Mesopotamian Invention Questions • What was the water source for the irrigation system? Why did farmers need to control the water supply? • What did scribes use to draw the cuneiform language? Why? • What might have happened to those who refused to fight in the army? How important, then, was the army to the civilization? Why? • How did the plow make farming more efficient? • What was the first known use of the wheel? How did it eventually make daily life easier? • What contribution did the sailboat make to the Sumerian civilization? How did it help make them more successful?
The Fertile Crescent Civilization developed slowly in different parts of the world. People began to settle in areas with abundant natural resources. A section of the Middle East is called the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent is a rich food-growing area in a part of the world where most of the land is too dry for farming. The Fertile Crescent is a boomerang shaped region that extends from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Some of the best farmland of the Fertile Crescent is on a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks called this area Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers." The Tigris and the Euphrates are considered to be natural boundaries. This is because the boundaries were formed by nature instead of being drawn by people. Many different civilizations flourished in this small region.
The Fertile Crescent Questions • Why do you think people choose to settle in areas with abundant natural resources? • Why do we call the land Mesopotamia? • Why is it important for people to live near water? • How do the Tigris and Euphrates act as natural boundaries?
Mesopotamian Religion (Enlil – god of air)
Mesopotamian Religion (Ziggurat)
Mesopotamian Religion Mesopotamian mythology was a series of repeated stories that explained the unexplainable and was the backbone of the religion. The religion of Mesopotamia is the oldest religion of which we have RECORDS. We know that all the ancient Sumerians asked questions that have always troubled mankind....WHO ARE WE?...WHERE ARE WE?...HOW DID WE GET HERE? The Sumerian word for universe is an-ki. This denotes the god AN and the goddess KI. Their offspring was ENLIL-the air god. He is considered the most powerful god in Sumerian mythology. Mesopotamians were polytheistic. In other words they believed in many gods. The Sumerians were clearly in touch with the spirit world. In matters of physical health, they relied on spiritual remedies and turned to exorcists to get rid of the demons that were possessing them. The gods are a window into the value system of the Mesopotamians--they valued fertility, sought protection in war, respected wisdom, and they clearly had a reverence for the earth. According to Mesopotamian mythology, human beings were created so the gods would have servants. In essence---you wanted to treat the gods and goddesses right because they provided you with everything. Ziggurats were temples. The ancient Sumerians believed that powerful gods lived in the sky. They built huge structures, called ziggurats, with steps climbing up to the top. From the top of the Ziggurat, you could see the protective wall built about the entire town, and over the wall to the farmlands beyond. Formal religious ceremonies were held at the very top.
Mesopotamian Religion Questions • Look at the illustration of the temple. Notice the number of stairs. What does the size of the temple tell you about the value the Sumerians placed on their gods? • Why would ziggurats have been located in the center of the town? • From the reading passage, for what did the Sumerians look to their gods? • What were some of the values the gods demonstrated? • How could humans demonstrate that they were serving the gods?
The Epic of Gilgamesh The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest pieces of literature, is made up of ancient folklore, tales, and myths. It was written in Mesopotamia about a strong and powerful king named Gilgamesh, who was believed to be part god, part man. The story describes his desire, to live forever. Gilgamesh goes on a long journey to find the secret to immortality but in the end, he realizes that he must die like other humans. Read the following excerpt: “When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash the glorious sun endowed him with beauty, Adad the god of the storm endowed him with courage, the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.” Source: The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by N.K. Sandars
The Epic of Gilgamesh Questions • Looking at the passage from the Epic of Gilgamesh, name at least two gifts the gods gave Gilgamesh. • What do the gifts the gods gave him tell you about what the Mesopotamians valued? • Despite these gifts, what does Gilgamesh learn about himself at the end of the story? • Why do you think the gods make Gilgamesh part human? • Why would this story have been written? What questions would it answer for humans?
Hammurabi Hammurabi was the 6th King of Babylon. He reigned from about 1792-1750 B.C. Considered one of the most important rulers of this dynasty, Hammurabi was responsible for many things. Hammurabi expanded the Babylonian Empire by successfully winning numerous wars and defending his borders. He constructed temples, canals, and irrigation channels in Babylon through public works projects. He encouraged tax collection and pursued methods of navigation. Most famously, he created a set of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi. The laws governed all aspects of Babylonian life, from how judges rule and how property was owned, to how women, orphans and slaves should be treated. Hammurabi believed that his duty was “to cause justice to prevail in the land to destroy the wicked and evil.” Laws were needed so that “the strong may not oppress the weak.”
Hammurabi Questions • Why might Hammurabi be considered one of the most important rulers of the Babylonian dynasty? • What are some of the projects Hammurabi initiated during his reign? • What would be some advantages and disadvantages of Hammurabi creating a larger and larger empire? • Why do you think Hammurabi felt it was important to establish a Code of Laws that covered all aspects of daily life?
Hammurabi’s Code Hammurabi was a Mesopotamian king who recorded a system of laws called the Code of Hammurabi. His 282 laws were engraved in stone and placed in a public location for everyone to see. Some of Hammurabi's laws were based on the principle "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." This means that whoever commits an injury should be punished in the same manner as that injury. If someone puts out another person's eye, their eye would be put out in return. Hammurabi's code included what we today call both criminal and civil law. Criminal law is composed of rules that define conduct. One law said, "if a son strikes his father, his hands shall be hewn off." Civil law settles disputes among individuals. Hammurabi's Code states, "if a man builds a house badly, and it falls and kills the owner, the builder is to be killed. If the owner's son was killed, then the builder's son is to be killed." One exception existed to the principle of "an eye for an eye." It demonstrated that Hammurabi believed the gods had power over people and events. An accused person was allowed to jump into the Euphrates River. "If he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser." We can surmise from this law that not many people at that time were able to swim. Hammurabi's Code helps us understand what life was like in ancient Babylon. Equal punishment existed only when the two sides were of equal rank. The punishment would be less if the injured person was a woman or a slave. Hammurabi Code is the earliest form of law that we are able to read and study because, in 1901, a French expedition to Mesopotamia uncovered a copy of the Babylonian king's laws. The stone pillar where Hammurabi had his laws engraved is on display at the Louvre, a museum in Paris, France.
Hammurabi’s Code Questions • What does “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” mean? • What is the difference between civil law and criminal law? • How would people have been punished for stealing in Hammurabi’s time? • Why would Hammurabi want his people to know that the gods had power? • Why was the purpose of engraving the Law Code in stone? Why was it also placed in a public location?