Euphrates · Tigris
Eridu · Kish · Uruk · Ur
Lagash · Nippur · Girsu
Susa · Anshan
Akkadian Empire
Akkad · Mari
Isin · Larsa
Babylon · Chaldea
Assur · Nimrud
Dur-Sharrukin · Nineveh
Mesopotamia (Dynasty list)
Sumer (king list)
Kings of Elam
Kings of Assyria
Kings of Babylon
Enûma Elish · Gilgamesh
Assyrian religion
Sumerian · Elamite
Akkadian · Aramaic
Hurrian · Hittite

Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi (fl. ca. 1696 – 1654 BC, short chronology) created an empire out of the territories of the former Akkadian Empire. Babylonia adopted the written Semitic Akkadian language for official use, and retained the Sumerian language for religious use, which by that time was no longer a spoken language. The Akkadian and Sumerian traditions played a major role in later Babylonian culture, and the region would remain an important cultural center, even under outside rule, throughout the Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age.

The earliest mention of the city of Babylon can be found in a tablet from the reign of Sargon of Akkad, dating back to the 23rd century BC. Babylon was a religious and cultural centre at this point, and like the rest of Mesopotamia, it was subject to the Akkadian Empire. After the collapse of the Akkadian empire the region was ruled by Gutians for a few decades before the rise of the Sumerian third dynasty of Ur. Following the collapse of the last Sumerian "Ur-III" dynasty at the hands of the Elamites (2002 BC traditional, 1940 BC short), the Amorites gradually gained control over most of Mesopotamia, where they formed a series of small kingdoms. During the first centuries of what is called the "Amorite period", the most powerful city states were Isin and Larsa, although Shamshi-Adad I usurped the throne of Assyria and formed a short lived empire in the north. One of these Amorite dynasties founded the city-state of Babylon, which would ultimately take over the others and form the first Babylonian empire, during what is also called the Old Babylonian Period.



Old Babylonian period

The extent of the Babylonian Empire at the start and end of Hammurabi's reign

During the third millennium BC, there developed a very intimate cultural symbiosis between the Sumerians and the Akkadians, which included widespread bilingualism.[1] The influence of Sumerian on Akkadian (and vice versa) is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic, morphological, and phonological convergence.[1] This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the third millennium as a sprachbund.[1]

Akkadian gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Mesopotamia somewhere around the turn of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC (the exact dating being a matter of debate),[2] but Sumerian continued to be used as a sacred, ceremonial, literary and scientific language in Mesopotamia until the 1st century.

First Dynasty, Amorite Period

The independent city state of Babylon was founded by an Amorite chieftain named Sumuabum in the early 18th century BC. Initially Babylon was a small nation which did not control much territory, and was overshadowed by more established kingdoms like Isin, Larsa, Assyria and Elam. Babylon remained a small and minor state until the reign of its sixth ruler, Hammurabi (fl. ca. 1728 – 1686 BC (short). He was a very efficient ruler, establishing a bureaucracy, with taxation and centralized government, and giving the region stability after turbulent times, thereby transforming it into the central power of Mesopotamia. One of the most important works of this "First Dynasty of Babylon", as it was called by the native historians, was the compilation of a code of laws. This was made by order of Hammurabi after the expulsion of the Elamites and the settlement of his kingdom. In 1901, a copy of the Code of Hammurabi was discovered on a stele by J. De Morgan and V. Scheil at Susa, where it had later been taken as plunder. That copy is now in the Louvre.

The armies of Babylonia under Hammurabi were well-disciplined, and conquered the city-states of Isin, Eshnunna, Uruk, Mari and eventually Assyria after a protracted struggle with the Assyrian king Ishme-Dagan for control of Mesopotamia[3].

Babylonian beliefs held the king as an agent of Marduk, and the city of Babylon as a "holy city" where any legitimate ruler of Mesopotamia had to be crowned.[citation needed]

The Babylonians, like their predecessors, engaged in regular trade with city-states to the west; with Babylonian officials or troops sometimes passing to Syria and Canaan, and Amorite merchants operating throughout Mesopotamia. The Babylonian monarchy's western connections remained strong for quite some time. An Amorite named Abi-ramu or Abram was the father of a witness to a deed dated to the reign of Hammurabi's grandfather; Ammi-Ditana, great-grandson of Hammurabi, still titled himself "king of the land of the Amorites". Ammi-Ditana's father and son also bore Canaanite names: Abi-Eshuh and Ammisaduqa.[citation needed]

