The Cradle of Civilization

To be ignorant of history is to remain always a child - Cicero
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Fertile Crescent Map
Fertile Crescent Map

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6000 years ago civilization emerged in Mesopotamia - the Ancient Greek name meaning the land "between the rivers" is used today to describe the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which nurtured the first urban civilization, the Sumerians. It is located in modern Iraq and is the eastern end of an area of land called the "fertile crescent" a land of abundance in ancient times. The two rivers deposited fertile silt on the land when they overflowed their banks.

The abundance of food grown in the rich mud in the fertile crescent made it possible for large numbers of people to live together in cities. Population growth and a surplus of food led to specialization of labor and the leisure time necessary for civilization. When everyone did not have to farm people began to be artisans and craftsmen. The products created by these specialists led to trade and a merchant class. Some specialists were religious and a class of priests emerged.

The government was a theocracy, ruled by the religious class. At first a few priests were probably the only government. But as the society developed the need for a government grew. The government helped administer the irrigation system to ensure the continuity of the food supply and would be involved in distribution.

The government would build roads and public projects, making it necessary to pay workers. This created the need for taxation - at first in-kind taxation - that is, citizens would contribute a share of the products or food they produced. Soon there was a need for a bureaucracy.

The leisure time created by surpluses of food and specialization also made it possible for some to specialize in music and art. The flowering of civilization had begun.

Sumerian statues
Sumerian Statuettes
from the Royal Tombs of Ur

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Part of The Sumerians a HistoryWiz exhibit


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