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Ancient Mesopotamia

Why is Mesopotamia considered the "cradle of civilization"? Sal explains the history of the early empires on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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  • hopper happy style avatar for user KNLAEM_CODING
    Is Mesopotamia in Greece? I looked it up but I don't know for sure.
    (10 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Fatima
    Why is Mesopotamia important
    (14 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user diaryroll
      Mesopotamia was important because it habited one of the first civilizations. There were many inventions made during that time, such as writing and the wheel. There was also culture there, with shrines, temples and ziggurats. Because there was food surpluses, trading, crafting, and different levels of jobs took place. There was a social hierarchy, which we still have today.
      (25 votes)
  • purple pi teal style avatar for user Destin
    At around Sal mentions the finding of cuneiforms. Has any of these been deciphered yet, and if so what do most of them say. Later on at around Sal brings up the "famous code of Hammurabi", has this also been deciphered, and if so, what is it a code for?
    (10 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Alexa
    Here's a summarization of this: Around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, agriculture emerged primarily in river valleys due to the fertile soil and access to fresh water. The first significant civilizations developed where agriculture began, including ancient Egypt along the Nile, the Indus Valley along the Indus River, China along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, and Mesopotamia along the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers.

    Mesopotamia, which means "between rivers," refers to the area between the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers, primarily modern-day Iraq. It is known as the cradle of civilization because it was the crossroads of early civilizations and witnessed significant developments in technology, architecture, religion, and writing.

    The first civilization in Mesopotamia was the Sumerians, who emerged around 4000 BCE. They invented the wheel and built architectural structures like ziggurats. The Sumerians also developed one of the first written languages known as cuneiform.

    Other civilizations that emerged in Mesopotamia include the Akkadians, who spoke the Semitic language Akkadian and established the Akkadian Empire under Sargon the Great in the 24th century BCE. The Akkadians ruled for over 100 years before other empires arose.

    The Babylonian Empire, centered at Babylon, became significant under Hammurabi, known for his famous code of Hammurabi, a written law code. The Assyrian Empire, named after the town of Assur, controlled much of the Middle East at its peak. Both the Babylonians and Assyrians spoke Akkadian.

    The Neobabylonian Empire replaced the Assyrians and was overthrown by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BCE.

    Mesopotamia's contributions in technology, architecture, religion, and writing have influenced civilizations for thousands of years, with ideas like written codes of law still present in modern society.
    (17 votes)
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  • mr pants pink style avatar for user Kendall Goudelock
    How could scientist find out where the first civilizations started.
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  • leafers seedling style avatar for user aubrey.kinnoin
    i wonder if the cities are still standing.
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  • blobby green style avatar for user fatima
    1. What tool was given during Mesopotamia ?
    2. What is the name of the Temple?
    3. Why did the people of Mesopotamia started creating crafts?
    4. What are the name of the two rivers along Mesopotamia?
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Mesopotamia is not a "when" (to have a during).
      Mesopotamia is an area between two rivers. There were many different cultural groups there. There were many different temples.

      Crafts emerged from making things for needs. Textile crafts emerged from the need for clothing. Basket-weaving crafts emerged from the need for containers. Pottery crafts emerged from the need for things to hold liquids.

      The Tigris and the Euphrates are the English names of the rivers. The names vary with the languages and cultural groups that name them.
      (9 votes)
  • winston default style avatar for user Cruz
    Are there any known civilizations that had existed before ancient Mesopotamia? If so, what was the difference in their lifestyle compared to the ancient Mesopotamians?
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user zarapaulobameso
    Why were the Tigris and Euphrates rivers so important
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  • blobby green style avatar for user azheng
    What does Mesopotamia mean in greek
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Video transcript

