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 Three

Ancient World At The Beginning Of The First Millennium.  1000 B.C.

     151. About the year 1000 B.C. a strange and well-nigh unaccountable

state of things confronts the student of the empires of the Mesopotamian

valley.  For a scene of vigorous activity is substituted a monotonous

vacancy.  Aggressive expansion yields to inertness.  In place of the regal

personalities whose words proclaim their achievements in sonorous detail,

appear mere names, scattered here and there over the wider spaces of the

years, that tell nothing of import or interest concerning the progress of

the states over which these phantom rulers held feeble sway.  The sources of

knowledge have slowly dried up or have been cut off by the accidents to

which historical memorials are always subject.  Here and there a brick

inscribed with a king's name, or an occasional reference in later

inscriptions to some otherwise unknown rulers of the time, is all that

remains of Assyrian material.  The Babylonian kings' lists and chronicles

are confused or discordant, and at a critical point, where they are

practically the only source, are quite broken away, leaving the whole

chronological structure hanging in the air.  Such facts carry their own

important lesson.  They speak of decay or downfall, and invite inquiry into

its causes.

 

     152. The information directly gleaned from these scanty memorials may

be briefly stated.  Three Assyrian rulers are known to belong somewhere

within the period.  Ashurkirbi (?) is said by Shalmaneser II., who ruled

Assyria two centuries later, to have left a memorial of himself at the

Mediterranean, presumably in token of a western expedition, and also to have

lost to the Arameans the two cities on opposite sides of the Euphrates,

captured and probably fortified by Tiglathpileser I. to guard Assyrian

ascendancy at that point (sect. 146).  On the so-called broken obelisk of

Ashurnacirpal III. are mentioned kings Irba Adad and Ashurnadinakhi II.,

who, probably in these days, built at the city of Assur.  In Babylonia the

dynasty of Pashe came to an end about 1007 B.C., and was followed by three

dynasties in rapid succession.  The fifth in the order of the kings' list

consisted of three kings who ruled between twenty-one and twenty-three

years, and was called the "Dynasty of the Sea." The sixth, the "Dynasty of

Bazi," also of three kings, endured for but twenty years.  An Elamite

followed, reigning for six years, constituting by himself alone the seventh

dynasty.  The names of the kings of the eighth dynasty are quite broken away

on the list, and apparently the sum of their regnal years also.  How long

they ruled, therefore, is quite uncertain, and, when the gap closes, the

kings that begin the new series belong to the eighth century.  Half a dozen

names, found in other documents, occupy the vacant space over against

Assyrian kings of the ninth century, from whom ampler information has come

down.

 

     153. While only a broken and baffling story of the course of these

kingdoms can be drawn from such sources, it does not follow that the years

gathering about the beginning of the first millennium B.C. were not of real

significance to the history of Babylonia and Assyria.  The kingdoms

themselves pass for the time into eclipse, and the centre of interest is

shifted from their capitals to the lands that hitherto have been the scene

of their aggression.  In those lands, however, are to be found the causes of

the decline, and there a veritably new political world was forming in those

years, - a world in which the leaders of the Assyrian renaissance were later

to carry their arms to wider and more splendid victories.

 

     154. It may be correct to ascribe the decline of Assyria, at least in

part, to internal exhaustion, due to the tremendous strain of the numerous

and costly campaigns of Tiglathpileser I.  Vigorous citizens had been

drafted for the armies, many of whom perished on distant battlefields.  The

economic resources of the land absorbed in military campaigns were by no

means compensated for by the inflowing of treasure from the conquered lands,

most of which went into the royal coffers.  These losses could not but

disable the national strength.  Yet the great king seems to have sought to

guard against this danger by the statesmanlike measures already described

(sect. 148), and during the reigns of his two sons some opportunity for

recuperation was afforded.  The prime fact was that, coincident with this

period of internal decline, a series of mighty movements of peoples took

place in the world without, which swept away Assyria's authority over her

provincial districts, encroached upon her territory, threw Babylonia into

civil war, paralyzed all foreign trade, and afforded opportunity for the

consolidation of rival powers on the borders of both nations.  The most

important of these movements was a fresh wave of Aramean migration, which

welled up in resistless volume from the Arabian peninsula.  At various

periods during preceding centuries, these nomads had crossed the Euphrates,

and roamed through the middle Mesopotamian plain as far as the Tigris.  At

times they were a menace to the commerce of the rivers, but usually were

held in check by the armies of the great states, driven back by systematic

campaigns, or absorbed into the settled population.  But in these years they

came in overwhelming multitudes.  Apparently by the mere force of numbers

they crowded back the Assyrians and Babylonians and occupied the entire

western half of the plain.  They poured over into Syria as well, until

stopped by the sea and the mountains.  At the first they may have moved to

and fro, fighting and plundering, and not without reason has it been held

(Tiele, BAG, pp. 167, 178) that they carried fire and sword into the heart

of Assyria itself.  In course of time they yielded to the influences of

civilization, and began to settle down in the rich country of upper

Mesopotamia around the Euphrates, where their states are found a century

after.  The causes of such a movement are difficult to determine.  In this

case something more than the ordinary impulse to migration seems to be

required.  May it not be found in the rise of the kingdoms of southern

Arabia which, whether Minean or Sabean, seem to have reached the acme of

their prosperity just before this period?  Their extension toward the north

and east may have driven the Bedouin upward and precipitated the onward

movement which forced the Arameans out into Mesopotamia and Syria.

