Meaning of MESOPOTAMIA, HISTORY OF in English

Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history. history of the region in southwestern Asia where the world's earliest civilization developed. The name comes from a Greek word meaning between rivers, referring to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but the region can be broadly defined to include the area that is now eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and most of Iraq. The region was the centre of a culture whose influence extended throughout the Middle East and as far as the Indus valley, Egypt, and the Mediterranean. This article covers the history of Mesopotamia from the prehistoric period up to the Arab conquest in the 7th century AD. For the history of the region in the succeeding periods, see the article Iraq, history of. The Editors of the Encyclopdia Britannica For a discussion of the religions of ancient Mesopotamia, see the article Mesopotamian religion. For a discussion of Mesopotamian visual arts, see Mesopotamian arts. Additional reading General works The Cambridge Ancient History contains much relevant information, especially vol. 12, 3rd ed. (197075), vol. 34, 2nd ed. (198288), and vol. 6 (1927); they include lengthy and richly documented chapters covering Mesopotamian prehistory to the time of Alexander the Great's conquest of the region. Chapters on Mesopotamia under the Seleucids, Parthians, and Sasanians are included in The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3 (1983). Robert McC. Adams, The Land Behind Baghdad: A History of Settlement on the Diyala Plains (1965); Nicholas Postgate, The First Empires (1977); Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq, 2nd ed. (1980); Richard N. Frye, The History of Ancient Iran (1984); Seton Lloyd, The Archaeology of Mesopotamia: From the Old Stone Age to the Persian Conquest, rev. ed (1984); and Michael Roaf, Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East (1990), also provide broad coverage. I.M. Diakonov (ed.), Ancient Mesopotamia: Socio-Economic History, trans. from Russian (1969, reissued 1981), collects representative articles by Diakonov and others on Mesopotamian history, with emphasis on social and economic aspects. A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, rev. ed. completed by Erica Reiner (1977), includes some controversial views. Prehistory to the Old Babylonian period A balanced picture of political, social, and economic history may be found in Jean Bottro, Elena Cassin, and Jean Vercoutter (eds.), The Near East: The Early Civilizations (1968; originally published in German, 3 vol., 196567), with contributions on prehistory and protohistory, Akkad, Early Dynastic history, the 3rd dynasty of Ur, and the Old Babylonian period. Adam Falkenstein, The Sumerian Temple City, trans. from French (1974), is a very short work describing the Sumerian temple economy and its political implications. Dietz Otto Edzard, Die zweite Zwischenzeit Babyloniens (1957), offers details on the history of the Old Babylonian period from the 3rd dynasty of Ur to the end of Hammurabi. Mogen Trolle Larsen, The Old Assyrian City-State and Its Colonies (1976), is a standard work on the Old Assyrian trade colonies in Anatolia. Gernot Wilhelm, The Hurrians (1989; originally published in German, 1982), is the best book on the third cultural element in early Mesopotamian history. Fiorella Imparati, I Hurriti (1964), offers a short synopsis. Hans J. Nissen, Mesopotamia Before 5000 Years (1987), includes a comprehensive bibliography for the early periods. Mesopotamia to the end of the Achaemenian period Histories of Assyria and Babylonia include Wolfram Von Soden, Einfhrung in die Altorientalistik (1985); J.A. Brinkman, Prelude to Empire: Babylonian Society and Politics, 747626 BC (1984); Stefan Zawadzki, The Fall of Assyria and Median-Babylonian Relations (1988); and H.W.F. Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria (1984, reprinted 1990), and The Greatness That Was Babylon: A Survey of the Ancient Civilization of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley (1988). Joan Oates, Babylon, rev. ed. (1986), deals with history and civilization. Wolfram Von Soden, Herrscher im alten Orient (1954), examines Assyrian and Babylonian politics. Standard works, now partly out-of-date, include A.T. Olmstead, History of Assyria (1923, reprinted 1975); and Bruno Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien, 2 vol. (192025). J.A. Brinkman, A Political History of Post-Kassite Babylonia, 1158722 BC (1968), is an extensive special study, with complete documentation. Muhammad A. Dandamaev, Slavery in Babylonia: From Nabopolassar to Alexander the Great (626331 BC), rev. ed. (1984; originally published in Russian, 1974), includes an extensive bibliography. Jacob Neusner, A History of the Jews in Babylonia, 5 vol. (196570), studies in detail the history of the Jews in Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia from c. 320 BC to c. AD 620 Getzel M. Cohen, The Seleucid Colonies: Studies in Founding, Administration, and Organization (1978), discusses the relationship of the central