Ancient Mesopotamia Essay

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It is undeniable that the natural environment of ancient Mesopotamia had a profound effect on the earliest civilizations known to the world. Humankind’s ability to control irrigation waters directly correlates with the rise of mass agriculture. With this mastery of their river environment, early farmers were capable of supporting large urban populations. However, in Mesopotamia the Tigris and Euphrates rivers were both a source of life as well as destruction for early societies. In many ways, the geography of ancient Mesopotamia fostered a sense of catastrophic determinism within the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians. The scarcity of resources as well as the untamable nature of their deluge environment led these early people to believe their futures veered on a harsh predetermined course. This essay will demonstrate that many prominent sources in ancient literature, law codes, and archaic Sumerian religion reflect the rigorous geographic and natural conditions which caused this deterministic mindset.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the most important literary piece of Mesopotamia, displays a world in which even the mightiest of human beings possessed little freedom to control their own fate due to an insurmountable environment. The Epic of Gilgamesh’s plot centers on Gilgamesh’s unavailing struggle to find eternal life. Naturally, he comes close but ultimately fails. A key aspect of Gilgamesh’s endeavor is his quest for wood in a cedar forest guarded by fire breathing Humbaba.1 The odd fascination of ancient Mesopotamian literature with wood can be viewed as a testament to the dearth of this resource within the Tigris and Euphrates river valley.
The lack of wood in conjunction with stone had a deep impact on Su...

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... Evidence for this can be found in major artifacts, such as The Law Code of Hammurabi, or in something as simple as a short correspondence. The Mesopotamians firmly believed that it was the gods who were flooding their fields and destroying their houses. In reality, it was the total unpredictability of their riverside location which led these ancient peoples to believe that the gods had preordained their future.

Works Cited

Chiera, Edward. They Wrote on Clay: The Babylonian Tablets Speak Today. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1956.

Hallo, William W., and William Kelly Simpson. The Ancient Near East: A History. New York: Harcourt Brac Jovanovich, Inc., 1971.

Pritchard, James B., ed. “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969.

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