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The Ancient Middle East. Mesopotamia Crash Course. The Fertile Crescent: Crossroads of the World. The Tigris-Euphrates Valley lies in the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent, an area that stretches in a large arc from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.

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The Ancient Middle East

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    the ancient middle east

    The Ancient Middle East

    Mesopotamia Crash Course

    the fertile crescent crossroads of the world
    The Fertile Crescent:Crossroads of the World
    • The Tigris-Euphrates Valley lies in the eastern end of the Fertile Crescent, an area that stretches in a large arc from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
    • The Fertile Crescent received its name from the rich soil of the region and its crescent shape.
    • The Fertile Crescent has often been called the "crossroads of the world" because it commands the land routes to three continents:
      • Asia
      • Africa
      • Europe
    • Unlike Egypt, the Fertile Crescent has few natural barriers.
    • The Arabian and Syrian deserts offered less protection to early civilizations than the Libyan Desert did in Egypt.
    the fertile crescent cont d
    The Fertile Crescent Cont’d
    • Because of its position, the region was frequently overrun by invaders.
    • Waves of migrating peoples came down from the mountains north and west of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley.
    • Invaders such as the Hittites swept into the Fertile Crescent from Asia Minor.
    • The diversity of the people living in the Fertile Crescent made it difficult to unite the area under a single ruler.
    • Yet the constant contact among different peoples also led to an exchange of ideas that led to major achievements.
    land between two rivers
    Land Between Two Rivers
    • The Greeks called the Tigris-Euphrates Valley "Mesopotamia," meaning "land between two rivers."
    • Like the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers dominated the lives of the people in Mesopotamia.
      • The two rivers flow from the rugged highlands of the Armenian Plateau to the Persian Gulf.
      • They run parallel for over 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers).
      • In the spring or early summer, melting snows from the mountains sometimes cause the rivers to overflow.
      • However, the floods of the Tigris and Euphrates, unlike those of the Nile, are unpredictable.
        • In some years, the rivers do not rise above their banks.
        • In others, savage floods cause enormous damage.
    a precarious existence
    A Precarious Existence
    • In ancient times, many floods swept across lower Mesopotamia.
    • About 4000 B.C, a massive flood deposited a bed of clay eight feet (2.4 meters) thick.
      • The flood destroyed farms, villages, and animals and drowned many people.
      • Only a few towns built on high ground survived.
    • In addition to floods, lower Mesopotamia suffered summer droughts and hot winds, which could turn fertile soil to dust, shrivel crops, and cause famine.
    • Despite the danger of flooding, however, the rivers supported the development of an advanced civilization.
    the development of an advanced civilization
    The Development of an Advanced Civilization
    • Trade along the rivers made Mesopotamian cities wealthy and powerful.
    • Silt left by floods made the soil fertile.
      • Good soil meant that the people living in Mesopotamia could rely on a stable food supply in most years.
      • Year after year, silt created a delta at the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
      • Likethe Nile delta, the delta in lower Mesopotamia was a maze of swamps and marshlands.
      • Todrain the swamps and channel the water to farmland, the people of Mesopotamia built an intricate network of dikes and canals.
      • Thebuilding and upkeep of such a complex irrigation system required an elaborate, well-run government.
    city state government
    City-State Government
    • By 3000 B . C , the villages of lower Mesopotamia had grown into prosperous cities.
      • Tens of thousands of people lived in the chief Sumerian cities of Ur, Erech, and Kish.
      • Each city was an independent city-state with its own government and ruler.
      • In a city-state, a large town or city and the surrounding countryside cooperate for mutual defense.
    • The government of a Sumerian city-state supervised the building and maintenance of dikes and canals in the surrounding farmlands.
      • It also constructed strong defensive walls and stored food in case of invasion.
    • When threatened by attack, farmers took refuge behind the city walls.
    city states cont d
    City States Cont’d
    • Each city-state worshipped its own god or goddess as well as other gods.
      • The people of the city-state believed they were wholly dependent on their city's god for food and protection.
      • The land and everything people produced belonged to the god.
      • In fact, farmers turned over about two thirds of each harvest to the temple.
    • Because a disaster such as a flood or invasion could strike suddenly, people in Mesopotamia believed that their survival depended on keeping their gods content.
      • Priests alone knew how to please the gods, and they spoke with the gods for the people.
      • As a result, in the early city-states priests ruled in the name of the gods.
    sumerian city states
    Sumerian City-States
    • As Sumerian city-states grew, they were constantly at war with each other.
      • For example, Ur fought with Erech for control of the lower Euphrates.
    • This frequent warfare may have increased the power of military leaders who could successfully defend their city-states.
    • Military leaders then gradually replaced priests as rulers of the Sumerian city-states.
    • The Sumerians did not worship their rulers as gods.
      • Instead, they believed their kings were the gods' representatives on earth.
      • But because they spoke directly with the gods and the people, Sumerian kings commanded absolute obedience.
    • Towering above each Sumerian city-state was the ziggurat the home or temple of the god of the city.
      • Pyramid-shaped, the ziggurat was often six to seven stories high.
      • The Sumerians believed that gods descended to earth using the ziggurat as a ladder.
    • Like the Egyptians, the Sumerians were polytheistic.
      • They worshipped other gods in addition to the god of their city-state.
      • Sumerians believed that a council of gods and goddesses ruled the earth, deciding the fate of individuals and cities.
      • Each god had a specific rank or place within this council.
    inanna and dumuzi
    Inanna and Dumuzi
    • Sumerians explained natural events as the results of actions by gods and goddesses.
      • For example, they believed that winter, the season of hunger and hardship, occurred when the god Dumuzidied and descended into the underworld.
      • Only when the goddess Inannarescued her husband Dumuzifrom the underworld did spring arrive, bringing new life.
      • Every year, to ensure the return of the growing season, priests and priestesses reenacted the story of Inannaand Dumuzi.
    angry and spiteful gods
    Angry and Spiteful Gods
    • In Egypt, the favorable climate of the Nile Valley allowed the people to enjoy life and see their gods as kindly forces.
    • By contrast, fear of natural disasters and invasions probably contributed to the Sumerians' gloomy outlook on life.
      • They believed that the gods punished them by sending floods or famine.
      • This gloomy outlook colored their belief about the afterlife.
      • At death, they expected to descend forever into a dark underworld, a huge cave filled with 38 nothing but dust and silence.
    written language
    Written Language
    • The need for accurate records led to the development of writing sometime after 3500 B.C.
    • Sumerian writing began as pictograms and ideograms.
    • Scribes gradually simplified the system, using symbols to represent sounds and syllables.
    • Sumerians used a stylus, or sharpened reed instrument, to make symbols on tablets of wet clay.
    • They then baked the tablets to harden the clay.
    • Because the symbols were made up of wedge-like shapes, the writing was later called cuneiform from the Latin word "cuneus," or wedge.
    • Traders and conquering armies helped spread cuneiform across the Fertile Crescent.
    sumerian tablet from the period of king shurrupak

