Mesopotamia
Theme: Comparing civilizations
Lsn 2
ID & SIG
• Babylon, Code of Hammurabi, cuneiform,
Epic of Gilgamesch, lex talionis,
metallurgy, temple communities, Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers, wheel
Mesopotamia
• Greek for “land
between the rivers”
– Tigris and Euphrates
– Modern-day Iraq
Empires and Dominance
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Sumer 3200-2350 B.C.
Babylonian 2350-1600 B.C.
Sargon of Akkad 2334-2315 B.C.
Hittite 1450-1200 B.C.
Assyrian 1000-612 B.C.
New Babylonian 605-550 B.C.
Sumer
• Population growth
was especially
rapid in Sumer
– By 3000 B. C.,
the population of
Sumer
approached
100,000 and
Sumerians were
the dominant
people of
Mesopotamia
Babylonian Empire
• Akkadians and Babylonians of northern
Mesopotamia began to overshadow Sumerians
– Sargon of Akkad defeated Sumerian city-states one
by one
– By 2000 B.C. Sargon’s empire collapsed from a
combination of internal rebellion and external
aggression
• Babylonians dominated from about 2350 to 1600
B.C.
– Most prominent king was Hammurabi (1792 to 1750
B.C.)
Assyrian Empire
• After the fall of the Babylonian Empire, the
Assyrians gradually came to power,
extending their authority to Mesopotamia,
Syria, Palestine, much of Anatolia, and
most of Egypt
• Preserved much from Mesopotamia
• Extremely unpopular rule
– Couldn’t administer far-flung empire
– Collapsed in 612 B.C.
New Babylonian Empire
(Chaldean Empire)
• 605 to 550 B.C.
• Known for its wealth
and excess
• King Nebuchadnezzar
ruled from 605 to 562
B.C.
– Built Hanging Gardens of
Babylon
– Captured Judah in 586,
destroyed the great
temple in Jerusalem, and
forced many Hebrews
into exile in Babylon.
Characteristics of a Civilization
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Intensive agricultural techniques
Specialization of labor
Cities
A social hierarchy
Organized religion and education
Development of complex forms of economic
exchange
• Development of new technologies
• Advanced development of the arts. (This can
include writing.)
Agriculture
Sumerian sledge
Agriculture
• Tigris and Euphrates
brought large
volumes of water to
an otherwise dry
region
• As early as 6000
B.C., people began
small scale irrigation
• Artificial irrigation
increased food
supplies which in turn
supported a rapidly
increasing population
Fertile Crescent
Irrigation
• Tigris and
Euphrates
irrigation allowed
Mesopotamians
to grow barley,
wheat, and peas
Map of fields and
irrigation canals near
Nippur, Mesopotamia
from cuneiform tablet, ca
1300 B.C.
Agriculture’s Impact
rivers
agriculture
• Abundant harvests
supported increased
populations
• Semetic people (those who
spoke Akkadian, Aramaic,
Hebrew, and Phoenician)
began to migrate to Sumer
populations
cities
specialization
hierarchy
Cities
Ur and Babylon
Cities
• Beginning around 4000 B.C., as populations
increased in southern Mesopotamia, the
Sumerians built the world’s first cities
Cities
• Unlike earlier villages, these cities were centers
of political and military authority, and their
jurisdiction extended into the surrounding
regions
– Economic centers where buyers and sellers
congregated
– Cultural centers where priests maintained organized
religion and scribes developed traditions of writing
and formal education
• Mesopotamians had numerous, denselypopulated city-states
Ur
• Built around 2100
B.C.
– Sometimes called
the world’s first city
• Sumerian capital of
Mesopotamia
• Believed to have
been surrounded
by a moat
• Home of Abraham
(Genesis Chapter
11)
Ur
Ziggurat at Ur
Leonard Woolley:
Archeologist who
excavated Ur in the
1920s and 30s
Babylon
• Made a lavish
showplace by
Nebuchadnezzar
• More than 2,100
acres
• 1,179 temples
• Massive defensive
walls
• Hanging Gardens
• Fell to Cyrus the
Great in 539 B.C.
Specialization
Mesopotamian potter’s
wheel from Uruk
Engraving
Sumerian earrings
rivers
Specialization
• Abundant food supplies and
cities as population centers
allowed some people to perform
tasks not associated with
agriculture
• People expanded into the areas
of pottery, textile manufacture,
woodworking, leather
production, brick making,
stonecutting, and masonry
agriculture
populations
cities
specialization
hierarchy
Social Hierarchy
Social Hierarchy
• Kings and nobles originally won their
positions by community election based on
valor and success as warriors
– Soon royal status become hereditary
– Nobles were mostly members of the royal
family
• Closely allied with the ruling elites were
priests and priestesses, many who were
younger relatives of the rulers
– Lived in temple communities
Social Hierarchy
• Free commoners worked mostly as
peasant cultivators in the countryside on
land owned by their families, although
some worked in cities
• Dependent clients usually worked on
agricultural estates owned by others
– Both free commoners and dependent clients
paid taxes to support the ruling classes,
military, and temple communities
Social Hierarchy
• Slaves came from:
– Prisoners of war
– Convicted criminals
– Heavily indebted individuals who sold themselves into
slavery to satisfy their obligations
• Patriarchal society
– Authority over public and private affairs vested in
adult men
– Law recognized men as heads of households and
had disproportionate punishments for men and
women
Religion and Education
Religion and Education
• Polytheism
– The ancient Mesopotamians worshipped hundreds of
gods, each with his/her own name and sphere of
activity.
