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The Ancient Near East
The Ancient Near East
Common themes?
 Differences?

Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia
– “Between the rivers”
– Within Fertile Crescent
– Accomplished through irrigation, canals  agriculture
Mesopotamia

The Sumerians
(ca. 3800-2400 BC)
– First great
Mesopotamians
– Settled in Fertile
Crescent
– Sumer
 30 city-states
 Common culture, trade
 City-states often at war
Mesopotamia

Accomplishments
– Inventions: wheel,
plow
– Agriculture
– Writing: CUNEIFORM
Tablets with cuneiform
Mesopotamia

Government
– MONARCHY, by
2700 BC
– Almost always kings
– Functions




King Sargon II (r. 722-705 BC)
Representatives of gods
Legislators
Justice
Patrons
Mesopotamia

King Hammurabi
(r. 1792-1750 BC)
– Ruler of Amorites
– Conquered all
Mesopotamia
– Capital: Babylon
– Great legislator
Mesopotamia

The Code of Hammurabi
– 282 legal rulings
– Violent punishments!
– Hammurabi and Shamash
depicted
– “When the god Marduk
commanded me to provide
just ways for the people of
the land in order to attain
appropriate behavior, I
established truth and
justice as the declaration of
the land, I enhanced the
well-being of the people.”
Mesopotamia

The Code of Hammurabi
– “196. If a man put out the eye of another man, his
eye shall be put out.
– 197. If he break the other man’s bone, his bone shall
be broken.
– 198. If he put out the eye of a freed man, or break
the bone of a freed man, he shall pay one gold mina.
– 199. If he put out the eye of a man’s slave, or break
the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half of its
value.”
Mesopotamia

Religion
– POLYTHEISTIC
– The gods
 ANTHROPOMORPHIC
 Immortal, powerful
 Feared
– Afterlife
Hammurabi and Shamash
Mesopotamia
Statuettes of worshipers from the Square Temple at Eshnunna (ca. 2700 BC)
Mesopotamia

Ziggurat
– “Towering” structures
– Temple on top
– Nucleus of city
Mesopotamia
Nanna Ziggurat, Ur (Muqaiyir, Iraq), ca. 2100 – ca. 2050 BC
Mesopotamia

Literature
– Epic of Gilgamesh
(ca. 2500 BC)
 About semi-divine king
of Uruk, friend Enkidu
 Enkidu’s death 
Gilgamesh’s pursuit of
immortality
– Enuma Elish
(ca. 11th-cent. BC)
 Origins
 Cosmic battle between
gods  creation
Enkidu and Gilgamesh
Mesopotamia

Questions?
Egypt

Ancient Egypt
– The Nile
 Flowed from Nubia to
Delta
 Flooded annually 
fertility, prosperity
 Symbol of life
– Upper Egypt, Lower
Egypt  unified state
(ca. 3100 BC)
Egypt

The Pharaoh
– Egypt’s monarch
– Divine offspring of sun
god
– Ruled through
bureaucracy
– Worshiped after death
Pharaoh Tutankhamun (r. 1333-1324 BC)
Egypt

Religion
– Very spiritual people
– Polytheistic
Egypt

The Afterlife
– Ka lives on after death
– Judgment before divine tribunal
– Mummification
Egypt
Mummies, British Museum, London
Egypt
Egypt
Mummy with amulets, Vatican Museum
Egypt
Egypt

Writing
– Papyrus
– HIEROGLYPHICS
Egypt
The Rosetta Stone at
the British Museum
Egypt

The Pyramids
– Purpose: pharaohs’
glory, tombs
– Great Pyramids, Gizeh
(ca. 2500 BC)
 Near Cairo
 Gold once visible
 Aligned with stars?
Great Pyramids, Gizeh, Egypt
Tombs of Menkaure, Khafre, Khufu (ca. 2500 BC)
Egypt

The Great Sphinx
(ca. 2500 BC)
– Lion, human head
– Guardian
Egypt

The Egyptian Empire
(ca. 1550-1075 BC)
– Borders: Euphrates to
Nubia
– Capital: Thebes
Egypt

Hatshepsut
(r. 1479-1457 BC)
– Widow of Thutmose II,
regent to Thutmose III
– Declared herself pharaoh!
– Peaceful reign
– Building project
– Thutmose sought to
destroy memory of her
Egypt

Decline of Egypt (ca. 1076 BC)
– Pharaohs lost power to priests
– Empire disintegrated
– Prominent international role lost
– Suffered invasions, occupations
Egypt

Questions?
Israel

Israel
– “The Hebrews”
– First recorded national
history
– Founders of “Western
religious tradition”:
MONOTHEISM
Israel

The Patriarchs
(ca. 2000-1500 BC)
–
–
–
–
Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Twelve tribes, *Joseph
Abraham and Isaac
Israel

The Exodus
(ca. 1300 BC)
– Israelites oppressed in
Egypt
– Moses led them out
– Journey through
wilderness 
“Promised Land”
– THE TEN
COMMANDMENTS
Moses and the Ten Commandments
Israel
Israel
Israel

Religion
– Hebrew God: YHWH
 Creator, redeemer
 No images!
– Cult
 Male priesthood
 Tabernacle, altars
 Holy days
– Sacred text: TORAH
Israel
Israel

Government
– Confederation of
tribes, at first
– United monarchy
(ca. 1020-928 BC)
– Hebrew kingship
 Not divine
 YHWH’s servant, vassal
 Bound by Law
Israel

The United Kingdom
– KING DAVID
(r. 1004-965 BC)
 Origins: shepherd,
mercenary
 Expansion, conquest
 Capital: Jerusalem
– KING SOLOMON
(r. 965-928 BC)
David
 Israel at its zenith
 Wealth!
 Temple
Israel
Edward Poynter, The Queen of Sheba before Solomon (1890)
Israel
Solomon’s Temple, Jerusalem
Israel

The Divided Kingdom
(928-722 BC)
– Had been ruled by kings in
Judah
– Northern tribes broke away
 Kingdom of Israel
 Idols
 Conquered by Assyria
(722 BC)
– Kingdom of Judah
 Monotheism, idols too
 Conquered by Babylon
(598-586 BC)
Israel

Questions?
Persia

The Persian Empire
(559-331 BC)
– Iran: home of Medes
and Persians
– The Empire
King Cyrus the Great
 Initiated by Cyrus the
Great (r. 559-530 BC)
 Conquered Medes,
Babylon, beyond
 Largest empire yet
Persia
Persia

The Military
– Ruled by warrior
aristocracy
– 300,000 soldiers!
– Cavalry
– First great navy
Persia

The King
–
–
–
–
“King of kings”
Had khvarna
Brilliant in appearance!
Bound by rule of law,
nobility
King Darius I
(r. 521-486 BC)
Persia
Royal Road

Ruling the Empire
–
–
–
–
Strategy: tolerance, humane rule
Divided into 20 satrapies
Systems of roads
Main language: Aramaic
Persia

Religion
– Initially polytheism
– Zoroastrianism
 Prophet: Zarathustra
(ca. 1000-550 BC)
 Ethical, inward-looking
 Dualistic: Light vs.
Darkness
 Magi
Open-air fire altar
dedicated to Supreme Creator
Persia

Questions?
The Ancient Near East
Common themes?
 Differences?

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