government with provinces and client states. Details of Seleucid rule may be found in Maurice Meuleau, Mesopotamia Under the Seleucids, in Pierre Grimal (ed.), Hellenism and the Rise of Rome (1968; originally published in German, 1965), pp. 266289; and in the essays in Amlie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin-White (eds.), Hellenism in the East: Interaction of Greek and Non-Greek Civilizations after Alexander's Conquest (1987). Neilson C. Debevoise, A Political History of Parthia (1938, reissued 1968), is a standard political history of the Arsacid dynasty. Sheldon Arthur Nodelman, A Preliminary History of Characene, Berytus, 13(2):83121 (1960), is the standard history of Characene. Louis Dillemann, Haute Msopotamie orientale et pays adjacents (1962), offers a historical geography of northern Mesopotamia with many details. J.M. Fie, Assyrie chrtienne, 3 vol. (196568), provides a historical geography of the Christian communities of northern Mesopotamia from Syriac sources. Dietz O. Edzard Wolfram Th. von Soden Richard N. Frye Mesopotamia from c. 320 BC to c. AD 620 The political history of Mesopotamia between about 320 BC and AD 620 is divided among three periods of foreign rulethe Seleucids to 141 BC, the Parthians to AD 224, and the Sasanians until the Arab invasions of the 7th century AD. Sources are scarce, consisting mainly of a few notices in the works of classical authors such as Strabo, Pliny, Polybius, and Ptolemy, while the cuneiform sources are mainly incantations, accounts of religious rites, and copies of ancient religious texts. The Seleucid period Mesopotamia in Seleucid-Parthian times. At the end of the Achaemenian Empire, Mesopotamia was partitioned into the satrapy of Babylonia in the south, while the northern part of Mesopotamia was joined with Syria in another satrapy. It is not known how long this division lasted, but, by the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the north was removed from Syria and made a separate satrapy. In the wars between the successors of Alexander, Mesopotamia suffered much from the passage and the pillaging of armies. When Alexander's empire was divided in 321 BC, one of his generals, Seleucus (later Seleucus I Nicator), received the satrapy of Babylonia to rule. From about 315 to about 312 BC, however, Antigonus I Monophthalmus (The One-Eyed) took over the satrapy as ruler of all Mesopotamia, and Seleucus had to flee and accept refuge with Ptolemy of Egypt. With the aid of Ptolemy, Seleucus was able to enter Babylon in 312 BC (311 by the Babylonian reckoning) and hold it for a short time against the forces of Antigonus before marching to the east, where he consolidated his power. It is uncertain when he returned to Babylonia and reestablished his rule there; it may have been in 308, but by 305 BC he had assumed the title of king. With the defeat and death of Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus in 301, Seleucus became the ruler of a large empire stretching from modern Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea. He founded a number of cities, the most important of which were Seleucia, on the Tigris, and Antioch, on the Orontes River in Syria. The latter, named after his father or his son, both of whom were called Antiochus, became the principal capital, while Seleucia became the capital of the eastern provinces. The dates of the founding of these two cities are unknown, but presumably Seleucus founded Seleucia after he became king, while Antioch was built after the defeat of Antigonus. Mesopotamia is scarcely mentioned in the Greek sources relating to the Seleucids, because the Seleucid rulers were occupied with Greece and Anatolia and with wars with the Ptolemies of Egypt in Palestine and Syria. Even the political division of Mesopotamia is uncertain, especially since Alexander, Seleucus, and Seleucus' son Antiochus I Soter all founded cities that were autonomous, like the Greek polis. The political division of the land into 19 or 20 small satrapies, which is found later, under the Parthians, began under the Seleucids. Geographically, however, Mesopotamia can be divided into four areas: Characene, also called Mesene, in the south; Babylonia, later called Asuristan, in the middle; northern Mesopotamia, where there was later a series of small states such as Gordyene, Osroene, Adiabene, and Garamea; and finally the desert areas of the upper Euphrates, in Sasanian times called Arabistan. These four areas had different histories down to the Arab conquest in the 7th century, although all of them were subject first to the Seleucids and then to the Parthians and Sasanians. At times, however, several of the areas were fully independent, in theory as well as in fact, while the relations of certain cities with provincial governments and with the central government varied. From cuneiform sources it is known that traditional religious practices and forms of government as well as other customs continued in Mesopotamia; there were only a few Greek centres, such as Seleucia and the island of Ikaros (modern Faylakah, near Kuwait), where the practices of the Greek polis held