     Sumerian tablet from the period of King Shurrupak 2550BC describing the gift of a house and land (one and a half "SAR" approx 54 square meters) which includes a male slave. Early Cuneiform text with text groupings (words) in boxes. This technique developed from the very early pictographic text and soon after this period was changed in favor of text written in horizontal lines.

    cuneiform tablet and envelope cuneiform documents

    Cuneiform Tablet and Envelope

      • Cuneiform documents would often be sealed in a second layer of clay onto which the inner document text was rewritten. On receipt of the document the clay outer envelope could be broken away and the inner text checked if there was any suspicion of tampering. This tablet still has its outer envelope with seals still fully intact
    • As the Sumerian city-states grew, the need for scribes increased.
      • Scribes wrote down laws, treaties, and religious texts.
      • As trade expanded, merchants hired scribes to record business deals, property holdings, and contracts.
      • To train scribes, priests set up schools in the temples.
        • Only boys, usually the sons of scribes, attended temple schools.
        • Students endured strict discipline in order to earn a privileged position as a scribe.
        • Although no schools existed for girls, priestesses and the daughters of wealthy Sumerians probably learned to read and write from private tutors.
    the sumerian legacy
    The Sumerian Legacy
    • Sumerians were the first people known to use a wheel.
      • They either invented it or borrowed the idea from earlier settlers in Mesopotamia.
      • Wheeled carts and the sail, another Sumerian invention, enabled merchants to engage in long-distance trade.
      • Sumerians also used wheels on war chariots.
      • The use of wheeled vehicles spread slowly across the ancient world.
        • You will recall that the Hyksos used war chariots when they conquered Egypt.
    • The Sumerians made many improvements in farming.
      • They built complex irrigation systems to channel water through the sunbaked plains, planted trees to serve as wind breaks, and invented a plow.
    • They also developed an accurate 12-month calendar to keep track of the seasons.
    • Like the Egyptians, the Sumerians used arithmetic and geometry to survey land and reestablish property lines after floods swept away boundary markers.
      • The Sumerian system of arithmetic was based on the number 60, which led to such present-day measurements as the 60-second minute, the 60-minute hour, and the 360° circle.
    this clay tablet exhibits a sky map above

