This show is focused on the history and myth of the Cradle of Civilization, bronze age Mesopotamia, beginning with the dawn of writing. The show will cover the full history of Mesopotamia, from Gilgamesh to Nabonidas, a span of some 2500 years, with myths of heroes and gods, and tales of daily life peppered throughout. New episodes every Wednesday. Online atoldeststories.net. I hang at a discord atdiscord.gg/q8XPnpg
Tukulti-Ninurta may have brought the Middle Assyrian empire to its territorial height, but the interal political issues he creates along the way will pull down his rule. After that, Assyria will be mired in a chain of kingly assassinations while the world seems to collapse around them in the Bronze Age Collapse. Meanwhile, Babylon will shake off the chains of Assyrian vassalship, but won't really manage to make good on their independance, getting repeatedly sacked by the Assyrians and Elamites until the final end of the Kassite dyansty. This is the end of Mesopotamian bronze age history, and it is a bit of a mess, but you can be excited for the age of empires that is waiting in the wings.
In Babylon, King Kashtiliash IV has a problem. His kingdom is in decline. And so he takes bold actions to shake up the Mesopotamian order, but ends up shaking far harder than he could have ever imagined. Meanwhile, Tukulti-Ninurta takes power in Assyria and spends his early years asserting dominance against the Hittites and Babylonians, but he will come to find that winning a war can sometimes be far easier that holding on afterwards. Today's story devolves into an absolute mess, as we are on the cusp of the Bronze Age Collapse, and the Aramaens, climate change, and political disorder are going to to give our Assyrian king of kings a massive headache. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we watch the decline of Kassite Babylon, from which distressingly little survives. We look at the prosperity they have achieved, and the ultimate hollowness of its economic foundations, before the long standing rivalry between Assur and Babylon re-ignites with disastrous consequences for the ancient city of Marduk.
Today we will take a journey through the cultural achievements of Kassite Babylon, which are beginning to reach their famous heights at the cultural intersection of what we would today call science and magic, though of course for the ancients these were one and the same. This will include a look at the remarkably well documented life of Raba-sa-Marduk, a Babylonian physician of international renown. Then we will return to warfare, with the wars of Babylon, the wars of Assur, and the wars between Assur and Babylon in the early 13th century. Online at oldeststories.net
Finally, the city of Assur wakes up and shakes off the dust of its centuries long obscurity, rising from minor Mitanni vassal to major world player in a single generation, thanks to the personal skill of king Assur-Uballit I. This is an episode of glorious conquest, and also one where we get to take a look at the bitter personal costs of those conquests. All this conquest is augmented expertly by some fascinating, though not always successful, diplomacy. Also, a door gets stolen, which apparently upset the Assyrians for generations to come. Online at oldeststories.net.
Here it is, the greatest battle of the late bronze age. Pharaoh Ramesses II of Egypt faces off against Muwatalli II of the Hittites, with control over the Levantine coast as the prize. This is a huge deal historically for a number of reasons. It was absolutely massive, involving as many as 90,000 men. It was the largest chariot battle in history, with perhaps as many as 6,000 chariots on the field. It is the oldest battle in history for which we have extensive tactical detail. And, of course, it represents the clash of two mighty civilizations at their very peak and would shape the near east for the rest of the bronze age. Online at oldeststories.net
This episode is a good place for new listeners to start if you are interested in the final years of the bronze age and the lead up to the bronze age collapse. Everyone is excited for the buildup to the great battle of Kadesh, but before we get to the battle itself, there is quite a lot going on in the reign of King Muwatalli that often gets overshadowed in the rush to the greatest battle of the late bronze age. Muwatalli is going to build a new capitol city, Tarhuntassa, which will be hugely unpopular and risk splitting the empire in half. In the west, meanwhile, we have the appearance of a famous and mysterious new renegade named Piyramaradu, who will also bring the story of the Greeks, and maybe even the tale of the Trojan War, into our story as well for the first time. But, of course, there will still be plenty of time for all the buildup to the conflict with Pharoah Ramesses II as well. Online at oldeststories.net
While he can easily be overshadowed by the military accomplishments of his father Suppiluliuma and his son Muwatalli II, Mursili II is one of the most significant kings in Hittite History, and one of the most well documented. Unlike most kings, for whom we have pretty much just state records, we have personal details of Mursili's life and reign, telling us things like how he felt when he took the throne, and how much he loved his wife. Today we look at Mursili II's accomplishments and writings, all of which take place in the backdrop of one of the most significant plagues of the late bronze age.
We have a bit of a hodge podge here as we finish up the reign of Suppiluliuma and move into his successors, Arnuwanda II and Mursili II. But there is a common thread of vengeance woven throughout. We will see the level of violence rise, both in terms of more combat which has been recorded and in the brutality that gets pulled out to deal with the defeated side in these wars. We will talk a little bit about military trends, particularly the balance of siegecraft and city defense, and some of the reasons for Hittite military dominance. Mursili is an interesting fellow, a mix of remarkable brutality and unusual piety, and the gods himself will treat with him in remarkable ways.