sway. Otherwise, native cities had a few Greek officials or garrisons but continued to function as they had in the past. Seleucia on the Tigris was not only the eastern capital but also an autonomous city ruled by an elected senate, and it replaced Babylon as the administrative and commercial centre of the old province of Babylonia. In the south several cities, such as Furat and Charax, grew rich on the maritime trade with India; Charax became the main entrept for trade after the fall of the Seleucids. In the north there was no principal city, but several towns, such as Arbela (modern Irbil) and Nisibis (modern Nusaybin), later became important centres. In the desert region, caravan cities such as Hatra and Palmyra began their rise in the Seleucid period and had their heyday under the Parthians. The only time that the Seleucid kings lost control of Mesopotamia was from 222 to 220 BC, when Molon, the governor of Media, revolted and marched to the west. When the new Seleucid king, Antiochus III, moved against him from Syria, however, Molon's forces deserted him, and the revolt ended. The Parthians, under their able king Mithradates I, conquered Seleucid territory in Iran and entered Seleucia in 141 BC. After the death of Mithradates I in 138 BC, Antiochus VII began a campaign to recover the Seleucid domains in the east. This campaign was successful until Antiochus VII lost his life in Iran in 129 BC. His death ended Seleucid rule in Mesopotamia and marked the beginning of small principalities in both the south and north of Mesopotamia. Seleucid rule brought changes to Mesopotamia, especially in the cities where Greeks and Macedonians were settled. In these cities the king usually made separate agreements with the Greek officials of the city regarding civil and military authority, immunity from taxes or corve, or the like. Native cities continued with their old systems of local government, much as they had under the Achaemenians. Greek gods were worshiped in temples dedicated to them in the Greek cities, and native Mesopotamian gods had temples dedicated to them in the native cities. In time, however, syncretism and identification of the foreign and local deities developed. Although the policy of Hellenization was not enforced upon the population, Greek ideas did influence the local educated classes, just as local practices were gradually adopted by the Greeks. As in Greece and the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, in Mesopotamia the philosophies of the Stoics and other schools probably had an impact, as did mystery religions; both were hallmarks of the Hellenistic Age. Unfortunately there is no evidence from the east on the popularity of Greek beliefs among the local population, and scholars can only speculate on the basis of the fragmentary notices in authors such as Strabo. The Seleucid rulers respected the native priesthoods of Mesopotamia, and there is no record of any persecutions. On the contrary, the rulers seem to have favoured local religious practices, and ancient forms of worship continued. Cuneiform writing by priests, who copied incantations and old religious texts, continued into the Parthian period. The administrative institutions of the countryside of Mesopotamia remained even more traditional than those of the cities; the old taxes were simply paid to new masters. The satrapy, much reduced in size from Achaemenian times, was the basis for Seleucid control of the countryside. A satrap or strategus (a military title) headed each satrapy, and the satrapies were divided into hyparchies or eparchies; the sources that use these and other words, such as toparchy, are unclear about the subdivisions of the satrapy. There was a great variety of smaller units of administration. In the capital and in the provincial centres, both Greek and Aramaic were used as the written languages of the government. The use of cuneiform in government documents ceased sometime during the Achaemenian period, but it continued in religious texts until the 1st century of the Common era. The archives were managed both in the capital and in provincial cities by an official called a bibliophylax. There were many financial officials (oikonomoi); some of them oversaw royal possessions, and others managed local taxes and other economic matters. The legal system in the Seleucid empire is not well understood, but presumably both local Mesopotamian laws and Greek laws, which had absorbed or replaced old Achaemenian imperial laws, were in force. Excavations at Seleucia have uncovered thousands of seal impressions on clay, evidence of a developed system of controls and taxes on commodities of trade. Many of the sealings are records of payment of a salt tax. Most of the tolls and tariffs, however, were local assessments rather than royal taxes. Artistic remains from the Seleucid period are exceedingly scarce, and, in contrast to Achaemenian art, no royal or monumental art has been recovered. One might characterize the objects that can be dated to the Seleucid era as popular or private art, such as seals, statuettes, and clay figurines. Both Greek and local styles are found, with an amalgam of