History of Mesopotamia - Wikipedia
To what extent Uruk really was the "mother of cities" is still hotly argued by first large cities, then states, whose culture and society would influence every and technological innovation, it was also the site of constant conflict. By the time farming villages had grown into the great Mesopotamian cities, both priests Sumer's city-states were first ruled by priest-kings, known as Ensi. .. With armies constantly on the move, the Assyrians ensured they had the necessary Scholars, however, dispute whether the Hanging Gardens existed in Babylon. ACCORDING to accepted views the early history of Mesopotamia is essentially the a small Sumerian city-state in the south, began his spectacular career by attacking .. did help him and indeed all those who appear in closer relation with him were .. constant filtering in of single families from the desert. It is obvious.
Looming out of the haze, the eye begins to make out a low range of brown hills, at first shapeless, then taking form: This is Warka, a site few places on earth can match for sheer atmosphere, and a landmark in the human story. William Loftus, the first outsider in modern times to see these sights inwas almost overwhelmed: Of all the desolate sites I ever beheld, that of Warka incomparably surpasses all".
It was ruled in later times by Romans, Persians and Muslim Arabs before in the seventh century AD it was abandoned, except for the Bedouin, whose black tents still hug the horizon. To what extent Uruk really was the "mother of cities" is still hotly argued by archaeologists. It is claimed to be the birthplace of writing, mathematics and literature, and few would dispute that it is one of the most potent memory places of humanity.
The size of the site is testimony to the scale of the achievement of Mesopotamia, the world's first civilisation. Inside its silted gates, poking out of huge dunes, it is 3km wide and the circuit, dating back to around BC, is 9km.
Where the past century of archaeology has exposed them, you see great platforms and revetments of burned brick like the foundations of small skyscrapers. In places below the visitor's feet are strata 75 feet deep, which contain the shattered bric-a-brac of human history: Islamic glass, Hellenistic bowls, Parthanian clay coffins, greenish black-patterned Ubaid sherds and the little clay sickles used by the first dwellers in the Mesopotamian plain around BC.
In this one place is the image of civilisation: Like the cultures of the Nile or the Indus, Mesopotamia, as its name suggests "the land between the rivers" owed its existence to a river system.
Large-scale human societies had begun to grow from about 10,BC in an arc through Syria, Palestine, Anatolia and the Zagros mountains. Starting with the first larger scale settlements at Jericho and Catal Huyuk in Anatolia, these were well built but still relatively small.
It was only when sophisticated irrigation techniques were developed that the plain of southern Iraq was opened up to sustain a huge concentration of people and resources. Yet even this was still a relatively confined area: Mesopotamia had 25, sq km of irrigated land — similar in size to early dynastic Egypt.
From the fourth millennium BC came the first large cities, then states, whose culture and society would influence every aspect of life across west Asia — and further afield. In the third millennium BC, there were around 40 cities in Sumer and Akkad that made up the Babylonian plain. One big city-state, Lagash whose site is more than 3km acrosshad 36, male adults in the third millennium BC, suggesting upwards ofpeople altogether.
Uruk was probably of similar size. Each controlled an extensive territory: These urban developments were fed by a trading network which, in the case of Uruk, linked Anatolia, Syria and the Zagros. Recent research has shown that Mesopotamia might not only have given birth to the world's first trading culture, but also the earliest private treaty stock market. It is not surprising then that writing, written law, contract law, and international treaties are all found for the first time in the area.
Not only does history begin at Sumer, but so does economics. The god and therefore his temple was held to own the land and people of the state which the locality can now fairly be called ; and this translated into the temple elite directly controlling much of the land and labour of the city and its surrounding area.
New Horizons Much of this wealth was devoted to the decorative arts, and along with a ruling group a class of full-time professional craftsmen emerged. The standard of craftsmanship — indeed, of representational art — was raised to new heights.
This was not only stimulated by the desire to decorate temples and other public spaces, but also to manufacture trade goods needed to keep the inward flow of raw materials, in which southern Mesopotamia was so sadly lacking, open.
This in turn stimulated long-distance commerce. A final development needs to be noted, perhaps the most important of all. The demands of administering land and wealth on a scale hitherto unknown presented significance challenges to the temple officials. To meet this challenge, they developed a system of symbols to record the huge number of economic transactions they were overseeing. From these early foundations writing scripts evolved, and the first literate societies appeared.
Map of Ancient Mesopotamia c. It saw Sumerian civilization increase in complexity and sophistication.
In particular, writing made important advances. From the early pictograms, the script gradually became more abstract and stylized. It also became more linear, reflecting the use of the wedge-shaped styluses used to inscribe the clay tablets. By around BCE the script had developed into classic Sumerian cuneiform writing, with which a subtle and varied literature, containing economic and administrative documents, letters, stories, prayers, hymns and so on was being committed to writing.
The people of these cities were influenced to a great extent by Sumerian art and architecture; colonies of Sumerian merchants were established in some centres, though more local influences were also apparent. Sumerian City-States The eighteen recorded Sumerian cities of southern Mesopotamia remained concentrated along the branches and irrigation canals of the Euphrates in a narrow strip of land extending from south of present-day Baghdad to the marches bordering the Gulf.
This region was divided between people of two language groups: Each Sumerian city was the centre of a small city-state, consisting of the city itself and its surrounding territory — farmlands, gardens and orchards in the irrigated land near the city, grazing land for herds of cattle and flocks of sheep and goats on the arid land further out, between the cities. The city was surrounded by a wall.
