impressively exhibited in the victory of Babylonian culture over the

Kassites (sect. 123), not less significant was the spectacle of the

renaissance of that culture as the Kassite domination began to wane.

Contemporaneous with the splitting off of Assyria and its incessant inroads

upon Karduniash was the advance of Egypt into Syria and its appearance upon

the Euphrates.  The reign of the Semite in Western Asia and the long era of

Babylonian leadership in civilization seemed about to come to an end.  But

so deeply rooted and so vigorous was this culture, even in Syria, that the

Egyptian conquerors were compelled to use the Babylonian speech in their

diplomatic correspondence with the princes and governors of the provinces

and to teach it to their officials in the Egyptian capital.  And when the

authority of the Pharaohs decayed and their armies disappeared from Syria,

the new kingdom on the Tigris came forward and girded itself for the task of

unifying under its own leadership the Semitic peoples of Western Asia, and

of making that same Babylonian culture prevail from the Persian gulf to the

Mediterranean.

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