The Formation of Ancient Babylon
Around 1900BC, the Amorites (a people from Syria) moved into Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. These people were skilled in all sorts of crafts such as metal working, perfumery and beekeeping. They herded sheep and goats, and farmed barley.
The Amorites made their capital at the city of Babylon by the Euphrates. During the late 1700s BC, their king Hammurabi conquered the whole of Mesopotamia, which then became known as Babylonia.
The land they had conquered contained people of many different cultures and laws, so King Hammurabi decided to unify the laws, which were inscribed on a stone stela, or tablet, of black basalt rock. They include laws about money, property, the family and the rights of slaves. The phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth from a tooth” comes from Hammurabi’s laws. According to the law, a wrongdoer had to be punished in a way that suited the crime.
Babylon became a sophisticated city and a great center for science, literature and learning. Babylonian scholars developed the numbering system based on groups of 60 – this is how we get our 60-minute hour and 360-degree circle.
Many of the neighboring rulers were jealous of Babylon’s power and the wealth Babylonians acquired from trade. The city was attacked many times. Hittites (from the area that is now Turkey) raided Babylon, and then Kassites, from mountains to the east, invaded and took over the city. The Kassites turned Babylon into and important religious center, and built a large temple to their supreme God, Marduk.
At around 900BC, Babylon was invaded again by the Chaldeans, horsemen from the Gulf coast. Their greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar II, rebuilt the city magnificently. He gave it massive mud brick walls, strong gates, and a seven-storey ziggurat (massive structures). The king also built a palace for himself and the Hanging Gardens, which was one of the Seven Wonders or the ancient world.
1900BC: Babylon becomes chief city of the Amorites.
1792-1750BC: Reign of King Hammurabi, law-giver and conqueror of Mesopotamia.
1595-1155BC: The Kassites rule the city of Babylon.
900BC: The Chaldeans take over Babylon and begin to rebuild it.
605-562BC: Reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. He builds the great Handing Gardens. Babylon is the most sophisticated city in the Near East.
Babylon became the largest city in western Asia. The trade along the rivers and via the caravan routes leading eastward to Iran made it wealthy once more. This glorious city survived until it was again invaded, this time by the Persians.