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The Age of Empires

Mesopotamia in the first millennium BC

Francis Joannès


This is a concise introduction to the history of the ancient Near East during the last millennium bc: Phoenicia, Palestine, the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian empires, the Persian Achaemenid empire, the empire of Alexander, and the vast Persian Seleucid empire founded by Seleucus around 300 bc and defeated by Pompey for Rome in 64 bc. The book focuses on political history, on the sources and shifts of power and the individuals who wielded it. It also introduces the student to the principal aspects of the religious, social and economic history of the region.

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1 The world of the peoples of Mesopotamia
Places and peoples
The rediscovery of the 'Assyrians'
The evolution of Mesopotamian historiography
2 Political history of the Assyrian empire (934-610 BC)
The first expansion (934-827)
Crisis and refoundation (823-727)
The Sargonid empire (721-610)
One of Ashurnasirpal's campaigns in the east of Anatolia in 865
3 Control of the imperial territory
Military organisation
At the hub of the empire
The provinces
Extract from the Census of Harran
4 The centre of Assyrian government
The king of Assyria
The exercise of royal power
Where the power lay
The king of Assyria and his servitors: letter from the exorcist Adad-in the neo-Babylonian period
Social and economic strata
Economic activities
Management of the large organisations
The life of Babylonian notables: Lurindu's marriage
Land management: leasing contract
7 Religion and culture in Babylonia in the first millennium BC
The pantheon and religious concepts
How religion was organised
Babylon, cultural capital
An extract from the IVth tablet of the Epic of Erra
8 Achaemenid Babylonia (539-331 BC)
A central province of the Persian empire
A reserve of soldiers
Tribute and intermediaries
Financial activities in the Achaemenid era: leasing a royal tax
9 From the Seleucids to the Parthians (331 BC - AD 75)
The evolution of the satrapy of Babylonia
Socio-economic realities
The slow end of a civilisation
Religious activities in the Seleucid period: renting a prebend
Political chronology
Sources of texts quoted

About the Author

Francis Joannès is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Paris VIII.


The book covers a period of profound interest ... There is an enormous amount of material here that many people are now becoming aware of, but lack the specialist knowledge to know how to handle or what to make of … It is a model of clarity, with excellent citations of texts.
- Professor Amélie Kuhrt, University College London
Francis Joannès has produced an excellent work ... His experience gained over many years has enabled him to write this authoritative and informative synthesis of Assyrian and Babylonian history and culture of the first millennium BC.
- Professor Allan Millard, University of Liverpool