sumerian tokens

After the collapse of the Sumerian civilization, the people were reunited in 1700 BC by King Hammurabi of Babylon (1792-1750 BC), and the country flourished under the name of Babylonia. Babylonian rule encompassed a huge area covering most of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley from Sumer and the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf). He extended his empire northward through the Tigris and Euphrates River valleys and westward to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

After consolidating his gains under a central government at Babylon, he devoted his energies to protecting his frontiers and fostering the internal prosperity of the Empire. Hammurabi’s dynasty, otherwise referred to as the First Dynasty of Babylon, ruled for about 200 years, until 1530 BC. Under the reign of this dynasty, Babylonia entered into a period of extreme prosperity and relative peace. Throughout his long reign he personally supervised navigation, irrigation, agriculture, tax collection, and the erection of many temples and other buildings.

Although he was a successful military leader and administrator, Hammurabi is primarily remembered for his codification of the laws governing Babylonian life. Under Hammurabi the two cultures which compose Mesopotamian civilization [the Assyrians and the Babylonians] achieve complete and harmonious fusion.

Hammurabi was a king and a great lawgiver of the Old Babylonian (Amorite) Dynasty. His law code was produced in the second year of his reign. Many new legal concepts were introduced by the Babylonians, and many have been adopted by other civilizations. These concepts include: Legal protection should be provided to lower classes; the state is the authority responsible for enforcing the law; Social justice should be guaranteed; The punishment should fit the crime. Hammurabi Code, ("An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.") is still quoted today attests to its importance, is a collection of the laws and edicts of the Babylonian king Hammurabi, and is considered the earliest legal comprehensive code known in history.

A copy of the code is engraved on a block of black diorite nearly 2.4 m (8 ft) high. A team of French archaeologists at Susa, Iraq, formerly ancient Elam unearthed this block, during the winter of 1901-2. The block, broken in three pieces, has been restored and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

On Hammurabi’s death, however, a tribe known as the Cassites (Kassites) began to attack Babylonia as early as the period when Hammurabi’s son ruled the empire. Over the centuries, Babylonia was weakened by the Cassites. Finally, around 1530 BC (given in some sources as 1570 or 1595 BC), a Cassite Dynasty was set up in Babylonia.
The Mitanni, another culture, were meanwhile building their own powerful empire. They were having a “considerable, if temporary importance"-they were very powerful but were around for only about 150 years. Still, the Mitanni were one of the major empires of this area in this time period, and they came to almost completely control and subjugate the Assyrians (who were located directly to the east of Mitanni and to the northwest of Cassite Babylonia).

The Assyrians, after they finally broke free of the Mitanni (who were having political troubles of their own), were the next major power to assert themselves on Babylonia. After defeating and virtually annexing Mitanni, the Assyrians, reasserted themselves on Babylonia. They weakened Babylonia so much that the Cassite Dynasty fell from power; the Assyrians virtually came to control Babylonia, until revolts in turn deposed them and set up a new dynasty, known as the Second Dynasty of Isin. Nebuchadnezzar the First, of this Dynasty, added a good deal of land to Babylonia and eventually came to attack Assyria. the land was under Assyrian rule for about two centuries.

The Assyrian culture showed a dramatic growth in science and mathematics, among the great mathematical inventions of the Assyrians was the division of the circle into 360 degrees and were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation. They also developed a sophisticated medical science, which greatly influenced medical science as far away as Greece.

In the 6th century BC (586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea (Judah), destroyed Jerusalem; Solomon’s Temple was also destroyed; Nebuchadnezzar carried away an estimated 15,000 captives, and sent most of its population into exile in Babylonia. It was not until the reign of Naboplashar (625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that the Mesopotamian civilization reached its ultimate distinction.

His son, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is said that the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his wife or concubine, Amyitis, who had been “brought up in Media and had a passion for mountain surroundings”. He did this because his wife had lived in the mountains and she was homesick on the flat plains of Babylon. He planted a large amount of brightly colored tropical plants on the roof of the palace. The gardens were completed around 600 BC. The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 meters above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. It was Nebuchadnezzar II who restored Mesopotamia to its former Babylonian glory and made Babylon the most famous city of the ancient world.