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2.1 City-States in Mesopotamia
Transcript of 2.1 City-States in Mesopotamia
Within the dry region between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea in Southwest Asia lies an arc of land that provided some of the best farming in the area.
The region's curved shape and the richness of its land led scholars to call it the
. It includes the lands facing the Med. Sea and a plain that became known as
, which is Greek for "
land between two river
The rivers framing Mesopotamia are the
. They flow southeastward to the Persian Gulf. These rivers flooded the area at least once a year. As the floodwater receded it left a thick bed of mud called silt. Farmers planted grain in this rich new soil and irrigated the fields with river water, resulting in large harvests and surpluses of wheat and barley which allowed villages to grow.
People began to settle the area before 4500 BC, and the Sumerians arrived around 3300 BC.
They were attracted by the good soil, but there were three disadvantages to the area:
came with a period of little to no rain. The land sometimes almost became a desert.
• There were
no natural barriers
, so a Sumerian village was nearly defenseless.
natural resources of Sumer were limited.
Building materials and other necessary items were scarce.
To provide water they dug irrigation ditches.
For defense, they built city walls with mud bricks.
They traded grain, cloth and crafted tools with people of the mountains and desert. In exchange they received raw materials like stone, wood, and metal.
Large projects such as these required organization. Leaders were needed to plan and supervise the projects. The projects also created a need for laws to settle land disputes. These leaders and laws were the beginnings of organized government - and eventually civilization.
The Sumerians stand out in history as one of the first groups to form a civilization. All the later people in this region built upon their innovations.
Sumerians built city-states. The cities had the same culture, but they each shared their own ruler and developed their own government. It functioned like an independent country does today. Sumerian city-states included Uruk, Kish, Lagash, Umma, and Ur. The center of all Sumerian cities was the walled temple with a ziggurat in the middle.
Priests and Rulers Share Control
Sumer's earliest governments were controlled by the temple priests. The people believed the success of their crops depended upon the blessings of the gods, and the priests were the go-betweens between the people and the gods.
In times of war, the priests did not lead the city. Instead, the men of the city chose a tough fighter who could command the city's soldiers. In time, some military leaders became full-time rulers. These rulers pass their power on to their sons, who passed it on to their sons. Such a series of rulers from a single family is called a dynasty.
The Spread of Cities
Sumer's city-states grew prosperous from the surplus of food produced on their farms. This surplus allowed for trade, which also led to the exchange of ideas. The process in which a new idea or a product spreads from one culture to another is called cultural diffusion.
The Sumerians believed in many different gods, which is called
. Sumerians described their gods as doing many of the same things humans do - falling in love, quarreling, etc. They also believe their gods were immortal and all powerful, and that humans were nothing but their servants. Humans could be destroyed by the gods at any time, so sacrifices were made to them at the zigguart.
The god of storms and air was called Enlil. Ugallu protected humans from evil. Some of the richest accounts of Mesopotamian myths and legends appear in a long poem called The Epic of Gilgamesh .
With civilizations came the beginnings of classes. Kings, landholders and some priests made up the highest level in Sumerian society. Merchants were next. The vast majority of ordinary people worked in the fields on with their hands in workshops. The lowest class were the slaves, which were captured foreigners, or people whose parents had sold them into slavery to pay debts. Debt slaves could eventually buy their freedom.
Sumerian women had more rights than in many later civilizations. They could work as farmers, merchants or artisans. They could hold property in their own names, and join the priesthood. Only the upper-class women learned to read and write.
Historians believe that Sumerians invented the
and were among the first to use
. They also invented
Arithmetic and geometry were developed
to build walls and buildings, and plan irrigation systems.
Arches, columns, ramps and the pyramid
shaped the design of the ziggurat and permanently influenced Mesopotamian civilization.
, the first system of writing, was developed by Sumerians. One of the first known maps was made on a clay tablet in 2300 BC, and some of the oldest written records of scientific investigations
From 3000 to 2300 BC the city-states were almost constantly at war with each other. This weakened the city-states and made them more vulnerable to attacks. Even though they were conquered their culture didn't die because the rules of the new groups adapted Sumerian ideas to their own culture.
Sargon of Akkad
was a conqueror who defeated the city-states of Sumer in 2350 BC. He took control of both northern and southern Mesopotamia, creating the world's first empire.
One of the tales of how he became king, was that his mother was too poor to take care of him, so she placed in him a basket and let him drift down the Euphrates River. He was rescued by an irrigator, who raised him and trained him to be a gardener. A goddess fell in love with Sargon and made him king.
In about 2000 BC, nomadic warriors known as Amorites invaded Mesopotamia. They overwhelmed the Sumerians and established their capital at Babylon, on the Euphrates River. The Babylonian Empire reached its peak during the reign of
, from 1792 to 1750 BC.
Hammurabi's legacy is the code of laws he put together. He recognized that a single, uniform code would unite the diverse groups in the empire. He collected existing rules, judgments, and laws into the Code of Hammurabi. It set different punishments for rich and poor, and for men and women. It frequently applied the principal of retaliation for crimes.
reinforced the principle that government had a responsibility for what occurred in society.
Iku-Shamagen, King of Mari, a city-state in Sumer, offers prayers to the gods.
Life in Sumerian Society
Sumerian Science and Technology
The First Empire Builders
Babylonian Empire and Hammurabi's Code
On the back of your notes (attach an additional sheet if necessary, answer the following questions:
Page 30 Questions with Map
Page 34, Critical Thinking and Writing, #6-8
Hammuabi's Code lesson (as a class)