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Civilizations and Empires in Southwest Asia. World History Mr. Dunham. Civilization Arose in the Fertile Crescent. Why is it important for people (especially farmers) to settle near rivers & streams?. Farmers need their villages near water because they need it for their crops. .

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Why is it important for people especially farmers to settle near rivers streams
Why is it important for people (especially farmers) to settle near rivers & streams?

  • Farmers need their villages near water because they need it for their crops.

Mesopotamia settle near rivers & streams?

  • The region between the Tigris River and the Euphrates River is known as Mesopotamia.

  • One of the first villages to emerge was Sumer. The villagers were called Sumerians.



Sumer was neither a city nor a country. Rather, it was a collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

Historians believe that Sumerians built the world’s first civilization.


Right: Artistic view of what Sumer might have looked like.

What defines the term civilization
What defines the term “Civilization?” collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

  • Five Traits that are Essential for a Civilization

    • 1. The Growth of Cities

      • Not Just Population growth, but also a center of trade emerges for a larger area. Farmers, Merchants, Traders bring goods to market in the cities.

    • 2. Specialized Workers

      • Workers became skilled in one particular job.

        • Ex. Artisans: Workers who made goods by hand.

        • Farmers were able to produce more than what was needed for themselves. They had a surplus of crops and were able to trade their extra goods for a different good or service. (An end to subsistence farming.)

    • 3. Record Keeping/Writing

      • Enables people to make records of data. Merchants needed accounts of debts and payments.

        • The Sumerians created Cuneiform, which is a system of writing with wedge-shaped symbols. (Around 3,000 B.C.)

Cuneiform tablet
Cuneiform Tablet collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

  • Imprints of the signs, called cuneiform, were made by pressing a wedge-shaped stylus into wet clay.

Cuneiform tablet tools
Cuneiform Tablet & Tools collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

Cuneiform translation table
Cuneiform Translation Table collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

  • Five Traits Essential for a Civilization Cont. collection of separate cities with a common way of life. They shared a common culture.

    • 4. Advanced Technology

      • The Sumerians were skilled in science & technology.

        • Ex. Invention of the wheel, plow, sailboat.

        • Use of bronze (mixture of copper & tin).—”Bronze Age”

    • 5. Complex Institutions

      • Having an organizational system to run a city. (This is a key trait that is essential for a civilization.)

        • Government is an example of a complex institution.

Fertile crescent disadvantages

1. Water Problems- Unpredictability of floods and water dries up quickly.

2. Defense Problems- Very flat land…there were no natural defensive barriers to prevent raids by nomads.

Sumerian Solutions

Fertile Crescent Disadvantages

  • 1. Sumerians created irrigation ditches.

  • 2. Sumerians built city walls with mud bricks to discourage raids.

  • 3. Limited Natural Resources- Lack of resources to create tools. (Stone, Wood, Metal)

  • 3. Sumerians created an extensive trade network with the surrounding people.

Sumerian Solutions are Still In Use Today! dries up quickly.

Below: Irrigation ditches are still used today as a means of getting water to crops.

Above: Mud brick homes are still built today in the Middle East because of the lack of timber.

Polytheism a belief in many gods
Polytheism- A belief in many gods. dries up quickly.

  • The Sumerians were polytheists. They believed that their gods were a lot like them except they were immortal and all-powerful.

    • Anu- “God of Heaven”

    • Enlil- “God of Clouds & Air”

    • Ea- “God of Water & Floods.

  • Afterlife: Sumerians believed that their souls went to “the land of no return,” a gloomy place between the earth’s crust & the ancient sea.

Who ruled sumer
Who ruled Sumer? dries up quickly.

  • Priests & Kings

    • Priests had power because they “knew how to please the gods” and keep the city safe.

    • Sumerians began by choosing a strong warrior to lead them into battle. These leaders eventually became kings. Kings became a hereditary position.

SOCIAL CLASSES IN SUMER dries up quickly.

Priests & Kings

Wealthy Merchants

*Women had more rights than women in many later civilizations.

Artisans & Farmers

Slaves: By working obediently day & night…they could hope to earn their freedom.

Sumer s downfall
Sumer’s Downfall dries up quickly.

  • For 1,000 years (3,000-2,000 B.C.) the city-states of Sumer were at war with one another.

    • All the fighting weakened the city-states so much that they could no longer ward off attacks from outsiders (nomads).

    • 2,000 B.C. Nomadic raiders swept through Ur, leaving it in ruins, thus ending the last of the great city-states.

Turning point in history hammurabi s code
Turning Point In History: “Hammurabi’s Code” Woolley.

  • Around 2,000 B.C. a group of nomadic warriors known as the Amorites invaded Mesopotamia.

    • The Amorites established Babylon as their capital city.

  • Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.) was a powerful and influential king.

    • Babylon’s civilization was becoming so complex that there was a need for written laws to help resolve disputes.

    • Hammurabi established a collection of laws that became known as “Hammurabi’s Code.”

Carving shows the sun god Shamash giving the laws to Hammurabi.

Purpose of hammurabi s code
Purpose of Hammurabi’s Code Woolley.

  • “To cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked & evil, and to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak…to enlighten the land and to further the welfare of the people.”

  • There are 282 specific laws.

    • 88 Laws deal with marriage, family, property.

  • 3 Fundamental Principles:

    • 1. Principle of Retaliation to punish crimes. (Eye for an Eye)

    • 2. Principle of Punishment (Double Standards existed between social classes).

    • 3. Principle that the Government had a responsibility for what occurred in society.


Phoenicians Woolley.

  • Around 1100 B.C. the Phoenicians were the most powerful traders around the Mediterranean Sea.

    • 300 Phoenician cities sprouted up around Africa’s Mediterranean Sea

    • The highly prized purple dye for which the Phoenicians were renowned was extracted from a gland of the murex snail.  Each snail yielded only a drop of yellow liquid which darkened on exposure to light.  Processing required slow simmering for about two weeks.  Up to 60,000 snails were needed for each pound of dye.

  • Phoenician Contribution Woolley.: Around 900 B.C. the Phoenicians developed a writing system with 22 symbols (versus the 600 symbols in Cuneiform).

  • The alphabet is born!!

Jews monotheism
Jews & Monotheism Woolley.

  • Monontheist: A person who worships one god.

  • The Jews were one of the smallest groups in the ancient Fertile Crescent, but their influence on history was far-reaching.

  • Moses & Ten Commandments

    • By the laws set forth to Moses, God demanded a high standard of moral conduct from human beings. This emphasis on justice , morality, and an individual relationship with God set Judaism apart.

    • These ideas marked the birth of a set of religious traditions, the impact of which has lasted for thousands of years.

  • Capable Kings:

    • Saul, David, Solomon– Their kingdom…Israel.

Iron age begins

(1200-700 B.C.) Woolley.

(2800-1200 B.C)

Iron Age Begins

  • The Hittites (People living in Asia Minor) gradually learned the complicated process of smelting iron (this takes place over the 1500 to 1200 B.C.).

  • Shift from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age

Iron age continued
Iron Age Continued… Woolley.

  • Why make the change from Bronze to Iron?

    • Iron is a harder metal. An iron sword could pierce through a bronze shield.

    • Iron is a more common metal. Easier for people to obtain=cheaper too!

  • The development of Iron paved the way for an “Age of Empires.”

Assyrian empire rises and falls 850 612 b c
Assyrian Empire Rises and Falls Woolley.(850-612 B.C.)

  • Iron Age enable the Assyrians to conquer and rule a large empire.

    • Iron Swords and Iron Pointed Spears which made for well equipped warriors.

    • The Assyrians were known for their military tactics because they were the most disciplined army to date.

    • The Assyrians had shown that it was possible to build an empire based on fear and harsh government.

Persian empire 550 350 b c
Persian Empire (550 – 350 B.C.) Woolley.

  • The Persian Empire was a giant empire that arose in Southwest Asia that was built upon tolerance and wise government. (Unlike the Assyrians)

  • In 550 B.C., Persian King Cyrus defeated several neighboring kingdom to mark the beginning of the Persian Empire.

    • In 11 years (550-539 B.C.) Cyrus conquered all of the Fertile Crescent and most of Asia minor.

    • Cyrus believed that when his army marched into a defeated city, that there would be no looting or destroying of any buildings/temples.

    • Cyrus believed that it was wise leave local customs and religions alone.

Above: King Cyrus

Cyrus the great video
Cyrus the Great Video!! Woolley.

Persian empire cont
Persian Empire Cont… Woolley.


  • King Cyrus was killed in 530 B.C. and then his son, Cambyses, took over for 8 years. Cambyses died of a wound suffered by a sword.

  • Cambyses successor was Darius who governed the fragile empire by using absolute power.

    • Darius used two important tools to hold the empire together.

      • Excellent Road System called the “Royal Road System”

      • Standardized Coinage.—The whole empire had a universal money system to trade with.


  • Woolley.The Royal Road”

  • 1,677 miles

  • Took a caravan 3 months to travel this distance.

What we covered recently
What we covered recently? Woolley.

  • 5 Key traits that define “Civilization”

  • Rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent – Sumerians.

  • Hammurabi’s Code (Babylon)

  • Phoenecians – Alphabet

  • Jews – Monotheism

  • Assyrians – War Tactics (Use of Iron & Force)

  • Persians – Lasting Empire, “Royal Road”