Chapter 2PP - Riverdale High School

Chapter 2
The Ancient Near East
• Earliest development of city life known
• “Land Between the Rivers”, the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers in southeastern Iraq
Sumerian Civilization
• First to do some highly significant things
Created first large cities
First sophisticated system of writing
First monumental buildings
Probably invented the wheel
First to design, build irrigation system using gravity
First to use plow
Among first to make bronze utensils, weapons
Sumerian Civilization
• Trade
– Grew rapidly among villages and towns
– Trade in agricultural goods, handicrafts
– Constant contact throughout Persian Gulf
– Exports: woolen cloth, foodstuffs
– Imports: luxury goods, lumber, metal
• Sargon the Great brought region under
unified rule about 2300 BCE
• Fertile Crescent
Earning a Living
• Livelihood came from land, directly or indirectly
• Trade in foodstuffs, grain
• Non-agrarian occupations required education,
formal training, example: scribes, priesthood
• Many occupations required apprenticeships,
example: metalworking
• Preparation, distribution, sale of food
• Providing regular supply of water
Writing and Mathematics
• Evolution of writing
Evolved from need to keep good records
Moved from pictography to use of abstract marks
Beginning of phonetic written language
Cuneiform – wedge-shaped – writing
• Mathematics and Chronology
– Based on units of 60
– Basic geometry and trigonometry
– Calendar based on movement of the moon
Religion and the Afterlife
• Polytheism – religion of many gods
• Each city-kingdom had its local powers
• Ziggurats – stepped pyramids, most famous
being Babylon
• Not an optimistic religion
– No loving relationship between humans and gods
– No evidence of ethics
– Unknowable reasons for divine punishments
• Epic of Gilgamesh – first creation myth
Government and Social Structure
• Two types
– Theocracy of early city-states
– Kingdom-empires beginning with Sargon the
• Three classes
– Priests, noble landlords
– Freemen (most numerous)
– Slaves
Status of Women
• Change in status over time
– More or less equal at earliest stage of civilization
– Undermined, overturned by militarized society
– Patriarchy trend impossible to reverse
• Most household, artisan occupations open to women,
with limitations
• Adultery was worst crime in marriage
• Divorce, lawsuits from it were common
• Sexual and Marital Life
Fundamentally different attitude toward sex
Marriage always arranged by families
Marriage involved bride money and dowry
Expected that the bride would be a virgin
Decline of Mesopotamia
• Successors to Sumeria
Amorites, or Old Babylonians
Chaldees, or New Babylonians
• Decline of Mesopotamia in World History
– Ceased to be important after Persian conquest
– Largely caused by long-term environmental damage,
decline in food supply
Discussion Questions
• 1. Sumerians built the first cities, and today a
large percentage of the world’s population is
urban. How would a Sumerian have found city
life different from their rural existence? What
would have been the benefits of city life? What
• 2. Hammurabi’s Code is one of the very first
written law codes. Why is it so important to have
law in written form? What difference, if any,
would it have made to the average Babylonian
to have written law?