What was the Babylonian economy based on?

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mrkirschner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The Babylonian economy relied on two principles:  agricultural surplus and trade.  The kingdom was very adept at controlling the waterways through irrigation and dyke systems.  The control of the rivers and the fertile river valleys allowed the Babylonians, in normal years, to have a healthy surplus of agricultural materials.  These materials ranged from fruits and vegetables to grains.  Food supplies were supplemented with animals like sheep and bovines.  Despite the agricultural surpluses that were created, the region lacked adequate resources to support a large kingdom.

With a lack of resources, the Babylonian economy relied on a strong trade network to supply materials that were lacking.  The Babylonians traded their surpluses of agricultural goods with far away lands, extending over 1,000 miles from the capital.  Goods such as copper, wood, gold, and manufactured items were supplied through trade.  These goods were utilized to make weapons as well as everyday items.  

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mrwickline | High School Teacher | In Training Educator

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The basis for the Ancient Babylonian economy was predominantly agriculture and trade. Farmers used extensive irrigation systems that harnessed the Euphrates River in order to water grains such as: barley, wheat, emmer, and sesame for oil. The surplus of grains were stored in large silos and used as a trade commodity between kingdoms. Fruits, primarily dates, and common vegetables (onions, garlic, and marrows) were important sources of food grown and exported in Ancient Babylon.  Since there were very few raw materials in Babylon, the Babylonian Empire relied heavily on imports from surrounding city-states.

Trade brought extensive wealth to the Babylonian Empire. In exchange for grains, oils, and textiles, Babylonians received precious stones, finished crafts and luxury goods from city-states up to 1,500 miles away. Merchants traveled along trade routes throughout Mesopotamia and utilized the Tigris and Euphrates to float their rafts and coracles downstream to trade with other nations.  Mesopotamian merchants used the barter system to exchange goods. Barely was so valuable that local traders borrowed it from “barely bankers” at high interest to acquire desired goods.

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