Sunday, December 15, 2013

Babylon and Babylonia : Has Babylon Always Existed?

A couple of days ago someone asked this question on my post, Writing and Scribes in Ancient Babylon.

Babylon & Babylonia. Has Babylon always existed or did it come out of nowhere when Hammurabi came to rule it? And was it here Babylonia happened? When was Babylon established and when was Babylonian established?

Hammurabi's Babylonia - from Wikimedia Commons

The city of Babylon, according to the Bible, was established after the flood by Noah's great grandson, Nimrod. Genesis 10:10 says about Nimrod, "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Babylon), and Erech (Uruk) and Accad (Akkad) and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."

There is little evidence that Babylon was much more than a small town before the Old Babylonian period (approx. 2000BC - 1600BC) . Sargon of Akkad ruled the whole Euphrates Valley between 2334BC and 2279BC. Texts say he enlarged Babylon and built a palace there.

It was likely only after the collapse of the UrIII empire ( 2112BC - 2004BC) that Babylon became a city. An Amorite chief called Sumu-abum (1894BC - 1881 BC) built the city walls and fortifications and made it the center for his operations. He founded a dynasty which ruled Babylon for 300 years. His aim was to gain control over cities in the immediate neighborhood but the real building program that was to propel Babylon into a major city was begun by Sin-muballit (1812BC - 1793BC) and then, most notably, by his son Hamurabi (1792BC - 1750BC).

Residents visit ancient city of Babylon near Hilla - from 

Geographically, Babylonia refers to the southern portion of the modern country of Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, encompassing the land roughly between Baghdad (close to the site of ancient Opis) at its northern limit and the head of the Arabian Gulf at its southern limit.

Historically, the term Babylonia reflects a relatively late unification of the country under Babylon's First Dynasty (1894BC - 1595BC), although the word itself is of later origin.  You might say Babylonia became an independent state around 1894BC with Babylon as its capital city during Sumu-abum's reign. From very early times, the northern part of Babylonia was referred to as Akkad and the southern as Sumer.

As to Babylonian, if you're referring to the Babylonian language, it was a dialect of Akkadian, an extinct Semitic language replaced by Aramaic some time during the 8th century BC.

Aeriel view of ancient city of Babylon - from

Hope that's been of some help to you, Rose.


  1. More than once, I've had to sort out all these terms when dealing with this period while editing textbooks!