In the aftermath of one of the greatest campaigns of the bronze age, Suppiluliuma's Hittites need to consolidate control over Syria. This is complicated by matters of Egyptian and Mitanni politics, as well as the endless politicking of the tiny Syrian states, but it turns out if you have a massive army and a military genius, than many political problems have a way of simply resolving themselves. We will also see one of the strangest events in bronze age political history, and we will see how it goes sour and launches a multi-generational feud between Egypt and the Hittites. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we will start the great and storied reign of Hittite Great King Suppiluliuma I and his campaigns against the Mitanni. However, because this happens to be the age of Amarna, we are in the unusual position that his opponent in Mitanni is not a faceless non-entity. There is a fair bit we can say about the Mitanni king Tushratta, and so before we start wrecking the Mitanni kingdom, we are going to learn a bit about Tushratta and his role in shifting the balance of power in the near east. Online at oldeststories.net
Today the Hittite Empire will fall, pretty much completely, and be replaced by the western Anatolian state of Arzawa. We have seen the Hittites beaten pretty badly before, and this is about as bad at it has ever gotten, with even the capitol Hattusa sacked and burned to the ground. But no matter how hard the Hittites get hit this episode, they have a secret weapon in their back pocket, king Tudhaliya III's son and heir Suppiluliuma. Online at oldeststories.net
Magic, science, and medicine are our topic today, focusing primarily one the good number of documents on these topics which survive from the Middle Hittite period. We are going to learn how to cure diseases like impotence and argumentativeness, and we are going to learn which animals are and are not ok to have sexual relations with. The rituals we are looking at today provide one more window into the mindset of the ancients, and offer one more puzzle piece to fill in our picture of the late bronze age.
Things are tough for the Hittite Empire. The vassals who promise to be loyal keep being disloyal, the enemies who promise to attack keep attacking, and we can't even know for certain what the logistical situation looked like, though it was surely quite grim, given the number of folks who appear unwilling to show up to work when called on. That said, the Tudhaliya and Arnuwanda tag team is the rocky beginning of the uphill climb for the Hittite empire, and things are going to end up still uncertain, but certainly moving in the right direction.
We return to Anatolia, where our tale remains just as poorly documented and fast moving as it is in Babylon, thought there is light at the end of the tunnel this week as we finally get into the transition to the Hittite New Kingdom, with all the renewed conquest and court drama that entails. Actually, so little happens in the Hittite Middle Kingdom that much of the first half of the show is dedicated to one of the more peculiar incidents, the tale of Idrimi, a deposed prince who turns himself into a major Syrian power. Online at oldeststories.net
The Amarna letters are famous because nowhere else in bronze age history do we have a cache of documents quite like it. Thirteen letters from Kadashman-Enlil, and later his son Burna-Buriash, addressed to Pharoah Akhenaten of Egypt, give us insights into the nuts and bolts of bronze age international diplomacy that even most bronze age folks would have not understood unless they were part of the royal courts. What did ancient kings know about their neighbors, how did they think about their kingdom, and how did they solve disputes? All these and more are in the Amarna letters, and as an added benefit, these letters will take us through the reigns of these two kings, continuing the tale of Kassite Babylonian history. Online at oldeststories.net
The growth of Kassite Babylonia, also called Karduniash, continues apace. Just like last week, Kassite Babylonia is very poorly documented, and thus we are going to cover all the way from Pharaoh Thutmose III to Pharaoh Akhenaten. That's right, Kassite Babylonia has so little history that we make our bookmarks against Egyptian history instead of Babylonian, but this does mean that we will start looking at the famous Amarna letters, the diplomatic correspondence between Kadashman-Enlil and the Egyptian Pharaoh. It is a little bit of war, a little bit of construction, and a thirty five hundred year old missing person case.
Babylon is reborn! Following the decline and sack of Babylon, the entire region was devastated for decades. However, even in these ashes lay the seeds of a new growth, the Kassite Dynasty, which will emerge to rebuild not just Babylon but the whole region. This is a relatively poorly documented century, but a significant one, meaning that our story is going to be jumping around quite a bit, but this will give us a good view of many different parts of the rising dynasty.
True crime! Corruption in city hall! A gang of thugs terrorizing a town! One of the most interesting finds in the town of Nuzi is a series of court documents which contain testimony about a large number of criminal activities by a gang of thugs, including men who have positions in city hall. Today we get an on the ground look at what sort of crime went on in Nuzi, and what was done about it. Plus, we will start to get a sense of how many sheep the Hurrians actually had.
Happy Mesopotamian New Year! Akitu was celebrated at the start of the year from Sumerian times until the end of Babylonian civilization, and naturally the details changed significantly over the course of thousands of years. However, this is something of a reconstructed outline of what went on, with attention particularly paid both to the cultural context of many of the events, as well as to how some of those might be adjusted for modern neo-pagans attempting to reconstruct the holiday.
