Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just the Facts I - Mesopotamia

Location: In the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Mesopotamia means the 'land between the rivers'. An alternative name for the civilization is Sumer (means 'cultivated land').

Key Crops grown: Wheat and Barley

Early Beginnings: 4000-3000BC - Migration of Semitic and Indo-European groups into region. Although settlements such as Ur are thought to have been founded in 6000BC.

Main Cities (Early Stage): Ur, Uruk, Umma, Lagash, Kish, Nippur and Adab. Ur is the city mentioned in Genesis where it is described as the birthplace of the patriarch Abraham.

Key Features of Society: Temple Economy - ruler/king administered lands on behalf of gods. The ruler was responsible for distribution of food. Central graion silos were vital to the economy.
Mespotamian cities were known for their diverse array of artisans abd craftsmen.

Other Important facts

  • An important literary work associated with the early Mesopotamians is the Epic of Gilgamesh. For more on the Epic go to
  • Lugalzaggesi, king of Umma, is one of the more significant rulers of the civilization. He conquered Lagash, Uruk and Adab but was defeated by Sargon I of Akkad, thus ending his dream of uniting Mesopotamia.
  • The kingdom of Akkad was founded by Sargon of Agade in 2334. The word Sargon means 'legitimate king'.
  • Sargon's kingdom would eventually spread into Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He is also credited with smashing the dominance of Uruk. The following site contains an extract of an Akkadian father giving advice to his son (reminds me of Polonius and Laertes in Hamlet) -
  • One title held by Sargon was 'King of the Four Corners'.
  • Akkad fell in 2250 a time that coincided with the emergence of the Guti mountain people.
  • Ur (ruled by the Third Dynasty) was the dominant city in the 22nd century BC but it collapsed as a power in the wake of the Elam invasions. For more on the Elam (Early Iranians) go to
  • The Mesopotamians had many deities. Some of the more well known ones are: Enki (water/wisdom), Enlil (wind/air), Ninhursag (motherhood) and An (father/sky). For a list of Mespotamian deities and their Babylonian equivalents check out
  • The type of writing introduced by the Sumerians was Cuneiform - that used a system of pictographs. A blunt reed (stylus) was used to depict the pictographs on a clay tablet. The site has some very useful information on the evolution of this earlier writing style.

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