|Mesopotamia: The Fertile Crescent...||(LINK): timeline||(LINK): stats|
|1||The Fertile Crescent is the "crescent moon" shaped land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks named this area Mesopotamia meaning: (in Greek) “the land between the rivers.” This area is the present-day Middle East, specifically Iraq, Syria, and Turkey as well as Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, and the Sinai Peninsula. See the (MAP) or (MAP).
(LINK): Mesopotamia Timeline
(LINK): Mr. Donn Mesopotamia
|2||Northern Mesopotamia: land is fertile, seasonal rain. The rivers and streams come from the hills and mountains.
Southern Mesopotamia: land is mostly flat and barren, very little rainfall. Temperatures can rise over 110 degrees F. Storms do blow in from the Persian Gulf, which cools things off. The area does have slight seasons. It can get quite cool at certain times of the year.
(LINK): Be a Mesopotamian Farmer
|3||Many thousands of years ago, early settlers wandered into the land between two rivers for the rich farm land only found there in the midst of a large dessert. Natural vegetation and wildlife kept the people well fed. The rivers provided fresh drinking water, and a place to bathe. These early people settled down, invented a system of irrigation, and began to farm the land.
(LINK): Astronomers of Babylon (LINK): Trade and Transportation
|4||(LINK): Timeline of Mesopotamia
Civilization developed in Mesopotamia simultaneously with Egypt and the two are often called the 'Fertile Crescent'. The Fertile Crescent begins on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and curves around like a quarter moon to the Persian Gulf.
Some of the best flat (alluvial plain) farmland of the Fertile Crescent is in a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks later called this region Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers." Many different civilizations developed in this small region. First came the Sumerians, who were replaced in turn by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
Mesopotamia is famous for the site of some of the oldest civilizations in the world, or the "Cradle of Civilization."
It is said that Mesopotamia was the place of the legendary Garden of Eden. On this spot where the Tigris meets the Euphrates Rivers. the holy tree of Adam emerged symbolizing the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
Mesopotamia does not refer to any particular civilization. Over the course of several millennia, many civilizations developed, collapsed, and were replaced in this region including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians.
Mesopotamia had no natural boundaries and is difficult to defend. The influence of neighboring countries is large. Lots of military encounters were had!
|6a||SUMER: 3500BC - 2000BC
first to form a government, write literature, start an educational system...
living conditions good - could specialize jobs: priests, craftsmen, scribes, traders...
ACHIEVEMENTS: wheel, chariots, carts, plow, bronze, irrigation, water wheel, arch, mud and brick buildings, written language: cuneiform (wedge pictographs)...
FELL: fighting over water...
|6b||ASSYRIA: 2000BC - 605BC (1,000 years after Sumer) (north)
more natural resources than Sumer had: stone, lots of water
Assyrian kings were blood thirsty - conquered lots of land - lots of enemies;
Conquered Babylon in 800BC by starving them into surrender...
Babylon (city) got revenge on Ninevah (strong Assyrian capital) - it fell in 612BC,
The Persians (Cyrus, the Great) conquerd most of Mesopotamia in 539BC.
|6c||BABYLONIA: 2000BC - 539BC (1,000 years after Sumer) (south)
Babylon - major city-state: became the "holy city" after Nippur: had built walls on Euphrates
King Hammurabi (Code of Laws): The Code of Hammurabi (created about 1780 BC), which is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. Codified over 200 laws for Mesopotamia.
King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jersuleum, destroyed Soloman's temples...
cultural borrowing from Sumer - then Greeks borrowed later...
FYI: present-day Iraq re-bulit much of Nebuchadnezzar's ruins...
||The Code of Hammurabi (created about 1780 BC), is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. Codified over 200 laws for Mesopotamia.
(Code of Hammurabi): Mr. P's Picks - THE 15 harsh laws/rules...
(Code of Hammurabi): website
(Code of Hammurabi): website
|6e||PERSIA: The Persians (under Cyrus, the Great) conquerd most of Mesopotamia and specifically, Babylonia in 539BC. Conquered them by using the Euphrates to gain entry.
