Mesopotamia is a region of the Middle East between the Tigris and Euphrates. It is for the most part in today's Iraq.

It includes the north (north-eastern Syria and northern Iraq today) a plateau region, which is a rainfed area, and south, a region of plains where farming is practiced based exclusively on irrigation.

The word Mesopotamia has evolved over time. In the classical sense of the Greeks and Romans, Mesopotamia means that part of northern Jazira also called for the Arab conquest (c. 634 AD.) For the wetland and irrigated Sawad found the word in texts Arab origin. In Arrian, who wrote a Anabasis of Alexander the Great, one finds for the first time the term Mesopotamia. The term comes from a phrase that exists in local languages, and found in the form of Akkadian Birīt Narim "Interval River" (from birīt, "interval" Narim, "river") or Mast Birītim "Land of the interval (mast," Country "and birītim" interval "). In Aramaic, it is in the form of Beyne Nahrīm "between the rivers" (Beynes "between" and nahrein "river"), which refers in all cases, the upper Euphrates.

Currently, the term "Mesopotamia" is generally used in reference to the ancient history of this region to civilization that occupied this space until the last centuries before the Christian era or sixth century before the Muslim era.

The essential notion is that of the Fertile Crescent. This is the area where irrigation is not needed for agriculture. These lands are moist, easy to grow. This crescent is bordered by the 250 mm isohyet. Specifically, this area lies between the Zagros, Taurus and the Mediterranean coasts and the Persian Gulf. It is in this area that takes place the Neolithic Revolution.

It includes the region that lies to the south, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (in Iraq today). But in this region, it is necessary to use irrigation as rainfall are not significant enough.

The term Assyrian is very commonly used to designate the north of Mesopotamia. Meanwhile, the term refers to the south of Babylonia in Mesopotamia, that is to say, the Mesopotamian plain. Indeed, from the middle of the second millennium BC, the region has two political entities, one of which has its capital in Assyria - Assyria is - and one that has as its capital Babylon - c ' is Babylonia.

Northern Mesopotamia is a vast desert plateau, while the south is a vast fertile alluvial plain where, in addition, the presence of many branches of river and wetland permit irrigation. This ideal location made it one of the great centers of civilization.

The presence of man is attested since prehistory, from the Middle Paleolithic. During the Neolithic, circa 7000, the site of Jarmo, pottery made his first appearance of clear signs of early domestication gradually animals and plants also appear, and using unbaked bricks demonstrates for the first Once the existence of village life.

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From the Chalcolithic, about 6000, we note also the use of copper, the use of irrigation in agriculture, the emergence of the seals, stamps, murals, ceramic, painted, incised or decorated, the The first shrine and a widespread use of brick.

Between 6000 and 5000, there are three successive crops of different types:

* Hassuna Period (5800-5500)
* Samarra Period (5600-5000)
* Halaf Period (5500-4700)

Then come two phases where the process of social complexity increases, until the constitution of real states, then the creation of a first form of writing that tilts Mesopotamia in History:

* Ubaid Period (4700-4100)
* The Uruk Period (4100-2900)

The historical period begins in Mesopotamia around 3400, when the writing is developed. It is divided into several successive periods:

* Late Uruk Period (3400-2900): The writing develops, but the texts written during this period are still difficult to interpret, and it is paperwork and lexical lists, which tell us nothing about event history.

* Period of Archaic Dynasties (2900-2340): It is divided into three sub-periods. It is from the middle of the third millennium we are informed about events, primarily through the archives found at Lagash. This is the period of city-states of Lower Mesopotamia.

* Period of Akkad (2340-2180): Sargon of Akkad ended the period of city-states by including them in the first territorial state, which quickly turns into a true empire, particularly through the action of its small Naram-Sin, son.

* Neo-Sumerian period (2180-2004): The Akkadian Empire collapsed because of riots and attacks on peoples "barbarians." The Sumerian city-states regain their independence before being unified by the founding kings of the Third Dynasty of Ur, Ur-Nammu and his son Shulgi, which establish a new dominant empire of Mesopotamia.

* Old Babylonian Period (or Amorite) (2004-1595): The kingdom of Ur around 2000 collapsed under the blows of the Elamites and the Amorites. These take the lead in different realms that share Mesopotamia: Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Mari, and Babylon, which came to dominate the entire region during the reign of Hammurabi, then declined slowly until the capture of the city by the Hittites around 1595.

* Mid-Babylonian Period (unfixed terminology) (1595-c.1080): The Kassites founded a new dynasty that dominates Babylon for more than four centuries. North, Mitanni has dominion before being supplanted by mid-Assyrian kingdom. The rivalry between the two entities occupying the northern and southern Mesopotamia appears. This period ends with a serious crisis caused mainly not invasions of the Arameans.

* Neo-Assyrian Period (911-609): The Assyrians restore their power in the course of the ninth century, and establish an empire dominating the entire Middle East, which experienced its heyday under the Sargonids before collapsing to the late seventh century at the hands of the Babylonians and Medes.

* Neo-Babylonian Period (625-539): The Babylonians to resume their profit part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, notably through the action of Nebuchadnezzar II. This kingdom has however a rapid decline, and it passes in 539 under the control of the Persian king Cyrus II.

* Achaemenid Period (539-331): Mesopotamia is dominated Iran, but this does not prevent him from entering a period of great prosperity.

* Seleucid Period (331-140): The Persian Empire fell under the blows of Alexander the Great, and after his death and the ensuing struggles Mesopotamia is dominated by the Seleucids. Mesopotamian culture knows this period a decline that accelerated in the second century.

