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An Introduction to Mesopotamia

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1 An Introduction to Mesopotamia
History of Western Civilization First Civilizations: Africa and Asia (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) An Introduction to Mesopotamia

2 Archeologists estimate that, in ordinary circumstances, the activity of gathering in temperate and tropic areas provides 75 to 80% of the total calories consumed, with hunting providing the balance. In existing hunting and gathering cultures, women usually do most of the gathering, while the men specialize in hunting.

3 Domestication can be defined as a
“…primitive form of genetic engineering in which certain plants and animals are brought under human control, their objectionable characteristics eliminated, their favorable ones enhanced and in the case of animals, can be induced to reproduce in captivity.”


5 In the Near East, many varieties of the wild cereal grasses, wheat and barley, shown below were exploited as major food sources. The act of harvesting the wild grains changed them genetically. For example, a small percentage of wild grass plants has seed that clings to the stalk even when ripe, rather than separating easily. Humans collecting wheat or barley seed would succeed in gathering a disproportionate amount of the mutant seeds-that-cling in each harvest. Thus, the seed they sowed the next year would gradually increase the amount of seeds-that-cling in the next crop. Over time, the percentage of wheat and barley seed that falls off the stalk when ripe declined--which made harvesting much easier. In this way, these crops were "domesticated" to the point where they cannot reproduce themselves without human intervention. Other qualities, such as the size and number of the kernals, also changed over time, due to human activities.

6 In contrast to hunting and gathering as a mode of life, agriculture means modifying the environment in order to exploit it more effectively. Agriculture alters both the animals and plants it domesticates. Ultimately, it changes the very landscape itself.


8 Domestication of Animals





13 Uruk: a substantial ceremonial hub by 3500 B.C.

14 Uruk


16 The State and Urban Revolution:
In the city-state (or state), kin and tribal loyalties are, by definition, subordinated and replaced by political ties…. What makes a city-state different from an agricultural town is the synergy created by its people interacting with each other on the basis of political relationships rather than traditional blood ties.

17 City-States of Ancient Sumer
How did geographic features influence the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent? What were the main features of Sumerian civilization? What advances in learning did the Sumerians make?

18 The Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent is the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The first civilization in the Fertile Crescent was discovered in Mesopotamia, which means land between the rivers The first Sumerian cities emerged in southern Mesopotamia around 3200 B.C.


20 Tigris Now

21 Tigris Now

22 Euphrates now

23 Euphrates Now

24 Euphrates Now

25 Sumerian Civilization
SOCIAL STRUCTURE GOVERNMENT RELIGION Worshiped many gods. Believed gods controlled every aspect of life. Saw afterlife as a grim place. Everybody would go into darkness and eat dust. To keep the gods happy, each city built a ziggurat, or pyramid temple. City-states with hereditary rulers. Ruler led army in war and enforced laws. Complex government with scribes to collect taxes and keep records. Each state had distinct social hierarchy, or system of ranks. Most people were peasant farmers. Women had legal rights; some engaged in trade and owned property.

26 Ziggurats

27 Ziggurats

28 Sumerian Advances in Learning
Developed cuneiform, believed to be the earliest form of writing. Developed basic algebra and geometry. Made accurate calendars, essential to a farming society. Made the first wheeled vehicles.

29 Invaders, Traders, and Empire Builders
A series of strong rulers united the lands of the Fertile Crescent into well organized empires. Again and again, nomadic warriors invaded the rich cities of the Fertile Crescent. Some looted and burned the cities. Others stayed to rule them. 2300 B.C. –Sargon, the ruler of Akkad, conquered Sumer and built the first known empire. 1790 B.C.–Hammurabi, King of Babylon, united the Babylonian empire.

30 Tiglath-Pileser I King of Assyria during
Middle Assyrian period (1114 – 1076 BCE). Cultivated fear Ascended the throne at the time when a people known as the Mushki or Mushku (Meshech of the Old Testament), probably Phrygians, were thrusting into Asia Minor (now Turkey). Their invasion constituted a serious threat to Middle Eastern civilization because Asia Minor was the principal source of iron, which was then coming into general use. Tiglath-pileser defeated 20,000 Mushki in the Assyrian province of Kummukh (Commagene). He also defeated the Nairi, who lived west of Lake Van, extending Assyrian control farther into Asia Minor than any of his predecessors had done.