Persia strongest in the region for centuries
Cyrus later issued a decree permitting captive people, including the Jews, to return to their own land (as explained in the Old Testament), and to allow their temple to be rebuilt back in Jerusalem that the Babylonians destroyed.
|7||ASTRONOMY & MATH:
The Babylonian astronomers were very adept at mathematics and could predict eclipses and solstices. Scholars thought that everything had some purpose in astronomy. Most of these related to religion. Mesopotamian astronomers worked out a 12-month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: summer and winter. The origins of astronomy as well as astrology date from this time.
Mesopotamian mathematics had a 60-minute hour, the 24-hour day, and the 360-degree circle. The Sumerian calendar was based on the seven-day week. This form of mathematics was instrumental in early map-making.
The Babylonians also had theorems on how to measure the area of several shapes and solids. They measured the circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference, which would be correct if pi were fixed at 3. The volume of a cylinder was taken as the product of the area of the base and the height; however,The Babylonians are also known for the Babylonian mile, which was a measure of distance equal to about seven modern miles (11 km). This measurement for distances eventually was converted to a time-mile used for measuring the travel of the Sun, therefore, representing time.
Along with contemporary Egyptian medicine, the Babylonians introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and prescriptions. The symptoms and diseases of a patient were treated through therapeutic means such as bandages, creams and pills. If a patient could not be cured physically, the Babylonian physicians often relied on exorcism to cleanse the patient from any curses.
Cuneiform literally means "wedge-shaped", due to the triangular tip of the stylus used for impressing signs on wet clay. The standardized form of each cuneiform sign appears to have been developed from pictograms.
Mesopotamian religion was the first to be recorded. Mesopotamians believed that the world was a flat disc surrounded by a huge, holed space, and above that, heaven. They also believed that water was everywhere, the top, bottom and sides, and that the universe was born from this enormous sea. In addition, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic. They believed that Enlil was the most powerful god. He was the chief god of the Pantheon, equivalent to the Greek god Zeus and the Roman god Jupiter. The Sumerians also posed philosophical questions, such as: Who are we?, Where are we?, How did we get here?. They attributed answers to these questions to explanations provided by their gods.
|11||Ziggurats were temples.
Like many ancient people, the ancient Sumerians believed that powerful gods lived in the sky. They built huge structures, called ziggurats, with steps climbing up to the top. Religious ceremonies were held at the very top. People left offerings of food and wine. The priests enjoyed these offerings, as the gods could not eat for themselves.
The Ziggurat was built in the center of town. It was the center of daily life. Except for festivals, which, for the most part, were gloomy things, the Ziggurat courtyard was gay and lively. You might see an artist painting, a boy racing by on his way to school, someone milking a cow or making a basket.
From the top of the Ziggurat, you could see the protective wall built about the entire town, and over the wall to the farmlands beyond.
(ZIGGURAT): ziggurat picture
Mesopotamian people invented many technologies including metal and copper-working, glass and lamp making, textile weaving, flood control, water storage, and irrigation. They were also one of the first Bronze age people in the world. They developed from copper, bronze, and gold on to iron. Palaces were decorated with hundreds of pounds of these very expensive metals. Also, copper, bronze, and iron were used for armor as well as for different weapons such as swords, daggers, and spears.
The need for irrigation led the Sumerians to build their cities along the Tigris and Euphrates and the branches of these rivers. Major cities, such as Ur, took root on tributaries of the Euphrates, while others were built on branches of the Tigris. The rivers provided the further benefits of fish (used both for food and fertilizer), reeds, and clay (for building materials).
With irrigation, the food supply in Mesopotamia was quite rich. The Tigris and Euphrates River valleys form the northeastern portion of the Fertile Crescent, which also included the Jordan River valley and that of the Nile. Although land nearer to the rivers was fertile and good for crops, portions of land farther from the water were dry and largely uninhabitable. This is why the development of irrigation was very important for settlers of Mesopotamia.
|14||Other Mesopotamian innovations include the control of water by dams and the use of aqueducts. Early settlers of fertile land in Mesopotamia used wooden plows to soften the soil before planting crops such as barley, onions, grapes, turnips, and apples. Mesopotamian settlers were some of the first people to make beer and wine. As a result of the skill involved in farming in the Mesopotamian, farmers did not depend on slaves to complete farm work for them, but there were some exceptions. There were too many risks involved to make slavery practical (i.e. the escape/mutiny of the slave).