Today we have a very real discussion about some very real people, hearing from the Hurrians in their own words by looking at the goings on in a town called Nuzi. When two groups disagree about who is the rightful owner of some land, the matter gets resolved in a peaceful and civilized fashion, with a well ordered and reasonable lawsuit. This may be the bronze age, but it turns out that we can, in fact, resolve our problems using words instead of violence. Today we are using actual court documents surrounding a particular lawsuit to follow a legal dispute from start to finish, and in the process learn quite a bit about how the Hurrians lived.
The Hurrian Song of Release is an odd text. Part wisdom, part legend, the best we can guess is that it was a set of rituals, cultural memories, and advice to accompany what may have been a monumental life event, when a debtor or perhaps slave was released from bondage. Or perhaps when a whole city's worth of slaves are released. Or perhaps it is actually just a number of unrelated texts recorded on the same clay tablet because they were individually too small and there was still plenty of space on the tablet. We don't really know. But, there is some fascinating wisdom here, a look at ideas of wealth and status in Hurrian society, and a very, very interesting debate on whether slaves should be freed. Online at oldeststories.net
Finishing up the Kumarbi Cycle with the biggest of monsters, the Song of Hedammu and the Song of Ullikummi are the two tales that see some actual character development, as Ea, god of wisdom, slowly moves out of Kumarbi's camp and is finally convinced to begin supporting Tessub as rightful king of heaven. A massive sea monster and a huge stone are our opponents today, and even the gods will have trouble defeating them in direct battles. Online at oldeststories.net
The Song of Lamma and the song of Silver, two further adventures in the Kumarbi cycle. Tessub may be the Hurrian king in heaven, but Kumarbi still wants to pull him down, and hatches scheme after scheme to defeat his usurper. Lamma is an obscure god, possibly a Lamassu, possibly the god Karhuhi, but he will be turned to Kumarbi's side and sent to battle Tessub. Silver is a demi-god, a champion of mortal mother and divine father, who will even overcome his father on his way to the throne. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we begin the great epic of the Hurrians, the Kumarbi cycle, which in multiple fragmentary episodes discusses the multiple conflicts over kingship that the Hurrian gods have with each other. Focusing particularly on the battle between Tessub and Kumarbi, it draws in a number of gods from both native Hurrian as well as southern Mesopotamian and Anatolian tradition. The end result is a work about the cosmic order that finds many parallels, and may well have influenced, later Greek myth, especially Hesiod's Thegony.
This may be the late bronze age, but it is the golden age of chariot warfare. To a great degree, the power of the great kingdoms is all built upon chariot warfare, from the Maryannu elites of Mitanni to the heavy chariots of the Hittites, to the personal valor of the Egyptian pharoahs, to the flat plains of Kassite Babylon. What did war look like in a time dominated by the the great chariots? We will look at how thoroughly a chariot army could dominate and raid into places that had no chariots for themselves, and then we will take a look at what it looked like when two full armies confronted each other. Online at oldeststories.net
The world of the Late Bronze Age is expanding, and today we introduce the two final players to the near east battleground. Egypt is probably familiar to many, though worth a bit of an introduction to see what exactly the Nile valley is doing to bring it into our story. Mitanni, however, and its people, the Hurrians, is quite a bit more obscure. Note that next week there will be no normal episode, instead I am doing some reworkings of the very first episodes, so remember to scroll down to check out the brand new Episode 3. Online at oldeststories.net
The Hittites are not going to exceed the heights of king Mursili for a long, long time, if indeed they ever do. Today we are going to look at a dark century of decline, as the Kaskans and Hurrians press on the ever shrinking borders, and kings begin to off each other right and left in the capitol. We will look most extensively at Hantili and Telipinu, since they have the most surviving details for us to get at, but all in all it is a pretty poorly documented period. Still, there are some fun tales of murder and divine vengeance here as well. Apologies for the poor audio quality, I am stuck recording this in some sub-optimal conditions. It should get back to normal soon. Online at oldeststories.net
Part two of daily life in Anatolia under the Hittites continues where we left off last time. And also doesn't get as far as I had planned this time either, but it turns out that we just have a lot of great detail about how people lived in late bronze age anatolia. We discuss the law code, agriculture, the different types of slavery, and death in Hittite society. Online at oldeststories.net
Daily life for the average anatolian living under the Hittites was not all that terrible, and though much of it is poorly documented, there are still quite a bit we can say about how it may have looked to be an inhabitant of one of the many villages that dotted the valleys of Anatolia. These villages were often quite well organized, even if the houses themselves were of questionable construction, and a fair life could have been lived here, at least as far as we can tell. This is part one of daily life in anatolia, next week will focus more heavily on the economic and legal issues a villager would expect to navigate as he toiled for his daily bread.
Mursili I destroyed two empires, plundering Aleppo and Babylon, and ruled for thirty of the best years in Hittite history. His conquests would pave the way for the great battles of the late bronze age. And yet he is almost completely obscure, despite being the singular catalyst for everything that was to come. Today I want to focus in on a man who has failed to receive the immortality he deserved, and to look at the military machine that helped him achieve these things.
