Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria

Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria

Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria

Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria

Excerpt

From its earliest beginnings in about 2900 B.C. until the invasion of Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., the civilization of Mesopotamia endured for some twenty-six centuries. A phrase like 'everyday life', applied to so vast a period, is meaningless, and, though imperfect knowledge may lead us into certain involuntary inaccuracies and anachronisms, we are bound to confine ourselves to some comparatively limited phase within the wider span. But which are we to choose?

Two factors must govern our choice, for not only must the period be truly representative of Mesopotamian civilization but, within that category, it must be that about which we know most. These two considerations guide us to the years between 700 and 530 B.C. During these years, events on a scale not previously experienced in history were unfolding themselves in Western Asia. First, the power of Assyria reached its zenith and extended over the whole of the Near East, including, for a time, even Egypt. Then Babylon, Assyria's vassal, aided by the Medes from the Iranian highlands, cast off her yoke and, in 61 B.C., destroyed Nineveh. This was the opening of a period of Babylonian prosperity, echoes of which still reach us from the pages of the ancient authors, and which is generally linked with the name of Nebuchadrezzar. Finally, Babylon herself fell a victim to Persia. The Near East bowed to a fresh master and for two centuries her destinies were in the hands of the Achaemenid monarchs.

For this period, so pregnant with events which changed the face of the ancient world, we have many sources of information at our disposal. Pride of place must go to the original clay tablets from Babylonia and Assyria, those imperishable documents from which we know more of the trivial details of everyday family life under the Sargonid dynasty of Assyria than we know, for example, of that of the Norman peasant. The political history . . .

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