Although the rivers sustained life, they also destroyed it by frequent floods that ravaged entire cities. The unpredictable Mesopotamian weather was often hard on farmers; crops were often ruined so backup sources of food such as cows and lambs were also kept.
The geography of Mesopotamia had a profound impact on the political development of the region. Among the rivers and streams, the Sumerian people built the first cities along with irrigation canals which were separated by vast stretches of open desert or swamp where nomadic tribes roamed. Communication among the isolated cities was difficult and, at times, dangerous. Thus, each Sumerian city became a city-state, independent of the others and protective of its independence.
At times one city would try to conquer and unify the region, but such efforts were resisted and failed for centuries. As a result, the political history of Sumer is one of almost constant warfare. Eventually Sumer was unified. The empire was relatively short-lived, as the Babylonians conquered them within only a few generations.
|16||When Assyria grew into an empire, it was divided into smaller parts, called provinces. Each of these were named after their main cities, like Nineveh, Samaria, Damascus, and Arpad. They all had their own governor who had to make sure everyone paid their taxes. Governors also had to call up soldiers to war and supply workers when a temple was built. He was also responsible for enforcing the laws. In this way, it was easier to keep control of a large empire.
Although Babylon was quite a small state in the Sumerian, it grew tremendously throughout the time of Hammurabi's rule. He was known as “the law maker”, and soon Babylon became one of the main cities in Mesopotamia. It was later called Babylonia, which meant "the gateway of the gods." It also became one of history's greatest centers of learning.
|17||As city-states began to grow, their spheres of influence overlapped, creating arguments between other city-states, especially over land and canals. These arguments were recorded in tablets several hundreds of years before any major warthe first recording of a war occurred around 3200 BC but was not common until about 2500 BC. At this point, warfare was incorporated into the Mesopotamian political system, where a neutral city may act as an arbitrator for the two rival cities. This helped to form unions between cities, leading to regional states.
When empires were created, they went to war more with foreign countries. King Sargon, for example, conquered all the cities of Sumer, some cities in Mari, and then went to war with northern Syria.
Many Babylonian palace walls were decorated with the pictures of the successful fights and the enemy either desperately escaping or hiding amongst reeds. A king in Sumer, Gilgamesh, was thought to be two-thirds god and only one-third human. His exploits were recorded in many poems and songs of the time.
|18||King Hammurabi, as mentioned above, was famous for his set of laws, The Code of Hammurabi (created ca. 1780 BC), which is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. He codified over 200 laws for Mesopotamia.|
|19||(PPT): Mesopotamia #1
(PPT): Mesopotamia #2
(PPT): Mesopotamia #3
(PPT): Mesopotamia #4
(PPT): Mesopotamia #5
(PPT): Mesopotamia #6
(PPT): Mesopotamia #7
(PPT): Mesopotamia #8
(PPT): Mesopotamia #9
(PPT): Early Civilizations
|20||(LINK): SS for Kids/maps
(LINK): Mesopotamia Map 1200BC
(LINK): History 101 Maps
(LINK): Mesopotamia Trends in Population
(LINK): Crystalinks: Mesopotamia
|Civilization developed in Mesopotamia simultaneously with Egypt and the two are often called the 'Fertile Crescent'. The Fertile Crescent is a rich food-growing area in a part of the world where most of the land is too dry for farming. The Fertile Crescent begins on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, and curves around like a quarter moon to the Persian Gulf.