 

     155. Such a cause would account also for the other irruption from the

same Arabian region, which in this period brought confusion to Babylonia.

It has already been remarked (sect. 69) that Babylonian trade with southern

Arabia centred about the border city of Ur near the mouth of the rivers.

Along this open and attractive highway came a new horde that fell upon the

coast-lands and river-bottoms, and appear henceforth in Babylonian history

as the Kaldi.  They pressed forward up the river, ever falling back, when

defeated, into their almost inaccessible fastnesses in the swamps of the

coast, and ever reappearing to contest the sovereignty of the land.  The

kings that followed the dynasty of Pashe were called Kings of the Sea Land;

the name suggests that they may have belonged to the Kaldi.  At any rate,

they felt the influence of the troubles occasioned by the Arameans to the

north, for an inscription of Nabu-abal-iddin of the ninth century, mentions

the plundering of Akkad by the Suti, and the failure of two of the kings of

the dynasty in an endeavor properly to restore the worship of the god

Shamash in Sippar (KB, III.1, p. 174).  The rapid succession of dynasties in

Babylonia from about 1000 to 950 B.C. is naturally explained in view of a

series of incursions such as this inscription mentions and other facts

suggest.

 

     156. In the northern regions, also, the scene of the victories of

Tiglathpileser, Assyrian ascendancy appears early to have been swept away.

The facts are much more obscure and indecisive, but the entrance of new

peoples on the scene seems fairly certain.  Somewhere about or just before

this time, the Phrygians entered Asia Minor from Europe, and, like a wedge,

forced apart the peoples of the east and west.  Vague traditions exist of a

Cilician kingdom, which rivalled that of the earlier Khatti, and united the

peoples to the north and east of the gulf of Issus as far as Armenia

(Maspero, SN, p. 668).  It may be that the assaults of the Assyrian king,

coupled with the Phrygian invasion, had resulted in welding these tribes

into a semblance of unity under some powerful chieftain, before whom the

authority of Assyria speedily disappeared, and the mountain passes were

closed to her trade.  Even more significant for the later history of Assyria

was the advance from the northeast to the shores of the "Upper Sea" (Lake

Van) of a new people, the Urarti, who were to exercise a predominating

influence in these regions.  Their advent was followed by great confusion.

The northern tribes were pressed down to the south and southwest, and

thereby the Assyrian ascendancy in the eastern and northern mountains was

broken.

 

     157. Behind these obstructions which effectually closed in around the

Mesopotamian kingdoms, the opportunity was given for the formation of new

nationalities, or the larger development of those already in existence.

Especially on the Mediterranean coast was the opportunity improved.  Here

the warlike people known as the Philistines had established themselves as

lords in the cities on the southeast coast, where the roads run up from

Egypt into Syria, and were pressing up into the hill country behind.  On

these plateaus the Hebrews had been feeling after that national organization

to which their worship of Jehovah led the way and gave the inspiration.  By

the impact of Philistine aggression the nation was brought into being, and

sprang into full vigor under the genial leadership of David and the wise

statesmanship of Solomon (about 1000-930 B.C.).  Higher up along the coast

the aggressive activity of the royal house of Tyre, and especially the reign

of Hirom I., so strengthened and enriched that city as henceforth to make it

the centre of the Phoenician communities, the commercial mart of the eastern

and western worlds.  In the interior of Syria, city-states, like Hamath and

Khalman, Patin and Samal, grew prosperous and warred with one another and

with the encroaching Arameans.  The latter, while settling down in states on

either side of the Euphrates, had pushed over into Syria as far as Zobah,

and laid the foundations of the kingdom of Damascus, the famous trading-post

and garden spot of eastern Syria.  As for Egypt, she was broken by internal

conflict; and though the Pharaohs of Tanis were fairly vigorous kings, and

from time to time even ventured into southern Palestine, to check and

dominate the Philistines (Muller, Asien and Europa, p. 389), these kings

were not masters of all Egypt, and could do little to support their claims

upon the Asiatic provinces possessed by the earlier dynasties.  Thus the new

states grew and older communities put on new life, under the impulse of the

fresh masses of population, now that there was freedom from the pressure of

the powers on the Tigris and the Nile.  The whole face of the oriental world

was changed and the centre of gravity seemed to have moved beyond the

western bank of the Euphrates.  By the middle of the tenth century the

movement was at its height, and Syria appeared to be about to take the place

of pre-eminence in the historical period that was to follow.

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