- [Instructor] In other videos, we talk about how 10 to 15,000 years ago. You have the emergence of agriculture primarily around river valleys, and it's no surprise that agriculture first came about around river valleys because the rivers would flood, making the soil around them fertile. They would provide fresh water for crops and for the people who would live near them. Later on, the rivers could be useful for transporting things like crops, and so it's not surprising that our first significant civilizations also emerged where the first agriculture emerged. And our first civilizations we'll see in ancient Egypt along the Nile. We will see it in the Indus Valley along the Indus River. We'll see it in China along the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers, and we'll also see it in Mesopotamia along the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers. And what we're gonna focus on in this video in particular is Mesopotamia. Now, the word Mesopotamia literally come from meso, between, and potamos. I'm probably not pronouncing it right, rivers. So it's the area between rivers is literally what Mesopotamia is referring to. And it's primarily modern day Iraq. Now the reason why this is particularly interesting and it's called the cradle of civilization, is not only is it one of or perhaps the first place that agriculture developed, it was at the crossroads of many other early civilizations. Notice it's right in between the Indus Valley civilization here, and then the ancient Egyptians, and other civilizations that were emerging in the area. And so it's not surprising that this was a geography that had significant developments in terms of technology, in terms of architecture, in terms of religion, in terms of writing. And the first civilization we believe that emerged in Mesopotamia are the Sumerians. Sumerians. And Sumeria and Sumerians, it's most associated with this region right over here of, let me circle it, this region right over here of southern Mesopotamia. And we currently think that this civilization started to emerge around 4000 BCE. You can see it on this timeline here in orange, and they developed things as basic as the wheel. The first wheel that was ever discovered was 3500 BCE in Sumeria. They're famous for their architectural structures. This is a picture here of a ziggurat, which was at the center of many of these Sumerian and as we'll see Mesopotamian cities. This would require an incredible amount of labor to produce, and at the top of these they had temples to their Gods and their Gods, they had a polytheistic religion, and their Gods took human form. Also amongst the Sumerians is where we think one of the first written languages developed. It wasn't the first. You also have the Egyptian hieroglyphics and written language emerged amongst the Harappans and the Indus Valley civilization and amongst the Chinese, but it was one of the first languages. This right over here is an example of a cuneiform tablet. This is a cuneiform tablet written in the script. Cuneiform developed by these ancient Sumerians. Now, when you talk about Mesopotamia, you'll talk about Sumerians, but we'll also talk about other civilizations that emerge. In particular, let me write them all down. You have the Sumerians. You'll also hear something called Akkadian, and as we'll see, Akkadian is both a language and an empire that will emerge. In Mesopotamia over the roughly 3,000 years BCE, the two primary languages are Akkadian, which is considered a Semitic language. It's related to modern Semitic languages, like Arabic and Hebrew, and the reason why they're called Semitic is because they're spoken or they're reported to be spoken by the descendants of Shem, who was Noah's son, in the Hebrew bible. So, you have the language Akkadian, which is Semitic, and then you have the other language, which is Sumerian. And as we get into the third millennium BCE, the Sumerians start to have a lot of interaction with Akkadian speaking people, and Akkadian speaking people are initially associated primarily with northern Mesopotamia, and we believe the first empire, true empire, perhaps the first empire in the world emerged from Acadia, and it was called the Akkadian Empire. And if we scroll down over here, we can see how the Akkadian Empire spread. We believe that the town of Akkad, which the Akkadian Empire is named for, some place in this region right over here, and the first significant ruler who really spread that empire was Sargon, often referred to as Sargon the Great. And you can see, you can see that that would have been established around the middle of the 23rd, or actually the 24th century BCE. So around 2350, you have Sargon establishing what might be the first Dynastic empire in the world, the Akkadian Empire, and he was able to take control of both northern and southern Mesopotamia, so even the Sumerians were under the control of the Akkadians. As we'll see over time, you have a lot of mixing between the Akkadian language, the Sumerian language. Akkadian gets written in the Cuneiform script, and starting at around this period, Sumerian starts to die as a spoken language and Akkadian really becomes dominant. Now, the Akkadians rule for a little over 100 years, and then you have several other empires. It can get confusing. The way I have structured this timeline is this top line right over here is southern Mesopotamia and this bottom line right over here is northern Mesopotamia so this orange shows you where the Sumerians were reigning. Some people think that they might have been the first empire. This bottom line here, you can see the Akkadian speakers, but they were fragmented until you have Sargon the great establishing the Akkadian Empire. Now, you briefly then have a short-term neo-Sumerian empire, but the next significant empire that's often talked about when associated with Mesopotamia is the Babylonian Empire. So Babylon, the Babylonian Empire was centered at Babylon, right over here, and it really became a significant empire under the ruler Hammurabi. And Hammurabi is perhaps most known, you can see how he was able to spread the empire. The dark brown is what he had with this empire when he took rule, and the light brown is what he was able to spread it to, so once again, both north and south, and he's perhaps most famous for his famous code of Hammurabi, which is depicted here, and it wasn't the first written code, but it was one of the earliest, and you could view it as almost a proto-constitution, and it was based on things that the Sumerians had before, but they've even influenced things like biblical laws, things that come down to modern codes of law today. Now, after the Babylonians, the other significant empire that would have control over significant portions of Mesopotamia is the Assyrian Empire. And the Assyrian Empire is named for their, I guess you could say their home base, the town of Assur. You can see it in this map here, where we showed the Akkadian Empire. And both the Babylonians and the Assyrians were Akkadian speaking, so at this point now, and as we get into the later Assyrian period, we'll start to have Aramaic be a more significant language, another Semitic language, but as you can see here, the Assyrian Empire at its peak controlled much of the modern day Middle East. Now, the Assyrian Empire would eventually collapse in the seventh century BCE, and it would be taken over by the Neobabylonian Empire. I have a map of that right over here, which also controlled much of the modern middle east. Probably the most famous ruler of the Neobabylonian Empire was Nebuchadnezzar II from the Hebrew bible famous for taking the early Jewish people captive, the famous Babylonian captivity, but eventually they would be overthrown, and they would be overthrown in the sixth century BCE by the Persians and Cyrus the Great, and that'll actually be the end of the Babylonian captivity according to biblical accounts. But the big picture is that Mesopotamia is called the cradle of civilization for a good reason. Not only do we have these technological and architectural advancements, their religion, their writing has influenced civilization since, for the last five, six, 7,000 years. Well, I'd say definitely the last 5,000 years, and a lot of these ideas that came out of Mesopotamia, like written codes of law and the technologies and all the rest follow with us today.