Some of the best farmland of the Fertile Crescent is in a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Greeks later called this region Mesopotamia, which means "between the rivers." Many different civilizations developed in this small region. First came the Sumerians, who were replaced in turn by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
Mesopotamia was the alluvial plain lying between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, composing parts of Iraq and Syria. More commonly, the term includes these river plains in totality as well as the surrounding lowland territories bounded by the Arabian Desert to the west and south, the Persian Gulf to the southeast, the Zagros Mountains to the east and the Caucasus mountains to the north. Mesopotamia is famous for the site of some of the oldest civilizations in the world.
Writings from Mesopotamia (Uruk, modern Warka) are among the earliest known in the world, giving Mesopotamia a reputation of being the Cradle of Civilization, therefore it is regarded by some as the oldest known civilization. It is said that Mesopotamia was the place of the legendary Garden of Eden. On this spot where the Tigris meets the Euphrates Rivers. the holy tree of Adam emerged symbolizing the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
Mesopotamia does not refer to any particular civilization. Over the course of several millennia, many civilizations developed, collapsed, and were replaced in this region including the Sumerians -- Akkadians -- Babylonians and Assyrians.
Mesopotamia had no natural boundaries and is difficult to defend. The influence of neighboring countries is large. Throughout the history of Mesopotamia trade contacts, slow diffusion of foreign tribes and military confrontations had been of great influence.
In modern political terms this covers the country of Iraq and parts of Syria and Turkey. Mesopotamian region was (and still today is) very diverse: undulating plains in the North, where wheat growing and cattle rearing could be practised; further South, the rivers were rich in marine life and the river banks jungles of vegetation where lions prowled and wild boar could be hunted. The rich wildlife was probably what first attracted humans to the Mesopotamian plain. The Southern plain, outside the area of rain, fed agriculture, but, over the millennia, the rivers have laid down thick deposits of very fertile silt and, once water is brought to this soil in ditches and canals, it proves a very attractive area to farmers. For materials such as wood, stone and metals, however, people have to look North and East, to the mountains where the first settlers had originated.
As far as we can tell, farmers and fishermen started to settle the Mesopotamian plain around 5,500 Before Common Era. Over time, their small villages grew into large settlements. The focus of these communities appears to have been the temple of the town's patron god or goddess.
The rich farmland provided a surplus of agricultural goods and any wealth generated was invested in monumental temple buildings, such as those found at Eridu, Uruk and Ur. Temples and ordinary houses were built using the reeds and mud that line the river banks. Centuries of rebuilding using sun-dried mud-bricks resulted in high mounds, or Tells, rising above the fields and canals. These now dominate the flat Mesopotamian plain and, when abandoned by people, are the sites chosen by archaeologists for their excavations.
At the end of the fourth millennium, Uruk was probably the largest city in the world (estimated by some scholars at 400 hectares - the size of Rome in the first century of our Common Era). Centered on the important temple of Inanna (the Great Goddess of Love and War), the city has produced beautiful stone sculptures depicting the temple flocks of sheep and goats.
Of more significance, however, is the discovery at Uruk of the world's earliest recorded writing. Using a reed stylus to draw on tablets of clay, the temple administrators recorded the movement of agricultural produce and out of the temple storerooms including beer, bread and sheep. Initially the records took the form of pictures of the objects being counted together with signs representing numerals. Gradually, these pictographs became more stylized and wedge-like or cuneiform (Latin for wedge = cuneus) and adapted to write the local language, or Sumerian. The ability to write allowed the Sumerians to record not only lists of goods but also events around them. This development therefore takes us from pre-history to history.
Uruk was not the only large settlement in Southern Mesopotamia. The wealth of one of these city-states is demonstrated by the Royal Graves of Ur, which date to around 2600 BCE. Of the thousands of graves excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley at Ur in the 1920s, sixteen were particularly rich. Woolley called them 'Royal' because he believed they were the graves of Ur's queens and kings. The most remarkable aspect of these burials is the large number of human bodies found in the pits. These are interpreted as sacrificial victims, accompanying their leader in death, and it would appear that they died relatively peacefully. The excavations found cups close to some of the bodies: where these perhaps poison chalices? The victims are identified as soldiers, harpists and serving ladies on their rich clothes and ornaments - made from gold, lapis lazuli, carnelian and shell.
