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Religion Mesopotamia – Egypt – Indus Valley Shang – Olmec - Chavin.

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Presentation on theme: "Religion Mesopotamia – Egypt – Indus Valley Shang – Olmec - Chavin."— Presentation transcript:

1 Religion Mesopotamia – Egypt – Indus Valley Shang – Olmec - Chavin

2 Common Themes Reflect relationship with environment – Tigris & Euphrates were chaotic  Mesopotamians feared gods – Nile flooded regularly & gave life to Egypt  Egyptians saw benevolent gods Dictate all aspects of society Combined religion and state – Example: Pharaoh is political and religious leader of Egypt (divine kingship) – Laws incorporate religious beliefs – Elites used religion to bolster power Religion displayed in artwork

3 Mesopotamia Polytheistic Believed humans were created as co-laborers with their gods to hold of forces of chaos & keep community running smoothly – Tigris & Euphrates Rivers flooded irregularly  believed universe was chaotic  fearful of their gods – Also required sacrifices from bread and beer to ducks! Each city had a patron god or goddess with its own temple Gods had human characteristics & were social with each other Divination important (symbols in nature) Believed in afterlife

4 Egypt Peaceful relationship with their gods – Nile flooded regularly, fertilizing soil & giving life to Egyptians = universe is predictable & benevolent – But, must keep disorder at bay by pleasing gods (maat - order) Pharaohs believed to be gods on Earth Afterlife heavily influenced daily life Most important gods – Ra/Re - Sun God – Isis – Health, Marriage, & Love – God of the Dead – Osiris Not much is known about religious practices of common people Gods neither all-knowing or all-powerful – Almost a requirement of polytheism – Associated with one or more species of animal

5 Indus Valley Little known about religious or social institutions Some evidence linking to later Indian cultures – System of hereditary occupational groups – Priests predominant in social hierarchy – Bathing tanks like those in later Hindu temples – Depictions of gods and sacred animals on seal stones – Cult of mother-goddess – Familiar with yoga & meditation

6 Shang China Much evidence reconstructed from oracle bones Supreme god Di resides in sky & unleashes power of storms – Distant – Unconcerned with fate of humans – Cannot be approached directly Belief in afterlife – Dead spirits survive in same supernatural sphere as Di and other gods of nature – Elaborate burial tombs of royal family – Often tombs included other people  those related to king or lord by blood or service expected to continue relationship in afterlife Ancestral spirits mirror social hierarchy on earth – Can intervene in human affairs – Ancestor worship vital Ruler has direct access to more recent ancestors, who can intercede with Di – Ruler is crucial link between heaven and earth Zhou China BCE  Mandate of Heaven – Prerogative of Heaven, the chief deity, to grant power to the ruler of China and to take away that power if the ruler failed to be just

7 Mesoamerica No direct account of Olmec religious beliefs, so archaeologists rely on: – Typological of iconography & art – Comparison to later, better documented cultures of Mesoamerica – Comparison to modern-day Native American cultures Religious activities performed by rulers, full-time priests, and shamans – Deities gave legitimacy to rulers Jaguar-god prominent – Polytheistic Urban centers featured ritual displays that reinforced authority of elites – Draw people in from countryside – Awed by displays of power Shamans directed planning of ceremonial centers aligned with the stars

8 Aegean Civilizations Mycenaean iconography similar to that of Minoan Crete – Mother Goddess – Previously believed to be identical – Burial rituals important BUT, Mycenaean art does not include illustrations of male gods – Deciphering of texts reveals differences in Mycenaean religion – 12-God Pantheon – Cult of other deities – Mycenaeans likely adopted from the Minoan cult only elements that did not oppose their own religious traditions

9 Primary Sources DIRECTIONS: While working with these primary sources, look for ways religion and the state intermingled in ancient civilizations as well as common themes across space. 10 Commandments / Decalogue – Set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship – Fundamental to Judaism (And later Christianity) – Appear in Hebrew Bible in books of Exodus and Deuteronomy – Include instructions to worship God and prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, dishonesty, and adultery Hammurabi’s Code – Well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating to 1772BCE – 282 Laws with scaled punishments “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” Punishment dependent on social class of victim & perpetrator – Nearly half of the laws deal with matters of contract (wages, transactions, etc.) – A third addresses issues of household & family (inheritance, divorce, paternity, sexual behavior) – Some provisions address military service One nearly complete example survives on a diorite stele, written in Akkadian, on display in the Louvre


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