Hattusili I has already shown himself to be a cut above the Anatolian kings that have come before him, but like all the most ambitious of men he has set his sights far higher than just Greatest Anatolian King. Today he marches eastward to challenge the Syrian kingdom of Yamhad, where he will campaign for the rest of his life in an effort to outdo the great Sargon of Akkad. Then he will die after a pretty good showing, but the drama doesn't end there. On his deathbed, the family squabble over succession will force the ill and aged king to re-order dynastic politics. Online at oldeststories.net
A god is furious, and in his fury he has abandoned the people and the kingdom to suffer one catastrophe after another. Today we look at the myth, the ritual, and the theological understanding of why bad things happened and what to do about them, according to ancient Anatolian traditions that pre-date the Hittites themselves. Through looking at this story, we get a window into the mindset and lifestyle of the people over whom the Hittites rules, a mindset that was almost certainly shared at least in part by the rulers themselves. Will the missing god be found and the natural order restored? Yes, he will, but it is in the manner that this is accomplished that quite a lot is revealed. Online at oldeststories.net.
The first king of the Hittites, Hattusili I, thought of himself as a conquering lion. Given his military record, this isn't a completely inappropriate boast. His accomplishments in establishing the Old Hittite Kingdom are far beyond the merely military, but this episode we are going to focus primarily on the parts of his career he was most proud of, his early conquests. Starting from nothing, he builds up a kingdom to rival his grandfather Labarna and his great ancestor Anitta, then goes beyond what they had ever hoped to achieve. Then has his entire kingdom fall apart, rebuilds it from nothing, and goes even farther. He will deal with the Curse of Hattusa in characteristic manner, and show us how Hittite kings throughout history will handle diplomacy and warfare. A busy episode, and we aren't even half done with Great King Hattusili I. Online at oldeststories.net.
This is a good place for new listeners to start, particularly those interested in the late bronze age, the Hittites, and the Kassites. The legendary, and partly mythological, rise of the Hittite kingdom out of the mess of the warring kingdoms of Anatolia is our subject today. Quite a few intertwined stories lead up to our first properly Hittite King, Hattusili I, and we will hear about famous figures such as the Queen of Kanesh, Anitta, and Labarna and the will stars align to allow one kingdom to rise above all the others. Online at oldeststories.net.
We begin our series on the Hittites by looking at what came before the Hittites. This episode is a survey of the geography, cultures, and history of Eastern Asia Minor prior to the arrival of the newest player on our stage, the Hittites. The Anatolians have been on the fringes of our story from the conquests of Sargon of Akkad to the trading colonies of Assyria, but until now we have been pretty vague about the conditions and people in the northwest extreme of the Mestopotamian world. Also, we will take a brief look at points west to round out our understanding of the late bronze age world. Online at oldeststories.net
Assyria is deep in a dark age following the fall of Babylon. Struggling to hold on and fighting over its identity, the Assyrians didn't appear to have a whole lot of time for writing stuff down. And so we are going to zoom through from 1740 to the mid 1400's BCE, some three hundred years or so, through some of the vaguest and poorly documented periods that we have encountered so far. It is an important time for defining Assyria's later culture, which makes it all the more tragic that we have so little to say here. Still, I will say what I can because it is important that we keep abreast of developments in this little town.
An interlude in our story. Today, a poem of passionate despair. With the collapse of Sumerian civilization in 2000 BCE, five great laments were written that would continue to be performed and recorded until the end of Mesopotamian civilization some fifteen hundred years later, and may well have survived for a time after that. This episode will be the Lament for Ur, in its entirety, in translation, with as much of the ancient passion that would have infused it as I can manage. I do warn you that the first two verses are very repetitive, and there is an element of mournful repetition in the entire thing, but the very first verse is not representative of the whole thing, so feel free to fast forward a bit if it gets to be a bit too much. Verse 2 starts at time stamp 7:12. Online at oldeststories.net
An interlude in our story. We pause today to read a story by HP Lovecraft, the Nameless City, which brings us back to how absolutely incredible it was when modern archaeologists re-discovered the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. This is a work of fiction of course, meant to shock, amaze and horrify, but it is a fun little story as well as a nice reminder that until very, very recently, almost nothing at all was known about things which occurred prior to the Biblical histories. This was a pre-recorded episode saved in case an episode didn't make it out on time, but since tomorrow is the 1 year anniversary of the show, and Halloween is coming up, and we are at a nice break between the end of the Old Babylonian series and the start of the next series, this seemed like a good thing to post. Next week will also have an interlude, but one which comes from ancient Mesopotamia itself. I hope you enjoy these little bits of literature.
