Cities in Mesopotamia

Also see: Cities in Mesopotamia part 1

The most important ancient civilizations in the region were first the Sumerian (3500 BCE-2000 BCE), the Babylonian (18th century BCE-539 BCE) and Assyrian(1350 BCE-612 BCE). During the last two millenniums the Muslim Abbasids must be considered as the strongest rulers of Mesopotamia, both in might and in cultural achievements.

Babylon is an ancient city of Mesopotamia. One of the most important cities of the ancient Middle East, it was on the Euphrates River and was north of the cities that flourished in Mesopotamia in the 3d millennium B.C. It became important when Hammurabi made it the capital of his kingdom of Babylonia. The patron god of Babylon, Marduk (identical with Bel), became a leading deity in the Neo-Babylonian pantheon.

The city was destroyed (c.689 B.C.) by the Assyrians under Sennacherib, and its real spendor belongs to the later period of Babylonia after the city was rebuilt. The brilliant color and luxury of Babylon became legendary from the days of Nebuchadnezzar (d. 562 B.C.). The Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The walls of Babylon, its palace, and the processional way with the famous Ishtar Gate were decorated with colorfully glazed brick.

The cities of Mesopotamia, like the ‘Sumerian City’ or ‘Ur’ had three levels of the society. At the top were the rich people comprising of government officials, priests and the soldiers. Below them were the laborers, merchants, teachers, farmers and craft makers. At the bottom were the slaves who were captured in the battle.

Houses were jumbled together, forming an irregular mass broken at intervals by open spaces in front of a temple or governmental building. Streets were narrow, winding and unpaved and lacked adequate drainage. One of the cities that flourished in the middle of the Tigris Valley during this period was that of Ashur, named after the sun-god of the Assyrians. The Assyrians were Semitic speakers who occupied Babylon for a brief period in the thirteenth century B.C.

The Sumerians stand out in history as one of the first groups of people to form a civilization. Five key characteristics set Sumer apart from earlier human societies: (1) advanced cities, (2) specialized workers, (3) complex institutions, (4) record keeping, and (5) improved technology. All the later peoples who lived in this region of the world built upon the innovations of Sumerian civilization.

By 2500 B.C., new cities were arising all over the Fertile Crescent, in what is now Syria, northern Iraq, and Turkey. Sumerians exchanged products and ideas, such as living in cities, with neighboring cultures.

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Ancient Mesopotamian Cities