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The Early Empires of Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians. The Ancient Fertile Crescent Area. The Middle East: “The Cradle of Civilization”. The Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers .

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The Early Empires of Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians


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    1. The Early Empires of Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians

    2. The Ancient Fertile Crescent Area The Middle East: “The Cradle of Civilization”

    3. The Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The first civilization in the Fertile Crescent was discovered in Mesopotamia, which means land between the rivers The first Sumerian cities emerged in southern Mesopotamia around 3200 B.C.E.

    4. Pre-requisites for Civilization • Agriculture developed in the Fertile Crescent around 9000 B.C.E. • Mining and use of copper around 6000 B.C.E. • Growth of villages and towns • Division of labor • Smelting of tin and copper to make bronze around 3000 B.C.E. > Bronze Age

    5. SUMERIANS

    6. Sumerians

    7. FIRST SUMERIANS • Sumerians first arrived in region around 5000 B.C.E. • Typical Paleolithic people motivated by search for game • Settled in region and took up farming • Built dams, dikes, and short canals to use water from the Euphrates • Grew barley and dates and raised sheep and goats

    8. SUMERIAN CITY-STATES • City-states gradually emerged over next 1000 years • Ur, Uruk, Lagash, Nippur, Kish, Umma, etc. • Larger than Neolithic settlements and displayed evidence of economic specialization and strong political organization • Included the urban center plus surrounding countryside • Each was also an independent political unit Lagash

    9. SUMERIAN AGRICULTURE • Each was crisscrossed by irrigation system of major canals and minor channels • Designed to bring water from Euphrates to farmland • Farmland divided into square and rectangle-shaped plots • Farmers worked land with plows, seed-drills, and stone hoes and received yield of 40:1 • Other areas set aside as gardens and fruit orchards • Carts pulled by donkeys and boats on the canals took produce to the urban center itself

    10. CITY CHARACTERISTICS • Each city surrounded by walls • Permanent garrisons of soldiers stationed in towers and at each gate • Wide boulevards crossed city, lined by houses of the wealthy • Rest of city made up of narrow, twisting alleys surrounded by small, flat-roofed huts • Homes of farmers, and small craftsmen

    11. 3 Sumerian Civilization SOCIAL STRUCTURE GOVERNMENT RELIGION Worshiped many gods. Believed gods controlled every aspect of life. Saw afterlife as a grim place. Everybody would go into darkness and eat dust. To keep the gods happy, each city built a ziggurat,or pyramid temple. Each state had distinct social hierarchy,or system of ranks. Most people were peasant farmers. Women had legal rights; some engaged in trade and owned property. City-states with hereditary rulers. Ruler led army in war and enforced laws. Complex government with scribes to collect taxes and keep records.

    12. ZIGGURAT • Most dominant structure in each city was its temple • Dedicated to patron god of the city • Largest structure in city • Resembled a gigantic stepped pyramid • Designed to look like mountains because Sumerians believed their gods liked to live on top of mountains

    13. LUGAL • Cities originally governed by an assembly of adult males • Kings appeared who claimed to be representatives of the gods and who took control of most government functions • Called lugals • Not originally an hereditary position and the king’s power was limited to interpreting the will of the gods • But this position would become extraordinarily powerful in a relatively short period of time

    14. GENERAL ANARCHY • Although an occasional city-state would temporarily control the region from time to time, more common were long, anarchic periods where the various city-states fought each other over boundaries and water rights • Constant warfare, shifting alliances, and double-crosses were important characteristics of ancient Sumer

    15. Ziggurats

    16. The City Center • Temples served civic and religious purposes • Daily sacrifices and rituals • Storage of surplus grain and other foods • Dwelling of priests and priestesses • Locale where craftsmen and artisans could practice their trades Ziggurats: Temples to the Gods

    17. Ziggurats

    18. Invaders, Traders, and Empire Builders A series of strong rulers united the lands of the Fertile Crescent into well organized empires. Again and again, nomadic warriors invaded the rich cities of the Fertile Crescent. Some looted and burned the cities. Others stayed to rule them. 2300 B.C.E. –Sargon, the ruler of Akkad, conquered Sumer and built the first known empire. 1790 B.C.E.–Hammurabi, King of Babylon, united the Babylonian empire.

