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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 137

There are interesting references to the military successes of his reign in the prologue to the legal Code. It is related that when he "avenged Larsa", the seat of Rim-Sin, he restored there the temple of the sun god. Other temples were built up at various ancient centres, so that these cultural organizations might contribute to the welfare of the localities over which they held sway. At Nippur he thus honoured Enlil, at Eridu the god Ea, at Ur the god Sin, at Erech the god Anu and the goddess Nana (Ishtar), at Kish the god Zamama and the goddess Ma-ma, at Cuthah the god Nergal, at Lagash the god Nin-Girsu, while at Adab and Akkad, "celebrated for its wide squares", and other centres he carried out religious and public works. In Assyria he restored the colossus of Ashur, which had evidently been carried away by a conqueror, and he developed the canal system of Nineveh.

Apparently Lagash and Adab had not been completely deserted during his reign, although their ruins have not yielded evidence that they flourished after their fall during the long struggle with the aggressive and plundering Elamites.

Hammurabi referred to himself in the Prologue as "a king who commanded obedience in all the four quarters". He was the sort of benevolent despot whom Carlyle on one occasion clamoured vainly for--not an Oriental despot in the commonly accepted sense of the term. As a German writer puts it, his despotism was a form of Patriarchal Absolutism. "When Marduk (Merodach)", as the great king recorded, "brought me to direct all people, and commissioned me to give judgment, I laid down justice and right in the provinces, I made all flesh to prosper."[279] That was the keynote of his long life; he regarded himself as the earthly representative of the Ruler of all--Merodach, "the lord god of right", who carried out the decrees of Anu, the sky god of Destiny.

The next king, Samsu-iluna, reigned nearly as long as his illustrious father, and similarly lived a strenuous and pious life. Soon after he came to the throne the forces of disorder were let loose, but, as has been stated, he crushed and slew his most formidable opponent, Rim-Sin, the Elamite king, who had gathered together an army of allies. During his reign a Kassite invasion was repulsed. The earliest Kassites, a people of uncertain racial affinities, began to settle in the land during Hammurabi's lifetime. Some writers connect them with the Hittites, and others with the Iranians, vaguely termed as Indo-European or Indo-Germanic folk. Ethnologists as a rule regard them as identical with the Cossaei, whom the Greeks found settled between Babylon and Media, east of the Tigris and north of Elam. The Hittites came south as raiders about a century later. It is possible that the invading Kassites had overrun Elam and composed part of Rim-Sin's army. After settled conditions were secured many of them remained in Babylonia, where they engaged like their pioneers in agricultural pursuits. No doubt they were welcomed in that capacity, for owing to the continuous spread of culture and the development of commerce, rural labour had become scarce and dear. Farmers had a long-standing complaint, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few".[280] "Despite the existence of slaves, who were for the most part domestic servants, there was", writes Mr. Johns, "considerable demand for free labour in ancient Babylonia. This is clear from the large number of contracts relating to hire which have come down to us.... As a rule, the man was hired for the harvest and was free directly after. But there are many examples in which the term of service was different--one month, half a year, or a whole year.... Harvest labour was probably far dearer than any other, because of its importance, the skill and exertion demanded, and the fact that so many were seeking for it at once." When a farm worker was engaged he received a shekel for "earnest money" or arles, and was penalized for non-appearance or late arrival.[281]


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