Babylonia is an ancient country of Mesopotamia which came after Sumer and Akkad. It lasted
about 1200 years and made a great impact on both the ancent world as well as present day
The Babylonian civilization, which endured from 18th century BC to 6th century BC was highly
urbanized and was based mainly on agriculture rather than industry. The country consisted
of a dozen or so cities, surrounded by small villages.
The king of the civilisation had absolute power and under him was monarch who exercised
legislative and judicial as well as executive powers. Appointed governors and administrators
worked for the monarch. Each city had a mayor and council of city elders who were in charge of
local city administration.
The life of the Babylonians was modified that of the Sumerian in accordance with their own
culture and beliefs. Throughout 1200 years, there were no major changes in its way of life as
the system proved to be highly effective. In fact many neighbouring countries were influenced
by the Babylonian civilisation, especially Assyria.
Much of what we know of Babylonia came from documents excavated from the ground and one of the
most important find is the remarkable collection of laws often known as the Code of Hammurabi.
Babylonian society consisted of three classes they are the awilu, a free person of the upper
class; the mushkenu, a free person of low estate; and the wardu, or slave. Most slaves were
prisoners of war, but some were Babylonian citizens.
For example, free persons might be reduced to slavery as punishment for certain offenses or
children could be sold by their parents. Slaves were the property of their master and were
severely punished if they attempted to escape. However they usually were well treated.
Slaves had certain legal rights and could engage in business, borrow money, and buy themselves
out of slavery. The children of a slave who married a free person were free.
The Babylonians inherited the technical achievements of the Sumerians in irrigation and agriculture. Maintaining the system of canals, dikes, weirs, and reservoirs constructed by their predecessors demanded considerable engineering knowledge and skill. Preparation of maps, surveys, and plans involved the use of leveling instruments and measuring rods. For mathematical and arithmetical purposes they used the Sumerian sexagesimal system of numbers, which featured a useful device of so-called place-value notation that resembles the present-day decimal system.
Babylonian artisans were skilled in metallurgy, in the processes of fulling, bleaching, and dyeing, and in the preparation of paints, pigments, cosmetics, and perfumes. In the field of medicine, surgery was well known and often practiced.
Legal System and Writing
Law and justice were key concepts in the Babylonian way of life. Justice was administered by the courts, each of which consisted of from one to four judges. Often the elders of a town constituted a tribunal. The judges could not reverse their decisions for any reason, but appeals from their verdicts could be made to the king. Evidence consisted either of statements from witnesses or of written documents.
To ensure that their legal, administrative, and economic institutions functioned effectively, the Babylonians used the cuneiform system of writing developed by their Sumerian predecessors. To train their scribes, secretaries, archivists, and other administrative personnel, they adopted the Sumerian system of formal education, under which secular schools served as the cultural centers of the land.
The Babylonian Rule
More than 1200 years had elapsed from the glorious reign of Hammurabi to the subjugation of
Babylonia by the Persians. During this long span of time the Babylonian social structure,
economic organization, arts and crafts, science and literature, judicial system, and religious beliefs underwent considerable modification, but generally only in details, not in essence. Grounded almost wholly on the culture of Sumer, Babylonian cultural achievements left a deep impression on the entire ancient world, and particularly on the Hebrews and the Greeks. Even present-day civilization is indebted culturally to Babylonian civilization to some extent. For instance, Babylonian influence is pervasive throughout the Bible and in the works of such Greek poets as Homer and Hesiod, in the geometry of the Greek mathematician Euclid, in astronomy, in astrology, and in heraldry.
Grounded almost wholly on the culture of Sumer, Babylonian cultural achievements left a deep impression on the entire ancient world, and particularly on the Hebrews and the Greeks. Even present-day civilization is indebted culturally to Babylonian civilization to some extent. For instance, Babylonian influence is pervasive throughout the Bible and in the works of such Greek poets as Homer and Hesiod, in the geometry of the Greek mathematician Euclid, in astronomy, in astrology, and in heraldry.