cover image Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization

Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization

Paul Kriwaczek. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-00007-1

Recent events in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey recall ancient and equally dramatic events in Babylon and Mesopotamia, whose lands these countries now occupy. A magnificent storyteller and a careful historian, Kriwaczek (Yiddish Civilization) brings to life the world of ancient Mesopotamia and the city of Babylon, tracing their rise from a loose federation to a monarchy to the rise of ancient Sumerian civilization, with its tales of the Great Flood and the epics of semidivine heroes such as Gilgamesh. Drawing on primary sources and guiding us through the many cultural, political, social, and religious changes of Mesopotamian history, Kriwaczek, head of central Asian affairs for the BBC World Service, demonstrates that over its 2,500-year existence (before its fall to Cyrus of Persia in 539 B.C.E.), Mesopotamia served as an “experimental laboratory for civilization” and preserved a single civilization using one form of writing, cuneiform, from beginning to end. This Mesopotamian culture discovered or invented almost everything we associate with civilized life: religions, including the first stirrings of monotheism; a wide variety of economic and production systems; an assortment of government systems, from primitive democracy to ruthless tyranny. Kriwaczek’s marvelous introduction offers a first-rate guide to a fascinating ancient civilization that continues to influence us today. 16 pages of b&w photos; maps. Agent: Mindy Little, Watson Little Ltd. (U.K.). (Apr.)