Episode 42 – Babylon 1 Hammurabi’s Kingdom and Character

What was Hammurabi like, and what did the kingdom of Babylon look like in the earliest days? Today, we are going to look at the man himself, Hammurabi, and what he did when he inherited the kingdom from his father. There will be some legal drama, including a trial by water, as well as diplomatic jockeying and a bit of low level warfare. If you are new to the show, this is a great place to start, since this is something of a turning point in Mesopotamian history, and Hammurabi’s Babylon is one of the best places to learn about not just exciting military campaigns, but also the daily life, culture, and world view of the people of the Middle Bronze Age.

I think the series on Hammurabi is likely to get a number of new listeners, and so I am going to re-explain some things that long-time listeners should already be familiar with. Hopefully this isn’t too tiring for my established listeners.

There is a small dispute whether his name should be written and pronounced Hammurabi or Hammurapi, but the former is so overwhelmingly more common in modern English that I am going with that, and in any case the debate hinges on linguistic differences between east and west Semitic dialects of 3700 years ago, as well as some fairly silly biblical crossovers, and ultimately I have basically zero interest in this debate.

Hammurabi’s early military actions aren’t covered very well anywhere except for one book by Dominique Charpin, Hammurabi of Babylon. And that book cost $108, so I am reduced to working off someone’s very well organized notes on the book. Hopefully I am covering it accurately.

Also, let me stick a map of what Hammurabi’s empire will look like at the end, so that you can reference some places in what will be a fairly extensive series:

Note that the northern steppes of Syria never truly get conquered, and even much of the north is really just a loose vassal.

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