Death and Taxes?

Economy, Society and the Imperial State in Babylonia in the Sixth Century BCE

Michael Jursa

University of Vienna


In the first half of the sixth century BCE, Babylonia experienced rapid economic development and increasing prosperity. Focusing in particular on the role of resource extraction and distribution by the state, the lecture explores the causes that led to this "golden interval," as J. Maynard Keynes termed such rare breaks in the (supposed) monotony of pre-industrial economic development. The talk will also look at how the changes in the core area of the Babylonian empire are reflected in its periphery, and it will investigate the consequences of increasing prosperity for social cohesion within Babylonia.

Michael Jursa is Professor of Assyriology at the University of Vienna and a Corresponding Fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. His work focuses in particular on the economic and social history of Babylonia. Recent books include Aspects of the Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC (2010) and Cuneiform Texts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art IV (2014, with Ira Spar).

This lecture is part of a cooperative agreement between ISAW and the Austrian Academy of Sciences.