But southern Mesopotamia had no natural, defendable boundaries, making it vulnerable to attack. After the death of Hammurabi, his empire began to disintegrate rapidly, the far south of Mesopotamia was lost, and the Babylonians and Amorites were driven from Assyria to the north. However Amorite rule survived for around 150 years, until the reign of the 15th king of the first dynasty, Samsu-Ditana, son of Ammisaduqa. He was overthrown following the "sack of Babylon" by the Hittite king Mursili I, and Babylonia was turned over to the Kassites, with whom Samsu-iluna had already come into conflict in his 6th year.

The sack of Babylon and ancient Near East chronology

The date of the sack of Babylon by the Hittite king Mursilis I is considered crucial to the various calculations of the early chronology of the ancient Near East, since both a solar and a lunar eclipse are said to have occurred in the month of Sivan that year, according to ancient records.

The fall of Babylon is taken as a fixed point in the discussion of the chronology of the ancient Near East. Suggestions for its precise date vary by as much as 150 years, corresponding to the uncertainty regarding the length of the "Dark Age" of the ensuing Bronze Age collapse, resulting in the shift of the entire Bronze Age chronology of Mesopotamia with regard to the chronology of Ancient Egypt. Possible dates for the sack of Babylon are:

  • ultra-short chronology: 1499 BC
  • short chronology: 1531 BC
  • middle chronology: 1595 BC
  • long chronology: 1651 BC

Kassite period

The extent of the Babylonian Empire during the Kassite dynasty

The Kassite dynasty was founded by Kandis or Gandash of Mari. The Kassites were a non Semitic people who originated in the Zagros Mountains. The Kassites renamed Babylon "Kar-Duniash", and their rule lasted for 576 years. This foreign dominion offers a striking analogy to the roughly contemporary rule of the Hyksos in ancient Egypt. Most divine attributes ascribed to the Semitic kings of Babylonia disappeared at this time; the title of God was never given to a Kassite sovereign. However, Babylon continued to be the capital of the kingdom and the 'holy' city of western Asia, where the priests were all-powerful, and the only place where the right to inheritance of the short lived old Babylonian empire could be conferred.

Babylon was relatively weak under the Kassites, and spent long periods under Assyrian and Elamite domination and interference.

It's not exactly clear when Kassite rule of Babylon began. A king named Agum II ruled a state that extended from Iran to the middle Euphrates; 24 years after the Hittites took the sacred statue of Marduk, he recovered it and declared the god equal to the Kassite deity Shuqamuna. Southern Babylonia remained independent until Ulambu-riash conquered it around 1450 BC and began making deals with the Egyptians in Syria. Kariandash built a bas-relief temple in Uruk and Kurigalzu I (1415 BC-1390 BC) built a new capital named after himself. After him came Kadashman-Enlil I (1390 BC-1375 BC) and Burnaburiash II (1375 BC-1347 BC), who corresponded with the Egyptian rulers Ahmenhotep III and Ahmenhotep IV (Akhenaton) for the purposes of marriage and trade. Kurigalzu II (1345 BC-1324 BC) lost a war with Assyria. His successors allied with the Hittites to stop Assyrian expansion, but Kashtiliash IV's (1242 BC-1235 BC) reign ended catastrophically as Assyria and Elam joined forces and sacked and burned Babylon. Kashtiliash himself was taken to Ashur as a prisoner of war, and Babylon did not begin to recover until the reigns of Adad-shum-nasir (1218 BC-1189 BC) and Melishipak (1188 BC-1172 BC). War continued under subsequent kings as the Elamite ruler Shutruk-Nahunte conquered most of Babylonia and finally overthrew the Kassites. Poetical works have been found lamenting this disaster.

Despite the loss of territory, and evident reduction in literacy and culture, the Kassite dynasty was the longest-lived dynasty of Babylon, lasting until 1155 BC (short), when Babylon was conquered by Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam, and re-conquered a few years later by Nebuchadrezzar I, part of the larger Bronze Age collapse.

