The Middle East: 8000 BCE-600 CE

The Middle East:
8000 BCE-600 CE
Unit 1 Section 2
Key Terms
– A small independent state consisting of an urban center and the surrounding agricultural
territory. A characteristic political form in early Mesopotamia, Archaic and Classical Greece,
Phoenicia, and early Italy
– A system of writing in which wedge-shaped symbols represented words or syllables. It
originated in Mesopotamia and was used initially for Sumerian and Akkadian but later was
adapted to represent other languages of western Asia. Because so many symbols had to be
learned, literacy was confined to a relatively small group of administrators and scribes
Hellenism/Hellenistic Age
– Historians’ term for the era, usually dated 323-30 BCE, in which Greek culture spread across
western Asia and northeastern Africa after the conquests of Alexander the Great. The period
ended with the fall of the last major Hellenistic kingdom to Rome, but Greek cultural influence
persisted until the spread of Islam in the 7th Century CE
– Belief in the existence of a single divine entity. Some scholars cite the devotion of the Egyptian
pharaoh Akhenaten to Aten (sun-disk) and his suppression of traditional gods as the earliest
instance. The Israelite worship of Yahweh developed into an exclusive belief in one god, and
this concept passed into Christianity and Islam.
Neo-Assyrian Empire
– An empire extending from western Iran to Syria-Palestine, conquered by the Assyrians of
northern Mesopotamia between the 10th and 7th Centuries BCE. They used force and terror and
exploited the wealth and labor of their subjects. They also preserved and continued the cultural
and scientific developments of Mesopotamian civilization
Early Civilization in Middle East
• 1st domestication of plants and animals occurred in the
Middle East around 8000 BCE in the Fertile Crescent
• Fertile Crescent: Persian Gulf through Iraq to the area
around the border between Syria & Turkey
• Jericho, which is present-day Palestine, was settle
around 8000 BCE
• Jericho & Çatal Hüyük provide archeologists with
evidence of early settled communities
Mud-brick structures
Long-distance trade
Agriculture-based economy
Links for understanding Çatal
_were_they_eating/seeds/ - what was grown
in Çatal Hüyük
city/timeline/ - timeline of world history
city/tour_city/catal_house/ - explore a
Çatal Hüyük house
• Geography of the land between Tigris &
Euphrates allowed for the Agricultural
Revolution but presented challenges
– Rivers were important sources of
irrigation and offered a means of
– Unpredictable flood patterns made
farming difficult & often caused isolation
of fields and towns
• To maximize the use of land
– 4000 BCE first use of oxen drawn plows
– Later construction of irrigation canals to
supply water to fields
– Crop rotation (leaving fields to lay fallow
every other year so soil retained nutrients)
First Empire: Mesopotamia
• 3100 BCE Mesopotamia became the first
complex civilization and empire
• Agricultural success lead to the emergence of
the city-state
– An urban center and the agricultural territory
controlled by this city
• Specialization which included: farmers, craftspeople,
religious leaders, political leaders, etc.
• Centers were the temple and the palace of the king
• Religion was organized by the state & was a large public
– Large temples for the gods of elements which were prominent
geographic challenges of the region
– Temples were centrally located & tended by priests
– Priests were prominent in both political and economic roles
(priests were landowners)
Mesopotamia Kings
- Mesopotamia video (music)
• Who are these kings &
why are they significant?
• Mesopotamian Kings
Viewed as gods’ representative on earth
Controlled the army
Provided protection
Built infrastructure
Maintained justice
• Example: Hammurabi 18th Century BCE
– Through military campaigns expanded
Babylonian rule
– Implemented famous Law Code – inscribed
on steeles throughout empire
• Clear, often severe punishments for criminals
Mesopotamian Economy
• Rise of city-states supported long-distance trade
• Barter system for most of Mesopotamian history
• Social divisions were rigid and enforced through the
rights & privileges spelled out by Hammurabi’s code
• By the 2nd millennium BCE guilds – professional
organizations – emerged
Free, landowning class: royals, high-ranking officials, warriors, priests & some merchants
Farmers, who often were attached to an estate owned privately by the king or temple
Slaves, working domestically; often prisoners of war, or people who could not pay debts (not a lot of slaves)
Mesopotamian Gender
• As with the Neolithic Revolution in other regions – the
role of women as humans shifted from hunter-gathers to
agriculturalists women were expected to bear & raise
children in growing families
• In Mesopotamia, women could own property, control
their dowry, and engage in trade
• Some women did work outside the home but in specific
industries at the lower rungs of society – often in textiles
• As the city-state emerged, women’s status deteriorated
further with the rise of the middle class
• Marriage and divorce laws favored the husband &
marriage was often used as way to create ties between
families & bolster economic standing – women became
nothing more than economic objects
Mesopotamian Technologies
• Development of writing most likely evolved from a
system for documenting property
– The recording of strokes and wedges on damp clay tablet
– cuneiform
• First utilized by the Sumerians & in the Sumerian language but
eventually to other languages in the region
• Though it spread through the region – the number of literate
people remained small
• Domestication of Cattle and Donkeys provided
important sources of power and transportation before
the domestication of the camel in 1200 BCE
– Horses domesticated by 2000 BCE were helpful in
transportation but also provided an asset militarily with
horsemen and charioteers revolutionized military
• Bronze tools and weapons were made from imported
• Clay was utilized in making bricks & pottery which
changed house construction
• A base 60 system in mathematics was also developed
• Mesopotamians began to formally study astronomy
The Decline/Transition of
• In the 2nd millennium BCE interaction with other regions
increased, resulting in a cosmopolitan period
• Diplomatic & economic interaction benefited the elite of the
societies involved
– Peasants who were the majority of the people may have seen some
improvements to their daily life
• By 1500 BCE was divided into 2 political and cultural zones