31 Tiglath-Pileser I First campaign: occupied Assyrian districts-Upper Euphrates 2nd campaign: Assyrian forces penetrated into the mountains south of Lake Van and then turned westward to receive the submission of Malatia. 5th year: Tiglath-Pileser attacked Comanan Cappadoci placed record of victories engraved on copper plates in fortress built to secure his Cilician conquests. Next: Aramaeans of northern Syria. Made way as far as the sources of the Tigris.

32 Tiglath-Pileser I The control of the high road to the Mediterranean was secured by the possession of the Hittite town of Pethor at the junction between the Euphrates and Sajur. Then proceeded to Gubal (Byblos), Sidon, and finally to Arvad where he embarked onto a ship to sail the Mediterranean, on which he killed a nahiru or "sea-horse" (which translates as a narwhal) in the sea. Passion for the “chase.” Great builder: Initiated restoration of temple of gods Ashur & Assyrian capital of Assur.

33 Tiglath-Pileser I He subdued various seminomadic Aramaean tribes living along the routes to the Mediterranean and reached the Syrian coast, where the Phoenician trading cities paid him tribute. Egypt, closely linked by trade with the Syrian coast, made overtures of friendship. After 1100 Tiglath-pileser conquered northern Babylonia. The latter part of his reign a period of retrenchment, as Aramaean tribesmen put pressure on his realm. Died in 1076 BC Succeeded by son Asharid-apal-Ekur. Later kings Ashur-bel-kala and Shamshi-Adad IV were also his sons.

34 The Code of Hammurabi Hammurabi’s code was the first attempt by a ruler to codify, or arrange and set down in writing, all of the laws that would govern a state. One section codified criminal law, the branch of law that deals with offenses against others, such as robbery and murder. Another section codified civil law, the branch that deals with private rights and matters, such as business contracts, taxes, and property inheritance.

35 Warfare and the Spread of Ideas
Conquerors brought ideas and technologies to the conquered region. For example, when the Hittites conquered Mesopotamia, they brought the skill of ironworking to that region. When the conquerors were in turn conquered, they moved elsewhere, spreading their ideas and technologies. For example, when the Hittite empire was itself conquered, Hittite ironworkers migrated to other regions and spread the secret of iron making across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

36 The Beginnings of Writing
Farmers needed to keep records. The Sumerians were very good farmers. They raised animals such as goats and cows (called livestock). Because they needed to keep records of their livestock, food, and other things, officials began using tokens.

37 The Beginnings of Writing
Tokens were used for trade. Clay tokens came in different shapes and sizes Represented different objects For example, a cone shape could have represented a bag of wheat Tokens were placed inside clay balls that were sealed *If you were sending five goats to someone, then you would put five tokens in the clay ball *When the goat arrived, the person would open the clay ball and count the tokens to make sure the correct number of goats had arrived The number of tokens began to be pressed on the outside of the clay balls Many experts believe that this is how writing on clay tablets began.

38 The Beginnings of Writing
A system of writing develops. The earliest form of writing dates back to 3300 B.C. People back then would draw "word-pictures" on clay tablets using a pointed instrument called a stylus. These "word-pictures" then developed into wedge-shaped signs. This type of script was called cuneiform (from the Latin word cuneus which means wedge).

39 The Beginnings of Writing
Who used cuneiform? *Not everyone learned to read and write. *The ones that were picked by the gods were called scribes. *Boys chosen to become scribes (professional writers) began study at age of 8. They finished when they were 20 years old. *Scribes wrote on clay tablets and used a triangular shaped reed called a stylus to make marks in the clay. *Marks represented the tens of thousands of words in their language.

Tokens are small geometric clay objects (cylinders, cones, spheres, etc.) found all over the Near East from about 8000 B.C. until the development of writing. The earliest tokens were simple shapes and were comparatively unadorned; they stood for basic agricultural commodities such as grain and sheep.

A specific shape of token always represented a specific quantity of a particular item. For example, "the cone ... stood for a small measure of grain, the sphere represented a large measure of grain, the ovoid stood for a jar of oil." (Before Writing 161). Two jars of oil would be represented by two ovoids, three jars by three ovoids, and so on. Thus, the tokens presented an abstraction of the things being counted, but also a system of great specificity and precision.


43 With the development of cities came a more complex economy and more complex social structures.
This cultural evolution is reflected in the tokens, which begin to appear in a much greater diversity of shapes and are given more complicated designs of incisions and holes.