Early Iron Age

Marduk-kabit-akeshu (1156 BC-1139 BC) established the Second Dynasty of Isin in a series of wars that continued under his successors. Nebuchadnezzar I (1124 BC-1103 BC) was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. He fought the Elamites and drove them from Babylonian territory, sacking Susa and recovering the sacred statue of Marduk that had been carried off from Babylon. Shortly afterwards, the king of Elam was assassinated and his kingdom disintegrated. However, Nebuchadnezzar failed to extend Babylonian territory further, being thwarted by the Assyrians for control of formerly Hittite controlled territories in Syria. In the later years of his reign, he devoted himself to peaceful building projects. Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his two sons. The second of them, Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1098 BC-1081 BC) went to war with Assyria. Initial success in these conflicts gave way to defeat, and a terrible famine gripped Babylon, inviting attacks from Aramean tribes. Successive kings maintained peaceful relations with Assyria, but could not stem the repeated incursions from the Arameans and other nomads.

The native dynasty was deposed after 100 years, and between 1025 BC and 977 BC Babylonia was in a state of anarchy, with seven kings divided by three foreign dynasties ruling the land. Dynasty V (1025 BC-1004 BC) was Kassite, this dynasty was replaced by Dynasty VI (1003 BC-984 BC) which was Aramean and Dynasty VII (984 BC-977 BC) which was Elamite.

Native rule was restored in 978 BC with Dynasty VIII. Dynasty IX begins with Ninurta-kudurri-usur, whose rule (from 943 BC).

From 911 BC with the founding of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Babylon found itself under Assyrian domination for the next three centuries. In 729 BC, Babylon was fully incorporated into the Assyrian Empire by Tiglath-Pileser III and remained under Assyrian rule for over a century, until the revolt of Nabopolassar in 620BC.

Neo-Babylonian Empire (Chaldean Era)

Through the centuries of Assyrian domination, Babylonia enjoyed a prominent status, or revolted at the slightest indication that it did not. The Assyrians always managed to restore Babylonian loyalty, however, whether through granting of increased privileges, or military force. That finally changed after 627 BC with the death of the last strong Assyrian ruler, Assurbanipal in 627 BC. Assyria descended into civil war, with three Assyrian kings briefly ruling Assyria and Babylon over the next 7 years. Babylonia took advantage of this and rebelled under Nabopolassar, a member of the Chaldean people, who had settled in southern Mesopotamia circa 1000 BC. In 620 BC Nabopolassar took control over Babylonia, and for the next 4 years had to contend with Assyrian armies encamped in Babylonia trying to unseat him. In 616 BC, he entered into alliance with Cyaxares, ruler of the Medes and Persians, Nineveh was sacked in 612 BC and Harran in 608 BC, and the seat of empire was transferred to Babylonia for the first time since Hammurabi.

Nabopolassar was followed by his son Nebuchadnezzar II, whose reign of 43 years made Babylon once more the mistress of much the civilized world, taking over a fair portion of the empire once ruled by its Assyrian brethren. His empire included the conquering of Phoenicia in 585 BC, as well as Aramea (Syria), Israel, Judah and parts of Asia Minor and Arabia.[4] Only a small fragment of his annals has been discovered, relating to his invasion of Egypt in 567 BC, and referring to "Phut of the Ionians".

Of the reign of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (Nabu-na'id), and the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, there is a fair amount of information available. Nabonidus was not a Chaldean or Babylonian, but hailed from the last Assyrian capital of Harran. Information regarding Nabonidus is chiefly derived from a chronological tablet containing the annals of Nabonidus, supplemented by another inscription of Nabonidus where he recounts his restoration of the temple of the Moon-god at Harran; as well as by a proclamation of Cyrus issued shortly after his formal recognition as king of Babylonia. It was in the sixth year of Nabonidus (549 BC) that Cyrus, the Achaemenid Persian "king of Anshan" in Elam, revolted against his suzerain Astyages, "king of the Manda" or Medes, at Ecbatana. Astyages' army betrayed him to his enemy, and Cyrus established himself at Ecbatana, thus putting an end to the empire of the Medes. Three years later Cyrus had become king of all Persia, and was engaged in a campaign in Assyria. Meanwhile, Nabonidus had established a camp in the desert of Arabia, near the southern frontier of his kingdom, leaving his son Belshazzar (Belsharutsur) in command of the army.