Around 2350 BCE the southern city states were united into one empire by Sargon, king of the city of Akkad (also read as Agade). The administration was centralised and the Semitic language Akkadian (named after Sargon's capital) was introduced as the official language in preference to Sumerian. Akkad has not been located but the period produced some astonishing works of art, including fine cylinder seals.
Sargon and his sons ruled Mesopotamia for 150 years. The last of the great Akkadian emperors was Naram-Sin. Later stories present this man very unfavourably. He is said to have angered the Air God Enlil by taking his army into the godÕs temple. Enlil then sent against Naram-Sin a people from the mountains bordering Mesopotamia who, we are told, destroyed the capital Akkad. The location of the city remains unknown to this day.
The Akkadian Empire had collapsed and Mesopotamia was in turmoil. The southern cities began to reassert their independence. Chief among these was the city of Ur. Under king Ur-Nammu, the city established itself as the capital of an empire that rivalled that of the Akkadian rulers. Sumerian (although no longer a spoken language) was reintroduced as the official written language of the dynasty known to historians as the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Ur-Nammu was a prodigious builder. The most impressive monument of his reign was the ziggurat at Ur. Although similar in shape to the pyramids of Egypt, ziggurats were not tombs but made of solid brickwork. Often, as at Ur, three staircases led up one side of the tower to several stages. At the summit was a shrine to the god. One of the most famous ziggurats was built in the city of Babylon and gave rise to the story of the Tower of Babel.
Like the earlier kings of Akkad, the rulers of the Third Dynasty of Ur had to fight with groups of people moving into Mesopotamia from the surrounding mountains and deserts, attracted by the wealth of the country. Under Ur-Nammu's grandson, Ibbi-Su (around 2028-2004 BCE), the empire collapsed as Amorite and Hurrian tribes established themselves throughout Mesopotamia. At the same time, the Akkadian language replaced Sumerian, which continued to be used by scribes only for monumental inscriptions and religious literature. For the next three hundred years the cities of Lower Mesopotamia, chiefly Isin and Larsa, competed for control of the region.
Further North lay the city of Ashur on a rocky promontory overlooking an important crossing of the River Tigris. From here the city dominated the caravans of donkeys carrying metals and rare materials from the east and west, and the boats moving to and from the cities of Sumer to the South. As an important trading centre, Ashur had by 1900 BCE established commercial colonies in Anatolia (modern day Turkey). Cloth and Iranian tin were exchanged for Anatolian silver and records of these activities on clay tablets have been found at a number of sites in Turkey. The letters were often protected by an envelope of clay on which the recipient's name was written and sealed with a cylinder seal. In other examples, a copy of the letter was written on the envelope as a safeguard.
At the end of the nineteenth century BCE an ambitious solder called Shamshi-Adad brought Ashur under his control. He established an empire which stretched across the North of Mesopotamia. Around 1780 BCE, Shamshi-Ada died and his sons lacked their father's abilities. The empire collapsed and Ashur and the North were now open to attack. When attack came, it came from the South.
As king of the small town of Babylon, Hammurapi united Southern Mesopotamia into a single empire. In the second half of his reign, he marched North and received the submission of Northern kingdoms, including the rulers of the kingdom of Ashur. As with Shamshi-Adad, however, Hammurapi's death caused his empire to fall apart. Despite this, the city of Babylon was to remain the capital of a Southern kingdom. Hammurapi is best remembered for his code of laws (the famous stela of Hammurapi is now in the Louvre in Paris). In 1595 BCE the dynasty of Hammurapi was brought to an end. It is possible that the Hittites from Anatolia made a lightning raid down the Euphrates, sacked Babylon and captured the statue of Marduk, patron god of Babylon.
For the next 150 years or so, there is little information to reconstruct events. When evidence becomes available, it is clear that Mesopotamia is dominated by two major powers: the Kassites ruling Babylon and a Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni in the North. What little that is known of these two empires often comes from areas outside Mesopotamia, such as the New Kingdom Egypt and Hittite Anatolia.
