Mesopotamia Essay, Research Paper

Mesopotamia is an ancient civilization that was located in modern day Iraq. It was home to many great political, economic, and cultural developments that were influenced by its climate and geography. Such developments include; agriculture, irrigation, Cuneiform, the wheel for transport, as well as; and a central body of law.

Although the land was fertile, irrigation was essential. Because the Mesopotamian climate didn t have rain for almost eight months of the year and the flood stage was so late in the season, it was essential to prepare dikes and levees to protect the fields ( Irrigation is the artificial watering of land to sustain plant growth by diverting water from it s source to the field, providing not too much nor too little moisture ( Irrigation expands the amount of arable land and the production of food throughout the world.4 Whenever man irrigates, they do it to conform to the limitations of ecological circumstances. Although irrigation initially extended the life of the land, after a period of time the progressive salt accumulation of the irrigated land cuts down it s yield and it may be necessary to relocate the agricultural territories ( However, the Old Babylonians found that they could extend the life of the salty soil through crop rotation, overcoming the harsh soil conditions and managing to grow different crops and agriculture ( Irrigation is one example of how the climate and geography led to a great economic development in Mesopotamia. Irrigation had allowed Mesopotamia to produce a number of crops, in surplus, which was used for trade and thus an economic development.

Another Mesopotamian development, was the development of the wheel for transport. This occurred between 3500-3000 B.C.E. Wheeled vehicles are believed to have appeared after the invention of the potter s wheel, and the wheeled cart replaced the sledge as a means of transportation. In it s simplest form, the wheel was a solid wooden disk mounted on a round axle, to which it was secured by wooden pins. Eventually sections were carved out of the disk to reduce the weight, and radial spokes were devised by about 2000 B.C.E. This was another one of Mesopotamia s developments that was influenced by its climate and geography. The wheel was devised as a more efficient way to do agricultural work. It was an invaluable mechanical means for the controlling the flow and direction of power and force, and also led to the efficient use of animal power for agricultural work. The development of the wheeled carts aided the Sumerians immeasurably in irrigation as well as other urban building projects. Because the wheel was used mostly to relieve the tremendous workload associated with agriculture and irrigation we can say that it was an economic development caused by Mesopotamia s climate and geography..

Mesopotamia is the area from which the earliest forms of writing can be traced. These systems of writing date back to the third millennium B.C.E. In Sumer, a place in Mesopotamia, writing developed in three stages over the course of a millennium. First, writing appeared as carving pictures in stone or stamping them on clay as ownership marks. Such marks were referred to as pictographs. This advanced a little further and the pictures now stood for people, tangible things as well as a few abstract words. After about five hundred centuries, the pictures no longer represented words but had become symbols of syllables that would turn into words when combined. This fully developed writing developed around 2500 B.C.E. and was called cuneiform writing. Cuneiform comes from the Latin word cuneus, which means, wedge . This term was applied to the mode of writing because it was based on wedge-shaped characters impressed mainly on clay but also on stone, metals, wax, and other materials, by a reed stylus with a triangular point. Writing was in the form of ledgers containing inventories of items stored in temples and records of livestock or other items managed by the temple. Because ninety percent of the cuneiform writing was in the form of business and administrative records, I believe that Mesopotamian writing would not have advanced so quickly if it wasn t for the geography and climate of the country. I think this because Mesopotamia was dominated by a surplus of agriculture and was able to receive materials that they did not have through trade. Writing had developed mostly to keep track of inventories of livestock, so I concluded that writing would not have developed in Mesopotamia if it wasn t for the climate and geography of the country.

As Mesopotamian people began to settle down after the transition from food gather to food producer, cities began to develop for the first time. As a result of the cities, a body of law was established to conduct the people. The body of law was called the Code of Hammurabi, after its establisher. The Code of Hammurabi is the oldest known extensive collection of laws. Hammurabi was one of Mesopotamia s greatest monarchs. This is because he had been victorious over four powerful princes, had unified Mesopotamia and now had established a body of law. There were two hundred and eighty two different laws. The laws would deal with various offences, with trade and commerce, marriage, family and property, the fees and responsibilities of professional men, legal problems connected with agriculture, wages and rates of hire, and the sale and purchase of slaves. Probably the best known aspect of the code is an eye for an eye this shows Hammurabi s harsh and sometimes extreme punishment. Because the punishment was so harsh, Hammurabi was able to establish justice in the country quickly. Although some laws were harsh, others were very helpful. One of these laws, was law number twenty three which said that if a person is robbed and the robber can not be found, that the city where the robbery occurred shall make good to the victim hie lost property. The laws concerned with family and property represent a remarkable effort on behalf of Hammurabi to protect women and children from arbitrary treatment, poverty, and neglect. If penalties in these areas seemed severe, their application is mitigated by the admission of forgiveness and of extenuating circumstances. Because the development of the Code of Hammurabi followed the formation of cities following the Cultural Revolution, it is yet another Mesopotamian development caused by its climate and geography. This development is a political one.

From my research, I can conclude that Mesopotamia s climate and geography did lead to political, economic and cultural developments. The Cultural Revolution (the transition from food gather to food producer) is the single event that led to such developments. Because of the location of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Mesopotamia was greatly influenced by its climate and geography. The geography of the area had blessed Mesopotamia with a fertile area of land, which was used for agriculture. This in turn was followed by trade with other countries, which led to the development of writing as a way of keeping track of livestock and agriculture inventories. Although Mesopotamia was blessed with fertile soil, irrigation was essential. Because there was a period of almost eight months without any rain, irrigation was used to bring water to the crops to aid in their growing. This led to the development of the wheel for transport. The wheel for transport was a great development that aided significantly in the production of canals and channels for irrigation. Another development that developed from irrigation was the Lunar Calendar. This was Mesopotamia s only way of predicting the growing season for its agricultural crops.

Because the growing season was so short it was essential to start planting at the exact time, this is where the Lunar Calendar came into play. As people began to settle after the Cultural Revolution, cities began to appear. As a way of conducting such a large population, a body of law was formed. This body of law was called the Code of Hammurabi, after its establisher. The law was harsh but it did focus on the protection of women and children. For these reasons, I conclude that these developments were influenced by Mesopotamia s climate and geography

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