Ancient Mesopotamia – what was life like in the oldest known civilization?

Ancient Mesopotamia is a land in the Middle East, located in the basin of two rivers – the Euphrates and the Tigris. What are the main achievements of the peoples of Mesopotamia? We answer these and other questions below.

Exactly that ancient Mesopotamia is considered the cradle of civilization, and the Sumerians – one of the original peoples of this region – exerted an extremely strong influence on the history of the ancient world. What was life like at the fork of two rivers?

The first communities began to form in Mesopotamia around 12,000 BC. (during the Neolithic Revolution). At that time, however, it was not possible to speak of a cohesive social structure. Creation the first civilization (not only in Mesopotamia but in the world) is credited with The Sumerianswho more or less inhabited the basin of the Tigris and Euphrates in the third millennium BC. Then came the time of the reign Akkadian Empire with the capital in the city Akkād. Approximately. 2154 BC, the city came to power Assurwho created Assyrian Empire. In 1795 BC independent development began in parallel Babylonian Empire. The end of Mesopotamian independence is dated to 539 BC. AD when the earth came into under Persian rule. In 335 BC. BC, the lands between the two rivers were governed Alexander The Great.

Before the emergence of the first city-states, life in ancient Mesopotamia was concentrated in rural settlements. These were built on a circular plan, in the center of which was a ritual fire, used during religious ceremonies. The houses of influential members of the community were built of brick and were located closest to the fire. The farmers lived in clay huts.

The first cities, founded by the Sumerians, began to appear in the 4th millennium BC. They were independent centers, controlling the surrounding villages and adjacent agricultural lands. They were usually surrounded by high walls and separated from other settlements by a strip of sandy or muddy land. In the Sumerian city-states lived between a dozen and several tens of thousands of people. people. Power rested in the hands of priests, who acted as intermediaries between gods and men. The gods were worshiped in temples where ziggurats – pyramidal brick towers – were erected. Historical scholars believe that sacred places of worship were located at their highest point, at which only priests were permitted.

Over time, secular dignitaries took power in Mesopotamia. Kings were military leaders who enjoyed the highest authority and became famous for their bravest deeds on the battlefield. Power was inherited. Thus, the first monarchies and dynasties appeared.

Most people in Mesopotamia were free people with full rights. Besides kings, priests and military commanders, the wealthiest social class was that of landowners, merchants and artisans. Beneath them was the dependent population that served the higher-ranking residents. These are peasants who cultivated the land in the domains of the temples, royal and private. The peasants also practiced fishing. Free farmers who provided contract labor only appeared later. Slaves were the lowest social class. They were mostly prisoners of war and people bought in the market, mostly from outside Mesopotamia. Slaves served in the houses of the aristocracy – priests and officials.

The fertile lands of the Euphrates and Tigris basins have created ideal conditions for the development of agriculture. What was grown in ancient Mesopotamia? Mainly cereals: wheat, barley and rye. Additionally, the crops included lentils, peas, sesame, onions, leeks and cucumbers. Flax was also grown, which was used not only for the production of oil, but also as a raw material for weaving. Date palm orchards were also an important part of the culture. The inhabitants of ancient Mesopotamia were also involved in raising livestock: goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys. Poultry and pig farming were less important.

Achievements of ancient Mesopotamia influenced everyone ancient. Without a shadow of a doubt, the discoveries and inventions of the inhabitants of the lands of the Euphrates and Tigris basins were the driving force behind the development of civilization. What did the ancient Mesopotamians invent? It is difficult to list all their merits. Below we will focus on the most important ones.

When we talk about discoveries that we owe to the peoples of Mesopotamia, the first place is in writing. The Sumerians were the first to use writing, more or less in the fourth millennium BC. The oldest writing artifacts, containing hieroglyphics from ancient Mesopotamia, date from this period. Initially, the Sumerians used simple characters, which later evolved into cuneiform writing. The writing material was made of soft clay tablets and the writing was made of hewn reeds.

Another great achievement of the Mesopotamian peoples was the invention of the potter’s wheel. A simple device, moved by the feet or the hands, made it possible to quickly produce containers for the storage of foodstuffs and commercial goods. Due to geographical conditions (Mesopotamia was characterized by a shortage of natural resources), trade was an important part of the Mesopotamian economy. In order to be able to travel further and more efficiently, the Sumerians built the first sailing ship.

They also began to use the wheel in a practical way, creating carts used in agricultural work. The peoples of Mesopotamia are also credited with using horses as sled animals. The Sumerians combined copper with tin, thus beginning the Bronze Age. It was a milestone in the development of metallurgy that completely changed the face of the ancient world.

To apply the putative boundaries of ancient Mesopotamia on the modern map, its area will extend from the northern part of Syria to the Persian Gulf and from Iran to Arabia. The terrain forms a triangle whose base (to the north) extends between the city of Aleppo (to the northwest Syria) and Lake Urmia (northwest Iran), and the peak is at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab River (south Iraq).

The name of this ancient land means “the territory between the rivers“This term refers to an ancient place Mesopotamia – in the valley between the Tigris and the Euphrates. In Greek, the word “Mesopotamia” is a mixture of two words: “mesos”, meaning “centre”, and “potamos”, meaning river.

Name “Sumerians“(a civilization that colonized ancient Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC) literally translates to ‘blackhead’.

Location of ancient Mesopotamia It had many advantages, but it also had a significant disadvantage. The Tigris and Euphrates came out of their channels irregularly and rainfall was not very frequent. To solve this problem, the Sumerians built evacuation system.

Principle”Eye for eye, tooth for tooth“, which means that the punishment imposed on the perpetrator should be appropriate to his guilt, still today has many followers. Not everyone knows it, but this rule was created according to The code of Hammurabi.

Around 2000 BC. AD, the Sumerian language was replaced by Akkadian. The speech of the Sumerians, however, did not completely disappear. It was still used in the making of scientific, ceremonial and literary documents. Sumerian did not become a dead language until the first century AD. The Sumerian language was an isolated language. This means that it is not traceable to other ancient languages.

Origin of the Sumerians to this day, he is shrouded in an aura of mystery. One hypothesis indicates that these people originated from the area beyond the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula or the Indian subcontinent. Some scholars believe, however, that before arriving in the two-river basin, the Sumerians lived in Tibet or the Himalayas.

Contrary to the often repeated opinion, it is old Mesopotamia is not a country. Rather, it is a region/land that has been inhabited by many civilizations, but given the extremely dynamic social development that has taken place in this region, all of them are collectively referred to as the Mesopotamian civilization. This fact is also influenced by the common cultural heritage of the peoples of the Euphrates and Tigris basins.

Leave a Comment