7 strange things that were considered normal in ancient Babylon: from orgies to sacrifices
The city of Babylon, the largest metropolis in the ancient world, founded approximately four thousand years ago, was located on the territory of modern Iraq. It was a rich and powerful city, whose incredible architecture is even mentioned in the Bible, whose gates (the Ishtar Gate) are a priceless museum piece, and whose gardens were considered a wonder of the world.
However, life in Babylon was far from our modern idea of the ordinary life of a big city. Some of their customs and entertainment, described in the Medium publication, can shock us to the core. Here are seven of them.
The death penalty for petty crimes
The most famous ruler of Babylon was King Hammurabi, whom we know primarily because of the code of laws he introduced. It describes court procedures, as well as crimes and punishments. And it is surprising in its cruelty. Babylonians were executed for even the smallest offences. According to Columbia University professor Mark van de Miroop, who has studied the era of Hammurabi, the death penalty is mentioned at least 30 times in this code.
At the same time, the principle of proportionality of crime and punishment was applied if the accused and the victims had the same or similar social status. A member of the elite who injured a commoner could pay off a fairly moderate fine. Conversely, a commoner who somehow offended a person of high status received an incredibly harsh punishment.
The law is not blind
In the Code of Hammurabi, people were clearly divided into three classes: avilum - the elite, mushkenum - free people, and vardum - slaves. It was impossible to exist outside this system. Some laws were adapted to the status of the participants in the process. People who were more useful to society received greater compensation. So men and rich people had an advantage over all the other inhabitants of Babylon.
Gods need to be fed
The religion of Babylon was polytheistic - its inhabitants worshiped many gods, the most important of which was Marduk, who was considered the patron saint of the city and the ruler of other gods - Ishtar, Enlil, Shamash, Sin and others. The state built majestic temples to these gods, each with a statue of the respective deity inside. Only the priests of the cult had the right to enter the temple, because the statues were considered not just an image, but also the embodiment of the gods themselves. Therefore, priests and priests were obliged to feed them three times a day and give them wine or beer, as well as dress them and decorate them with jewellery. On festive days, these statues were displayed in front of all the Babylonians.
Babylonian customs were incredibly cruel from the point of view of modern humanism. Sources indicate that babies with abnormalities, even twins, were considered cursed and killed immediately after birth. But the deadly risks for the child did not end there. At annual festivals in honour of the fire god Anu, children's lives were sacrificed to him. Also, according to some hypotheses, ritual infanticide was used in Babylon to regulate the population.
Marriage in Babylon was seen as an act of property transfer. Therefore, men chose their wives not at the call of their hearts, but during an annual auction - the procedure was described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. According to him, once a year in each village, unmarried girls were gathered in one place, lined up in a circle and allowed men to look at them and offer their parents monetary compensation for the chosen bride. The richest were the first to choose, and they got the most beautiful women. And finally, commoners could take a wife whom others considered ugly, even with a surcharge. The marriage was then concluded in the form of a contract between the woman's father and the man. The bride's opinion on the marriage was not asked. And she could be executed for adultery. And together with her lover.
Abstinence from sex was considered a sin in Babylonian society, and virginity was not a virtue. Therefore, according to Herodotus, every girl had to have sex once in her life in the temple with the first man who paid her. She had no right to refuse him. Cases of prostitution outside the temple were also described, when men could allow strangers to have sex with their wives and children in exchange for money. For the Babylonians, this was considered an imitation of the fertility cult; in the modern sense, it was a typical rape.
The same cult was the basis for the favourite pastime of the ancient Babylonians - parties that smoothly turned into sexual orgies. It all started out as just another dinner party, but over time it became more and more sexual. The invited women gradually undressed and the feast moved on to other entertainments. In Babylon, free love and open sexuality were honoured.
As OBOZREVATEL wrote, historians told about 10 artefacts that frankly showed life in Babylon.