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Chapter 2

Early Civilizations
World History
Fall 2008 Hasquin
Section 2 – The Fertile Crescent
Setting the Scene
City-State, Cuneiform
People to Meet:
The Sumerians, Sargon I, the Akkadians,
Places to Locate:
Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers
Ancient River Valley Civs
The Twin Rivers
People move into the area between the
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers from Asia
The area is known as Mesopotamia
“Land between the Rivers”
An area of the Fertile Crescent
Made up of modern nations of Israel,
Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria & Iraq
Rivers continued
Neolithic farmers used the T&E to water their
The T&E do not flood regularly like the Nile.
Dry summers and wet springs complicate
Floods were strong and unpredictable.
Dams, levees and channels were constructed to
control floodwaters and irrigate crops.
Surplus grains were being produced by 4000 BC.
The Sumerian Civilization
Central Asian Sumerians move into
Mesopotamia – 3500 BC
The Southern area of T&E become known
as Sumer
Sumer is the birthplace of some of the
world’s oldest cities
Sumerian City-States
By 3000 BC there are 12 City-States
The 3 most notable are Ur, Uruk and Eridu
A city-state is the city itself and the lands
surrounding it.
The people of Sumer share common
culture, language, and religion
Each city-state contains a ziggurat or temple.
The ziggurat is layered and has a temple on top.
Sumerian Government
Each city-state was governed independently
of the others.
Some were controlled by councils, eventually
lead by military leaders, and then kings.
Sumerian kings were also the chief priest
Gov’t was a monarchy and theocracy
Kings oversaw agriculture because it was tied the
local deity.
Also handed out punishment for crimes – usually
Roles of Men and Women
Family life and the roles of men and women
were regulated.
Men had authority over women and
Women had few rights, but were able to
own property and run a business.
Writing on Clay Tablets
Commerce was the driving force behind life
in Sumer.
Writing was developed to keep track of
business transactions
Writing dates to 3100 BC and is the oldest
Cuneiform uses pictograms and used
wedge-shaped characters.
Writing continued
The pictograms were made by pressing a
stylus into tablets of wet clay and then
drying or baking them.
Special training was required to be a writer
or “scribe.”
Scribes were important and ranked high in
the social class.
Literature was also developed, the most
important work being Gilgamesh
Sumer’s Many Deities
Sumerians were polytheistic
Each deity represented a force of nature
An – Seasons, Enlil – Wind and Agriculture
Each city-state laid claim to it’s own deity.
Deities were viewed as unpredictable and
Humans had little control over their lives
and the afterlife was grim and unwelcoming
Sumerian Inventions
Invented the wagon wheel
The Arch
Potter’s Wheel
12 Month Calendar
360 days
Base 60 numerical system
Bronze – Tin and Copper (Alloy)
Metal Plow
First Mesopotamian Empires
Sumer will eventually fall to outside
Sargon I was the 1st empire builder of
Mystical life
Builds Akkadian Empire in Northern
Expands and unites all of Mesopotamia under
his rule
Mother abandons him in a reed basket on the
Euphrates river
Rescued and raised by farmer
Established kingdom in North Mesopotamia –
Sargon wants to expand empire
Unites city state 800 years before Egyptian new
Akkadian language replaces Sumerian
Expanded into Syria
Overrun Sumerian city-states and capture city
of Babylon
Babylon becomes capitol and Hammurabi
becomes king
Hammurabi strengthens government
Babylon becomes major trade center – Egypt to
Produced grain & cloth
Hammurabi’s Code of Law
“To make justice appear in the land”
Collected laws of different city-states
282 law sections dealing with daily life
Penalized wrongdoers severely
“eye for an eye”
Laws were written to protect the less powerful
Three classes of Babylonian social classes –
Kings, priest, nobles- artisans, farmers –
Most slaves were captured in war
Used cuneiform for writing
Babylonian empire declines after Hammurabi’s
Hittites break empire apart
Babylon will reemerge as the Chaldeans
The Fertile Crescent
Ziggurat at Ur
Cuneiform Symbols
Akkadian Empire
Sumer & Early Empires