Babylonian Life and History (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) [NOOK Book]

Overview


In E. A. Wallis Budge's classic work, Babylonian Life and History, the reader will find everything from Babylonian vampires to the practice of "baby farming" in Mesopotamia. Budge brings to his readers the most famous Mesopotamian myths and legends, such as mankind's first recorded story of the Creation, the Babylonian story of the Great Flood, and the adventures of the world's first epic hero, Gilgamesh. The work provides an introduction to ...
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Babylonian Life and History (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview


In E. A. Wallis Budge's classic work, Babylonian Life and History, the reader will find everything from Babylonian vampires to the practice of "baby farming" in Mesopotamia. Budge brings to his readers the most famous Mesopotamian myths and legends, such as mankind's first recorded story of the Creation, the Babylonian story of the Great Flood, and the adventures of the world's first epic hero, Gilgamesh. The work provides an introduction to the religious, political, and intellectual foundations of ancient Babylonia.

The book continues as a chronological survey of many of the most important and formative historical events of the ancient Near East, from the beginning of written history in the fourth millennium BC until Mesopotamia became part of the Persian Empire in 539 BC. This survey is rounded off by a detailed description of the city of Babylon and its many well-known monuments. Additionally, we learn about the extensive German excavations of the site directed by Robert Koldewey from 1899 to 1912. Almost every chapter of Babylonian Life and History is full of longer excerpts of ancient texts, in English translations, and provides an account of the history, religion, archaeology, and literature of ancient Babylonia.
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Product Details

Meet the Author


Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was born in London on July 27, 1857. His fascination with the history and languages of Egypt and the Near East led him to Cambridge University, where he studied several ancient languages, including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Coptic Hebrew, Syriac, and Ethiopic. Budge was Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum for forty years. He directed several archaeological expeditions in Egypt, the Sudan, and the Near East for the British Museum. He also published a spectacular number of scholarly and semi-scholarly books and articles of somewhat mixed quality. In 1920, he received a knighthood. Budge died November 23, 1934, in London, and was buried in Nunhead Cemetery in south London, bequeathing his private library to Christ's College, Cambridge.
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Introduction

INTRODUCTION

In E. A. Wallis Budge’s classic work, Babylonian Life and History, published in 1925, the reader will find everything from Babylonian vampires to the practice of “baby farming” in Mesopotamia, the ancient land between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris. Budge brings to his readers the most famous Mesopotamian myths and legends, such as mankind’s first recorded story of the Creation, the Babylonian story of the Great Flood, and the adventures of the world’s first epic hero, Gilgamesh. Babylonian Life and History provides an introduction to the religious, political, and intellectual foundations of ancient Babylonia. It brings to life the sometimes-grisly laws of the Old-Babylonian king Hammurabi, and we learn of even older laws, reforms, and ancient “tax cuts” by the Sumerian governor Urukagina. The book also includes a survey of some of the most important contemporary excavations of Mesopotamia conducted primarily by the British Museum. An earlier edition of the book was originally published in 1884 as part of the By-Paths of Bible Knowledge series for the Religious Tract Society. The present edition represents a complete revision and expansion of the earlier text, or, as Budge himself writes in his preface to this edition from 1925, “the [original] book must be rewritten and, of course, enlarged.” In his very direct literary style, Budge begins with an introduction to the land of the two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates; its geographical borders; and the environmental and climatic conditions of the region. As an explorer and adventurer, Budge spent considerable time in Mesopotamia, and his first-hand observations in the late nineteenth century of the life and the environment of the region offer a unique view of traditional societies therein. The book continues as a chronological survey of many of the most important and formative historical events of the ancient Near East, from the beginning of written history in the fourth millennium BC until Mesopotamia became part of the Persian Empire in 539 BC. This survey is rounded off by a detailed description of the city of Babylon – as it was known in 1925 – and its many well-known monuments, including the great Ziggurat, the Ishtar Gate, and the so-called Hanging Gardens. In addition to a review of the long history of the city, we learn, in particular, about the extensive and extremely well-conducted German excavations of the site directed by Robert Koldewey from 1899 to 1912. Almost every chapter of Babylonian Life and History is full of longer excerpts of ancient texts, in English translations, and the author certainly makes use of his extremely wide field of interests and knowledge in this account of the history, religion, archaeology, and literature of ancient Babylonia. Typically, Budge endeavors to uphold his arguments and views by drawing from a number of diverse sources, including data from archaeological excavations, a multitude of historical or ancient texts, as well as his own personal observations of contemporary practices in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. Budge makes frequent use of the cuneiform records in his book, and the diversity of the primary textual documentation on which Budge relies in Babylonian Life and History is quite remarkable. In addition to ample references to preserved cuneiform texts, the book incorporates into its discussions everything from a particular section in the Old Testament or a specific sura in the Koran, to a Syriac manuscript by one of the Patriarchs of the first millennium AD or an ancient Egyptian papyrus kept in some basement of the British Museum.

Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge was born in London on July 27, 1857. His fascination with the history and languages of Egypt and the Near East led him to Cambridge University, where he studied several ancient languages, including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Coptic Hebrew, Syriac, and Ethiopic. Budge was closely associated with the British Museum from the very beginning of his scholarly career, and he acted as the museum’s Keeper of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities for forty years, between 1884 and 1924. Budge directed several archaeological expeditions in Egypt, the Sudan, and the Near East for the British Museum. He also published a truly spectacular number of scholarly and semi-scholarly books and articles of somewhat mixed quality. Nonetheless, in his own time, Budge’s campaigns and publications received immense popular attention, and in 1920, he received a knighthood for his significant and long-lasting services to the British Museum. In memory of his wife, who died two years after his retirement in October of 1926, Budge founded two studentships in Egyptology at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and University College, Oxford. He died November 23, 1934, in London at the age of seventy-seven and was buried in Nunhead Cemetery in south London, bequeathing his private library to Christ’s College, Cambridge.

While Budge was certainly right in his high praise of Koldewey’s exemplary excavations and subsequent publications of the city of Babylon, some readers of Babylonian Life and History may perhaps find Budge’s less flattering picture of the earlier British excavations of the site conducted by Sir Henry Austen Layard in 1850 and, in particular, those of Hormuzd Rassam from 1878 to 1880, rather surprising. Budge’s negative account of these earlier attempts to excavate Babylon is easier to understand if one takes into account Rassam’s high-profiled and, certainly for the British Museum, scandalous lawsuit against Budge for slander, which took place in London in 1893. Rassam, who claimed ₤1,000 in damages, obtained a verdict for only fifty pounds. Nevertheless, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that Budge’s relation with his Iraqi colleague and also, at least to some extent, with the famous explorer, archaeologist, and diplomat Henry Layard, who died the year after the lawsuit and on whose recommendation Rassam had been originally appointed, were everything but jovial and cheerful. As we can see in his sometimes rather litigious book The Rise & Progress of Assyriology (1925a), the negative outcome of this lawsuit by no means prevented Budge from continuing his quite malicious accusations of Rassam in public.

No one can deny that Budge was and continues to be highly controversial, as a scholar and publicist, as a public figure, and certainly as a private individual. Already as a young boy, he was fascinated with the Orient, and he studied, rather successfully, it seems, both Hebrew and Syriac while he was still in school, partly under the guidance of the Orientalist Charles Seager. During these early years, he was a frequent visitor of the British Museum, where he first met the prominent scholars Samuel Birch and George Smith; and he became actively engaged in the activities of the museum in 1878, at the mere age of twenty-one. The same year his first articles, dealing with the royal inscription of Sennacherib (1878a) and Assyrian incantations to fire and water (1878b), appeared in print in the Society of Biblical Archaeology’s annual publication Records of the Past; this was also the year when young Budge enrolled as a student at Cambridge, where he would be studying in Christ’s College. His first books in Assyriology were soon to follow, with Assyrian Texts, being extracts from the annals of Shalmaneser II., Sennacherib, and Assur-bani-pal in 1880 and The History of Esarhaddon (son of Sennacherib) King of Assyria, B.C. 681-668 the year after. In addition to Hebrew and Syriac, he also studied Egyptian hieroglyphs, Coptic, and Ethiopic with great success at Cambridge. In 1882, he won the Tyrwhitt Hebrew Scholarship, and shortly afterwards he accepted a position as an Assistant to the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum.

In 1884, at the early age of 36, Budge was appointed to the prestigious post of Keeper of Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, and served in that position until his retirement in 1924. In this capacity, Budge was involved in numerous archaeological expeditions and he traveled extensively in the Orient in pursuit of all kinds of antiquities. He excavated at numerous well-known sites in Egypt, including Aswan, Gebel Barkal, the Island of Meroe, and Semna, as well as at other sites in Nubia and the Sudan. In Mesopotamia he directed, among others, the excavations in Kouyunjik in 1888/89 and in Dêr in 1890. These archaeological campaigns and explorations were considered, at least in those days, extremely successful, because Budge was able to enrich the British Museum collections with some of its most precious treasures. Budge’s acquisitions on behalf of the British Museum included countless large Egyptian statues and many Mesopotamian antiquities. He also brought back several thousands of cuneiform tablets, including the lion’s share of the museum’s important Tell al-Amarna tablets, which document the prolific international diplomacy and gift exchange among rulers of Egypt and the Near East in the Late Bronze Age (see Bezold and Budge, 1892). In addition, he secured a large number of Coptic, Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Ethiopian, and Egyptian manuscripts which constitute some of the museum’s most significant collections to this day.

Despite Budge’s success in acquiring antiquities, his confrontational personality did not necessarily always work to his favor back in London. Nonetheless, he certainly knew how to work his way around in the Orient, a fact that should not only be ascribed to his linguistic abilities. The popular and successful publications, campaigns, and adventures of Budge did not go unnoticed: In addition to three doctorates from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham, Budge received a medal of honor for his services in the Dongola (Sudan), and he also received the Order of the Star of Ethiopia, which the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II gave him on account of his Ethiopic History of Alexander the Great. Finally, in 1920 Budge was knighted for his considerable services to the country and to the British Museum.

In addition to a large number of scholarly articles published, most importantly in the Transactions (TSBA) and the Proceedings (PSBA) of the London-based Society of Biblical Archaeology, Budge wrote over one hundred forty books in an extremely wide field of study, including the languages, history, and archaeology of northern Africa and the Near East. This enormous and astonishing level of productivity remains unprecedented in any of the various fields in which Budge was working and publishing. His greatest scholarly contributions were, arguably, in the fields of Ethiopian studies and, in particular, in the field of Egyptology. In Egyptology, Budge wrote the first books oriented toward students of hieroglyphics. These books consisted of the actual hieoroglyphs, the translated texts, and a complete dictionary of the hieroglyphs. According to the most recent Who Was Who in Egyptology (Dawson et al. 1995: 72), in which Budge has by far the longest list of publications, Budge’s largest work was his An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary (1920a). However, Budge is probably best known among the more general readership for his analysis of Egyptian religious practices and rituals in Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (1911) and in The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology (1925b), as well as for his translation of The Egyptian Book of The Dead (1913), also known as The Papyrus of Ani. Budge’s longest lasting written legacy to the field of Assyriology, of which Babylonian Life and History is part, is represented by the numerous official publications and text editions of the British Museum that were issued under his direction. He realized the extreme importance of making unpublished cuneiform tablets available to the scholarly community, and from 1896 until his retirement in 1924, Budge was actively involved in the publications of no less than thirty-seven volumes of the important British Museum series Texts from Babylonian Tablets.

The scholarly communities in the various fields in which Budge published so prolifically have generally not been kind in their assessments of the usefulness and quality of his many publications. Budge’s books have often been described as unreliable, and sometimes even misleading, and some passages in Babylonian Life and History should therefore be read with caution. The early chronology used by Budge, especially for the third and early second millennium BC, as well as many of his readings of cuneiform signs (and, by extension, therefore also of proper names), are outdated and can be studied better from more recent discourses of the history and literature of the ancient Near East. Nevertheless, while obviously somewhat dated, Babylonian Life and History, like many of Budge’s other works, has an important place in the development of ancient Near Eastern studies, and readers should keep its historical context in mind. First of all, Budge was living and publishing in an era and atmosphere in which the Near East and Egypt were considered to be little more than exotic (and often primitive) countries full of wondrous objets d’art ready to be shipped to the next major museum in Europe or the United States. All records from these early days of Assyriology and Egyptology reflect this attitude, at least to some degree, and Budge’s publications are no exception. While this attitude certainly has changed for the better in more recent decades, this legacy of early western scholarship cannot, and should not, be forgotten or denied; many of the major collections in the West were formed under circumstances that would be considered unethical today. Secondly, the care – or, rather, the lack of it – that Budge took in the details of his books has been a subject of some controversy. Between 1878 and his death in 1934, Budge produced more than one hundred forty books, often in several volumes. With an average production rate of roughly three books per year, Budge was not ready to linger over minor details for too long, and some data in his books are undeniably inaccurate by modern standards. Nonetheless, Budge’s books contain an abundance of accurate and important information that is of much interest, and the real challenge for many non-specialist readers of Budge’s works is to separate between the facts and the fiction.

While the criticism of Budge’s scholarship certainly is valid in some cases, no one can deny that without the phenomenal energy and devotion of Budge, a large number of primary sources, especially those in Ethiopic, Egyptian, and Akkadian, would not have been made available to the scholarly world. Moreover, it is important to remember that Budge received much of his recognition, not because of his great contributions to the field of Egyptian grammar (which is well-known for having been antiquated already in those days), or for the punctilious accuracy of any of his Babylonian translations, but rather for having invoked the imagination and inspired and amused countless people all over the world through his more popular books. His general works, such as Babylonian Life and History and A History of Egypt from the End of the Neolithic Period to the Death of Cleopatra VII, B.C. 30 from 1902, in eight volumes, have been, and are, of value to many students and interested laymen and, far more importantly, they have helped to arouse much popular interest to these fields. In addition to this, Budge’s numerous guides and introductions to the collections of the British Museum undoubtedly served as considerable enjoyment and gratification to uncountable visitors of the Museum. It is in this light that Budge’s contribution to the fields of Egyptology and Assyriology should be considered, not in the unforgiving light of meticulous scholarship. E. A. Wallis Budge was a bold explorer, a cantankerous individual, and a creative author who quite literally devoted his life to writing an absolutely enormous number of scholarly and popular works. For specialist and lay readers alike, Babylonian Life and History, like many of his works, remains an inspirational classic that brings the history, archaeology, and languages of ancient Mesopotamia to life.

Magnus Widell studied Assyriology, Classics, and Egyptology at Uppsala University in Sweden from 1991 to 1998. After he received his M.A. degree in Assyriology in 1998, he continued his doctoral studies at the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations in Changchun, China, where received his doctoral degree in Assyriology in 2001. Currently, he is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

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  • Posted December 3, 2009

    Very interesting insight to early civilization

    I found this book quite interesting for several reasons. When reading about a stone gate that had been built perhaps as early as 2000 BC, used for 1700 years, lost and then re-discovered within the last century or so, I was very impressed.

    It is well written and well researched. It is fairly dated, but it is easy to see where a lot of our current thought about these early societies originated from.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2013

    Babylonia Life and History

    For history enthusiasts only; it could get boring; but quite informative if read with an open mind and mindful of more recent didscoveries. Need to find a book about pre-Sumerians - perhaps about the Hindu Kush people that migrated to Mesopotamia - for they were already using a picture language.

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