The Sumerian writing system during the early periods was constantly in flux. The original direction of writing was from top to bottom, but for reasons unknown, it changed to left-to-right very early on (perhaps around 3000 BCE). This also affected the orientation of the signs by rotating all of them 90° counterclockwise. Another change in this early system involved the "style" of the signs. The early signs were more "linear" in that the strokes making up the signs were lines and curves. But starting after 3000 BC, these strokes started to evolve into wedges, thus changing the visual style of the signs from linear to "cuneiform".



47 Cuneiform

48 Cuneiform

49 Cuneiform

50 CODE OF HAMMURABI Collection of the laws and edicts of the Babylonian King Hammurabi, and the earliest legal code known in its entirety. A copy of the code, engraved on a block of black diorite nearly 2.4 m (8 ft) high, was unearthed by a team of French archaeologists at Susa, Iraq, formerly ancient Elam, during the winter of 1901–2. The block, broken in three pieces, has been restored and is now in the Louvre in Paris.

51 Composition of the Code
CODE OF HAMMURABI Composition of the Code The divine origin of the written law is emphasized by a bas-relief in which the king is depicted receiving the code from the sun god, Shamash. The quality most usually associated with this god is justice. The code is set down in horizontal columns of cuneiform writing: 16 columns of text on the obverse side and 28 on the reverse. The text begins with a prologue that explains the extensive restoration of the temples and religious cults of Babylonia and Assyria.

52 Composition of the Code
CODE OF HAMMURABI Composition of the Code The code itself, composed of 28 paragraphs, seems to be a series of amendments to the common law of Babylonia, rather than a strict legal code. It begins with direction for legal procedure and the statement of penalties for unjust accusations, false testimony, and injustice done by judges; then follow laws concerning property rights, loans, deposits, debts, domestic property, and family rights.

53 Composition of the Code
CODE OF HAMMURABI Composition of the Code The sections covering personal injury indicate that penalties were imposed for injuries sustained through unsuccessful operations by physicians and for damages caused by neglect in various trades. Rates are fixed in the code for various forms of service in most branches of trade and commerce.

54 CODE OF HAMMURABI A Humane Civil Law The Code of Hammurabi contains no laws having to do with religion. The basis of criminal law is that of equal retaliation, comparable to the Semitic law of “an eye for an eye.” The law offers protection to all classes of Babylonian society; it seeks to protect the weak and the poor, including women, children, and slaves, against injustice at the hands of the rich and powerful.

55 CODE OF HAMMURABI A Humane Civil Law The code is particularly humane for the time in which it was promulgated; it attests to the law and justice of Hammurabi's rule. It ends with an epilogue glorifying the mighty works of peace executed by Hammurabi and explicitly states that he had been called by the gods “to cause justice to prevail in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil.”

56 CODE OF HAMMURABI A Humane Civil Law He describes the laws in his compilation as enabling “the land to enjoy stable government and good rule…” …And, he states that he had inscribed his words on a pillar in order “that the strong may not oppress the weak, that justice may be dealt the orphan and the widow.”

57 CODE OF HAMMURABI A Humane Civil Law Hammurabi counsels the downtrodden in these ringing words: “Let any oppressed man who has a cause come into the presence of my statue as king of justice, and have the inscription on my stele read out, and hear my precious words, that my stele may make the case clear to him; may he understand his cause, and may his heart be set at ease!”

58 Drew up single code of laws for empire.
The Persian Empire Cyrus the Great and his successors conquered the largest empire yet seen, from Asia Minor to India. Emperor Darius unified the Persian empire. Drew up single code of laws for empire. Had hundreds of miles of roads built or repaired to aid communication and encourage unity. Introduced a uniform system of coinage and encouraged a money economy. Before it was a Barter economy-exchanging one set of goods or services for another.

59 The Phoenicians Occupied string of cities along the eastern Mediterranean coast. Made glass from sand and purple dye from a tiny sea snail. Called “carriers of civilization” because they spread Middle Eastern civilization around the Mediterranean. Most important contribution: Invented the alphabet. An alphabet contains letters that represent spoken sounds.

60 The Phoenicians

61 Based on PowerPoint & Online Readings
UNIT EXAM Based on PowerPoint & Online Readings <1> Readings Gilgamesh Tiglathpiliser I <2> PPT Agricultural Fertile Crescent Sumerians Development Of Writing Hammurabi Code Persians Phoenicians <3> Map Segments

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