Mesopotamian God-Kings and the Lost Paradise.
The historical information comprising this chapter comes from the authors book “Pyramids in the pacific – The Unwritten History of Australia, [URU Publications 2000]. The Hittite stone tablet inscription is in the authors possession.
The Uruan fleets which brought Aryan culture to the shores of the Persian Gulf laid the cultural foundations for the later rise of the great Mesopotamian civilisations that were to dominate the Tigris-Euphrates plain, from modern Baghdad in the north-west, to the Persian Gulf in the south-west.
Here would rise Babylonia, yet before the rise of the city of Babylon to political importance about 1850 BC, the same area was known as Sumer [in the south-east] and Akkad [in the north-west]. Assyria lay north of Babylon along the upper Tigris and the waters of the Great and Little Zab Rivers; its modern boundaries would be Iran in the east, Turkey in the north, and Syria in west. In general, modern Iraq, north of the Euphrates, includes most of the ancient territory of Babylonia and Assyria.
The Sumerians were the first of the cultures to rise on the Babylonian plain, establishing themselves in the south-eastern region around the Persian Gulf as early as 4000 BC. There they drained swamplands, practiced flood control, and established agriculture on a permanent basis.
They developed trade with surrounding areas, and built up an industrial economy which included metalworking and the manufacture of textiles and pottery. By 3000 BC the Sumerians had created a complex culture characterised by an urban lifestyle, and a well-developed religion, along with an efficient writing system [cuneiform].
Sumerian influence upon the biblical world was considerable, and they provided the first ruling classes of the Indus and Egyptian civilisations. The land of Sumer at first developed into a collection of fifteen or twenty small states, situated at the head of the Persian Gulf in lower Babylonia, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have their mouths.
From here the large ocean-going reed boats of Sumer ventured forth on trade and mineral-seeking expeditions to Asia and the ports of the Middle-East. The cities, including Ur and Kish, were situated far inland, but they were within trading distance of the Mediterranean lands.
Archaeologists estimate that, at their height, these cities supported considerable populations. For example, Ur may have held as many as 500,000 people. The Sumerian ports of the Persian Gulf, which date from as early as the 4th millennium BC, were ideally located for trade between India and the Middle-East, although Sumerian trade was mostly directed eastwards.
The civilisation of the Sumerians was adopted by the Semites [Akkadians] who lived in the north-western part of the plain. The history of Sumer and Akkad during the period between 2700-1850 BC was primarily one of conflict between various Sumerian city states as well as wars fought between the Sumerians and Akkadians.
In between wars Sumerian ships of trade penetrated to India and as we shall see anon, would eventually find their way to Australian shores. Then some time around 1930 BC, the Sumerian-Akkadian period was brought to a close by the invasions of a new Semitic people, the Amorites, who conquered the plain and established themselves at Babylon.
From the city of Babylon the Amorites extended their political influence over the Tigris-Euphrates valley until about 1700 BC, when Hammurabi, the sixth king of the Amorites, completed the process of Babylonian expansion, with the creation of an empire that included Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and perhaps Syria also. The city of Babylon became the capital of this vast Kingdom, and the region formerly known as Sumer and Akkad was now called Babylonia.
Although the Babylonian civilisation during the reign of Hammurabi based itself upon that of the earlier Sumerians, the state language now became Semitic, and the Sumerian element within the population lost its identity.
The Babylonian government concerned itself with agricultural matters, the administration of justice and the collection of taxes, and national defence. Trade was established with Egypt, Syria, the northern hills and India, both via overland routes as well as by sea. The medium of exchange in this trade was gold, silver and copper, and the Babylonian system of weights and measures became standard throughout the Near-East.
Archaeology shows that this early phase of Babylonian rule was brought to an end about 1600 BC, when the empire was subjected to attacks by Indo-European invaders who poured in from the north. These invaders were the Hittites, who had established themselves firmly in Asia Minor. They sacked Babylon some years after the death of Hammurabi, them the Kassites from Elam descended upon the plain to destroy the Amorite dynasty, replacing it with kings drawn from the Kassite ranks.
With the Kassite occupation of Babylonia, the rise of Assyria as an independent state began. This state, in the time of Hammurabi, had been a mere province of Babylonia. However, the Kassites were unable to keep the Assyrians under domination. Thus, along the upper Tigris, the warlike, largely Semitic Assyrians commenced the laying of the foundations of an empire far larger than those of its predecessors.
The Assyrian civilisation patterned itself after that of the Babylonian, although the Assyrians would be responsible for a number of important innovations of their own. Conquered territories were divided into provinces that paid tribute to the king, while the army was better equipped and organised than any before it.
After the fall of Assyria, Babylonia was to experience a period of independence until it was overrun by the Persians in 539 BC. This last Babylonian kingdom, known as the Neo-Babylonian, began with a revolt in 625 BC when Nabopolassar, an Assyrian general, broke with Assyria to combine with Cyaxares, King of the Medes, to destroy Nineveh in 612 BC.
Nabopolassar’s son was Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned in Babylon from 605 to 562 BC and is famous for having supervised the building of the Hanging Gardens, and also for carrying off the Jews to captivity in Babylon [587-586 BC].
The last of the Neo-Babylonian rulers was Nabonides [556-539 BC], who was supported by his son Belshazzar. Nabonides was an elderly scholar and antiquarian who apparently lacked the energy or even competence to rule his kingdom, at a time when other states, Lydia and Media, were falling before the onslaught of Persia under Cyrus the Great. In 539 BC when Cyrus finally invaded Babylonia, he encountered very little resistance, and it is suspected by historians that the people and priests were happy to exchange Nabonides for Cyrus!
After 539 BC Babylonia and Assyria ceased to be independent and thereafter passed successively under the rule of Persia, then Alexander the Great, the Selucids, the Parthians, and other later conquerors of the Near-East. The city of Babylon remained for many centuries as an important administrative centre, but the old cities of Assyria were abandoned.