In a sense, not much happens in this episode. Covering a bit over a century, the borders of Babylon are going to remain more or less stable for most of this episode, and the people are going to enjoy a century of generalized quiet prosperity. Covering the later successors of Hammurabi, Abi-Eshuh, Ammi-Ditana, Ammi-Saduqa, and Samsu-Ditana, we will see scientific and legal advances, good government, and also the quite sudden and total destruction of Babylon, both city and empire. Online at oldeststories.net
Ubarum was just a man living in a small village in north Babylonia, one among possibly a few million. He was a soldier by trade, but also managed a little bit of side business and by the end of his life became comfortably middle class. Today we will not be telling the story of gods or kings, but the life of this simple man as best as can be understood from a collection of business receipts and legal documents found together in what archaeologists call the Ubarum Archive. It is only one part of his life, but it is still a perspective we don't see too often. Online at oldeststories.net
The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer, or Ludlul-Bel-Nimeqi, is one of the oldest works of theodicy in history, and part of a long running philosophical tradition in Mesopotamian society. Marduk, clad in splendor and robed in dread brings first suffering and then relief on a man for seemingly no reason, and in this tale we will see both the events that occurred to him and his attempts to make sense of it all. Online at oldeststories.net
Incest and Patricide are the highlights of today's tale, sometimes also called the Dynasty of Dunnum or the Harab Myth. The ancient Mesopotamian religious tradition was far from unified, and from an obscure town survives a creation story that has powerful resonances all the way to ancient Greece. And while we are on the topic, this is a good chance to look at the men who wrote all these strange and wonderful stories and histories that the show has been depending on. How did they come to be educated, and what were their lives like? Online at oldeststories.net
Finally, we have finished with Hammurabi, and it is time for his successor Samsu-Iluna to take over. At first, things are much the same as they were under his father, but the appearance of a strange new enemy with superior weaponry and tactics throws the empire into chaos. Samsu-Iluna is faced with the largest rebellion in three hundred years, and will do quite respectably for himself. The geopolitical order in general, however, will be shattered utterly. Kassites, Sealand, a weakened Yamhad, and horsies! Yay! are all in store for us today. Online at oldeststories.net
The entire code of Hammurabi, start to finish. This is the show's fiftieth episode, and will run quite long as something of a special edition. I am going to go through the entire law code of Hammurabi, start to finish, with commentary and extensive quotes. Not kidding, this is going to be seriously long, fair warning here. I did say I wasn't going to do this because it would be long and boring, but here I am doing it anyway. It is definitely long, but hopefully I have kept the boredom to a minimum. Feel free to skip over this episode if you are not interested in this sort of thing or if it gets dull halfway through. Online at oldeststories.net
The final decade of Hammurabi's life would be peaceful and prosperous, and was in many ways the foundation of the rest of the Old Babylonian Empire. We have actual letters from Hammurabi himself as he micromanages his administrators, establishes the Ilkum system, and handles the complaints of common citizens, that are quite revealing of his character and ambitions. This will also be the episode where we lay Hammurabi to rest, but once he is in the ground we follow the path of his legacy throughout the centuries, both in ancient Mesopotamia and his rediscovery in the modern era. Online at oldeststories.net
Thus far this show has largely ignored over half of the population, though in my defense, the ancient scribes on whom we rely upon for so much of our information also tended to neglect them as well. But today we will do what we can to rectify the situation and give you as complete a view of Babylonian society as I know how. This means that we will look in depth at the conditions and societal practices of Babylonian slavery and Babylonian women, how they lived and what sort of restrictions kept them in their place. Online at oldeststories.net.
Bonus episode! Dragon slaying myths are about as old as myth itself, but one of the oldest is the tale of the Hittite Storm God's battle against Illuyanka the Serpent. Today's special episode is produced as part of a collaboration with the Mythology Multiverse discord channel's stable of creative and talented youtubers and podcasters. All of them are great, check them out below:
Hammurabi's final conquests are almost perfunctory, but his responses to the subsequent rebellions is anything but. Much of the episode however is concerned with the practice of religion in old Babylon and how it intertwined with everything from the daily lives of commoners to matters of state policy. Where did the superstitions of divination come from, what did they look like, and how did the average Babylonian understand his own religion? Online at oldeststories.net.