– Every city had its own patron god or goddess, and there
were also deities connected with various professions
such as scribes and builders.
– Individual people also had their own personal god who
protected them and interceded for them with the great
deities.
Enki, god of water
Religion and Education
• Kings often portrayed as offspring of gods or
gods themselves
• Priests intervened with the gods to ensure good
fortune for their communities
– In exchange, priests and priestesses lived in temple
communities and received offerings of food, drink,
and clothing from the city inhabitants
– Temples also generated income and work
• Epic of Gilgamesh taught there is no afterlife
– Death is dark, dank, and inert
Ziggurats
• Ziggurats were huge
stepped structures
with a temple on top
– Built in honor of the
city’s god (other gods
might have smaller
temples)
– Intended to reach
nearer to the heavens
Tower of Babel
Code of Hammurabi
• Hammurabi (King of
Babylonian Empire from 1792
to 1750 B.C.) maintained
control of empire by a code of
law
• Claimed the gods had chosen
him “to promote the welfare of
the people,… to cause justice
to prevail in the land, to
destroy the wicked and evil,
[so] that the strong might not
oppress the weak, to rise like
the sun over the people, and
to light up the land.”
Code of Hammurabi
• High standards of behavior and stern
punishments for violators
• Death penalty for murder, theft, fraud,
false accusations, sheltering of runaway
slaves, failure to obey royal orders,
adultery, and incest
• Civil laws regulating prices, wages,
commercial dealings, marital relationships,
and the conditions of slavery
Code of Hammurabi
• Relied on lex talionis– the law of retaliation
– Offenders suffered punishments resembling
their violations
• If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye
shall be put out. [ An eye for an eye ]
(196)
• If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be
broken. (197)
• If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth
shall be knocked out. [ A tooth for a tooth ] (200)
Economic Exchange
Economic Exchange
• Trade occurred by ship and
donkey caravan
• Sumerians traded woolen textiles,
leather goods, sesame oil, and
jewelry with India for copper,
ivory, pearls, and semi-precious
stones
• Babylonians imported silver from
Anatolia, cedar wood from
Lebanon, copper from Arabia,
gold from Egypt, tin from Persia,
lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, and
semiprecious stones from India
• Barter was the main form of
commerce until silver became
popular around 1750 B.C.
Cylinder seals were used to
record a contract, record, or
official receipt. By affixing a
seal to a tablet, the user
validated its contents.
New Technologies
Metallurgy
• Metallurgy ranks among the most
important aspects of technology and
specialization
• Metallurgy evolved from copper to bronze
and by 1000 B.C., Mesopotamians were
working with iron as well
• Important implications for agriculture and
weaponry
The Wheel
• First use of wheels
probably occurred
about 3500 B.C.
• Sumerians were
building wheeled
carts by 3000 B.C.
• The wheel increased
the mobility of society
and allowed heavy
loads to be moved
over great distances
Chariot model,
discovered in the Royal
tomb of Ur in Sumer
around 6000 BC
Development of the Wheel
Art and Writing
Dragon of Marduk
Gudea of Lagash
Winged Guardian
Art and Writing
• Cuneiform
• Epic of Gilgamesch
• Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Cuneiform
• Latin for “wedge-shaped”
– Beginning around 2900 B. C., Sumerians developed a
flexible writing system that combined pictographs and
other symbols
– Scribes used a reed stylus to impress symbols on wet
clay leaving lines and wedge-shaped marks
• Babylonians, Assyrians, and others later
adapted the Sumerians’ script to their own
languages and cuneiform writing continued for
three thousand years
Cuneiform Examples
Epic of Gilgamesh
• Classic example of Mesopotamian literature
• Began in the Sumerian city-states, but the entire
epic represents the work of compilers during the
days of the Babylonian empire
• Originally written on 12 clay tablets in cuneiform
script
• Recounts experiences of Gilgamesh and Enkidu
– Gilgamesh was the legendary king of Uruk, ca. 3000
B.C., and Enkidu was a wild-man, raised by animals
that became the friend of Gilgamesh after they fought.
Epic of Gilgamesh
• Principle vehicle for
Mesopotamian
reflection on moral
issues
– Friendship
– Relations between
humans and the gods
– The meaning of life
and death
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
• One of the “Seven
Wonders of the
World”
• Built by King
Nebuchadnezzar II
around 600 B.C. on
top of stone arches
23 meters above
ground and watered
from the Euphrates
by a complicated
mechanical system.
• Series of terraces
filled with plants.
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• Egypt
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Mesopotamia - The University of Southern Mississippi