Rise of Babylon and Hammurabi – Ancient Mesopotamia DOCUMENTARY

In our previous video we discussed the rise
of the Third Dynasty of Ur and its collapse at the hands of Amorite invaders from the
west. The subsequent period of political fragmentation was one of regional conflict – with the Amorite
Shamshi-Adad and his dynasty ruling in the north, while the Eshnunna dominated central
Mesopotamia and Larsa reigned over the south. Many names from this period are a mystery
to the general public, but that of Babylon is a notable exception. Under one of its most
famous kings – Hammurabi, this new entity would rise to unify the entire region in a
new Empire – eclipsing the previous civilisations to the point where Sumer and Akkad were simply
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Player Program” to start your journey. The settlement that would become Babylon – known
as Babbar at the time, was possibly inhabited as a minor and unimportant town as soon as
the Early Dynastic Period from 2900 to 2350 BC. Its ruler styled himself as the builder
of a temple dedicated to the god Marduk, the patron of the future illustrious city. The
first definite mention of Babylon in historical sources occurs during the reign of Akkadian
King Shar-Kali-Sharri, during which he laid the foundations of a temple in the city. Later
during the Third Dynasty of Ur, King Shulgi reorganised the lands of Sumer and Akkad into
20 provinces, each governed by a local ensi. This and the wider bureaucratic control exerted
by the Ur III Kings eventually led to profound long-term changes in the region, which would
eventually result in it becoming capital of one of the core provinces in the Neo-Sumerian
Empire. It was also governed by an ensi which could have been hereditary in certain situations.
Itur-ilum, his son Issur-ilum and Abba were all part of the same family, which indicates
the presence of native local rulers in Babylon. In the late 21st century BC, increasing numbers
of Amorite pastoralists began to migrate east and make their homes in the settled civilisations
of Mesopotamia. This wave of migration played a key role in the fall of Ur and, in the political
fragmentation that followed, an Amorite chief known as Sumu-Abum usurped the kingship and
established the First Babylonian Dynasty in 1894 BC. His successor – Sumu-la-el, took
power in 1880 BC and expanded this kingdom even further to encompass an area from Sippar
in the north to Marad in the south, encompassing many prominent old cities such as Kish – whose
walls he demolished in order to consolidate Babylonian hegemony. During his reign the
first indisputable evidence for the Cult of Marduk was also documented, when during 1860
BC a throne of gold and silver was fashioned for the Babylonian Sky God in the city. Three
future kings, Sabium, Apil-Sin and Sin-muballit reigned over a subsequent half century of
relative stability. Before we discuss Hammurabi himself we must
first speak of the broader political situation in Sumer and Akkad into which he would emerge.
We covered the exploits of the northern Amorite kingdoms in our previous video, however the
Sumerian south was also a battleground. As the Third Ur Dynasty weakened, an official
named Ishbi-Erra – who served the final Ur king Ibbi-Sin, betrayed his master and established
his own power base at Isin. After the Elamites sacked Ur in 2,002BC, it was he who recaptured
it and expelled the foreign Elamites from the region. For this, his opportunistically
created Isin Dynasty earned the official endorsement of the Nippur priesthood as Ur III’s heirs.
For upwards of half a century this clan possessed hegemony over Sumer and Akkad, however its
fortunes would begin to change with the emergence of yet another Amorite leader named Gungunum
– who reigned from 1932 to 1906 BC. He seems to have been the governor of Larsa – city
of the Mesopotamian sun god Utu, during Isin rule. This governor eventually revolted from
his native rulers and eventually captured the former royal capital of Ur, gaining himself
a massive ideological and financial victory. Therefore, by the middle of the 19th century
BC it was Babylon and Larsa which constituted the rising powers in Sumer and Akkad. In fact,
they had already clashed in a series of small engagements, with the Babylonian Kings using
diplomatic marriages with the tribally related Sixth Uruk Dynasty as a buffer against the
powerful Larsa in the south. After a short period of internal strife, a
dynasty of Amorites from East of the Tigris under Kudur-Mabuk took Larsa and deposed Gungunum’s
descendant in 1834 BC. Rather than ruling the realm himself, he would take a ceremonial
