Since the XXVII century. BC e. the northern part of Mesopotamia was inhabited by Akkadians. The oldest city founded by the Semites in Mesopotamia was Akkad, later the capital of the state of the same name. It was located on the left bank of the Euphrates, where this river and the Tigris come closest to each other.
The reign of Sargon the Ancient
Around 2334 BC the ancient Sargon became the king of Akkad . He was the founder of a dynasty: starting with himself, five kings, a son replacing his father, ruled the country for 150 years. Probably, the name Sargon was adopted by him only after accession to the throne, since it means “true king” (in Akkadian Sharruken). The personality of this ruler was shrouded in many legends during his lifetime. He said about himself: “My mother was poor, I did not know my father … My mother conceived me, secretly gave birth, put me in a reed basket and let me down the river . “
Lugalzagesi, who established his rule in almost all the Sumerian cities, entered into a long struggle with Sargon. After several setbacks, the latter managed to win a decisive victory over his opponent. After that, Sargon made successful campaigns in Syria, in the regions of the Taurus mountains and defeated the king of the neighboring country Elam. He created the first-ever standing army of 5,400 men who, he said, dined at his table every day. It was a well-trained professional army, whose entire well-being depended on the king.
Under Sargon, new canals were built, an irrigation system was established on a national scale, a unified system of measures and weights was introduced. Akkad conducted maritime trade with India and Eastern Arabia.
Rule of Naram-Suena
At the end of Sargon’s reign, famine sparked an uprising in the country, which was suppressed after his death, around 2270 BC, by his youngest son Rimush. But later he became a victim of a palace coup, which gave the throne to his brother Manishtush. After fifteen years of reign, Manishtushu was also killed during a new palace conspiracy, and Naram-Suen (2236-2200 BC), the son of Manishtushu and the grandson of Sargon, ascended the throne.
Under Naram-Suena, Akkad reached his highest power. At the beginning of the reign of Naram-Suena, the cities of southern Mesopotamia, dissatisfied with the rise of Akkad, rebelled. It was possible to suppress it only after many years of struggle. Having consolidated his power in Mesopotamia, Naram-Suen began to call himself “the mighty god of Akkad” and ordered to depict himself on reliefs wearing a headdress decorated with horns, which were considered divine symbols. The population was supposed to worship Naram-Suen as a god, although before him none of the kings of Mesopotamia had claimed such an honor.
Naram-Suen considered himself the ruler of all the then known world and bore the title “king of the four countries of the world.” He fought many successful wars of conquest, having won a series of victories over the king of Elam, over the Lullubi tribes living in the territory of modern northwestern Iran, and also subdued the city-state of Mari, located in the middle reaches of the Euphrates, and extended his power to Syria.
Fall of the Akkadians
Under the successor of Naram-Suen Sharkalisharri (2200-2176 BC), whose name means “king of all kings”, the state of Akkad began to disintegrate. The new king had to enter into a long struggle with the Amorites who were pressing from the west and at the same time resist the invasion of the Kutians from the northeast. In Mesopotamia itself, popular unrest began, the cause of which was acute social conflicts. The size of the tsarist economy, which subjugated the temple economy and exploited the labor of landless and landless Akkadians, increased incredibly. Around 2170 BC Mesopotamia was conquered and plundered by the Kuti tribes who lived in the Zagros mountains.
III dynasty of Ur
By 2109 BC. the militia of the city of Uruk, led by its king Utuhengal, defeated the Kutiy and drove them out of the country. Having defeated the Kutians, Utuhengal claimed to rule over all of Sumer, but soon the dominion over southern Mesopotamia passed to the city of Uru, where the III dynasty of Ur was in power (2112-2003 BC). Its founder was Urnamu, who, like his successors, bore the magnificent title “King of Sumer and Akkad.”
Under Urnamu, the royal power acquired a despotic character. The tsar was the supreme judge, the head of the entire state apparatus, he also resolved issues of war and peace. A strong central office was established. In the royal and temple farms, a large staff of scribes and officials recorded all aspects of economic life down to the smallest detail. Well-established transport operated in the country, messengers were sent with documents to all parts of the state.
