Ancient Mesopotamia - Background Information
The civilization of Ancient Mesopotamia has been inhabited since the dawn of man. The word Mesopotamia comes from Greek origin, meaning the land between two rivers -- the Tigris and the Euphrates. Both the Tigris and the Euphrates start in the mountainous regions of Turkey and flow into the Persian Gulf.
In about 3500 BC, an ancient Semitic group of people, called the Sumerians inhabited this land. The Sumerians, or Semites, were descendents of Shem, a son of Noah. After the Sumerian civilization fell, they were followed by the Assyrians, and later by the Babylonians.
Today most of this area is within the country of Iraq. The northern part of this area is mountainous and has much timber. The southern part of this region is desert with very little rainfall. However, both the Tigris and the Euphrates regularly overflowed their banks, turning the floodplains into rich farmland. The earliest crops of wheat and barley were grown here. Man changed from being a hunter-gatherer to working the land, and organized his society into the various required jobs to farm the land. He also began keeping animals and managing the floodplains with canals.
By 3000 BC, the first city-state, Uruk, was built with Gilgamesh as its ruler. Soon there were other city-states. Those were Ur, Lagash, Eridu and Kish. Ur was the largest city. Each city-state was ruled by a king and the kings were often at war with one another.
In 2600 BC, King Sargon I of Ur built the first Ziggurat. Ziggurats were tall temples so people could get closer to god. The term Ziggurat means “platform between heaven and earth.” Each city-state had its own deity and priests to tend to it. The Tower of Babel was a ziggurat.
Ancient Mesopotamia - Notable people from this era
There have been numerous notable people from the region of Ancient Mesopotamia. Here are a few examples:
King Sargon I of Akkad ruled in Ur from 2334 to 2279 BC. He was said to have been found floating in a river, in a basket like Moses was. He was known as the first Empire Builder. Through his military prowess, he combined the kingdoms of Sumer with the kingdom of Akkad. He was a builder of Ziggurats.
Abraham was a city dweller from the city of Ur. His father, Terah, was a maker of idols. Abraham believed in the One God, the maker of heaven and earth, not the multiple deities that the common people of the region believed in. In about 2090 BC, God called Abraham out of that city, to separate him from that evil influence, and to make of him a great nation. Abraham became a wanderer and a nomad in the land of Canaan. He is the father of the Jews. Jesus was born from the lineage of Abraham.
There is an ancient legend among the Jews that Abraham went into his father’s workshop, took a hammer and smashed all the idols except one. He put the hammer in the hand of that one. When Terah came in, he asked Abraham what had happened. Abraham answered, “The idols had a fight and only this one is left,” to which Terah replied, “Don’t be silly, they can’t move. They are objects of wood and stone.” Abraham supposedly retorted, “Then why do you worship them?”
King Hammurabi reigned between 1795 BC and 1750 BC. He was the first king of the Babylonian empire. His capital city was Babylon. He is best known for the Code of Hammurabi, a set of laws, which governed every aspect of civil life.
Ancient Mesopotamia- Contributions to Civilizations
The people from Ancient Mesopotamia have contributed much to modern civilization. The first forms of writing came from them in the form of pictographs around 3100 BC. Later that was changed into a form of writing called cuneiform. They also invented the wheel, the plow, and the sailboat. The ancient Mesopotamians were the first people to build and live in cities. They developed the twelve-month calendar and a code of law, which was copied by many civilizations.
Ancient Mesopotamia has a rich history that continues to touch our lives today. Writing, codified law, farming, the building of cities and irrigation all have roots in the area. So does Christianity. Followers of God settled in the area by way of Noah and the Ark. Abraham, a descendant of Noah, lived in one of the great cities of the time. Abraham was called by God to be the father of the Jews and was an ancestor of Jesus, the leader of Christianity. And that may be the most important contribution of all.