Social Life

Castes were unknown in both Babylonia and Assyria, but the priesthood of Babylonia found its counterpart in the military aristocracy of Assyria. The priesthood was divided into a great number of classes, among which that of the doctors may be reckoned. The army was raised, at all events in part, by conscription; a standing army seems to have been first organized in Assyria. Successive improvements were introduced into it by the kings of the second Assyrian empire; chariots were superseded by cavalry; Tiglath-pileser III. gave the riders saddles and high boots, and Sennacherib created a corps of slingers. Tents, baggage-carts and battering-rams were carried on the march, and the tartan or commander-in-chief ranked next to the king. In both countries there was a large body of slaves; above them came the agriculturists and commercial classes, who were, however, comparatively little numerous in Assyria. The scribes, on the other hand, formed a more important class in Assyria than in Babylonia. Both countries had their artisans, money-lenders, poets and musicians.

The houses of the people contained but little furniture; chairs, tables and couches, however, were used, and Assur-bani-pal is represented as reclining on his couch at a meal while his wife sits on a chair beside him. After death the body was usually partially cremated along with the objects that had been buried with it. The cemetery adjoined the city of the living and was laid out in streets through which ran rivulets of "pure" water. Many of the tombs, which were built of crude brick, were provided with gardens, and there were shelves or altars on which were placed the offerings to the dead. As the older tombs decayed a fresh city of tombs arose on their ruins. It is remarkable that thus far no cemetery older than the Seleucid or Parthian period has been found in Assyria.


See A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon (1853); E. de Sarzec and L. Heuzey, Découvertes en Chaldée (1884 foll.); H. V. Hilprecht, The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania (1893 foll.); J. P. Peters, Nippur (1897); E. Schrader, Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek (1889-1900); Records of the Past (new series, 1888-1892); Th. G. Pinches, "The Babylonian Chronicle," in Journ. R. A. S. (1887); H. Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen (1893 foll.), and The Tell-el-Amarna, Letters (1896); G. Maspero, Dawn of Civilization (1896), Struggle of the Nations (1897), and Passing of the Empires (1900); L. W. King, Letters of Khammurabi (1898-1900); H. Radau, Early Babylonian History (1900); R. W. Rogers, History of Babylonia and Assyria (1900); F. Hommel, Grundriss der Geographie und Geschichte des alten Orients (1904); Mitteilungen der deutschen Orientgesellschaft (1899).

(A. H. S.)