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Transcript of Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia (from the Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία: "[land] between rivers";
a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, corresponding to modern-day Iraq and to a lesser extent northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and smaller parts of southwestern Iran.
Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization in the West, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires, all native to the territory of modern-day Iraq. In the Iron Age, it was controlled by the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian empires. The indigenous Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC and, after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.
Why River Valleys?
River valleys provided water and rich
soil for crops as well as protection from
However... the Fertile Crescent did not provide any where near as much protection as the other 4 river valleys did... and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flooded irregularly and sometimes violently.
River valley civilizations (about 3500 to 500 B.C.[B.C.E.])
• Mesopotamian civilization: Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys (Southwest Asia)
• Egyptian civilization: Nile River Valley and Nile Delta (Africa)
• Indian civilization: Indus River Valley (SouthAsia)
• Chinese civilization: Huang He Valley (EastAsia)
Social, political, and economic patterns appear in Mesopotamia
Development of social patterns
• Hereditary rulers: Dynasties of kings, pharaohs
• Rigid class system where slavery was accepted
Development of political patterns
• World’s first states (i.e., city-states, kingdoms, empires)
• Centralized government, often based on religious authority
• Written law codes (e.g. Code of Hammurabi, Ten Commandments,
Development of economic patterns
• Use of metal (e.g., bronze, iron)tools and weapons
• Increasing agricultural surplus: Better tools, plows, irrigation
• Increasing trade along rivers and by sea (Phoenicians)
• Development of the world’s first cities
• Development of the practice of slavery within most cultures in the
ancient world, taking various forms
Development of religious traditions
• Polytheism was practiced by most early civilizations.
• Monotheism was practiced by the Hebrews.
Language and writing
• Pictograms: Earliest written symbols
• Cuneiform: Sumer
• Alphabet: Phoenicia
3200 BC First Sumeria city-states emerged in southern Mesopotamia
Sumeria became rich from desert and river trade with surrounding civilizations.
Sumerians were the 1st
-to use the plow
-to use wheeled vehicles
-to develop a written language
-myths & stories
-leader maintained walls and irrigation system
-led armies and enforced laws
-had scribes collect taxes
-served the gods as chief priest (theocracy)
-gods behaved like humans
Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature. The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five independent Sumerian poems about 'Gilgamesh, king of Uruk.
The story centers on a friendship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Enkidu is a wild man created by the gods as Gilgamesh's equal to distract him from oppressing the people of Uruk. Together, they journey to the Cedar Mountain to defeat Humbaba, its monstrous guardian. Later they kill the Bull of Heaven, which the goddess Ishtar sends to punish Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. As a punishment for these actions, the gods sentence Enkidu to death.
The later half of the epic focuses on Gilgamesh's distress at Enkidu's death, and his quest for immortality. In order to learn the secret of eternal life, Gilgamesh undertakes a long and perilous journey to find the immortal flood hero, Utnapishtim. He learns that "The life that you are seeking you will never find. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping." His fame however lived on after his death, because of his great building projects, and his account of what Utnapishtim told him happened during the flood.
The flood story in The Epic of Gilgamest begins whent he gods decide to destroy the world and its wickedness. They instruct Utnapishtim to build a boat to save his family and every species of animal. Hes sends out birds from his boat to search for dry land. Sound familiar?
-East African myth tells a story of a girl who is told not to touch a magical water pot, which then breaks and floods the whole town.
-Ancient Chinese myth tells of Tse-gu-dzih who sends a flood to destroy humankind... only Du-mu and animals are saved in a hollowed out log.
The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the underworld as
'the place where they live on dust, their food is mud,
...and they see no light, living in blackness
on the door and door-bold, deeply settled dust."
What might this say about the Sumerian view of life and the afterlife?
-Code of Hammurabi
"an eye for an eye." REALLY?
The laws include almost everything: marriage and family relations; negligence; fraud; commercial contracts; duties of public officials; property and inheritance; crimes and punishments; techniques of legal procedure; protection for women, children, and slaves; fairness in commercial exchanges; protection of property; standard procedures for adjudicating disputes; debt relief for victims of food and drought; and the list goes on to explain, in detail, each and every one of these instances.
The code of laws applies to the entire Babylonian society. The penalties of the code varied according to the status of the victim. There were three classes in the Babylonian society: the patrician, who were the free men and women; the plebeians, who were the commoners; and the slaves. While the patricians were protected by the law of retaliation, the lower classes received only monetary compensation.
"If a son strike his father, his hands shall be cut off. If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out. If he break another man's bone, his bone shall be broken... If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out."
- 1st iron working/
-conquered by Assyria
-Rule by torture and fear
-Capital at Nineveh
-Assurbanipal (612 BC)
Chaldea: New Babylon (Neo-Babylonians)
-re-built infrastructure of Babylon
The Persian Empire
-Cyrus the Great (539 BC)
-tolerance (frees Jews)
-bureaucracy (Satraps, taxes)
-economy (coin, standard weights & measures, Royal Road)
-Single god called Ahura Mazda would battle Ahriman and judge those who chose sides.
-heaven, hell, judgement day
-influenced Christianity and Islam
-small kingdom of sailors and traders all around Mediterranean Sea
-modern day Lebanon and Syria
-glass and purple dye
-"Carriers of Civilization"
-Byblos: Bible and bibliography
-Abraham (2000 BC)
-covenant with Yaweh for Cannan
-slavery in Egypt
-Moses (10 Commandments)
-David (1000 BC) united semetic peoples
-diaspora---> Torah (Old Testament)