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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 194

The Kassite language added to the "Babel of tongues" among the common people, but was never used in inscriptions. At an early period the alien rulers became thoroughly Babylonianized, and as they held sway for nearly six centuries it cannot be assumed that they were unpopular. They allowed their mountain homeland, or earliest area of settlement in the east, to be seized and governed by Assyria, and probably maintained as slight a connection with it after settlement in Babylonia as did the Saxons of England with their Continental area of origin.

Although Babylonia was not so great a world power under the Kassites as it had been during the Hammurabi Dynasty, it prospered greatly as an industrial, agricultural, and trading country. The Babylonian language was used throughout western Asia as the language of diplomacy and commerce, and the city of Babylon was the most important commercial metropolis of the ancient world. Its merchants traded directly and indirectly with far-distant countries. They imported cobalt--which was used for colouring glass a vivid blue--from China, and may have occasionally met Chinese traders who came westward with their caravans, while a brisk trade in marble and limestone was conducted with and through Elam. Egypt was the chief source of the gold supply, which was obtained from the Nubian mines; and in exchange for this precious metal the Babylonians supplied the Nilotic merchants with lapis-lazuli from Bactria, enamel, and their own wonderful coloured glass, which was not unlike the later Venetian, as well as chariots and horses. The Kassites were great horse breeders, and the battle steeds from the Babylonian province of Namar were everywhere in great demand. They also promoted the cattle trade. Cattle rearing was confined chiefly to the marshy districts at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the extensive steppes on the borders of the Arabian desert, so well known to Abraham and his ancestors, which provided excellent grazing. Agriculture also flourished; as in Egypt it constituted the basis of national and commercial prosperity.

It is evident that great wealth accumulated in Karduniash during the Kassite period. When the images of Merodach and Zerpanitum were taken back to Babylon, from Assyria, they were clad, as has been recorded, in garments embroidered with gold and sparkling with gems, while E-sagila was redecorated on a lavish scale with priceless works of art.

Assyria presented a sharp contrast to Babylonia, the mother land, from which its culture was derived. As a separate kingdom it had to develop along different lines. In fact, it was unable to exist as a world power without the enforced co-operation of neighbouring States. Babylonia, on the other hand, could have flourished in comparative isolation, like Egypt during the Old Kingdom period, because it was able to feed itself and maintain a large population so long as its rich alluvial plain was irrigated during its dry season, which extended over about eight months in the year.

The region north of Baghdad was of different geographical formation to the southern plain, and therefore less suitable for the birth and growth of a great independent civilization. Assyria embraced a chalk plateau of the later Mesozoic period, with tertiary deposits, and had an extremely limited area suitable for agricultural pursuits. Its original inhabitants were nomadic pastoral and hunting tribes, and there appears to be little doubt that agriculture was introduced along the banks of the Tigris by colonists from Babylonia, who formed city States which owed allegiance to the kings of Sumer and Akkad.


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