Ancient Middle East: Cradle of Civilization

Ancient Middle East: Cradle of Civilization

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The ancient Middle East gave rise to some of the greatest empires in human history, including Mesopotamia, Babylonia, the Persian Empire and the Byzantine Empire.

Ancient Syria: Another Cradle of Civilization?

Traditionally, it has been thought that civilization in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean began in two centers, Sumer in the east between the Tigris and Euphrates, and Egypt in the west along the Nile. The earliest cities are believed to have been built in the flood plains of southern Mesopotamia during the mid-4th millennium BC. There is, however, some evidence that complex urban centers such as Tell Brak were already being built in ancient Syria at the same time. This has led some archaeologists to suggest that civilization began in the north independently of the southern Mesopotamian centers, or even before their emergence. Evidence shows that although proto-urban centers appear in the south first, they also arise very soon afterwards or simultaneously in the north, suggesting that ancient Syria is another center where civilization emerged independently, alongside Egypt and Sumer.

A Bit of Western Imperialism

Breasted considered the Fertile Crescent the cultivable fringe of two deserts, a sickle-shaped semi-circle wedged between the Atlas mountains of Anatolia and the Sinai desert of Arabia and the Sahara desert of Egypt. Modern maps clearly show that the fertile part incorporated the major rivers of the region, and also a long stretch of the Mediterranean Sea coastline. But the Fertile Crescent was never perceived as a single region by its Mesopotamian rulers.

Breasted, on the other hand, had a bird's eye view of the map during World War I and he saw it as a "borderland." Historian Thomas Scheffler believes Breasted's use of the phrase reflected a zeitgeist of his day. In 1916, the crescent was occupied by the Ottoman Empire, a pivotal geo-strategic piece of the battles of World War I. In Breasted's historical drama, says Scheffler, the region was the site of a struggle between "desert wanderers" and the "hardy peoples of the northern and eastern mountains," an imperialist concept, building on the Biblical battle of Abel the Farmer and Cain the Hunter.

Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East

ACME is a game of the chaos-inducing wrath of gods & men — a chaos each player does their utmost to manage, survive, and guide their civilization through to triumphant victory. Spanning the ancient world from the Hellespont to the Indus, from the Caspian to the Red Sea, and from the early Bronze Age to the Hellenic Age, Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East allows you to command not just 10 but 16, SIXTEEN CIVILIZATIONS!

Sea Peoples (yes, they're back!)

Each civilization has its own unique characteristics, from taking captives (new!) rather than loot from a captured city to supremacy in siege warfare — and much, much more in between.

ACME is not just one game but many games. 1-6 players will take the role of one, two, or even three civilizations as they compete across up to four Epochs on land and sea, seeking to survive a host of potential natural disasters while making their indelible mark on history. Each civilization will fight to become the dominant power of its age through conquest and the building of cities, along with establishing the supremacy of its powerful Deity.

Fertile Crescent

Once considered the &ldquocradle of civilization,&rdquo the Fertile Crescent&rsquos place among the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers once led to an abundance of riches. Now the depleation of those resources has led to strife in the Middle East.

Anthropology, Archaeology, Geography, Human Geography, Social Studies

Fertile crescent illustration

Fed by the waterways of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile rivers, the Fertile Crescent has been home to a variety of cultures, rich agriculture, and trade over thousands of years.

Photograph by Stefano Bianchetti

Named for its rich soils, the Fertile Crescent, often called the &ldquocradle of civilization,&rdquo is found in the Middle East. Because of this region&rsquos relatively abundant access to water, the earliest civilizations were established in the Fertile Crescent, including the Sumerians. Its area covers what are now southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, and parts of Turkey and Iran. Two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, regularly flooded the region, and the Nile River also runs through part of it. Irrigation and agriculture developed here because of the fertile soil found near these rivers.

Access to water helped with farming and trade routes. Soon, its natural riches brought travelers in and out of the Fertile Crescent. This led to an exchange of culture and ideas, and advancements in the region as writing (cuneiform), math, and religion all soon developed there.

As time has passed, however, challenges have arisen in the Fertile Crescent. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq all depend on the waters flowing from the region. Increased population and demands on the rivers from urbanization have depleted the once-fertile soil. The construction of multiple dams has also put more pressure on the area, leading to lower water output and quality. As a result, much of the volume has declined to the point where nations utilizing the Euphrates River have to negotiate solutions to ensure each has access to needed water.

The environmental strain on the once lush and thriving area has been cited as a secondary reason for tensions in the region, including the conflicts in Syria. Political issues became entangled with geographical problems, and the result was a battle for control of the region, which began in the early 2000s.

