The Old Babylonian Empire. The Fall of Babylon

Babylon, BAB uh luhn, was a great city of the ancient world. It was the capital of the kingdom of Babylonia and of two Babylonian empires. Babylon stood on the banks of the Euphrates River near the present-day city of Al Hillah, Iraq. This location helped Babylon become an important trading center. The city also served as the religious center of Babylonia, and the word Babylon means gate of the god.

The Old Babylonian Empire. Records first mention Babylon about 2200 B.C King Sumu-abum, the first important Babylonian ruler, founded a dynasty (rule by one family) in 1894 B.C The best-known king of that dynasty was Hammurabi, who ruled from 1792 to 1750 B.C and won fame for developing a wise and fair code of law. When Hammurabi came to the throne, Babylon was one of several small kingdoms in Mesopotamia This area, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, included what is now eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and most of Iraq. Hammurabi conquered all the other kingdoms and established the Old Babylonian Empire.

During Hammurabi's reign, Babylon had several magnificent palaces and temples. Private houses lined the city's narrow, twisting streets. Atypical house had a central courtyard surrounded by rooms. A large wall surrounded the city to defend it from invaders. The wall had several gates, and merchants held markets at the gates, trading slaves, food, textiles, building materials, and livestock. Babylonian traders traveled west to Syria and other countries, north to Assyria and south to kingdoms along the Persian Gulf. They often traded textiles and grain for gold, silver, and precious stones.

Babylon, an ancient city on the banks of the Euphrates River, was an important trade center from the 1800 s to the 500's B.C. This painting shows the city as it may have looked during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II from about 605-562 B.C. The city was surrounded by high, decorated walls and had many splendid palaces and temples. The Tower of Babel, left, was a terraced pyramid with a shrine on top. It stood in the temple area

Babylonian society during Hammurabi's reign had three classes. These classes were citizens, commoners, and slaves. Citizens worked mainly as farmers, merchants, or craft workers. Little is known about commoners, though they clearly lacked all the rights of citizens. Slaves formed the lowest class. But they could own property, conduct business, borrow money, and even buy their freedom. Free women could own property and had other legal rights. Fathers usually selected husbands for their daughters.

The Old Babylonian Empire lost most of its territory soon after Hammurabi's death. Babylon remained an important political and cultural power, but its rulers did not try to extend its power. The Assyrian Empire took control of Babylon during the 700's B.C. However, the city resisted Assyrian rule, and King Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed Babylon in 689 B.C. Sennacherib's son Esarhaddon rebuilt Babylon 11 years later.

The New Babylonian Empire began in 626 B.C., when the Babylonian military leader Nabopolassar became king of Babylon. Nabopolassar then won control of Babylonia from the Assyrians. Attacks by the Babylonians and their Median allies in 614 and 612 B.C. put an end to the Assyrian Empire. Under Nabopolassar, who reigned until 605 B.C., the New Babylonian Empire controlled much of what is now the Middle East.

Babylon achieved its greatest glory under the New Babylonian Empire. Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar II rebuilt the city on a grand scale. During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, from 605 to 562 B.C., workers built walls almost 85 feet (26 meters) thick around the outside of Babylon. Huge inner walls protected the city's main section. A wide moat surrounded the inner walls. People entered and left the city through eight bronze gates.

The grandest of these gates, the huge Ishtar Gate, stood on a paved avenue called the Processional Street. This .street connected the Temple of Marduk inside the walls and the site of a great religious festival outside the city. Babylonians carried statues of the gods along the street during the festival, held at the beginning of each new year. The Ishtar Gate and its walls were decorated with figures of dragons, lions, and bulls made of colored glazed brick.

Nebuchadnezzar's main palace and a fortress stood between the Ishtar Gate and the Euphrates River. This area probably included the city's famous Hanging Gardens. The ancient Greeks described these gardens, which grew on the roof of a high building, as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. A temple area lay to the south. The Temple of Marduk stood there. The area also included the ziggurat, a monument that was known in later times as the Tower of Babel (see Tower of Babel).

Over 250,000 people may have lived in Babylon and nearby communities. Various agricultural and manufacturing activities flourished in the city. Babylon was the largest business center in the Middle East at that time.

The fall of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's successors were unpopular, and the empire became weak. In 539 B.C., Persian invaders captured Babylon and overthrew the New Babylonian Empire. Babylonia became the wealthiest area in the Persian Empire. In 331 B.C., the Macedonian military leader Alexander the Great gained control of Babylon. He probably planned to make it the capital of his realm. Alexander died in Babylon in 323 B.C. Later, one of his generals, Seleucus, became king of Babylonia and lands around it. Seleucus founded Seleucia, a new capital, on the Tigris River. The people of Babylon later moved to Seleucia. Through the years, the deserted Babylon fell into ruins.

The ruins of Babylon. From A.D. 1899 to 1917, German archaeologists uncovered much of Babylon's ruined palace and temple areas, a residential area, and the city walls. Most of the remains dated from the New Babylonian Empire. Archaeologists have been unable to excavate {uncover) remains from the Old Babylonian Empire because the level of water in the ground has risen tremendously since ancient times. This higher water table has caused flooding in the deepest holes dug by archaeologists. The government of Iraq has begun to restore a number of structures, including the ziggurat, Nebuchadnezzar's main palace, a temple, the Processional Street, and the city's Creek Theater.

 






Date added: 2022-12-12; views: 518;


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