Urnamu’s son Shulga (2093-2046 BC) achieved his deification. His statues were placed in churches, to which sacrifices had to be made. Shulgi issued laws attesting to the existence of a developed judicial system. They, in particular, established a reward for bringing a fugitive slave to his master. Penalties were also provided for various types of self-harm. At the same time, unlike the later Laws of Hammurabi, Shulgi was not guided by the principle of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but established the principle of monetary compensation to the victim. Shulga’s laws are the oldest legal acts known to us.
The fall of ur
Under Shulga’s successors, the Amorite tribes, who attacked Mesopotamia from Syria, began to pose a great danger to the state. To halt the advance of the Amorites, the kings of the III dynasty of Ur built a long line of fortifications. However, the internal position of the state was fragile. The temple economy required a huge number of workers who were gradually deprived of the rights of free members of society. For example, only one temple of the goddess Baba in Lagash owned a land area of more than 4500 hectares. Ur’s army began to suffer defeat in wars with the Amorite tribes and the Elamites. In 2003, the power of the III dynasty of Ur was overthrown, its last representative Ibbi-Suen was taken prisoner to Elam. The temples of Ur were plundered, and an Elamite garrison was left in the city itself.
Babylonia in the 2nd millennium BC
Around 1894 BC the Amorites created an independent state with the capital in Babylon. From this time onward, the role of Babylon, the youngest of the cities of Mesopotamia, grew steadily over the centuries. In addition to Babylon, there were other states at this time. In Akkad, the Amorites formed a kingdom with a capital in Issin, which was located in the middle part of Babylonia, and in the south of the country there was a state with a capital in Lars, in the north-east of Mesopotamia, in the valley of the river. Diyaly, with its center in Eshnunn.
In the beginning, the Babylonian kingdom did not play a special role. The first king who began to actively expand the boundaries of this state was Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC). In 1785 BC, with the help of Rimsin, a representative of the Elamite dynasty in Lapce, Hammurabi conquered Uruk and Issin. Then he contributed to the expulsion from Mari of the son of the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I who ruled there and the accession of Zimrilim, a representative of the old local dynasty. In 1763, Hammurabi captured Eshnunna and the very next year defeated the powerful king and his former ally Rimsin and captured his capital Larsa. After that, Hammurabi decided to subjugate Mari, which used to be a friendly kingdom to him. In 1760 he achieved this goal, and two years later he destroyed the palace of Zimrilim, who sought to restore its independence.
After the death of Hammurabi, his son Samsuiluna (1749-1712 BC) became king of Babylon. He had to repel the onslaught of the Kassite tribes who lived in the mountainous areas east of Babylonia. Around 1742 BC The Kassites, led by their king Gandash, made a campaign against Babylonia, but were able to establish themselves only in the foothills to the northeast of it.
The fall of Babylon and the arrival of the Kassites
At the end of the 17th century. BC. Babylonia, which was going through an internal crisis, no longer played a significant role in the political history of Western Asia and could not resist foreign invasions. In 1594 BC. the reign of the Babylonian dynasty came to an end. Babylon was captured by the Hittite king Mursili I. When the Hittites returned with rich booty to their country, the kings of Primorye, the coastal strip of the Persian Gulf, captured Babylon. After that, around 1518 BC. the country was conquered by the Kassites, whose rule lasted 362 years. The entire indicated period is usually called Kassite or Middle Babylonian. However, the Kassite kings were soon assimilated by the local population.
Legal acts of Babylonia
In the II millennium BC. the economy of Babylonia was undergoing radical changes. This time was characterized by active legal activity. The laws of the Eshnunna state, drawn up at the beginning of the XX century. BC. in Akkadian, contain tariffs of prices and wages, articles of family, marriage and criminal law. For adultery by his wife, the rape of a married woman and the abduction of a child of a free man, the death penalty was provided. Judging by the laws, slaves wore special brands and could not leave the city without the permission of the owner.
By the second half of the XX century. BC. include the laws of King Lipit-Ishtar, which, in particular, regulate the status of slaves. Punishments were established for the escape of a slave from the owner and for harboring an escaped slave. It was stipulated that if a slave married a free woman, she and her children became free from such a marriage.
The most outstanding monument of ancient Eastern legal thought is the Laws of Hammurabi, immortalized on a black basalt pillar. In addition, a large number of copies of individual parts of this code of law on clay tablets have survived. The Code of Law begins with a lengthy introduction, which says that the gods handed over royal power to Hammurabi so that he would protect the weak, orphans and widows from insults and oppression from the strong. This is followed by 282 articles of laws, covering almost all aspects of the life of Babylonian society at that time (civil, criminal and administrative law). The code ends with a detailed conclusion.
The laws of Hammurabi, both in content and in the level of development of legal thought, represented a big step forward in comparison with the Sumerian and Akkadian legal monuments that preceded them. Hammurabi’s code accepts, though not always consistently, the principle of guilt and ill will. For example, a difference is established between the punishment for premeditated and unintentional murder. But bodily injuries were punished according to the principle “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” dating back to ancient times. In some articles of the laws the class approach is clearly expressed in the definition of punishment. In particular, severe punishments were provided for obstinate slaves who refused to obey their masters. A person who stole or harbored another’s slave was punishable by death.
In the Old Babylonian period, society consisted of full-fledged citizens who were called “sons of a husband” and muskenums, who were legally free, but incomplete people, since they were not members of the community, but worked in the royal household, and slaves. If someone inflicted self-harm on the “son of her husband,” then the punishment was imposed on the guilty according to the principle of talion, that is, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” and the corresponding self-harm inflicted on a muskenum was punished only with a fine. If the doctor was guilty of an unsuccessful operation on the “husband’s son”, then he was punished by cutting off the hand, if a slave suffered from the same operation, it was only necessary to pay the owner the cost of this slave. If a house collapsed through the fault of the builder and the owner’s son died in its ruins, the builder was punished with the death of his son. If someone has stolen the property of the Muskenum,
In order not to reduce the number of soldiers and taxpayers, Hammurabi sought to alleviate the fate of those strata of the free population who were in a difficult economic situation. In particular, one of the articles of the laws limited debt slavery to three years of work for a creditor, after which the loan, regardless of its amount, was considered fully repaid. If, due to a natural disaster, the debtor’s harvest was destroyed, then the maturity of the loan and interest was automatically transferred to the next year. Some articles of the laws are devoted to the rental law. Rent for a field was usually 1/3 of the harvest, and for a garden 2/3.
For a marriage to be considered legal, a contract had to be concluded. Adultery by a wife was punishable by drowning. However, if the husband wanted to forgive the unfaithful wife, not only she, but also her seducer was freed from punishment. Adultery by a husband was not considered a crime unless he seduced the wife of a free man. The father had no right to deprive his sons of inheritance if they had not committed a crime, and had to teach them his craft.
The warriors received land plots from the state and were obliged, at the first request of the king, to march. These plots were inherited through the male line and were inalienable. The creditor could take for debts only the property of the soldier that he himself acquired, but did not allot, granted to him by the king.
Assyrian position in Mesopotamia
Back in the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. e. in Northern Mesopotamia, on the right bank of the Tigris, the city of Ashur was founded. By the name of this city, the entire country located on the middle reaches of the Tigris (in Greek translation – Assyria) began to be called. Already by the middle of the 3rd millennium BC. In Ashur, immigrants from Sumer and Akkad established themselves, forming a trading post there. Later, in the XXIV-XXII centuries. BC, Ashur became a large administrative center of the Akkadian state created by Sargon the Ancient. In the period of the III dynasty of Ur, the governors of Ashur were the proteges of the Sumerian kings.
