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Ancient Mesopotamia. The Fertile Crescent. The word 'Mesopotamia' is in origin a Greek name (mesos `middle' and 'potamos' - 'river' so `land between the rivers'). 'Mesopotamia' translated from Old Persian Miyanrudan means "the fertile cresent". The Land Between Two Rivers.

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the fertile crescent
The Fertile Crescent
  • The word 'Mesopotamia' is in origin a Greek name (mesos `middle' and 'potamos' - 'river' so `land between the rivers'). 'Mesopotamia' translated from Old Persian Miyanrudan means "the fertile cresent".
the land between two rivers
The Land Between Two Rivers
  • Some of the best farmland of the Fertile Crescent is in a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks later called this region Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers." Many different civilizations developed in this small region. First came the Sumerians, who were replaced in turn by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

Mesopotamia does not refer to any particular civilization. Over the course of several millennia, many civilizations developed, collapsed, and were replaced in this region including the Sumerians -- Akkadians -- Babylonians and Assyrians.

the sumerians
The people who established the world's first civilization around 3500 B.C. in southern Mesopotamia were known as the Sumerians.

The Sumerians learned to control the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers by constructing levees and irrigation canals. As a result, a stable food supply existed, and the Sumerian villages evolved into self-governing city-states.

At the center of each city-state was a temple surrounded by courts and public buildings. Radiating from the all-important city center were the two-story houses of the priests and merchants, or the upper class; the one-story homes of government officials, shopkeepers, and craftspeople; and the lower class homes of farmers, unskilled workers, and fishermen. The city-state also included the fertile farming land outside the city wall.

Since there wasn't any building stone and very little timber in Sumer, the people constructed their homes, public buildings, and city walls out of sun-dried mud brick.

The Sumerians took great pride in their city-states. Many times city-states would war with each other because boundary disputes existed. Sometimes a city-state would attack a neighboring city-state just to prove its strength.

The Sumerians
the ziggurat
The Ziggurat
  • Originally the temples at the center of each city-state were built on a platform. As time passed, these platform temples evolved into temple-towers called ziggurats. The ziggurat was the first major building structure of the Sumerians. Constructed of sun-baked mud bricks, the ziggurats were usually colorfully decorated with glazed fired bricks.
  • The ziggurat housed each city-state's patron god or goddess. Only priests were permitted inside the ziggurat; as a result, they were very powerful members of Sumerian society.
  • As the Sumerian city-states' wealth increased, government officials realized that an efficient method of keeping records had to be developed. Evolved from simple pictographic writing, Sumerian cuneiform emerged as the world's first writing system. The term cuneiform means "wedge-shaped." It was made up of hundreds of word signs that were "wedge-shaped" due to the shape of the reed pen, or stylus, that was used. The Sumerians wrote on clay tablets that would either be dried in the sun or fired in kilns to make the writing permanent.
  • Gilgamesh is an ancient poem written in Mesopotamia more than four thousand years ago. The poem tells of a great flood that covers the earth many years earlier, making it similar to the story of Noah in the Old Testament of the Jewish and Christian holy books.
  • Modern science has discovered that there was a marked increase in the sea levels about 6,000 years ago as the last ice age ended. The melting ice drained to the oceans causing the sea level to rise more than ten feet in one century.
  • Hammurabi was the king of the city-state of Babylon. About 1800BC, Hammurabi conquered the nearby city-states and created the kingdom of Babylonia. He recorded a system of laws called the Code of Hammurabi. The 282 laws were engraved in stone and placed in a public location for everyone to see. Hammurabi required that people be responsible for their actions. 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 put out another person’s eye, their eye would be put out in return. Hammurabi’s Code may seem cruel today, but it was an early attempt at law.
the hanging gardens of babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the walls of Babylon (present-day Iraq) were considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They were both supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC .
  • According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar's homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations.