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3 City-States of Ancient Sumer

Objectives: - How did geographic features encourage the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent? - How were Sumerian government and society organized? - What were the main achievements of the Sumerian civilization?

Cuneiform tablet from The Epic of Gigamesh

Geography: the Fertile Crescent

Land between the rivers (Mesopotamia)
Location of first known civilization: Sumer Estimated to have emerged 3000BC Fertile land in present day Turkey/Iraq

Floods and irrigation

Rivers and floods were controlled using dikes River water was channeled via ditches for irrigation

Sumerian Civilization
The first cities
Rectangular cities surrounded by high walls Ziggurats: vast temples resembling mountains

Economic life
Wheel supposedly invented before Sumer Trade brought wealth from distant lands

City-states often battled each other for power Rulers led armies, employed tax collectors, maintained city walls and irrigation

Sumerian Civilization (contd)

Social classes
Each city-state had a hierarchy of classes
High class priests, rulers, nobles Middle class artisans, merchants, scribes Low class peasants, farmers

Slave ownership was not uncommon in Sumer

Myths focused on mother-goddess as creator Mothers were honored in society Status of women is thought to have decreased with increased household duties

Sumerian Religion
Polytheistic worshipped many gods
Gods controlled all forces in nature
Behaved like ordinary people Favored truth and justice Responsible for violence and suffering

Sacrifices were offered to appease each god

Belief in an underworld
Dark, gloomy place Suggestive of the biblical description of Hell

Epic of Gilgamesh
the house where one goes in and never comes out again, the road that, if one takes it, one never comes back, the place where they live on dust, their food is mud; and they see no light, living in blackness: on the door and door-bolt, deeply settled dust

Brief and True Report

They beleeve the immortalitie of the Soule, when life departing from the body, according to the good or bad workes it hath done, it is carried up to the Tabernacles of the gods, to perpetuall happinesse, or to Popogusso, a great pit: which they thinke to be at the furthest parts of the world, where the Sunne sets, and there burne continually.
Thomas Harriot

School for Scribes

The first writing
Cuneiform (L. cuneus wedge) Form of writing is thought to have evolved from simple pictograms Symbols represent simple and complex thoughts

School days
Scribes experienced rigorous schooling Beatings occurred for misconduct

Advances in Learning
Boys and some girls from wealthy families studied to become scribes Subjects studied were
Religion Medicine Mathematics (basic algebra and geometry) Geography Astronomy Literature

Base number system was 60 (unlike ours: 10)

Artists rendition of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon