Mesopotamia (Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία “[land] between rivers”) situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, is considered one of the cradles of Western world civilization. Mesopotamia included Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian empires, all native to the territory of modern-day Iraq. These populations dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, conquered  Achaemenid Empire.

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Ancient mesopotamia weapons

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Why were the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers so important to ancient civilizations?

The small tribes living in the hills were forced to move to the fertile plains, due to agricultural and water shortages. There was not enough land for farming and very little rain for the tribes to grow crops. The plains were unoccupied and provided both land and water making life much easier for the tribes to live at. In the spring the rivers flooded spreading water. This was a good spot for farming. More people moved to this region and became known as Sumer. People from this land were known as Sumerians.

Land of Mesopotamia

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What are the differences Between Assyrians and Babylonians ?

  • Assyria was located north of Babylonia, its highland location giving it better climate than Babylonia.
  • Assyrians formed a military dynasty whereas Babylonians became merchants and agriculturalists.
  • The supreme ruler in Assyria was an autocratic king while in Babylonia, priesthood was the highest authority.
  • Assyrians’ nature of worship was animistic and that of idolatry while for Babylonians it was in a Supreme God.
Profile of Assyrian soldiers

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What was the most famous city in Mesopotamia?

Babylon is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia. The name is thought to derive from bav-il or bav-ilim, which, in the Akkadian language of the time, meant ‘Gate of God’ or `Gate of the Gods’ and `Babylon’ coming from Greek. The city owes its fame to the many references the Bible makes to it; all of which are unfavourable. In the Book of Genesis, Babylon is featured in the story of The Tower of Babel Outside of the sinful reputation given it by the Bible, the city is known for its impressive walls and buildings. Its reputation as a great seat of learning and culture, the formation of a code of law which pre-dates the Mosaic Law, and for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which were man-made terraces of flora and fauna, watered by machinery.

La torre di Babele in attesa della lingua italiana
Babel tower

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What is a Ziggurat?

The legendary “Tower of Babel” was one such ziggurat. It is believed to have been the ziggurat of the Babylonian god Marduk.

A ziggurat is an ancient temple that was common in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq and western Iran) during the civilizations of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria. Ziggurats are pyramidal in shape, but not nearly as symmetrical, precise, or architecturally pleasing as Egyptian pyramids.

Rather than the enormous masonry that made the Egyptian pyramids, ziggurats were built of much smaller sun-baked mud bricks. Like the pyramids, ziggurats had mystical purposes as shrines, with the top of the ziggurat the most sacred spot.

The Great Ziggurat of Ur
The Great Ziggurat of Ur

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The Invention of Writing

Recent archaeological research indicates that the origin and spread of writing may be more complex than previously thought. Complex state systems with proto-cuneiform writing on clay and wood may have existed in Syria and Turkey as early as the mid-fourth millennium B.C. Initially, a reed or stick was used to draw pictographs and abstract signs into moistened clay. Some of the earliest pictographs are easily recognizable and decipherable, but most are of an abstract nature and cannot be identified with any known object. Over time, pictographic representation was replaced with wedge-shaped signs, formed by impressing the tip of a reed or wood stylus into the surface of a clay tablet. Modern (nineteenth-century) scholars called this type of writing cuneiform after the Latin term for wedge, cuneus.

The most popular but not universally accepted theory identifies the Uruk tablets with the Sumerians, a population group that spoke an agglutinative language related to no known linguistic group.

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