Rogue Community College
Rogue Community College
Phone Search Menu Search

ART204 Intro to Mesopotamia

Pre history to historic people: 10000–4000 BC

The next civilization we study, will offer

Origins of written history, from oral myths to political history.

Of Civilization, "We have become separated from humanity and nature, subject is removed from nature, knowledge from myth and universities from the universe.

This occurs in Mesopotamia, when religiously Gods and Goddess are moved to the heavens.

It's agreed that Mesopotamia is a good example of a culture and time period that shows a shift from hunter-gatherer, necessarily in tune with nature, to a history that separates people from the world of spirit.


Or to an emerging civilization based on agriculture and husbandry, that in this time and place will become a culture based on survival of the state, a dominator versus partnership attitude.

This change occurs dramatically in the Middle East, but other places on the planet experience similar shifts from egalitarian to concepts, to attitudes of dominion over.

Mesopotamia and The Fertile Crescent, is where this change occurs in the European Western world.

The Definition of Civilization is defined as the least amount of violent action.

A choice, between Patriarchal or Matriarchal, The sword or the chalice.

Survival of the State, based on a Dominant and Subservient belief system that supports differences between things.

Or attitudes of nourishment of the whole and belief in processes that ensure cooperation between people, nature and themselves.


Hierarchy of authority as a natural order

Only at death and a judgment can one know one's destiny after this life.

Worker and warriors are expendable to the state.

What is the source of dominant patriarchal competitiveness at the expense of nature and people?
  • Archaic- the Primate syndrome. History tends to justify monkey brain, fight or flight behavior, and then more recent history, original sin and religious motives of revenge.
  • Mainstream - finite resources, insecure environment. Thus, the need of a patriarchal system to compete and acquire, with a belief system to impose a concept of higher authority, dominion over.
  • Or esoterically from the stars, was brought the two opposing attitudes now inherent in our genes and psyche. Look at Jehovah and Yahweh, Judeo Christian mythology of battle in skies.

The Fertile Crescent

Mesopotamia is one of four Great River Valley Civilizations, the Tigris-Euphrates in Middle East, and the Nile in North Africa, the Indus in South Asia, and the Dhang He in East Asia.

Permanent settlements appear along riverbanks and in mountain valleys. They began to develop new skills, like animal husbandry, ceramics, weaving baskets and cloth. They discovered the wheel and learned that they could use animals to pull plows and wheeled carts, then war chariots. .

The Neolithic age ends in Mesopotamia around 5500BC as metal tools and weapons replaced stone. They found copper could be made harder and could hold a sharper edge by the addition of tin, thus producing the Bronze Age.

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers run through the Fertile Crescent, each year they over flow their banks, flooding the land and renewing its soil with silt.

The Fertile Crescent is an environment that socially is not predictable in terms of feast and famine, peace and war, and is vulnerable to conquest.

These conditions provoke large permanent population centers that will accumulate resources beyond present needs.

Thus, a system of writing and recording keeping is developed with laws, and politically a bureaucracy to dictate control of and ownership of resources.

Politically hierarchies of authority, to protect, compete and acquire resources, water, land, and slaves.

To defend the community and expansion of territories to meet the needs of a growing population.

This leads to an aggressive patriarchal system.

Early Settlements of the Fertile Crescent:

Myth of King Solomon visited by Queen Sheba from Africa. She stays in Jerusalem. Lilith is also said to have visited his court. Solomon encouraged marriages between states to make peace.

Jarmo—9000 BC

A permanent settlement of mud brick structures, domestic animals and hybrid grains sustained by artesian springs.
Evidence of bull sacrifice. 9000 - 6000 BC:

Jericho—7000 BC

Sustained for 500 years. 10-acre city, 12,000 people, with a 20ft wall, 50-ft deep trench moat and tower. Clustered apartment housing with family shrines and alters that contained skulls of ancestors. Pictographs and tablets to record resources and tokens of "worth on demand".
The walls of Jericho

Catal Huyuk 6000 BC

Bull worship sacrifice and temples. Buried dead under floors. 130, houses, 40 are shrines.