    19. From Sumerians to Babylonians • The Sumerian city-states eventually fell to foreign invaders (2000s B.C.E.) • The Akkadians: • Semites- nomadic people from the Arabian Peninsula that migrated to Mesopotamia • Sargon I (2300-2200 B.C.E.) unites all Mesopotamian cities (creates first empire) • Under Sargon I • Akkadians adopted Sumerian religion • Akkadians adopted Sumerian farming

    20. Sargon of Akkad:The World’s First Empire [Akkadians]

    21. The Babylonian Empires

    22. Babylonian Empire • Amorites (2000-1600 B.C.E.) • Located in modern day Syria • Conquered many parts of old Sumeria (including Babylon) • Hammurabi--created a law code with harsh punishments • Borrowed heavily from Sumerian culture • After Hammurabi’s death Babylon declined

    23. SARGON THE GREAT From Akkad North of Sumer Originally settled by nomads from Arabia Fairly untouched by Sumerian civilization for centuries

    24. MORE SARGON THE GREAT Then conquered rest of Sumer, northern Mesopotamia, and Syria In 2300 B.C.E., led by a chieftain named Sargon, the Akkadians invaded and took over Kish

    25. STILL MORE ON SARGON THE GREAT • According to legend, he was a poor orphan adopted by a gardener • Not a harsh ruler • By Mesopotamian standards • Respected and adopted Sumerian culture and civilization

    26. THE END TO THE WORLD’S FIRST EMPIRE • Sargon was succeeded by his son, Naram-Sin • Called himself “King of the Four Quarters of the World” • Ruled in the same tradition as his father • After the death of Naram-Sin (around 2160 BC), the Akkadian Empire collapsed • Under pressure of new groups moving into the region from the Arabian Desert and Iranian highlands • Also because of a revolt of Sumerian city-states

    27. AFTERMATH • Syrian city-state of Ebla took over Akkad after collapse of Akkadian Empire while Sumerian city-states regained their independence • Although Ur appears to have been first among them Great Ziggurat at Ur

    28. THE BABYLONIAN EMPIRE • In 2000 B.C.E., the Amorites moved into region from Arabia • Settled near Babylon and ultimately took it over • Amorites/Babylonians prospered and became wealthiest and more powerful people in Mesopotamia • Under King Hammurabi, they conquered the region • Babylonian Empire • Peak of Mesopotamia civilization • Produced first written law code • Empire collapsed shortly after Hammurabi’s death • Victim of new invading tribes and jealously independent spirit of Sumerian city states Hammurabi

    29. Sumerian Advances in Learning • Developed cuneiform, believed to be the earliest form of writing. • Developed basic algebra and geometry. • Made accurate calendars, essential to a farming society. • Made the first wheeled vehicles.

    30. INVENTION OF WRITING • As early as 3500 BC, the Sumerians used pictograms to represent certain physical objects • Drawn on clay • By 3500 BC, they began to use ideograms (symbols standing for abstract, non-physical concepts) and phonograms (symbols representing phonetic sounds) • Meanwhile pictograms became more stylized

    31. Sumerian Scribes “Tablet House”

    32. Writing: PictogramsCylinder Seals Cylinder Seal with Watergod, Birdman, and DeitiesMesopotamia, Akkadian Period, 2300 - 2200 B.C.E.Emory University

    33. CUNEIFORM WRITING • Emerging writing system known as “cuneiform” • Means “wedge-shaped” • Impressed on clay tablets with wood stylus • Very complicated • Originally 2000 symbols • Reduced to 500 over time • Only small group of professional scribes could master it • After 15 years of training • A secret held by only a few specially-trained individuals

    34. Cuneiform

    35. Cuneiform

    36. Deciphering Cuneiform 1835: Henry Rawlinson, an English army officer, found some inscriptions on a cliff at Behistun in Persia. Carved in the reign of King Darius of Persia (522-486 B.C.E.), they consisted of identical texts in three languages: Old Persian, Babylonian and Elamite.