styles prevalent at the end of Seleucid rule, evidence of a syncretism in cultures. The numerous statues and statuettes of Heracles found in the east testify to the great popularity of the Greek deity, in Mesopotamia identified with the local god Nergal. Aramaic was the official written langauge of the Achaemenian Empire; after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek, the language of the conquerors, replaced Aramaic. Under the Seleucids, however, both Greek and Aramaic were used throughout the empire, although Greek was the principal language of government. Gradually Aramaic underwent changes in different parts of the empire, and in Mesopotamia in the time of the Parthians it evolved into Syriac, with dialectical differences from western Syriac, used in Syria and Palestine. In southern Mesopotamia, other dialects evolved, one of which was Mandaic, the scriptural language of the Mandaean religion. Literature in local languages is nonexistent, except for copies of ancient religious texts in cuneiform writing and fragments of Aramaic writing. There were authors who wrote in Greek, but little of their work has survived and that only as excerpts in later works. The most important of these authors was Berosus, a Babylonian priest who wrote about the history of his country, probably under Antiochus I (reigned 281261 BC). Although the excerpts of his work that are preserved deal with the ancient, mythological past and with astrology and astronomy, the fact that they are in Greek is indicative of interest among local Greek colonists in the culture of their neighbours. Another popular author was Apollodorus of Artemita (a town near Seleucia), who wrote under the Parthians a history of Parthia in Greek as well as other works on geography. Greek continued to be a lingua franca used by educated people in Mesopotamia well into the Parthian period. Under the Seleucid system of dating, as far as is known, a fixed year became the basis for continuous dating for the first time in the Middle East. The year chosen was the year of entry of Seleucus into Babylon, 311 BC according to the Mesopotamian reckoning and 312 BC according to the Syrians. Before this time, dating had been only according to the regnal years of the ruling monarch (e.g., fourth year of Darius). The Parthians, following the Seleucids, sought to institute their own system of reckoning based on some event in their past that scholars can only surmisepossibly the assumption of the title of king by the first ruler of the Parthians, Arsaces. Since Greece was overpopulated at the beginning of Seleucid rule, it was not difficult to persuade colonists to come to the east, especially when they were given plots of land (cleroii) from royal domains that they could pass on to their descendants; if they had no descendants, the land would revert to the king. Theoretically all land belonged to the ruler, but actually local interests prevailed. As time passed, however, the influx of Greek colonists diminished and then ended when the wars of the Hellenistic kings interrupted this movement. Nonetheless, Greek influences continued, and it is fascinating to find in cuneiform documents records of families where the father has a local name and his son a Greek one, and vice versa. Inasmuch as Mesopotamia was peaceful under the Seleucids, the processes of accommodation and assimilation among the people appear to have flourished. Mesopotamia to the end of the Achaemenian period The Kassites, the Mitanni, and the rise of Assyria Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history. About 150 years after the death of Hammurabi, his dynasty was destroyed by an invasion of new peoples. Because there are very few written records from this era, the time from about 1560 BC to about 1440 BC (in some areas until 1400 BC) is called the dark ages. The remaining Semitic states, such as the state of Ashur, became minor states within the sphere of influence of the new states of the Kassites and the Hurrians/Mitanni. The languages of the older cultures, Akkadian and Sumerian, continued or were soon reestablished, however. The cuneiform script persisted as the only type of writing in the entire area. Cultural continuity was not broken off, either, particularly in Babylonia. A matter of importance was the emergence of new Semitic leading classes from the ranks of the priesthood and the scribes. These gained increasing power. The Kassites in Babylonia The Kassites had settled by 1800 BC in what is now western Iran in the region of Hamadan-Kermanshah. The first to feel their forward thrust was Samsuiluna, who had to repel groups of Kassite invaders. Increasing numbers of Kassites gradually reached Babylonia and other parts of Mesopotamia. There they founded principalities, of which little is known. No inscription or document in the Kassite language has been preserved. Some 300 Kassite words have been found in Babylonian documents. Nor is much known about the social structure of the Kassites or their culture. There seems to have been no hereditary kingdom. Their religion was polytheistic; the names of some 30 gods are known. The beginning of Kassite