The Babylonian state 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, and speaking a Northwest Semitic Canaanite language and a Language Isolate respectively. It retained the Sumerian language for religious use (as did Assyria), but by the time Babylon was founded this was no longer a spoken language, having been wholly subsumed by Akkadian. The earlier Akkadian and Sumerian traditions played a major role in Babylonian (and Assyrian) culture, and the region would remain an important cultural center, even under protracted 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 merely a religious and cultural centre at this point and neither an independent state nor a large city; 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 south Mesopotamian region was dominated by the Gutians for a few decades before the rise of the Neo-Sumerian Empire (third dynasty of Ur), which, apart from northern Assyria, encompassed the whole of Mesopotamia, including the city of Babylon.