The Babylonian civilisation was an important component of the Mesopotamian civilisation.
On the ravages of the Sumerian civilisation grew up Babylonian civilisation.
The Amorites were the founder of this civilisation. The appearance of Hammurabi, the great king of the Amorites, made this civilisation progressive.
Hammurabi was the first law giver in the history of the world. The writings, literature, religion, art, architecture and science of the Babylonians were unique in their own way.
Art of Writing and Education:
Like the Sumerians, the people of Babylon used Cuneiform writing. They used more than 350 signs in their writing. They used to write on soft clay tablets by pen made of bone and bamboo. Then they baked tablets on sun shine and kept one after another. During the reign of Hammurabi, the famous Emperor of Babylon, education spread in the look and corner of that land.
He established many schools for the students. The Babylonian boys put emphasis on writing, reading and Mathematics and girls were fond of song and dance. From the ruins of a Babylonia an inspiring sentence was written on the wall of school. That sentence was—”He who shall excel in tablet-writing shall shine like the sun”. This shows the love of the Babylonians for education.
The literature of Babylon was very rich. The Babylonians wrote around 2000 books. They composed books on religion, science, mathematics and astrology. In the domain of Babylonian literature, ‘Gilgamesh’ carved a special position. This epic describes about king Gilgamesh, the legendary hero of Babylon. Once, god sent flood to teach sinner Babylonians a lesson. A sage knew about this and left Babylon with others. King Gilgamesh with the help of God Enlil defeated the flood. His heroic deeds have been described in ‘Gilgamesh’.
Code of Hammurabi:
Hammurabi was the First Law Giver of the world. He was the leader of the Amorites and a brave fighter. There were different sets of laws in ancient Babylon concerning religion, agriculture, administration and business. Hammurabi codified all these laws in a simple form which became famous as the ‘Code of Hammurabi’.
These laws were engraved on a diorite stone of 8 feet high and that stone was erected in the temple of the great Babylonian god Marduk. On the top of the stone the picture of Hammurabi receiving laws from the Sun god Samas was engraved.
There were four parts in the code of Hammurabi, viz.—civil code, penal code, code of procedure and commercial code.
Hammurabi’s code was a flat fledged law book. It contained laws relating to marriage, divorce, property, contract, trade and commerce, mortgage of land, religion etc. It contained criminal laws concerning murder, theft, treachery, dishonesty, negligence in duty etc.
The basic aim of this code was—”An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. A murderer was awarded death penalty. If the roof or a wall of a house fell down, the mason who had built it was punished. If a thief was caught while steeling away an animal from a temple, he had to return triple price of that animal. If a trader charged more than the fixed price of an article, he was given a death sentence.
The code of Hammurabi empowered women right over property. For the first time, this code protected the widows, slaves and orphans. The Code of Hammurabi is treated as the ‘First law book of the world.”
Like the Sumerians, the Babylonians were polytheists. Their chief god was ‘Marduk’ who was regarded as the creator of the world. ‘Istar’ was regarded as Mother Goddess. They also worshipped ‘Samas’ as sun god and ‘Tamuj’ as the god of agriculture. The Babylonians believed that the gods and goddess take birth, come under sorrows, sufferings and happiness and die.
They also marry like human beings, resort to war and sue for peace. The priests could predict future by casting a glance on the liver of a sacrificed animal. The priests stayed at the top storey of a Ziggurat. They worshipped god or goddess and predicted future.
The Babylonians also excelled in the field of science. The priests watched the sun, moon planet and star very carefully and forecast the future. Like the Sumerians, the Babylonians also adopted lunar calendar. They divided one year into 12 months and each month was divided into 30 days.
They also used sun dial and water clock to know time. They also knew the use of numbers from 1 to 9. The priests also predicted future. They had acquired knowledge in geography, life science and astrology. All these things prove the love of the Babylonians for science.
Art and Architecture:
The Babylonian kings were famous builders. They built big palaces. They kept the gigantic images of bulls having the heads of man near the entrance gate of the palace. The great Ziggurat built by Hammurabi in honour of ‘Marduk’ and big granary to preserve grains for future calamities testify the architectural skills of the Babylonians.
The figure of human beings birds and animals show their skill in the field of art. Varieties of seals have been discovered by excavation which further shows the artistic skills of the Babylonians.
The Babylonians were very famous in the field of administration. Besides the code of Hammurabi, laws were also written on clay tablets. The royal orders written on 55 clay tablets have been discovered from different places of Babylon. Hammurabi had sent message to administrators through these tablets to adopt compassion, liberal attitude and honesty in the field of administration. Undoubtedly, the Babylonian administration was directed for the welfare of the people.
Agriculture, Trade and Commerce:
The Babylonians were skilled agriculturists and traders. They liked to produce variety of crops. That is why they dug canals and irrigated the corn fields. During the reign of Hammurabi a big canal was dug from the city Kish to Persian gulf Herodotus, the father of history had lavishly Praised the wheat and barly among other crops of Babylon.
The Babylonians exported dates, food grains, oil, leather works, clay pots etc. to the outside world. They imported gold, silver, copper, stone, wood and salt. Among the ancient countries, Babylon was regarded as a flouring country.
Infact, the contributions of the Babylonians to the human civilisation were immense. The Code of Hammurabi helped in building a healthy society. Besides this, their contributions in the field of art, architecture, science, trade and commerce were worth noting.