The surviving religious writings describe many of the Sumerian deities.
The god of heaven was named An.
The god of the waters was Enki, and the goddess of fertility was Inanna.
The role of humans was to amuse and serve the gods and goddesses, who were mostly concerned with their own affairs.
They hadtemples in certain cities.
They were served by priests and priestesses who sought their favor through prayer, sacrifice and ritual.
The will of the gods could be seen through signs that appeared in dreams, animals and the stars.
The mystical arts, including astrology, made their appearance in the area.
Humans could not expect rewards or punishments after death.
The spirits of the dead were believed to descend to a dark Underworld, where they eventually passed into nothingness.
The bodies of the dead were not prepared for a voyage beyond the grave.
The view that life was brief, hard, and uncertain was derived from the unpleasant physical environment of Mesopotamia.
The gloom of daily existence was reinforced by religious myths of the Creation and the Flood, each showing humanity at the mercy of divine powers.
The surviv ing literature of the Sumerians shows a lot of humanity, even though passive "acceptance" was the main popular mood.
Word of mouth was the main way in which fables, legends, psalms, and proverbs were passed down.
The epic poems of these people were recorded on clay tablets and are the most impressive literary creations of these people.
Many societies deal with heroes and their ambitions and struggles in this form of expression.
The birth of civilization in the middle east in epic poetry is what made Gilgamesh a semidivine character who embodies the values and aspiration of the people of Sumer.
He fights for his city-state, slays hostile humans and animals, and displays bravery, cunning, and a sense of fairness and mercy.
The king's quest for immortality ends in failure, as it does for all people.
The epics of Gilgamesh, along with the religious myths of the Sumerians, provided a rich cultural inheritance for later civilizations in the Middle East.
The Greeks and Romans shared that inheritance through contact with Mesopotamia and the Syrians and Jews.
The foundations of mathematics, science, and engineering were established by the Sumerians.
These developments were responses to practical needs.
The basic processes of multiplication, division, and the square and cube root were created by the Sumerians.
They first divided the hour into sixty minutes, the minute into sixty seconds, and the circle into degrees.
The formula for calculating the hypotenuse of a right triangle was derived by them.
The time taken by the moon to go through all its phases is provided in a lunar calendar.
An extra month was added every few years to keep the lunar months, since twelve months of this length did not add up to one solar year.
The seven days of the week were named for heavenly bodies, and the most prominent sky objects were mapped by official astronomer.
The twelve divisions of the zodiac are familiar to the followers of astrology.
The Sumerians were ignorant of the physical basis of disease, so they didn't do much in the field of medicine.
They believed that spirits entered the body to cause sickness.
The doctor prescribed magic charms to get rid of the culprits.
The progress was retarded by the severe penalties imposed on the surgeon in the event of failure.
Religious and political needs were served by architecture and the arts.
The raising of mighty temples to gain the favor of the gods or palaces to display the power of kings was a challenge that brought forth some spectacular monuments.
The Tigris-Euphrates region does not have a durable stone.
The most ambitious structures, such as hundred-room palaces for kings, were built of mudbrick, which is not a beautiful or durable material.
The basic forms of the arch, vault, and dome were not exploited by the Romans as they would later.
The records show that temples were the most distinguished.
The main temple of a Sumerian city was built at the center of the city, with structures for priests and temple craftsmen surrounding it.
It is usually con 3500 B.C.
The first level of the ziggurat was made of mudbrick and spanned 200 by 300 feet.
The higher level was used as a shrine for the deity.
In Mexico and India, this type of mountain-temple has been around for a long time and may reflect similar beliefs about the relationship of the human and the divine.
The sheer mass of the monument symbolizes the power and rank of the god in comparison with ordinary mortals, and the hundred-step ramps of the ziggurat suggest a sacrifice climb as the worshiper approaches the deity or perhaps the descent of the deity from heaven to be present among the people.
The faithful believed in the divine personality of the statues in the Sumerian temples.
The main subjects of the sculptors were deities, high priests, and kings.
Because durable stone was hard to come by in Mesopotamia, sculptors often used sandstone or clay, adding shells, alabaster, and semiprecious stones for dramatic effect.
The jewelry and metalwork was used in the temples and palaces.
The large scale of the structure shows the skills, organization, and wealth of early Sumerian civilization.
As a base for all later cultural growth in the Middle East, as well as that of neighboring territories to the east and west, Sumerian civilization is one of the most remarkable features.
The patterns of work, class structure, law and government, religious and literary traditions, and art forms remained the same despite being absorbed by peoples from outside Mesopotamia.
No one of the early Sumerian city-states was able to keep down the others.
The balance was destroyed by conquerors from the Akkad area.
They migrated from Arabia to the Akkad region.
About 2350 b.c., one of their military chiefs, Sargon, began to attack the Sumerian cities.
The rest of the Mesopotamian region was won by his ruthless campaigns.
The first great military conqueror was sargon.
After his empire fell within a century, he had to fight for control of the valley.
It wasn't until about 1900 b.c.
The Amorites, a tribe of Semitic nomads, had settled near the city-state of Babylon on the midcourse of the Euphrates River.
The cities of Sumer were forced into submission by the Amorite kings.
The greatest king of their line was Hammurabi, who built up an empire that included much of Mesopotamia by 1700 b.c.
The Semitic tongue Akkadian became the language of the new empire of Babylonia and the Sumerian language was only used by priests and scholars.
Marduk, the god of the city of Babylon, was portrayed as the Maker of All Things after the Creation myth was revised.
Ba'al was the most important deity of Mesopotamia.
The rules engraved on the black stone rep resent the will of the god coming through the person of a divinely sent king.
The laws of Hammurabi are a culmination of legal concepts and practices that have existed in the valley for hundreds of years.
The code provided a uniform standard of law for the entire empire of Babylonia.
The Babylonian god Shamash gave the laws to Hammurabi.
The Mesopotamian concept of kingship is that kings are servants of divine power and must therefore be honored and obeyed.
Marriages were arranged by parents, with the contract specifying the price of the bride and the amount of her dowry.
Husbands were masters of their children and could divorce their wives.
If the court found her to be at fault, she was subject to death by drown.
A sterile wife could find a concubine for her husband to have a child with, and the concubine and her offspring were accepted as legitimate members of the family.
Records show that some women were allowed to engage in business even though they were not allowed to.
Penalties for criminal acts were different from modern practices.
Penalties took the form of physical acts against the person judged guilty.
Depending on the nature of the crime, mastication was common.
A son who hit his father might have his hand cut off, a snooper might have an eye put out, and a spy might have an eye put out.
To fit the crime, capital offenses were punished in a number of ways.
These methods included burning, hanging, crucifying, and impaling.
King Hammurabi's forms of punishment were found in Europe until the 18th century.
They have influenced Islamic law as well.
After the death of Hammurabi, the high state of government, law, and economy achieved by the Babylonian empire fell apart.
Less civilized people were attracted by the wealth of the valley.
The non-Semitic Kassites conquered most of Babylonia by 1600 b.c.
Mesopotamia was dominated by the Babylonian culture, language, and religion for four hundred years.
The civilization that began at Sumer flourished despite the many changes of rulers and nations that followed the downfall of the Sumerian citystates in 2400 b.c.
Mesopotamian civilization spread far and wide among less advanced peoples in the lands that encompassed the region to the north and west.
The arrival of invaders from still farther north caused a lot of changes among those people.
The newcomers were related to many different tribes and nations and spoke related languages.
They brought with them a domestic animal that was unknown to civilized peoples, the horse, as well as a new weapon of war, the chariot, which carried warriors wielding bows, spears, or axes.
Horse-drawn chariots were adopted by every civilized nation as the main striking force of their armies after the invaders were unbeatable.
The newcomers settled down on the northern and western fringes of Mesopotamia, establishing organized kingdoms, adopting the institutions and culture of Mesopotamian civilization, and adapting Cuneiform writing to their various languages.
Civilization had to adapt to a different environment in Asia Minor.
The most valuable metals were copper, gold, and silver, though tin was rare.
