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Oldest Stories

Author: James Bleckley

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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 at oldeststories.net. I hang at a discord at https://discord.gg/q8XPnpg
61 Episodes
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Rise of the Hittites

Rise of the Hittites

2020-11-2533:43

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.
Ancient Anatolia

Ancient Anatolia

2020-11-1832:02

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.
Lament for Ur

Lament for Ur

2020-11-0443:03

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
The New Order

The New Order

2020-09-2330:54

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
Hammurabi's Code of Laws

Hammurabi's Code of Laws

2020-09-1602:08:12

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: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgjv_CvjvzP8D_uElKefVN22MCMSj__Av&jct=UNR7MtZAuMVwhQv2ahGOvHWMEOPaIQ
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
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Comments (1)

Serial277something Something

That was a bit uncomfortable

May 25th
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