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Section 2: “The Rise of Sumer”
The Big Idea
•The Sumerians developed the first
civilization in Mesopotamia.
I. An Advanced Society
• The Sumerians developed the world’s first
• By 3000 BC, several hundred thousand
Sumerians had settled in Mesopotamia, in
a land they called Sumer.
II. The City-States of Sumer
• Most people in Sumer were farmers and
lived in rural, or countryside, areas.
• The centers of Sumerian society were the
urban, or city, areas.
• The basic political unit of Sumer was called
a city-state.
• The amount of countryside controlled by
each city-state depended on its military
• City-states often fought to gain more
• By 3500 BC, the city-state of Kish became
very powerful.
• Over the next 1000 years, the city-states of
Uruk and Ur fought for control.
• One of Uruk’s kings, Gilgamesh, became a
famous figure in Sumerian history.
III. Rise of the Akkadian
• Another society developed along the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers.
• It was created by the Akkadians and was
located just north of Sumer.
• The Akkadians and the Sumerians lived in
peace for many years until Sargon sought
to extend Akkadian territory.
• He was the first ruler to have a permanent
army, which he used to launch a series of
wars on neighboring kingdoms.
• Sargon’s soldiers defeated all the city-states
of Sumer and northern Mesopotamia.
• Because he had control of the entire region
during his reign, he established the first
• The Akkadian Empire stretched from the
Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
• After Sargon’s death, his empire lasted only
a century.
• Eventually, the city-state of Ur rebuilt its
strength and conquered the rest of
IV. Religion Shapes Society
• Religion was very important in Sumerian
• It was the basis for all in Sumerian society.
VI. Sumerian Religion
• Sumerians practiced polytheism, the
worship of many gods.
• Each city-state considered one god to be
its special protector.
• The Sumerians believed that their gods had
tremendous power and that success in
every of life depended on pleasing the
• To gain the favor of the gods, people relied
on them.
VII. Sumerian Social Order
• Priests occupied a high level in Sumer’s
social order.
• Above the priests, were the kings, who
claimed they had been chosen by the
gods to rule.
• Below the priests were the craftspeople,
merchants, and traders.
• Trade greatly impacted Sumerian society.
• Traders exchanged grains for gold, silver,
copper, lumber, and precious stones.
• Below the traders, farmers and laborers
made up the large working class.
• Slaves were at the bottom of the social
VII. Men and Women in Sumer
• Men, in Sumerian society held political
power and made laws.
• Women took care of the home and
• Education was usually reserved for men, but
some upper-class women were educated
as well.
• Those women who were educated, often
worked as priestesses in Sumer’s temples.
• The daughter or Sargon, Enheduanna, was
the first known female writer in history.