The Empires of Mesopotamia

 Question: What is a civilization?
 Answer: Civilizations are complex
societies. They have large cities,
organized governments, diversity in
labor, art, religion, class divisions, and
a writing system.
 Link to Civilization Interactive Web: SS7 Civilization Interactive SMART
 In early human history people ate only wild plants
and animals.
Question: What happened when they had depleted
all sources of food in one region…?
Answer: People constantly migrated
(moved to other places) in search of new food sources.
Thousands of years ago people realized that they could control their
food supply by growing their own fruits and vegetables and by breeding
To do this they had to do what?
domestication – The process in which a plant and/or animal species has
changed its form and behavior so much so that it depends on people to
Ex: Domestic sheep cannot leap from rock to rock like their wild
ancestors. Why?
When domestication started, migration slowed and stopped being the
way of life.
 How did the domestication of plants and animals
change the environment?
 Possible answers: Forests were cut down; irrigation
canals were dug; wars were fought to protect land used
for farming.
 Agriculture allowed farmers to grow so much food that
they had a 1. surplus to be saved, shared, traded or
sold. 2. People now had a reason to
establish permanent settlements.
 hunting and gathering – The process of hunting for
animals and gathering wild plants and seeds.
Men hunted animals, while women were responsible
for gathering the plants and seeds.
Who do you think was responsible for discovering that
planting seeds could result in the growth of new
subsistence agriculture – A type of farming in which
plants and domesticated livestock are raised and breed
to support the needs of a family and/or community.
What happened to food surpluses (extra food)? How
did surpluses in food affect the types of jobs people
 The Fertile Crescent – Area encompassed by the
Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East.
Spring flooding leaves behind extremely rich and
fertile soil.
 The Geographic Conditions:
Little rainfall
Hot and dry climate
Windstorms leaving muddy river valleys in winter
Unpredictable, catastrophic flooding of
the rivers in spring
o Rich alluvial soil containing little minerals
o Little stone or timber resources
Would you want to live in a place like
the Fertile Crescent? EXPLAIN why or
why not?
Be sure to use information from your
notes to support your response!
Write a 1x5 paragraph (one paragraph with
FIVE sentences).
 The first civilization to develop a written language
 Mesopotamia is a Greek word that means “between the
rivers”, specifically, the area between the Tigris River and
Euphrates River (present day Iraq)
 Lasted for approximately 3,000 years
 Its peoples were the first to irrigate fields,
devise a system of writing, develop
mathematics, invent the wheel and
learned to work with metal
 irrigation – A system that supplies dry land with water
through ditches, pipes or streams.
 As farming succeeded in Mesopotamia, communities
began to have surpluses of food. As time progressed, the
building of cities became practical.
 surplus – An amount that is left over after a need has
been met.
 By 3500 B.C., the region of Sumer had many growing cities.
However, due to long distances separating the cities, no
ruler united all the Sumerian cities. Each Sumerian city
acted as a state, with its own special god or goddess, it’s
own government, and own ruler. They became known as
 city-states – A central city and its surrounding
villages, which together have one form of government,
and share the same language, religious beliefs, and
way of life.
 Sumerian cities were protected by vast walls to keep out invaders.
 Large temples and royal palaces were spread throughout the cities.
 Busy shops and market places lined the streets which were filled
with passerby, musicians, acrobats, beggars, and water sellers.
Merchants displayed goods in outdoor stalls.
Streets were so narrow and congested with traffic, people had to
squeeze through. The congestion kept carts from being able to
travel down the streets.
Houses faced away from the crowded streets onto inner courtyards
where families at and children played. Clay pipes, buried deep in
the ground, carried waste away.
Oil lamps supplied light for Sumerians homes.
People slept on their flat roofs on hot nights.
There was no universal literacy, so the profession of scribes became
very lucrative. Scribes spent many years in training and were paid
extremely well for their services. They were also highly respected.
Inventions and Discoveries in
Ancient Mesopotamia (Part 1)
Inventions and Discoveries in
Ancient Mesopotamia (Part 2)
 Like most inventions, writing developed out of necessity.
 Merchants and traders needed a way to keep track of goods being
bought and sold. At first people drew pictures to represent what
they wanted to say and to keep a record of events. These pictures
were called pictographs.
pictographs – A picture representing a word or
Who was responsible for recording written
Answer: Scribes
scribes – Individuals who could read and write.
