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Mesopotamia Map And Civilization

  • Mesopotamian civilizations arose along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now Iraq and Kuwait.
  • Around the time of the Neolithic Revolution (12000 BCE), early civilizations began to emerge.
  • The Sumerian, Assyrian, Akkadian, and Babylonian civilizations were among the most important Mesopotamian civilizations.
  • Evidence suggests that these communities made substantial use of technology, literature, legal codes, philosophy, religion, and architecture.

Civilizations that arose beside rivers

Agriculture was well underway in various locations approximately 6000 to 8000 years ago, including Ancient Egypt along the Nile River. The Indus Valley civilization; Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; and Ancient China, along the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. This is because recurrent river floods create fertile soil along the banks of the rivers. Then the rivers could also provide fresh water to irrigate crops. It’s no surprise that as agriculture enabled denser and denser populations. As well as more specialized societies, some of the world’s first civilizations emerged.

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Ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, mostly modern-day Iraq and Kuwait, is often referred to as the cradle of civilization because it was the birthplace of some of the most prominent early city-states and empires—though it is not the only site! Its present name is derived from the Greek words for middle (mesos) and river (potamos), thus it literally means “land between two rivers.” These are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Mesopotamia was not only one of the first areas to create agriculture, but it was also a crossroads for the Egyptian and Indus Valley civilizations. As a result, it became a melting pot of languages and cultures, which had a long-lasting impact on writing, technology, language, trade, religion, and law.

Ancient cultures associated with Mesopotamia include the Sumerians, Assyrians, Akkadians, and Babylonians. Learning about this historical period can be perplexing because various cultures interacted with and ruled over each other for thousands of years. Depending on the time and context, these names can also be associated with city-states, languages, religions, or empires.

Sumerians

Let’s begin with summer. We believe Sumerian civilization began in southern Mesopotamia approximately 4000 BCE (or 6000 years ago). Consequently, it was the first urban civilization in the area. Around 3000 BCE, Mesopotamians developed one of the earliest written scripts: wedge-shaped marks pressed into clay tablets. For about 2000 years, people used this cuneiform—or wedge-shaped—writing to write their own languages, until Phoenician, on which the letters you are reading now are based, became the dominant script in the first millennium BCE. Cuneiform is also the script in which one of the world’s earliest great works of literature was written. The Sumerians are also known for inventing the wheel; the oldest known wheel dates to 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia.

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Sumerians created ships that allowed them to travel into the Persian Gulf and trade with other early civilizations such as the Harappans in northern India. They exchanged textiles, leather items, and jewelry for Harappan semi-precious stones, copper, pearls, and ivory.

Sumerian religion was polytheistic, which means it worshiped several gods, many of whom were anthropomorphic, or took human-like forms. Temples to these gods were built atop huge ziggurats in the heart of most cities. It would have taken thousands of workers many years to build these constructions.

Akkadian Empire

Around 3000 BCE, the Sumerians had extensive cultural exchange with the Akkadians, a people in northern Mesopotamia called after the city-state of Akkad. The Akkadian language is connected to the present Hebrew and Arabic languages. These are referred to as Semitic languages. The name Semitic is derived from the biblical character Shem, a son of Noah and the alleged progenitor of Abraham and, hence, the Jewish and Arab people.

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Sargon of Akkad rose to power in 2334 BCE and created what may have been the world’s first dynasty empire. The Akkadian Empire reigned over both Akkadian and Sumerian speakers in Mesopotamia and the Levant, which included modern-day Syria and Lebanon. The Akkadian Empire fell in 2154 BCE, only 180 years after it was founded.

Assyrian Empire

The ancient city of Aur, also known as Ashur, in northern Mesopotamia, inspired the name Assyria. During the Akkadian Empire, Ashur was one of several Akkadian-speaking city states governed by Sargon and his descendants. Assyria had grown into a significant empire within a few hundred years of the demise of the Akkadian Empire.

For much of the 1400 years between the late twenty-first century BCE and the late seventh century BCE, the Akkadian-speaking Assyrians ruled Mesopotamia, particularly in the north. The empire reached its zenith near the end of the seventh century. The Assyrian Empire at the time spanned from Egypt and Cyprus in the west to the boundaries of Persia (modern-day Iran) in the east.

The primary exceptions to Assyrian dominance were Hammurabi’s Babylonian Empire and the more chaotic dark centuries with no dominant power.

Babylon

After its founding in 1894 BCE, Babylon was a tiny city-state in central Mesopotamia for a century. Things altered during Hammurabi’s reign, which lasted from 1792 to 1750 BCE. He was a capable king who established an organized bureaucracy and taxation. Hammurabi liberated Babylon from foreign domination before conquering all of southern Mesopotamia, bringing stability and the name Babylonia to the region.

One of the most notable undertakings of Babylon’s First Dynasty was the creation. Around 1754 BCE, of a body of laws known as the Code of Hammurabi. Which repeated and expanded upon Sumerian, Akkadian, and Assyrian written laws. It is identical to the Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu of Ur’s code, which was composed between 2100 and 2050 BCE. Hammurabi’s code is one of the world’s oldest deciphered manuscripts of substantial length. The Code of Hammurabi, created in 1754 BCE by Babylon’s sixth king, was written on stone stele—slabs—and clay tablets. The Code consists of 282 statutes with graduated punishments based on social standing, with “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” applied.

UNSPECIFIED – MARCH 20: Tower of Babel, 1563, by Pieter Bruegel or Brueghel (1525-1530 circa-1569), oil on canvas, 114×155 cm. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Some have seen the Code as an early form of constitutional government. It gives people the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. Also the ability to present evidence in one’s case.

The Babylonian Empire, founded by Hammurabi, lasted 260 years until it was sacked by invaders in 1531 BCE. Between 626 through 539 BCE, Babylon reasserted its control over the region with the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This new empire was defeated by the Persians in 539 BCE, who dominated the region until the time of Alexander the Great in 335 BCE.