In 539 BC Cyrus invaded Babylonia. A battle was fought at Opis in the month of June, where the Babylonians were defeated; and immediately afterwards Sippar surrendered to the invader. Nabonidus fled to Babylon, where he was pursued by Gobryas, and on the 16th day of Tammuz, two days after the capture of Sippar, "the soldiers of Cyrus entered Babylon without fighting." Nabonidus was dragged from his hiding-place, where the services continued without interruption. Cyrus did not arrive until the 3rd of Marchesvan (October), Gobryas having acted for him in his absence. Gobryas was now made governor of the province of Babylon, and a few days afterwards the son of Nabonidus died. A public mourning followed, lasting six days, and Cambyses accompanied the corpse to the tomb.

Cyrus now claimed to be the legitimate successor of the ancient Babylonian kings and the avenger of Bel-Marduk, who was assumed to be wrathful at the impiety of Nabonidus in removing the images of the local gods from their ancestral shrines to his capital Babylon. Nabonidus, in fact, had excited a strong feeling against himself by attempting to centralize the religion of Babylonia in the temple of Merodach (Marduk) at Babylon, and while he had thus alienated the local priesthoods, the military party despised him on account of his antiquarian tastes. He seemed to have left the defense of his kingdom to others, occupying himself with the more congenial work of excavating the foundation records of the temples and determining the dates of their builders.

The invasion of Babylonia by Cyrus was doubtless facilitated by the existence of a disaffected party in the state, as well as by the presence of foreign forced exiles like the Jews, who had been planted in the midst of the country. One of the first acts of Cyrus accordingly was to allow these exiles to return to their own homes, carrying with them the images of their god and their sacred vessels. The permission to do so was embodied in a proclamation, whereby the conqueror endeavored to justify his claim to the Babylonian throne. The feeling was still strong that none had a right to rule over western Asia until he had been consecrated to the office by Bel and his priests; and accordingly, Cyrus henceforth assumed the imperial title of "King of Babylon."

Persian Babylonia

Babylonia was absorbed into the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC.

A year before Cyrus' death, in 529 BC, he elevated his son Cambyses II in the government, making him king of Babylon, while he reserved for himself the fuller title of "king of the (other) provinces" of the empire. It was only when Darius Hystaspis acquired the Persian throne and ruled it as a representative of the Zoroastrian religion, that the old tradition was broken and the claim of Babylon to confer legitimacy on the rulers of western Asia ceased to be acknowledged.

Immediately after Darius seized Persia, Babylonia briefly recovered its independence under Nidinta-Bel, who took the name of Nebuchadnezzar III, and reigned from October 522 BC to August 520 BC, when Darius took the city by storm. A few years later, probably 514 BC, Babylon again revolted under the Armenian King Arakha; on this occasion, after its capture by the Persians, the walls were partly destroyed. E-Saggila, the great temple of Bel, however, still continued to be kept in repair and to be a center of Babylonian religious feelings.

It has long been maintained that the foundation of Seleucia diverted the population to the new capital of Babylonia, and that the ruins of the old city became a quarry for the builders of the new seat of government, but the recent publication of the Babylonian Chronicles of the Hellenistic Period has shown that urban life was still very much the same well into the Parthian age.

The name of the satrapy was changed to Asuristan in the Sassanid period. Excepting brief interludes of Roman conquest (Roman Assyria, Roman Mesopotamia; AD 116 to 118), and a longer period of Hellenistic rule (the Seleucid Empire, 330 to 250 BC), Mesopotamia remained under Persian control until the Islamic conquest in the 630s AD.

Babylonian culture

Bronze Age to Early Iron Age Mesopotamian culture is sometimes summarized as "Assyro-Babylonian", because of the close cultural interdependence of the two political centers. The term "Babylonia", especially in writings from around AD 1900, was formerly used to include Southern Mesopotamia's earliest history, and not only in reference to the later city-state of Babylon proper. This geographic usage of the name "Babylonia' has generally been replaced by the more accurate term Sumer in more recent writing.

Old Babylonian culture

Art and Architecture

In Babylonia, an abundance of clay, and lack of stone, led to greater use of mudbrick; Babylonian temples were massive structures of crude brick, supported by buttresses, the rain being carried off by drains. One such drain at Ur was made of lead. The use of brick led to the early development of the pilaster and column, and of frescoes and enameled tiles. The walls were brilliantly coloured, and sometimes plated with zinc or gold, as well as with tiles. Painted terra-cotta cones for torches were also embedded in the plaster. In Babylonia, in place of the bas-relief, there was greater use of three-dimensional figures—the earliest examples being the Statues of Gudea, that are realistic if somewhat clumsy. The paucity of stone in Babylonia made every pebble precious, and led to a high perfection in the art of gem-cutting.


