Ancient Mesopotamia Social Structure

The Mesopotamian social structure was highly stratified. There were the high class gentry, the middle class and the lowest class. The government officials, the king, the priests, landowners and the wealthy traders and merchants formed the upper strata of society.

The middle class consisted of fishermen, farmers, artisans, and potters and scribes or those who were involved in documenting records in the language prevalent during the period.

The lowest class comprised of slaves, people without land and children as well as prisoners who were captured after the prolonged wars that took place to wrest control of city states. Slaves were regarded as bounty from wars and they were brought in and made to work for wealthy merchants and priests.

The Mesopotamia social pyramid, however, had at its top, the priestly class. They were the ones who were the safe keepers of the gods housed in temples. Priests wielded a lot of clout and they were supposed to be the know all and be all of religion and interpreted god’s commands.

With religion being the main force, the priests were the highest authority and they were looked upon to control floods by appeasing god. Floods and natural calamities and widespread destruction were blamed on god’s wrath, which only the priests could pacify.

Three societal structures:

Mesopotamia social structure was different in every city. For example, a city like Ur had three societal structures. The top consisted of the officials, priests and soldiers, the middle had merchants, traders, craftsmen and farmers, while the last in the order was made up of slaves taken over during battles.

Slaves were devoid of any rights and they worked for priests, kings and other Mesopotamians.

Slaves were the most deprived lot and they had to live in shelters along with fellow slaves. They were not paid any money, but were fed by the people they worked for. Slaves, working for the same owner, were made to live together. Leaving aside the slaves, other Mesopotamians could work and were free to earn money without breaking the law. But they were not allowed to inch up the social ladder.