rule in Babylonia cannot be dated exactly. A king called Agum II ruled over a state that stretched from western Iran to the middle part of the Euphrates valley; 24 years after the Hittites had carried off the statue of the Babylonian god Marduk, he regained possession of the statue, brought it back to Babylon, and renewed the cult, making the god Marduk the equal of the corresponding Kassite god, Shuqamuna. Meanwhile, native princes continued to reign in southern Babylonia. It may have been Ulamburiash who finally annexed this area around 1450 and began negotiations with Egypt in Syria. Karaindash built a temple with bas-relief tile ornaments in Uruk (Erech) around 1420. A new capital west of Baghdad, Dur Kurigalzu, competing with Babylon, was founded and named after Kurigalzu I (c. 1400c. 1375). His successors Kadashman-Enlil I (c. 1375c. 1360) and Burnaburiash II (c. 1360c. 1333) were in correspondence with the Egyptian rulers Amenhotep III and Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV). They were interested in trading their lapis lazuli and other items for gold as well as in planning political marriages. Kurigalzu II (c. 1332c. 1308) fought against the Assyrians but was defeated by them. His successors sought to ally themselves with the Hittites in order to stop the expansion of the Assyrians. During the reign of Kashtiliash IV (c. 1232c. 1225), Babylonia waged war on two fronts at the same timeagainst Elam and Assyriaending in the catastrophic invasion and destruction of Babylon by Tukulti-Ninurta I. Not until the time of the kings Adad-shum-usur (c. 1216c. 1187) and Melishipak (c. 1186c. 1172) was Babylon able to experience a period of prosperity and peace. Their successors were again forced to fight, facing the conqueror King Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam (c. 1185c. 1155). Cruel and fierce, the Elamites finally destroyed the dynasty of the Kassites during these wars (about 1155). Some poetical works lament this catastrophe. Letters and documents of the time after 1380 show that many things had changed after the Kassites took power. The Kassite upper class, always a small minority, had been largely Babylonianized. Babylonian names were to be found even among the royalty, and they predominated among the civil servants and the officers. The new feudal character of the social structure showed the influence of the Kassites. Babylonian town life had revived on the basis of commerce and handicrafts. The Kassitic nobility, however, maintained the upper hand in the rural areas, their wealthiest representatives holding very large landed estates. Many of these holdings came from donations of the king to deserving officers and civil servants, considerable privileges being connected with such grants. From the time of Kurigalzu II these were registered on stone tablets or, more frequently, on boundary stones called kudurrus. After 1200 the number of these increased substantially, because the kings needed a steadily growing retinue of loyal followers. The boundary stones had pictures in bas-relief, very often a multitude of religious symbols, and frequently contained detailed inscriptions giving the borders of the particular estate; sometimes the deserts of the recipient were listed and his privileges recorded; finally, trespassers were threatened with the most terrifying curses. Agriculture and cattle husbandry were the main pursuits on these estates, and horses were raised for the light war chariots of the cavalry. There was an export trade in horses and vehicles in exchange for raw material. As for the king, the idea of the social-minded ruler continued to be valid. The decline of Babylonian culture at the end of the Old Babylonian period continued for some time under the Kassites. Not until approximately 1420 did the Kassites develop a distinctive style in architecture and sculpture. Kurigalzu I played an important part, especially in Ur, as a patron of the building arts. Poetry and scientific literature developed only gradually after 1400. The existence of earlier work is clear from poetry, philological lists, and collections of omens and signs that were in existence by the 14th century or before and that have been discovered in the Hittite capital of Hattusa, in the Syrian capital of Ugarit, and even as far away as Palestine. Somewhat later, new writings appear: medical diagnoses and recipes, more Sumero-Akkadian word lists, and collections of astrological and other omens and signs with their interpretations. Most of these works are known today only from copies of more recent date. The most important is the Babylonian epic of the creation of the world, Enuma elish. Composed by an unknown poet, probably in the 14th century, it tells the story of the god Marduk. He began as the god of Babylon and was elevated to be king over all other gods after having successfully accomplished the destruction of the powers of chaos. For almost 1,000 years this epic was recited during the New Year's festival in the spring as part of the Marduk cult in Babylon. The literature of this time contains very few Kassitic words. Many scholars believe that the essential