Mesopotamia Ancient Egypt Lecture Notes

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Lecture notes by Eric Snow, for Western Civilization/Humanities classes

History begins with written documents being available c. 3100 to 3000 b.c. Shift from pastoral nomads (more militaristic, aggressive) to agricultural life, settled villages (more peaceful, passive). Before 3000 b.c., cows/oxen, plows in Neolithic villages.

Conventions from Sumerians in math: Created multiplication, division, square cube roots. y used a 10-base/decimal system of math plus a 60-base system to use 60 seconds/minute, 60 minutes/1 hour. Used 60-base system in geometry to make a circle of 360 degrees.

Division of Labor: Not fully possible in villages, need cities, coordinating class at top that doesn’t farm for a living. Peasants had to cooperate. Priests guide, administer: masses of men labor to build ditches, cities, temples. Sumeria religion centered, work done for gods.

Why did civilization begin in river valleys? (Put up overhead) Rich soil, silt automatically deposited, so didn’t need to know about rotation, irrigation provides water. Denser population resulted, also need more coordination stock raisers, hunters in bayous, farmers with complicated ditch systems (organized community effort needed to maintain m). Plowing easy in Mesopotamia’s (l rivers, Greek) alluvial soil, easy to create a surplus to support a managerial artisan class in cities. Flooding fertilized soil, silt in both Egypt, Mesopotamia. Boats could move goods. Mesopotamia’s lack of stone, timber, metals, encourages trade, travel. Floods as dangers, politics of ling upstream water: Cyrus at Babylon example, diverted water to take it. Sumerians priests: calculated seasons, kept accounts, laid out canals. Achievements: writing, form of money used in trade, bronze (copper & 10% tin), irrigation works, religious literature, schools, medicine, lunar calendar (like Jewish some, Muslim). Bronze age (3000-1000 b.c.): Sumerians invented this metal also. Sumerians: 12 city-states, waged war over l, water rights (anything new?)

Sargon Great: c. 2350 b.c., Semitic Akkad, city to north. First Empire, Persian gulf to Mediterranean, lasted to 2180 b.c. (Sumerians not Semites, unknown language family). Gutian attacks end.

Assyria: Compare to Klingons, Kardessian Empire in Star Trek: Would skin people alive, impale those who revolted. Put on wall reliefs in palace for propaga/intimidation purposes (ambassadors from or kingdoms, etc.) Ashurnasirpal (r. 884-860 b.c.): “I flayed chief men of rebels I covered walls with ir skins. . . . Some of m were enclosed alive within bricks of wall, some were crucified with stakes along wall . . . From some of m I cut off ir hs fingers, from ors ir noses ears, of many I put out ir eyes.” Calculated terror policy to intimidate, discourage revolts. Used prisoners of war to build capital at Calah.

Egypt vs. Sumeria/Mesopotamia: Egypt’s natural environment much more predictable, less change, flooding seasonally. Egypt more protected from attack, due to deserts, mountains in south, better natural resources (such as having stone, copper, gold). Gods of Mesopotamia seen as more capricious,...
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