The Ancient Babylonian Empire
The Artistic and Technological Achievements of One of the First Great Civilizations
From the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia, a new and powerful civilization arose. This great empire was known as the Babylonian Empire. Its capital city, Babylon, is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as a place of exile for the Jewish prophet Jeremiah and is also known for being the home of King Nebuchadnezzar and his famous Hanging Gardens.
The ancient Babylonians left behind many innovations that would eventually be taken up by other civilizations in future millennia. To understand why the Babylonian Empire grew to become such an influential force, it’s helpful to first understand its predecessors: the Assyrian and Neo-Sumerian Empires. Each one left behind cultural remnants that directly contributed to creating what we now know as The Cradle of Civilization (modern-day Iraq).
The Assyrian Empire
Like many successful imperial powers, the Assyrians were expert conquerors and great builders, expanding their borders from modern-day Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. They were also noteworthy for the high level of cultural continuity from one dynasty to the next, unlike other ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians. Assyrian kings built on the knowledge of previous rulers, so innovations in irrigation, architecture, literature, and art were all carried on in subsequent reigns, with flare-ups of creativity here and there.
The Assyrians also developed a reputation for cruelty as they ruthlessly conquered their neighbors, and their empire eventually collapsed due to revolts by the very people they had conquered.
The Assyrians left behind a lasting architectural legacy. They built cities with strong walls and imposing temples that are still visible today; perhaps the most famous of Assyrian buildings is the so-called “Palace Without a Name” in modern-day Iraq. This complex was discovered by archaeologists in the late 19th century and is thought to have been built during the reign of King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BCE). It remains today as a great symbol of the wealth and power of the Assyrian Empire.
The Neo-Sumerian Empire
The Neo-Sumerian Empire (also known as the Third Dynasty of Ur) arose in the 21st century BCE, after the fall of the Akkadian Empire (the second great Mesopotamian civilization). The Neo-Sumerian Empire was located in the south of Mesopotamia, and its capital city was Ur.
Although the Neo-Sumerians were less powerful than the Assyrians to the north, they still had a lasting impact on the region. Like the Assyrians, they were great builders, creating sturdy buildings and the world’s first ziggurats, or stepped pyramids. A Neo-Sumerian ruler, Ur-Nammu, built a great ziggurat at Ur, which is still visible today.
The Neo-Sumerians are also important because they wrote the world’s earliest known law code, the Code of Ur-Nammu. This code contains rules for how people were expected to behave towards one another and also describes how the state should be organized. As with many civilizations, law codes were important to the Neo-Sumerians because they helped to establish order in both society and government. This code influenced later law codes in other civilizations, including the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi.
The Creation of the Babylonian Empire
The Babylonians are remembered for their great empire, which was established sometime between the 18th and 16th centuries BCE. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact date for the beginning of the Babylonian Empire because the records of earlier peoples and civilizations are often imprecise.
Mesopotamia was a region already rich with civilizations and cultures when the Babylonians rose to prominence. This meant that they were strongly influenced by the history that came before them. They also borrowed elements from their neighbors as they grew in power. For example, the Babylonians adopted the law code of the Assyrians, as well as their architectural styles. They also adopted gods from other cultures and made them part of their own pantheon.
The Babylonians were known for their skill as administrators and for their sophisticated legal code. They created the world’s first central government, which was headed by a king. The king was responsible for collecting taxes, appointing officials, and maintaining law and order. Babylonians also built many beautiful palaces, temples, and gardens during this time. Some of these buildings, such as the Ishtar Gate, still stand today.
Cultural Achievements of the Babylonians
The Babylonians also left behind many cultural achievements, including the world’s earliest story written in the form of a poem. It’s called “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and is about a king who ruled during the time that the Babylonian Empire was growing in power, and his quest for immortality. The epic poem is the product of an oral tradition that existed in Mesopotamia for many centuries before it was written down.
The Babylonians also created a sophisticated system of mathematics. They were the first people to use a place-value system, which enabled them to write down numbers in a way that we use today. they were also amongst the first people to study the movement of the stars and planets.
Technology and Mathematics
The Babylonians also made many advances in technology. They are believed by some to have developed the spoked wheel, which they used to build chariots and carts. They also created the first system of water-flow measurement, which enabled them to irrigate the land more efficiently.
Babylonians also discovered how to make bricks, which they used to build large temples and palaces. The invention of bricks greatly expanded the types of buildings that could be built and they improved the construction of buildings because they were stronger than many other materials that had been used previously. The Babylonians also made important advances in mathematics in order to build better buildings.
The Babylonians were the first people in recorded history who used a decimal system of mathematics. They were also among the first civilizations to use a base-10 number system (digits). Babylonian cuneiform (markings made in clay) is credited with being the first written language to use a base-10 number system.
They were also known for their knowledge of the solar and lunar eclipses. They accurately predicted solar eclipses with high accuracy and were able to use these eclipses to forecast future events. They also used mathematics to create the first 365-day calendar system. This calendar system became the standard for many civilizations in the future and is still used today.
The ancient Babylonians were a mighty civilization known for their art, architecture, and technological achievements. They developed new systems of measurement and built structures that still stand today. They also created one of the world’s first law codes, which influenced legal systems in many later civilizations.
They were an important culture in the ancient world, and their many achievements are still studied today.