Mesopotamia • “Land Between Rivers” • Cradle of civilization • Misconception – One civilization… • In reality multiple different cultures and tribes vying for power in a single area. • Main groups – Akkadians, Sumerians, Babylonians,
Three Main Periods of Mesopotamian Dominance / Three Main Areas • 1. Sumeria – Southern Iraq • 2. Sargon and the Akkad Empire – North of Sumeria - • 3. City State Existence – Bablyon and Assyria ruling. • **Akkads and Assyrians are considered Semitic Language groups**
How to get from Urak to Sumer… • Early post-Neolithic civilizations focused on farming and stone tools • By 3100 BCE Sumerian artisans had melded together copper and tin to make Bronze. • Bronze Age Begins – 3100 BCE – 1200 BCE • Led to the development of Ox driven bronze plows. • Civilization centers develop at Sumer.
Sumer • A collection of city states • Two most important were Urak and Kish. • Sumer started by Etana of Kish (2800BCE). United the southern city states. • Constantly challenged by a rival dynasty in Urak – after the death of Etana, king Meskiaggasher took over from Urak. • Struggle took its toll and by 2500 BCE, Sumer in decline.
Sumerian Culture • Agricultural – outside of city states would see lots of fields at work with plows. • Cities focused on rivers – would see sailboats on rivers. • Pottery wheels and potters in trade – division of labor. • Ziggurats first developed. • Wheels on carts first developed. • Traded with Egyptians – evidence of culture there. • Numerical system based upon 60
* Irrigation • Irrigation allowed cities to thrive in this area. • Used irrigation techniques to farm when land was not fertile. • Used dams, canals and levees to bring water to the crops.
Social Class Structure • Upper, middle, and lower classes. • Upper Class: nobles, priests, warriors. • Middle Class: merchants, traders, artisans • Lower Class: Serfs and Slaves – majority of population • http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/tombs/explore/pg779_p.html Standard of Ur – War and Peace Side
Sumerian Writing • First written language • Pictograph writing • Used to write the “Epic of Gilgamesh” • Gilgamesh supposed king of Urak • Creation story and possible derivative of the biblical flood story. • Written in cuneiform
Sargon the Great • Sargon united all of Sumer and Akkad (north) via conquest and conquering. • Sargon’s birth and origins are “legendary” • Pulled out of a river as a child by priestess, rose to be cupbearer of city of Kish. • Eventually defeated Ur, but spoke Semitic language. • Great general – especially organization of army.
Sargon the Ruler • Founded Agede (Akkad) as central city in Akkadian empire. • Wanted trading empire – conquered silver in Assyria and Zagros Mts. • Created trading pacts with Indus Valley cities, the coast of Oman, the islands and shores of the Persian Gulf, the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshan, the cedars of Lebanon, the silver-rich Taurus Mountains, Cappadocia, Crete, and perhaps even Greece
Decline of Sargon • Rule for 56 years (2234-2178BCE) • Faced revolts in cities – constantly being put down. • Sons and relatives would rule for another 150 years – prominently Narem-Sin. • Akkadian empire so important because it spread Semitic language and culture in area.
Period of Discord • The Akkadian Empire will fall when invaders from the Zagros mountains destroy the military. • For appx. the next 1500 years, Mesopotamia will be in turmoil with city states attacking and conquering each other. • Two city states emerge as powers during different points – the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Old Assyrian Period (North) • Assyrians (1975 BCE – 1756 BCE) were a Semitic people who controlled northern Mesopotamia during the period before Old Babylonian control. • They were constantly in conflict with the southern areas of Babylon and Ur for control of the territory. • Eventually conquered by the Old Babylonians.
Old Babylonian Period (South) • The Babylonians created a unified central authority under Hammurabi (1728 BCE – 1686 BCE) • When he started, Babylon just a few towns – after he finished conquering he controlled all of southern Mesopotamia. (third dynasty of Ur) • Created the Code of Hammurabi – most famous written laws (although earlier laws may have come from Code of Ur-Nammu 300 years earlier) • Huge amount of records exist from this time period.
*Code of Hammurabi* • Hammurabi – King of Babylonia, 1792 BC • Established a WRITTEN Code of Laws • 285 Laws, Engraved in Stone • “An Eye For An Eye” • Main Idea: Government helps run society – HOWEVER the government firmly establishes social classes in the code. Nobles can pay to get out of more extreme versions of punishment if it if was a lower class person involved.
The Code was Harsh… DEATH!!
8th, 9th, 10th centuries…. • Honestly there are no good records from this time…
Two Periods of Dominance • Pre-Reform Dynasty – took over Babylon and most of Southern Mesopotamia • Sargonid Dynasty – Expanded the Assyrian Empire to new heights – took over Egypt and all of Northern Fertile Crescent. • Ninevah center of government control. • Made Babylon center of culture and empire. • Army was dominated by chariots and spears
Nebuchadnezzar II • After end of Assyrians, Babylonians took over control of a smaller empire. • The height of the empire came under Nebuchadnezzar II. He was a great military leader and general. • Spectacular builder – known for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon • City surrounded by moats and walls with gardens all over the city. • There was a giant Ziggurat – Etemenaki - in the center of the city which some scholars think may be related to biblical “Tower of Babel”
Nebuchadnezzar II • He is famed for his position in the Biblical record as the king who was humbled by God and driven insane. • The only true account of this is in the Bible and is suspect. • Died of illness in 562 BCE • End of Neo-Babylonian Period – Conquered by Persians (Cyrus the Great) – end of Semitic control of Mesopotamia.
Architecture • Used resources around them: houses & temples made of brick. • Thick walls for insulation and defense around the city.
Mesopotamian Religion • Polytheistic – over 2000 deities. Each one to a specific city (similar to Hinduism) • No great creation story remains, but tablets talk of how the God Marduk killed the mother goddess Tiamat and used ½ of her body to create the earth and the other ½ to create the paradise of šamûand the netherworld of irṣitu. • Gods would become more or less powerful depending on which city was in power – as that God took on a prominent role. • Believed in an afterlife – there was a “Great Below” that all people went to regardless of social class standing.
Human Creation Story • http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk/gods/story/sto_set.html Marduk – God King?
Religion in Daily Life • The temple typically required land for crops and a tribute from each citizen. • Although land was originally in clan form, eventually most land held by nobles and temple – despots develop. (Land is the Gods) • Believed in magic and witchcraft – took on part of rituals. • Gods resembled human beings so often times acted like them. • People would ask priests to sacrifice and believed that Gods controlled the environment.