Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kingdoms of the Tigris-Euphrates & Sumerian Civilization

Kingdoms of the Tigris-Euphrates
The ancient Egyptians developed a civilization that reflected the generally bountiful nature of the Nile. In the Tigris-Euphrates Valley sometimes called Mesopotamia, after the later Greek term for “land between the rivers,” or the Fertile Crescent civilization developed along rather different lines. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers begin in the hills of modern Turkey and flow south to the Persian Gulf. The flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates, unlike that of the Nile, cannot be easily predicted. Not only is the exact time of year unpredictable, but the extent of the flood cannot be estimated. Not surprisingly, the people of the valley viewed nature and the gods as angry and unreasonable. Even so, the two rivers provided water and rich soils for agriculture, particularly in Sumer in the southern region.

Sumerian Civilization
Sumerian civilization. In Sumer, Neolithic people settled, grew crops, and over time created what we call Sumerian culture in a number of small city-states. A city-state included not only the city itself but also the land and fields around it. By 3000 B.C., the Sumerians knew how to use metal and had developed a new form of wedge- shaped writing, known as cuneiform from the Latin word for wedge.

The ancient Sumerians established many of the patterns of civilization that would be adopted by later civilizations in the Tigris-Euphrates region. They built their houses and other buildings from sun-dried clay bricks. They may have also invented several important architectural designs, including the arch. The most striking buildings were temples, known as ziggurats, which formed the central feature of a city- state. Ziggurats were built up like a layered wedding cake, with each story a bit smaller than the one on which it sat. At the top was a shrine to one of the Sumerian gods.

In addition to their architectural advances, the Sumerians also made many other important discoveries. Some scholars think they were the first to develop and use the wheel. In mathematics they used a number system based on 60, and divided the circle into 360 degrees, with each degree made up of 60 minutes, and each minute further subdivided into 60 seconds.

Sumerian civilization religion
Religion was at the heart of Sumerian civilization. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Sumerians were polytheists, believing in many gods. They believed that each city was the property of a god or goddess, who were also associated with the forces of nature and with heavenly bodies like the moon and the Sun. Unlike the Egyptians, however, the Sumerians viewed their gods as unpredictable and cruel rather like the natural environment around them. Consequently, they had little conception of an elaborate afterlife. Indeed, competition among the city-states over water rights along the rivers was often interpreted as a battle between the gods of the respective city-states.

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