Legacies of Mesopotamia Significance of Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia left a number of important cultural legacies for Western civilization. Mesopotamia culture was a synthesis of both Sumerian and Semitic forms. One of these legacies was various legal codes developed by a succession of Mesopotamian rulers. Most notably among these rulers was Hammurabi(r. 1792-1750 B.C.E.), a Babylonian ruler who had various legal codes, guidelines, and precedents compiled.

This compilation was part of his larger effort to standardize the administration of his kingdom. Another legacy was the Epic of Gilgamesh, a collection of stories about ancient Mesopotamia which centered around a legendary king of Uruk, who was part god. These stories became one of the models for later heroic epics which celebrated the exploits of rulers and their champions.

The biggest revolution in the field of education took place when the civilization laid the foundation of the world’s first writing technique. Storing information and passing it on became child play.

The achievement of the civilization itself may be expressed in terms of its best points–moral, aesthetic, scientific, and, not least, literary. Legal theory flourished and was sophisticated early on, being expressed in several collections of legal decisions, the so-called codes, of which the best-known is the Code of Hammurabi. Throughout these codes recurs the concern of the ruler for the weak, the widow, and the orphan–even if, sometimes, the phrases were regrettably only literary clich├ęs.

Mathematics in Mesopotamia grew out of the necessities of record-keeping for administrative and trade purposes. Starting around 7000, we find the use of clay tokens to represent stores and traded goods. To begin with, one token would represent one sheep, or one unit of grain. The next step was the development of symbols as a shorthand to stand for different quantities, so a sphere or pyramid of clay would mean, say, 5 or 10 sheep or units of grain.

The literature of Mesopotamia
is one of its finest cultural achievements. Though there are many modern anthologies and chrestomathies (compilations of useful learning), with translations and paraphrases of Mesopotamian literature, as well as attempts to write its history, it cannot truly be said that “cuneiform literature” has been resurrected to the extent that it deserves.

The Babylonian astronomers were excellent at mathematics and could predict eclipses and solstices. Scholars thought that everything had some purpose in astronomy. Most of these related to religion and omens. Mesopotamian astronomers worked out a 12-month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. They divided the year into two seasons: summer and winter. The origins of astronomy as well as astrology date from this time.

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Ancient Mesopotamian Legacy and Significance