Over time, scribes created a more elaborate (detailed) type of
cuneiform – Wedge-shaped symbols used by the Sumerians to
record written language. One of the first types of written language
in the world.
A “Tablet” House
 Many scribes wrote literary and scientific works
of their own. Certain lullabies and love songs
were written by female scribes.
 Since few people in Mesopotamia could read,
scribes read out loud to audiences. Many tales
from the Epic of Gilgamesh were read to the
public masses.
 The Epic Of Gilgamesh - Told the story King
Gilgamesh, who ruled around 3000 B.C. Several
tales are woven within this story, using
Gilgamesh as the main focal point. This hero
faces many problems involving friendship,
loyalty, love of fame, adventure, death, and the
quest for immortality.
 The people of Sumer worshipped not one, but many,
gods and goddesses.
 polytheism – The practice of worshipping more than one
 Sumerian myths warned that the gods would punish people
who angered them. Conversely, the myths promised
rewards to those who served the gods well.
 myth – A traditional story; a legend that explains
people’s beliefs.
 The Sumerians believed that their king was predetermined by the gods, and like the priests, acted
as interpreters as they told the people what the god
wanted them to do (i.e. by examining the liver or
lungs of a slain sheep).
 Each city-state was ruled by a different god, but the
dominant gods were: Anu- god of the upper heavens,
Enlil- god of the forces of nature, Nin-khursag-the
goddess of the earth and Enki- the water god.
 These gods were usually depicted in human form and
expected mankind to serve them and labor on their
 Story
 Each city-state built a temple to a specific god. The people
believed this god was the city’s special guardian. These
temples were called ziggurats.
ziggurats – A pyramid-shaped tower built with a temple
rising from the top as a center of worship for Sumerian
Terraces wrapped around the
ziggurat allowing people to watch
celebrations honoring their god.
The ziggurats were sacred places, so
much so that priests would wash the
statues of gods before and after each meal!
The leaning Tower of Babel from the Old Testament is
thought to have been a ziggurat.
 Temple priests were the first governors of Mesopotamian
 When disputes arose between city-states regarding land
and water, leaders were elected to defend their interests. As
time passed, these leaders, became kings. Each king also
gained the power of selecting their successor – who would
replace them after they died.
 From that point on, the city-states were governed by two
1. The priests controlled religious and
economic life.
2. The king controlled political and
military life.
Would do you think was bad about having a
government system where half was controlled
by an elected ruler or king and the other half
was controlled by religious priests? EXPLAIN
in detail!
Write a 1x5 paragraph (one paragraph with
FIVE sentence paragraph).
 Unfortunately for Sumer, the wealth of
the city-states became their downfall…
The Sumerian city-states fought over land,
and especially access to the river water.
Initially, Sumer was conquered by King
Sargon of the Akkadian kingdom. Both
groups were very similar, so Sumerian life
remained very much the same. However,
the union of the Sumerian city-states and
Akkada resulted in the world’s first
Constant warfare weakened the
Sumerian/Akkadian Imperial rulers and
exhausted its armies. It was no longer a
great power after 2000 B.C.
It fell to a northern rival (enemy) –
Babylonia – in 1759 B.C.
 Originally a small town, Babylon was located by the Euphrates River
and grew in size and importance. Eventually, its ruler, King
Hammurabi, conquered all of the city-states of Mesopotamia.
 empire – An area of many territories and people controlled by
one government.
 Large caravans travelled from across the sea and desert to trade with
the Babylonians.
 caravan – A group of merchants travelling together for safety.
 By controlling the vast array of
Mesopotamian city-states, Babylonia
grew extremely wealthy due to
its ability to control and benefit from
When a civilization, like the empires of
Mesopotamia, trade frequently, the
government becomes wealthy through
taxes. Explain how a government may
best use this tax money.
Write a 1x5 paragraph (one paragraph with FIVE
sentence paragraph).
 Much of the Babylonian culture was
borrowed from the Sumerians. However, one
great contribution of the world was that of
the Code of Hammurabi.