    This clay tablet exhibits a sky map above Mesopotamia in 3300BC. It is a "planisphere" found in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh of 650BC. It consists of segments mapping sections of the sky in cuneiform text. The Sumerians of the time were very sophisticated scholars, shown in that it took modern computer analysis to discover the true date of the star chart

    sumerian architecture
    Sumerian Architecture
    • Sumerian architecture influenced the civilizations of Mesopotamia for more than a thousand years.
      • The Sumerians were the first to use arches, columns, ramps, and inclined walks.
      • Because stone was scarce, Sumerian builders used bricks made of sunbaked clay.
      • Later peoples built temples that rose in a series of terraces to heights of six or seven stories like the Sumerian ziggurat.
    • The Egyptians may have adopted the idea of pyramids from the Sumerians.
    the fall of the sumerians
    The Fall of the Sumerians
    • About 2500 B.C, invaders conquered the city-states of Sumer.
      • Sumerian civilization ceased to exist about 1750 B.C, but its traditions and achievements left a lasting mark on the newcomers.
    the first empire
    The First Empire
    • As older Sumerian city-states declined, Akkad, a city to the north, rose to power.
      • About 2350 BCE, Sargon, an Akkadian soldier, founded the first empire in recorded history.
      • With an empire reaching from southern Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean Sea, Sargon proclaimed himself "Lord of the Four Quarters of the World," a title used by many later conquerors.
      • A talented ruler, Sargon repaired and extended the flood control and irrigation systems of Mesopotamia. He also sent his armies to protect trade caravans.
    the akkadians
    The Akkadians
    • The Akkadians borrowed many things from Sumerian civilization.
      • Although the Akkadianlanguage differed from the Sumerian, the conquerors adopted cuneiform for writing.
      • Scribes translated Sumerian religious, scientific, and literary works into Akkadian.
      • As a result, the Akkadians absorbed Sumerian religious beliefs and ideas about government and society.
      • Later Akkadian rulers lacked Sargon's abilities, and civil war resumed.
        • For a brief time, Ur-Nammu, ruler of Ur, reunited the citystates.
        • About 2050 B.C, Ur-Nammucompiled the first known code of laws.
        • This code summarized Sumerian ideas of justice, emphasizing the king's duty to protect the people and to correct any existing wrongs.
    the amorites and the rise of babylon
    The Amorites and the Rise of Babylon
    • About 2000 B.C, groups of nomadic peoples invaded Mesopotamia, attacking the rich river valley cities.
    • One group, the Amorites, built the small village of Babylon on the Euphrates River.
    • Slowly, the small village rose from obscurity into a magnificent city-state boasting of a giant ziggurat dedicated to the chief Babylonian god, Marduk.
    • By 1700 B.C, the king of Babylon, Hammurabi had carved out an empire in Mesopotamia.
    the code of hammurabi
    The Code of Hammurabi
    • Hammurabi was one of the great rulers of ancient times. He was an outstanding general, an excellent administrator, and a patron of the arts.
    • In hundreds of surviving letters, he shows concern for details such as clearing blocked river channels, punishing dishonest officials, reforming the calendar, and honoring the gods.
    • However, he is best known for drawing up a uniform code of laws.
    • Hammurabi appointed a committee to revise existing laws and to create one set of laws for the whole empire.
    • His purpose, he declared, was:

    " to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil, to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak, and to further the welfare of the people."