* Parthian Period (140 BC. J.-C.-224 AD.): After much discussion, the Parthian hunt the Seleucids in Mesopotamia during the second century. It was under their reign that disappears definitively the ancient Mesopotamian culture, which persisted until the middle of the temples of Babylonia.

Note: An interlude with the Roman conquests of Trajan (116 AD.) Who took the Parthian capital Ctesiphon and came down to the Persian Gulf, with the ambition to regain the empire of Alexander. His successor, Hadrian, abandons his coming from these territories (117). Later, the emperor Septimius Severus finally wrest Northern Mesopotamia to the Parthians during his campaigns of 195-198.

Ethnic composition
In the third millennium, Lower Mesopotamia is divided between two ethnic groups: the Sumerians, speaking a language unrelated known, and a Semitic people called the Akkadians for convenience (although this term was used until the reign Sargon of Akkad to the end of the twenty-fourth century), speaking a Semitic language, Akkadian. If they relate well to other populations that are known for the ancient Near East, mostly Semitic, origin of the Sumerians eludes us, as the time when we must date their disappearance (late third millennium? early second?). It has also assumed the existence of a people who have inhabited the Lower Mesopotamia before the Sumerians and Semites (named "X People" by SN Kramer) for multiple names of this region can be explained by either the Sumerian or by Akkadian.

The late third millennium saw the emergence of two major ethnic groups: the Amorites, Semites, and Hurrian, a language unrelated current. The first set in the Middle East as a whole dynasties which lasted during the first half of the second millennium, and blend into the Semitic population already present in Mesopotamia, while the latter are mostly found in northern Mesopotamia and Syria.

Other groups of unrelated people identified (because they are poorly known) come from the Zagros region: the Gutis the Lullubi, and Kassites. The Subareans, head north, may be Hurrian. They are mostly nomads, and numerically insignificant.

At the end of the second millennium, a new Semitic people resumed the path earlier by the Amorites: the Syrians. They settled throughout Mesopotamia, and eventually become a major component. Their language is needed in the region during the first millennium.

The first millennium also saw the incursion of Indo-European: the Medes and Persians, which nevertheless remain confined to the Iranian plateau, though the latter take political control of the region after 539, and then the Greeks who make the region in 331, and eventually establishing settlements. Later it was another Iranian people, the Parthians, who settled in Mesopotamia. but the population of this region remains predominantly Semitic.

The city-state to empire
Mesopotamia saw the completion of the process of creation of the State, during the fourth millennium with the development of the first micro-state (city-states) in its southern part. It has sometimes imagined the existence of a "primitive democracy" or an "oligarchy", or a regime led by a "king-priest". Anyway, at the onset of sources that allow us to analyze the system of political organization of Mesopotamian States, we are in the presence of a monarchical system, headed by a sovereign, Sumerians, ENSI, and LUGAL. The first two terms referring to the religious sphere, they suggest the possible existence of a "priest-king" in some states. The latter clearly refers to a "king" in Akkadian šarrum.

After the age of city-states, the first territorial state or empire is developed by Sargon of Akkad to the end of the twenty-fourth century. Therefore, Mesopotamia is led into several kingdoms, before the break between Assyria and Babylon to the north to the south is established in the second half of the second millennium. In the first part of the first millennium are developed the first true empire in very large scale, the neo-Assyrian (911-609), the neo-Babylonian (624-539), before the establishment of the Achaemenid Persian empire , which marks the end of Mesopotamia as a political center of the Middle East for several centuries.

The ideology of power
Whatever the size of kingdoms, the ideology of power is based on the same principles. The real ruler of the country is its tutelary deity, which grants kingship to a person who is worthy of him, never his earthly representative, responsible for maintenance of temples in the country and also significant territorial gains . These gods are the tutelary deities of the city-states of the third millennium, then the great god Enlil with the advent of States claiming to dominate the land of Sumer and Akkad, the gods and finally to the more "national" kingdoms and empires from the late second millennium and in Assyria Ashur Marduk in Babylon.

The story about the long term was seen as cyclical. It is well marked by legislation such as the Sumerian King List, whose chronology is a succession of the reigning dynasty in turn, their rise and their fall was due to the will of the gods. Each crisis is considered the punishment from the gods to rulers ungodly, while prosperity and military success are instead a demonstration of divine favor.

Among the main areas verified art in Mesopotamia, it may be noted:

* Etrog: the study of motifs represented on the seals and cylinder seals (from the Uruk period) reveals the mental world of the ancient Mesopotamians.

* Sculpture: among the works performed in the round, the statues of the period of Gudea of Lagash (twenty-second century) are among the most remarkable and thereafter, the sculptors have preferred Mesopotamian bas-reliefs, the most famous are those of the Neo-Assyrian palace.

* Paint: it is fairly documented, as few paintings have been preserved, the most beautiful frescoes have been found in Mesopotamian Mari) (eighteenth century), Til-Barsip (eighth century) and just in the capitals Neo-Assyrian (Assur, Kalhu, Nineveh) (ninth-seventh centuries), their style is very similar to the bas-reliefs.

* Silverware: relatively few high quality jewelry have been unearthed, the most beautiful examples have been excavated from royal tombs of Ur, otherwise you can get an idea of its shape in the representation of jewelry worn by men on the bas-reliefs.

* Music: music occupied an important place for both entertainment for worship and the instruments used were: the lyre, percussion (drums, tambourine), the oud, flutes, etc..

See also Ancient Israel


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