position as ‘Father of the Amorite Country’ and appointed his eldest son Warad-Sin to
rule in his name, in a similar manner to Shamshi-Adad’s earlier trimorphic empire. In 1822 BC Rim-Sin
succeeded his older brother and would begin a crusade to expand his own kingdom. This
lesser known ruler became so powerful that he defeated a coalition of Uruk, Isin, Sutium,
Rapiqum and Babylon – under Hammurabi’s father, in 1810 BC. Eight years later in 1802
BC he captured Uruk and ended the dynasty ruled by Babylon’s allies. By the end of
the 19th century BC, control of the prosperous city of Ur and the Persian Gulf trade granted
Larsa a sudden period of prosperity, which can be seen in the remnants of large private
houses in the city throughout this period. Finally, in 1794 BC Rim-Sin extinguished the
remnant of the Isin Dynasty and annexed their territory, an event which was so important
to the kings of Larsa that every year after it was named in its honour. By the time Hammurabi’s
father Sin-muballit perished in 1793 BC, Larsa controlled all of Sumer and wielded significant
power. The next year – 1792 BC, saw Hammurabi finally
ascend to the throne of Babylon at the age of 18. He inherited a rising state, and his
ancestors had gradually conquered cities such as Borsippa, Kish and Sippar. Despite this,
Babylon was still far from the most important of the many realms in the region when Hammurabi
took power. The expansionist Eshnunna occupied Babylon’s northeastern border, the aforementioned
powerful state of Larsa under Rim-Sin was to their south and the foreign nation of Elam
was to the east. At the time, the main power in the region was the Upper Mesopotamian Kingdom
under Shamshi-Adad, which often cooperated with the new, apparently subservient Babylonian
King. The monarchs often performed small favours for one another – such as sheltering persecuted
diplomats or extraditing criminals who escaped to the others’ territory. While this alliance
of sorts had its benefits, the presence of Shamshi-Adad to the north hemmed Hammurabi
in and prevented any kind of Babylonian expansion under Hammurabi for many years. Instead, the
king focused on being a magnanimous and generous monarch in the mold of Gudea from centuries
earlier. Pleasing the god Inanna – otherwise known as Ishtar in Akkadian, by commissioning
a throne of gold, silver, precious stones and Lapis Lazuli was a noted achievement,
as well as ‘establishing justice in the land’ – that is, cancelling all debts which
citizens would often accumulate. This establishment of justice had the secondary effect of rendering
the debtors loyal to him, rather than their wealthy creditors.
For 28 years Hammurabi focused on the internal development of his city, reorganising many
aspects of the economy and the aforementioned kingly tasks. However, a conflict would soon
be ignited which would eventually propel Babylon to never before seen heights in Mesopotamia.
By this time, Shamshi-Adad’s Empire had fallen and Zimri-Lim of Mari had usurped his
incompetent younger son Yasmah-Adad from his co-royal capital. In early 1767 the supreme
king of Elam – the Sukkalmah Siwe-Palar-Huppak made an alliance with Zimri-Lim. Their common
ground centred around the expansionist state of Eshnunna. It blocked Elamite expansion
into Mesopotamia and also meddled in the affairs of Mari’s sphere of influence, so they allied
against it – sealing their alliance with an exchange of gold, silver and wine from Mari
and tin from Elam – which was a key resource in the production of bronze. In late 1766
BC the alliance attacked Eshnunna and, while the details are vague, it is clear that the
king of the city disappeared and the local king of Susa, the Sukkal, instead took up
occasional residence in the city. From there, he would impose direct rule upon the cities
of Mesopotamia under the Elamites – a practice which they had not taken part in before, instead
preferring to raid and loot the wealthy Euphrates-Tigris basin. The Elamite occupiers now schemed further,
embarking on a dangerous diplomatic gamble. They contacted both Hammurabi of Babylon and
Rim-Sin of Larsa, commanding both rulers to provide troops with which to attack the other.
Unfortunately for the foreign Elamites, the two rulers apparently compared notes, perhaps
motivated by their common Mesopotamian culture, and realised the attempted foreign duplicity,
resulting in both of these realms exchanging diplomats and joining forces.
In early 1765 BC events occured on two fronts – both north and south. In the north, the
Elamites sent several proxy armies of troops from Elam, Eshnunna and mercenaries from the
