Babylon stands with Athens and Rome as a cultural ancestor of western civilization. It was founded by the people of ancient Mesopotamia, who settled in the fertile crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers before the fourth millennium b.c. Some of the earliest experiments in agriculture and irrigation, the invention of writing, the birth of mathematics and the development of urban life all began there. Biblical associations are also numerous, from Nineveh to the Tower of Babel and the Flood. In "Babylonians," H. W. F. Saggs describes the ebb and flow in the successive fortunes of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites, and Babylonians who flourished in this region. Using evidence from pottery, cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, early architecture and metallurgy, he illuminates the myths, religion, languages, trade, politics, and warfare--as well as the legacy--of the Babylonians and their predecessors.
During the twentieth century, collaboration by archaeologists from many nations has greatly increased the range of archaeological evidence, while work by linguists has gradually unlocked the secrets of the thousands of clay tablets recovered from the area. Today the historical record for some periods of ancient Mesopotamia is substantially better than for some centuries of Europe in the Christian era. Gaps and uncertainties remain, but "Babylonians" conveys a rich and fascinating picture of the development of this remarkable civilization from before the beginning of the third millennium b.c.
Henry W. F. Saggs is Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages at University College, Cardiff, and the author of numerous books including "Civilization before Greece and Rome" (1989), "The Might that was Assyria" (1984), and "The Greatness that was Babylon" (1962).
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