Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. M
Sun worship came into prominence in its most fully developed form during the obscure period which followed the decline of the Dynasty of Isin. This was probably due to the changed political conditions which brought about the ascendancy for a time of Larsa, the seat of the Sumerian sun cult, and of Sippar, the seat of the Akkadian sun cult. Larsa was selected as the capital of the Elamite conquerors, while their rivals, the Amorites, appear to have first established their power at Sippar.
Babbar, the sun god of Sippar, whose Semitic name was Shamash, must have been credited with the early successes of the Amorites, who became domiciled under his care, and it was possibly on that account that the ruling family subsequently devoted so much attention to his worship in Merodach's city of Babylon, where a sun temple was erected, and Shamash received devout recognition as an abstract deity of righteousness and law, who reflected the ideals of well organized and firmly governed communities.
The first Amoritic king was Sumu-abum, but little is known regarding him except that he reigned at Sippar. He was succeeded by Sumu-la-ilu, a deified monarch, who moved from Sippar to Babylon, the great wall of which he either repaired or entirely reconstructed in his fifth year. With these two monarchs began the brilliant Hammurabi, or First Dynasty of Babylonia, which endured for three centuries. Except Sumu-abum, who seems to stand alone, all its kings belonged to the same family, and son succeeded father in unbroken succession.
Sumu-la-ilu was evidently a great general and conqueror of the type of Thothmes III of Egypt. His empire, it is believed, included the rising city states of Assyria, and extended southward as far as ancient Lagash.
Of special interest on religious as well as political grounds was his association with Kish. That city had become the stronghold of a rival family of Amoritic kings, some of whom were powerful enough to assert their independence. They formed the Third Dynasty of Kish. The local god was Zamama, the Tammuz-like deity, who, like Nin-Girsu of Lagash, was subsequently identified with Merodach of Babylon. But prominence was also given to the moon god Nannar, to whom a temple had been erected, a fact which suggests that sun worship was not more pronounced among the Semites than the Arabians, and may not, indeed, have been of Semitic origin at all. Perhaps the lunar temple was a relic of the influential Dynasty of Ur.
Sumu-la-ilu attacked and captured Kish, but did not slay Bunutakhtunila, its king, who became his vassal. Under the overlordship of Sumu-la-ilu, the next ruler of Kish, whose name was Immerum, gave prominence to the public worship of Shamash. Politics and religion went evidently hand in hand.
Sumu-la-ilu strengthened the defences of Sippar, restored the wall and temple of Cuthah, and promoted the worship of Merodach and his consort Zerpanitum at Babylon. He was undoubtedly one of the forceful personalities of his dynasty. His son, Zabium, had a short but successful reign, and appears to have continued the policy of his father in consolidating the power of Babylon and securing the allegiance of subject cities. He enlarged Merodach's temple, E-sagila, restored the Kish temple of Zamama, and placed a golden image of himself in the temple of the sun god at Sippar. Apil-Sin, his son, surrounded Babylon with a new wall, erected a temple to Ishtar, and presented a throne of gold and silver to Shamash in that city, while he also strengthened Borsippa, renewed Nergal's temple at Cuthah, and dug canals.
The next monarch was Sin-muballit, son of Apil-Sin and father of Hammurabi. He engaged himself in extending and strengthening the area controlled by Babylon by building city fortifications and improving the irrigation system. It is recorded that he honoured Shamash with the gift of a shrine and a golden altar adorned with jewels. Like Sumu-la-ilu, he was a great battle lord, and was specially concerned in challenging the supremacy of Elam in Sumeria and in the western land of the Amorites.
For a brief period a great conqueror, named Rim-Anum, had established an empire which extended from Kish to Larsa, but little is known regarding him. Then several kings flourished at Larsa who claimed to have ruled over Ur. The first monarch with an Elamite name who became connected with Larsa was Kudur-Mabug, son of Shimti-Shilkhak, the father of Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin.
It was from one of these Elamite monarchs that Sin-muballit captured Isin, and probably the Elamites were also the leaders of the army of Ur which he had routed before that event took place. He was not successful, however, in driving the Elamites from the land, and possibly he arranged with them a treaty of peace or perhaps of alliance.
Much controversy has been waged over the historical problems connected with this disturbed age. The records are exceedingly scanty, because the kings were not in the habit of commemorating battles which proved disastrous to them, and their fragmentary references to successes are not sufficient to indicate what permanent results accrued from their various campaigns. All we know for certain is that for a considerable period, extending perhaps over a century, a tremendous and disastrous struggle was waged at intervals, which desolated middle Babylonia. At least five great cities were destroyed by fire, as is testified by the evidence accumulated by excavators. These were Lagash, Umma, Shurruppak, Kisurra, and Adab. The ancient metropolis of Lagash, whose glory had been revived by Gudea and his kinsmen, fell soon after the rise of Larsa, and lay in ruins until the second century B.C., when, during the Seleucid Period, it was again occupied for a time. From its mound at Tello, and the buried ruins of the other cities, most of the relics of ancient Sumerian civilization have been recovered.