Zagros mountains to assault northern Mesopotamia – commanded by client kings of Elam in the
north. This maneuver led to a few years of back and forth conflict during which the Sukkulmah
ruined his previously established alliance with Mari. Meanwhile to the south, Hammurabi
decisively reacted to a threat from the king of Susa who coveted Babylon itself, and intended
to seize it. Calling upon the many cities and kingdoms of the region, Hammurabi managed
to head a grand alliance of Mesopotamia – including Yamhad, Ekallatum and most of the Akkadian
city-states. Most prominently was Zimri-Lim of Mari, who sealed a pact with the Babylonian
in the middle of 1765 BC, which included the words ‘From this day on, for as long as
I live, I will be at war with Siwe-palar-huppak’. The Mari king’s subsequent active levying
of both urban and nomadic troops for Hammurabi can be understood due to the Elamite intervention
in northern Mesopotamia – it is likely he saw Babylon as a dagger with which to stab
the foreign invaders. In gratitude for this generous assistance, Hammurabi granted monetary
rewards to the soldiers even before they fought and invited all of them to feast in his presence,
in order to make them feel welcome in the foreign land. Notably absent from the Anti-Elam
alliance was Larsa, who remained neutral. The first move was made by Sukkul Kudu-zulush,
king of Susa, who advanced into Babylonian lands and put the city of Upi under siege.
This assault pushed Hammurabi to conscript even the merchants into the military, who
were usually exempt due to their valued profession. He also sent repeated envoys to Rim-Sin of
Larsa asking for help, but was met with stony silence as the only response. Initially the
Babylonian garrison in the city resisted the foreign invaders, but eventually they boarded
ships and fled after an amount of time during which they realised the city would not be
relieved. After capturing Upi the Elamites did not advance further west and instead withdrew
to Eshnunna. At the start of the campaigning season in 1764 BC the Elamites returned, crossed
the Tigris at Mankisum and besieged the city of Hiritum with 30,000 men, assault ramps
and other siege engines. However, this attempt was undermined by the inhabitants of the city,
who opened the irrigation canals around the city, flooding the siege weaponry away. At
the same time, an allied army under a Mari general attacked the invading army from behind
and relieved Hiritum. As these defensive actions were conducted, allied offensives were also
underway. Hammurabi sent multiple raiding forces to outflank and pillage the countryside
of Eshnunna, setting fire to their fields and stealing cattle. These defeats, constant
Babylonian pressure, possibly disloyal allied Eshnunna officers and internal dissent all
caused the Elamites to retreat into their own lands. Hammurabi had used his diplomatic
prowess to rally an alliance to his side and repel a dangerous enemy, and now he had a
free hand to pursue further plans in the region. During the war against Elam, Rim-Sin had remained
neutral, ignoring Hammurabi’s repeated requests for assistance, despite their alliance. This
irritated the Babylonian, who now wanted revenge against his main competitor. Finally, in 1763
BC, Hammurabi declared war on Rim-Sin, justifying it as a pre-emptive act authorised by the
gods. He still had Mari’s crucial support, and besieged and captured Mashkan-Shapir relatively
quickly, followed by Nippur and Isin during the middle of 1763 BC, after which he advanced
on Larsa. After a 6-month siege, the inhabitants of Larsa ran out of food, and Hammurabi tore
down the city walls, but did not raze the city. Rim-Sin initially escaped, but was soon
captured and killed. The Babylonian king then cancelled debts in the newly captured city
as he had in his capital. The fundamental political makeup of Sumer and Akkad had now
changed forever. City states were no longer the standard unit of the region, replaced
by a Babylonia which would continuously form a large territorial state from this point
forward. However, Hammurabi’s Empire still had not reached its zenith, and its achievements
which we shall discuss in our next video secured its place in history. Our series on the history of the Mesopotamian
civilizations will continue, so make sure you are subscribed to our channel and pressed
the bell button. We would like to express our gratitude to our Patreon supporters and
channel members, who make the creation of our videos possible. Now, you can also support
us by buying our merchandise via the link in the description. This is the Kings and
Generals channel, and we will catch you on the next one.

