Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi (1792- 1750 BC or fl. ca. 1696 – 1654 BC, short chronology) created an empire out of the territories of the former Akkadian Empire.
Babylonia retained the written Semitic Akkadian language for official use (the language of its native populace), despite its Amorite founders and Kassite successors not being native Akkadians. It retained the Sumerian language for religious use, which by the time Babylon was founded was no longer a spoken language.
The Akkadian and Sumerian traditions played a major role in later Babylonian culture, and the region would remain an important cultural center, even under protracted and lengthy periods of outside rule.
The earliest mention of the city of Babylon can be found in a tablet from the reign of Sargon of Akkad (2334- 2279 BC), dating back to the 23rd century BC. Babylon was a religious and cultural centre at this point and not an independent state, and like the rest of Mesopotamia, it was subject to the Akkadian Empire which united all the Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule.
After the collapse of the Akkadian empire the region was ruled by Gutians for a few decades before the rise of the Sumerian third dynasty of Ur which encompassed the whole of Mesopotamia, including Babylon.
Following the collapse of the last Sumerian "Ur-III" dynasty at the hands of the Elamites (2002 BC traditional, 1940 BC short), another Semitic people, the Amorites gradually gained control over most of southern Mesopotamia, where they formed a series of small kingdoms.
During the first centuries of what is called the "Amorite period", the most powerful city states were Isin and Larsa, although Shamshi-Adad I usurped the throne of Assyria and formed a short lived empire in the north.
One of these Amorite dynasties founded the city-state of Babylon, which would ultimately take over the others and form the first Babylonian empire, during what is also called the Old Babylonian Period.