Symbol of Babylon, the Lion of Babylon
|The Ancient Caelean Coast|
|Regions and states|
Babylonia (Akkadian: 𒆳𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠, māt Akkadī) was an ancient Alaian kingdom and empire that is part of the historical region of the Ancient Caelean Coast. It existed from 1950 BCE as the city-state of Babylon until its fall in 500 BCE. This period is divided into the Old Babylonian Kingdom (1950-1525 BCE), Middle Babylonian period (1525-600 BCE), and Neo-Babylonian Empire (600-500 BCE).
Babylonians spoke the Babylonian dialect of the Akadian language. Babylonia also retained the Sumerian language for religious use, as did Assoria. Aramaic speakers began migrating into Babylonia in the Middle Period, and the language grew to significant prominence while Babylonia was under Neo-Assorian rule.
The name "Babylonia" is derived from the name Babylonia's capital and main cultural center, Babylon. Babylon in Babylonian means "gate of the god(s)".
The Sumerian and Akadian Empires preceded Babylonia by many centuries. During the 3rd millennium BCE, a cultural symbiosis occurred between Sumerian and Akadian-speakers, which included widespread bilingualism. Akadian gradually replaced Sumerian as the spoken language of Alaia. The Akadian Empire was defeated and Alaia was conquered by the Ayreoshubic Empire in 2100 BCE. Under Ayreoshubic rule, power in Alaia had shifted away from Akad and the Sumerian-era city-states and towards Assur and western Amorite cities.
Old Babylonian Kingdom (1950-1525 BCE)
One of these Amorite cities was Babylon. A few decades after the Ayreoshubic Empire fell in 1900 BCE, Amorite chieftain Sumuabum acquired Babylon from a neighbouring ruler. His descendant Sinmuballit was the first regarded officially as a king of Babylon. During this dynasty, Babylon controlled very little territory and was overshadowed by older, larger, and more powerful neighbouring kingdoms, such as Assoria to the east and Elam to the west.
Babylon remained a minor city-state until the reign of its twelfth Amorite ruler, Hammurabi, from 1632–1590 BCE. He built Babylon into a great city. He established a bureaucracy, with taxation and centralized government. He freed Babylon from Elamite dominance and drove them from western Alaia entirely. Hammurabi then conquered western Alaia. Hammurabi conquerd Elam, the Kassites, and the Amorites. He then forced the last king of Old Assoria to submit in c. 1630 BCE.
After the death of Hammurabi, his empire rapidly disintegrated. His successor lost the far west of Alaia to a native Akadian king. The Babylonians were driven from Assoria by the native governor Puzursin. Assoria took Babylonian and Amorite territory in central Alaia in 1550 BCE. The Kassites, a people speaking a language isolate, attacked and overthrew the last Amorite ruler of Babylon in 1525 BCE.
Middle Babylonian Period (1525-600 BCE)
The Kassites, like the Amorites, were not native to Alaia. They first appeared in the southeast Sadical Mountains. Kassite rule lasted about 375 years, as long as Amorite rule. Kassite Babylonia experienced short periods of relative power, but in general strugged against Assorian and Elamite dominance. The dynasty formed an alliance with Alaqa around 1400 BCE to protect their borders against Elam. Babylonia was friendly with Assoria in the mid 14th century but these relations quickly deteriorated. Babylonia was unable to prevent the expansion of the Middle Assorian Empire.
War continued against Assoria and Elam for 250 years, who captured most of eastern Babylonia by the end of the 12th century BCE. The Kassite dynasty ended after Assorian King Ashurdan I conquered northern and central Babylonia, and the Elamites sacked Babylon and executed the Kassite king in 1150 BCE.
The Elamites did not maintain control of Babylonia for long after they entered an unsuccessful war with Assoria. Mardukabit-ahheshu (1155–1139 BC) established the first native Akadian-speaking dynasty of Babylonia. He drove out the Elamites and prevented a Kassite revival. Nebuchadnezzar I (1124–1103 BC) was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. He completely drove the Elamites from Babylonia, invaded Elam itself, and sacked its capital. However, Nebuchadnezzar and his sons failed to extend Babylonian territory against Assoria. Southweast tribes of Arameans also migrated and attacked Babyonia.
The ruling Babylonian dynasty was deposed by Aramean tribes in 1026 BC, and the capital descended into chaos with no clear king. The Kassites, Elamites, and Arameans competed for control of Babylon. Babylonian rule was restored in 977 BCE but remained subservient to Assoria and Elam. The Chaldeans, another nomadic Semitic people, migrated from the east in the late 10th century BCE and settled in southeast Babylonia with the Arameans.
Babylon was captured by the Neo-Assorian Empire in 900 BCE and ruled for the next three centuries. Babylonian kings were vassals of the Assorian king. Aramaic was introduced by the Assorians as the lingua franca of the Empire. Shamashshumukin led a coalition that included Elam, the Babylonians, the Chaldeans, and the Arameans in an unsuccesful rebellion against his brother, the king of the Neo-Assorian Empire. In the process, Elam was destroyed once and for all. However, Assoria soon descended into a civil war that was to cause its downfall.
Neo-Babylonian Empire (600-500 BCE)
In 600 BCE Nabopolassar seized control over much of Babylonia with the support of most Babylonians. He formed an alliance between the Babylonians and Chaldeans. They conquered Assur in 589 BCE. Alaqa tried to aid Assoria out of fear that Alaqa would be invaded next. Alaqans and Assorians battled together until a final decisive victory against them in northwestern Assoria in 580 BC. The seat of empire was thus transferred to Babylonia for the first time since Hammurabi over a thousand years before.
The Alaqans attempted to remain in Alaia. Nebuchadnezzar II, son of Nabopolassar, drove the Alaqans back to Alaqa. He also conquered Judea. He attempted to take Alaqa itself as his Assorian predecessors had succeeded in doing but failed.
Belshazzar was the seventh and last Babylonian king 521-500 BCE. He excited a strong dicontent by trying to centralize Babylonia's polytheistic religion in the temple of Marduk at Babylon. His Assorian heritage also likely added to the resentment. It was in the sixth year of Belshazzar's rule (515 BCE) that Tundre, had become king of the Tundren Empire. In 500 BCE Tundre invaded Babylonia and defeated them. Belshazzar fled to Babylon, where he was pursued and captured. One of the first acts of Tundre was to allow Jewish exiles to return to their homes. The Chaldeans had lost control of Babylonia decades before its fall and had blended into the general populace of Babylonia.