Sumer, Babylon, Assyria 4000 BC – c. 500 BC

Major Accomplishments: probably the oldest civilization, invented first writing, first calendar, first numberical system (base 60), first wheel, and oldest kingdom; first significant monotheism

The Politics of Mesopotamia and the Middle East 2500bce - 1450ce

  • Middle East and Fertile Crescent


  • Mesopotamia means: “land between two rivers”
  • First Civilizations developed between the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers
  • By 3000 B.C. a number of cities are established by the Sumerians
  • Ur is generally considered the first city in region
  • Sumer 2400-2000bce
  • Sargon I (2370-2215 BC) unites all Mesopotamian cities
  • first King in recorded history
  • Warlike king takes taxes to build cities

1st Babylonian Empire

  • Conquered most of old Sumeria but also spread to north into Syria today
  • King Hammurabi—first legal written code
  • Harsh punishments
  • Similar to Sumarians
  • In your notes: Why did Harrurabi write these laws?
    Summarize two of these in your notes
  • Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind. . . .
  • 15: If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates [to escape], he shall be put to death.
  • 16: If any one receive into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman, and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the [police], the master of the house shall be put to death.
  • 53: If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for money, and the money shall replace the [grain] which he has caused to be ruined.
  • 54: If he be not able to replace the [grain], then he and his possessions shall be divided among the farmers whose corn he has flooded.
  • How does Hammurabi feel about life?
    Summarize two more in your notes
  • 138: If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father's house, and let her go.
  • 196: If a [noble-]man put out the eye of another [noble-]man, his eye shall be put out. (5)
  • 197: If he break another [noble-]man's bone, his bone shall be broken.
  • 198: If he put out the eye of a [commoner], or break the bone of a [commoner], he shall pay one [silver] mina.
  • 199: If he put out the eye of a man's slave, or break the bone of a man's slave, he shall pay one-half of its value.
  • 200: If a man knock out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out. Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred right (or law) am I. My words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled; to bring low those that were high; to humble the proud, to expel insolence.


Hittites/Assyrians 2000-1200bce


  • Originally Aryans from central Asia
  • conquer Asia Minor (2000 BC)
  • strong army with chariots and IRON weapons (1st to use iron)
  • Conquered Babylon in 1595 BC)
  • Lasted until about 1200 BC

2nd Assyrian Empire
(746 - 609 BCE)

  • Started to gain strength about 900 BC
  • Powerful army
  • Conquered Babylon, Hebrews and Egypt
  • Treated conquered people cruelly
  • Large empire with good roads
  • Collapsed about 612 BC

2nd Babylonian Empire
 (609 - 539 BCE)

  • Defeated the Assyrians c. 612 bce
  • Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 bce)
  • Expanded the city
  • Built Hanging Gardens for his Persian queen
  • Conquered Hebrews (Daniel in lion’s Den was this time)
  • 539 bce Babylon defeated by the Persians
  • Hebrews
  • Semitic people (root for anti-Semite)
  • Originated with Abraham
  • Abraham had two sons
  • Sarah’s son Isaac = Hebrews
  • Hagar’s son Ishmael = Arabs
  • Both believe they are God’s chosen people and seek to spread their influence
  • Both spread monotheism
  • Conflict between them continues to today

Sumeria Video:

Babylon Video:

Babylonian Dynasty Begins

The Babylon dynasty was a long lasting dynasty that was ruled and succeeded by many different kings, and other dynasties. It was first established by Summaubum in 1830. The only thing certain about them was that they were an indigenous group known as the Akkadians. They were a surrounding empire of Babylon. They ruled from 1830-1817 B.C. Hummarubi, who seems to be the most established king, used his military forces and gained land for the empire. He established Babylon as what would be the great empire it became. On his 13th year as king, he conquered Larsa and Rimsin allowing Babylon to gain control over urban centers. He created the fist foundational steps for this dynasty, in order to allow it to become a strong Empire.


Babylonian Accomplishments

The Babylon dynasty accomplished many things within the field of knowledge. They were very serious about astronomy. They kept detailed journals of drawings and stars of constellations. They were the first and only to record sightings of Venus for 21 years. The Babylonians used the application of math and variation to find the length of the days in a solar year. They were also very serious about literature. The Babylonians believed that men and women should learn to read and write. That was very important in retrospect, because of the discrimination towards women back then.  Babylon had many libraries mostly in town centers and temples. They believed that “He who would excel in the school of the scribes, must rise with the dawn.” Some of their known published works was the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was a series of 12 books all about the adventures of Gilgamesh’s careers. Lastly, the Babylonian’s were very interested in medicine. Ummanu wrote a book called The Diagnostic Handbook. It was the oldest text of medicine dating back to the first Babylon dynasty. Babylon introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, and prescriptions. They recorded all their diagnosis’ and symptoms, some of them including symptoms for epilepsy.


