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Analysis of History, Government System, and Culture of Mesopotamia

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Babylon was a minor city-state in the center of Mesopotamia for a century Mesopotamia is a region located in southwest Asia located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The word “Mesopotamia” is formed from the words meso, meaning between or in the middle, and potamos, meaning river, forming the definition, land between two rivers in Greek. The history of Mesopotamia is marked by various inventions that have changed the world, such as the concept of time, math, sailboats, maps, and writing. Rulers often changed in the region from different areas and cities that took over a period of a thousand years. Mesopotamia is a part of the Fertile Crescent, also known as the Cradle of Civilization, due to the many inventions that were created in the region. The region is now home to modern day Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, and Syria. Mesopotamia’s history, government system, and culture have really shaped the world for what it is today.

After it was founded by 1894, BCE. Things changed with the rule of Hammurabi in 1792 to 1750 BCE. Hammurabi was an exceptional ruler who established a Bureaucracy with taxation. He freed Babylon from foreign rule and then ruled the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, making Babylonia stable and into the region. The Babylonian Empire lasted 260 years until it was invaded in 1531 BCE. Between 626 and 539 BCE, Babylon dominated once again with the Neo-Babylonian Empire. This empire then got overthrown in 539 BCE by the Persians who ruled the area until the time of Alexander the Great in 335 BCE.

Mesopotamian government revolved around the Code of Hammurabi. In about 1754, a collection of 282 laws were created by Hammurabi, the sixth king of Babylon. It is considered the most significant documents of the First Dynasty of Babylon and was a revision of earlier laws of Sumer, Akkad, and Assyria. It is comparable to Sumerian king Ur-Nammu of Ur’s code, written from 2100 to 2050 BCE. Hammurabi’s Code is one of the most ancient deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The document highlighted punishments based on social status. For example, if a person of a higher rank broke a slave’s arm, they would have to pay a fine. Some consider the Code to be a form of constitutional government. The laws were arranged in groups, so that citizens could easily read the code. One of the most well-known laws was number 196 “If a man destroys the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.” If one breaks a man’s bone, they shall break his bone. If one destroy the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman he shall pay one gold mina. If one destroy the eye of a man’s slave or break a bone of a man’s slave he shall pay one-half his price.” The discovery of the Code of Hammurabi occurred when Archaeologists, including an Egyptologist named Gustav Jequier discovered the code in 1901at the ancient site of Susa in Khuzestan a translation was published in 1902 by Jean- Vincent Scheil. A basalt steele containing the code in cuneiform script inscribed in the Akkadian language is presently displayed in Louvre, Paris, France. Replicas of the code are located at various other museums around the globe.

Religion played a significant role in Mesopotamian culture, they believed God affected every aspect of human life. People would pray at home and take part in many religious observances in the streets during sacred holidays. Mesopotamians were polytheistic and worshipped a multitude of minor Gods and thousands of minor Gods. Each Mesopotamian city had its own patron God or goddess. Each Mesopotamian era or culture interpreted each God differently. For instance, Marduk, Babylon’s God, was known as Enki or Ea in Sumer. Some Mesopotamian Myths were reflected in the Bible, such as the Garden of Eden, the Flood, the Creation, and the tower of Babel. Since it is the world’s oldest religion, Mesopotamian ideologies heavily influenced today’s monotheistic religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In early Mesopotamia, priests were the highest authority that came from God. Priests then were both representative of the God and mediator between the God and the people. Later on, the secular power was established in a king, even though kings had specific religious duties. Kings ruled by the God’s favor and were partially given God-like authority. Kings, priests, and priestesses were the most honored in Mesopotamian society.

As the civilization developed, the culture did as well. Many traditions, festivals, and ceremonies, as well as many other things. A majority of the rituals and traditions were based on rites of passage, such as marriage and birth. These occasions were celebrated with a banquet that included music, dancing, and food. The food provided usually depended on the social status of the family. For music, even though instruments had been found, it was unknown what kind of music they played. In the daily lives of the Mesopotamians, men would go out and work, typically a specialized job such as a builder or musician. Women would stay at home, fulfill the needs of children, and complete household duties. The average number of children in a Mesopotamian household was about 3 or 4, this would be the amount of kids if they survived to be s certain age. There was a high infant mortality rate as well a high rate of miscarriages. In order to protect an unborn child, a mother would wear a protective amulet, with the symbol of the demon Pazuzu to ward off deities that would want to cause harm to the unborn child, as well as preform rituals after the child’s birth so that evil beings would not steal their child.

Mesopotamian Gods were very human- like. They would fight, eat, drink, marry, and have children just as people would. Even though they were immortal, they experienced pain and paradoxically get killed. The four most important deities were An, Ki, Ninhursag, Enlil, and Enki who ruled heaven, Earth, air, and sea. Elil slowly took away all of An’s power and eventually became the most powerful God. These four Gods were the ancestors of the rest of pantheon. There were three other Gods that had great significance in Mesopotamian religion, Nanna, another name for the moon God, another name for the moon God, Sin, the God of the Sun, Utu, the God of Judgement, and Inanna,, the goddess of love and war. Mesopotamia’s pantheon of Gods makes up the civilization’s rich mythology.

