The Babylonian political structure was a monarchy. The king ruled through a number of officials who were directly under and responsible to him but he could intervene personally at any level of government and administration. Thus Hammurapi (1792-1750 BC) took a direct hand in dealing with property claims in Larsa after he had captured that city-state. The monarchy was hereditary and male primogeniture seems to have been the guiding principle. Babylonian historians designated a continuous line of kings a "dynasty".

The king was an absolute monarch and in the very early period there were a few checks to his authority in that he had to respect custom and tradition, private property, the sensibilities of the nobles, religion and divination. The king was the ultimate authority in all areas except religion where he was subject to the dictates of the chief god as represented by his chief priest. Thus in the New Year's festival the king's role included being slapped in the face by the chief priest and pulled by the ears as a sign of his subservience to the god.