Daily life in Mesopotamia was certainly very different from the daily life of the world today! Because Mesopotamia was such a big place and had such a long history, it can be difficult to define how the people there lived their daily life.
However, by looking at the daily lives of people in each of the four main Mesopotamian empires – the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires –we can get a feel for what it was like.
Most Akkadians were farmers, as was the case in the earlier Sumerian civilization, but people also worked as merchants, priests, craftsmen, soldiers, and fishermen. The Akkadian Empire depended a lot on agriculture and was the first empire in the world to make effective use of irrigation.
Irrigation is the practice of transporting water from rivers/oceans to other places, to improve the soil quality. Though historians have discovered art from the Akkadian Empire, it’s clear that art didn’t play as important a role as it did in other empires, such as those in Rome and Greece.
Art from the Akkadian Empire typically displayed kings, gods, or people at worship. The Akkadian Empire was based on the system of social hierarchy – meaning that when a person was born, they had a specific role to play in society, and could not rise above that role. Slavery was very common because of this.
Assyrians in Mesopotamia had their own language and culture, different from the other groups of people living across the country. The Assyrian Empire was a famed trading culture, and many merchants worked there. Farming was also a very important sector of the economy in Assyria.
The Assyrians shared the same religion as the Sumerians/Babylonians, and even carried on the practice of building ziggurats (step-based, flat pyramids) from the empires that came before them.
Like other Mesopotamian cultures, the Assyrian Empire operated on a system of social hierarchy, where a person’s station was decided at the time of their birth.
Unusually, Babylonian architecture relied a lot on using the roof of a person’s house as another living space. Many Babylonians cooked, slept and lived on their roof instead of indoors because it would allow them to catch a breeze – the weather in Babylon was very hot, and would have been quite uncomfortable most of the time.
Babylonian houses typically had three floors in addition to the roof, with the first floor being dedicated to a garden and/or a home for animals like chickens, cows, goats, etc. Farming was the most common profession of Babylonian men, as was the case in the previous two Mesopotamian empires.
Religion was important to daily life in the Babylonian Empire. The patron god of Babylon was named Marduk, and Babylonians would pray to him daily for good weather/a good harvest. Peasants would visit the city’s ziggurat to make their prayers.
The Babylonian Empire, like most Mesopotamian Empires, operated on a social hierarchy, where a person’s “station” or place in society was decided by their birth. The largest class was the middle class, who mostly worked as farmers and laborers. Slavery was common in Babylon.
As Babylon grew richer, however, things improved for the middle class. Entertainment became available to the regular class over time. Music festivals, boxing matches, exhibition fights, and races are some examples of the entertainment that was staged for the people of Babylon.
The most common profession in the Persian Empire was farming. Peasants of the Persian Empire lived a very ordinary life, and the amount of food they were paid with was dependent on their job performance.
Outside of farming, people of the Persian Empire also worked as merchants, soldiers, government workers, and tailors/seamstresses. Both men and women were allowed to hold high positions in government, too.
In general, the Persian Empire provided the same employment chances to both men and women. Nomadic farmers were more common in Persia than in any other Mesopotamian empire, whose day-to-day would have been centered around the herds they followed from place to place.