The First Civilization Series: The Amorites (c. 2000 BC – 1595 BC)

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Preface: Over the past few weeks I have been writing about many different articles so I accidentally neglected the first civilization series that I started. I remembered writing about the Akkadians last night and so I am going to continue writing about people who lived in the earliest recorded history.

Who are The Amorites?

‘The Worshipper of Larsa’: an anonymous citizen dedicated this statuette to the god Amurru that he
might safeguard Hammurabi’s life.

The Amorites are known as ‘The Founders of Babylon’. The ancient famous grand city where many ancient stories originate from. The Abrahamic religions mention how magic originated from this city and there is even magic amulets that are available in some Museums. In all three Abrahamic religions the Amorites are described as powerful people of great stature “like the height of the cedars” and were commonly known as giants in today’s time. Since they just took over the land of The Akkadians, many of their civilians spoke Akkadian and Sumerian as their languages. Many of their magic spells were written in the Akkadian and Sumerian language.

“Those once terrible giants the Rephaim were replaced by the
Amorites. These are an evil people more wicked than any other
who still exist today, who no longer measure out their lives upon
this earth.”
-Pseudo-Genesis 29:10–12

The term ‘Amorite’ might not have been the same term that was used by the actual people themselves but rather a slur used by Mesopotamians who would get raided by a group of people who were strangers to them. In the previous historical blog I mentioned how the Akkadians collapsed as a result of drought. A drought which did not affect the Amorites in the same way. As the Akkadian kingdom collapsed, the Amorites took full advantage of this and began taking Akkadian land bit by bit until the Empire collapsed. They sometimes did this by taking over abandoned land (land would be abandoned because when the drought became difficult the Akkadians would sometimes leave cities and fields) and by conquests (conquests would also be easier for the Amorites since the Akkadians were worn out by the drought).

Once in this new empire the Amorites adapted their life style and became city dwellers and they became interconnected with the Sumerian population that was already living in the Akkadian empire. Once of their conquered cities called Mari would go on to develop into Babylon.

Hammurabi The Amorite King

One of the kings of Babylon was a man called Ammurapi. He was born and raised within the Amorite kingdom and therefore was a pure Amorite in that regard. However, unlike his ancestors, Ammurapi grew up worshipping the gods of the Sumerians alongside his own people. The Amorites had a sort of evolution of religious thought and came to dislike their old deities that they worshipped. The Amorites became very integrated with the Sumerian population so much that the Amorite king Ammurapi became known by his Akkadian name Hammurabi.

Hammurabi had quite an intense political career. He started out by battling against the proud Assyrians and turning them into a vassal state. He then turned his attention to another nomadic group of people who, just like the Amorites, contributed to the downfall of Akkadian empire by raiding its land. He battled against them as well and forced them into submission. This made Hammurabi the ruler of most of Mesopotamia. Unfortunately for him, this Amorite kingdom never lasted for too long as his son failed to maintain it and it collapsed in his reign.

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Code of Law

The Amorites however had certain ideas and actions which echoed throughout history. the Amorites removed the power of the priests that were in the temple thus making the Amorite administration secular instead of religious. Their most famous administrative change was their code of law.

Hammurabi code of law. It has been preserved throughout history and can still be found in Paris today.

There might have been civilizations before this who codified law but Hammurabi seems to have been the law that has had the most impact. The previous codes of law were ‘interpreted’ by priests. This is controversial since a criminal (or an innocent) would be depending on someone’s interpretation. Furthermore, priests could have been bribed and corruption could have spread.

Hammurabi’s laws were uniquely established within his empire. There were 282 laws and he didn’t keep them hidden away in a distant temple but rather left them out in the open to display. The language the laws were written in were in the Akkadian language since it was the most common language spoken in that period. The laws were written on a stone and available for everyone to see.

End of The Amorite Era

The Amorites dominated the politics of Mesopotamia from the time of 2000 BC to 1600 BC. Despite the fact that their administrative changes would echo throughout history the Amorites would not survive themselves. The Amorites faced pressure from the Israelites in Canaan and were forced out of the north of Mesopotamia by the Assyrians who returned to power. Previously, the Assyrians were made to be a vassal state by Hammurabi. To make matters worse, a new group called the Hittites began raiding the Amorites whilst the Amorites were weakened just like the way Amorites raided a once weakened Akkadian empire.

The remains of the royal palace of Zimri-Lim at Mari: One of the greatest palaces in Mesopotamian history
More Remains of the palace….

Despite the previous glory the city once had, Babylon began to lessen in influence, prestige and power. However, the Amorite rulers managed to hold out for as long as they could but this ended in 1595 BC when the Hittites invaded and sacked the city of Babylon. Lucky for the Amorites, the city wasn’t totally destroyed and it managed to survive for another millennia. Archaeologists discovered the remains of people who appeared to be Amorites but in time the Amorites as an ethnic people faded away. After the bronze age in 1200 BC, the Amorites completely faded from history.

Interesting Facts

The foundation of Hammurabi’s laws was that : “The duty of government is that justice should prevail so that the strong shall not harm the weak”. This remains as one of the most powerful quotes and rules for legislation that exists until now. Hammurabi also did an amazing thing of being the first known ruler in history who provided minimum wage for his civilians who worked on farms. Hammurabi’s laws were also amazing (in his time) because he began the concept in law that was “innocent until proven guilty”.

However, their laws were not completely perfect and if someone hit a random lady and caused her to miscarry then this person would be punished by one of his daughters getting executed. This would be viewed as an oppressive law to random daughters who would have been innocent from their parents crimes.

Matyszak writes:

“The Laws of Hammurabi were significant in two enduring ways. First,
whereas earlier legal systems stressed compensation for injury, Hammurabi
was more focused on punishing the offender. He introduced the concept
later referred to as the lex talionis, known colloquially as ‘an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a tooth’. This is literally what Hammurabi’s law code says,
but it is more famous for being repeated in the Bible in the books of Exodus
(21:23–25) and Leviticus (24:19–21).”

Overall, the contributions of the Amorites were to survive throughout history and still become relevant to the development of the societies that we live in now.

Sources:

Forgotten Peoples of The Ancient World – Philip Matyszak

Wikipedia: The Amorites

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Published by Muaad

20. Enjoy reading, travelling, meeting people and living life to the fullest. Follow me on twitter: @theclownprinxe

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