Civilization was born eight thousand years ago, between the floodplains of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, when migrants from the surrounding mountains and deserts began to create increasingly sophisticated urban societies. In the cities that they built, half of human history took place.
In Babylon, Paul Kriwaczek tells the story of Mesopotamia from the earliest settlements seven thousand years ago to the eclipse of Babylon in the sixth century BCE. Bringing the people of this land to life in vibrant detail, the author chronicles the rise and fall of power during this period and explores the political and social systems, as well as the technical and cultural innovations, which made this land extraordinary. At the heart of this book is the story of Babylon, which rose to prominence under the Amorite king Hammurabi from about 1800 BCE. Even as Babylon's fortunes waxed and waned, it never lost its allure as the ancient world's greatest city.
Engaging and compelling, Babylon reveals the splendor of the ancient world that laid the foundation for civilization itself.
Recent events in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey recall ancient and equally dramatic events in Babylon and Mesopotamia, whose lands these countries now occupy. A magnificent storyteller and a careful historian, Kriwaczek (Yiddish Civilization) brings to life the world of ancient Mesopotamia and the city of Babylon, tracing their rise from a loose federation to a monarchy to the rise of ancient Sumerian civilization, with its tales of the Great Flood and the epics of semidivine heroes such as Gilgamesh. Drawing on primary sources and guiding us through the many cultural, political, social, and religious changes of Mesopotamian history, Kriwaczek, head of central Asian affairs for the BBC World Service, demonstrates that over its 2,500-year existence (before its fall to Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C.E.), Mesopotamia served as an "experimental laboratory for civilization" and preserved a single civilization using one form of writing, cuneiform, from beginning to end. This Mesopotamian culture discovered or invented almost everything we associate with civilized life: religions, including the first stirrings of monotheism; a wide variety of economic and production systems; an assortment of government systems, from primitive democracy to ruthless tyranny. Kriwaczek's marvelous introduction offers a first-rate guide to a fascinating ancient civilization that continues to influence us today. 16 pages of b&w photos; maps.