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The Ancient Near East


The Ancient Near East Another big chunk of history in a short amount of time! Mesopotamia The land between the rivers- provided irrigation for surplus food supplies ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Ancient Near East

The Ancient Near East
  • Another big chunk of history in a short amount of

  • The land between the rivers- provided irrigation
    for surplus food supplies and Sumerians and
    Babylonians built cities along these two rivers.
  • These cities became independent political states
    that shared a common civilization.
  • By 3000 BC the communities of Mesopotamia were
    consolidated under one rule
  • This government was dominated by Sumer
  • Big cities like Ur, Akkad, and Lagash retained
    relative independence
  • Remained in the hands of local kings or priests
  • Some were actually elected by popular assemblies
  • Nomadic Semites began to immigrate to the area
    and number became large enough that their
    language was imposed on the area

Invention of Writing in Sumer
  • Writing appears to have begun at Sumer. The
    Sumerian pictographic form evolved by the fourth
    millennium into cuneiform (wedge-shaped)
  • The signs in the cuneiform system later became
    ideograms and evolved into an intricate system of
    communication. The writing system was so
    complicated that only professional scribes
    mastered it.
  • Scribal schools flourished throughout Sumer.
    Although practical, scribal schools were also
    centers of culture and learning. These schools
    set the standard for all of Mesopotamia.
  • Studied math, astronomy, medicine and metallurgy
    (made alloys like bronze out of tin and copper)
  • Around 3000 BC they invented the wheel
  • Developed a number system and an accurate calendar

Thought and Religion
  • Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic
  • The gods were much like human beings, only with
    supernatural powers.
  • In Mesopotamian religion, we find attempts to
    explain the origins of mankind.
  • There are numerous myths woven into the
    Mesopotamian religious tapestry.
  • Sumerian epic of creation, The Epic of Gilgamesh.
  • Its hero, Gilgamesh, is a wandering king who
    seeks immortality.

Sumerian Society
  • The arid and harsh environment fostered a
    religion based on placating a pantheon of harsh
    gods and goddesses.
  • The temple, or ziggurat, was the center of
    Sumerian life and religion.
  • The temple priests oversaw the agricultural work
    and the distribution of the agricultural yield.
  • The lugal (king) exercised political power over
    the landowning populace.
  • Sumerian society was organized into four classes
    of people
  • nobles, free clients of the nobility, commoners,
    and slaves.

  • Sumerians were less self sufficient that the
    Egyptians and were in a tremendous location or
  • They exported fine jewelry, clothes, tools and
  • They imported metals
  • They used a barter system
  • Some historians believe that they traded as far
    as South America
  • The majority of the population was agrarian
    peasantry but a feudal society existed

The Spread of Mesopotamian Culture
  • The third millennium witnessed the growth and
    spread of Sumerian culture, by the Sumerians
    themselves and by the Semitic peoples who
    conquered them.
  • The Triumph of BabylonOne of the Semitic groups
    to conquer Mesopotamia was the Babylonians.
  • Babylons best-known king, Hammurabi (ca.
    17921750 b.c.), forged a vibrant
    Sumero-Babylonian culture through conquest and
  • Life under Hammurabi- one of the worlds earliest
    comprehensive law codes, which today provides
    much useful information on daily life in ancient

  • The Early Kingdom
  • Begins with the First Dynasty founded by Menes
    around 3000 BC
  • The kingdom reached a climax during the fourth
    dynasty and the pharaoh Cheops or Khufu in 2650
  • By the 6th dynasty, the reign of Pepi II (2300
    BC) the kingdom was disintegrating
  • Society was mainly agrarian and did not rely
    heavily on trade
  • Eventually they had to import lumber from Syria
    using the barter system

Government Structure
  • Pharaoh was a deity
  • He was originally associated with the
    falcon-headed god Horus and later the god Ra
  • Had ultimate control over all the districts or
    nomes in his kingdom
  • Started off egalitarian agrarian society but a
    nobility emerged
  • Women seem to have shared equality with men
  • Monogamy was the general rule

Egyptian Learning
  • Dense population, especially in Memphis the
  • Artisanship and scholarship were both encouraged
  • Students learned writing, reading, algebra,
    geometry, and astronomy
  • Writing system used hieroglyphs on papyrus
  • Eventually a phonetic system developed

  • Egyptians had a sophisticated spirituality
  • Tombs, mummification, the book of the dead
  • Priests became aristocrats with political power
  • Supreme Deities were Horus, Ra and Amen-
    idenified with the sun
  • Osiris was god of the Nile and the judge of the
  • Isis was the wife and sister of Osiris and was
    the godess of motherhood and fertility