groundwork for the development of the subsequent Babylonian culture was laid during the later epoch of the Kassite era. Mesopotamia to the end of the Old Babylonian period Sumerian civilization The Sumerians to the end of the Early Dynastic period Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history. Despite the Sumerians' leading role, the historical role of other races should not be underestimated. While with prehistory only approximate dates can be offered, historical periods require a firm chronological framework, which, unfortunately, has not yet been established for the first half of the 3rd millennium BC. The basis for the chronology after about 1450 BC is provided by the data in the Assyrian and Babylonian king lists, which can often be checked by dated tablets and the Assyrian lists of eponyms (annual officials whose names served to identify each year). It is, however, still uncertain how much time separated the middle of the 15th century BC from the end of the 1st dynasty of Babylon, which is therefore variously dated to 1594 BC (middle), 1530 BC (short), or 1730 BC (long chronology). As a compromise, the middle chronology is used here. From 1594 BC several chronologically overlapping dynasties reach back to the beginning of the 3rd dynasty of Ur, about 2112 BC. From this point to the beginning of the dynasty of Akkad (c. 2334 BC) the interval can only be calculated to within 40 to 50 years, via the ruling houses of Lagash and the rather uncertain traditions regarding the succession of Gutian viceroys. With Ur-Nanshe (c. 2520 BC), the first king of the 1st dynasty of Lagash, there is a possible variation of 70 to 80 years, and earlier dates are a matter of mere guesswork: they depend upon factors of only limited relevance, such as the computation of occupation or destruction levels, the degree of development in the script (paleography), the character of the sculpture, pottery, and cylinder seals, and their correlation at different sites. In short, the chronology of the first half of the 3rd millennium is largely a matter for the intuition of the individual author. Carbon-14 dates are at present too few and far between to be given undue weight. Consequently, the turn of the 4th to 3rd millennium is to be accepted, with due caution and reservations, as the date of the flourishing of the archaic civilization of Uruk and of the invention of writing. In Uruk and probably also in other cities of comparable size, the Sumerians led a city life that can be more or less reconstructed as follows: temples and residential districts; intensive agriculture, stock breeding, fishing, and date palm cultivation forming the four mainstays of the economy; and highly specialized industries carried on by sculptors, seal engravers, smiths, carpenters, shipbuilders, potters, and workers of reeds and textiles. Part of the population was supported with rations from a central point of distribution, which relieved people of the necessity of providing their basic food themselves, in return for their work all day and every day, at least for most of the year. The cities kept up active trade with foreign lands. That organized city life existed is demonstrated chiefly by the existence of inscribed tablets. The earliest tablets contain figures with the items they enumerate and measures with the items they measure, as well as personal names and, occasionally, probably professions. This shows the purely practical origins of writing in Mesopotamia: it began not as a means of magic or as a way for the ruler to record his achievements, for example, but as an aid to memory for an administration that was ever expanding its area of operations. The earliest examples of writing are very difficult to penetrate because of their extremely laconic formulation, which presupposes a knowledge of the context, and because of the still very imperfect rendering of the spoken word. Moreover, many of the archaic signs were pruned away after a short period of use and cannot be traced in the paleography of later periods, so that they cannot be identified. One of the most important questions that has to be met when dealing with organization and city life is that of social structure and the form of government; however, it can be answered only with difficulty, and the use of evidence from later periods carries with it the danger of anachronisms. The Sumerian word for ruler par excellence is lugal, which etymologically means big person. The first occurrence comes from Kish about 2700 BC, since an earlier instance from Uruk is uncertain because it could simply be intended as a personal name: Monsieur Legrand. In Uruk the ruler's special title was en. In later periods this word (etymology unknown), which is also found in divine names such as Enlil and Enki, has a predominantly religious connotation that is translated, for want of a better designation, as en-priest, en-priestess. En, as the ruler's title, is encountered in the traditional epics of the Sumerians (Gilgamesh is the en of Kullab, a district of Uruk) and particularly in personal names, such as The-en-has-abundance, The-en-occupies-the-throne, and many others. It