The birth of civilization in the middle east, as well as the profitable export routes to Mesopotamia, had been fought for by local peoples and invaders for centuries.
The Hittite kings dominated almost all of Asia Minor at the height of their power.
They ruled with the help of nobles who lived in mountaintop strongholds, but in time they became as effective as any Mesopotamian king.
They built an army of charioteers and well-trained infantry numbering as many as thirty thousand men, and fought wars with Egypt to control Syria and Palestine.
In the cities of the Hittite homeland, priests tended to gods and goddesses and practiced rituals that were partly Hittite and partly Mesopotamian.
The Hittite tongue was used to translate Babylonian versions of the tales of Gilgamesh and other Mesopotamian heroes.
By 1200 b.c., the Semitic tongue of Mesopotamia had become the international language of trade and diplomacy.
The partners and rivals of the Hittite kings were the rulers of the other great civilization that had arisen at the same time as that of Mesopotamia.
Like the twin valleys of Mesopotamia, the valley of the Nile River was a center of early civilization.
The people of the area came from Arabia to the east, Nubia to the south, Libya to the west, and Palestine and Syria to the north.
The Egyptians were both white and black, with the black in the south and the white in the north.
They spoke an Afro-Asiatic tongue, one of a large group of languages spoken across northern Africa and the Middle East, which also includes the Semitic languages.
The people of the Nile moved toward civilization in response to the influences that gave rise to the cities of Sumer 900 miles to the east.
The development of the two civilizations was different.
Egypt was a conservative and insulated society for three thousand years.
For many centuries, foreign invasions were few and far between, and cultural influences from abroad were welcomed or kept at arm's length, as seemed best to the literate elite.
For the first two thousand years of Egypt's existence, there was a continuity and stability that gave its inhabitants a sense of permanence, even perfect, in their institutions and way of life.
Egyptian civilization was able to flourish even in its last thousand years of existence because of this sense of perfection.
Western peoples are heir to both the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates.
The cycle of labor and life depended on the flooding of the river.
The mighty Nile, the longest river in the world, rises in central Africa and winds northward for thousands of miles before descending into the Egyptian desert.
The "Two Lands" are Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt and are named after the ancient Egyptians.
Lower Egypt is a triangular area of rich soil, while Upper Egypt is a long and narrow area.
Egypt was a barren wasteland beyond those areas of fertile land.
The gift of the Nile gave the Egyptian rulers resources needed for power, and the desert barriers made it difficult for foreign nations to cross in the past.
Egypt saw an early consolidation of wealthy communities scattered along the river into the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The Two Lands were unified by a single king around 3100 b.c.
The rulers of the country from then on are known as the pharaohs.
The center of government for the entire country was built at Memphis, south of the Delta and close to the boundary between the Two Lands.
Egyptian civilization was linked with a single state from the beginning.
It was not easy to hold the Egyptian state together.
The Egyptians were able to do it because of the wealth of the Nile and their desert defenses.
It was possible because of their beliefs about the pharaoh, who they both obeyed as a man given power by the gods and worshiped as a god.
Every pharaoh was identified with three of the country's deities throughout the three thousand years of Egyptian civilization.
He was the son of the sun god, Re, who was also the king of the other gods and goddesses.
He was the reincarnation of Horus, the falcon-headed ruler of the sky.
He became one with Osiris after he died.
During and after the pharaoh's reign, one or other mighty god was always present in the person of the pharaoh.
The pharaoh had a unique position among the Egyptians because he was also a human being and responsible to the gods.
Alone among humans, they believed, it was he who the gods and goddesses had appointed to conduct the rituals and sacrifice that won their favor and made them do their work.
Thousands of priests and priestesses tended to the gods and goddesses in their shrines.
The most trivial ritual act they could perform was done in the name of the pharaoh.
The pharaoh had both power and responsibility.
The Egyptians believed that the stability and harmony of their state was a part of the universe as a whole.
The way the country was governed reflected these convictions.
The cattle of god were tended to by the pharaoh as his personal property.
His household staff closely supervised the economy, the military, and the priesthood.
The pharaoh was able to delegate many of his functions.
