Repeller of the Amorites

Whenever I think of the Israeli West Bank barrier or the Great Wall of Mexico, I am reminded of the Repeller of the Amorites, a 180km wall build around 2200BCE to keep that Semitic-speaking tribe of pastoralists from invading Mesopotamia during a 300-year drought that shook up the ancient world:

Among the drought’s refugees were a herding people known as Amorites, characterized by scribes in the city of Ur as “a ravaging people with the instincts of a beast, a people who know not grain” – the ultimate put-down in an economy based on grain agriculture. An 110-mile wall, called the “Repeller of the Amorites,” was erected to hold them off. But when the drought finally ended in about 1900 B.C., leadership in the region had passed from Akkad to Ur and then to the Amorites, whose power was centered at the rising city of Babylon. Hammurabi, the great ruler of Babylon in 1800 B.C., was a descendant of Amorites.

-- New York Times, 1993

So, yeah, that always — er, never — works.

This entry is part of my journal, published April 17, 2011, in New York City.