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The Old Babylonian Age: From the Palace of Zimri-Lim to the Law Code of Hammurabi

April 12 - May 24, 2010

This in-depth program on the Old Babylonian Age will explore a time of great contrasts, of creativity and destruction - splendid palaces, increasing literacy, ancient literature, the Laws of Hammurabi, international trade, diplomacy, and recurrent warfare. The Museum's sixteenth theme series is funded by two generous grants from Jeannette and Jonathan P. Rosen, Lifetime CMAA Charter Members, and from John Matrisciano, CMAA Board of Directors Member.

Five world-renowned experts on the Old Babylonian Age are coming to Los Angeles to present a series of lectures about Mesopotamia during the first four centuries of the second millennium BC, and examine the powerful influence this period exerts on Western Civilization. Inheritors of the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures, the Old Babylonians built on a grand scale only to have their cities eventually looted and destroyed by war. Yet among all of the struggle and destruction, these people managed to produce one of the greatest monuments of the ancient world, the magnificent palace of King Zimri-Lim at Mari with more than 260 rooms. In their schools, they educated an expanding group of literate people and recorded ancient Sumerian and Akkadian literature for posterity. One of their most famous kings, Hammurabi of Babylon, conquered most of Mesopotamia creating an empire, and left us the Laws of Hammurabi, which profoundly influenced Mosaic Law in the Bible. Join us for THE OLD BABYLONIAN AGE and explore a pivotal period in world history.

THE OLD BABYLONIAN AGE will take place at Piness Auditorium inside Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles (at Harvard, between Western and Vermont). A detailed description of the five remarkable lectures which make up this special series follows.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Old Babylonian Period (2004-1595 BC): A User's Guide

by Dr. Seth Richardson, University of Chicago

The period we refer to as "Old Babylonian" was longer than the empires of Akkad, Ur and the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar all rolled into one. Therefore we should not be surprised to find legacies that do not always fit well together. The period dawned with a dream of perpetuating the glorious Neo-Sumerian state - powerful and steeped in tradition. It went to its end as a gaggle of petty city-states squabbling while tribes and military fiefdoms gained power in the countryside.

New cultural and geographic claims to power were adopted. Dynasties struggled to find their footing as rival states battled for dominance. A rising tide of literacy, unprecedented economic mobility and access to information resulted in a veritable "middle class" lifestyle of the Middle Bronze Age. This illustrated lecture will be a guided tour of major events, concerns and changes, as well as a discussion of how these relate to what came before and after.

Video and Audio Recordings (DVDs, CDs & Cassettes) are available for this series.
DVDs are $28 per lecture, $89 for the full series (4 programs)
[The speaker for the May 3 lecture will not allow recording.]
CDs are $21 per lecture, $70 series
Cassettes are $19 per lecture, $62 series.
Prices include shipping.
Order from the California Museum of Ancient Art, POB 10515, Beverly Hills, California 90213.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hammurabi of Babylon and his 'Code'

by Dr. Mark Chavalas, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) was one of the most famous Mesopotamian kings, yet our knowledge about him comes mostly from outside Babylon ó from nearby Sippar, other southern cities and Mari during the reign of Zimri-Lim. The celebrated ëCode of Hammurabií, the first major body of laws recovered by archaeologists, was not the oldest, yet it is the most complete of the extant law collections from Mesopotamia. Inscribed on a large black diorite stele, it is composed of three major sections: an extensive prologue delineating the kingís attributes, a body of 282 laws and a long epilogue.

This illustrated lecture will survey Hammurabiís reign, his building projects, military campaigns and literary output, and then concentrate on his ëCodeí, which dealt with criminal matters including murder, robbery, assault and bodily injuries, as well as civil issues including inheritance, adoption, marriage and real estate. Of special interest will be the portrayal of women in the ëCodeí and the legacy of the Laws of Hammurabi in ancient Near Eastern and later legal traditions. An authorís signing for The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation will follow the lecture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Palace at Mari: Between Babylon and the West

by Dr. Marian Feldman, University at California, Berkeley

In 1759 BC, Harmmurabi of Babylon reneged on a previous alliance and attacked the city of Mari. His army took two years looting the wealthy palace before burning it, leaving the city in ruins. This catastrophe marked the end of a brilliant urban center, boasting one of the grandest and most admired palaces of its time. French excavators, working at the site since the 1930s, have revealed the full extent of this extraordinary structure.

Mali occupied a special geographic position with Mesopotamia to its east and the rest of Syria, the Mediterranean and Egypt on its west. Highlights of this illustrated talk will include the famous wall painting, "The Investiture of King Zimri-Lim," and a working fountain in the form of an almost life-size sculpture of the Goddess with the Flowing Vase. These artworks, in conjunction with the wealth of information gleaned from the vast Mari archives as well as connections to Babylon and Ebla, paint a tantalizing picture of this ancient city.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Diplomacy in the Old Babylonian Period, A Case Study

by Dr. Amanda Podany, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

The Old Babylonian period was an era of intense communication between the major powers. Allied kings sent our ambassadors, negotiated peace treaties and arranged their daughters' marriages to fellow kings. This visual presentation will focus on Ishme-Dagan of Ekallarum, whose dramatic and tragic career elucidates the diplomatic world of his time. First a viceroy for his father, the mighty Shamshi-Adad, Ishme-Dagan rook over his father's kingdom when Shamshi-Adad died, but lost control of much territory, Initially considered a "brother" or equal by comemporary kings including Hammurabi of Babylon, gradually his status slipped as he made innumerable diplomatic mistakes and suffered military defeats.

In a letter, Ishme-Dagan angered Harrunurabi by accusing him of not sending troops. While attempting to forge a peace treaty with another king, Ishme-Dagan was thwarted when his supposed ally tricked him and attacked his land. Later, a letter has Ishme-Dagan reduced to the status of "son" or inferior. Eventually Ishme-Dagan died, unloved by either his allies or his subjects.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Literature and the Gods in the Old Babylonian Period

by Dr. Daniel Snell, University of Oklahoma

The Old Babylonian was a classical period for later Mesopotamians. Not an age of political unity or peace, warring kingdoms revisited earlier times for models of behavior and stories of heroic kings. They told the old tales of Uruk's Early Dynastic kings. Or did they? Maybe Sumerian was already a dead language, and the texts we have were only of scribal interest.

In the Old Babylonian period, we get the first complex compositions in Akkadian, the Semitic language using the cuneiform script. But compositions in Akkadian too might or might not reflect contemporaneous story-telling. Yet it is clear that Old Babylonians included more literate people than ever before and literacy would not reach this height for at least another thousand years.

During this illustrated talk, we will explore how interactions with the gods were depicted. On seals, stele and in story and song, the gods were involved in human concerns. These stories led to an undying literary achievement that is relevant still. An author's signing for A Companion to the Ancient Near East will follow the lecture.