Hammurabi's power rises as the cities of the north begin to grow suspicious of his ambitions, and then have those suspicions proven correct when he goes to war with them. But amid all the devastation of war, we have a chance to look at the beating heart of the Mesopotamian economy, agriculture, and what it tells us about why Babylon was able to become so dominant. Online at oldeststories.net
Hammurabi conquers Larsa in another lightning campaign displaying his strategic and diplomatic cunning. But once it is conquered, he needs to bring this massive new territory into his growing empire. This will give us an occasion to look at what exactly justice looked like in an Amorite city. We will also have an opportunity to discuss Middle Bronze Age medicine and what kind of surgical practices were known in Babylon. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we follow the course of the Great Elamite War, the turning point in Babylon's history when it will beat the odds and establish itself as the region's great power for the next thousand years. The story itself is full of action and twists, but we will take some time also to look at how warfare has evolved and systematized as we emerge fully out of the previous transitional period fully into the Amorite age of warfare. Online at oldeststories.net
We have actual letters from Hammurabi that show off the diplomacy and statecraft for which the king was celebrated, and in the chaotic years leading up to the Great Elamite War, he will have many opportunities to employ all his many skills to manage the balance of power without violence. But when violence comes, it means cities will be put to siege, so the second half of the episode examines what we know about middle bronze age siegecraft. In both war and peace we will see the calculating intelligence of the men of Mesopotamia on full display. Online at oldeststories.net
What was Hammurabi like, and what did the kingdom of Babylon look like in the earliest days? Today, we are going to look at the man himself, Hammurabi, and what he did when he inherited the kingdom from his father. There will be some legal drama, including a trial by water, as well as diplomatic jockeying and a bit of low level warfare. If you are new to the show, this is a great place to start, since this is something of a turning point in Mesopotamian history, and Hammurabi's Babylon is one of the best places to learn about not just exciting military campaigns, but also the daily life, culture, and world view of the people of the Middle Bronze Age. Online, with maps, at oldeststories.net
From a refugee in Babylon to the king of the largest empire Mesopotamia has seen since the fall of Ur, and the first Assyrian empire at that, Shamshi-Adad's life is a roller coaster of ups and downs. This week we watch as he builds up his northern empire and begins to develop and handle it in a distinctively empire-like way. The fact that it wouldn't survive his death is almost beside the point. A map is available today at oldeststories.net.
The Amorites swept through Syria and held the region in a dark age longer than any other part of Mesopotamia. But when the dust finally does settle, we will see a number of nations ruled by barbarians, but behaving in quite civilized fashions. Today we will look at the establishment of Yamhad, Qatna, and Mari as well as the early kings of Assyria, getting a feel for the new players that will be with us for the next few hundred years. In the second half of the show, we enter briefly into the Age of Biblical Patriarchs and events of the Book of Genesis, though this is more of an interesting tangent than a major part of the historical narrative at this point. Online at oldeststories.net
We know very little about the kings of early Assyria, so our introduction to the north will be bottom up by necessity. We know about merchants and farmers and pastoralists and slaves, men and women who worked the land and built the nation. It is a welcome break from the endless listing of "King did this" that makes up so much of the rest of history. In this period, old Assyria is primarily a commercial power, not a military one. Instead of conquests, we will see colonies, and instead of soldiers, we will see caravans. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we see the near collapse of Larsa, and its sudden and unexpected rescue by an Amorite from Elam. After the failure of Nur-Adad's line, Kudur-Mabuk sweeps in from the desert to revitalize the city, and gives birth to the first great conqueror in 250 years, Rim-Sin, who despite his ultimate failure still deserves the title of Rim-Sin the Pretty Good. Online at oldeststories.net
The multi-polar Isin-Larsa period continues this week, covering the period from the 1860s to the 1830s BCE. This week is a bit easier that the mess of last week, because we are slowly consolidating to only three major players, Isin, Larsa, and Babylon, and the first two see the coming of benevolent, peaceful kings that actually seem to care at least a little bit about the common citizens of their cities. This state of affairs won't last forever, but it is nice while it lasts. Online at oldeststories.net
This week we continue to watch as Isin and Larsa fight each other and the many other rising dynasties over the chaotic period from 1905 to 1865 BCE. Only slightly notable at the time, though soon to be much, much more important, is the occupation of the tiny fishing village of Babylon by an Amorite coalition who will over these forty years give it its first king Sumu-la-el, first walls, and protector god Marduk. This forty years is an absolute mess of conquest, re-conquest, and confused chronologies, but I feel like simplifying the story wouldn't do justice to how completely insane this period was. Online at oldeststories.net
The main narrative of the Isin Larsa period is full of battles both stated and implied, but what do those battles actually look like? What sort of equipment and organization was common in this part of the middle bronze age? Honestly, quite a lot is similar from when we last looked deeply at military organization under Sargon the Great, but a number of things have changed as well, with the introduction of many Amorite battlefield innovations, so this episode will take a break from linear narrative and sketch an example battle of what it could have looked like to be a soldier in a Mesopotamian middle bronze age battle. Online at oldeststories.net
