Map Babylonian-empire

Map of Babylonian Empire

Ancient Mesopotamia and the surrounding area is often called the Fertile Crescent or the Cradle of Civilization.  The Tigris and Euphrates rivers supplied fresh water for humans, plants, and animals.  Eventually these rivers would provide irrigation for the farms of the first civilization in human history. The word Mesopotamia is Greek for 'land between rivers'. 

Today, the territory corresponds to Iraq.

A written language developed around 3300 BCE

Sumerian empire

Mesopotamia Timeline

Mesopotamia timeline

Sumer Statue

A Sumer man.

The first civilization to develop was called Sumer in southern Mesopotamia. Sumer was a collection of city-states, most of them with thick defensive walls because the city-states were often at war with one another.  Major cities included Eridu, Uruk, Ur, and Lagash. Uruk was one of the largest cities; at one time it may have had 80,000 people living in and around the city.

Sumer Social Pyramid
Mesopotamia invented new technology.  They were the first to use the wheel.  The wagon was a transportation revolution for farming and trade.  They developed a number system based on 60--this explains why we have 60 seconds in minute and 60 minutes in an hour.  They used a 12 month calendar with a 7 day week.  Astronomers studied the stars an mapped the first set of constellations.  Early writers wrote the earliest known literature called the Epic of Gilgamesh, which tells the tale of the struggle between man and the Gods.  They also created  architectural structures such as the dome, the column, and the arch.



At the center of each town was a religious temple called a ziggurat.

Clay tablet

A clay tablet

The earliest writing was based on pictures that represent words or phrases—these are called pictograms. Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops, taxes, and lending (loans). This type of writing required hundreds of symbols. Over several hundred years, the pictures developed into a type of writing we call cuneiform. Cuneiform was different because the symbols now stood for sounds, similar to our alphabet.

"According to Bertman, “In his book, History Begins at Sumer, Samuel Noah Kramer lists 39 `firsts’ in recorded history that can be credited to the Sumerians and the culture they created” (326). Among these `firsts’ are Man’s First Cosmogony and Cosmology, The First Moral Ideas, The First Biblical Parallels, The First `Noah’, `Moses’, and `Job’, Man’s First Epic Literature, The First Case of Library Borrowing, The First Legal Precedent, The First Aquarium, and The First Proverbs and Sayings." Source

An old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn."(Wikipedia)


Babylonia came into power when King Hammurabi created an empire out of the former kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad.

A Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar II built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nebuchadnezzar II supposedly built these around 600 BC because his wife missed the forests and jungles of her home. The gardens didn’t actually hang—they were simply built on top of towers, platforms, and temples.

Code of Hammurabi

Code of Hammurabi

Hammurabi is also known for creating a system of laws called the “Code of Hammurabi” that has had a lasting influence on legal thought. Only one example of the Code survives today on a seven foot, four inch tall basalt stone slab. The Code is considered an early form of what is now known as a constitution. There are 282 laws in the Code of Hammurabi.

Watch "The Babylonian mind"



An Assyrian man

Assyrians were the first to manufacture metal wheels, which was much more durable and therefore able to be used in war. The core of the Assyrian army was their war-chariots. The Assyrians were also the first to use camels in war.


Assyrians were defeated by Persians.

Persia developed in modern day Iran.  Persia controlled an area that stretched from the Indus River (Pakistan) to beyond the Nile.  The Persian Royal Road was an ancient highway that allowed rapid communication throughout this very large empire. Messengers on horseback could travel the 1,677 miles in seven days; it took ninety days on foot. The road also helped Persia increase long distance trade and eventually became a major part of the Silk Road.

Persian Empire, 490 BC

Persian Empire, around 490 B.C.

Zoroastrianism was a major religion found in ancient Persia as early as 5000 BC. Zoroastrianism was one of the first monotheistic religions.


Knowledge in Mesopotamia


Ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet showing knowledge of Pythagorus’ theorem

Mesopotamian mathematics and science was based on a sexagesimal (base 60) numeral system. This is the source of the 60-minute hour, the 24-hour day, and the 360-degree circle. The Sumerian calendar was based on the seven-day week. This form of mathematics was instrumental in early map-making. The Babylonians also had theorems on how to measure the area of several shapes and solids. They measured the circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference, which would be correct if p were fixed at 3.

The Babylonian astronomers were very adept at mathematics and could predict eclipses and solstices. Scholars thought that everything had some purpose in astronomy. Most of these related to religion and omens. Mesopotamian astronomers worked out a 12-month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: summer and winter. The origins of astronomy as well as astrology date from this time.

The only Greek-Babylonian astronomer known to have supported a heliocentric model of planetary motion was Seleucus of Seleucia (b. 190 BC).[22][23][24] Seleucus is known from the writings of Plutarch. He supported Aristarchus of Samos' heliocentric theory where the Earth rotated around its own axis which in turn revolved around the Sun. According to Plutarch, Seleucus even proved the heliocentric system, but it is not known what arguments he used (except that he correctly theorized on tides as a result of Moon's attraction).

The most extensive Babylonian medical text, however, is the Diagnostic Handbook written by the ummânū, or chief scholar, Esagil-kin-apli of Borsippa,[26] during the reign of the Babylonian king Adad-apla-iddina (1069-1046 BC).[27] Along with contemporary Egyptian medicine, the Babylonians introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and prescriptions.

Mesopotamian people invented many technologies including metal and copper-working, glass and lamp making, textile weaving, flood control, water storage, and irrigation. They were also one of the first Bronze Age societies in the world. They developed from copper, bronze, and gold on to iron. Palaces were decorated with hundreds of kilograms of these very expensive metals. Also, copper, bronze, and iron were used for armor as well as for different weapons such as swords, daggers, spears, and mace.

Mesopotamians believed that the world was a flat disc,[citation needed] surrounded by a huge, holed space, and above that, heaven. They also believed that water was everywhere, the top, bottom and sides, and that the universe was born from this enormous sea. In addition, Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic.

Babylonian text Dialogue of Pessimism contains similarities to the agonistic thought of the sophists, the Heraclitean doctrine of contrasts, and the dialectic and dialogs of Plato, as well as a precursor to the maieutic method of Socrates.[35] The Ionian philosopher Thales was influenced by Babylonian cosmological ideas.

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