Tablets dating back to the Old Babylonian period document the application of mathematics to the variation in the length of daylight over a solar year. Centuries of Babylonian observations of celestial phenomena are recorded in the series of cuneiform tablets known as the 'Enūma Anu Enlil'. The oldest significant astronomical text that we possess is Tablet 63 of 'Enūma Anu Enlil', the Venus tablet of Ammi-saduqa, which lists the first and last visible risings of Venus over a period of about 21 years and is the earliest evidence that the phenomena of a planet were recognized as periodic. The oldest rectangular astrolabe dates back to Babylonia ca. 1100 BC. The MUL.APIN, contains catalogues of stars and constellations as well as schemes for predicting heliacal risings and the settings of the planets, lengths of daylight measured by a water-clock, gnomon, shadows, and intercalations. The Babylonian GU text arranges stars in 'strings' that lie along declination circles and thus measure right-ascensions or time-intervals, and also employs the stars of the zenith, which are also separated by given right-ascensional differences.[5]


The oldest Babylonian texts on medicine date back to the First Babylonian Dynasty in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC. The most extensive Babylonian medical text, however, is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the physician Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa,[6] during the reign of the Babylonian king Adad-apla-iddina (1069-1046 BC).[7]

Along with contemporary ancient Egyptian medicine, the Babylonians introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and prescriptions. In addition, the Diagnostic Handbook introduced the methods of therapy and aetiology and the use of empiricism, logic and rationality in diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. The text contains a list of medical symptoms and often detailed empirical observations along with logical rules used in combining observed symptoms on the body of a patient with its diagnosis and prognosis.[8]

The symptoms and diseases of a patient were treated through therapeutic means such as bandages, creams and pills. If a patient could not be cured physically, the Babylonian physicians often relied on exorcism to cleanse the patient from any curses. Esagil-kin-apli's Diagnostic Handbook was based on a logical set of axioms and assumptions, including the modern view that through the examination and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine the patient's disease, its aetiology and future development, and the chances of the patient's recovery.[6]

Esagil-kin-apli discovered a variety of illnesses and diseases and described their symptoms in his Diagnostic Handbook. These include the symptoms for many varieties of epilepsy and related ailments along with their diagnosis and prognosis.[9] Later Babylonian medicine resembles early Greek medicine in many ways. In particular, the early treatises of the Hippocratic Corpus show the influence of late Babylonian medicine in terms of both content and form.[10]


There were libraries in most towns and temples; an old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn." Women as well as men learned to read and write,[11] and in Semitic times, this involved knowledge of the extinct Sumerian language, and a complicated and extensive syllabary.

A considerable amount of Babylonian literature was translated from Sumerian originals, and the language of religion and law long continued to be the old agglutinative language of Sumer. Vocabularies, grammars, and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students, as well as commentaries on the older texts and explanations of obscure words and phrases. The characters of the syllabary were all arranged and named, and elaborate lists of them were drawn up.

There are many Babylonian literary works whose titles have come down to us. One of the most famous of these was the Epic of Gilgamesh, in twelve books, translated from the original Sumerian by a certain Sin-liqi-unninni, and arranged upon an astronomical principle. Each division contains the story of a single adventure in the career of Gilgamesh. The whole story is a composite product, and it is probable that some of the stories are artificially attached to the central figure.

Neo-Babylonian culture

The brief resurgence of a "Babylonian" identity in the 7th to 6th centuries BC was accompanied by a number of important cultural developments.


Among the sciences, astronomy and astrology still occupied a conspicuous place in Babylonian society. Astronomy was of old standing in Babylonia. The zodiac was a Babylonian invention of great antiquity; and eclipses of the sun and moon could be foretold. There are dozens of cuneiform records of original Mesopotamian eclipse observations.[12]

Babylonian astronomy was the basis for much of what was done in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy, in classical Indian astronomy, in Sassanian, Byzantine and Syrian astronomy, in medieval Islamic astronomy, and in Central Asian and Western European astronomy.[13] Neo-Babylonian astronomy can thus be considered the direct predecessor of much of ancient Greek mathematics and astronomy, which in turn is the historical predecessor of the European (Western) scientific revolution.[14]

During the 8th and 7th centuries BC, Babylonian astronomers developed a new approach to astronomy. They began studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the early universe and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems. This was an important contribution to astronomy and the philosophy of science and some scholars have thus referred to this new approach as the first scientific revolution.[15] This new approach to astronomy was adopted and further developed in Greek and Hellenistic astronomy.

