Ancient Babylonia - Cuneiform


BAB9.gif The script of the Sumerians and all the other inhabitants of Mesopotamia employed to write their language, up to the first century BC was cuneiform. The name cuneiform comes from the Latin word "cuneus", meaning wedge.

According to Babylonian beliefs Nabu, the god of scribal arts, who was also the city god of Borsippa, gave cuneiform to them.

When the Akkadians, Semite invaders from the desert, adopted the Sumerian civilization and part of the Sumerian Territory they also adopted cuneiform. They adapted the script to fit their own. The next wave of Semite invaders, the Amorites, did likewise, but they continued to speak the Akkadian tongue. Thus we find Hammurapi (1792-1760 BC) who was an Amorite, speaking Akkadian and writing cuneiform. Since the time of Hammurapi, successive Mesopotamian empires controlled huge empires in the Near East. Because of this cuneiform, Akkadian became the lingua franca of the Near East, as Latin was of Medieval Europe. This of course ended when Mesopotamian civilization declined so that cuneiform was no longer being used by about the first century BC.

When the Sumerians first brought cuneiform into being it was nothing like the script that it was to become. It was an ideogramatical script (a symbol represented by a word). For example a picture of sheep would mean sheep. When the Sumerians came into contact with the Akkadians they needed to adapt their script to fit. This was necessary even to write Akkadian names. Obviously it was far more important for the Akkadians because they needed to write their language in it. Cuneiform then underwent a transformation. It became a syllogramatical script where each symbol represented a sound. Therefore the symbol for a word such as 'dig', if we took an English equivalent would be correctly used in the second syllable of 'indignant'. This transformation enabled cuneiform to be used with other languages.

As cuneiform changed from an ideogramatical to a syllogramatical script its symbols were simplified. The original pictograms were complicated and hard to write on clay tablets. The symbols developed, losing many of their lines and the remaining lines were wedge shaped and straight.

Cuneiform was originally written with a reed or stick stylus but this was quickly developed into a precision tool. We have derived virtually all our knowledge of the Babylonians from texts written in cuneiform on clay tablets. From these tablets we have been able to learn their law, business, administration, religion and all other aspects of Babylonian civilization. Without these texts we would know little about the Babylonians.

Ancient Babylonia
Ancient Babylonia
by R. Russell

2 Kin 24:13-14 "And Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king's house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. Also he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land."

Also see: Ancient Babylonia Map

Fall of Babylon Heart Message




History of Babylonia

Old Babylonian Period (2000 - 1595 BC)

The Amorites, Isin and Larsa, Hammurapi of Babylon, Classical Period, The Language, Religion Law Science and the Arts, Babylon, The KassitesThe People of the Sealand, The Hittite Kingdom

Middle Babylonian Period (1595 - 1000 BC)

The Kassite Dynasty, Kadashman-Enlil I and Burnaburiash II, Kurigalzu II, Elam and Assyria, Dur Kurigalzu a New Capital, The Kudurru, Nebuchadnezzar I, The Aramaeans, The Culture

Neo Babylonian Period (1000 - 539 BC)

Assyria, Nabu-nasir, Tiglath pileser III, The Babylonian Chronicles, The Chaldeans, Sennacherib, Ashurbanipal, Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar II, The Fall of Babylon


Sumerian Origins, Schools of Scribes, Numbering Tablets, Aramaic and Greek, Poetry, Music, Myths, The Gilgamesh Epic, The Babylonian Flood Myth, Biblical Flood, Prayers and Hymns, Wisdom Literature, Prophecy, Cuneiform


Marduk and his son Nabu, Babylonian Gods, Temples and Rituals, Priests, Personal Idols, Divination, Astrology, Extispicy, The New Year's Festival, Morality, Prayers and Hymns, Prophecy

Law and Justice

Shamash the Sun God, Civil Law, Law Codes, Hammurapi and Retaliation, Code of Hammurapi Text, Legal Disputes, Labor, Criminal Law, Prisons Slaves and Women, Legal Documents

King and State

Monarchy, The King's Palace, The King's Harem, Communication, Roads, Scribes, Nebuchadnezzar II

Economy and Social Structure

Houses and Farms, Irrigation, Artisans, Manufacturing, Trade, Social Hierarchy, Family and Tribe, Domestic Relations, Schools


Scientific Knowledge, Astronomy, The Calendar, Mathematics, Medicine, Nature


Gilgamesh Tablet, The Hammurapi Stele, Ancient Map, Clay Model of a Sheep's Liver, Mathematics Tablet, Sheeps Liver Cuneiform, Seal Impression, Israelite Seal to Pedaiah, Clay Cylinder of Nabopolassar, The Striding Lion, The Ishtar Gate, The Dragon of Marduk, Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, The Babylonian Chronicles, Basalt Block Inscription, The Ziggurats, Nabonidus Stele, Cyrus Cylinder

Biblical History

David Anoints Solomon, Solomon's Choice, Solomon's Temple, God's Ideal King, The Divided Kingdom, The Northern Kingdom Israel, The Southern Kingdom Judah, Judah's Kings, Hezekiah, The Destruction of Jerusalem, The Babylonian Captivity, Daniel and the Prophets, Nebuchadnezzar, The Return from Babylon

Questions about Babylon Answered in the Bible



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