Civilization Characteristics and Beginnings
Characteristics of Civilization • Complexity – (relative term) • Hierarchy of social classes • Permanent governmental institutions • Urbanity • Concentration of political power • Formalized religion • Tax collection, compulsory agencies (army and police, system of writing
Why Civilization • Recent phenomenon in human history • Agricultural Revolution provided the material foundation for and may have compelled civilization (irrigation projects) • Little evidence to explain why people civilized—protection, coercion. • Given the time involved—over many people’s lifetimes—it’s likely that people were not aware of the change until after the event
Civilization followed Agriculture • In present day Greece and Syria, seasonal farming of lentils and emmer wheat began by 8000 B. C. E. • Cities like Jericho emerged as seasonal farming bases • From earliest times, growers of food were vitally interested in “life” and how to manipulate it. • Led to evolution of more formal religious practices and rituals.
Domestication of Animals • Sheep, Goats, and latter Cows were domesticated as sources of food and clothing. • Later, they were made beasts of burden. • Farmers and herders became increasingly specialized.
Civilization at Sumer • First described by Archaeologist Samuel Noah Kramer. • By 3000 B. C. E., there were urban settlements, central government, irrigation projects, and symbolic religion. • Lower Mesopotamia had fertile soil but also a serious flooding problem. • The need, and subsequent ability, to direct collective human activity in the lower alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates river likely made this one birthplace of Civilization.
Sumerian Ascendancy (3000-2000 B. C. E. • Government and religion was in the hands of priests who lived in massive ziggurats • Sophisticated pottery tells not only of the use of the wheel but artistic specialization as well. • A vast trading network emerged with other peoples in the “Fertile Crescent.” • Cuneiform writing developed. (tax registers)
Governmental Institutions • Sumer was not a country or nation in a modern sense • City-State—periodically one of the Sumerian cities would predominate—Ur was often the dominant city. • Each city-state had its own deity—link of religion w/ patriotism • Priests gathered the wealth of the city, fed the gods who gave “life” to the people, and redistributed the remainder. • Famine was sign of god’s displeasure.
Sumerian Religious pantheon • An—god of the sky • Enlil—god of wind • Enki—god of the earth • Ninhursaga—goddess of life • These main gods were assisted by their children—Utu, the sun god, for example. • Key human activity was to try to discern and manipulate the will of the gods—divination.
Akkadian Hegemony • Trade ties and political ambition led to the consolidation of power and the creation of the first “Empire” in recorded history. • The city of Akkad became the base. • Under Sargon I (2334-2279 BC), known as the “Great”, Akkad dominated the Sumerian cities and its hegemony extended over southern Mesopotamia as well as parts of Syria, Anatolia, and Elam (western Iran)
Ancient Tribute to Sargon • Sargon, King of Akkad, through the royal gift of Ishtar was exalted, and he possessed no foe nor rival. His glory over the world he poured out. The Sea in the East he crossed, and in the eleventh year the Country of the West in its full extent his hand subdued. He united them under one control; he set up his images in the West; their booty he brought over at his word. Over the hosts of he world he reigned supreme. Against Kassala he marched, and he turned Kassala into mounds and heaps of ruins; he destroyed the land and left not enough for a bird to rest thereon. Afterward in his old age all the lands revolted against him, and they besieged him in Akkad; and Sargon went forth to battle and defeated them; he accomplished their overthrow, and heir widespreading host he destroyed. Afterward he attacked the land of Subartu in his might, and they submitted to his arms, and Sargon settled that revolt, and defeated them; he accomplished their overthrow, and their widespreading host he destroyed, and he brought their possessions into Akkad. The soil from the trenches of Babylon he removed, and the boundaries of Akkad he made like those of Babylon. But because of the evil which he had committed, the great lord Marduk was angry, and he destroyed his people by famine. From the rising of he sun unto the setting of the sun they opposed him and gave him no rest.
Sumer’s decline • After the Akkadian hegemony, Sumerian cities regained their hegemony. • By 2000 B. C. E., Sumer’s neighbors coveted its cities and resources. • Major pattern in history of Middle East is the invasion of settled areas by vigorous but more primitive people on the borders. • Babylonia Amorites overran lower Mesopotamia by 1900 B. C. E.
Amorite Civilization (1900-1600 • Sumerian kings were considered divine; Amorites had to justify their usurpation. • Accomplished this through centralization. • Various Sumerian cities were brought under central control by Amorite kings headquartered at Babylon. • Political order replaced the chaos of rival city states. To some degree, people traded independence for security.
Hammurabi, (r. 1792-1760) • Considered greatest Amorite king • Most famous for his code of laws.
Hammurabi’s Code • By what it regulated and the language it used to depict the regulation, it tells us much about Babylonian society. • It was class based with much wealth and power concentrated in the hands of the few. • There was not equality before the law; a crime against a rich person might lead to the death penalty; a crime against a poor person was not considered as severe. • Crimes against the public order got the death penalty. • Women were legally inferior to men but had more rights than they would possess under Hebraic and Roman Law.
“Revolutionary” Features in the Law Code • The State, not private parties, will dispense justice. • Lex talionis – “an eye for an eye” – replaced “a life for an eye.” • State regulation of sexuality and family matters and a public good. (Origin of “police powers” concept.)
Mesopotamia • A birthplace of civilization, Mesopotamia would continue to host a welter of civilizations and invaders until modern times. • The qualitative difference between Mesopotamian civilization and the transhumance existence of prior humans provides data to define the characteristics of human civilization inductively.