Around 1350 BCE, however, it is clear that the kingdom of Mitanni collapsed under increasing pressure from the Hittites to the West. With the fall of Mitanni, Assyria reasserted her independence and began a process of consolidation which would lead the country to create a vast empire during the first millennium BCE.
Around 1250 BCE the Near East faced general conflict and devastation. The Hittite Empire collapsed as part of a general movement of people (the so-called Peoples of the Sea - a mixture of dispossessed people, brigands and mercenaries) moving around the Mediterranean coast looking for areas to settle. In the course of these disturbed times several unsuccessful raids were made by the Sea Peoples against Egypt under the Pharaohs Memeptah and Rameses III. Tribes of Arameans were, meanwhile, moving into Mesopotamia from the west, pushing the boundaries of Assyria back to the capital Ashur.
The first millennium revealed a Near East markedly changed politically. The Mediterranean coast, North of Egypt, was now settled by Philistines. Further inland, Hebrew tribes were settling in the hill country. In the North (modern Syria), traditions of the now vanished Hittite Empire were maintained, known today as Neo-Hittites. In Mesopotamia, various Aramean and Chaldean tribal groups competed for supremacy in Babylonia while the Assyrians maintained a firm hold on their homeland, slowly moving against the groups which had settled in the region.
At the beginning of the 9th century BCE, Assyrian kings started sending military expeditions west in an attempt to control important trade routes and receive tribute from less powerful states. Among the first important kings of this so-called Neo-Assyrian period was Ashurnasirpal II. He moved away from Ashur and built himself a new capital city at Kalhu (Biblical Calah, modern Nimrud).
To commemorate their achievements and glorify their names, the kings of Assyria built huge palaces and temples in their capital cities, which they decorated with stone reliefs. Some of the most spectacular examples of this type of decoration are displayed on the ground floor of the British Museum, in London, England. They also used brightly coloured glazed tiles showing the king participating in state ceremonies. Ivory, often carved with scenes similar to those on the bricks, was also used to decorate furniture and small exotic objects.
The movement of the Assyrian armies towards the Mediterranean continued under Ahurmasirpal's successors but there was no real attempt to incorporate conquered territories into an empire. In 745 BCE, however, Tiglath-pileser III came to the throne after a rebellion at court. The new king initiated changes in the administration of Assyria, including the annexation of countries into an empire. Over the following one hundred years, kings such as Sargon, Sennacherib and Esarhaddon not only built new capitals (Khorsabad and Nineveh), but also expanded the empire until Assyrian control stretched from Iran to Egypt. On his death in 668 BCE, Esarhaddon was succeeded by his son Ashurbanipal, who, though faced with trouble in Babylonia and Egypt, boasts of a peaceful and prosperous reign, allowing the king time to learn to read and write as well as engage in the royal sport of lion hunting.
However, within 20 years of Ashurbanipal's death around 627 BCE, Assyria was faced with internal strife and destruction. To the East, (in modern day Iran) lay the empire of the Medes. In 614 BCE a Median army under Cyaxares invaded the Assyrian homeland, attacked Nineveh and destroyed the ancient city of Ashur. Tow years later the combined forces of Cyaxares and the king of Babylon, Nabopolassar, captured Nineveh. The Assyrian court fled west to the town of Harran where they were finally defeated in 609 BCE by NabopolassarÕs son, Nebuchadnezzar. While the Medes withdrew to consolidade their conquests in the east, the Assyrian empire passed into the hands of the kings of Babylon.
Sixty years of Babylonian supremacy was threatened during the reign of king Nabonidus, when Mesopotamia was faced with the expansion of yet another eastern power, the Persians. In 539 BCE, the armies of the Persian king Cyrus (a member of the Achaemenid family) marched upon Babylon and captured the city and with it all the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This, in effect, brought to an end three thousand years of self-rule in Mesopotamia. While many of the traditions and way of life in the region continued under the new rulers, Mesopotamia was now part of the much greater empire of the Persians which stretched from Egypt to India. Over the next 200 years the region would see the advance of Greek civilisation and the eventual destruction of the Persian Empire at the hand of the Macedonian king Alexander the Great.