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City-States in Mesopotamia
Chapter 2 section 1
Today’s Objective
• Students will summarize how geography
affected cultural development in the Fertile
• Describe city-states and how other
cultures learned about them
What is a “Crescent” ?
It’s a shape!
Fertile Crescent
• Desert climate
dominates landscape
• Within this region lies
an arc of land that
provides some of the
best farming in SW
• Curved shape, and
richness of land led
scholars to call it the
Fertile Crescent
Fertile Plains
• In the Eastern part of the
Fertile Crescent, the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers flow
southeastward to the
Persian Gulf
• Between them is a plain
known as Mesopotamia,
which means “land of the
rivers” in Greek
• The Tigris and Euphrates
rivers flooded Mesopotamia
at least once a year leaving
behind a thick bed of mud
called silt
• In this rich new soil, farmers could plant and
harvest large amounts of wheat and barley
• Surpluses from harvest allowed villages to grow
Environmental Changes
• Around 3500 B.C., people called
Sumerians arrived- no one is really sure
where they were from
• Good soil attracted the settlers to flat,
swampy land of Sumer
• There were 3 disadvantages to their new
• Flooding of the rivers
was unpredictable
• Sumer was a small
region (size of
Massachusetts) with
no natural barriersalmost defenseless
• Natural resources of
Sumer were
extremely limited
• To provide water, they
dug irrigation ditches
that carried water to
the fields
• Built city walls for
protection with mud
• Sumerians traded
with peoples of the
mountains for things
they lacked
City walls
• Sumerians traded grain, cloth and
tools for stone, wood and metal they
needed to make tools and buildings.
• Leaders were
needed to plan
and supervise
• These leaders
and laws were
the beginning of
Sumerians create City-States
• By 3000 B.C. Sumerians built many cities
surrounded by fields of barley and wheat
• Each city developed own governments
with own rulers
• Each city and surrounding land it
controlled formed a city-state and
functioned like an independent country
does today
Power of Priests
• Sumer’s earliest government were controlled by
temple priests
• Farmers believed the success of their crops
depended on blessings of the gods
• Priests acted as go-betweens with the gods
• The Ziggurat acted as a place of worship and a
city hall, priests managed irrigation systems and
demanded a portion of every farmer’s crop as
Monarchs take control
• In time of war, priests did not lead the city
• Men of the city chose a tough fighter to
command city soldiers
• Wars became more frequent, and priests gave
commanders permanent control of armies
• Military leaders
became full time
rulers, or monarchs
• They would pass on
their power to their
sons, who passed it
on to their heirs,
creating a dynasty, a
series of rulers from a
single family
Spread of cities
• City-states grew prosperous from surplus
food produced on farms
• As population and trade expanded,
Sumerians came into contact with other
peoples and their ideas.
• The spreading of ideas or products from
one culture to another is called cultural
Sumerian Culture
• Sumerians, and others in Fertile Crescent
believed that many gods control the force of
• Belief in many gods is called polytheism
• Sumerians had roughly 3000 gods, and they
were immortal, humans were their servants
• Believed that gods may strike at any moment
sending a fire, flood, or enemy to destroy a city
• To keep gods happy, Sumerians built ziggurats
and offered sacrifices of food, animals and wine
Life in Sumerian Society
• Social classes emerged
Priests and kings
wealthy merchants
Sumerian people who worked with hands
Sumerian Women
• Women could
become a farmer,
merchant, or artisan
• Could hold property in
their own name, and
even join the
Girls were not allowed to attend
schools with upper class boys
Science and Technology
• Sumerians invented the wheel, the sail,
the plow
• Were the first to use bronze and
developed the first system of writing,
• Some tablets found contain investigations
into astronomy, chemical substance and
symptoms of disease
The First Empire Builders
• Weakened city-states of Sumar
constantly at war with each other
and being attacked by people from
surrounding areas
• 2350 B.C. conqueror named Sargon from
Akkad defeated city-states of Sumer
• Sargon adopted Sumerian culture and
spread it during his other conquests
• Created the world’s first empire by taking
control of northern and southern
Mesopotamia- lasted 200 years due to
internal fighting and famine
• An empire brings together several
peoples, nations, or previously
independent states under control of one
Sargon’s Empire
Babylonian Empire
• 2000 B.C. nomadic warriors known as Amorites
invaded Mesopotamia
• Establish their capital at Babylon, on the
Euphrates river
• Reigned Babylonia from 1792 B.C. to
1750 B.C.
• Legacy is his code of laws
• Had code engraved in stone and copies
placed throughout his empire
• Code applied to everyone, but different
punishments for rich and poor, men and
• Applied principle of retaliation (eye for an
Example of Laws
• If a man has stolen an ox, sheep, pig or boat
that belonged to a temple or palace, he shall
repay thirty times its cost. If it belonged to a
private citizen, he shall repay ten times. If the
thief cannot pay, he shall be put to death.
Another Example
• If a woman hates her husband and says to
him “You cannot be with me,” the
authorities in her district will investigate the
case. If she has been chaste and without
fault, even though her husband has
neglected or belittled her, she will be found
innocent and may return to her fathers
house…if the woman is at fault, she shall
be thrown into the river
Hammurabi’s Code
• Reinforced the principle that government
had a responsibility for what occurred in
• For example, if a man was robbed, and
the thief wasn’t caught, the gov’t had to
reimburse the victim for his loss
• 200 years after Hammurabi’s reign, the
Babylonian Empire fell to nomadic warriors
• Over the years, new groups dominate the
Fertile Crescent
• Discuss with a partner: If Hammurabi’s Code
were put into law today, what would be suitable
punishment for crimes such as:
• Graffiti
• Cheating
• Theft
• Murder
• Forgery
• Any other crimes you can think of