Glenn Chapman


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  3. I find distant bronze age history so fascinating. I know variety would be very limited but I'd love a Total War game set in this period, just covering Mesopotamia and the surrounding area.

    Also I'm just curious, do you have that map(a 2D version I mean) showing the bronze age cities and regions available for download?

  4. These graphical illustrations just keep getting better and better. It's a joy to watch these detailed paintings come to life.

  5. Assyrians were once the greatest warriors,civilization on earth.

    They are survivors along with Jews in todays world from the ancient times.

    God bless them.
    Respect From Serbia!

  6. There have been a lot of powerful kingdoms in Africa. Not just in Egypt but in west and central Africa as well. Just some suggestions for future videos

  7. I'm not against your channel or something but these videos are really boring, I like those other ones.

  8. Would love to see a video about the battle of agincourt since that new movie on Netflix (The King) is base on that period… that would be so dope

  9. I've read the name of of that Elam king as Sukkalman, i fear that i'm still a child inside

  10. Try to be fairer in choosing your illustrations. The Ishtar Gate that we can see at 10.20 was built only 1200 years later, well after Hammurabi. Even if it is a symbol of Babylon, do not forget the power of images

  11. One thing is clear, middle East has always been in a state of war and instability. No wonder the same problem having same problem

  12. All this event happened 2000 years before the rise of Rome….. What a magnificent civilization IraQ have…. Unfortunately American give no shit to that when they destroyed the iraki museum and stole it

  13. Hope you will also cover the Kingdom of Biaynili or Urartu with its mights kings

  14. Please can you do a video on the battle tactics and weaponry used in this period – if there is enough information that is!

  15. I have watched your videos religiously for the last 2 years and, honestly, the quality just keeps getting better and better! The artwork, the music, the overall video and, of course, the content you guys cover is just incredible. I love what you guys do and I hope you guys never stop.

  16. K&G it is wednsday,,, yet you managed to upload a video.. i'm really surprised /. you are great

  17. Amazing, I have read bits of this history in the past, but the graphics make it so much easier to understand.
    I have praised K&G numerous times before, but every new video blows my mind.

    Who could had imagined back in the History Channel days, that we would be blessed with Kings and Generals.

  18. Thanks for the video i have a test tomorrow about this and this video was just released

  19. Why don't you do a video on the Rigvedic "battle of the 10 kings", it is historical, unlike other Indian epics.

  20. Crazy how this all happened within like 400 miles of each other. Such a small region with so much going on. Populations must have been so small still

  21. Anyone notice how similar their namez sound like the ones for meso americans b4 european contact?

  22. the narrator unenthusiastically reading an obviously pre-scripted line of monologue that was written to sound like he had actually played the game is the sort of juxtaposition that i live for.

  23. the First Nation of laws amongst the middle earth. Defying powers of the old order.. and with the crystallized coded word… Freedom was born.

    This is the maternal culture of the Olympians… Hera had her peope… before this as warriors for the Hindu caste system that would be abandoned for an idea of liberation with the world.