The Middle Kingdom
  • After the death of Pepi II, central government
    broke down
  • Nobility gained tremendous authority and began to
    bicker among themselves
  • Plague and Famine forced the re-establishment of
    a strong central government
  • The 12th dynasty under Amenemhet III established
    an absolutist rule moving the capital to Thebes
  • Seen as a mature stage of development art was
    less important and attention shifted to science
  • Math, construction, and mining flourished
  • Amenemhets successors were incompetent and the
    kingdom was overrun by the Hyksos

The New Kingdom
  • After 200 years Ahmose I overthrew the Hyksos
  • Restructured the army with indigenous soldiers
  • He was succeeded both excellent leaders who
    strengthened the kingdom Thutmose III, Amenhotep
    III, Ikhnaton, and Ramses II
  • By 1150 BC, under Ramses III, Egypt became
    dependent on mercenary troops again
  • They begin to decline and the kingdom falls in
    1085 BC

A Shattered Egypt and a Rising Phoenicia
  • Invaders from Africa and the Near East shattered
    the power of Egypt and the Hittites.Long wars
    weakened Egypt, causing political and economic
  • Nubians extended power northward.
  • Kingdom of Kush grew up in the area of modern
  • Egyptian ideas and beliefs made their way,
    through Palestine and Syria, to Europe.
  • Cluster of smaller kingdoms evolved Phoenicians,
    Syrians, Hebrews.
  • The Phoenicians were traders, experts in
    metalworking, textile manufacturers, and
    inventors of the phonetic alphabet from which our
    own is derived.

  • In terms of Religion, The Hebrews have had the
    biggest influence on western civilization
  • From a nomadic tribe called the Hapiru from the
    line of Abraham who migrated into Egypt
  • The mass migrated out of Egypt and settled in
    Palestine in the 13th BC
  • Saul, David, and Solomon
  • Solomon created a unified nation and built a
  • When he died the kingdom was split in two north
    (Israel) and south (Judah)
  • Israel began to build sanctuaries to other gods
  • Israel was eventually wiped out by the Assyrians
  • Judah was crushed by the Babylonians

The Children of Israel
  • South of Phoenicia arose the small kingdom of the
    ancient Jews.
  • Origin is uncertain.
  • came to Palestine through the Sinai Peninsula
    from Egypt.
  • stability was established by the kings Saul,
    David, and Solomon.
  • Saul warred against the Philistines and
    established a monarchy over the twelve tribes.
  • David carried on Sauls work.
  • Captured and fortified the city of Jerusalem.
  • Made Jerusalem the political and religious
  • Solomon organized the collective tribes into
    twelve territorial districts.
  • Temple at Jerusalem was part of his overall
    building program.
  • Dedicated temple and made it the home of the Ark
    of the Covenant.
  • Hebrews broke into two political halves on
    Solomons death.
  • Northern kingdom (Israel) destroyed by Assyrians
    (8th century b.c.).
  • Southern kingdom defeated by Babylonians in 587
  • Cyrus the Great of Persia permitted exiles to
    return to Jerusalem.

Jewish Religion
  • Old Testament was the key sacred writing.
  • The Covenant was a kind of contract between
    Yahweh and the Hebrews.
  • Yahweh was the Jews only god (monotheism).
  • Ten Commandments
  • The Torah, or Mosaic Law, was very harsh.
  • Later custom and law were more humanitarian

The Empire of the Persian Kings
  • Persians (or Iranians) were Indo-European nomads,
    like the Aryans who conquered India in the second
    millennium b.c. They arrived in present-day Iran
    around 1000 b.c.
  • The Persian ruler Cyrus the Great (r. 559?530
    b.c.) created the largest empire yet to exist in
    the Near East.
  • Cyrus had an enlightened view of empire,
    practiced religious tolerance, and allowed the
    subject peoples of his empire great autonomy.
  • Emperor Darius (r. 521?486 b.c.) adopted the
    Zoroastrian religion.
  • Zoroaster preached a new concept of divinity and
    human life.
  • He described the cosmos as a battle between
    opposing forces of good and evil, represented by
    the gods Ahuramazda and Ahriman.
  • taught that individuals must decide whether to
    choose Ahuramazda or Ahriman.
  • Zoroaster preached a Last Judgment.
  • Zoroastrian thought influenced Judaism,
    Christianity, and Islam.
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