Babylon is a city that reminds us of people like Hammurabi a name that ranks alongside Nebuchadnezzar, both synonymous and remembered for wielding great power and known as King of Kings. The power base for these was the city of ancient Babylon.


Although anthropologists would like us to believe that the human race evolved, it cannot get away from the evidence that the rise of modern man happened to appear some 6000 years or so ago, which is around the time of the earliest writings, agriculture, organised governments producing the first laws and the rising of organised farming and agriculture. This all seems to have started in the area that was known as Mesopotamia.

The name Mesopotamia means “the land between the rivers”. The two rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This region (modern day Iraq) has undergone many changes, it has always been an area where there has been conflict, why even today post Saddam Hussein, different religious factions, and terror groups such as ISIS are trying to gain control of the region. The land of Mesopotamia is made fertile by the irregular and often violent flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, as is also seen with the Nile. One of my favourite subjects is Ancient-Sumerian and Babylonian history, the origins of what we refer to as “civilization” were first led by the Sumerian. The Sumerian's are responsible for writing, forging metal and building structures.

There is a famous painting of the Tower of Babel, built supposedly by Nimrod and (or) Cush. The tower would supposedly make him as high as a god, (although some thought him as a demigod).

Tower of Babel
Tower of Babel

This led God to make the inhabitants start speaking with different languages, confusing languages (Babel), and thus separated from each other to populate new lands (some say this is a good example of why we see similar structures in the Americas). This is how Babylon gets its name.
The Ziggurats of Samaria were superb pieces of architecture and were the forerunner to the magnificent Pyramids of Egypt, and some say, the temples of the Mayan Indian and Inca civilizations of Central and South America.

Most however, only know the Sumerian's because of the extensive library of cuneiform writing tablets they produced. It is via these ancient tablets that we know how they treated their sick and injured and managed the system. Some skeletons in Mesopotamian graves bore unmistakable marks of brain surgery. A partially broken medical text speaks of the surgical removal of a "shadow covering a man’s eye", a cataract. Another text.... mentions the use of a cutting instrument, saying that "if the sickness reached inside the bone, you shall scrape and remove"1

Babylon is Akkadian "babilani" which means "the Gate of God(s)" and it became the capital of the land of Babylonia. The name Babel in the Bible means "to confuse" and throughout the Bible, Babylon was a symbol of the confusion caused by godlessness. The name Babylon is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Babel.2
Nimrod was reputedly married to Semiramis and it is her influence that brought about worship of different Gods. Nimrod himself has several names one being Marduk, the moon God.


Nimrod was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, and is described as a “Mighty Hunter before the Lord”.
There are some ancient texts that suggest he was one of the five kings encountered by Abraham, that is King Amrchadaphel.
There are stories from the ancient writings that suggest he was killed by Esau, who was then chased by Nimrod’s champions until he evaded them, and returned home to his father Isaac's house, where he was so hungry he sold his birth right to his brother for a bowl of pottage.
He also said "I would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again: for that I will build a tower too high for the waters to reach", and that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers.
Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and they built the tower. It grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect, but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was.
It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, so that it might not be liable to admit water. When God saw that they acted so madly, he did not resolve to destroy them utterly, since they were not grown wiser by the destruction of the former sinners, so he caused a tumult among them, by producing in them diverse languages, and causing that, through the multitude of those languages, they should not be able to understand one another. The place wherein they built the tower is now called Babylon, because of the confusion of that language which they readily understood before; Babel, (Hebrew Balal means 'confusion').

Clinical Governance

Clinical Governance has been the buzz word within the health service for over a decade, but did you know that a form of clinical governance was in use around 3,900 years ago.

Hanging Gardens
Hanging Gardens

The majority of people understand Babylon only because of the biblical connection with the great King of the city and empire, Nebuchadnezzar and of course the wonder of the world in its hanging gardens. It is however the place were laws were first made to control the treatment of the sick and wounded.
I mentioned previously the ancient Sumerian Nomadic Semite tribes and how they produced several hundred clay tablets.
These tablets told how they developed a managed health care system, although this system is primitive by our modern standards. The tablets were written using cuneiform, one of the first forms of hieroglyphic writing, these concepts were inscribed on clay tablets and chiselled onto stone between the 17th and 21st centuries B.C.

Clinical governance is about ensuring that patients are safe, and risks are managed.3
Clinical governance is also the framework through which all the components of quality, including patient and public involvement, are brought together and placed high on the agenda of each organisation. 4

On the next page I have outlined some laws that were put in place to protect people from malpractice.

"And Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carried out from there all the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king's house, and he cut in pieces all the articles of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had said. Also, he carried into captivity all Jerusalem: all the captains and all the mighty men of valour, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land."5

Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon

There are some who believe that the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel was written by Nebuchadnezzar himself.... interesting.

It was not Nebuchadnezzar but King Hammurabi of Babylon, the sixth King of the Amorite or first Babylonian dynasty (c 1700bc) who adapted the existing Sumerian edicts that were known about at that time.

Hammurabi's Stele
Hammurabi's Stele

Hammurabi incorporated these managed care precepts in the Codex Hammurabi, a huge stone which is 2 meters high it shows the sun god Shamash handing the King the Laws. It is kept in the Louvre museum in Paris.

The Laws it contains covers many aspects of the then Babylonian society, however there were many that dealt with clinical negligence and I have listed some prime examples.

Some of these were: Going rates set for general surgery, eye surgery, setting fractures, curing diseased muscles and other specific healthcare-services. Fees set according to a sliding scale based on ability to pay. Owners to pay for health care for their slaves. Objective outcome measurement standards to assure quality of care. Outcomes information management to include data collection and evaluation.
Consumer and patient’s rights were to be publicized, fully explained and made known to all.6
His law reacted to any surgical mishap by the amputation of the surgeon’s hands, or in some cases, death of the surgeon if it was proved that he was responsible for the death of his patient.
This may seem Draconian and it was, but two noticeable results were achieved, the first, it stopped anybody practising surgery. And secondly, those who were left took more care. There were however special Allowances in the laws regarding slaves, it was I am afraid two-tier system they were only required to replace the slave if he died because of negligence.
Hammurabi's Code Held about 250 laws. 6
"Upon the corpse, hung from the pole, they directed the pulse and the Radiance. Sixty times the water of life, sixty times the food of life, they sprinkled upon it, and Inanna arose". 7

Babylon no longer exists as a great city, in the book of Jeremiah God declared that this great city will no longer exist, he will make it desolate forever! Every time a ruler tries to resurrect this ancient city, they fail, just as God said.


1 m
3 Janet Seaton Clinical governance facilitator, NHS 24
4 David Steel, Chief Exec NHS QIS
5 The Holy Bible 2Kings 24: 13.1
6 Codex Hammurabi Translated By L.W. King (1910) Edited By Richard Hooker 1996

Ken True ODP