Unlike Babylonia, Assyria was a poor country. Ashur owed its rise to a favorable geographical position: important caravan routes ran here, along which metals (silver, copper, lead) and timber, as well as gold from Egypt were delivered from Northern Syria, Asia Minor and Armenia to Babylonia, and in exchange they were exported Babylonian products of agriculture and crafts. Gradually Ashur turned into a large trade and transshipment center. Along with him, the Assyrians founded many trading colonies outside their country.
The most important of these trading post colonies was located in the city of Kanes (Kanish) in Asia Minor (present-day Kyul-Tepe, not far from the city of Kaisari in Turkey). An extensive archive of this colony, dating back to the 20th-19th centuries, has been preserved. BC. Assyrian merchants brought dyed woolen fabrics to Kanes, which were mass-produced in their homeland, and brought home lead, silver, copper, wool and leather. In addition, Assyrian merchants resold local goods to other countries.
The relations of the members of the colony with the inhabitants of Kanes were regulated by local laws, and in internal affairs the colony was subordinate to Ashur, who imposed a significant duty on its trade. The supreme authority in Ashur was the council of elders, and according to the name of one of the members of this council, who changed annually, events were dated and time was counted. There was also a hereditary position of the ruler (ishshak-kum), who had the right to convene a council, but without the latter’s approval he could not make important decisions.
The capture of Assyria, first by the Babylonians, and then by the kingdom of Mitanni
To hold the caravan routes in their hands and seize new routes of Assyria, it was necessary to have a strong military power. Therefore, the influence of ishak-kum began to gradually increase. But in the second half of the 18th century. BC. Assyria was subdued by the Babylonian king Hammurabi. At about the same time, Assyria also lost its monopoly in the caravan trade.
By the middle of the 2nd millennium BC. the weakened Assyria was forced to recognize the power of the kings of Mitanni. Around 1500 BC The Mitanni reached the zenith of their power by conquering the regions of Northern Syria. But the decline of Mitanni soon begins. First, the Egyptians expelled the Mitannians from Syria, and around 1360 BC. the Hittite king Suppilulium I defeated them. Then the Assyrian king Ashuruballit I took advantage of the defeat of Mitanni and seized part of the territory of this state. Later, the king of Assyria Adadnerari I (1307-1275 BC) fought with Babylonia and conquered the entire territory of Mitanni. After that, he wanted to conclude an alliance with the Hittite king Hattusili III and invited him to consider him his brother. But the answer was offensive: “What kind of talk about brotherhood? .. After all, you and I, we are not born of the same mother!”
Rise of Assyria
In the second half of the XIII century. under King Tukulti-Ninturta I (1244-1208 BC) Assyria became the most powerful state in the Middle East. The Assyrian ruler, having seized Babylonia, appointed his governors there and brought the statue of the supreme god of the Babylonians Marduk to Ashur from the Esagil temple in Babylon. During numerous wars, the power of the Assyrian king increased significantly, but the country was exhausted, weakened by internal unrest. One of the texts says, for example, that in the middle of the XI century. BC. the king’s son and the nobility of Assyria rebelled, threw the ruler from the throne and killed with a sword.
Period XV-XI centuries. BC. called in the history of Assyria the Middle Assyrian. The so-called Middle Assyrian laws date back to this time, which were the most cruel of all ancient Eastern laws. Initially, land in Assyria belonged mainly to community members and was systematically redistributed. But since the 15th century. BC. it became an object of purchase and sale, although it was still considered the property of the communities.
Slaves during this period were very expensive and few were available. Therefore, the rich sought to enslave free farmers through usurious loan transactions, since the loan was issued on difficult terms and on the security of a field, a house or family members. But the laws to some extent limited the arbitrariness of the creditor in relation to persons pledged in debt. However, if the loan was not repaid on time, the hostage became the full property of the lender. If the debt was not paid on time, the creditor could do whatever he wanted with the hostage: “beat, pluck the hair, beat the ears and drill them” and even sell outside Assyria.