Babylonia, an introduction (article) | Khan Academy
Rev. Claude Hermann Walter Johns, Babylonian and Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters  .. But unless some other party is a relation and the transaction explicitly A collection of legal documents may be studied in a variety of ways. Foreign Relations of Babylonia from to B.C.: The Documentary Evidence' tury Assyria to Babylonia have not been considered (J.A.B.). 2 The chronology employed in . familiar with Egyptian ways-working on his various projects is. Today, "Babylonia" is used to describe the south of modern Iraq, stretching The relationship between the kings of Assyria and Babylon had.
The beginning of Hammurabi's reign was peaceful. As a defensive measure, Hammurabi had the walls around Babylon improved, and through diplomacymade allies with many of the cities north of Babylon.
In the last ten years of his reignHammurabi conquered Lower Mesopotamia. He used the Euphrates river to his advantage.
Hammurabi held back the waters of the Euphrates, ruining the crops of lower cities, then he released the water and flooded his enemies. In this way Hammurabi ruled most of Mesopotamia. Notice the location of Babylon, where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers run close to one another.
You can see that the city-state of Ur is now under control of the Babylonians. The Zagros Mountains are where the ancient Mesopotamians believed their gods lived. Here is a replica of one of the Steles discovered with the Code of Hammurabi, it is meant to resemble an index finger.
The fingernail shows Hammurabi standing, receiving the laws from the seated sun-god, Shamash. In this way the laws could not be changed and were posted for all to see, though few people could read. You can read some of the laws from the Code of Hammurabi, which I found listed online; what do you think about these laws?
If someone cuts down a tree on someone else's land, he will pay for it. If someone is careless when watering his fields, and he floods someone else's by accident, he will pay for the grain he has ruined. If a man wants to throw his son out of the house, he has to go before a judge and say, "I don't want my son to live in my house any more.
If the reasons are not good, the man can't throw his son out. If the son has done some great evil to his father, his father must forgive him the first time. But if he has done something evil twice, his father can throw him out. If a thief steals a cow, a sheep, a donkey, a pig, or a goat, he will pay ten times what it is worth.
If he doesn't have any money to pay with, he will be put to death. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. If a man puts out the eye of another man, put his own eye out. If he knocks out another man's tooth, knock out his own tooth. If he breaks another man's bone, break his own bone. If a doctor operates on a patient and the patient dies, the doctor's hand will be cut off. If a builder builds a house, and that house collapses and kills the owner's son, the builder's son will be put to death.
This sealing, done with a cylinder-seal, running on an axle, was repeated so often as to render its design difficult to make out, and to add greatly to the difficulty of reading the text. When the envelope has been preserved unbroken, the interior is usually perfect, except where the envelope may have adhered to it. One copy often has some variant in spelling, or phrasing, or some additional piece of information, that is of great assistance.
The envelope was rather fragile and in many cases has been lost, either in ancient times, or broken open by the native finders, in the hope of discovering gold or jewels within. But in any case, the envelope, so long as it lasted, was a great protection; and there are few tablets better preserved than this class of document.
But it may be merely an accident that so few envelopes are preserved. In the case of letters, where the same plan of enclosing the letter in an envelope was followed, hardly any envelopes have been found, because they had to be broken open to read the letter.
The owner of a deed may have had occasion to do the same, but here there was less excuse, as the envelope was inscribed with the full text. In early times, another method of sealing was adopted. A small clay cone was sealed and the seal attached to the document by a reed, which ran through both. How keptThe deeds were often preserved in private houses, usually in some room or hiding-place below ground.
In the case of the tablets from Tell Sifr, which were found by Loftus in situ, three unbaked bricks were set in the form of a capital U. The largest tablet was laid upon this foundation and the next two in size at right angles to it.
The rest were piled on these and on the bricks and the whole surrounded by reed matting. They were covered by three unbaked bricks. This accounts for their fine preservation. Others were stored in pots made of unbaked clay. The pots, as a rule, have crumbled away, but they kept out the earth around.
Sometimes this broke in and crushed the tablets. In some cases they were laid on shelves round a small room; but in others they seem to have been kept in an upper story, and so were injured, when the floor fell through. The parties possessing copiesIt seems certain that as a rule all deeds were executed in duplicate, each party receiving a copy.
The scribe often appears to have kept another. There are indications that copies of deeds executed in the provinces were sent to the capital. Whether this was in pursuit of a general policy of centralization or only accidental in the few cases known to us is not quite clear.
