Ancient Mesopotamia Essay

One should start by saying that Mesopotamia was the land between the rivers and thus derives the name from these rivers, which are Tigris and Euphrates. These two rivers would create the fertile crescent in the middle of the barren desert and that land appears to be extremely demanded by the population of that time. This territory is called Mesopotamia and that territory at present is occupied by the modern day Iraq.

The first settlements on the territory of Mesopotamia started over 10,000 years ago when people would engage in agriculture. People instead of hunting for animals and gathering food, would domesticate animals and plants with sheep being the first animals to be domesticated. People would build houses out of reeds and mud-bricks and created first villages. The first granaries to store the grain would also be built, while the first token system was developed to establish a unit of account to record trade and accounts (Schomp, 77).

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Between 3600 and 3000 BC, for unexplained reasons, the South Mesopotamian civilization would engage in sudden growth and change with the cities of Ur and Uruk being of the greatest importance. Such drastic development might have been caused by the climatic changes which would make the old agricultural practices obsolete. People would thus choose to cluster into much larger and less numerous groups and locations and make use of the plough, potter’s wheel and the metals (bronze) for agricultural and military purposes. These innovations appear to be the right response to the changed environment and the harsh realities of the more intensive economic lives as well as the causes of increased complexity in that life. I will add here that during the same time period one would invent writing, metrological system and the arithmetic on the territory of ancient Mesopotamia (Pollock, 102).

The main time period of the 3000 B.C. which is called early dynastic period was represented primarily by the rapid development of the Sumerian civilization based on various city-states. From the early dynastic period one can obtain early Sumerian literature, with the Epic of Gilgamesh being one of them. The Sumerians lived in a complex, hostile, risky and very unpredictable environment. This civilization had to overcome floods, droughts, storms, dust, sicknesses and excessive heat. These hardships certainly contributed to the development of this civilization and its leadership.

The Early Dynastic period ends in 2334 as Sargon created the first empire in the world that would stretch to include the length and breadth of the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia. The unification of Sumer and Akkad under Sargon impacted the development of Mesopotamia for the next two millennia. Sargonic empire itself would exist for approximately 200 years before being corrupted by invasions and insurrections. After the collapse of the Sargonic empire the turbulent period started with the advances of the hordes of Guti, who ruled in southern Mesopotamia for 150 years. The Guti were overthrown by an uprising which gave birth to the III Dynasty of Ur and the neo-Samarian period. The reign of the Uri Kings namely Ur-Nammu and Shulgi, the Sumerian culture and civilization would grown remarkably. Peace and prosperity marked that time establishing sophisticated legal system, the calendar update, simplification of metrology, revival of agriculture, and rebuilding of towns and temples. The empire still would not invest much in the military and did not establish any military sophistication, which would mean that the empire was not ready for external threats.

The third Ur empire would last from 2112 BC to 2004 BC prior to being conquered by the nomadic and violent tribe of Amorites. The fall of Ur resulted in complete destruction of the Sumerian civilization. The Sumerian language would still be spoken in some parts of Mesopotamia yet it would be almost fully replaced by the Akkadian language of the Amorites.

The next several centuries would present another challenge for the population of Mesopotamia as the cities of Isin and Larsa strived to establish their supremacy in the south, while Mari and Assur fought for the supremacy in the north. Assyrian tribe established the city of Assur while the city of Babylon would appear in the south (Oppenheim, 60).

At the beginning of the XVIII century BC the rule of Babylon, Hammurabi who in a short period of time would conquer and control the whole Mesopotamia under his rule. It was during that time when Babylon became one of the greatest cities. This period is called Old Babylonian and it was the time when drastic advances in mathematics appeared in the area. These Babylonian mathematics were sophisticated mathematical tables and had no counterparts anywhere around the world. During that time period, the country developed drastic division of labor and the scribes, the literal elites, the doctors, the language teachers, philosophers and mathematicians appeared in Mesopotamia as professional groups rather than some secluded groups. During that time period one came up with the notion of an algorithm, carving complex world into simple cases, and lists.

In 1600BC Egypt would be invaded by the Hyksos tribes and Mesopotamia would consider the presence of warrior neighbor. The Hittites tribe would plunder and capture Babylon yet would not stay there and left. The political and economic turmoil was filled by the Kassites tribe from the Zagros mountains and ruled Babylon for over 400 years which were rather peaceful yet little had been done during that time period.

From 1600 BC Mesopotamia faced another turbulent time period. That period of time would result in massive movement of people from north to south, and from east to the west as the major civilization centers of Mesopotamia were destroyed. This end of the bronze Age is still not much researched and not much can be said about that time period (Dalley, 374).

Another empire that would arise in Mesopotamia would be the Assyrian empire located in the northeast. The Assyrians lived in a narrow fertile strip surrounded by enemies at all sides. The Assyrians benefited from the mass movement of people and were noted to invite some of them to live with Assyrians. Their military reputation was well known by their enemies which would keep away from Assur. The Assyrian empire would ultimately spread to conquer the whole Mesopotamia and hold it for 300 years.

The Assyrians were particularly impressed with celestial divination and the Babylonian scholars got a new job under their rule. The first scientists would make long lists of observations and developed mathematical astronomy, which by using arithmetic lists, schemes and tables would accurately predict astronomical phenomena (Oakes, 211). The Assyrian mathematics would be among those legacies that modern day astronomers would be using a several centuries later.

The last Assyrian king Assurbanipal would create the first library on the territory of Mesopotamia in Nineveh. The library would be discovered only in 1849 AD and gave birth to the historical discipline, Assyriology. The rule of Assurbanipal lasted till the Persians conquered the Babylon and Mesopotamia. The Persians would rule till being conquered by Alexander the Great which would open the time of modern history.

Schomp, Virginia, Ancient Mesopotamia: The Sumerians, Babylonians, And Assyrians, NY Random House, 2004.
Oakes, Lorna, Mesopotamia: Find Out About Series (Find Out About Series), Barrons books, 2003.
Pollock, Susan, Ancient Mesopotamia, Wiley and sons press, 2002.
Dalley, Stephanie, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others, Prentice Hall, 2003.
Oppenheim, Leo, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, McGraw Hill, 2003.

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