In Seleucid and Parthian times, the astronomical reports were of a thoroughly scientific character; how much earlier their advanced knowledge and methods were developed is uncertain. The Babylonian development of methods for predicting the motions of the planets is considered to be a major episode in the history of astronomy.

The only Babylonian astronomer known to have supported a heliocentric model of planetary motion was Seleucus of Seleucia (b. 190 BC).[16][17][18] Seleucus is known from the writings of Plutarch. He supported the heliocentric theory where the Earth rotated around its own axis which in turn revolved around the Sun. According to Plutarch, Seleucus even proved the heliocentric system, but it is not known what arguments he used.


Babylonian mathematical texts are plentiful and well edited.[14] In respect of time they fall in two distinct groups: one from the First Babylonian Dynasty period (1830-1531 BC), the other mainly Seleucid from the last three or four centuries BC. In respect of content there is scarcely any difference between the two groups of texts. Thus Babylonian mathematics remained stale in character and content, with very little progress or innovation, for nearly two millennia.[dubious ][14]

The Babylonian system of mathematics was sexagesimal, or a base 60 numeral system (see: Babylonian numerals). From this we derive the modern day usage of 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 (60 x 6) degrees in a circle. The Babylonians were able to make great advances in mathematics for two reasons. First, the number 60 has many divisors (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, and 30), making calculations easier. Additionally, unlike the Egyptians and Romans, the Babylonians had a true place-value system, where digits written in the left column represented larger values (much as in our base-ten system: 734 = 7×100 + 3×10 + 4×1). Among the Babylonians' mathematical accomplishments were the determination of the square root of two correctly to seven places (YBC 7289 clay tablet). They also demonstrated knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem well before Pythagoras, as evidenced by this tablet translated by Dennis Ramsey and dating to ca. 1900 BC:

4 is the length and 5 is the diagonal. What is the breadth? Its size is not known. 4 times 4 is 16. And 5 times 5 is 25. You take 16 from 25 and there remains 9. What times what shall I take in order to get 9? 3 times 3 is 9. 3 is the breadth.

The ner of 600 and the sar of 3600 were formed from the unit of 60, corresponding with a degree of the equator. Tablets of squares and cubes, calculated from 1 to 60, have been found at Senkera, and a people acquainted with the sun-dial, the clepsydra, the lever and the pulley, must have had no mean knowledge of mechanics. A crystal lens, turned on the lathe, was discovered by Austen Henry Layard at Nimrud along with glass vases bearing the name of Sargon; this could explain the excessive minuteness of some of the writing on the Assyrian tablets, and a lens may also have been used in the observation of the heavens.

The Babylonians might have been familiar with the general rules for measuring the areas. They measured the circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference, which would be correct if π were estimated as 3. The volume of a cylinder was taken as the product of the base and the height, however, the volume of the frustum of a cone or a square pyramid was incorrectly taken as the product of the height and half the sum of the bases. Also, there was a recent discovery in which a tablet used π as 3 and 1/8. The Babylonians are also known for the Babylonian mile, which was a measure of distance equal to about seven miles today. This measurement for distances eventually was converted to a time-mile used for measuring the travel of the Sun, therefore, representing time. (Eves, Chapter 2)


The origins of Babylonian philosophy can be traced back to early Mesopotamian wisdom literature, which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics, in the forms of dialectic, dialogs, epic poetry, folklore, hymns, lyrics, prose, and proverbs. Babylonian reasoning and rationality developed beyond empirical observation.[19]

It is possible that Babylonian philosophy had an influence on Greek, particularly Hellenistic philosophy. The Babylonian text Dialog of Pessimism contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts, and the dialogs of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic Socratic method of Socrates.[20] The Milesian philosopher Thales is also known to have studied philosophy in Mesopotamia.