In many instances we actually possess duplicates, sometimes three copies of the same deed.
Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian Empires
Scope of legal documentsThese documents are exceedingly varied in contents. The most common are deeds relating to the sale or lease of houses, fields, buildings, gardens, and the like; the sale or hire of slaves and laborers; loans of money, corn, dates, Edition: But almost any alienation, exchange, or deposit of property was made the subject of a deed.Age of Bronze: Assyria vs Babylon
Further, all legal decisions were embodied in a document, which was sealed by the judge and given to both parties to the suit. These were often really deeds by which the parties bound themselves to accept and abide by the decisions.
Some are bonds or acknowledgments of debt. A great many closely allied documents are lists of money or goods which had been given to certain persons. They were evidence of legal possession and doubtless a check on demand for repayment. General works on the subjectThe bibliography of the subject is best dealt with under each general division; but reference must be made to works dealing with the subject as a whole.
Peiser and Professor J. This work can only present the most essential facts. The whole amount of material is so vast, so much is yet unpublished, so many side-issues arise, all worth investigating, that it can only serve to introduce the reader to a fascinating and wide field of study.
Different epochs representedThe material with which we have to deal, for the most part, falls very naturally into epochs. The documents of the First Dynasty of Babylon are extremely rich in examples of both contracts and letters. Then the Tell Amarna letters form a distinct group. The Ninevite contracts and letters of the Sargonid Dynasty are well marked as separate from the foregoing.
Lastly, those of the New Babylonian Empire are a group by themselves. A few scattered examples survive which form intermediate groups, usually too small to be very characteristic, and certainly insufficient to justify or support any theory of the intermediate stages of development.
Local featuresIt must be observed that to a great extent these groups are not only separated by wide intervals of time—several centuries as a rule—but that they are locally distinct. The first comes from Telloh, the larger part of the second from Sippara, the third from Egypt or Syriathe fourth from Assyria, the last from Babylonia. Whether the documents of Sippara in the third period showed as great divergence from those of the second period as the Tell Amarna letters do, or whether each group is fairly characteristic of its age in all localities using the cuneiform script, are questions which can only be answered when the other documents of that period are available for comparison.
Characteristics of each groupThe documents of each group have marked characteristics in form of script, in orthography, in language. So great are the differences that a slight acquaintance with these characteristics will suffice to fix the epoch of a given document. For the most part, however, these characteristics are not such as can appear in translation. They will be pointed out as far as possible in the opening sections dealing with each group.
The aim will be to select characteristic specimens of each group for translation and to append a summary of what can be obtained by a study of the group. In the case of the contracts the repetition of scores of examples of the same sort would be wearisome.
In the case of the letters, the translation alone would be almost as obscure as the original, without copious comment on the relationships, customs, and events referred to. In both cases it must be noted that many of the most interesting examples are incomplete and unavailable as specimens.
The object of this work is to show what are the most important laws or legal documents of each period and to point out the chief subjects of information to be gained from them. For the letters no such summary of information can be given, partly because they are so many and varied, partly because so few are yet available. It ranges from the earliest beginnings of history to somewhere about bc The dates are largely conjectural, but for the most part the sequence of the events is known.
Ancient Mesopotamia - Babylon and Assyria
It is the period covered by Dr. Some very ancient documents fall under this period. The early tablets which show the nearest approach to the original picture-writing 1 are transfers of property. As a rule, however, such votive inscriptions do not come under the head of contracts.
One of the earliest of our monuments, the Stele of Manistusu, King of Kish, records the sale of land. Another very early monument of similar style 2 deals with the sale of plots of land. His greatest find, some thirty thousand tablets which were in the archives there, was dispersed by the Arabs, and has found its way into various museums.
They have been sold in Europe, as coming from different localities. It is certain that other finds of the same period and same general character have been made elsewhere, so that it is often difficult now to determine their place of discovery. A very large number of these tablets, from the collection of T.
Simon, now in the Berlin museums, were copied and edited by G. Reisner, as Tempelurkunden aus Telloh. They consist of lists of all sorts of natural products, harvests from fields, seed and other expenses allowed for cultivating fields, lists of the fields with their cultivators, numerous recipts for loans or grants, accounts of sheep and cattle, stipends or allowances for certain people; but only one, numberis doubtfully said to concern a sale of some slaves.
Radau, in his Early Babylonian History, gives the texts of a large number of similar tablets. The kind of information to be obtained is well brought out in his notes and comments.