– In the South, Babylonia held political dominance which was gained
under Hammurabi 200 years earlier
– In the North, Assyria imported ore and textiles appeared ready to
expand its economic interests and conquer land
• Both regions increased their interaction with Egypt and the
Hittites of Anatolia – for copper, silver and iron
• Around 1200 BCE many of the economic & political centers in the
region declined as a result of conflict in Anatolia as well as the
economic collapse of their intertwined economies
• For the next 300 years Mesopotamia experienced a period of
isolation and poverty
The Neo-Assyrian Empire
• Assyrians rose again to establish what many
historians consider the 1st real empire - the
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-612 BCE)
– The ‘empire’ came from conquering & governing
diverse peoples inhabiting far-off lands
– The Assyrian homeland in northern Mesopotamia
was temperate which allowed for large harvests to
feed the growing population
– The farmers of the north were used to defending
their land from invaders so they were particularly
prepared to become foot soldiers for the empire
Assyrian Expansion & Collapse
• Military success was assured because of professional soldiers
armed with iron weapons and aided by cavalry and the
machinery & techniques for besieging towns
• Expansion followed trade routes and thus immediate economic
• In the neighboring kingdoms which were conquered had a
tribute system put in place
• Assyrians treated conquered peoples harshly
• Policies were designed to benefit the imperial center
– Use of terror & forced deportations effectively kept the conquered
people in line and discouraged rebellion
– Regional officials who swore allegiance & obedience to the king
oversaw payment of tribute, enforced laws, build infrastructure &
supplied the army in their region
• The system was effective in maintaining order and funneling
wealth to the king but it also brought prosperity to much of the
region & by 612 BCE the empire eroded from the hatred of the
conquered people and the dwindling loyal base population
• About 2000 BCE the Israelites were
gathering into settle communities and
transforming the nature of religion
• Though the Israelites were small in
population and inhabited a small region
poor in natural resources – the location was
strategically at the crossroads of important
trade routes
Origins of Israelites
• Story of Israelites is documented in the Hebrew Bible
• Abraham, considered the father of the 3 monotheistic
religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam)
– Believed that there is only one god – Yahweh
– Covenant with the Israelites & Yahweh agreed to make
them his chosen people who promised them the land of
• In exchange, the Israelites would worship only Yahweh, as
specified by the 10 Commandments
– These beliefs in many ways isolated Jews from others, but
they also instilled a strong sense of community & identity
• The Israelites reached their political and economic peak in
the 10th Century BCE under King Solomon
– Constructed the 1st temple to solidify the position of the
Israelites and their religion relative to other ins the Middle East
– Legitimized Judaism
– Heightened the importance of priests
• The city of Jerusalem expanded and society became more
stratified with the economic growth
– Gaps between the rich & poor emerged
– Marriage took on an economic significance
– Women who were respected for their vital role in the early
history of Israel were now unable to own property and marriage
rights favored men
• Women could not inherit property
• Women could not initiate divorce
• Most women worked in the home and in agriculture
Conquest & Diaspora
• The Neo-Assyrian Empire conquered the region
around 721 BCE
– Much of the kingdom was destroyed and its people
deported to the east
• This destruction & deportation were repeated in 587
BCE when the Neo-Babylonian Empire attacked
• Despite these upheavals, Judaism survived the
dispersal of Jews from their homeland, known as
the Diaspora
– The strength of Jewish rituals, rules and beliefs
sustained the community and identity
The Persian Empire
• Followed the Neo-Assyrian Empire
• Homeland in what is modern-day Iran
• One group, the Medes, took the lead in
challenging the Assyrian Empire just prior
to its collapse
• Around 550 BCE the Persians, led by Cyrus,
put together an empire of staggering size –
stretching from Greece to India and from
the Caucasus Mountains to North Africa
The Persian Empire (continued)
• To administer such a huge territory Darius I created
an organizational structure:
Divided the empire into 20 provinces
Each province was controlled by a satrap or governor
The satraps were usually related to the royal family
They oversaw the region, collected taxes & sent tributes
to the king
• Though roads were well maintained and patrolled,
information travelled slowly so those that were
farther from the capital enjoyed some autonomy
• Darius , also known as the lawgiver, allowed people
within the empire to live by their own traditions and
• Persian empire under Darius were followers
and practitioners of Zoroastrianism
– A monotheistic religion which may have
influenced Judaism
Belief in one supreme god
Notions of Heaven & Hell (realm of Angra Mainyu)
Reward & Punishment
Concept of Messiah – Ahura Mazda
Hellenistic Age & Roman Empire
• Ongoing conflict with the Greeks in the 5th & 4th
Centuries BCE – Persian Empire eventually succumbed to
the armies of Alexander the Great in 330 BCE
• The Greek Empire then controlled virtually the same
territory as the Persians had and, after the death of
Alexander, the next 300 years the region experienced the
influence of Greek culture known as the Hellenistic Age
• The Hellenistic Age ended with the rise of the Roman
• Roman rule extended through Anatolia and centered on
the Mediterranean and by 6 CE had reached present-day
Israel and Palestine
• The Roman Empire sat at the end of the Silk Road, which
brought goods from as far away as China
Judaism and Christianity under
• Polytheistic and pagan nature of Roman
religion did not blend well with the tenets of
– In this environment emerged Jesus & Christianity
– Judaism & Christianity came from the same source
& are ultimately linked
• Difference is that Christians believe that Jesus is the
Messiah & the incorporation of the New Testament
– After Jesus’ crucifixion, Paul and other followers
spread Christianity in spite of Roman opposition
– Many early converts were women, slaves, or urban poor

similar documents