Chapter 2 Mesopotamia

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Transcript Chapter 2 Mesopotamia

Chapter 2
The Ancient Near East
Earliest development of city life known
• “Land Between the Rivers” Tigris and Euphrates
rivers (southeastern Iraq)
Global Warming – 15,000 BCE
• Melted Ice Age grasslands
• Natufians hunted and harvested
• Dryas Event led to first farming settlements
• Population grew due to abundance
• People began to congregate in towns and cities
• Earliest recorded civilizations
Levantine Corridor, Near East
• present day Israel, Syria, and southeastern Iraq (Tigris
and Euphrates rivers called Mesopotamia)
Sumerians in lower Mesopotamia 5000 BCE
• Agrarian civilization
• Small competing kingdoms or city-states
• Ideas and techniques created distinct influential
• First at:
large cities
sophisticated system of writing
monumental buildings
probably invented the wheel
irrigation system using gravity
use of plow
among first to make bronze utensils, weapons
Mesopotamia under Sumerians
• strife, disunion, wars and water disputes
• Sargon the Great unified region 2300 BCE
(capital in Akkad, near modern-day Baghdad)
• Akkadian Empire spread Sumerian culture
from Mesopotamia to Egypt (Fertile
MAP 2.1
Earning a Living
• Livelihood came from land, directly or
• Trade in foodstuffs, grain, imported
• Some occupations required education,
formal training, apprenticeships: scribes,
priesthood, metalworking
Religion and the Afterlife
• Polytheism – religion of many gods
• Nature gods: Innana (love and fertility) and Enki (water-god)
• Ziggurats – pyramids where gods reside and priests made offerings
– most famous - Babylon (Tower of Babel)
• Mesopotamian religion - not optimistic
– No personal loving relationship between humans and gods
– Men and women slaves of their god-creators
– No evidence of ethics - not about good/evil
– Punishments were in natural catastrophes: droughts or floods
– Gods appeased with rituals and ceremonies by priests/rulers
• Epic of Gilgamesh – creation myth
– First epic poem in world literature
– A king’s desire for the secret of immortal life
– Gods jealous of king’s power defeat him
Chronology, Mathematics, Writing
• Time - cyclic nature of seasonal change
• Calendar - lunar months between full moons
Mathematics - influential in western science
• Based on units of 60 (60 seconds and 60 minutes)
• Basic geometry and trigonometry (360ºcircle)
Evolution of Writing
• Records: taxation, marital/inheritance, calendar,
seasonal changes
• cuneiform - script in wedge-shaped characters after
3500 BCE
• Sumerian cuneiform remained basic script of most Near
and Middle Eastern languages until about 1000 BCE
Emperor Hammurabi’s reign,1700 BCE
Early complete code of laws:
– Punishment depends on social rank (commoners,
slaves treated harsher than nobles)
– “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”
– Victim’s right to personal compensation
– Government is impartial referee
– Not equal before the law: husbands over wives,
fathers over children, rich over poor, free citizens over
Hammurabi’s Empire
Government and Social Structure
• Two types
– Theocracy of early city-states
– Kingdom-empires beginning with Sargon the
• Three classes
– Priests, noble landlords
– Freemen (majority)
– Slaves
Status of Women
Change in status over time
• At early stage: more or less equal
• With militarized society - patriarchy trend
• Artisan occupations - open to women, with limitations
• Adultery - worst crime in marriage
• Divorce - lawsuits initiated by husbands
– Reasons: childless wives, other lovers, unable or unwilling to support
first wife
Sexual and Marital Life
Different attitude toward sex
Arranged marriages
Dowry and bride money
Bride expected to be a virgin
• Sumerians extended domain into Semiteregions
• Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians united
Mesopotamia and expanded it
• Mesopotamian trade stretched from the
Indus Valley (modern day Pakistan) to Nile
Valley and eastern Mediterranean
• Sumerian culture followed with trade
• Successors
Amorites, or Old Babylonians
Chaldees or New Babylonians
• Decline of Mesopotamia in World History
– Ceased to be important after Persian conquest
– Largely caused by long-term environmental damage,
decline in food supply
• Sumerians - earliest agriculturalists and skilled traders
founded towns and cities in Mesopotamia (4000 BCE)
• Led by theocratic priesthood and later by warrior-kings
• City-states left new techniques and viewpoints: loadbearing wheel, first sophisticated writing system,
chronology and mathematics, and architectural skills
• Religion was harsh and pessimistic
– reflected fears of natural and manmade disasters
– gods cared little for their human slaves
Discussion Questions
1. Sumerians built the first cities, and today a large
percentage of the world’s population is urban.
How would a Sumerian have found city life
different from their rural existence? What would
have been the benefits of city life? What would
the disadvantages have been?
2. Hammurabi’s Code is one of the very first
written law codes. Why is it so important to
have law in written form? What difference, if
any, would it have made to the average
Babylonian to have written law?