    an eye for an eye
    “An Eye For An Eye”
    • Although the resulting system of laws relied on earlier law codes, the Code of Hammurabi was the first effort by an empire to record all its laws.
    • The code contained 282 laws arranged under headings such as trade, family, labor, real estate, and personal property.
    • The basic principle behind Hammurabi's Code was "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
      • A man who blinded another was punished by losing an eye.
      • If a house collapsed and killed the owner, the builder was put to death.
    the legacy of hammurabi s code
    The Legacy of Hammurabi’s Code
    • Despite the severity of most punishments, Hammurabi's Code was an important contribution to civilization.
      • It distinguished between major and minor offenses, and it established the state as the authority that would enforce the law.
      • It also tried to guarantee social justice.
      • The punishment was supposed to fit the crime.
    • Hammurabi had the laws carved on a stone column, which was placed for everyone to see.
    • Atop the column sat Shamash, the sun god and god of justice, handing the laws to Hammurabi.
    • The god's image reminded Babylonians that by breaking a law they not only offended the king but also the gods.
    beginning of the iron age
    Beginning of the Iron Age
    • After Hammurabi's death, rebellions and invasions weakened the Babylonian Empire.
    • In1600 BCE, it fell to invaders from the east.
    • About 1550 BCE, another group of invaders, the Hittites, moved into the Fertile Crescent from Asia Minor.
    • The empire established by the Hittites eventually reached as far as the northern Euphrates Valley.
    • Hittite rulers adopted Babylonian cuneiform and ideas about government and religion, which they carried back into Asia Minor.
    the hittites
    The Hittites
    • The Hittites owed their military success to careful strategy, skillful diplomacy, and superior weapons.
    • Expert metalworkers, they were among the first people to use iron for spears and battle axes.
      • Iron weapons gave the Hittites an advantage over enemies armed with softer bronze spears.
      • The Hittites carefully guarded the secret of ironworking.
      • Even so, the new technology spread to other peoples.
      • By 1200 B . C , iron was being used in place of bronze, ushering in the Iron Age.
    • The Hittites soon lost their military advantage. About the same time, a new onslaught of invaders swept into Asia Minor and the Fertile Crescent, destroying the Hittite Empire and the sophisticated city-state civilizations of Mesopotamia.
    the assyrians
    The Assyrians
    • Among the peoples who invaded the Fertile Crescent after 1200 BCE, the most feared and hated were the Assyrians
      • The Assyrians were hardy nomads who settled in the Tigris Valley, where they built a city statenamed after their chief god, Assur
      • Beginning about 1100 B.C, the Assyrians conquered people after people until they had an empire that included the entire Fertile Crescent as well as Egypt.
    the assyrians did not mess around
    The Assyrians did not Mess Around…
    • The mighty Assyrian Empire depended on a highly disciplined army.
    • Iron weapons, an excellent cavalry, and iron-tipped battering rams carried the Assyrians from one victory to the next.
    • Once a city was conquered, the Assyrians showed no mercy.

    "I cut off their heads and like heaps of grain, I piled them up,“ boasted one Assyrian ruler.

    " I skinned alive all the chief men. Their young men and maidens I burned in the fire," wrote another.

    • When the Assyrians captured Babylon, about 700 B.C, they tortured and beheaded prisoners, enslaved women and children, and reduced the city to rubble.
    the assyrian empire
    The Assyrian Empire
    • Assyrian government was as harsh and efficient as the Assyrian army.
    • The empire was divided into provinces, each ruled by a governor responsible to the king, who had absolute power.
    • The Assyrians built roads to speed the movement of their army from the capital to the provinces.
    • They deported groups of troublesome people to remote parts of the empire, where they could not organize rebellions.
    • Oneside effect of these forced migrations was an exchange of ideas among the conquered peoples of the Fertile Crescent.
    the world s first library
    The World’s First Library
    • With war loot and taxes collected from conquered peoples, the Assyrians built a capital at Nineveh
    • The Assyrian king Assurbanipal builta great library at Nineveh.
    • In it, he stored a vast collection of over 22,000 clay tablets written in the cuneiform of Sumer and Babylon.
    • Although the Assyrians were despised as brutal conquerors, they made a lasting contribution to civilization by organizing and preserving these invaluable records in the world's first library.
    i am assurbanipal king of the universe king

    "I am Assurbanipal, King of the Universe, King of Assyria. I seized a fierce lion of the plain by his ears. I pierced his body with my lance.“ Thus, the ruthless Assyrian leader celebrated his hunting skill The lion hunt shown here was one of a series of sculptures that decorated Assurbanipalspalace at Nineoeh.

