Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Babylon was a major political and cultural center in the Near East during the early second and late first millenniums BCE, an heir to the Sumerian and Akkadian empires, and competitor with the Assyrian empire. Although politically unified, Babylonia was a dynamically multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual population, with successive emigrant populations and dynastic Aramaic-speaking elites, who adopted the formal cuneiform writings of Sumer and Akkad. Agriculture, animal husbandry, and fishing were the bases of subsistence. Temple and palace institutions maintained large land holdings and a dependent labor force, controlling a fundamentally redistributive economy. A parallel entrepreneurial economy operated throughout the ancient Near East and into the Indus Valley. City gods and cults, along with grand myths and associated rituals, made up a rich religious tradition.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle East --Middle East



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The Babylonian file has several general monographs on Babylonian society and culture covering the Old (First or Amorite Dynasty, 1894-1595 BC), Middle (Kassite Dynasty, 1595-1155 BC, with the 2nd Dynasty of Isin, to 1025), and Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean Dynasty, 626-539 BC) periods. These more general works include Saggs (1988), Delaporte (1925), and Leick (2003). Saggs (1988) follows the middle chronology preferred for this collection and therefore provides a good benchmark, closely followed by Leick (2003). Delaporte (1925) posits an initial date of 2225 BC with the reign of Hammurabi set at 2124-2080 BC (1792-1750 BC in the middle chronology), not aligning with the middle chronology until the post-Kassite period of Assyrian dominance. Leick (2003) does not range far outside the Babylonian period and culture, and therefore provides the best book-length overview.

Narrower historical focus is provided by: Gadd (1965), who writes about the reign of Hammurabi and the subsequent decline of the First Dynasty; Sagg (1965 “Law”), concentrating on the Code of Hammurabi; Charpin (2010) on Old Babylonian legal and diplomatic texts; Yoffee (2014), also staying largely within the Old Babylonian period regarding family issues; Saggs (1965 “Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon”), who covers Nebuchadnezzar II’s reign during the Neo-Babylonian period; and Steele (2011) discussing astronomy, principally during the Neo-Babylonian period. Specific topics covered include: writing and scribes (Saggs 1965 “The scribe…”; Charpin 2010), law (Saggs 1965 “Law”; Charpin 2010), astronomy (Steele 2011), changes in individual status (Yoffee 2014), women (Stol 1995), religion (Bottéro 1952), and medicine (Stol 1991).

For more detailed information on the content of individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

Andurārum – manumission – use “BORROWING AND LENDING (426)” with “SLAVERY (567)”

Baru – diviner

Ilku, ilkum – service to the state, or a pension for such service in form of landed property

Ishakku – mayor or governor

Karum – merchant group, mercantile district

Kittum – law

Kudurru – stelae, boundary marker

Mīšarum – abolition of debts – use “BORROWING AND LENDING (426)” with “LEGAL NORMS (671)”

Naditu – nun or priestess

Narû – see Kudurru

Nubanda – attendants in royal household

Nudunnu, nudunnum – dowry (may be rights to land)

Rêdum – military recruiter

Tabrītum – safe passage – use “REGULATION OF TRAVEL (486)”

Tirhatu – bride payment

Ziggurat – temple mound – use “RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346)”

Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard

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