MESOPOTAMIA. Ancient Sumer. Between two rivers; Tigris and Euphrates Mountains to north and east (not high enough to isolate them) Flat flood plain in south Hot, dry summers (droughts were a problem) Unpredictable spring flooding due to snow melt Few natural resources in south
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Ancient Sumer • Between two rivers; Tigris and Euphrates • Mountains to north and east (not high enough to isolate them) • Flat flood plain in south • Hot, dry summers (droughts were a problem) • Unpredictable spring flooding due to snow melt • Few natural resources in south • Few building materials • Silt deposited by regular flooding created fertile soil
How did Geography influence Mesopotamia’s history and society? • Isolation – allowed them to develop free of interference for some time • Unpredictable flooding – settlements on levees along the rivers; • Swamps & deserts – hindered unity; communication was difficult; irrigation was critical, which resulted in intermittent rivalry and “skirmishes” between settlements • Fertile soil – attracted settlers from outside; • No natural barriers, other than rivers – vulnerability to outside invasions
Continued… • A collection of city-states for much of its history; • Unified later than Egypt - a weak unity (tenuous) • Sound agricultural base resulted in surrender of a nomadic lifestyle for a sedentary lifestyle, which led to increasingly complex society with specialization of labour and to the development of the concept of a city-state and kingship • Harshness of nature led to a sense of fatalism in their religious beliefs
First Settlers • Settled around levees • Highest and safest ground on a flood plain • Silt and sediment in levees were fertile; easily drained, planted, irrigated, and cultivated • Surrounding swamps had fish and waterfowl • Reeds provided for sheep and goats as well as building materials
Sumerian Class System • The King & family • Nobility: the priests & high palace officials (they owned the most and best land • Free Clients: Scribes; Merchants; Artisans • Common people; free citizens; owned their own land • Slaves – they were not slaves as we know slaves today
The Akkadians • The Akkadians were Semites, that is, they spoke a language drawn from a family of languages called Semitic languages (the term "Semite" is a modern designation taken from the Hebrew Scriptures; Shem was a son of Noah and the nations descended from Shem are the Semites). These languages include Hebrew, Arabic, Assyrian, and Babylonian. After the final end of Sumerian power and civilization around 2000 BC, the area came under the exclusive control of Semitic peoples for centuries. • The Akkadians originated from the eastern Mediterranean seaboard, and slowly migrated eastward into the Tigris & Euphrates valley. Their names and language point to this fact.
Sargon • Managed to unite Mesopotamia • Spread Mesopotamian culture throughout the Fertile Crescent. • Sargon – means “true king”, or “legitimate ruler”. Three rulers, in succession, had killed their predeceasor, and so took the name, “Sargon”. • They referred to themselves as the “King of Sumer & Akkad”.
The Babylonians • Hammurabi united Mesopotamia into a single empire through a series of campaigns. • One lasting achievement, surviving his death was that from this time onwards, the city of Babylon would remain the capital of the southern plain. • However, he is best remembered for his code of laws.
Hammurabic Code • Tells us about life in ancient Mesopotamia • Contains 282 different laws • Distinguishes between major and minor crimes • Established some important principles: • The state has authority to enforce the law • Social justice should be guaranteed to all citizens • Punishment should fit the crime (an eye for an eye) • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eElacb3lDOs • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwoPOpdiEJs
Transition Period • Hittite invasion from Anatolia (Turkey) ended the Babylonian empire – 1595 BC • The Hurrian kingdom and the Kassite kingdom prevail for the next 100 years; one to the north and one to the south. • By the 13th century, BC, all Hurrian states had been vanquished by others.
Assyrian Empire • Began to emerge as a dominant force around 1000 BC • Empire reached its peak around 700 BC • Located on banks of Tigris River • Ashur the main city • Assyrian influence extended to • West to Mediterranean Sea • South to Egypt & Babylon • North into Syria • East towards Persia (present day Iran) • Assyria outgrew the ability of a single ruler to hold it together.
End of Assyrian Empire • Ninevah was captured and destroyed in 612 BC. • Assyrians either killed or assimilated. • 609 – 530 BC, the Chaldees rule; this is time of King Nebuchadnezzar; Jewish enslavement in Babylon; and construction of fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon. • Constantly threatened by Medes and Persians. • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCCjfR3iPts
Mesopotamia’s Legacy • Writing (cuneiform) • Agricultural tools and techniques – wheeled vehicle; seeder, plows, pick-axes; irrigation • Skilled artisans – bakers, brewers, tanners, builders • Concept of kingship and city-state (government) • Astronomy • Code of law