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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 136

King Hammurabi had to deal daily with a voluminous correspondence. He received reports from governors in all parts of his realm, legal documents containing appeals, and private communications from relatives and others. He paid minute attention to details, and was probably one of the busiest men in Babylonia. Every day while at home, after worshipping Merodach at E-sagila, he dictated letters to his scribes, gave audiences to officials, heard legal appeals and issued interlocutors, and dealt with the reports regarding his private estates. He looks a typical man of affairs in sculptured representations-- shrewd, resolute, and unassuming, feeling "the burden of royalty", but ever ready and well qualified to discharge his duties with thoroughness and insight. His grasp of detail was equalled only by his power to conceive of great enterprises which appealed to his imagination. It was a work of genius on his part to weld together that great empire of miscellaneous states extending from southern Babylonia to Assyria, and from the borders of Elam to the Mediterranean coast, by a universal legal Code which secured tranquillity and equal rights to all, promoted business, and set before his subjects the ideals of right thinking and right living.

Hammurabi recognized that conquest was of little avail unless followed by the establishment of a just and well-arranged political system, and the inauguration of practical measures to secure the domestic, industrial, and commercial welfare of the people as a whole. He engaged himself greatly, therefore, in developing the natural resources of each particular district. The network of irrigating canals was extended in the homeland so that agriculture might prosper: these canals also promoted trade, for they were utilized for travelling by boat and for the distribution of commodities. As a result of his activities Babylon became not only the administrative, but also the commercial centre of his Empire--the London of Western Asia--and it enjoyed a spell of prosperity which was never surpassed in subsequent times. Yet it never lost its pre-eminent position despite the attempts of rival states, jealous of its glory and influence, to suspend its activities. It had been too firmly established during the Hammurabi Age, which was the Golden Age of Babylonia, as the heartlike distributor and controller of business life through a vast network of veins and arteries, to be displaced by any other Mesopotamian city to pleasure even a mighty monarch. For two thousand years, from the time of Hammurabi until the dawn of the Christian era, the city of Babylon remained amidst many political changes the metropolis of Western Asiatic commerce and culture, and none was more eloquent in its praises than the scholarly pilgrim from Greece who wondered at its magnificence and reverenced its antiquities.

Hammurabi's reign was long as it was prosperous. There is no general agreement as to when he ascended the throne--some say in 2123 B.C., others hold that it was after 2000 B.C.--but it is certain that he presided over the destinies of Babylon for the long period of forty-three years.


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