Celebration of gods and goddesses, and the elementals in Nature.

Fertile Crescent: 5 to 4000 BC

A changing climate, becoming more arid and dry, forces animals and people to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the fertile crescent.

This brings a Migration and settlement of permanent sites between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now Iraq. A fertile crescent of flood plains that offer abundant, but unpredictable food sources, and is open to invasion from outside.

MESOPOTAMIA In formative Years: 12–4000 BC

12-7000 BC - Flooding in Middle East and Orient, where temples under water are found.

8000–4000 BC—Informative Years
  • Early permanent settlements
  • Nomadic to husbandry
  • Black Sea is filled.
  • Old Testaments Stories, Chariots of fire in the skies.
  • Myth of Sodom and Gomorra, which was seen as a disease to be eradicated from the Blue Emerald.
  • Copper to Bronze to Iron.
4000–3000 BC—Sumeria's first written records.
  • Elihu of Ur, a prophet and priest of Salem followers. They begin to write Old Testament Psalms. Brought by Melchizedek.
  • Ur was a sanctuary of the belief in, in a one merciful god promising salvation for the faithful against the Babylonian vengeful, national gods.
  • This will be the revelation that provides counterpart to monkey brain dominance of warring adolescent tribes.
  • Written myths of the garden and flood.

Sumeria 4—2000 BC

Migration to Fertile Crescent during drying climate.

By 3500 BC in southern Mesopotamia, an area known as Sumer, was thriving with dozens of cities like Kish and Ur.

Early Sumerians are described politically as theocratic socialism.

But, Politically, these powerful cities-states will come to be ruled by a divine King. Who directed building of temples, oversaw the distribution of food, and provided for the city's defense.

They developed a written language, called cuneiform which recorded business transactions, law, and religious teachings.

Religiously, Sumerians believed in numerous gods and goddesses, each of whom represented a different aspect of nature and the celestial. Each city-state had its own god or goddess with shrines to their deities.

Late Sumerians constructed temples. In these temples-towers, called ziggurats, priests presided over worship of the gods and goddesses, acting as a medium to the divine King.

Like in Egypt music was composed and played on instruments like harps and lyres which was a major part of festivals and religious ceremonies. Literature in the form of epics, fables, and poems survive such as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Early Sumerian religion centered on family shrines, with mostly goddess worship, and deities of the elements. These will be replaced by state ziggurats.

Each city-state has own deities that are unpredictable.

Socially, early Sumerians practiced communal ownership. Then with class distinction and higher authority resources belong to gods, king is bailiff, his court will become the intellectual, religions and economics center. A bureaucracy keeps records, accumulating resources and writes the new mythology in cuneiform. First clay tablets then papyrus.

Which in early times identifies, Eden the fenced garden against divas and the Netherworld, which is below the earthly plane,

And the Heavens, which early, esoterically is seen as levels of ascension.

Mesopotamia astrological understanding equals Egypt.

He saw the universe as coming from the primal sea. With a vaulted heaven with atmosphere below containing the sun and stars. When you die you enter a gloomy existence below the earth.

In Mesopotamia, unlike Egypt the gods and goddesses will be moved to heavens, and the earthly plane becomes a battleground for dominion over.

Priests class assumes duty of medium through astrological divination, to the divine.

Now in heavens, reflecting the myth of the divine that left the earthly plane.

"Gods, like mortals, have more important things to do than attend to mortal issues…"

A medium is now necessary so that the divine will listen, and respond in order that the ruler will be a successful one.

In a few centuries, a Devine king will replace the priest class.

Definition of Aesthetics: Growing realism, to document and reflect more attention to this world. Abstraction to celebrate the power of the state, or the divine influence.

The Akkadians are The first world rulers of Mesopotamia, a warrior class of
nomadic people, from the north, conquer the fertile crescent, Sumeria with Sargon
I and then his son Narmin—Sin.

Gilgamesh is hero.

2000 BC—Neo Sumeria, Sumarians regain rule under Gudea, with some social reform.


Waves of nomadic invaders, from the west establish the Babylonian Empire. And suppress the Salam groups revelations.

