What was the Babylonian civilization? What was so great about this particular civilization anyways? Babylonia was a civilization that had a way of life that was so effective that it underwent relatively little change for some 1200 years. In the following essay, I will be discussing their daily life, their economy, government, the people and society, arts, and religion, to show why and how their way of life was so effective.
Daily life in Babylonia was very “down-to-earth”. Law and justice were key concepts in the Babylonian way of life. People did a lot of farming in this ancient civilization. Each day people would go to work for a living. The slaves would help out or do the chores. The Babylonian women had certain legal rights. She could hold property, engage in business, and qualify as a witness. The husband could divorce his wife and could marry a second wife if she did something wrong. For example, if she did not “give” him any children. The parents arranged marriages-they were recognized legally. There would first be a ceremony, which would be concluded with a “contract inscribed on a tablet.””Children were under the absolute authority of their parents.”They could disinherit them or sell them into slavery. But under normal conditions, children were loved and, at the death of the parents, inherited all their possessions. Adopted children were not uncommon and were treated nicely and cared for properly. Thus, this shows that the Babylonian civilization was quite civilized and had a daily way of life that was in the “norm”. The people weren’t too war-like or too philosophical-thus, making their way of life effective.
Their economy came from many sources. Agriculture was a major factor in the Babylonian civilization. Farming provided food, and their sheep provided wool for cloth. In Babylonia, the citizens owned a lot of the land. There were Artisans and merchants-they kept most the their profits, but did give a portion of it to the temple and to the king.They had a system that gave a certain value to things. This system was based on how much a certain amount of grain weighed. For example, a unit known as the shekel weighed the same as 180 grains of barley. The units were mainly represented by pieces of precious metal.The most commonly used unit was the mina. This system was one of the first to use money in the world. The Babylonians also did trade. The important trade routes for the Babylonians were the Tigris River and the Euphrates River. Thus, this shows that the Babylonian civilization had a stable and advanced way of getting what they needed (trade, agriculture). They had a stable economy, which shows us that their way of life must have been effective because of the little change they underwent within 1200 years.
Babylonia had a strong political structure and practiced very strict laws. At the head of the political structure was the king, who had legislative, judicial, and executive powers. Under him was a group of appointed governors and administrators. In charge of local administration were the mayors and the Council of City Elders. “There were courts that consisted of one to four judges. The judges couldn’t reverse their decisions for any reason, but they could make appeals for their verdicts to the king. Evidence consisted either of statements from witnesses or of written documents.”That shows how modernized their governmental system was and how laws and justice were important. They were much like how the courts are today in our societies. For example, they had to take oaths in courts as we do today. There were penalties for the crimes committed-it ranged from capital punishment to banishment. Babylonia was ruled by a system of laws, known as “Hammurabi’s Code.” It controlled the people and society. Their great political structure and strong legal system shows just how advanced and modern the Babylonian civilization was. Thus, showing why they underwent such little change in 1200 years. They had an effective governmental system that ran and took care of the society well.
The people in the Babylonian society were ranked and treated according to the Hammurabi’s Code. The Babylonian society consisted of three classes. They were the awilu, which was a free person of the upper class; the mushkenu, a free person of the lower class; and the wardu, which was a slave. The slaves came from different sources. “Most slaves were prisoners of war, but some were recruited from the Babylonian citizenry as well.”For example, free persons might be reduced to slavery as punishment for certain offenses and parents could sell their children as slaves in times of need as I mentioned before. Slaves could be branded and flogged, and if they tried to escape, they were severely punished. But, under normal conditions, they were treated well by their masters. Slaves even had certain legal rights and could engage in business, borrow money, and buy their freedom. A slave could be freed if he or she marries a free person and had children. The sale price of a slave varied with the market as well as what the slave had to offer (skills, attributes, etc.). To show you haw the position of the mushkenu in society was, the Code of Hammurabi will be discussed here now. If a mushkenu was injured in eye or limb, he was paid a mina; if an awilu had a similar injury, the master had to pay a fee of only two shekels. Thus, I have shown you how advanced and civilized the Babylonian society was, although they had slaves. But, the slaves were treated with respect in contrast with other civilizations. Aren’t modern day servants just modern day “slaves” too in a sense?! This shows that the Babylonian civilization had an effective way of life. That is why it required little change within a period of about 1200 years-the Code of Hammurabi played a big part of it.
Babylonian art was very beautiful and it portrays how they felt and lived in the Babylonian civilization. Babylonian art and architecture continues to amaze contemporary historians. One example, a wonder of the ancient world, was the Babylonian Hanging Gardens. Their art reflects both their love and fear for the natural forces, as well as their military conquests. The Babylonians made pottery, terra-cotta sculptures, and writing surfaces with the clay they had. There were also wooden sculptures. “Stone was rare, and their granite, basalt, sandstone, diorite, and alabaster were reserved for sculpture.”They also used metals-metals such as bronze, copper, gold, and silver, as well as shells and gems, were used for the finest sculptures and inlays. They used small stones of all kinds for cylinder seals. Thus, this shows us that they had art and architectural advances. This proves that, that they were civilized people and why they required little change in such a long period of time. They respected nature, were advanced, and could defend themselves from opposing societies-as shown in their artwork and architecture.
The Babylonian civilization had a polytheistic religion. Their pantheon consisted of superhumans-they had powers and were immortals. Like other polytheistic religions of the past and present, each immortal ruled a certain area. “Each was in charge of one of the great realms of heaven, earth, sea, and air; or of one of the major astral bodies-the sun, moon, and planets, or in the realm of earth, of such natural entities as rivers, mountains, and plains, and of such social entities as city and state.”
Basically, almost everything had a personal god. People had guardian angels. Each god had it’s own temple. “Each of the important deities had, in one or more of the Babylonian cities, a large temple in which he or she was worshipped as the divine ruler and protector.”Their beliefs showed why their society was so great and required very little change in 1200 years. “Babylonian documents indicate that the ethical and moral beliefs of the people stressed goodness and truth, law and order, justice and freedom, wisdom and learning, and courage and loyalty.”Thus, I have proven through the discussion of the Babylonian religion why their way of life changed so little in a 1200 year span.
Babylonia was a great civilization. The Babylonians had an effective lifestyle, which required little change to it during a 1200 year span. They had a very “down-to-earth” lifestyle in which law and justice was a key concept of. Everyone had certain legal rights-women, men, and slaves. The economy came from many sources, which shows how stable the civilization was. In the Babylonian civilization, the political structure was strong, and the laws were very strict. This kept the people in line. The Hammurabi’s Code had a big and positive influence on Babylonia. Their art and architecture showed how they were civilized, respected nature, and their strong militaristic skills. Their religious beliefs also play a big part in why the civilization was so great. The beliefs were very “human” and just. Thus, I have proven that the Babylonian civilization was great, basically because of how “modern” it was compared to today’s society.