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The Greatness That Was Babylon by H.W.F. Saggs
Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages
University College in Cardiff (1962)
Library of Congress # DS 70.7 S27

Chapter 2: Babylonia and Assyria (Circa 2000-1350 BC)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

For Dates See Regnal Chronologies

A Historical Interlude

At the end of the third and the beginning of the second millennia BC there was a movement of West Semitic peoples eastward into central Mesopotamia and Babylonia. Already under the empire of the Third Dynasty of Ur there was a considerable amount of peaceful penetration into Babylonia. The immigrants concerned (Amorites) settled in a number of ancient centres where they formed kingdoms. Although the disappearance of the Third Dynasty of Ur under Ibbi-Sin

Ibbi-Sin...................................2029-2002

marks the end of the Sumerians as an independent and distinct political entity, it would present a totally false conception to speak of the defeat of the Sumerians. There is no evidence of a conscious realization in the ancient world of a conflict of Sumerian versus Semite (Akkad).

[The Third Dynasty of Ur came to an end when the Elamites destroyed the city and captured Ibbi-Sin and thusly deported him to Elam]

The city-state ruler who finally achieved a temporary supremacy, and whose dynasty was in some senses the heir to the Third Dynasty of Ur, was Ishbi-Erra of Isin, whose reign may be taken as 2017 - 1985 BC. The legitimacy of Ishbi-Erra's supremacy was recognized as far afield as Arrapha in the north and Dilmun in the south. Ishbi-Erra was succeeded in the direct line for four generations by rulers of whom for the most part little is known. Conditions for the restoration of the internal and foreign trade which had flourished in the Third Dynasty of Ur period began to reappear.

Ishbi-Erra.................................2017-1984
Shu-Ilishu.................................1984-1974
Iddin-Dagon................................1974-1953
Ishme-Dagon................................1953-1934
Lapit-Ishtar...............................1934-1923

Waves of semites invaders from the desert continued to thrust into Babylonia and politically the fragmentation of the Isin Kingdom, which began to appear in the reign of Ishme-Dagan, was strongly marked at the time of Lipit-Ishtar. A beneficiary of Isin's weakness was Larsa, which managed to carve out an independent kingdom in the south.

[Larsa alternated with Isin in controlling southern Mesopotamia in the first two centuries of the 2nd millennium BC] Neither state could properly be regarded as sole legitimate ruler of Babylonia.

Details of events are very ill known but Larsa emerges as a definite rival to Isin and a number of military operations by Gungunum

Gungunum...................................1932-1905

are mentioned, notably the capture of Ur, the main sea port for the whole of Mesopotamia. The successors of Gungunum extended their power by military measures towards north Babylonia, ultimately absorbing a number of cities, in particular Nippur, the religious centre of Babylonia, and Uruk, which had formerly belonged to Isin.

Eventually Isin declined in impotance and finally it was conquered and its dynasty brought to an end by Rim-Sin of Larsa

Rim-Sin I..................................1822-1763

This event made him sole ruler of middle and southern Babylonia and at last there was a legitimate heir to the title of the Third Dynasty of Ur. Larsa's defeat of Isin fell at the very end of the reign of Sin-Muballit of Babylon,

Sin-Muballit...............................1812-1792

who was Hammurabi's father. Although not a few independent states yet remained [unconquered], notably Mari and Eshnunna, this was a critical development, in that it represented the elimination of the remaining buffer between the two rising powers, Babylon and Larsa.

Hammurabi thus came to the throne with an apparently powerful and expanding state extending from his borders [in the north part of Babylonia] to the Persian Gulf and Elam. His ultimate success in gaining control of all Babylonia is perhaps a tribute as much to his administrative and diplomatic skill as to his military achievements .....

The Rise of Babylon

The second successor of Gungunum, Sumuel of Larsa,

Sumuel.....................................1894-1865

was contemporary with the beginning of the famous dynasty commonly known as

First Dynasty of Babylon (Amorite) [1894 - 1595 BC]

Sumu-Abum...................................1894-1880
Sumu-Lael...................................1880-1844
Sabium.....................................1844-1830
Apil-Sin...................................1830-1812
Sin-Muballit...............................1812-1792
Hammurabi..................................1792-1749

Under the Third Dynasty of Ur Babylon had been a small city ruled by an ensi, but it is not known whether it was subsequently part of the region ruled by the kings of Isin. The founder of the First Dynasty, Sumu-Abum, was of West Semitic origin, but whether he had formerly been in the service of another Mesopotamian state or he conquered Babylon direct from the desert is at present unknown.

