Civilization Fact Report: Ancient Mesopotamia

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Civilization Fact Report: Ancient Mesopotamia


5000 B.C.E.: Sumerians arrive

3500 B.C.E.: Writing

3000 B.C.E.: Governments

3000 B.C.E.: Sumerians subjugate many of the Semites in the area

3000 B.C.E.: Bronze technologies developed to craft military weapons as well as farming tools and plows.

2300 B.C.E.: Sumerian city-states unified under Sargon the Great: Founded the Akkadian Empire. Government bureaucracy grew. A system of messengers and road stations speeded up communication in the area.

2000 B.C.E. The Epic of Gilgamesh is written

1700 B.C.E.: Hammurabi led the Babylonians to conquer Mesopotamia. First known law code created.

1700 B.C.E. – 1100 B.C.E. : Late Bronze Age

1500B.C.E.: Mesopotamia divided into Babylonia and Assyria

1500 B.C.E.: Hittites conquer Mesopotamia

Late 3rd Century B .C.E.: Advanced Cretan civilization develops on the island of Crete.

1200 B.C.E. : Total collapse of the late Bronze Age trade network created by early civilizations

900 B.C.E.: Assyrians conquer Mesopotamia

500 B.C.E.: New Babylonians conquer Mesopotamia


Anatolia (Turkey)

Black Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Euphrates River

Tigris River

PERSIAN Summary. Put together the Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Interactive, Artistic, & Natural characteristics. This should be FULL of names, dates, key terms, & other historic evidence! Key terms for Ancient Mesopotamia: Mesopotamia, Semitic, Sumerians, city-states, labor systems, Sargon, Akkadian Empire, Akkad, cultural diffusion, Fertile Crescent, theocracies, Ur, Hammurabi, Babylonians, Hittites, Assyrians, New Babylonians, law code, Hammurabi’s Code, cuneiform, Epic of Gilgamesh, Uruk, ziggurats, amulets, Late Bronze Age, cosmopolitanism, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, Saul, David, Solomon, Abraham, diaspora, monotheism, covenant

Political: Thesis sentence:

The non-Semitic group called Sumerians, who came into Mesopotamia around 5000 B.C.E., are credited with building the earliest civilization. They had subjugated many of the Semites in the area by about 3000 B.C.E. The Sumerian city-states were not politically unified until 2300 B.C.E. when an invading Semitic group led by Sargon the Great conquered the entire area and founded the Akkadian Empire that was dominated by the newly created town of Akkad. Before Sargon’s conquest most of the city-states were theocracies, governed by gods or priest. Constant warfare almost certainly increased the power of the warrior kings who secured the loyalty of soldiers by giving them lands. Sargon changed that tradition so that the cities were ruled by kings, but priest were so revered that the kings often obeyed their wishes. Kings after Sargon assumed responsibility for the temples, city defenses, irrigation channels, and the system of justice. The Akkadian Empire only lasted for a little over a century, and the city-state of Ur rose to replace Akkad in power. Government bureaucracy grew during this time. During the 1700’s B.C.E. Hammurabi led the Babylonians to conquer Mesopotamia, only to be followed by a series of other people that came through the crossroads over the centuries, including the Hittites in the 1500’s B.C.E., the Assyrians in the 900’s B.C.E., and finally the New Babylonians in the 500’s.