    revival of babylon
    Revival of Babylon
    • In 612 B.C, oppressed peoples within the Assyrian Empire joined the Medes and Chaldeans to capture and destroy Nine-veh.
    • The victors divided up the Assyrian Empire.
    • The Medes occupied the highlands north of Mesopotamia, and the Chaldeans established an empire in Mesopotamia proper.
    • Duringthe reign of Nebuchadnezzarthe Chaldeans extended their empire over the Fertile Crescent.
    • Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt Babylon as a symbol of his power. Massive walls surrounded the city and the outlying farmlands, protecting the food supply during a siege.
    • Nebuchadnezzar'simmense palace, decorated with blue glazed bricks, was rivaled in splendor by the famous hanging gardens of Babylon.
      • According to legend, Nebuchadnezzar designed the gardens for his wife, who despised the flat plains of Mesopotamia and longed for the mountains of her Median homeland.
      • The many terraces filled with exotic plants and trees amazed travelers, who returned home awed by this wonder of the ancient world.
    • Like earlier peoples of Mesopotamia, the Chaldeans advanced the study of mathematics and astronomy, largely because of their interest in astrology.
    • They believed that the positions of the stars and planets and the movement of comets determined the fates of individuals and empires.
    • By charting the paths of planets, stars, and comets, Chaldean priests acquired a vast store of knowledge about eclipses and the movement of heavenly bodies.
    • They also accurately calculated the length of a year to within a few minutes.
    • Priests, who used their knowledge of the stars to predict the future, occupied a privileged position in Chaldean society.
    the death of nebuchadnezzar
    The Death of Nebuchadnezzar
    • After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean Empire, like those before it, suffered civil wars.
    • In 539 B.C., Babylon fell to invading Persians.
    • Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians left the city standing, and it remained a flourishing center of commerce and learning.
    the persians
    The Persians
    • The Persians rapidly became a powerful force in the ancient Middle East.
    • In 550 B.C, Cyrus king of Persia, led a successful revolt against the Medes.
    • Within 20 years, he had conquered the Fertile Crescent and Asia Minor.
      • His successors added Afghanistan, northern India, and Egypt to the Persian Empire
      • Cyrus was a remarkable military leader and a wise ruler.
        • He treated conquered peoples with tolerance, allowed them some self-government, and respected their religions and customs.
    government within the persian empire
    Government within the Persian Empire
    • Cyrus's son-in-law, Darius completed the task of organizing the vast Persian Empire.
      • Copying the Assyrian model, he divided the empire into 20 provinces, or satrapies.
      • Eachsatrapy was ruled by a governor, or satrap, who collected taxes and administered uniform laws.
      • As a check on the satrap, Darius sent royal inspectors, called "the Eyes and Ears of the King," into every province.
    • To ensure rapid communication, the Persians improved the Assyrian road system.
    • The main highway, the Great Royal Road, stretched from Asia Minor to Susa, one of the four capitals of the empire.
    • Relay stations with fresh horses were set up along the Great Royal Road so that royal messengers could cover 1,600 miles (2,560 kilometers) in ten days.
    the fall of t he persian empire
    The Fall of The Persian Empire
    • The efficient government and transportation system, as well as trade and the policy of toleration, helped draw the empire together.
      • Yet Persian power did not go unchallenged
      • Darius and his heirs failed to conquer Greece.
      • In 331 B.C, a weakened Persian Empire fell to the armies of Alexander the Great.
    religion w ithin the persian empire
    Religion Within the Persian Empire
    • Although the early Persians believed in many gods, by the time of Darius they had adopted a new religion named after its founder, Zoroaster
      • According to Zoroaster, who lived about 600 B.C, the world was a battleground for the forces of good and evil.
        • Every individual made a choice in his or her lifetime to join AhuraMazda, god of goodness, wisdom, and truth, or to follow Ahriman,the evil spirit.
        • Zoroaster predicted that at the end of the world Ahura Mazda would win the final battle.
        • Those who had lived moral lives would be rewarded with eternal life in paradise. Those who had followed Ahrimanwould be condemned to eternal suffering.
    zend avesta
    • The sacred book of Zoroastrians was the ZendAvesta
    • This collection of hymns and religious poems contained several ideas that influenced later peoples of the Fertile Crescent.
      • For example, Zoroastrians emphasized ethical, or moral, conduct.
      • They also believed in a final day of judgment and in the role of the individual in determining his or her salvation.
      • Later, Hebrews and Christians stressed similar concepts.