The simultaneous expansion of Larsa in the south and Babylon in the north inevitably led in the end to conflict between these two powers, but it would be an over simplification to regard a struggle between these two city-states as the key to the history of Mesopotamia during the succeeding century. From Mari on the [middle] Euphrates to the Diyala and the Elamite border a considerable number of other city-states still existed which, though destined ultimately to be absorbed by Babylon or Larsa and finally unified under Hammurabi, for the present enjoyed in varying degrees, independence and the possibility of territorial expansion.

At this time a situation of coalitions and counter coalitions is explicitly referred to in a document from Mari which says:

There is no king who of himself alone is strongest. Ten or fifteen kings [of city-states] follow Hammurabi of Babylon, the same number follow Rim-Sin of Larsa, the same number follow Ibal-Piel of Eshnunna, the same number follow Amut-Piel of Qatna, and twenty kings follow Yarim-Lim of Yamkhad .....

[This may be misleading but not so if we realize that this is primarily a history of the hegemony in southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) and not outlying regions such as the Kingdom of Yamkhad which was centered at Aleppo in Syria or Qatna (which was also in Syria). Eshnunna, although a Sumerian city-state in the proper sense of the word, was NE in the Diyala Valley area and was the centre of an independent kingdom of some size and importance]

In Hammurabi's twenty ninth year he defeated a coalition headed by Elam and Eshnunna at the bequest of Mari and established himself decisively as the major power in the area. Since Rim-Sin of Larsa had long controlled virtually the whole of southern Babylonia, two powerful kingdoms were now face to face. In the following year Hammurabi overthrew Rim-Sin, thereby making himself sole ruler of Babylonia in 1763 BC.

The political and military activities of Hammurabi had thus converted a city-state into the centre of an empire. Hammurabi welded into one kingdom the many city-states of Sumer and Akkad.

Hammurabi's military achievements, however, did not long survive Hammurabi himself. The stirrings of the Indo-European tribes beyond the Caucasus and the effects of their southward migration now began to be felt farther afield. Early in the reign of Hammurabi's son

Samsu-Iluna.................................1749-1711

a Kassite army made a raid from the Elamite border, and though subsequently repelled by the Babylonians, succeeded in conquering Ur and Uruk.

These Kassites, who later established a dynasty which ruled Babylonia for several centuries, were an Indo-European people who came from the Zagros hills. Individual Kassites are found in Babylonia already during the early part of the First Dynasty. From this time onwards Kassites began to settle in the northeast of Babylonia under their own kings.

In the twenty-eighth year of Samsu-Iluna there was a revolt in the south of Babylonia (the marsh country known as the Sealands) which he was unable to suppress, and so arose the so-called Dynasty of the Sealands, which continued to control a region approximating to the ancient Sumer for more than two hundred years, outliving, indeed, the First Dynasty of Babylon.

The end of the Third Dynasty of Babylon represents one of the landmarks of ancient history. Suddenly in 1595 BC, the thirteenth year of

Samsu-Ditana................................1625-1595

Mursilis I, the fourth ruler of the Hittite Empire, swept out of Asia Minor into Syria (where he took Aleppo), and down the Euphrates, sacking Mari on his way. The conqueror reached Babylon, which he plundered and burnt, and then returned to his capital apparently as suddenly as he came. His sojourn in Babylon had, however, been long enough to disrupt government and administration there, and Babylonia fell an easy prey to a horde of Kassites who, after the Hittites had retreated, swept down from the mountains to the north-east. The conquering Kassite king, Agum II, apparently managed to extend his authority up the middle Euphrates as far as the kingdom of Hana, and also claimed the kingship of Guti in the hills east of Assyria.

The acievements of Hammurabi thus finally been brought to an end. Babylonian culture, however, continued to exercise a vast influence throughout the Near East. The Kassite kings adopted the Akkadian language and cuneiform script of Babylonia.

The Kassite Dynasty in Babylonia succeeded in consolidating its position and in once again unifying the country and in protecting it from the pressure of Assyria and Elam. In domestic policy Kassite government seems to have been mild and unoppressive and the apparent absence of native uprisings may well have been related to their liberality.

The military conquest of the Sealand Dynasty in the south was effected by Ulamburiash during the reign of Kashtiliash III, his older brother. Ulamburiash, after serving as viceroy in the Sealands, succeeded to the Kassite throne in about 1450 BC, and in doing so reunited Babylonia after a partition lasting over two hundred years.

[But the Kassites are gone within a blink of an eye, as wave after wave of migrations put pressure on their fragile hold on power. By 1200 BC all the great Indo-European kingdoms, that great human experiment in transforming Mesopotamia into an Indo-European culture, had been weakened by the incessant troubles of war and invasion, and the Assyrians, a Semitic people angered by Indo-European domination, would return the area to Semitic control. Under the Assyrian King Ashur-Dan, the last Kassite king was driven from the Babylonian throne in the first quarter of the twelfth century BC .....]

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