Economic: Thesis sentence:

Sumerian power was cemented by the brisk trade resulting from conquests that brought food produced in villages to the towns and created economic ties among the towns. The majority of people were farmers, herders, or workers directly associated with agriculture, such as wine pressers, millers, or carters. Probably, about 5% of the population lived in cities and did not grow their own food. Craftsmen did not have to be literate, but metalworking, leather work, pottery and jewelry making, carpentry, and masonry all required special training. Around 3000 B.C.E. metalworkers invented bronze by alloying copper and tin to make a harder, stronger metal. Bronze was used to fashion military weapons as well as farming tools and plows, giving both warriors and farmers important advantages After about 1000 B.C.E. Mesopotamians began to develop tools and weapons made of iron with carbon added to control brittleness. Another important invention that increased job specialization and economic efficiency was the wheel. Wheeled carts and wagons allowed heavy loads of bulk goods to be hauled over long distances. Mesopotamia experimented with maritime travel, with Sumerians learning to navigate in the Persian Gulf. Many people were involved in the central task of early civilizations: creating and maintaining a reliable water source. Labor systems (coordinated efforts to get work done) were generally small, with craft shops usually owned by a family with perhaps two or three paid or slave laborers. Slaves made up a significant portion of the working population, and were often assigned unpleasant or dangerous work, such as mining or handling the dead. Slave labor was not as important as it was later to become in ancient Greece and Rome. It was not uncommon for a debtor to become a slave for a few years and then be freed when the debt was paid.

Religion: Thesis sentence:

Most of the city-states were theocracies, governed by gods or priests. Like most other civilizations, Mesopotamians believed that deities intervened regularly in human affairs, and that their very survival depended on their ability to please the gods. Each city had its own god who it held in higher esteem than all others, and a host of supporting priests devoted their lives to that deity. Ziggurats (large multi-story pyramids) were temples dedicated to the special god and were found at the center of each urban area. Priests passed their positions and knowledge to their sons, and they enjoyed very high status in most city-states. The high priest performed great rituals, and others provided music, exorcised evil spirits, and interpreted dreams. Some divined the future by examining the remains of sacrificed animals. Evidence also supports the regular occurrence of religious festivals in which priests read pleasing stories to the god’s image in front of both nobility and ordinary people. Gods were associated with various forces of nature, and they often displayed disagreeable human characteristics, such as quarreling and using their powers in selfish ways. Gods caused flooding and the afterlife was seen as full of suffering.

Social: Thesis sentence:

As a result of the political conquest of Sargon of Akkad cultural diffusion of Sumerian ways spread throughout much of the area, influencing a wide swath of land from Mesopotamia to Egypt that came to be known as the Fertile Crescent. The Code of Hammurabi identified three distinct classes in Mesopotamia in the 18th century B.C.E. The free land owning class, which consisted of the royal family, priests, warriors, high government officials, merchants, and some craftsmen and shopkeepers. A class of dependent farmers and craftsmen, who worked for the free land owning class. Slaves, who often did domestic work and less desirable jobs outside the home. Slaves were often prisoners of war, and others were debtors. Slaves were identified by a particular hairstyle, not by permanent marks or chains, so those that won their freedom could easily rid themselves of their previous status. Women lost social standing and freedom with the spread of agriculture, and in the ancient civilizations – including Mesopotamia – a food surplus made larger families possible, so women were tied to their responsibilities at home. Women could own property, control their dowries, and participate in trade, but men controlled political and religious life. The status of women appears to have declined significantly during the 2nd millennium B.C.E. as urbanization and private wealth increased. In later Mesopotamian history men could take a second wife if the first did not bear children, and kings and other rich men often had several wives. Daughters of nobility were married to noblemen of their family’s choosing in order to enhance the family’s wealth and status. It is possible that the wearing of veils dates back to this Mesopotamian era.

Interactions Thesis sentence:

Mesopotamia is geographically accessible from many directions so it became a crossroads for diverse groups of people that sometimes settled and sometimes moved on.