    37. MATH • Developed in response to needs associated with raising and storing food and designing irrigation systems • Based on units of 60 • Only used today to measure time and circles • Also had supplemental system based on units of 10 • Invented system to measure metal and grain based on units of 60 • Developed fundamental principles of geometry • Used to measure fields and design buildings • Invented first calendar • Based on phases of moon • Had 12 months

    38. Sumerian Religion - Polytheistic Enki Innana Anthropomorphic Gods

    39. SUMERIAN GODS • At top of Sumerian pantheon of gods was An • Divine force, the creator, thought to be the sky • Below An came Enhil • Controlled the weather • Capricious • Then came Enki • Controlled fertility of the earth and abundance of harvests • Also capricious and cruel • Then 50 other major gods and a host of minor gods, demons, spirits, and the like

    40. Seated statue of Gudea, 2150–2100 B.C.E.; Neo-Sumerian periodProbably Tello (ancient Girsu), southern Mesopotamia

    41. Molded plaque with a king or god carrying a mace, 2000–1700 B.C.E.; Isin-Larsa or Old Babylonian periodSouthern Mesopotamia

    42. FIRST CREATION MYTH • World was originally nothing but water • From this water, two forces—one male and one female—arose and created An through procreation • An then created the other gods, who then worked with him to make the sky, earth, and human beings • Sumerians believed the world was the conscious product of a divine force and that it was created for a divine purpose • Although this might be difficult for human beings to ascertain Sumerian god

    43. NATURE OF RELIGION • Sumerian gods did not pay much attention to mortals • More interested in drinking, partying, and fighting among themselves • Sumerians did not therefore worship their gods out of any sense of devotion or love • They worshipped them out of fear of the gods’ power and capriciousness • Sumerian religion was pessimistic • Reflected mentality of a people who had just recently raised themselves to the level of civilization in a land marked by a severe climate and where the dangers of flood and disease were always present (and also unexplainable and incurable) Sumerian priest

    44. Standing male worshipper, 2750–2600 B.C.E.; Early Dynastic period II; Sumerian styleExcavated at Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna), central Mesopotamia

    45. RELIGIOUS DILEMMA I • Sumerians were proud of their achievements • But they worried about to what extent did their achievements, or at least their pride in their achievements, go against what the gods wanted • To what extent did man’s achievements upset the natural order created by the gods?

    46. RELGIOUS DILEMMA II • This dilemma was reflected in their mythology • Myth of Great Flood • Gods, angry at the pride of men, destroyed mankind (except one person) in order to teach humans a lesson • Myth of the “Garden of Eden” • Humans kicked out of this paradise by refusing to be passive and obey the rules of the gods • Mythology reflected Mesopotamian insecurity over the alleged contradiction between their growing belief in the importance of man and his earthly accomplishments and the ingrained belief that they were the insignificant creation of divine beings much more important than they were

    47. GILGAMESH I • Epic poem first written down around 2000 B.C.E. • Part of oral tradition for at least 1000 years before it was written down • Hero is legendary king of the city-state of Uruk • Began career as good ruler • But turned into a tyrant • Gods decide to punish him for his pride Gilgamesh

    48. GILGAMESH II • Gods send wild man named Enkidu to kill Gilgamesh • Gilgamesh recruits a prostitute to tame Enkidu • She does and Enkidu “became like a man” (ie., civilized) • Also becomes loyal companion of Gilgamesh Gilgamesh and Enkidu

    49. GILGAMESH III • Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with his mortality and tries to find a way to cheat death • At first he tries to become so famous that his reputation will live forever • Fights and defeats numerous monsters • In the course of these adventures, Enkidu offends a god and is made to die

    50. GILGAMESH IV • Gilgamesh is devastated by Enkidu’s death • Mopes around for a while • Then searches for Ut-Napishtim • Sumerian Noah who survived the Great Flood • Person to whom the gods had given the secret of eternal life