Ancient Mesopotamia Civilization : Facts, History and Information : Culture, Life, Achievements

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Mesopotamia is located on the eastern side of a very fertile land. Uruk was the first city state anywhere. It became a center of trade and imported food to the region.

Problems with Mesopotamia:

  • The region was of low elevation and had many mud flats.
  • No rainfall for 8 months of each year
  • Late spring rains where often too late for spring crops
  • few natural resources - no stone, minerals or trees
  • Summer temperatures were often 125 degrees so crops were impossible to grow
  • Rulers were tyrants that suppressed independent thinking and creativity

Sumerian People

  • First used the wheel for transportation uses
  • Invented the lunar calendar which corresponded to the growing season
  • Invented the fundamentals of multiplication and division
  • Leaders in astronomy, jurisprudence, theology
  • Invented writing - earliest forms were pictographs used to identify  handicrafts and later used in business transactions

Cuneiform writing became quite complex with the addition of pictures. Some symbols stood for many words. This form of writing was used until about 500 BCE for mostly business.

Temples were important in the Mesopotamian empire. They had the first schools of any society. Bazaars were held in the temple complex for busying and selling goods and for trade.

The decline of Mesopotamia

It is theorized that Mesopotamia decline was due to sanitation. The rivers carried salt which was delivered to the soil via irrigation and eventually made the region more desert. With the change in soil, the region could no longer support itself. The power shifted north to Babylon.

Semitic tribes invaded the region. They were people of Southwest Asia that included Arabs, Hebrews and Phoenicians.

The Amorites conquered all of Sumer about 1800 BC. The Sumerian dialect replaced the Semitic dialect. Cuneiform writing was replaced with Semitic writing. Amorites adopted most all of the Sumerian culture.

The Babylonian Empire

The Amorites ruled.

1755 BCE, Hammurabi became King. He called himself the King of the Four Quarters of the World.

Code of Hammurabi has 282 written laws. The purpose of the code was to stop fighting. It called for an eye for an eye.

In 1900 BCE the epic of Gilgamesh was written. It has a story of the flood similar to that of Noah and the ark in the Bible.

Mathematical advances include the principles of multiplication and division, reciprocals, square and cube roots.

The Amorites divided the day into tow 12 hour sections, 60 minutes in each hour, 60 seconds in each minutes and 12 lunar cycles in each year.


The first Mesopotamian empire ended with the development of the chariot as a war machine. The chariot helped the final conquerors, the Hittites defeated the empire. They destroyed Babylon and then returned north to govern from afar. Thus, began the second Mesopotamian empire. The Hittites were from Anatolia or present day Turkey. Turkey was rich in resources and had a very good supply of iron ore. The iron made strong weapons and the iron ore made the Hittites rich because of the trade in iron. The Hittites fell in 1300 BCE.

The Assyrians controlled the Fertile Crescent. They developed chariot warfare to conquer neighboring territories. This time area was known as the dark ages as the region did not make any intellectual advancements.

The Assyrians built the city of Nineveh which was 7 and a half miles round. It had a royal palace, a zoo and many temples.

The Assyrians were harsh and cruel to the people they ruled.

The Assyrians destroyed Babylon two times.

The people hated their government and the region was always in rebellion somewhere in the kingdom.

The Babylonians allied with the Medians (Iran) and overthrew the Assyrians in 612 BCE, completely destroying the city of Nineveh.

Babylon became a huge city of 2100 acres noted for its colorful bricks.

Nebuchadnezzar built 2 of the seven wonders of the world: Ishtar Gate and Hanging Gardens. He also identified 5 stars (planets): Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The people were interested in astrology detailing records on the movements of the heavens.

In 539 BCE, Persia conquered Babylon and the area never recovered. Babylon was abandoned. It was buried by sand and mud over the centuries and excavated in 1950.