Who were the Babylonians?
Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, now known as the Middle East. One civilization that established its domain in this area was the Babylonian civilization. Around 1750 B.C. The Babylonians defeated the Sumerians and set up their capital city, Babylon, on the Euphrates River. Under the rule of Hammurabi, the Babylonian Empire extended throughout all of Mesopotamia. Hammurabi established the 282 laws known as the Hammurabi Code, which the Babylonians followed. The Babylonians used drains, canals, and dikes to irrigate their farmlands. Due to the superfluous amount of clay in the area, Babylonian homes and temples were primarily mud-brick. Famous among their buildings were the ziggurats, which are long, pyramid-like buildings that were used for temples. The Babylonian people spoke Akkadian, but read and wrote in Sumerian. They had libraries in most towns, and both men and women learned to write. These writings covered topics such as math, astronomy, and medicine.
Early Mesopotamia: The Babylonians
Mesopotamia refers to the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now considered the Middle East. Lots of early civilizations developed in Mesopotamia. One of those was the Babylonians. The Babylonians became the dominant civilization in Mesopotamia after they conquered the Sumerians and established their capital city of Babylon on the Euphrates River around 1750 B.C. Babylon was the capital.
Babylonia was the nation-state, or the whole cultural region that all were following the Babylonian rule. Even though you see Babylonians, Babylon is the city, the capital city, but Babylonia was the nation-state. That was the whole area that included lots and lots of cities. Hammurabi, you may have heard of, was Babylonia’s most famous ruler. The Babylonian Empire controlled all of Mesopotamia under his rule.
He was able to help Babylonia and lead them to victory over lots of other cultures in that area to where Babylonia was controlling all of Mesopotamia. There were no other cultures or nation-states there. They were in control of that whole area between the Tigris and Euphrates River. The Babylonian Empire was very short-lived. It fell quickly after Hammurabi’s death. His predecessors- or the people who were going to come after him, were not is qualified to lead as he was.
They weren’t able to hold everyone together the way Hammurabi was able to, so quickly the cultures that had been conquered branched out and became their own cultures again. They didn’t want to stay under Babylonians rule. Once Hammurabi wasn’t there to keep a tight grasp on them, this whole Babylonian Empire fell apart. Hammurabi is also famous for something else. He created the Hammurabi Code, which is a detailed set of 282 laws that were written out for all of Babylonians to follow.
This is the first time that there was one set of laws to govern all of a culture in their laws, their religion, and their society. There were laws in this Hammurabi Code that reference to religion, slavery, military service, trade, codes of conduct, and duties of workers. One example you may have heard of was “an eye for an eye”. In the Hammurabi Code, it said, “If someone put someone’s eye out, then the person who put someone’s eye out was required to lose an eye himself.”
It was eye for eye. Some of the laws were that quid pro quo, tit for tat, but some of them were a little more complex and did cover a lot of different topics. The Babylonians farmed using advanced irrigation techniques. Everyone who came before the Babylonians had been working forward farming and staying in one place. The Babylonians had become even more advanced at farming and staying in one place. They had these advanced irrigation techniques. They use drains. They used canals. They used dikes.
They were able to better irrigate their fields and they were more successful and able to keep more people surviving and grow their culture. As a result of that, the Babylonians built their homes and massive temples out of mud brick. This was due to their abundance of clay. They may not have had a whole lot in their region, but they had lots of clay, so they could make these mud bricks. They did build huge temples. Lots of homes in these cities got very big, especially Babylon.
They also had pottery that was very pretty. They decorated with tiles. Some of them had zinc or gold plating them. Some of these homes and temples were very elaborate. They had libraries in most towns and temples. Men and women learned to write and to read. It wasn’t just a male-dominated society. Men and women learned to read and write, and libraries were found in almost every town and in the temples.
This is a very literate society. Sumerian was still used for laws and religion. You remember the Babylonians conquered the Sumerians. Sumerian was still the language used for laws and religion, but Acadian was the everyday language that people spoke. They wrote about mathematics and astronomy, including a record of the variation in the length of daylight over a solar year.
In winter, when the days are shorter, in summer, when the days are longer, this culture, the Babylonians, were the first to write about that and note that. They also noted other solar instances, as well as recording more about their mathematics. They were advanced in mathematics and astronomy as well. They wrote about the practice of medicine. They had diagnosis, prognosis, physical examinations, and prescriptions.
They would look at someone, examine them, pay attention to their symptoms, and try to diagnose them based on previous experience and previous examinations and notes that they taken. Then, they would say if they thought this person was likely to survive, how long they were going to survive, and what kind of prescriptions they could offer. They would use bandages, creams, pills, and if there was nothing else they could do, they would try exorcisms and try to exorcise a curse out of someone.
If they thought that there must be a curse in them, there was nothing that they could physically see that they would be able to help with their other prescriptions. The Babylonians became known for their ziggurats, which were long pyramid-like buildings that were used as religious temples. These were another one of these massive temples that they built.
These ziggurats were a specific kind that looked kind of like pyramids. Babylon was eventually seen as a place of excess. Remember, Babylon is their capital, but when you hear “Babylon”, you kind of think of the whole Babylonian culture, because the names are very similar. Babylon was eventually seen as a place of excess, luxury, and arrogant power, which is kind of a negative connotation. It is often used as a symbol for such things in literature, as well as today.
In literature, if people were referring to a city as a modern day Babylon, they were talking about a place that had excess, luxury, arrogant power. It was a negative place. It wasn’t something they were trying to give a positive connotation to. It was something they were giving a negative connotation to. These were the Babylonians, the dominant civilization after they conquered the Sumerians that lived in the early Mesopotamia.