    the contributions of smaller states
    The Contributions of Smaller States
    • While the great empires of the ancient Middle East were expanding through conquest, several small, independent states were also making lasting contributions.
    • Between 1200 B.C. and 500 B.C, the Phoenicians, Lydians, and Hebrews made advances in the areas of writing, trade, and religion.
    phoenicians carriers of civilization
    Phoenicians: Carriers of Civilization
    • The Phoenicians built small city-states along the eastern Mediterranean coast, in the area of present-day Lebanon.
    • They thrived on profits from trading.
      • To cities around the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians brought timber from cedar trees and a rare purple dye made from a tiny sea snail.
        • Because Phoenician purple cloth was very expensive and was worn mostly by kings, the color purple came to be associated with royalty.
    phoenician colonies
    Phoenician Colonies
    • From the bustling port cities of Tyreand Sidon, Phoenician traders crisscrossed the Mediterranean.
    • Beginning about 1200 B.C, they founded a network of colonies from Cyprus to Gibraltar.
    • About 814 B.C, they settled Carthage in northern Africa.
      • Carthage dominated trade in the western Mediterranean until 146 B.C, when it was destroyed by the Romans.
    carriers of civilization
    Carriers of Civilization
    • The Phoenicians earned the name "carriers of civilization" for their role in spreading the culture of the ancient world.
      • Throughtrade and colonization, they introduced the achievements of Mesopotamia and Egypt to the less-advanced peoples of the western Mediterranean.
    • They also made their own contribution by improving the alphabet.
      • The Phoenician alphabet contained 22 symbols, each of which represented a single consonant.
      • Unlike cuneiform and the Egyptian system of writing, the new alphabet was fairly easy to learn
    the origins of the alphabet
    The Origins of the Alphabet
    • Phoenician merchants and colonists spread the use of their alphabet.
    • About 800 B.C, the Greeks adopted it and added symbols for vowel sounds.
    • Later, the Romans adapted the Greek alphabet, and they passed the resulting written language on to the western world.
    • The very word "alphabet" comes from "aleph" and "beth," the first two symbols of the Phoenician alphabet.
    the lydians influential traders
    The Lydians: Influential Traders
    • Like the Phoenicians, the Lydians left their mark on history through trade rather than conquest.
    • From their capital, Sardis, the Lydiansdominated trade in Asia Minor.
    • The most significant contribution of the Lydianswas the introduction of coined money as a medium of exchange in trade.
      • Earlier, people had relied on the barter system, exchanging one set of goods for another.
      • The barter system limited trade because two people could trade with one another only if each had a product the other one wanted.
        • The use of coins eliminated that problem.
      • Furthermore, coins could be stored and saved for later use, and they allowed merchants to establish a system of set prices.
      • An economic system based on money rather than barter is called a money economy.
    the spread of money
    The Spread of Money
    • Through trade with the Greeks and Persians, Lydian merchants spread the idea of using coined money.
    • Lydian coins were imprinted with the king's image as a guarantee that they were the correct weight and value.
    • Wherever coinage came into use, a more complex economic system developed.
    the hebrews
    The Hebrews
    • South of Phoenicia was Palestine, another crossroads for nomadic herders and conquering armies.
    • Among the many peoples who migrated into the Jordan River valley of Palestine after 2000 B.C. were the Hebrews.
    • Although the Hebrews ruled a small state for a relatively brief period, their religious beliefs profoundly affected later civilizations in the western world.
    early history
    Early History
    • The Hebrews believed that God was the moving force behind everything that happened to them.
    • To show God's role in history, they preserved their early history in a sacred text, known today as the Old Testament.
    • According to the Old Testament, God gave Canaan, or Palestine, to the Hebrews.
    • About 1800 B.C, drought and famine forced some Hebrews to migrate to Egypt, where the pharaohs eventually enslaved them.
    • The Old Testament book of Exodus records how a courageous man named Moses forced the pharaoh to free the Hebrews.
    • The Hebrews considered Moses one of their most important leaders and their chief law giver.
    • After leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, Moses gave them the Ten Commandments, a set of religious and moral laws.
      • TheHebrews believed that God had revealed the laws to Moses and had thereby made a covenant, or binding agreement, with them.
      • Accordingto that covenant, God would protect the Hebrews as the "Chosen People" if they obeyed the commandments.
    obedience to god s laws bound the hebrews