It is time to shake things up as the line of peaceful merchant kings of Isin comes to an end thanks to two strong men, firstly Gungunum of Larsa and then Ur-Ninurta of Nippur and his revival of Sumerian Kingship. A lot of other players will start popping their head up as well, beginning properly our age of chaos. Online at oldeststories.net
This week we look at the somewhat obscure 1900's BCE in Isin, where details will be thin on the ground, but that will just give us more time to focus on the Law code of Lipit-Ishtar and the annual ritual of the sacred marriage between Ishtar and the king. Ishtar, or Inanna's sacred marriage to the kings of Mesopotamia was a major religious rite, and Lipit-Ishtar's law code, especially in comparison with the contemporaneous law code of Eshnnuna, tell us a great deal about the daily life and values of the middle bronze age. Online at oldeststories.net
This is a good place for new listeners to start, particularly those interested in Hammurabi and the middle bronze age. Today we resume our history with the massive political upheaval which accompanied the collapse of the Ur III dynasty. We are entering a terribly complex period of history, and this episode we are going to do a quick survey of all the major powers of the region circa 2000 BCE. We will be looking at the Amorite kingdoms of Isin, Larsa, Mari, Ebla, and Qatna, the free Akkadian kingdom of Assyria, some of the minor cities of the period, and a brief look at the very fringes of Mesopotamia as far away as India and Egypt. Online at oldeststories.net
The legends of Adapa, Enmeduranki, and Etana are the tales of three very early kings, though tales that don't seem to come around until the middle bronze age, and they are in a sense creation myths but most importantly they are moral stories in the broader genre of wisdom literature. They show us how the earth and heaven is ordered in the Mesopotamian world view, and they show us what is good and evil in a person's behavior, though it also seems to show us that sometimes evil doesn't really get punished all that much, if the evil person happens to be useful. Online at oldeststories.net
Ninurta the action hero god returns, this time in an adventure to recover the stolen Tablet of Destinies. In doing this, we will wrestle with Semitic concepts of godhood and destiny, as well as peek under the hood and see some of the things that would come to inspire the invention of the Jewish god. Online at oldeststories.net
The Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish, tells the story of the creation of the world and how it was a terrible mistake immediately regretted by its parents. Said parents then attempt a late-term abortion, but the young gods, led by Ea and Marduk, fight a war. Since the universe obviously still exists, you can already guess who wins. In this tale, we learn that Marduk is awesome. Like seriously, totally awesome. Online at oldeststories.net
Special Episode. This week is a break from normal as we discuss the Chamorro people of the Marianas islands, A four thousand year oral culture in the Pacific ocean. We will look at a few creation legends as well as the history of the islands as told through the legend of Chief Taga. Online at oldeststories.net
There were some very important and talented people who have dug up the once lost civilization of Sumer and given their stories new life. Then there are the ancient aliens people. We will pay our respects to the giants of Sumerology, and examine exactly where the ancient aliens theorists go off the rails while enjoying the silliness of their earnestly held beliefs. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we return to Sumerian Wisdom literature and see some of the oldest philosophy ever recorded, with the debates on creation and the oldest investigation of the problem of evil in A Man and His God. We also dig into the famous proverb collections and look at one of the diatribes, literally just a man writing down swears and insults about someone else in their life.
Sumer is in a bad state, with enemies on all sides, and just as they are crying out for good fortune they instead receive Ibbi-Sin, a blustering fool. We will read the letters he wrote as the world collapsed around him and then part of the famous lament for Sumer and Ur. Online at oldeststories.net
The Sumerian Renaissance, a fruitful period of literary achievement and military conquest. We are going to see the first Sumerian kings in 250 years as they revive their ancient culture and leave their mark on history. Online at oldeststories.net
Note that this episode has moved in the ordering to better fit its position in the timeline. This week we look at the wisdom literature of Ancient Sumer with a genre called instructions which are just that, instructions for how to live, from the ethical to the deeply practical. We will learn how to live a good life and how to farm barley, as well as other things. Online at oldeststories.net
Note that this episode has moved in the ordering to better fit its position in the timeline. Today we will look at the actual words of a man 4000 years gone as he sends letters struggling to forge an empire. Online at oldeststories.net
Today the Akkadian empire will collapse, brought low by climate change, foreign invasion, and civil war. A dark age of Gutian domination will descend upon Mesopotamia. This episode will cover the fall, the Gutian dynasty, and even a bit the cities that did survive the Gutians, mostly Lagash. Online at oldeststories.net.
Today the fall of Akkad begins. We start with how the Mesopotamians themselves remembered the fall of their first great empire, with the Curse of Agade and the Cuthean Legend, and see that they slanderously put all the blame on the great king Naram-Sin. Still, though it is untrue, it makes for good stories and reveals a lot about the bronze age mindset. Online at oldeststories.net
Who was the greatest king of the Akkadian Empire? Today I make the case for Naram-Sin, who brought the empire to the high water mark and really solidified everything his grandfather had worked to build, as well as creating his own innovations. He isn't well remembered by history, thanks to his tremendous hubris, but listen to his accomplishments and ask yourself if maybe his hubris was at least a bit justified. Online at oldeststories.net
Sargon had two sons and both will sit on the throne. Rimush will do all the work, while Manishtushu will enjoy all the rewards. Both are fairly interesting on their own, but suffer from being the interlude between two fascinating characters, Sargon and Naram-sin, and thus are less remembered then they perhaps deserve. Online at oldeststories.net.
