In his position as King of Babylonia, Hammurabi managed to organize the world's first code of laws and establish Babylon as the dominant and successful Amorite city of its time. "Records written on clay tablets show that Hammurabi was a very capable administrator and a successful warrior. His rule spanned from 1792 B.C. to 1750 B.C. When he became king in 1792, he was still young, but had already become entrusted with many official duties in his administration" (Grolier). In the early years of his reign, Hammurabi mostly participated in traditional activities, such as repairing buildings, digging canals, and fighting wars. Yet later in his rule, Hammurabi organized a unique code of laws, the first of its kind, therefore making himself one of the world's most influential leaders. Hammurabi was primarily influential to the world because of his code of laws. This code consisted of 282 provisions, systematically arranged under a variety of subjects. He sorted his laws into groups such as family, labor, personal property, real estate, trade, and business. This was the first time in history that any laws had been categorized into various sections. This format of organization was emulated by civilizations of the future. For example, Semitic cultures succeeding Hammurabi's rule used some of the same laws that were included in Hammurabi's code. Hammurabi's method of thought is evident in present day societies which are influenced by his code. Modern governments currently create specific laws, which are placed into their appropriate family of similar laws. Hammurabi had his laws recorded upon an eight foot high black stone monument. Hammurabi based his code on principles like, the strong should not injure the weak, and that punishment should fit the crime. As for punishment, "legal actions were initiated under the code by written pleadings; testimony was taken under oath. The code was severe in it's penalties, prescribing "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.""(Grolier). This code of laws was able to be maintained by invoking the authority of the gods and the state. Although the punishments were different than those of today, the authority of the state (government) is similar. Currently, punishments are issued through the state's law enforcement system, comparable to the way punishment was determined and enforced in ancient Babylon. In the code, crimes punishable by death required a trial in front of a bench of judges. Included in these crimes were: bigamy, incest, kidnapping, adultery and theft. There were also laws similar to today. For example, a husband who wished to divorce his wife, was required to pay alimony and child support. By creating the world's first set of organized laws, Hammurabi constituted a model set of moral codes for other civilizations to duplicate. "The code of Hammurabi is believed to have greatly influenced the development of Near Eastern civilizations for centuries after it was written"(Britannica). Although Hammurabi failed to establish an effective bureaucratic system himself, his ideas were successful in establishing laws in Babylonia. Since Babylon was the world's first metropolis, the large population needed to be bound by a strict set of organized civil laws. The way Hammurabi constructed his laws is influential to the world today, because laws can be more easily understood by the people. --- Bibliography "Code of Hammurabi." Encyclopedia Britannica (1989), X, 682. "Hammurabi." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1994). "Hammurabi." Compton's Encyclopedia (1990), XI, 225.
Art and Architecture
More than 4,000 years ago the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers began to teem with life–first the Sumerian, then the Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Persian empires. Here too excavations have unearthed evidence of great skill and artistry.
From Sumeria have come examples of fine works in marble, diorite, hammered gold, and lapis lazuli. Of the many portraits produced in this area, some of the best are those of Gudea, ruler of Lagash.
Some of the portraits are in marble, others, such as the one in the Louvre in Paris, are cut in gray-black diorite.
Dating from about 2400 BC, they have the smooth perfection and idealized features of the classical period in Sumerian art.
Sumerian art and architecture was ornate and complex. Clay was the Sumerians’ most abundant material. Stone, wood, and metal had to be imported.
Art was primarily used for religious purposes. Painting and sculpture was the main median used.
The famous votive stone/ marble sculptures from Tell Asmar represent tall, bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts.
Enlarged eyes were found on many statues
The tallest figure is about 30 inches in height. He represents the god of vegetation. The next tallest represents a mother goddess-mother goddesses were common in many ancient cultures. They were worshipped in the hope that they would bring fertility to women and to crops. (Another connection to African culture.)
