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Early River Valley Civilizations: Mesopotamia

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Sydney Povilaitis

on 27 September 2013

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Transcript of Early River Valley Civilizations: Mesopotamia

Early River Valley Civilizations: Mesopotamia
Located in the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
Modern day Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Persian Gulf
Surrounded by desert, little rainfall
Rivers flooded at least once a year, providing fertile soil, and also provided water for field irrigation
Disadvantages of Environment:
River floods were unpredictable
No natural barriers (led to massive walls)
Limited natural resources
6000 B.C. - 5000 B.C.
4000 B.C.
3000 B.C.
3200 B.C.
7000 B.C.
Sumerians adopt agriculture
Complex irrigation methods are developed from small-scale irrigation techniques
Human populations in southern Mesopotamia increase and Sumerians build the world's first cities that are: political, military, and economical centers
Sumerian city-states, including Eridu, Ur, Uruk, Lagash, Nippur and Kish, control Mesopotamian public affairs
Population of Sumer approaches 100,000
Sumerian people cultivated wheat and barley by at least 7000 B.C.
Irrigation from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers allowed for more food to be produced and therefore more people could be fed
Bountiful food also attracted migrants
Complex irrigation methods formed and villiages grew into cities
City-States developed and became the dominant social organization for almost a millenium
Internal and External Pressures led Sumerians to create the World's First Cities

Prevention of internal disputes
Control over urban and surrounding agricultural areas
Maintaining irrigation systems
Organizination of community projects (walls, pyramids, temples...)

Protection from raiders attracted by wealth
Area that could be more efficiently protected because of lack of natural borders
Sumerian society developed from assemblies of prominent men to kings (who slowly overruled the assemblies power)
All Sumerian cities had kings by 3000 B.C. but often local nobles, established by military valor, assisted in the overseeing of the realm
Sumerians were eventually overthrown by the Akkadians and Babylonians
These were led by Semitic people and formed regional empires
Eventually, the Assyrians took over Mesopotamia, followed by the short-lived reign of the New Babylonian Empire
All of these societies were influenced by Sumer, the first Mesopotamian society but also developed their own unique aspects
At their peak, each society controlled a large portion of Mesopotamia
First leader was Sargon of Akkad
Created the first empire
Relied on leader and military presence to rule
Cities could not support large military and resources were exhausted which led to civil unrest
Taxes on natural resources and trade were placed to support army
Collapsed due to invasions and rebellions
Hammurabi was major leader
Improved Akkadian empire approach with:
centralized bureaucracy
regular taxation to support government and army
rule from Babylon with deputies in territories
a more predictable government for citizens
Code of Laws
set precedent for other societies
Lex talonis principle
regulations of prices, wages, marriage, and slavery
high standards of behavior with strict punishment
Later Mesopotamian Empires
Assyrians- similar administration and laws to Babylon
Temple Communities
Priests and priestesses were closely related to rulers and were often in the same family
Owned workshops and land
Communities stored wealth, housed orphans, supplied food in famines, and financed trade excursions
Literature and Record Keeping
Bronze Metallurgy:
4000 B.C.- copper was alloyed with tin to create a harder and stronger material for tools and weapons
tin and copper were expensive and the majority could not afford them
greatly impacted military (spears, swords, axes, shields...) and agriculture (bronze knifes, bronze tipped plows)
Iron Metallurgy
experiments with iron in 4th century produced brittle results
1300 B.C.- Hittites forge very strong iron tools and weapons which spread to Mesopotamia
1000 B.C. - effective weapons and tools were manufactured from iron
cheaper and more widely used
The Wheel
3500 B.C.- first used
3000 B.C.- wheeled carts
allowed the transport of bulk and heavy goods over long distances and therefore enabled trade
trade allowed Mesopotamians to create a stronger economy
wheeled chariots also were used in armies, particularly Assyrian
powerful advantage at war
3500 B.C.-watercrafts traveled to Persian Gulf
2300 B.C. - regular trade with Harappan merchants in India
further enabled trade and transportation
Cuneiform writing was mostly used after 2900 B.C.
wedge shaped
Assyrians kept libraries with scholarly texts, diplomatic correspondence and administrative records
included Epic of Gilgamesh
adoption of alphabetic writing from the Phonecians allowed more people to be literate as it was easier than cunieform
Jews had religious texts- Torah

Art was used to record important moments or stories and also express daily life in Mesopotamian society.
Social Organization
Social Hierarchy:
Ruling class composed of kings and nobles were most often appointed due to success as warriors
legends portrayed them as born from gods
Free commoners- worked on their own property, paid taxes and supported large construction
Dependent clients- worked on others' land and owed portion of profit, paid taxes and supported large construction
Slaves- war prisoners, convicts and debtors
often domestic servants and could be granted freedom after time
Patriarchal Society:
power vested in adult males
family decisions, marriages
dominated public and political life
at times high priestesses or advisors to rulers
scribes if educated otherwise midwives, shopkeepers...etc.
dominated by men who tightened control over women in 2nd millenium (virgin brides and no socializing with men) to preserve legitimacy of heirs

Urban Planning and Architecture
Due to lack of natural borders, large walls were required to keep out invaders
some walls were so thick that "a four horse chariot [could not] turn around on top of them"
Such massive walls required extensive urban planing to ensure that the city inside of the invaluable walls would remain organized with interior expansion
Mesopotamians built incredible pyramids, temples and palaces for their rulers that often times served as places of worship as well
Construction of these massive structures was ordered by rulers and carried out by commoners
Interaction with Pastoral People
The Hittites:
pastoral people north of Mesopotamia in Anatolia
traded heavily with Babylonian and Assyrian empires
adopted Mesopotamian cuneiform writing
created spoked wheels which they applied to war chariots, a technology they had learned about from Mesopotamians
Mesopotamians adapted their chariots to match those of the Hittites as well
Used Mesopotamian methods of metallurgy which resulted in an iron alloy that Mesopotamians used
The Hebrews:
originally pastoral nomads
many eventually settled in Mesopotamian cities
Abraham from Ur
Hebrew law includes lex talonis- also in Hammurabi's code of law

Sydney Povilaitis
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