has often been asked if the ruler of Uruk is to be recognized in artistic representations. A man feeding sheep with flowering branches, a prominent personality in seal designs, might thus represent the ruler or a priest in his capacity as administrator and protector of flocks. The same question may be posed in the case of a man who is depicted on a stela aiming an arrow at a lion. These questions are purely speculative, however: even if the protector of flocks were identical with the en, there is no ground for seeing in the ruler a person with a predominantly religious function. Literary and other historical sources The picture offered by the literary tradition of Mesopotamia is clearer but not necessarily historically relevant. The Sumerian king list has long been the greatest focus of interest. This is a literary composition, dating from Old Babylonian times, that describes kingship (nam-lugal in Sumerian) in Mesopotamia from primeval times to the end of the 1st dynasty of Isin. According to the theoryor rather the ideologyof this work, there was officially only one kingship in Mesopotamia, which was vested in one particular city at any one time; hence the change in dynasties brought with it the change of the seat of kingship: KishUrukUrAwanKishHamaziUrukUr AdabMariKishAkshakKishUrukAkkad UrukGutiansUrukUrIsin. The king list gives as coming in succession several dynasties that now are known to have ruled simultaneously. It is a welcome aid to chronology and history, but, so far as the regnal years are concerned, it loses its value for the time before the dynasty of Akkad, for here the lengths of reign of single rulers are given as more than 100 and sometimes even several hundred years. One group of versions of the king list has adopted the tradition of the Sumerian Flood story, according to which Kish was the first seat of kingship after the Flood, whereas five dynasties of primeval kings ruled before the Flood in Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Shuruppak. These kings all allegedly ruled for multiples of 3,600 years (the maximum being 64,800 or, according to one variant, 72,000 years). The tradition of the Sumerian king list is still echoed in Berosus. It is also instructive to observe what the Sumerian king list does not mention. The list lacks all mention of a dynasty as important as the 1st dynasty of Lagash (from King Ur-Nanshe to UruKAgina) and appears to retain no memory of the archaic florescence of Uruk at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Besides the peaceful pursuits reflected in art and writing, the art also provides the first information about violent contacts: cylinder seals of the Uruk Level IV depict fettered men lying or squatting on the ground, being beaten with sticks or otherwise maltreated by standing figures. They may represent the execution of prisoners of war. It is not known from where these captives came or what form war would have taken or how early organized battles were fought. Nevertheless, this does give the first, albeit indirect, evidence for the wars that are henceforth one of the most characteristic phenomena in the history of Mesopotamia. Just as with the rule of man over man, with the rule of higher powers over man it is difficult to make any statements about the earliest attested forms of religion or about the deities and their names without running the risk of anachronism. Excluding prehistoric figurines, which provide no evidence for determining whether men or anthropomorphic gods are represented, the earliest testimony is supplied by certain symbols that later became the cuneiform signs for gods' names: the gatepost with streamers for Inanna, goddess of love and war, and the ringed post for the moon god Nanna. A scene on a cylinder seala shrine with an Inanna symbol and a man in a boatcould be an abbreviated illustration of a procession of gods or of a cultic journey by ship. The constant association of the gatepost with streamers with sheep and of the ringed post with cattle may possibly reflect the area of responsibility of each deity. The Sumerologist Thorkild Jacobsen sees in the pantheon a reflex of the various economies and modes of life in ancient Mesopotamia: fishermen and marsh dwellers, date palm cultivators, cowherds, shepherds, and farmers all have their special groups of gods. Both Sumerian and non-Sumerian languages can be detected in the divine names and place-names. Since the pronunciation of the names is known only from 2000 BC or later, conclusions about their linguistic affinity are not without problems. Several names, for example, have been reinterpreted in Sumerian by popular etymology. It would be particularly important to isolate the Subarian components (related to Hurrian), whose significance was probably greater than has hitherto been assumed. For the south Mesopotamian city HA.A (the noncommittal transliteration of the signs) there is a pronunciation gloss shubari, and non-Sumerian incantations are known in the language of HA.A that have turned out to be Subarian. There have always been in Mesopotamia speakers of Semitic languages (which belong to the Afro-Asiatic group