History of Mesopotamia Essay

History of Mesopotamia Essay

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The region known as Mesopotamia, deriving from the Greek term Μεσοποταμία meaning “land between the rivers”, is situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern day Iraq and Syria. It can be divided into two sections, northern and southern Mesopotamia, the later of which will be the focus of this study.1 Archaeological remains suggest that small agricultural communities began to populate southern Mesopotamia during the Ubaid Period (5500-4000BC).2 However, settlement patterns shifted during the Uruk period, as people were no longer interested in establishing small agricultural sites, but began moving towards larger urbanised cities.3 The movement eventuated in the development of the Sumerian culture during the Early Dynastic Period (2900-2334BC). However in 2334BC, the Semites from northern Mesopotamia undertook a series of military campaigns to gain control over their southern counterparts. 4These campaigns, led by Sargon, were successful and they subsequently led to the formation of the Akkadian Empire. Arguably, it was during this time that the Sumero-Akkadian culture developed within southern Mesopotamia.5
After the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur in 2004BC, the region was taken over by the Elamites and Amorites.6 Yet, as pointed out by Crawford, “Sumerian culture continued to survive and newcomers like the Amorite dynasty of Babylon adopted many of the customs and skills of its predecessors.”7 Scholars generally agree that the society was patriarchal in nature, and that gender differentiation was a feature of Sumerian culture.8 While some historians have used this point to argue that women were viewed as second class citizens, this does not appear to be the case.9 Rather, it would be more accurate to argue that...


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...course.35 Furthermore, this study will focus on literature that originated within the third and early second millennium BC, by looking at texts that developed during the Early Dynastic Period and the Old Babylonian Period (2000-1760BC). There are two reasons for this. Firstly, Sumerian literature only began to develop during the Early Dynastic Period. Secondly, texts originating after the Old Babylonian Period have a very different portrayal of female sexuality and a reflective of a changing society.36

This thesis rests on the assumption that social norms concerning sexuality was imprinted onto the texts and this, in turn, influenced how females were portrayed within the literature. While the study’s primary aim is to explore how females were portrayed within the literature, by default it was also examine how female sexuality was perceived by Mesopotamian society.

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