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Ancient Middle East (4500-331 B.

Sumerian Civilization

The Fertile Crescent: The Crossroads of the World

-Tigris-Euphrates valleys stretch in an arc from the
Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
-Fertile Crescent got the name from its rich soil and
the crescent shape.
-It is also called crossroad of the world because it
commands the land roads to three continents: Asia,
Africa, and Europe.
The Fertile Crescent: The Crossroads
of the World

-Has few natural barriers: Arabian and Syrian

-Frequently invaded: Hittites
-People diversity made it hard to unite
-Constant contact among them led to an
exchange of ideas.
Land Between Two Rivers
-Greek called the area “Mesopotamia” meaning land between
two rivers.
-Tigris-Euphrates dominated lives of the people along the river.
-Floods were unpredictable and caused enormous damages.
-Lower Mesopotamia also face drought and hot wind which
caused famine.
-However, this river is important for the growth of civilization
-Mesopotamia delta-people built massive network of dikes and
channels which needed the well-run government to control
such projects.
City-State Government

-By 3000 B.C, villages of lower Mesopotamia had

grown into prosperous cities.
-Many people lived in chief cities such as Ur, Erech,
and Kish.
-Each city was an independent city-state.
-The government also supervised the building of
walls and stored food in case of invasion.
-When threatened by attack, farmers took refuge
behind city walls.
City-State Government

-Each city-state worshipped its own god or goddesses.

-People believed that god controlled everything.
-Farmers turned over about two-third of their harvest
to the temples.
-People believed that their happiness depend on god
-Only priest knew how to please god, so they gained
great power.
City-State Government

-They were also at war with each other

-This gave chance to military leaders to replace
the priests position.
-Sumerians did not worship their rulers as
-Kings were gods’ representatives on earth.

-Above each Sumerian city-state was the

-Sumerians were polytheistics.
-Sumerians explained natural events as the
result of gods or goddesses.
-Ex: Dumuzi and Inana
-They believed that gods punished them by
sending floods and famine.
Written Language

-Need for accurate records led to development of

writing 3500 B.C.
-They started as pictograms and ideograms.
-Sumerians used a stylus or sharpened reed
instruments to make symbols on tablets or wet
-Because the symbols were made up of wedge-like
shapes it was later called cuneiform.
Written Language
-Traders and conquering armies helped spread
cuneiform across the fertile crescent.
-As the city-state grew, the need of scribes increased.
-Scribes wrote down laws, treaties, and religious
-Merchants also hired scribes to record business deals,
property holdings, and contracts.
-To train scribes, priests set up schools in the temples.
-Only boys attended the temple schools.
-Priestesses and girls of the wealthy learned at home
with their tutors.
Legacy for Later People

-Sumerians were the first people used wheel.

-Wheel carts and sail enabled Sumerian merchants to
engage in long-distance trade.
-They also used wheels on war chariots.
-It gradually spread across ancient world (Hyksos
invasion in Egypt).
-They made many improvement in farming: irrigation
system, plant trees to serve as wind break, and
invented a plow.
Legacy for Later People

-They also know how to survey land.

-Their system of Arithmetic based on number 60.
-Sumerian architects used arches, columns, ramps,
and inclined walls.
-The Egyptians may adopt the idea of Ziggurat to
build pyramid.
-About 2500 B.C, the invaders conquered the city-
states of Sumer.
Section Review

1. Locate: Sumer, Tigris and Euphrates River,

Arabian and Syrian desserts, and Ur.
2. How did the Sumerians view of afterlife
differ from Egyptian view?
3. List four contributions the Sumerians made
to civilization?
4. Compare the role and training of scribes in
Egypt and the Sumerian city-states.

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