In 1790 BC, Hammurabi-Code of Laws, eye for eye, a vengeful god. Rules for over 40 years.

300 laws covering all aspects of social life.

Babylonians will fall to invading, who bring iron weapons.

1500-600 BC—Assyrian From upper Tigris River, another class of warrior people conquer most if the Mesopotamia. Under the military rule of Sargon II.

600-500 BC—Neo Babylonian
Neo Babylonian 600 BC
The Babylonians rebel against the Assyrians and overthrow them.

The alliance triumphed, and the New Babylonian Empire, with Nebuchadnezzar coming to the Babylonian throne in 650 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar brought Babylon to new glory, he made the city the most impressive urban center of its day. Best remembered for the Hanging Gardens. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The others are:

The pyramids, Zeus, Rhodes, Artemis, and lighthouse at Alexandria.

  • Persian conquests, by Darius and Xerxes, who then will take Greece
  • Defeated by Alex the Great.

Mesopotamia Mythology

Gilgamesh—a hero of the people seeks immortality, and is given 12 trials to pass. Is given knowledge of Neterland and the great floods , defeats the goddess of cedar the forest with a iron axe. Follows Osiris as a hero who seeks immortality, but in his case fails.

Nammu—associated with the primordial waters or the cosmic serpent that gives birth to land, air and heavens.

Creation—Man and woman were created from the earth as a pair. Then become first the man from clay, with the breath of life. Then the woman from his rib. With the duty to build homes and temples for gods.

Inanna—precedes Marduk, is identified with the Moon, then earth mother, prophecy and healing. First consort of Anu.

Ettu—father, light and justice, the sun

Anu—king of the gods

Marduk—identified as th 12th planet and divine god, battles Tiamet, goddess of chaos. Makes the heavens the sun and the moon. Arranges celestial, gives gods their places, creates the calendar, and the people to serve the deities. Will not incarnate.

Inanna—Ishtar—most important Sumerian female deity that replaces Lilith.
Mother of all life. Descendent of Nammu who gives birth to Ki the earth and air Enlil. Can be conniving and dangerous.
Follows Gilgamesh on his journey and leads him back.

Ishtar—like Isis, queen of heavens, takes earthly form is descended from Venus. Prophecy of wisdom, laws, victory in war and physical love.
Replaces Inanna as consort to Anu.
Will become deregulated to a love goddess.

Tammuz—Sumerian deity who fertilizes land with sacrificial blood. Associated with male fertility.

Lilith—another of the mortals descended from divine, Lilith is first associated with King Solomon.

Becomes most popular Goddess 4-2000 BC
Great mother of judgment, prophecy, protection and sensual love of settlements who resisted invasion by nomads

Becomes Adam's first wife, who refused his dominance and ran off to live by the Red Sea to live with the nomadic peoples.

Between the seventh and tenth centuries BC according to the “ Alphabet of Ben Sira” when God created Adam, he realized that it was not good for man to exist alone. So he created a woman out of the earth, he called this woman Lilith.

Immediately Lilith and Adam began to quarrel , insisting they were equals. Lilith refused to lie beneath Adam, he argued that it was proper for a man to lie on top.

Archetypel of equal free goddess, both born of earth, vs “ she from rib”

Is accused of showing Adam the carnal knowledge.

Became feared by early Hebrew women who thought she tempted men and young boys. The goddess of day and night

Was seen as goddess of fertility in early times. Associated with the earth that gives us grain and food. Hence her function as Adams' first wife to bring new life.

She revealed herself to him in the night and seduced him, against Elohims' wishes. Perhaps Cain was her son, and Able was Eves'.

MESOPOTAMIA: Some interesting questions.

  • A different perspective than transcendental concerns of prehistory and early Egypt.
  • Why divine moved to heavens? Moon aspects deregulated, and divine Kingship.
    Why a need for more realism, a narrative history to celebrate kingship and the state? Nationalism.
  • Why does dominator attitude occur?
    • Stressed environment; with incongruent ego.
    • Accumulation of resources for expanding population; nationalism with a warrior class.
    • Nature as suspect, with myth of Marduk, and Gilgamesh.