Fertile Crescent Strip of fertile land begins at the Sinai Peninsula and arcs through Southwest Asia to the Persian Gulf. One of the most fertile places on Earth. Birthplace of Agriculture
Tigris and Euphrates River • Begin in the hills of what is now turkey and flow southeast. • At one point nearly 30 miles apart. • At widest, Tigris-Euphrates River Valley = 250 miles apart. • Mesopotamia “land between the rivers” • Babylonia (southeastern part)
Cont…. • Overflow often • Canals and levees necessary • Flooding unpredictable in timing and severity. • People of the valley viewed the gods as harsh and unpredictable.
Fertile Crescent history • Tribes of nomadic herders lived off the grasses and other plant life. • They often invaded, conquered, and established new empires. • Over time they grew weak and new invaders took over. • History = story of repeated migration and conquest.
Sumer • Where the T and E flow into the Persian Gulf the soil is very fertile. • This area was called Sumer. • Origin of Sumerian culture. • 3000 BCE, used metals and developed writing called pictographs, or picture writing. (earliest known)
Sumerian Writing Wrote by pressing marks into clay tablets. Wedge shaped tool called a stylus. Cuneiform 600 cuneiform signs
Architecture and Science • Invented the arch. (curved structure over an opening. Very strong form of building) • Ziggurats = Sumerian temples.(made of baked brick placed in layers.150 ft high. Top served as shrine to a Sumerian god.) • May have been the first to use the wheel. • Mathematics = system of numbers based on 60. • 60 min/ 60 sec. • Lunar calendar/ add a month every few years.
Government and Society • City-state = a town or city and the surrounding land controlled by it. (Ur, Erech, and Kish) • Rarely united under a single gov’t. • Priest very important. • City-states competed for land and water. • Rise of war leaders who became kings. • Kings, high priest, nobles lower priests, merchants, and scholars peasant farmers slaves.
Economy • Most farmed • Domesticated animals. • Division of Labor (artisans, traders, merchants)
Education • Only upper class boys attended school. • Learned to write and spell by copying religious books and songs. • Religion = • Polytheistic • Identified gods with the forces of nature, planets, and stars.
Afterlife • Buried food and tools w/ the dead. • Did not imagine the afterlife in detail. • Believed in a kind of shadowy lower world all after death. • Didn’t believe in rewards and punishments after death.
The Akkadians • Attacked and conquered Sumerians about 2330BCE (Semitic lang.) • Sargon (2334BCE – 2279BCE) most powerful Akkadian king. • Akkadians ruled for 150 years • Then, Sumerian city-states prospered again, but new invaders swept thru eastern Fertile Crescent, and centered around large new city called Babylon. (Semitic lang.)
The Babylonians • 1793B.C. strong ruler in Babylon = Hammurabi (conquered most of TandE Valley) • Military leader • Political leader • Lawmaker • Code of Hammurabi (282 Laws)
Code of Hammurabi • 282 laws • Commerce, industry, wages, hours, working conditions, property rights, etc. • “Eye for an Eye” • Punishment varied by status.
Babylonian Culture • Similar to Sumerians • Most farmed • Domesticated animals • Artisans, merchants, and traders • Women had legal and economic rights, incl. property ownership. Could be traders, merchants, or even scribes. • Polytheistic
The Hittites • Invaded TandE valley in the 1600s BCE • Kept their own cultural values • Among first to smelt iron. • Most imp. Achievement were laws and government. • Only severe crimes received death penalty. Small crimes paid fine. • Kings = chief priest, but allowed some religious freedom • Looted Babylon but couldn’t control it.
The Assyrians • Semitic speaking from northern Mesopotamia • Drove out Hittites • Adopted many elements of Sumerian Culture. • dominated by others until 1300s BCE • However, soon overrun by nomadic migrations. • Recovered and b/w 900 BCE and 650 BCE, expanded powers across the Fertile Crescent and into Egypt.
The Assyrians • Fierce warriors. • Chariots, and first to use cavalry (soldiers on horseback). • Enslaved captured people and killed enemy warriors. • Deported whole populations to other regions. • 700 BCE, captured, looted, and completely destroyed Babylon.
The Assyrians • One of first to effectively govern a large empire. • King = absolute power. • Only answered to the god Ashur. • Governors ruled conquered lands and issued reports to the king. • Capital city = Nineveh
Nineveh Fortified by double wall. (70 ft. high and 7.5 mi long)(148 feet wide w/ 15 gates) Great library. Epic of Gilgamesh = story of a Sumerian King and one of the oldest works of lit. known.
Fall of the Assyrian Empire • 635 BCE civil war broke out. • Became too weak to resist invaders. • 612 BCE group of enemies led by the Chaldeans and the Medes captured and destroyed Nineveh.
The Chaldeans Took over much of Assyria’s empire Nebuchadnezzar = led Chaldeans to conquer most of the Fertile Crescent. governed from the rebuilt city of Babylon from 605 BCE until his death in 562 BCE Babylon became powerful & wealthy again. Trade flourished, canals and buildings built. Hanging Gardens = kings beautiful terraced gardens.
The Chaldeans • Skilled astronomers • Predict solar and lunar eclipses • Advanced mathematics • Calculated length of year • After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, the weakened empire fell within 30 years.
The Persians • Conquered Babylon in 539 BCE • Spoke Indo-European language • Along w/ the Medes they moved into present-day Iran by 850 BCE, • At first Medes ruled over Persians until Cyrus the Great (Persian ruler) rebelled against the Medes. • Cyrus captured Babylon, then the rest of the Fertile Crescent and Asia Minor. • Cyrus and later rulers, incl. Darius I and his son Xerxes I expanded the Persian Empire even more. • Darius and Xerxes invaded Greece but failed. • Persian Empire = mightiest empire to date.
Persian Gov’t • Persian kings were effective rulers. • Great concern for justice. • Collected taxes and administered the law fairly. • Treated conquered people better than other invading nations. • Conquered people could keep their own religion and laws. • Secret agents (“the king’s eyes and ears”) kept the king informed.
Persian Gov’t • Built roads to connect the cities w/in the empire. • Ex. Royal Road = more than 1,250 mi long. • Led to an increase in ________________.
Persian Religion • Major contribution • At first polytheistic • 600 BCE = great prophet Zoroaster changed their religious outlook.
Zoroastrianism • Monotheistic • Good v. Evil • Earth = training for the afterlife. • Reward v. punishment. Heaven and Hell • In distant future, forces of good would triumph then the Earth will disappear. • “the universal struggle b/w good and evil and the idea of final judgment” • Thought to have influenced Judaism and later Christianity.
Persian Decline • Weak leaders after Darius and Xerxes • Empire weakened. • 331 B.C. defeated by Greek forces of Alexander the Great. • 200 years after Cyrus’ revolt.