Education was the passageway to an elite lifestyle for all empires included in the Fertile Crescent. The first schools were started by the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia. Education was brought up when the invention of writing came along in the mid fourth millennium BCE. Kings then came to the realization that they were in need of educational scribes. In the beginning, writing started out as pictograms, but gradually developed into cuneiform, wedge- shaped marks inscribed in clay. Modern scholars took the term from the Latin word Cuneus, meaning wedge shaped. The marks were shaped like wedges due to the triangular shape of the pens that were used. With the creation of writing, Sumerians recorded everything, such as business records, inventories, poems, stories, etc. One of the beauties of Cuneiform is that it could be adapted to almost any language, the alphabet from the English language is also used in French, German, and various other languages. Similarly, the cuneiform characters the Sumerians invented to write their language was later adopted by the Babylonians and Assyrians to communicate their own tongue, Akkadian.

Mesopotamian education greatly emphasized literacy, in the 3rd millennium, cuneiform became more complex. It took 12 years to learn the cuneiform marks and general knowledge of the scribes. Temples also educated boys to become scribes and priests. In the beginning scribal schools were associated with the temples, however, secular schools slowly took over. Scribes opened schools and had expensive tuition. The high tuition ensured that only boys from rich families can get any level of Mesopotamian education. The sons of nobility government officials, priests, and rich merchants went to school from dusk till dawn each day. Since the difficulty of cuneiform was high, Sumerians were illiterate, however they could possibility recognize some words. Boys in Mesopotamia most likely started school at the age of seven or eight. Girls on the other hand did not learn how to read or write unless they were the daughters if kings or were training to become priestesses. Teachers, who were former scribes or priests were very strict on discipline, students were often punished by whipping. Students were punished when they spoke out of turn, spoken without permission, dressed inappropriately, or left the classroom without permission. Teachers expected students to be obedient. Students were taught various subjects such as reading, writing, history, and math. Depending on what job each student would pursue, they not only had to learn literacy and numeracy, but had to learn geography, zoology, botany, astronomy, engineering, medicine and architecture. While schools were only for wealthier students, there was a lot to learn to become a scribe.

Learning cuneiform was essential to Mesopotamian education. Teachers would write sentences for students to repeatedly write until no errors were made. A “big brother” or teacher aid was there to help smaller children with their assignments. Constant repetitive practice, recitation, reading texts and copying slowly taught the students what they needed to know. Archaeologists have found many clay tablets with attempts made by students, many of them had corrections made by the teacher. Upon graduation, a scribe could become a priest with more extensive training, or he could become a scribe for the military, palace, temple, or a business.

Mesopotamian cuisine was basic at the time. They mostly ate produce that was grown along the fertile crescent. They also consumed livestock that provided meat. Around 9000 BCE, people began cultivating plants that were useful and edible. By carefully cultivating, they had large quantities of food that negated the need to move at a really fast pace, and so they decided to stay in one place for good. Many civilizations rose and fell throughout Mesopotamian history, such as the Babylonians, Sumerians, Assyrians, and Akkadians, however, their diets were still very similar and still raised the same kind of crops and domestic animals. The main crop that grew in the area was barley, which grew very easily and in large quantities in the region. Barley was used to make bread and beer, which were significant in their diets. There were also various other things that Mesopotamians grew and ate, such as wheat, chickpeas, beans, onions, garlic, grapes, and eggplants. For the most part, Mesopotamians drank a lot of beer. Wine was also available, but it was more costly. At the same time when agriculture came to be, people began domesticating animals, starting with goats. They also raised animals like sheep, pigs, cattle, ducks, and pigeons. They also made cheeses and cultured dairy products from milk. Fish would swim in rivers and canals dug to irrigate crop fields and gardens. Cuneiform tablets revealed that over 50 fish varieties were included in their diets. Even though they settled in villages and cities, they would hunt for sport and meat like deer and gazelle. The main part of their diet was a form of gruel possibly made of lentils or chickpeas mixed with grains. It is thought that they would have this with every meal along with barley, and of course, beer. The French Assyriologist, Jean Bottero decoded some tablets and unveiled the world’s first recipes in Mesopotamian cuisine, which were, spicy meat stew, duck and vegetable stew, braised turnips and baked pigeon pies.

The Sumerian civilization developed a high level of culture between 2700 and 2350 BCE. Both genders would wear sheepskin skirts with the skin turned inside and the wool combed into decorative tufts. The skirts were pinned in place and extended from waist to the knees or for the higher class, the ankles. The upper half of the torso was bare or clothed by another sheepskin cloaking the shoulders. Starting from 2500 BCE, wool fabric replaced sheepskin. Long cloaks were also worn at the time, and materials for garments and head coverings included felted wool and leather.

Mesopotamia’s rich history, culture, and government system had a lot to offer and really was an outline for how people live today. Because of creations like cuneiform, the concept of writing has come a long way and has become less rigorous in the modern world. Early education and government were a building block for the present and really highlighted the importance of how both things should be taken very seriously. Clothing and food have greatly evolved due to the ideas first introduced in the ancient world.

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