    When Babylon falls, they head west. Creating prewesternism and joining with tribes all the way to the highest table in Helvetia among the Oly.

    The leadership and democratic other half to the liberty coin…


  24. I love your videos. Perfect voice/accent for it! So in this video am curious to where the Arabs were? or Were they Arabs?

  25. plz do the battle of annual 1921 no one is talking about it


  27. Why's the Ishtar Gate shown in the thumbnail? That only started existing, roughly thirteen centuries after Hammurabi, during the time Nebuchadnezzar II. Your preaching wrong history. Please take notice.

  28. showing war like early videos was nice ,show war style properly and neatly

  29. There is a constant in politics it seems that several forms of socialism are anti Semitic. I don't know why . Hitler's socialism was , Corbyns is ! I'm not surprised in the guardian's weird racial views blacks, Muslims, Sikhs are victims whilst whites , jews and Hindus are oppressor races ! The truth is the other way round of course ! The Guardian paints a picture of itself as moderate and rational when in truth it is very extreme ! It's supported by the equally dishonest BBC. Both lie easily and often !

  30. The remants of the ancient mesopotmian languages are said to be found in languages in modern Mesopotmia such as Kurdish, Armenian, Assyrian and Other Indinginous ethnic groups in places like Southeastern Turkey and the 4 borders with kurds next to each country as well as other modern Mesopotmian folk today

  31. Now that would be an expansion I would love to play if featured in Troy Total War. Hell, I'd be satisfied with a simple mod focusing on this region and period. I could live without any champions though, I could've lived without that in Three Kingdoms Total War.

  32. I am eagerly waiting for your explanation of King Nebuchad nezzar and aljanayin almuealaqa (Hanging Rockeries)
    I hope that Iraq will return to the rule of Nebuchad nezzar 😢😭

  33. damn dont sound so excited about raid shadow legends your excitement is too much for me

  34. Seeing my history rich country get torn in war and conflicts makes me sad, it's a damn shame.
    nice video tho, really enjoyed it.

  35. i visited al-qaim in the al-anbar province of Itaq in 2005. despite the senseless killing mentality it was pretty.

  36. I wished you didn't promote these games Q_Q
    They're really bad.
    I understand why you do it but please try to get other sponsors if that's at all possible.
    Great content.

  37. Your like the only guy on youtube that gives me my regular fix of Neolithic>Early Iron Age Near East so cheers ;p

  38. One interesting note about Babylon (if what I was taught is correct) is that it was built at a narrow-point between the Tigris & Euphrates, allowing it the distinct privilege of being able to trade along both rivers, instead of just one. This geographic upper-hand allowed it to become the commercial power it would eventually be.

  39. Kings and Generals, for Goodness sake, how can you seriously ignore the Achaemenid Empire ( the first and largest Empire in antiquity) and it's great Kings Cyrus and Darius the great?

  40. can you please make a film about the diverse people of Canaan (israel, philistine, nabaten, amorites, Jebusite,Moab, Amon, Aram, amalek etc` and the rise of the Hebrew kings? Saul, David and Solomon?

  41. Graphics and accuracy aside, I see "BCE" I dislike… I see "BC" I like!

  42. which software used to make this video animation? can it be done by one man?

  43. Channels like this and history in general help give perspective to the stuff going on, and realize that, in a way, we are not that special.

    Thx you

  44. I like how they still draw the king and the people as white when they were clearly, unarguably and plainly clear, Hametic peoples.

  45. Wow, just binge-watched your videos on Ancient Mesopotamia. You've done a fantastic job of creating a cohesive, easy-to-understand narrative (which is not so easy, given all the strange-sounding names). Props to you for giving more exposure to an of-neglected period in history. Also huge props to the artists for making this such a beautiful video!

  46. At 10:01, isn't that the famous Ishtar Gate, built much later, during the Neo-Babylonian Period [7-6th century BC], now restaured in the Berlin Pergamon Museum?

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