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Sumerians to Persians. Sections 2.3-2.4. Fertile Crescent. Crossroads – few natural barriers Tigris and Euphrates Rivers Flow from Turkey to Persian Gulf “Mesopotamia” Land between the rivers in Greek. Flooding. Also important here Some floods wash away topsoil and destroy villages

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Sumerians to persians

Sumerians to Persians

Sections 2.3-2.4

Fertile crescent
Fertile Crescent

  • Crossroads –few natural barriers

  • Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

  • Flow from Turkey to Persian Gulf

  • “Mesopotamia”

    • Land between

      the rivers in Greek


  • Also important here

  • Some floods wash away topsoil and destroy villages

  • “Epic of Gilgamesh” tells story of catastrophic flood that destroyed Fertile Crescent

  • Evidence indicates that it did happen 4900 years ago


  • Hadto be controlled year-round

  • Leadership needed

  • Cooperation between cities

First cities

  • 3200 BC

  • Sumerian- around southern part of Mesopotamia

  • Few natural resources

  • No timber, stone

  • Built with mud and water

  • Trade brought riches

  • First wheeled vehicles

Sumerian government

  • Ruler controlled walls and irrigation

  • Scribes did tax collection, keeping records

  • Hierarchy: system of ranks


  • Myth- mother goddess reflected honored role of mothers

  • Larger cities- gods replaced goddesses

  • Wives of rulers had special powers and duties

  • Had legal rights

  • Could own property and trade


  • Polytheistic

  • Gods controlled nature and life

  • Behaved like ordinary people

    • ate, drank, married and raised families

  • People worked to keep gods happy

  • Built “Ziggurat”- tall pyramid-temple in each city

    • Shrine at top for each city’s god or goddess

    • Prayer and sacrifice


  • Saw underworld as grim place

  • “Epic of Gilgamesh” – “the place where they live on dust, their food is mud, and they see no light, living in blackness on the door and door-bolt, deeply settled dust”

  • Contrasts with Egyptian Happy Field of Food

  • Floods were more destructive than Nile…developed pessimistic view of the world


  • 3200 BC- invented writing

  • Cuneiform- reed pen used to make wedge shaped marks on clay tablets

  • Used to record goods at storehouses

  • Evolved to more use

  • Sumerian scribes went through years of schooling

    • punishment for sloppy copying or talking was to be beaten with a cane


  • Scholars made advancements in mathematics

    • basic algebra and geometry

    • based on 6

    • hour into 60 minutes

    • circle into 360 degrees

    • accurate calendars


  • Armies swept over Sumerian states

  • Cultural Diffusion

  • Astronomers developed ways to predict eclipses of sun and moon

  • Knowledge passed to Greeks and Romans

  • Powerful impact on Western world


  • Invasion

  • Some looted and burned

  • Some stayed and ruled

  • 2300 BC- Sargon invaded and conquered Sumer

  • Built first empire in history

  • When he died, Sumerians took control back

  • New invaders conquered region again


  • 1790 BC

  • Hammurabi- King of Babylon

  • Took over Mesopotamia

  • United Babylonian empire

  • Improved irrigation, organized army, had temples repaired

Set of laws code of hammurabi
Set of Laws: CodeofHammurabi

  • not the author

    • most had been established in Sumer

    • Hammurabi wanted everyone to know them, so he had them carved in stone pillar

    • over 300 laws

    • goal was to “cause justice to prevail in land and destroy wicked and evil, that the strong may not oppress the weak”

    • Codify: arrange and set down laws that would govern a state

Crime and punishment

  • Criminal law: deals with offenses against others such as robbery, assault, murder

  • Set specific punishments for crimes

  • In the past, families would take law into own hands

  • Hammurabi limited personal vengeance and encouraged social order

  • Punishments seem cruel by today’s standard

  • “Eye for an eye, life for a life”

  • Ex- if a house collapsed because of poor construction, builder of house put to death

Civil law

  • Civil law: Branch that deals with private rights and matters

  • Business contracts, property inheritance, taxes, marriage, divorce

  • Designed to protect powerless (slaves, women)

  • “if a woman so hated her husband that she has declared, “you may not have me”, her record shall be investigated at her city council and if she was not at fault, that woman without incurring any blame at all, may take her dowry and go off to her father’s house”

    • Code of Hammurabi

  • If she was not found blameless, then she would be thrown in the river.

Iron working

  • Hittites into Mesopotamia 1400 BC

  • Learned to extract iron from iron ore

  • Tools were harder, sharper edges than bronze and copper

  • Kept a secret

  • Collapse of Hittites…technology left with metalworkers to different villages/cities

  • Ushered in Iron Age


  • Upper Tigris

  • 1100 BC- learned to make Iron weapons

  • For next 500 years…most feared warriors in history

  • Captured Babylon

  • “The city and its houses, from top to bottom, I destroyed and burned with fire”

  • Very violent

  • Well ordered society

  • Women confined to secluded quarters and had to be veiled

  • Nineveh- one of first libraries in history


  • 612 BC

  • crushed Assyrians

  • King Nebuchadnezzar stretched empire from Persian to Mediterranean

  • Rebuilt palaces of Babylon

  • Learning expanded

  • Astrology

Persian empire

  • 539 BC- Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon

  • From Asia Minor to India

  • Tolerance: acceptance of people they conquered

    • respected diversity


  • Darius unified entire empire

  • Ruled 522-486 BC

  • Divided government in provinces

    • each headed by satrap (governor)

  • Each satrapy had to pay taxes based on resources and wealth

  • Officials called “Eyes and Ears of King”

    • visited each province to check on satrap

  • Adapted laws from people he conquered

  • Hundreds of miles of roads-communication easier

  • Moved from one capital to another

  • Was seen by people


  • Set weights and measures

  • Encouraged use of coins

  • Barter economy- exchanging goods or services for another

  • Money economy- goods and services paid for through exchange of token (coin or bill)

  • Economic link for whole empire

New religion

  • Zoroaster- 600 BC

  • Rejected Persian gods

  • Single wise god- Ahura Mazda

  • Battles against Ahriman- prince of lies and evil

  • Book- Zend-Avesta

  • Judgment day- paradise or eternal suffering

  • Similar to Christianity, and Islam that develop later


  • Sea traders

  • Manufacturing and trade

  • Glass from costal sand

  • From sea snail- made purple dye

  • Alphabet- letters represent spoken sounds

    • 22 letters

    • later adapted by Greeks