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The Old Babylonian kingdom continued to exist through the seventeenth century, growing progressively weaker, until Babylon was raided and sacked in 1595 by the Hittite king Mursilis I. In the far south a line of kings, called the Sealand Dynasty after the marshes from which they hailed, had arisen in the late eighteenth century, and for an indeterminate period controlled land as far north as Nippur. Some of the Sealand kings bore unusual Sumerian names, and they appear to have ruled at Babylon, perhaps only briefly, in the aftermath of the Hittite raid. Otherwise nothing is known of their kingdom. Indeed almost nothing is known of Babylonia for a century and a half after the Hittite sack.

A dynasty of non-Mesopotamian origin, the Kassites, took power in Babylon. The Kassites are thought to have hailed originally from the mountainous region northeast of Babylonia, but in Mesopotamia they were first encountered along the middle Euphrates to the northwest. Like the Amorites before them, they seem to have infiltrated Babylonia during a period of upheaval, and at an opportune moment seized political control in Babylon. Sometime around the middle of the fifteenth century b.c., they reestablished Babylonian hegemony over the far south and, except for a short period during the late thirteenth century, the country remained united under their rule for about three hundred years.

Although much effort was devoted to the reconstruction of older Mesopotamian centers, the Kassites did found at least one new city. Dur-Kurigalzu (Aqar Quf), the Fortress of Kurigalzu, which sits today along the western outskirts of Baghdad, was erected by Kurigalzu I (early fourteenth century BC) on the narrow neck of land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers at their closest approach to one another. Excavators have explored the city's ziggurat complex and a large palace that was rebuilt several times during the Kassite Period. Though some questions having to do with its internal chronology remain unanswered, its overall function seems clear: like Shu-Sin's Wall of Mardu in the third millennium and Nebuchadrezzar II's defensive walls of the sixth century, Dur-Kurigalzu was built to control the northern approaches to Babylonia and to defend it against invaders.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:47:59 ZULU