It was probably during one of the intervals of this stormy period that the rival kings in Babylonia joined forces against a common enemy and invaded the Western Land. Probably there was much unrest there. Great ethnic disturbances were in progress which were changing the political complexion of Western Asia. In addition to the outpourings of Arabian peoples into Palestine and Syria, which propelled other tribes to invade Mesopotamia, northern Babylonia, and Assyria, there was also much unrest all over the wide area to north and west of Elam. Indeed, the Elamite migration into southern Babylonia may not have been unconnected with the southward drift of roving bands from Media and the Iranian plateau.
It is believed that these migrations were primarily due to changing climatic conditions, a prolonged "Dry Cycle" having caused a shortage of herbage, with the result that pastoral peoples were compelled to go farther and farther afield in quest of "fresh woods and pastures new". Innumerable currents and cross currents were set in motion once these race movements swept towards settled districts either to flood them with human waves, or surround them like islands in the midst of tempest-lashed seas, fretting the frontiers with restless fury, and ever groping for an inlet through which to flow with irresistible force.
Northern Babylonia and Assyria probably attracted the tillers of the soil. But the movements of seafarers must have followed a different route. It is possible that about this time the Phoenicians began to migrate towards the "Upper Sea". According to their own traditions their racial cradle was on the northern shore of the Persian Gulf. So far as we know, they first made their appearance on the Mediterranean coast about 2000 B.C., where they subsequently entered into competition as sea traders with the mariners of ancient Crete. Apparently the pastoral nomads pressed northward through Mesopotamia and towards Canaan. As much is suggested by the Biblical narrative which deals with the wanderings of Terah, Abraham, and Lot. Taking with them their "flocks and herds and tents", and accompanied by wives, and families, and servants, they migrated, it is stated, from the Sumerian city of Ur northwards to Haran "and dwelt there". After Terah's death the tribe wandered through Canaan and kept moving southward, unable, it would seem, to settle permanently in any particular district. At length "there was a famine in the land"--an interesting reference to the "Dry Cycle"--and the wanderers found it necessary to take refuge for a time in Egypt. There they appear to have prospered. Indeed, so greatly did their flocks and herds increase that when they returned to Canaan they found that "the land was not able to bear them", although the conditions had improved somewhat during the interval. "There was", as a result, "strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle."
It is evident that the area which these pastoral flocks were allowed to occupy must have been strictly circumscribed, for more than once it is stated significantly that "the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled in the land". The two kinsmen found it necessary, therefore, to part company. Lot elected to go towards Sodom in the plain of Jordan, and Abraham then moved towards the plain of Mamre, the Amorite, in the Hebron district.With Mamre, and his brothers, Eshcol and Aner, the Hebrew patriarch formed a confederacy for mutual protection.
Other tribes which were in Palestine at this period included the Horites, the Rephaims, the Zuzims, the Zamzummims, and the Emims. These were probably representatives of the older stocks. Like the Amorites, the Hittites or "children of Heth" were evidently "late comers", and conquerors. When Abraham purchased the burial cave at Hebron, the landowner with whom he had to deal was one Ephron, son of Zohar, the Hittite.This illuminating statement agrees with what we know regarding Hittite expansion about 2000 B.C. The "Hatti" or "Khatti" had constituted military aristocracies throughout Syria and extended their influence by forming alliances. Many of their settlers were owners of estates, and traders who intermarried with the indigenous peoples and the Arabian invaders. As has been indicated (Chapter I), the large-nosed Armenoid section of the Hittite confederacy appear to have contributed to the racial blend known vaguely as the Semitic. Probably the particular group of Amorites with whom Abraham became associated had those pronounced Armenoid traits which can still be traced in representatives of the Hebrew people. Of special interest in this connection is Ezekiel's declaration regarding the ethnics of Jerusalem: "Thy birth and thy nativity", he said, "is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite."
It was during Abraham's residence in Hebron that the Western Land was raided by a confederacy of Babylonian and Elamite battle lords. The Biblical narrative which deals with this episode is of particular interest and has long engaged the attention of European scholars:
But the days of the brilliant Hammurabi Dynasty were drawing to a close. It endured for about a century longer than the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt, which came to an end, according to the Berlin calculations, in 1788 B.C. Apparently some of the Hammurabi and Amenemhet kings were contemporaries, but there is no evidence that they came into direct touch with one another. It was not until at about two centuries after Hammurabi's day that Egypt first invaded Syria, with which, however, it had for a long period previously conducted a brisk trade. Evidently the influence of the Hittites and their Amoritic allies predominated between Mesopotamia and the Delta frontier of Egypt, and it is significant to find in this connection that the "Khatti" or "Hatti" were referred to for the first time in Egypt during the Twelfth Dynasty, and in Babylonia during the Hammurabi Dynasty, sometime shortly before or after 2000 B.C. About 1800 B.C. a Hittite raid resulted in the overthrow of the last king of the Hammurabi family at Babylon. The Hyksos invasion of Egypt took place after 1788 B.C.