The violent nature of the environment led Mesopotamians to be generally gloomy and resigned to their fate in life. After about 1000 B.C.E. Mesopotamia began to develop tools and weapons made of iron with carbon added to control brittleness. Mesopotamia was interrelated enough with Egypt by this time to allow the spread of this technology to Egypt. Mesopotamia was trading with Egypt as early as 3500 B.C.E. and by 2300 B.C.E., the Sumerians were trading with Harappans in the Indus River Valley. By the time of the Babylonians (about 1900 to 1600 B.C.E.), Mesopotamians were importing silver from Anatolia in the northwest, cedar from Lebanon in the southwest, copper from Arabia in the south, gold from Egypt, and tin from Persia in the southeast.
1700 B.C.E. – 1100 B.C.E.: Late Bronze Age. This period is characterized by an early version of cosmopolitanism, or the shared cultures and lifestyles that result when different groups are in regular contact. The cultural diffusion among groups included not just trade goods, but also ideas, values, and standards of living. The web of commerce included; Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittites, Nubians, and Mycenaeans.
1500: Mesopotamia was divided into two political zones. Babylonia in the south and Assyria in the north. Although another group – the Kassites – came to power in Babylon, trade continued, and urban centers prospered. The Hittites originated in Anatolia (modern Turkey) and formed a large empire to the northwest of Mesopotamia. Anatolia’s rich natural resources of copper, silver, and iron helped the Hittites to play a vital role in international commerce. They developed new techniques for iron working, providing them with military advantages that allowed them to conquer the area.
2000 B.C.E. (Late 3rd millennium B.C.E.): Advanced civilization of the Mycenaeans developed on the island of Crete, just south of the Aegean Sea. These Minoans created large palace complexes and massive walls. They were replaced by the Greek Mycenaeans who came to dominate the area by the late Bronze Era. These Greeks were warlike and aggressive so they ended up controlling trade across the Aegean Sea and with the other civilizations of the Middle East.
1200 B.C.E.: Late Bronze Age: Many of the old cultural and economic centers of the Middle East and Mediterranean were destroyed. The Hittites fell to invaders, who then moved to the eastern end of the Mediterranean and destroyed trading cities there. Egypt experienced invasion by the “Sea Peoples” but survived with major losses of territory. The Mycenaeans collapsed, sparking a Greek “Dark Age”. All of this equaled a domino collapse of the economic and cultural exchanges of the Bronze Age. This collapse may be an early illustration of a negative consequence of interdependence. The economic and cultural exchanges that had contributed to their wealth and vitality fell once a piece of the trade network was gone.

Nature: Thesis sentence:

Mesopotamia, or “Land between the rivers”, in southwest Asia sits between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. These rivers rise in modern day Turkey, parallel one another for about 400 miles, and finally join just before they empty into the Persian Gulf. The weather was generally hot and dry with mild winters and rainy seasons. The people could not rely on consistent rainfall for their crops, so irrigation was vital to agricultural success. Mesopotamia is open on all sides so it served as a crossroads of population movement. The region experiences seasonal flooding that is irregular and unpredictable, so that people had no choice but to react to, rather than prevent and contain, the damage that was done.

Thematic paragraph:


The Mesopotamian region was ruled over time by a series of strong rulers that rose from competing city-states bent on controlling fertile regions and trade zones that crossed the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley. Various rulers eventually succeeded in creating larger political regions known as empires.


The early civilizations were predominately agricultural, however increased urbanization led to increased job specialization which in turn led to increased trade between regions for specialized materials.


Mesopotamian religion revolved around pleasing Gods that were seen as very involved with the daily life of humanity. This fact gave early priest great power and status in their communities.


The rise of urban centers paralleled a rise in social classes and a loss of rights among women. Social class distinctions and larger populations were controlled through the birth of legal systems.


The open accessibility of the Mesopotamian region led to a vast amount of trade in all directions. Some of these trading partners moved on and some stayed to found empires of their own. All of this contact led to rapid diffusion of technologies from many regions.

Arts and Intellectual:

Increased urbanization and cross-cultural contact also led to great advances in literature, art, mathematics, inventions of technologies, and astronomy.


The harsh open nature of the Mesopotamian environment provided the peoples there with motivation to build structured civilizations in order to react to their environment. The open nature of the region led the people to accept trade and ideas from a large number of different sources.

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