King, in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc. Scheil in the recent files of the Receuil de Travaux. According to the descriptions given, many of them are legal instruments. Besides advances of grain and receipts for the same, 4 or sales of land, 5 we have a legal decision concerning a marriage. They are mostly preserved at Constantinople.
Some are purely Sumerian, others Semitic. Valuable as are the portions available, they chiefly make us long for more. A very large number of tablets belonging to the second period are now in Europe and America.
They seem to have been purchased from dealers, either in the East or West; and may be presumed to have been discovered by the natives. No reliable information can therefore be had Edition: Various places are mentioned: There seems no good reason why tablets of this period should not be found anywhere in Babylonia.
But on examination it is found that collections said to be from widely different places contain duplicates; while the same collection contains tablets dated at different cities and with dates a thousand years apart. It is conceivable that the records of important transactions, especially the transfers of land, were deposited by order in the archives at the capital, wherever that was for the time being. We may imagine that the archives at Sippara or Larsa were afterwards transferred to Babylon, for safety, or in pursuance of a policy of centralization.
Certain it is that a large number of the texts imply a devotion to Shamash as chief deity, while others ascribe the pre-eminence to Marduk or Sin. But this fact is quite consistent with the archives having been discovered in either Babylon or Sippara.
Present location of the tablets: LondonOn the other hand, it is not unlikely that the apparent centralization is of purely modern production. The dealers put together tablets from all sources and ascribe the collection to the place of origin which best suits their fancy. As a consequence, scarcely any collection contains a homogeneous series belonging either to one period or source. This is the more deplorable because so few are competent to date a tablet by the style of writing upon it, and internal indications are often lacking.
In the British Museum we have the following collections: But the account given on pages of Loftus, Travels and Researches Edition: These are usually denoted by B. A number of tablets now in the Kouyunjik Collections. It is certain that these do not come from Nineveh, and in the British Museum Catalogue they are usually ascribed to Warka, but with an implied doubt.
One or two are dated at Erech. The collection contains some forty at least, comprising the accounts of the temple of Ninib, from the time of Ammiditana and Ammizaduga. The collection also has a few tablets of this period. The collection has at least one contract.
Budge in the East, consists of some seven hundred tablets. They are said to come from Sippara; and date from bc to the time of Darius. These will be denoted by B1. Budge in the East, consists of some three thousand tablets.
These will be denoted by B2. The purchases for the British Museum also include a large number of other tablets of this period. They are now numbered consecutively, thus Bu.
This renders it difficult to further particularize the contents of the collections; or to know whether a given tablet belongs to one of the above collections. ParisIn the Museum of the Louvre at Paris are a few tablets belonging to this epoch. Seven of them are published in M. The tablets are marked V. PhiladelphiaAt the University of Pennsylvania collections known as J. Harper, writing in Hebraica, 1 gives some account of these collections; from which it appears that the J.
The two collections contain over a thousand tablets. The H collection has six hundred and thirty-two tablets, many of this epoch. ConstantinopleIn the Imperial Ottoman Museum at Constantinople are a large number of tablets of this period. They are denoted by N, the Nippur collection found by the American explorers there; S, the Sippar collection from the explorations conducted by Pater V.
A few tablets are owned by Sir Henry Peek, Bart. A few tablets exist in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, the gift of Mr. Ward possesses a tablet, published by Dr. A number of other tablets of the period are known to be in different museums or in the hands of private individuals. PublicationsThe historical value of the events used in dating these tablets was recognized by G. Smith, who published the Edition: The earliest publication of the texts was by Pater J.
He made many important observations upon their character and style, and gave a valuable list of words and names. As was to be expected from a first attempt, both his readings of the texts and his transcriptions from them leave room for some improvement. He arranged his texts according to the reigns of the kings mentioned. This edition formed the subject of M. These are most valuable for their full treatment—photographs of the originals, drawings, and descriptions of the seals, transliterations, translations, and comments, giving a better idea of what these documents are like than can be obtained without actually handling the originals.
Pinches in his introduction assigns their discovery to the ruins of Sippara. The texts published by him only include three from our period, Nos. This gave a full transliteration and translation of one hundred and eleven texts published in autography. Full notes and comments were added giving practically all that could then be said on the subject. His introduction summarized the information, to be extracted from his texts, bearing on the social institutions of Babylonia. By arranging the texts in classes according to their purport and contents he was able to elucidate each text by comparison with similar documents and so to gain a very clear idea of the meaning of separate clauses, even when the exact shade of meaning of individual words remained obscure.