Ancient Mesopotamia

This single location is believed to be the “Cradle of Civilization”. It is where so many things began such as the wheel, farming the first written records, counting systems, and astronomy. Mesopotamia is the first place that people gathered to build larger cities and then established governments and laws. Research shows that Mesopotamia was the center for artists, politics, and scientific inventions; and we can give credit to the geniuses of the time for many of the things we use and take for granted today.

Where is Mesopotamia?

The area that we call “Mesopotamia” really refers to an area of land in the Middle East that is located between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, in what is mostly Iraq, some areas of southeastern Turkey, southwestern Iran, and northeaster Syria. It makes sense when we find out that “Mesopotamia” translates to “the land between rivers.”  This area offers a perfect place for civilization to grow: good amount of water and fertile ground for growing crops.

Who Lived in Mesopotamia?

When we talk about Mesopotamia, we are really speaking about quite a few different civilizations. Throughout the years many people settled in the area, built towns, and had various types of governments. Around 14,000 B.C., people lived in the regions in smaller towns and they were known for their circular houses.

The Sumerians are given credit for being the first group to create a civilized environment. They created the first writing, expanded successful farming, and created a government independent of all others that was ruled by their own king.

Akkadians took what the Sumerians started and then created a larger empire with lands that surrounded them. The language that they founded was used for most of the time that people lived in Mesopotamia.

Known as the most powerful Mesopotamian city, Babylon established huge empires that included a lot of the Middle East of today. They were known for their success and then failure, only to rebuild again. It is the Babylonians that first recorded their legal system.

The Assyrians were a society of warriors and lived in northern Mesopotamia. Throughout history they ruled a lot of the Middle East. The Assyrians used continued the use of clay tablets, known as “cuneiform” that the Sumerians started for communication. These tablets are how we have learned about the many civilizations of the area.

The Persians were a greater warrior force, taking over the cities that were established by the Babylonians and Assyrians. These were conquerors that eventually became known for governing almost all of the Middle East and absorbing Mesopotamia as part of their kingdom.

Facts about Mesopotamia:

  • The first building materials used by the Mesopotamians were sun-dried bricks. Since the bricks didn’t last very long, we know little about the original Mesopotamian cities.
  • Archeologists found thousands of clay tablets in the Assyrian city of Nineveh. These cuneiform tablets give us an extensive inside look at the history of the area.
  • Both the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers are given credit for the excellent farming practices of the Mesopotamian area. Each river is over 1,000 miles long. The location and shape of Mesopotamia is the reason that it is called the “Fertile Crescent.”
  • It is thought that the oldest written laws in the world were called the Code of Hammurabi and were created by the Babylonian King Hammurabi.
  • Mesopotamia is given credit for development of two things that are known to advance civilization: the wheel and farming.
  • Other inventions that the Mesopotamians developed include: the idea of time, sailing, mathematics, and the idea of changing those that ruled their kingdoms.
  • Each of the major cities built temples to their individual gods and put a larger temple at the center known as a “ziggurat.” It is thought that one of these temples may be the basis for the story of the Tower of Babel.