and also include ancient Egyptian, Berber, and various African languages). This element is easier to detect in ancient Mesopotamia, but whether people began to participate in city civilization in the 4th millennium BC or only during the 3rd is unknown. Over the last 4,000 years, Semites (Amorites, Canaanites, Aramaeans, and Arabs) have been partly nomadic, ranging the Arabian fringes of the Fertile Crescent, and partly settled; and the transition to settled life can be observed in a constant, though uneven, rhythm. There are, therefore, good grounds for assuming that the Akkadians (and other pre-Akkadian Semitic tribes not known by name) also originally led a nomadic life to a greater or lesser degree. Nevertheless, they can only have been herders of domesticated sheep and goats, which require changes of pasturage according to the time of year and can never stray more than a day's march from the watering places. The traditional nomadic life of the Bedouin makes its appearance only with the domestication of the camel at the turn of the 2nd to 1st millennium BC. The question arises as to how quickly writing spread and by whom it was adopted in about 3000 BC or shortly thereafter. At Kish, in northern Babylonia, almost 120 miles northwest of Uruk, a stone tablet has been found with the same repertoire of archaic signs as those found at Uruk itself. This fact demonstrates that intellectual contacts existed between northern and southern Babylonia. The dispersion of writing in an unaltered form presupposes the existence of schools in various cities that worked according to the same principles and adhered to one and the same canonical repertoire of signs. It would be wrong to assume that Sumerian was spoken throughout the area in which writing had been adopted. Moreover, the use of cuneiform for a non-Sumerian language can be demonstrated with certainty from the 27th century BC. Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history. Mesopotamia to the end of the Old Babylonian period The Old Babylonian period Isin and Larsa Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history. During the collapse of Ur III, Ishbi-Erra established himself in Isin and founded a dynasty there that lasted from 2017 to 1794. His example was followed elsewhere by local rulers, as in Der, Eshnunna, Sippar, Kish, and Larsa. In many localities an urge was felt to imitate the model of Ur; Isin probably took over unchanged the administrative system of that state. Ishbi-Erra and his successors had themselves deified, as did one of the rulers of Der, on the Iranian border. For almost a century Isin predominated within the mosaic of states that were slowly reemerging. Overseas trade revived after Ishbi-Erra had driven out the Elamite garrison from Ur, and under his successor, Shu-ilishu, a statue of the moon god Nanna, the city god of Ur, was recovered from the Elamites, who had carried it off. Up to the reign of Lipit-Ishtar (c. 1934c. 1924), the rulers of Isin so resembled those of Ur, as far as the king's assessment of himself in the hymns is concerned, that it seems almost arbitrary to postulate a break between Ibbi-Sin and Ishbi-Erra. As a further example of continuity it might be added that the Code of Lipit-Ishtar stands exactly midway chronologically between the Code of Ur-Nammu and the Code of Hammurabi. Yet it is much closer to the former in language and especially in legal philosophy than to Hammurabi's compilation of judgments. For example, the Code of Lipit-Ishtar does not know the lex talionis (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth), the guiding principle of Hammurabi's penal law. Political fragmentation It is probable that the definitive separation from Ur III came about through changing components of the population, from Sumerians and Akkadians to Akkadians and Amorites. An Old Babylonian liver omen states that he of the steppes will enter, and chase out the one in the city. This is indeed an abbreviated formula for an event that took place more than once: the usurpation of the king's throne in the city by the sheikh of some Amorite tribe. These usurpations were regularly carried out as part of the respective tribes became settled, although this was not so in the case of Isin because the house of Ishbi-Erra came from Mari and was of Akkadian origin, to judge by the rulers' names. By the same linguistic token the dynasty of Larsa was Amorite. The fifth ruler of the latter dynasty, Gungunum (ruled c. 1932c. 1906), conquered Ur and established himself as the equal and rival of Isin; at this stagethe end of the 20th century BCif not before, Ur had certainly outlived itself. From Gungunum until the temporary unification of Mesopotamia under Hammurabi, the political picture was determined by the disintegration of the balance of power, by incessant vacillation of alliances, by the presumption of the various rulers, by the fear of encroachments by the Amorite nomads, and by increasingly wretched social conditions. The extensive archive of correspondence from the royal palace of Mari (c. 18101750) is the best source of

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