FIRST DYNASTY OF BABYLON

(C. 1894 – C. 1595 B.C.)
   A historical period in which the city of Babylon first became the political center of Mesopotamia. The dynasty was founded by Sumu-abum, an Amorite; hence, it is also sometimes referred to as the Amorite Dynasty. At the beginning, the rulers of Babylon controlled only a small territory around the city since there were several competing political configurations in Mesopotamia, such as Larsa, Isin, Eshnunna, and Assyria. It was the sixth king, Hammurabi (reigned 1792–1750 B.C.), who triumphed over all these rivals. Babylon became the capital of a powerful kingdom with roughly the same borders as that of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The administrationof the state was modeled on the one set up by Rim-Sinof Larsa. Literacy was widespread, and the king was kept informed about all manner of governmental details. It was a characteristic of Amorite kings to remain approachable to their subjects and to rule more in the manner of a traditional sheikh than an exalted king. They were also much concerned with the promulgation of laws and legal statutes and that justice was upheld in the land. The final legal instance was the king himself. The Babylonian state was less highly centralized than that of Ur during the Third Dynasty. It employed private middlemen rather than bureaucrats to ensure the collection of revenue. Some documents of the time also mention a special category of semifree citizen, the mushkenum, whose status was neither free nor that of a slave and who were possibly persons tied to the palace.
   The most important rulers of the First Babylonian Dynasty were Hammurabi and his successor, Samsu-iluna, who ruled for 37 years (1749–1712 B.C.). During the latter’s reign, the territorial integrity of the kingdom disintegrated; the south became independent under the leadership of the Sealand (c. 1742), and a new people from the east, the Kassites, settled in increasing number in the northern and northeastern regions of Babylonia. Economic problems, due to the deteriorating ecological situation in the south, loss of access to the sea, and tribal unrest, contributed to unstable conditions that affected some cities more than others. Royal edicts releasing public and private debts indicate that many people were affected by the inability to meet debt payments.
   The demise of the First Babylonian Dynasty resulted from a surprise raid by the Hittite king Mursili I who marched down the Euphrates and attacked Babylon. The date of this event is traditionally given as 1595 B.C., although more recently a revised date of 1499 has been proposed.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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