Ch. 2, Sec. 1 (pp. 29 - 34)

SSWH1a: Describe the development of

Mesopotamian societies: include the religious, cultural, economic, and political facets of society, with attention to Hammurabi’s law code.

Geography & Background

• In the modern Middle East are the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers

– The land between these rivers and the land that lies along the eastern coast of the

Mediterranean Sea form an arc of very fertile soil (known as the

Fertile Crescent )

– The land between the Tigris &

Euphrates rivers is called

Mesopotamia (which literally means “land between rivers”)

• Remember, the city of Ur was located in Sumer, which itself was in Mesopotamia

Environmental Challenges

• Unpredictable flooding

– So they created irrigation ditches

• No natural barriers for protection

– So they built walls around their cities

• Few natural resources

– So they traded with their neighbors

Ancient Irrigation Ditches

Sumerians Create


• Sumerians built many cities

– Cities each had their own government & rulers (similar to modern countries)

– Cities & the surrounding lands were known as city-states (because they operated independently of one another)

• Sumerian govt was usually led by both religion & military leaders

– Leaders would often come from the same families ( dynasties )

• Sumerian ideas often spread to neighboring cultures (this process is called cultural diffusion )

– In other words, if I’m worshipping a “Rain God” & my neighbor sees me doing this & starts worshipping the “Rain God” then cultural diffusion has occurred

City-States in Sumer

Sumerian Culture

• Sumerians were polytheistic (they believed in more than one god)

– These gods were anthropomorphic, yet all-powerful & immortal

– The afterlife was seen as very dismal

• Social classes

– (Highest class) kings, landholders & priests

– Wealthy merchants

– Manual laborers (field & workshop)

– (Lowest class) Slaves (debtors & prisoners)

• Technology

– Base 60 number system

– Architecture (arches, columns, ramps, etc.)

– Cuneiform

Empire Building

• From 3000 - 2000 B.C., Sumerians were almost constantly at war with one another

• ~2350 B.C., Sargon (an Akkadian from the north) conquered

Sumer & united northern & southern Mesopotamia for the first time

– This union lasted ~200 years

• ~2000 B.C., the Babylonian Empire (with its capital at Babylon) dominated Mesopotamia

– The greatest ruler of Babylon was Hammurabi who created a single set of common laws for Mesopotamia

• Hammurabi’s Code dealt with property issues, family issues, crime, etc.

• The Code applied to everyone, but dealt differently w/ the rich & the poor

• The Code frequently applied the principle “an eye for an eye & a tooth for a tooth”

A Hammurabi Stele & an Inscription of the Code of Hammurabi

The Fall of the Babylonians

• ~1500 B.C., the Babylonian Empire fell to the neighboring Kassites

– Many groups would later come to dominate

Mesopotamia (Assyrians, Hebrews,

Phoenicians, etc.)

• While all this was going on, other people such as the Egyptians, Chinese

& people of the Indus River Valley were experiencing the rise & fall of civilization