The next largest figures are priests. The smallest figures are worshippers – a definite hierarchy of size. This is an example of artistic iconography. We learn to read picture symbols—bodies are cylindrical and scarcely differentiated by gender, with their uplifted heads and hands clasped. This is a pose of supplication-wanting or waiting for something.
Ur yielded much outstanding Sumerian work, e.g., a wooden harp with the head of a bull on top, showing mythological scenes in gold and mosaic inlay on the sound box (c.2650 B.C., Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia).
Sumerian techniques and motifs were widely available because of the invention of cuneiform writing before 3000 B.C.
This system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, most likely by the Sumerians. The characters consist of arrangements of wedge-like strokes, generally on clay tablets. The history of the script is strikingly like that of the Egyptian hieroglyphic.
Among other Sumerian arts forms were the clay cylinder seals used to mark documents or property. They were highly sophisticated.
During the 3rd Millennium BC, the Sumerians and the Akkadians lived peacefully together and created conditions for a common high civilization.
A few centuries later the first Akkadian king, Sargon of Akkad, ruled over an empire that included a large part of Mesopotamia. The ancient name Akkadian is derived from the city-state of Akkad. It appears that Semitic speaking people had lived for centuries amidst the Sumerians and gradually became an integral part of the Sumerian culture. We don’t hear much about them in the first part of the 3rd millennium, because the scholarly language used in writing at that time was Sumerian.
Akkadia was founded by Sargon I when he conquered Sumeria. Sargon reigned from 2334 to 2279 BCE, and during those fifty-five years Akkadia became the world’s first empire. During his reign, the Akkadian language became the lingua franca of the region. Along with the language came the Semitic culture it represented. The Biblical Shinar, the home of the tribe of Terach, father of Abraham, about 2400 BCE, was ancient Akkadia. It later became Babylonia, and it is now (roughly) Iraq. The art of glassmaking was born in Akkadia. It was a Semitic, and then a Jewish, art for the next three millennia. Glassmaking was unique among the arts, for it was invented only once in all of human history. Its spread through the world was parallel to, and coincident with, the dispersal of the Jews.
Akkadian is one of the great cultural languages of world history. Akkadian (or Babylonian-Assyrian) is the collective name for the spoken languages of the culture in Mesopotamia, the area between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris. Deciphered in the 1850s, Akkadian is the medium of innumerable documents from daily life as well as a vast literature, including the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, the quest of a man for eternal life.
Akkadian, the oldest known member of the family of Semitic languages, succeeded Sumerian as the vernacular tongue of Mesopotamia and was spoken by the Babylonians and Assyrians over a period of nearly two thousand years. It was written in the cuneiform script invented by the Sumerians, and the surviving documentation covers the period from 2350 BC to the first century AD. The oldest known writing system employed by Semitic-speaking peoples is cuneiform. It was adopted by the Akkadians ca.2500 BC from the Sumerians, whose language was not a Semitic tongue.
The city of Babel is thought to have been Babylon and the word babel comes originally from the Akkadian Bab-ilu meaning “gate of God”.
The earliest surviving inscriptions in the language go back to about 2,500 BC and are the oldest known written records in a Semitic tongue. The Semitic languages are named after Shem or Sem, the oldest son of Noah, from whom most of the languages’ speakers were said to be descended.
By the first century AD Akkadian had become an extinct language replaced as a spoken language by Aramaic.
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Tutankhamun (throne name Neb-kheperu-re) the famous “boy king”.
Tutankhamun was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1336-1327 BC). Ironically until Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb in 1922, Tutankhamun was one of the most poorly known of the pharaohs, he had a short reign, and his tomb is unlike most other royal tombs – consisting of only four small rooms rather than the long corridor style that was typical that period. After several years of fruitless digging in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s team had finally discovered a rock-cut step below the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI. This was the first of a flight of steps that led down to a walled up entrance to a tomb, plastered over and stamped with large oval seals, five of which were inscribed with Tutankhamun’s throne name, Neb-khepru-re. Continue reading Tutankhamun