Here is the meat of the Sargon Legend, his conquests. But he wasn't just conquering for the sake of conquest, his empire was formed from a vision which shows his very deep understanding of logistics, international trade, economies of scale. And all this, as we will see, is what makes his kingdom the world's first empire. Online at oldeststories.net
What did Akkadian power look like on the ground, and what did daily life look like for the average Sumerian during this period? Today I will use the occasion of the rise of the Akkadian Empire to pause and look at the human condition below that of gods and kings, since there are now enough sources to put together that we can at least sketch these things for the first time in human history. Not much story this week, just discussion of how things were. We will return to the story of the grand sweep of the empire next week. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we look at the rise of the world's first empire, following the story of Sargon of Akkad's rise from the son of a gardener to the king of Sumer and Akkad. His rise and empire is bigger than can be fit into a single episode, but the Legend of Sargon's rise to power should be enough to whet your appetite for the coming Akkadian series. Online at oldeststories.net
Last time was the rise, this time is the fall of the city of Lagash, into corruption and military defeat. Can the hero of the people, great reformer Urukagina, save his city from certain destruction? No, he can't, but he will try. The three big names today are Enmetena, Urukagina, and Lugalzagesi as witness the dramatic end of an era. Online at oldeststories.net
This is a good place for new listeners to start, particularly those interested more in history than myth. War; war never changes. Forty five hundred years ago the men of Lagash made war against the city of Umma over water rights, the very first battle for which we have recorded details. This episode begins the history of the city of Lagash and looks at the rough reality of ancient battle. Online at oldeststories.net
The god of wisdom and crafting is the chillest of the gods, that is when he is not turning his family tree into a family telephone poll. The most generous and the most distressingly criminal of the gods, Ea has some of the most unique stories. Online at oldeststories.net
The mountains will crumble and cities will tremble as Ninurta comes to put down a rebellion with maximum casualties and no Geneva Convention. Then he will teach us geology. The Sumerians are a funny bunch, which is why their four thousand year old stories still have the capacity to surprise us. Online at oldeststories.net.
This week, we follow the twists and turns of an odd love story, Ishtar and Dumazid, who despite the sometimes questionable nature of their relationship were considered the archetype of lovers in ancient Mesopotamia. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we are going to weave a few separate tales of Ishtar together to get a picture of her character and power as the Goddess of Love and War. Apologies for the poor audio quality, my set up was flawed today, but the story is still audible. Online at oldeststories.net
Today we finish the epic of Gilgamesh with the story of the mysterious hermit Utnapishtim, a tale that goes all the way back to when the earth was young. We will see labor disputes and quite a lot of geological investigation while learning three ways for a mortal to gain immortality. Online at oldeststories.net
In the penultimate episode of the Epic of Gilgamesh, we see the height of action and adventure. Gilgamesh is going to scorn a beautiful woman, then pay dearly, fighting a mighty battle and going on a great journey. Online at oldeststories.net
In today's episode we cover two side stories of Gilgamesh. First he will fight off an invasion of Uruk in Gilgamesh and Aga, and then he will aid the goddess Ishtar, become obsessed with golf, and learn about the afterlife in Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld. Two very different tales, but both say a lot about Gilgamesh and ancient Sumerian society. Find us online at oldeststories.net.
Here we continue the adventures of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, as they travel far from their city to battle the lord of forests, the fearsome force of nature, the Humbaba itself. This is part two of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Find us online at oldeststories.net
Here we finally begin the Epic of Gilgamesh by recounting the opening tablet and a half, the taming of Enkidu. In this episode we have it all, tyranny, power, lust, and violence, the grand opening of the tale that more than any other has stood the test of time. This is part one of the Gilgamesh series, it will continue in future episodes. Find us online at oldeststories.net.
The History part of the Oldest Stories begins here. Where did Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and Gilgamesh come from, and how did civilization arise between the Tigris and Euphrates? Drawing from archeology and the very oldest writings, we look at the origins of Sumer, the pre-Sumerian Ubaids, the landscape of Mesopotamia, and the poorly understood ups and downs of the very earliest proto-history of Mesopotamia. Online at oldeststories.net. Also, I hang out at a mythology discussion discord, if anyone wants to come say hi or discuss myth in general: discord.gg/q8XPnpg
In this episode, we continue the oldest still existing narrative of human warfare. Aratta has gone back on their agreement from last time and King Enmerkar finally rallies an implausibly large number of soldiers to put him down for good. Of his eight storied generals, literally the only one who even still has a name remembered by history is Lugalbanda, and in this tale we will hear a sampling of his fantastical, super-powered adventures as he dramatically fails to make it to the battle. Find us online at oldeststories.net. This episode was re-recorded to improve audio quality and narrative structure as of 2021/1/27.
In this, the first episode of the Oldest Stories podcast, we go all the way back to the very beginning with about the oldest story ever to be written on clay tablets. This is the story of the city of Uruk and it's king Enmerkar as they threaten the rival city of Aratta. Find us online at oldeststories.net. This episode was re-recorded to improve audio quality and narrative structure as of 2021/1/27. Also, I hang out at a mythology discussion discord, if anyone wants to come say hi or discuss myth in general: discord.gg/q8XPnpg