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Mesopotamia: From Sumer to Babylon

Introduction

Mesopotamia is one of the greatest civilizations in world history. Most technological inventions and writing systems of contemporary society exist because of Mesopotamian contribution. The first writing system and literary work are attributed to this civilization. Throughout its history, the region was ruled by several empires, including Sumers and Babylonians. This paper will provide an overview of the civilization’s development from the Sumerian Empire to the Kingdom of Babylon.

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Ancient State

Agricultural civilizations started to emerge as early as 8000 BC. After realizing that regular river floods made soil along the shores fertile, more and more people moved toward river banks with the aim of growing crops (Wiesner-Hanks et al. 148). Aside from fertilizing the land, rivers also provided a sufficient amount of water for irrigation purposes. To the list of such agricultural amenities, one can add Mesopotamia, an ancient empire in the modern-day Middle East. It was a state between Tigris and Euphrates, the two rivers that provided the land with an abundance of opportunities for technological, cultural, and economic growth (“Mesopotamia”). Mesopotamia’s geographical location made it a meeting point for the Egyptian and Indian worlds, elevating its cultural importance even further. The exchange of goods, knowledge, and experiences that took place in Mesopotamia advanced technology, education, and economics in the region significantly.

Age of Sumer

As agriculture developed, the population was becoming denser, contributing to the emergence of the first cities. Sumer, which was formed approximately 6000 BC, is considered to be the first urban area in Mesopotamia (Altaweel 3). One of Sumerians’ most significant achievements is the development of a written script, which is now called cuneiform (Altaweel 1). This writing system was used to present one of the first literature pieces, The Epic of Gilgamesh (Hashemipour 6). Besides literary works, Sumerians used cuneiform for bookkeeping purposes, which contributed to the development of trade in the region (“Mesopotamia”). Another critical invention made by these people is the creation of the wheel, which is a foundational element of modern-day technology and transportation (“Mesopotamia”). Sumerians also constructed ships to reduce travel times and get to destinations unreachable by land. They used this technology to promote trade with other civilizations.

State of Akkad

To the north of Sumer, the city of Akkad prospered. Its citizens spoke a language that resembled contemporary Hebrew and Arabic languages. In 3000 BC, Sumers and Akkadians were gathered under one rule after a massive cultural interchange (“Mesopotamia”). Most people became bilingual and spoke both the language of Sumer and Akkad. The empire is considered to be the first to have features of dynasticism (“Mesopotamia”). Akkad also had a road infrastructure that allowed for the creation of a postal service (“Mesopotamia”). Like citizens of ancient Mesopotamia, Akkadians relied significantly on crops (National Centers for Environmental Information). The region’s economy was based on the trade of agricultural products – they were used not only to feed the population but also to exchange them for metal ores and other natural resources. Akkadian Empire did not exist for very long – it fell apart 180 years after it was founded.

Assyria

Assyrians had inhabited Mesopotamia before the rule of the city of Akkad. However, their independence came after the Akkadian Empire fell, which provided Assyrians with a room to establish their own state. They became a dominant empire after several hundred years from the collapse of the Akkadian rule. Their command extended from the northern parts of Mesopotamia to Egypt (“Mesopotamia”). Significant developments were made in arts, architecture, and science. It is believed that Assyrians had mastered the skill of constructing telescopes (“Mesopotamia”). This theory explains how their astronomy could be so precise.

Babylon

After the downfall of Akkad, southern regions of Mesopotamia united to become the Kingdom of Babylonia. Led by the king Hammurabi, a small city of Babylon managed to become a dominant force in the region, conquering major cities like Akkad and Ur (“Mesopotamia”). The practice of law developed significantly in Babylon – by the end of the First Dynasty, a compilation of laws was published under the name Code of Hammurabi (“Mesopotamia”). The work consisted of more than 280 rules that encompassed crime and punishment (“Mesopotamia”). The code had a significant influence on the development of politics and is considered to be the first example of constitutionalism. Babylonians were advanced both in technology and economics, but could not maintain their rule of the vast territory. The empire was invaded by Persians who ruled until the emergence of Alexander the Great.

Conclusion

Each time period in Mesopotamia’s history is associated with a rule of a certain state and unique contributions it made to humanity. In ancient Mesopotamia, agriculture prospered, while Sumerians offered a written script for streamlining communication, fostering literature, and facilitating trade through bookkeeping. They also invented the wheel – a device that would shape humanity’s development throughout the next millennia. Akkadians promoted foreign exchange, Assyrians contributed significantly to science, and Babylonians developed a political system based on law. Mesopotamia was one of the most critical civilizations in human history.

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Works Cited

Altaweel, Mark. “Southern Mesopotamia: Water and the Rise of Urbanism.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water, vol. 6, no. 4, 2019, pp. 1-6.

Hashemipour, Saman. “Archetypal Heroes of The Epic of Kings and The Epic of Gilgamesh: Rostam and Gilgamesh are Mirroring Myths.” International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 2019, pp. 6-11.

“Mesopotamia.” History.com. 2019, Web.

National Centers for Environmental Information. “Drought and the Akkadian Empire.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Web.

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry, et al. A History of World Societies: To 1600. Bedford/St. Martins, 2017.

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