Babylonia, and particularly its capital city Babylon, has long held a place in Abrahamic religions as a symbol of excess and dissolute power. Many references are made to Babylon in the Bible, both literally and allegorically. The mentions in the Tanakh tend to be historical or prophetic, while New Testament references are more likely figurative, or cryptic references possibly to pagan Rome, or some other archetype. The legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Tower of Babel are seen as symbols of luxurious and arrogant power respectively. A main festival for Babylonians was the Mishtkaru Buylshu, used to ward off evil spirits. Many Babylonians, mostly males, attended this festival at a young age. At this festival, priests would kill, or sacrifice, an animal, usually an ox, in order to make the gods happy. In return, the gods would presumably give permission to the people at the festival to each obtain an amulet that would protect them for the rest of their lives.

See also

Many of these articles were originally based on information from the 1911 edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.


  1. ^ a b c Deutscher, Guy (2007). Syntactic Change in Akkadian: The Evolution of Sentential Complementation. Oxford University Press US. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9780199532223. 
  2. ^ [Woods C. 2006 “Bilingualism, Scribal Learning, and the Death of Sumerian”. In S.L. Sanders (ed) Margins of Writing, Origins of Culture: 91-120 Chicago [1]
  3. ^ Oppenheim Ancient Mesopotamia
  4. ^ "World Wide School". History of Phoenicia — Part IV. Retrieved 2007-01-09. 
  5. ^ Pingree (1998)
    Rochberg (2004)
    Evans (1998)
  6. ^ a b H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg (2004), Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman Medicine, p. 99, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-13666-5.
  7. ^ Marten Stol (1993), Epilepsy in Babylonia, p. 55, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-72371-63-1.
  8. ^ H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg (2004), Magic and Rationality in Ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman Medicine, p. 97-98, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-13666-5.
  9. ^ Marten Stol (1993), Epilepsy in Babylonia, p. 5, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-72371-63-1.
  10. ^ M. J. Geller (2004). H. F. J. Horstmanshoff, Marten Stol, Cornelis Tilburg. ed. West Meets East: Early Greek and Babylonian Diagnosis. Brill Publishers. pp. 11–186. ISBN 9004136665 
  11. ^ Tatlow, Elisabeth Meier Women, Crime, and Punishment in Ancient Law and Society: The ancient Near East Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (31 March 2005) ISBN 978-0-8264-1628-5 p.75 [2]
  12. ^ See Chronology of Babylonia and Assyria.
  13. ^ Pingree (1998)
  14. ^ a b c Aaboe, Asger. "The culture of Babylonia: Babylonian mathematics, astrology, and astronomy." The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries B.C. Eds. John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond, E. Sollberger and C. B. F. Walker. Cambridge University Press, (1991)
  15. ^ D. Brown (2000), Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy-Astrology , Styx Publications, ISBN 90-5693-036-2.
  16. ^ Otto E. Neugebauer (1945). "The History of Ancient Astronomy Problems and Methods", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 4 (1), p. 1-38.
  17. ^ George Sarton (1955). "Chaldaean Astronomy of the Last Three Centuries B. C.", Journal of the American Oriental Society 75 (3), p. 166-173 [169].
  18. ^ William P. D. Wightman (1951, 1953), The Growth of Scientific Ideas, Yale University Press p.38.
  19. ^ Giorgio Buccellati (1981), "Wisdom and Not: The Case of Mesopotamia", Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), p. 35-47.
  20. ^ Giorgio Buccellati (1981), "Wisdom and Not: The Case of Mesopotamia", Journal of the American Oriental Society 101 (1), p. 35-47 [43].

Further reading

  • Ascalone, Enrico. Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians (Dictionaries of Civilizations; 1). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-25266-7).
  • Bryant, Tamera. The Life and Times of Hammurabi.
  • Eves, Howard. An Introduction to the History of Mathematics.
  • King, Leonard William. Babylonian Religion and Mythology.
  • Leick, Gwendolyn. The Babylonians: An Introduction.
  • Leick, Gwendolyn. Mesopotamia.
  • Lloyd, Seton. The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest.
  • Mieroop, Marc Van de. King Hammurabi Of Babylon: A Biography.
  • Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia.
  • Oates, Joan. Babylon.
  • Oppenheim, A. Leo. Ancient Mesopotamia : Portrait of a Dead Civilization.
  • Pallis, Svend Aage. The Antiquity of Iraq.
  • Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq.
  • Saggs, Henry Babylonians.
  • Saggs, Henry The Greatness That Was Babylon.
  • Schomp, Virginia. Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians, Babylonians, And Assyrians.
  • Spence, Lewis. Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria.
  • Le Journal des Médecines Cunéiformes (published twice-yearly from 2003 onwards)

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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