His high priests regulated religious matters while his chief deputy directed most royal affairs.
The royal administrators and priests were made up of a kind of aristocracy.
Minor officials, soldiers, artisans, and laborers were drawn from the commoner class, but most commoners toiled as sharecroppers on the pharaoh's land.
Foreign trading expeditions, mining, and similar large enterprises were conducted by select companies of the royal household.
Payments and exchanges were in kind.
In Egypt, the urban centers were essentially administrative capitals or extensive temple compounds.
Egyptian women had a high degree of freedom.
Women could own property, bring lawsuits, and divorce their husbands if they were in a monog amous marriage.
It's more often than it is as men--upper-class women learned to read and write.
Harems with multiple wives as well as concubines were a feature of upper-class households, but there was always a principal wife who held high status and authority in order to avoid "diluting" the divine blood of the pharaoh.
When there was no male heir to inherit the throne or when the heir was still a child, Egyptian princesses and queens were able to wield real power.
This was within the framework of female subordination.
Hatshepsut, the only woman to wield the full authority of a pharaoh, was depicted in monuments not as a queen but as a "king" because of her masculine features.
The Egyptian political and social system was not always perfect.
From time to time, Egypt was shaken by incompetent pharaohs, disputes over the succession, disloyal courtiers, and self-seeking officials.
Over three thousand years, no less than thirty dynasties succeeded one another in power, because whole dynasties were cut down by failure to produce heirs or violent turnovers.
There were times when the Egyptian state would collapse.
The Egyptians thought that the state of affairs was profoundly abnormal.
The rhythm of Egyptian history was interrupted by many briefer intervals of slippage and change.
After several hundred years of state building, the power of the pharaohs reached its highest point in the Old Kingdom, which began in the 2nd century b.c.
In total control of the country's resources and having few foreign enemies to contend with, the pharaohs used their power to build the most gigantic of Egyptian monuments, the pyramids.
The weak pharaohs allowed power to pass to the local administrators, who thought their positions were hereditary.
Egypt was in turmoil for more than a century.
The world outside Egypt was changing, with the spread of Semitic tribes and the growth of many powerful states throughout the Middle East.
The god-kings of Egypt faced a new challenge to uphold universal order against the forces of chaos that they called "treading on" foreign nations.
The pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom poured the spoils of their conquests into the temples of the Nile.
About 1800 b.c., internal conflict was renewed.
The Middle Kingdom came to an end when the Semitic immigrant tribes known as the Hyksos were able to move into Lower Egypt.
The hyksos adopted Egyptian culture and their chiefs ruled Lower Egypt as pharaohs.
Egyptian pharaohs ruled Upper Egypt from Thebes to 1600 b.c.
The rulers of Egypt acted as conquerors.
The armies moved south into Nubia and fought with the Hittites of Asia Minor.
The pharaohs took to breeding horses and riding chariots, just like their Hittite rivals, as part of their aggressive warfare and bid for military glory.
The gods and goddesses of the Nile benefit from the wealth of the world.
The birth of civilization in the middle east sive tombs hewn out of solid rock in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes was the birth of civilization in the New Kingdom.
The power of the priests came to overshadow the power of the pharaohs because of their dedication to wealth to religion.
The end of the New Kingdom was caused by this and the inability of the dynasty to produce heirs.
Egypt was a victim of power struggles in the Middle East and northern Africa after the New Kingdom.
It was dominated at different times by its western and southern neighbors and by the Assyrians of Mesopotamia.
Egypt became a province of the universal empire of Persia in 525 b.c.
It was ruled by the Greeks from 333 b.c.
to 30 b.c., and finally by the Romans in 30 b.c.
Egyptian civilization continued to grow.
Libyan and Nubian rulers, who were influenced by Egyptian ways even in their homelands, ruled as genuine pharaohs and upheld the country's power and independence against enemies in the Middle East.
It was wise for conquerors to rule Egypt in accordance with the country's traditional beliefs and customs.
After 250 b.c., the last great temples of the Nile were built.
Despite the ebb and flow of the nation's fortunes, the core institutions of Egypt remained essentially unchanged until the Roman Empire took over.