    Obedience to God's laws bound the Hebrews together as they wandered from Egypt, across the Sinai, into Palestine.

    • Hardened by life in the desert, they fought the Philistines and other peoples for control of the Jordan River valley.
    • About 1025 B.C, the Hebrews organized the kingdom of Israel in Palestine.
    the kingdom of israel
    The Kingdom of Israel
    • During the reigns of David and Solomon, from about 1000 to 930 B.C, the kingdom of Israel flourished.
    • Asuccessful general and skillful diplomat, David decisively defeated the Philistines and forged alliances with other peoples to make the Hebrews supreme in Palestine.
    • David's son Solomon transformed the city of Jerusalem into a magnificent capital.
    • In the center of Jerusalem, he built a massive temple that symbolized the Hebrew faith.
    king soloman
    King Soloman
    • Solomon's lavish spending required heavy taxes, which caused popular discontent.
    • After Solomon died, in 930 B.C, violent disagreements split the kingdom into two separate states:
      • Israel in the north
      • Judah in the south.
    • Powerful empires soon threatened the Hebrew kingdoms.
      • In 722 B.C, the Assyrians conquered Israel and exiled thousands of Hebrews to distant corners of their empire.
      • In 586 B.C, Nebuchadnezzar seized Judah, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and sent the Hebrews as slaves to Babylon.
    the persians later freed the hebrews from

    The Persians later freed the Hebrews from captivity.

    • Some of the Hebrews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt their temple.
    • However, Israel no longer existed as an independent state.
    • The Persians, then the Greeks, and later the Romans ruled Palestine.
    • Although they no longer had their own state, the Hebrews preserved their religious ideas and cultural traditions because of the covenant they believed they had with God.
    • Many of these ideas would influence two other religions that later rose in the Middle East—Christianity and Islam.
    an ethical world view
    An Ethical World View
    • Unlike other peoples of the ancient Middle East, the Hebrews were monotheistic.
    • Theybelieved in one all-powerful God, called Yahweh.
    • But their view of God changed over time. To the early Hebrews, God was a fierce, vengeful figure who inflicted harsh punishments if angered.
    • Later, the Hebrews came to see God as wise and forgiving.
    hebrew law
    Hebrew Law
    • The Hebrews developed an ethical world view—that is, they believed that people and their rulers should lead moral lives.
    • This view grew out of the moral and religious laws recorded in the first five books of the Old Testament, which are called the Torah.
    • Among the most important laws of the Torah are the Ten Commandments, which forbid lying, cheating, stealing, and murder.
    • Thecommandments also counsel men and women to be just, love their neighbors, and obey their parents.
    no one was above the law
    No one was Above the Law
    • According to the Hebrews, no one was above God's law, not even a king.
    • A Hebrew king was not considered a god or the earthly representative of gods as kings were in other cultures of the ancient Middle East.
    • Hebrew laws, as expressed in the Torah, have been compared to Hammurabi's Code since both law codes contained the principle of "an eye for an eye."
    • However, Hammurabi's laws, which set the death penalty for many minor offenses, were more severe.
    • Hebrew law generally held human life in greater respect, leaving the ultimate judgment and punishment to God.
    • Furthermore, while slavery was an accepted practice in the ancient world, Hebrew law demanded that slaves be treated with kindness.
    men and women
    Men and Women
    • Women had few rights under Hebrew law, but respect for women was taught in the commandment:

    "honor thy father and thy mother.“

    • In addition, the Hebrews honored certain outstanding women, such as the prophet Deborah, who, according to the Old Testament, led the Hebrews to a victory against their enemies in Palestine.
    • Prophets contributed to the Hebrews' ethical world view.
    • The Hebrews believed that the prophets were messengers God sent to reveal His will.
    • Prophets scolded the Hebrews for wickedness, laziness, and worshipping other gods.
    • The prophet Isaiah for example, called on the king and people of Judah to:

    "cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge [look after] the fatherless, plead for the widow."

    • Out of the teachings of the prophets, the Hebrews developed strong traditions that stressed respect for the individual, concern for the poor, and obedience to God's laws.
    the first ethical world view
    The First Ethical World View
    • Some Hebrew beliefs were similar to the beliefs of other peoples in the ancient Middle East.
    • Like the Zoroastrians, for example, they believed that individuals had to make a choice between good and evil.
    • However, the Hebrews were the first people to develop an ethical world view, which included the basic principles of belief in one God and concern for individuals.