A large Sumerian city held between 30, and 40, inhabitants, and one of the largest, Lagash, had a territory of 2, square kilometres. At the heart of the city, both physically and metaphorically, stood the temple to its patron god.
The Sumerians regarded their city-god as the true owner of the city. This may originally have had its earthly expression in the temple owning all the land in the city-state, but by the Early Dynastic period this was no longer the case.
The temple owned an estimated third of the arable land in each city-state, and was therefore a major economic unit. It used the revenue to maintain the priest, officials, craftsmen and other servants of the temple; to store as a provision against drought; and to exchange with goods from abroad — international trade was in the hands of the temple or palace.
Sumerian Rulers By the mid-third millennium BCE secular rulers had usurped much of the political and economic power of the temple. The ruler of a city-state came to be viewed as chosen by the god of the city to be responsible for the safety and prosperity of the people. The earliest rulers were probably both the high priest and ruler, and Mesopotamian kings continued to have priestly functions throughout their history.
From an early date, however, there was a trend for temple and palace to become separate institutions. Even if the rulers started out as the high priests, it is easy to see how this development took place. It is easier for a community to identify with a personal leader rather than an institution, and the high priest of a town would have been invested with charismatic authority.
Ancient Mesopotamian Warfare
The office would in all probability have been hereditary within a particular family, who would have taken on the attributes of a royal dynasty. In due course the Palace would have developed as a distinct institution within the state, and by the Early Dynastic period the royal palace was probably as wealthy and powerful as the temple.
Warfare What we know of Sumerian history in the Early Dynastic period is one of warfare, between city-states and with foreign invaders. The cities strove to subdue one another, and one city-state after another — Kish, Uruk, Ur, Nipur, Lagash, Umma — achieved a position of dominance over some or all of the other cities of southern Mesopotamia, and beyond. In this rather tedious power-struggle, certain issues seem to have been at stake.
It is clear that some wars were a straightforward conflict over resources — land, water, trade routes. Over and above these, however, there seemed to be two goals that an ambitious king would aim for.
Firstly, domination of Nippur gave him control over the religious centre of Sumer, because it was in this city that the temple of the chief Sumerian god, Enlil, was located.
This seems to have been a centre of pilgrimage, and possessing it gave a ruler enormous prestige. His patronage of the temple legitimized his status as overlord of other city-states. Secondly, controlling Kish seems to have been key to controlling the Semitic lands of Akkad, just north of the Sumerian heartlands, which in turn gave a ruler a huge strategic advantage viz-a-viz the other rulers.
These two cities therefore figure prominently in the power-struggles of the period. His empire wrought great changes within Mesopotamia, and his career cast a long shadow over later history as ambitious kings strived to emulate his achievements. Sargon of Akkad To the north-west of the Sumerian heartland lay the region later known as Akkad, inhabited by a Semitic people. In later history the Semites became associated with a nomadic style of life — one need think only of the Arabs to see why — but there is no evidence for this at this early period.
The Semitic peoples of Akkad were by and large not nomads, and during the Early Dynastic period fully shared in the Sumerian civilization to their south. They lived in similar city-states, worshipped the same gods and goddesses, followed the same artistic and architectural styles, and used the same cuneiform script. The only difference was that they spoke a different language, later known as Akkadian. Being a Semite himself, he based his power on the local Semitic population, with whose help he defeated the Sumerians and became overlord of both Sumer and Akkad.
Sargon then consolidated his power in a way no other king before him seems to have done. Having thus secured his power in southern Mesopotamia, he expanded it on a scale never before attempted. He subjected Elam in the east, Mari in northern Mesopotamia, Ebla and other cities in Syriaand carried his power as far as the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus mountains.
He probably even led an expedition into Asia Minor. Naram-Sin reclaimed all the lost territory and expanded the Akkadian empire still further. He departed from Mesopotamian tradition when he became the first Mesopotamian ruler to claim the status of a god within his own lifetime. With his death revolts and invasions occurred throughout the empire.
Elam was lost, and several Sumerian cities revolted. Northern Mesopotamia, Syria and the Anatolian regions fell away from the empire. Finally the Guti, a barbarian hill people from the Zagros mountains, invaded Mesopotamia, put an end to Akkadian power once and for all, and installed themselves as the new rulers of Sumer and Akkad. Thus ended the first real empire in world history.
The Ancient World | Mesopotamia | Culture | The Guardian
Sargon and his successors made an immense impression of the ancient Middle Eastern imagination. The memory of Sargon himself became surrounded by legend, and an example to ambitious rulers in the region for centuries after his death. The Legacy of Sargon and his Empire The geographical horizons of the people of southern Mesopotamia were vastly enlarged, and the influence of their civilization greatly enhanced in the surrounding regions. Akkadian was established as the language of government alongside Sumerian.
No after life for man. An, the god of heaven; Ki, the goddess of earth; Enlil, the god of air; and Enki, the god of water. Heaven, earth, air, and water were regarded as the four major components of the universe. Shamash, god of sun and justice; Ishtar, goddess of war and love.
The Epic of Gilgamesh that captures much of ancient Sumerian religion also reflects on many aspects of ancient Sumerian culture: Enkidu, your mother, the gazelle, and your father, the wild donkey, engendered you, four wild asses raised you on their milk, and the herds taught you all the grazing lands.
Relationship between gods and humans reflected on the Sumerians' views on life: Gods scheming against humans flood All day long the South Wind blew No one could see his fellow, they could not recognize each other in the torrent. The gods were frightened by the Flood, and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu. The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall. Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth, the sweet-voiced Mistress of the Gods wailed: