By: Noelle Halverson
In order to create a civilization you had to follow five requirements. First, they learned how to grow crops and domesticate animals. Second, they built permanent homes. Third, they made different types of technology. Fourth, they made intellectuall achievements. Fifth, they made permanent laws.
Hammurabi was a Babylonian king. Hammurabi did something that no one had ever done before. He made the first set of laws. He used cuneiform to do so. In his court, it didn't matter what class you were in or if you were rich or poor, if you broke a law you got punished. Since the laws were clear and written down everyone followed them. Some of the laws are very specific and have very harsh punishments. I will give you five laws as examples.
1. If any one steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who decieves the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.
2. If any one steal cattle or sheep, or a donkey, or a pig or a goat if it belong to a god or to the court, the thief shall pay thirtyfold therefore; if they belonged to a freed man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death.
3. If any one break a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
4. If the gardener has not completed the planting of the field, leaving one part unused, this shall be assigned to him as his.
5. If a "sister of a god" open a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death.
The story of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest record stories in the world. It is about the King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who is one the Sumerian King List. We are not sure if Gilgamesh was real. This story of Gilgamesh in my words is below.
Once upon a time, King Gilgamesh sat alone in his garden thinking. He knew he was so strong that he could pick up mountains. He knew he had the ability to dive down to the deepest part in the ocean and back in one breath. He knew that whenever he fought one of the monsters who lived in the near forests, he would win. He always did.
Gilgamesh was bored. He didn’t have anything to do that was fun except to scare his subjects with his tempers and tantrums.
Recently, even the monsters in the forest were trying to hide each time Gilgamesh went looking for a good fight. If he could fly, he would have flown over the forest and saw where they were hiding, but, of course, he could not fly. What good were special powers if there was nothing fun to do with them?
Gilgamesh dragged himself to his feet and roamed towards the ziggurat to join his people in prayer. Each day, the people came together at the ziggurat. His people watched him nervously. He knew he should have been praying for his people's safety, and for so much food they would be able to feed everyone. But instead, Gilgamesh prayed for something to entertain him.
The gods saw him and noticed Gilgamesh sighing loudly at the bottom of the ziggurat. They decided since his prayer was a fair one, so they would answer it.
The gods quickly created a man with more strength and faster than Gilgamesh. They named him Enkidu. Enkidu went pounding into the city of Uruk. The townspeople ran away in panic and awe.
Gilgamesh perked up immediately. The two gods wrestled for a little bit, but neither could beat the other. Enkidu had more strength. He grabbed Gilgamesh by the throat, but Gilgamesh could hold his breath for a long period of time. Each time Enkidu tried to choke him, Gilgamesh broke away and grabbed for Enkidu's throat, but Enkidu was faster and avoided him every time.
They knocked down houses and tipped over food carts, they started laughing and soon became best friends. Since there was nothing much to do around town, side by side, the two gods left Uruk in search of adventure somewhere else.
When the citizens of Uruk and the monsters in the forest heard their king had left town, in joy, they threw a huge festival to thank their admired gloomy god, Marduk, for giving their king a friend. They prayed every day to Marduk that their king would have fun on adventures all over the world.
Many years ago, settlers began to build cities around the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. Later on, these cities became Mesopotamia. As the settlers were building Mesopotamia they fed off of natural wildlife and vegetation. As you have learned, it didn't rain very much in Mesopotamia, but settlers soon began to learn that if you irrigated the land crops grew very quickly. The early settlers built canals to bring water from the rivers onto the land. They planted wheat, barley, and many vegetables. The vegetables that they planted were cucumbers, onions, apples, and all types of spices. They also raised sheep, goats, and cows. They enjoyed eating fish, cheese, eggs, roasted duck, pork, and deer.
Along with the wars and changes in the environment, people think that irrigation had a part in Mesopotamia's collapse. They believe that Mesopotamia's collapse was caused partly by the destruction of the soil's mineral salt. If they allowed irrigation water to sit on the fields and evaporate, it leaves behind the mineral salts; if the attempt to drain off irrigation water it flows through the soil too fast and they have an erosion problem. When the mineral salts concentrate into the top layers of the soil, the soil becomes poisonous for plants. In Mesopotamia, irrigation was very important for crop production. The rivers were higher than the surrounding plain because of silt in the river beds, so water for irrigation flowed into the fields. If the water was on the fields, it could not drain well because the fields were lower than the river. As the water evaporated, it dissolved the salt minerals and took the salt from the bottom layers. Over time, the soil became poisonous and would no long help the crops. By approximately 2300 BC, agricultural production in Mesopotamia was reduced greatly.
In Ancient times, most civilizations were formed near bodies of water. Why? I think that they formed civilizations near bodies of water for many reasons. One reason, is so they would have a surplus supply of food and water at all times. Another reason, is so it would be easy to travel and have fertile soil. They could also use the mud from the rivers to build their houses and use the animals from the river for either protection or food.
Have you ever wondered what they had to do to be able to form these civilizations? Well, here is your answer! First, they began to build cities along the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. As they built the rivers, they were fed from the wildlife. Next, they wove baskets. They used the weeds along the river banks to make these baskets. They used the clay to make beautiful pottery. Then, they learned how to grow crops and build canals. They also learned how to domesticate animals. Finally, they had a civilization. It took a lot of work, but it was all worth it.
There used to be Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Hanging Gardens are huge, wonderful gardens that stand approximately 300 feet above the desert sands. They stood on a series of platforms which created a structure 400 feet long, 400 feet wide, and 380 feet high. These structures were built in about 600 BC along the banks of the Euphrates River. They were constructed inside the palace walls. Series of steps and meandering paths connected the many levels of the Hanging Gardens. The gardens had flowering plants, jaw-dropping greenery and waterfalls. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are just one out of the long list of the Seven Wonders of the World. On that list with it is, The Great Pyramid of Giza, The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, The Colossus at Rhodes, and The Lighthouse of Alexandria.
In Ancient Mesopotamia, they made so many inventions. Some of them were cuneiform, the wheel, the game of checkers, and cylinder seals. Cuneiform was their way of writing. Not only was it there way of writing, but it was also the first written language. They believed in education and keeping records, so they created cuneiform. Cuneiform was not their first way of communicating. Their first way was known as pictographs. Their pictographs are not as well known. All we know is that pictographs were then transformed into cuneiform. If it wasn't for cuneiform we wouldn't know very much about the Sumerians. They wrote in stones and clay. After they wrote in the clay they set them out in the sun or near a fire to dry. The Sumerians took magnificent records and took wonderful lists. They took lists of household goods, sales, purchases, and a lists of their kings. The list of the kings was updated each time they got a new king. The best thing that the Sumerians wrote down was the tale of The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is the oldest record story in the world. Cuneiform became a record as early as 500 BC. Unfortunately, cuneiform is not easy to read because of the odd shapes, but at least we have some records and information about the Sumerians.
There were four main classes of the people of Sumer. It consisted of the priests, the upper class, the lower class, and the slaves. The priest were very powerful. There job was to make sure everyone acted in a way to please the gods. They were also the doctors. If you got sick or got a disease you would call for the priest. You could spot which one the priest was because they had a shaved head. The upper class was very rich. The men and women of the upper class wore lots of jewelry, especially rings. The men wore skirts and had long hair. There facial hair consisted of a curly moustache and a long beard. The women wore one - shouldered dresses. There hair was very long and usually braided or wore up in fancy arrangements. In ancient Sumer, people were paid for their work. If you worked you got paid just like you do in modern days. EVERYONE got paid no matter what his/her job was. If you stole you had a severe punishment waiting for you. Stealing was not tolerated. The lower class did not have the fancy lifestyle of the rich, but they were satisfied. They did wear jewelry, as well as the upper class, but it was not gold. When the Sumerians won a war they brought back prisoners who became their slaves. Slaves worked for the king, the temple, and the upper class. Salves were like goods they were bought and sold to other people. Slaves were sold at things like auctions and were worth less than a donkey and more than a cow.
Ziggurats were temples. The Sumerians believed in many powerful gods that lived in the sky. They built the ziggurats, with steps, to climb up to be closer to the gods to be able to pray to them. All of the formal religious ceremonies were held by the priests at the top of the ziggurat. All throughout the year people left offerings to the gods. There offerings were mostly food and wine. The priests also had the jobs of eating and drinking the goods simply because the gods couldn't actually eat the goods. The ziggurats were built in the middle of each town. It was built there because it was supposed to be the center of their life. The ziggurat was filled with mostly joy and busy life.