Introduction to Mesopotamia

Mesopotamian Civilisation
What is a 'civilisation'?
1) A society which is complex in terms of technology,
science, politics and division of labour. Such civilizations
are generally urbanized. The existence of cities and
writing are taken as two hallmarks of civilisation.
Historically, 'uncivilised' peoples have been described as
barbarians or primitive. Hence controversy about term seems to imply the inferiority of some cultures.
2) A second sense occurs when we refer, for example, to
Western civilisation. Here 'civilisation' proposes an
overarching cultural tradition running through the
diverse countries and periods that make up 'The West'.
Sumerian city-states
(ca. 2900 BC–2350 BC, also Uruk period 5th and 4th millenium BC)
Akkadian Empire
(ca. 2350 BC–2193 BC)
Akkadian Empire
(ca. 2350 BC–2193 BC)
• Centred on the city of Akkad
• Most famous ruler was Sargon the Great who
conquered Sumerian city-states
• Akkadian replaced Sumerian as the linguafranca of Mesopotamia
The first empire?
• The Akkadian empire was arguably the first one. But what is
an 'empire'?
• 'Empire' derives from the Latin imperium (power, authority)
• An empire is a group of states and/ or peoples controlled by
one ruling power
• Stricter sense of 'empire' means territorial control after
armed conquest (control with force)
• Broader sense of 'empire' - control through threat of force,
and financial and diplomatic punishments for disobedience.
Third Dynasty of Ur
("Sumerian Renaissance" or "Neo-Sumerian
Period") (ca. 2119 BC–2004 BC)
The Babylonians: (Early Period - 20th to 18th c.
BC, First Babylonian Dynasty - 18th to 17th c. BC )
The Babylonians
• Centred on Babylon, southern Mesopotamia
• First mention of Babylon in at the time of
Sargon in the 23rd century BC
• Hammurabi (1696 – 1654 BC) created an
empire out of the former Akkadian territories
• Wrote in Akkadian for official purposes and
Sumerian for religious ones.
• The Babylonians were Amorites