Friday, May 10, 2013

Ancient Civilizations of Mesopotamia

Basic facts.

Mesopotamia: the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; the Fertile Crescent; the cradle of civilization.

People began to domesticate animals, such as sheep, boats, boars, and aurochs. They then began to plant crops, starting around 7000 BC; sedentary villages emerged. Irrigation allowed for a crop surplus, leading to the emergence of nonagricultural professions.

Sumer: 3500 to 2300 BC. A collection of city-states surrounded by walls to ward off invaders. Three major city-states were Kish, Ur, and Uruk. Religion shaped Sumerian culture; priests were just below kings on the social order, and ziggurats were the center of towns. In Sumer, cuneiform, the world’s first writing system, was invented. Other Sumerian inventions include the wheel, the plot, and a time system based off 60 and factors of 60. Trade routes reached all the way to Egypt. It was during this time that the Epic of Gilgamesh was composed.

Akkadian Empire: Akkad expanded from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Sargon was the leader of the Akkadian Empire for over 50 years, from 2334 to 2274 BC. According to legend, he was found floating in the basket as a baby and was raised by a gardener. Akkadians created steles.

Babylonian Empire: 1800 to 1600 BC. Hammurabi ruled the Babylonian Empire from 1792 to 1750 BC, during which time he created his famous code of laws that applied to every aspect of Babylonian life and spawned the quote, “an eye for an eye.” Hammurabi’s Code also reveals the social order present in Babylon: patricians were higher than plebeians, who were higher than slaves.

Hittites: Originally from Asia Minor; brief rule in Mesopotamia. They were the first ironworkers and used chariots in battle.

Kassites: Originally from north of Babylon; captured Mesopotamia from the Hittites. They ruled from 1590 to 1200 BC.

Assyrian Empire: Brief rule in the 13th century BC; regained power in 900 BC and collapsed in 612 BC. The Assyrian army was organized and efficient. From the capital, Nineveh, kings ruled over provincial leaders, who collected taxes and enforced laws. Roads and mounted messengers connected the empire. King Ashurbanipal was the last great king of Assyria; his library contained 24,000 cuneiform tablets.

Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonian Empire): 626 to 539 BC. Originally from the Syrian Desert. Nebuchadnezzar, a king of the Chaldeans, created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife. The Chaldeans borrowed many aspects of Sumerian culture, including language and religion. Study of astronomy culminated in star charts and a calendar.

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