 Hammurabi's Code – A code of laws that told
the people of Babylon how to settle conflicts in
all areas of life and brought all social classes
under its rule. It was created by King
Hammurabi and consisted of 282 laws.
 Hammurabi’s Code was based on the idea of
an “eye for an eye.” Essentially, a man who
was blinded by another man, would have his
own eye put out. Unfortunately, the code did
not apply equally to all individuals…
“If a man has destroyed the eye of a member
of the aristocracy, they shall destroy his eye. If
he has broken another man’s bone, they shall
break his bone. If he has destroyed the eye of
a commoner or broken the bone of a
commoner, he shall pay one mina of silver. If
he has destroyed the eye of another man’s
slave or broken the bone of a man’s slave, he
shall pay one-half of the slave’s value.”
 As you just read on the
previous slide, the code
gave different punishments
for breaking the same rules.
The harshness of the
punishment depended on
how important the victim
was. The higher the class of
the victim, the stiffer the
Kings, Priests and
Wealthy Land Owners
Skilled Workers, Merchants, and
Slaves and Poor Workers
 Many of those who ended up in slavery had either
been captured in war or been sold into slavery to pay
off their debts.
 Slavery was not based upon race or ethnicity like it was
in the American south in the 1700 and 1800s.
 Women’s rights varied throughout the ages, but for the
most part women had fewer rights than men and were
considered property. Only in the case of the New
Babylon Empire did women have the right to own
Explain your thoughts on the
Hammurabi Code. Would you like to
live by such a code? Explain why or why
Be sure to use information from your notes
to support your response.
Write a 1x5 paragraph (one paragraph with FIVE
sentence paragraph).
 North of Babylon was a small kingdom with a few
walled cities. The kingdom’s open land made it
ripe for attack and attempted invasion. Due to this,
the Assyrians were constantly defending
themselves, which made them very skilled warriors.
 Around 1365 B.C., the Assyrians decided the best
defense was a good offense. And so, they launched
a massive campaign against the Babylonian Empire.
 By 650 B.C., the Assyrians had amassed a large
empire and began contributing to the future
civilizations of the world.
 To control their vast lands, the Assyrians divided
the empire into provinces.
 provinces – A territory governed as a political
district of an empire.
 Knowledge was very important to the
Assyrians. One of their great
accomplishments was the creation of one of
the world’s first libraries, one that housed
thousands of clay tablets with writings from
Sumer and Babylon.
 Thanks to the creation of this library, much
of the history we know about Mesopotamia
comes from the tablets stored by the
 To control conquered territories, the
Assyrians appointed governors to oversee
these lands. Each of these governors was
expected to report directly back to the king
through reports sent by messengers. To do
this, a system of roads was built. And the
delivered messengers were basically the first
mail delivery service in the world!
Explain why the recording of information,
like the Assyrians did with their clay tablets
stored in their great library, is important to
future civilizations.
Be sure to use information from your notes to
support your answer!
Write a 1x5 paragraph (one paragraph with FIVE
sentence paragraph).
 The Assyrian empire also devoted much of its time to
being strong and capable of defense and conquering.
Inventions included:
The battering ram
Armored chariots
Stone slingers
Archers with helmets and armor
Another important invention: The creation of a standing army.
 standing army – A military composed of soldiers who choose the army
as their career.
 Most other states had citizen-soldiers.
 citizen-soldiers – Men who would fight in a war, but return home
working as a farmer or skilled merchant once the war had ended.
 Due to the vast size of the Assyrian empire, they had too few soldiers to
defend it. So, they turned to mercenaries…
 mercenary – A foreign soldier hired by another country to fight in its
 However, due to its size and unmotivated, hired soldiers, Assyria fell to
the Chaldeans who resurrected the New Babylonian Empire.
 The New Babylonian Empire spent a great
amount of time rebuilding the city of
Babylon, which had been destroyed by the
Assyrians. In the rebuilt city, the king built
a massive royal palace (almost 350 ft.) that
had a dazzling landscape of trees and
gardens for his prized wife. This palace is
considered to be one of the Seven Wonders
of the World. It was known as the Gardens
of Babylon.
 This reborn empire also became a center for
learning and science. Babylonian
astronomers charted the paths of the stars
and almost perfectly measured the length of
the year.
 astronomers – Individuals who study planets
and stars.

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