Chapter 2 Mesopotamia 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 Great • 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 Hittites Assyrians 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 disadvantages? • 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?