Between 3100 and 30 b.c., the whole of Egypt shared in a single civilization.
During historic times, the divine images often bore animal heads or bodies, and many of their deities were originally conceived in the form of animals.
Sometimes the two were joined together with a third god to make a mighty deity.
The custom of worshiping different deities in a single form came from the way in which Egypt came into being.
It made sense to believe that the god or goddess of one community was the same as the god or goddess of another community because the Nile had many different communities.
It did not seem odd to combine the Egyptian deities because they did not have strong individual "personalities" like the Greek gods and goddesses.
The Egyptian belief in the pharaoh as god-king is expressed in this monument carved out of rock.
The face of the sphinx is that of King Khafre, which is symbolic of the god Re.
There is a pyramid to the left of the sphinx.
The pyramid is to the right of the sphinx.
Egyptian priests and rulers believed that there was a single god who created all the other deities and ruled over all the nations of the world.
A pharaoh of the New Kingdom, who identified the supreme god with Aten, the shining disk of the sun, tried to abolish the worship of other leading deities.
Even though he failed in the religious revolution, Egyptian polytheism still had an underlying urge to believe in monotheism.
Over time, Egyptian religion became more ethical.
The Egyptians did not believe in the expectations of the gods.
The universal order was created by the divine beings and they continued to regulate it benevolently until the human race performed specified services.
The religious teachings began to include ethical ideas.
The major gods were associated with the ideals of truth and justice.
The hope of immortality provided additional motivation for living a good life.
It was thought that the pharaoh, being a god, was the only one who could live forever.
The birth of civilization in the middle east who now held power independently of the pharaoh, came to expect that they would also live independently of him after death, thanks to the time of troubles at the end of the Old Kingdom.
Under the powerful rulers of the Middle Kingdom, the belief in wider access to the afterlife continued to grow.
By 1800 b.c., Egyptians believed that the soul of every dead person had to be examined by Osiris, the ruler of the Underworld.
The soul denied doing anything bad.
The soul's truthfulness was measured by weighing the character of the person.
If the soul passed the test, it would be admitted to a garden paradise, but if it didn't, it would be thrown into the jaws of a monster.
The religious beliefs of the world were influenced by the Egyptians' idea of a single divine power, their belief in rewards and punishments after death, and their expectation of immortality.
They influenced ideas about life after death and the role of divine power in the universe.
The Egyptians did not have a system of law like that of Mesopotamia.
All law, right, and justice flowed from one source: the pharaoh.
Royal decree and court decisions were recorded for judges to consult, but their principal guides were custom and the ruler's will.
Even though the god-king could not be everywhere at once, judges and administrators were free to make their own decisions.
Court procedures did not exist.
If pharaohs did not deal fairly with their subjects, they would fear the judgement of Osiris.
Around 3100 b.c., writing probably started in Egypt.
The idea may have been borrowed.
Egyptian writing produced several different scripts.
The hieroglyphs were first created as part of carvings and paintings to benefit the pharaohs as god-kings of Egypt.
Religion and magic were closely connected in the mind of the pharaohs.
They believed that they could make a scene happen in a magical world if they depicted themselves and a god in it.
Most of the characters were used to represent either whole words or separate sounds of speech.
They could communicate anything they wanted.
The shorthand versions of the charac ters were developed after the invention of the hieroglyphs.
The "hieratic" script is a Priestly script.
The hieratic script was used not only by priests, but also for general literary and administrative purposes.
The "demotic" script came into use after the New Kingdom.
Writing was a part of the daily life of civilization in Egypt as it was in Mesopotamia.
The Egyptian script used hundreds of characters according to complex rules, despite the differences in speed of writing.
Some of the hieroglyphs were used to develop the first alphabet.
The invention was handed on to the Western peoples by the Phoenicians, so that the letters used to print the book are distant descendants of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The hieratic and demotic script were written on papyrus.
The Egyptian method of writing scrolls from the stems of the water-grown papyrus plant was a major cultural breakthrough.
The Mesopotamians used clay or stone as writing materials.
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