Student Reader


The Garden of Eden is a section of Babylonia, as is sufficiently attested by the express mention of the Tigris and Euphrates as two of the rivers which flowed through the primeval habitation of mankind ... the tradition which assigns the first human pair to Babylonia is of great significance for the prominence which Babylonia must have acquired in the mind of the Hebrews ... . Jastrow 1915, p 3

Old Babylonian era

Early Iron Age

Marduk-Apla-Iddina IIMarduk-apla-iddina had a Chaldean background and rose to power from being a tribal sheik to the king of Babylonia. Known as Merodach Baladan in the Bible.

Aramaean and Chaldean Arrivals

Arameans were west Semitic tribespeople who settled throughout Babylonia along the Tigris in small villages on the fringe of the agricultural zone. Assyrian military records list various Aramean tribes, foremost being Gambulians and Puqudians. They did not integrate into Babylonian society, nor did they make any great claims for political power. Another west Semitic tribespeople was the Chaldeans. Their origins are unclear but by 850 BC they were firmly established in southern Babylonia and along the Euphrates. They built fortified cities that cut off Babylonia from trade routes leading in the Persian Gulf, weakening the Babylonian economy.

The leading Chaldean tribes were: Bit-Amukani, located just above Uruk; Bit-Dakkuri, south of Babylon; and Bit-Yakin, residing in the marshes of far southern Babylonia, known as sealand. Chaldeans integrated more than the Arameans did, often taking Babylonian names. When the Kassite Dynasty ended in 1155, two dynasties clamored for control: the long-lasting Second Isin Dynasty; and the brief Second Sealand Dynasty, starting with Kassites from the south followed by Kassites from Syria. After these were kings from various origins. Chaldeans often took the throne, and were thus poised as Assyria's principal block to hegemony in Babylonia.

Babylon, Borsippa, Nippur, Sippar and Uruk

Royal power relied on these urban centers for support, providing the king an area of control in an unruly countryside. The cities' citizenry used this leverage to gain privileges. The king could not impose tax, corvée labor nor military service, and could he not arrest someone nor seize property. This agreement was renewed with the ascession of each king and continued under Assyrian domination. The cities awarded these privileges were Babylon, Borsippa, Nippur, Sippar and Uruk; they were greatly depopulated and weakened, but still retained enough power to warrant this royal attention.

There was not enough wealth for new construction, but old buildings and city-walls were sometimes renovated. Scribal activity (including official inscriptions) was paltry, and mostly confined to the copying of old texts. In the late 2nd millennium, Nebuchadnezzar I's return of the Marduk statue from Elam led to a resurgence of that cult. in the 1st millennium, the scribal god Nabu rose in importance, as did his cult-city Borsippa. When Assyrian king Assurbanipal gathered texts for his library, he ordered his officials to go into Babylonian temples and priests' private homes to collect tablet; temples must have been patrons of scribal activity.

Neo-Babylonian Era