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A day in the life of an ancient Babylonian business mogul - Soraya Field Fiorio

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It’s 1762 BCE. As dawn breaks in the Babylonian city of Sippar, Beltani— a priestess and businesswoman— receives an urgent visit from her brother. He makes a troubling accusation: her tavern keeper has been undermining the business Beltani relies on in her old age. Now she has just a few short hours to find out the truth. Soraya Field Fiorio details a day in the life of a Babylonian naditu.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Soraya Field Fiorio
  • Director Keegan Thornhill
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Keegan Thornhill
  • Animator Tammy Rossouw, Keegan Thornhill
  • Background Artist Dwayne de Kock
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Music Jarrett Farkas
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
There were many types of priestesses in Old Babylon, and they served wildly different roles. For instance, the naditu priestesses in Sippar were celibate and childless, whereas the naditu in nearby Nippur were allowed to marry but not have children. Then there were high priestesses and minor priestesses who served entirely different functions from the naditu.

There are no books and few sources that examine the lives of naditu priestesses. This is mostly because, like much of ancient Mesopotamia, archaeologists are still in the process of unearthing clues about the past. Most the information we have about the naditu come from records of their business transactions, inscribed on clay cuneiform tablets. Historians are able to piece together details of their lives from these receipts and contracts.

The Assyriologist Rivkah Harris is the foremost authority on naditu. Elizabeth Stone, Elisabeth Meier Tetlow, and Ulla Jeyes are also excellent scholars.

Resources about women in the ancient world:

Gerda Lerner, The Invention of Patriarchy. A wonderful look at the changing status of women in Mesopotamia, spanning three thousand years.

Stephanie Lynn Budin and Jean MacIntosh Turfa, eds., Women in Antiquity: Real Women Across the Ancient World. An ambitious anthology that covers women in all aspects of ancient society, from Mesopotamia and beyond.

Histories of Babylon:
Paul-Alain Beaulieu, A History of Babylon, 2200 BC - AD 75

Gwendolyn Leick, The Babylonian World

Karen Radner, A Short History of Babylon

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Soraya Field Fiorio
  • Director Keegan Thornhill
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Keegan Thornhill
  • Animator Tammy Rossouw, Keegan Thornhill
  • Background Artist Dwayne de Kock
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Music Jarrett Farkas
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more