Babylonian Math

            The Babylonians believed very strongly in math. They used it mostly for astronomical calculations. It was a 60 base numeral system, and we still use it today when we count, seconds, minutes, and degrees in a circle. The diffusion of this idea came from the Akkadian culture. This number system was very successful because 60 has many devisors, and they had a place amount. The number to the right had a value and the number to the left had an even more value. With this knowledge they were able to make calculations easier. Their numbers were recorded when the Babylonians took red stylus’ and carved them into clay or mud. They then left it out in the sun to harden forming a tablet with all the recorded information engraved on it.



Even with all this success, the political dynasty came to an end although the culture continued for hundreds of years.  They were “absorbed” by a Persian dynasty named Achaemenid Empire. Alexander the Great conquered Babylon in 332 BC for the Greeks and governed the dynasty until Alexander died there in 323 BC. The Arabs came and invaded Babylon and brought their religion with them. Babylon was not destroyed just conquered and rebuilt every time, each with new kings.

Assyria Video:

Assyrian Dynasty Overview

The Assyrian dynasty was located in the Middle East around what we know now as Iraq and Syria. It was founded by Indo-Europeans early on but the dynasty thrived during 934-609 BCE. In its early years it had minor rulers like Tudiya, but not until Tiglath-Pileser III came into power in the 8th century BC did it really succeed. The Assyrians have been said to be the first real empire in history and that they controlled most of the Middle East.  This dynasty today is known for controlling huge cities like Babylon, Damascus, and Jerusalem, staying strong during its dark ages, and its preservation of ancient Mesopotamian literature in Ashurbanipal’s

library. In this library they found over 30,000 clay tablets of Assyrian cuneiform. This cuneiform is the final stage of the long cuneiform script and is used in modern cuneiform sign inventories.


Assyrian Rulers

It’s earliest recorded king was Tudiya, who was thought to have lived in the late 25th or the early 24th century. The early kings, like Tudiya, were also thought to be independent Akkadian semi nomadic rulers.  In the Early Bronze Age, the Assyrians fought for rule in Mesopotamia with other Sumero-Akkadian states. Between the 18th and 15th centuries BC, it found itself off and on Babylonian and Mitanni control. After this, starting with the rule of Adad-nirari II in 911 BC, they became a great power, conquering Babylon, Egypt, Elam, Urartu/Armenia, Media, Persia, Mannea, Arabia, Israel, Judah, etc. Because of all the lands they conquered they became a feared civilization. They had a powerful military that was feared throughout the Middle East.


Assyrian Power

The Assyrians were a powerful civilization who conquered many famous civilizations and controlled them for lengthy amounts of time. They had strong leaders and accomplished many great things while they were in rule. One of the Assyrians great achievements is their collection of ancient writings kept in Ashurbanipal’s library. There were 30,000 different clay tablets with ancient cuneiform on each of them. Because of this great mass of preserved literature, we are able to learn from them and expand on our knowledge on ancient literature and cuneiform.  We can learn more about the history of people and get a better understanding on how they lived their life, nearly 2000 years ago. Assyria also controlled many great civilizations that are well known in history. They ruled over Babylon, which was one of the greatest civilizations of its time. They conquered many people while they thrived and held onto what they had during it all.


Assyrian Military

Having a great military was one of their great accomplishments. They would typically have 150,000-200,000 men in the army. Assyria was known for their iron weapons that they had.  Mostly iron was used in the weapons which is why they were greatly feared. They used it in spears, swords, shields, and armor. A bronze shield, which is what many other places had, was nothing compared to an iron weapon. One of their greatest accomplishments was attacking Egypt and having the empire fall. The Egyptians were not as good at the weapon technology which was another cause of their fall. They had chariots like other places but they were pulled two horses and had three people carried in the chariot. One drove, one was and archer, then the last person stayed in the back to make sure it was kept safe. They had the best weapons known to this time period.


Fall of Assyria

After Ashurbanipal died, the Assyrian dynasty crumbled on itself in a series of civil wars and fight for rule by kings. They suffered from many rebels and other invading countries wanting the land of Assyrians. After the remaining kings died out in battles, in 605 BC, the Babylonians and Medes defeated the Assyrians and their ally Egyptians. The Assyrians were no longer an independent political entity.