The Ancient and Classical Periods

The Ancient
Classical Periods
 Ancient Period, c. 4500 – 1500 BCE
 Alternate name is Bronze Age
 Bronze Age replaces stone, wood, bone tools
 An age of many inventions, innovations
 Begins from the rise of the first cities
 Begins with the rise of writing, formal institutions
 States were small, the focus was on the local
 Minimal interactions – trade, war, migrations
 Classical Period, c. 1500 BCE – 500 CE
 Begins with the use of iron: called the Iron Age
 Age saw the rise of the world’s core cultures
 Interactions, exchanges increased significantly
 Rise of cosmopolitan cultures across large regions
 Dominated by large, multi-national empires
 Society was increasingly hierarchical, patriarchal
 Elites were usually warrior aristocracies
 Civilization spread, diffused to a wider region
 Stage 1
 Nomads overrun sedentary area
 Nomads intermarry with locals
 Stage 2
 Nomadic group becomes sedentary
 Nomadic culture blends with sedentary culture
 New culture rises to greater heights
 Stage 3
 Culture begins to age, weakens
 Government less effective, corruption, high taxes
 Stage 4
 Culture overrun by new nomadic group
 The Continuity of Civilizations
 Despite new invasions, common Cuneiform civilization preserved
 Despite changes in Dynasties, Egyptian culture continued
 Sumerian City-states
 Ruled city and immediate surrounding countryside
 Small, independent but not totally autonomous
 Local differences but much similarity
 Run originally by priests, then warrior-kings
 Aristocratic nobles assisted kings
 Akkadian Empire
 Conquest state – state rose through conquest
 Tribute state
 Akkad demanded tribute
 Akkad permitted local autonomy if no revolts
 Cuneiform culture of Sumer but Semitic
 Ever larger conquest empires arose
 Egypt
 Three periods called Kingdoms
 First two periods, Old and Middle are ancient
 New Kingdom is an empire ruling into SW Asia
 Pharaoh became increasingly “human”
 Priests had enormous power in government
 Babylonian and Assyrian Empires
 Conquest, tribute empires
 Old Babylonian Empire: Hammurabi’s Code
 Assyrian Empire used terror, regular army
 Hittites
 Indo-European Chariot people
 Settled in Anatolia around 1800 BCE
 Adopted Sumerian cuneiform culture
 Borrowed Mesopotamian gods
 Codified their laws and history
 The Hittite Empire
 Arose around 1400 BCE
 Conquered Anatolia, Upper Mesopotamia, Syria
 Disintegrated around 1180 BCE
 Numerous Neo-Hittite States
 Some Key Differences
 Introduced horses, chariots into region
 Introduced ability to work, use iron tools, weapons
 Their arrival begins Iron or Classical Age
 Queens and women had many rights in Hittite society
 Signed first historical peace treaty with Egypt after stalemated war
 Ruling Classes
 Aristocracy
 Royalty
 Nobility
 Priestly and Military
 Groups came out of aristocracy
 Some talented commoners
 Other Classes
 “Free” classes
 Merchants
 Artisans
 Intellectuals
 Peasants
 Slaves
 Patriarchal
 Males dominate society
 Greatest influence of male is in public arena
 Patrilocal
 After marriage, wife lives with husband’s family
 Wife “abandons” old family for husband’s family
 Polygamous
 Men could have more than one wife
 Polygamy was an elite condition
 Poor usually had one wife
 Male Roles
Governmental and military
Most religious roles
Intellectual roles
Farmers and craftsmen
 Female Roles: Public vs. Private
 Women had no public role but predominates in raising family
 Women tended however to dominate in cloth, textile making
 Religious
 Polytheism
Previous animism replaced by written teachings about religion
Development of priests, formal structures, architecture
Anthropomorphism of nature
Priests hold great power, own land, temples
 Divine Right vs. Theocracy
 Intellectual
 Cuneiform and Hieroglyphics
Early writing was extremely complex
Scribes or an elite class
They alone can write
Important to rulers, priests, merchants
 Literatures: Gilgamesh, Book of the Dead
 Arts and Architecture
 Public Architecture, public art
 Both symbolized power, influence of rulers
 Also symbolized influence of a god or a state
 Art Conventions very rigid
 Man is a tool maker and user
 The ability to make and use tools
 Man innovates to meet needs, deficiencies
 Sumer is major source of first inventions
 60 of the world’s first inventions
 From writing to wheels to numbers to sails
 Metallurgy
 Sumer arose during Ancient or Bronze Age
 Classical Age begins with the Iron Age
 Mathematics and Sciences
 Man alters his environment
 More pronounced in Mesopotamia
 Environment is unpredictable, harsher
 Irrigation, dikes, dams, sluices
 Agriculture alters environment
 All societies were overwhelmingly agrarian
 Heavy agriculture increases human population
 Some crops really deplete soil
 Cities are artificial and alter environment
 Extreme concentration of humans in small space
 Wastes, diseases concentrated
 Movement
 Human migration: pastoralists, mass migration
 Semites: Arabs, Jews, Hyksos, Phoenicians
 Hamites: Kush, Axumites
 Nilo-Saharans
 Indo-Europeans: Hittites, Cimmerians
 Indo-Iranians: Hurrians, Medes/Persians
 Culture, social blending
 Disruptions
 War
 Interaction increases as resources scarce
 As technology improves, so does war
 Diplomacy arises as conflicts increase
 Exchanges such as Trade, Diseases
 Goods and skills exchanged
 Ideas, diseases exchanged
 Diplomacy
 1st Treaty in history between Egypt, Hittites
 Hebrews
 Origins
 Semitic pastoralists on fringes of Fertile Crescent
 Abraham is the patriarch or founding father
 Ethical Monotheism
A Person’s actions dictate a person’s eternal reward
God made a contract (covenant) with the Jews
If the Jews would follow the code of conduct, they were saved
There is only one God – have no false gods before Me
 Phoenicians
 Semitic coastal dwellers along Lebanese mountains
 Land could not support people through agriculture
 Phoenicians become merchants, artisans: Cloth, Dye, Metallurgy
 Created an Alphabet: Aleph and Beth to improve communication
 Established trading colonies across Mediterranean
 Kush-Meroe
 Origins
Afro-Asiatic peoples on Upper Nile
Conquered by Egypt
Late migration of Nilo-Saharans into area
Later migration overwhelmed people
 A Kingdom
After Old Kingdom, became independent
Had an Egyptian culture with local variations
Developed an iron based, gold rich trading, military state
Conquered Egypt but driven out by Assyrians
Continued to exist, trade with Persians, Greeks, Romans
Eventually converted to Christianity c. 300 CE
 Axum
 The Mystery of their Origins
 Some think the culture migrated across the Red Sea from Yemen
 Yemeni civilizations were Semitic trading states active in East Africa
 Some think the culture arose independently from indigenous peoples
 c. 300 CE
 Arose as a trading state independent of Southern Arabia
 Dominated trade in area and eventually became Christian
Church at Lalibela, Axum
Obelisk, Axum
Pyramids of Kush-Meroe
Egyptian tomb
Painting showing
Groups living in
Pharaoh Piye of Kush
After he conquered
Egypt, 26th Dynasty