While the current state of the Fertile Crescent is awash with uncertainty, its status as the cradle of civilization remains intact.

Fed by the waterways of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile rivers, the Fertile Crescent has been home to a variety of cultures, rich agriculture, and trade over thousands of years.

Ancient Middle East: Cradle of Civilization

“ Cradle of Civilization – Ancient Languages and Cultures of the Middle East ” – KAAD Middle East Seminar in Münster

Wer nicht von dreitausend Jahren
sich weiß Rechenschaft zu geben,
bleib im Dunkeln unerfahren,
mag von Tag zu Tage leben.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, West-östlicher Divan, Buch des Unmuts

According to Goethe’s dictum, 22 scholars met in the Franz-Hitze-Haus in Münster from February 10 th to 13 th in order to become familiar with the “Ancient Languages and Cultures of the Middle East”. The regional seminar of the Middle East Department brought together people from eleven different countries: 14 participants came from countries of the Middle East, namely from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Iraq eight from other parts of the world.

One focus of this cooperation seminar, which was led by Dr Christian Müller (Franz-Hitze-Haus), Dr Nora Kalbarczyk and Santra Sontowski, and spiritually accompanied by Fr Prof Dr Thomas Eggensperger OP, was to find out which aspects from these long past times still affect us in our present day.

The content-related part of the seminar began with the workshop “The Ancient Orient in my Life”, in which the participants reflected in changing group compositions about what they associate with the various keywords of this complex of topics, which narratives, languages and countries in particular come to their mind and how their respective country of origin is or can be related to it. The workshop was followed by presentations by Dyoniz Kindata from Tanzania on “The Literature of Ancient Mesopotamia – an Overview” and by Layth from Iraq on the languages of Mesopotamia. The workshop and presentations paved the way for the introductory lecture “History, Languages and Cultures of the Ancient Orient”, which was held by Prof Dr Hans Neumann (Ancient Oriental Studies, University of Münster). After a definition of the terms, a historical, cultural and linguistic-historical overview followed – starting from the Sumerian city-states in the ancient Mesopotamia in the early third millennium BC to the Achaemenid Empire in the 4th century BC.

The era of the Ancient Near East was explored in depth and illuminated from various angles during a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum in Münster. During the city tour through Münster, the participants were taken into another era and another region – the visit of the cathedral and the peace hall was certainly a special highlight.

In his lecture “The Ancient Near East in Today’s Middle East: Influences on Language, Culture and Religious Traditions” Prof. Dr. Dr. Manfred Hutter (Comparative Religious Studies, University of Bonn) identified references of the Ancient Near East to the present. Be it the various inventions (such as the seed plow) that have contributed to civilization, or linguistic expressions of Sumerian or Akkadian that have been passed down to the present day, be it certain myths and narratives that have found their way into the collective memory of some cultures and countries and are sometimes activated and misused for political purposes – they all form points of reference for an objective or identity-forming reference. The participants were able to draw on the aspect of the construction or even suppression of certain identities in a special way – particularly, when it comes to identities linked to a certain language.

The social highlight of the seminar was the final evening organized by three scholars, which turned the participants into players of an exciting and fun quiz. The seminar was spiritually rounded off by the international service held in the Edith Stein Chapel.

In conclusion, it can be said that this seminar has broadened the participants’ perspectives in various ways – and certainly made many new friendships.

4. The Early Middle East

Symbols of the three religions that originated in the Middle East: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

"The cradle of civilization."

Throughout the centuries, historians have used these powerful words to describe the Middle East.

In the ancient Middle East, many great civilizations rose and fell. The religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each trace their origins back to this part of the world.

All of these civilizations arose in the area known as the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent stretches from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Zagros Mountains in the east. It is bordered in the north by the Taurus Mountains and in the south by the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Desert. Its shape resembles a crescent moon.

One area within the Fertile Crescent gave rise to the region's most powerful empires and grandest cities. This area was Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

From Farming to Empires

Many great civilizations arose from the first farming cultures of the Fertile Crescent.

The Fertile Crescent is the region in which humans first began farming and herding around 8,000 B.C.E. This dramatic change from nomadic hunting and gathering allowed early humans to settle into permanent villages and to begin accumulating a surplus of food.

With such a surplus, early villagers could begin to focus on developing the skills associated with civilization. Some of them became priests, scribes, merchants, artists, teachers, and government officials. They began to build cities, and before long, they were establishing empires. The Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, and Phoenicians all built great empires, each of which rose to glory in the Middle East.

Because they were constantly interacting through war and trade, the societies in the Middle East borrowed from each other. They modified newly acquired ideas and technologies to suit their own needs. Often, these changes were improvements. Over time, many aspects of various societies throughout the ancient Middle East began to resemble each other.

The Middle East is also the crossroads of the ancient world. It is located at the merging point of three continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia. Many travelers who journeyed from one continent to the next passed through the Middle East, absorbing its culture and introducing new ideas to the region. Throughout the centuries, its prized location became the source of conflict. Its goods became the source of envy.


its called global nuclear war and if things dont shape up itll happen again…

infinitesimal waveparticles comprise what we call home the earth
manipulatable by thought ability supressed in humans since birth

I have thought for some time that the Santorini supervolcano about 1400BCE changed a lot of things in the middle east as well as on Crete. Gilgamesh and Enkidu's trip to the lands of Humbaba to the West was stated to be for timber as much as anything. A major deforestation at that time around 4000 BCE could have brought about the creation of the Syrian Desert, and the following incident of the Bull of Heaven suggests a major earthquake to me. That's only my opinion though.

This definitely coincides with everything we learned about polar shifts and climate change and floods and atomic bombs and everything else.

Unfortunately, for the last couple hundred years, we have live in an age of authoritarianism, which always includes mysticism and today has lots of pseudo science.

Although written in very dry language, this artilcle, or the research it discusses, merely confirms what has become more and more apparent – sometime between 2000 and 4000 BCE (I think closr to 2500 BCE, but no one can precisely date the ancient past), a worldwide disaster struck.

We know the Sahara came into being at that time. This article mentions African lakes, so you wouldn’t guess the Sahara had giant lakes, including the now completely dry Lake Mega Chad, over half the size of one of the Great Lakes. And tons of rivers etc. Same with the great northern deserts of China. Until last year, people thought they had existed for milions of years, but now we now they too came into being only a few thousand years ago, probably at the same instant as the Sahara.

If you look at a globe or world map along the 25th to 35th parallel, desert covers almost the entire area, except where ocean intervenes, and the SW USA and nearby islands.

And they continue to get drier and drier. The evaporation rates in the Middle East greatly exceed the rainfall rates. Alexander the Great only 2400 hundred years ago marched to Persia with elephants, horses, and thousands of troops, across lands that camels cross today because nothing else can.

I think the earth has suffered through tens of thousands of years of terrible catastrophes, many during human memory.

Why is Mesopotamia called the cradle of civilization?

Situa­ted in a vast expanse of delta between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, Mesopotamia was the wellspring from which modern societies emerged. Its people learned to tame the dry land and draw sustenance from it. Tanks tread there now, and companies pump oil from beneath the ancient soil. Today, much of the area lies in present-day Iraq. Were it not for the Mesopotamians, that country -- or any other -- possibly wouldn't exist, at least not in a way we would recognize.

Mesopotamia is generally credited with being the first place where civilized societies truly began to take shape. People around the world had been developing the groundwork for civilization for millennia: Agriculture was established around 8000 B.C. The domestication of animals for labor and food develop­ed simultaneously [source: Ohio State University]. People had been creating art for thousands of years already. Early laws had been established in the form of mores and folkways. All of these were parts of human culture, but not civilization. Mesopotamians refined, added to and formalized these systems, combining them to form a civilization.

­It's interesting to think about what might not exist had the Mesopotamians not blazed the trails they did. The choices they made, the risks they took, the energy they invested into their ideas and pursuits lead to the world we know today. Would people have thought to organize oral traditions into written collections of pages had the Mesopotamians not produced Gilgamesh, the first book in recorded history? Perhaps so, but who knows how long it would have taken if the Mesopotamians hadn't done it first?

This achievement alone is significant, but their collection of written stories is just the beginning. Read the next page to find out why else Mesopotamia is called the cradle of civilization.

The Foundation of Civilization

To understand why Mesopotamia is considered the cradle of civilization, it's important have understand exactly what civilization is. This is more difficult than you might think. Scholars still debate exactly what must be present in a culture for it to be considered a civilization.

For the most part, a group of people who live together in a single place, and have social, political, economic and religious structure qualifies as a civilization. The setting is usually a city, and the people there use technology to carry out economic activity. The fruits of this labor are divided among the population by a ruling class, which may be religious in nature, political or both. The division of goods isn't necessarily even, which leads to social classes -- the haves, the have-nots and those in the middle.

Civilization, then, is the organization of all of the systems people use to interact with one another -- whether that's to the benefit of all, as in the protection of an organized army, or to the detriment of the people, for example when a few are able to exploit the work of the masses to grow more powerful. "If culture is behavior, civilization is structure," explains scholar Matthias Tomczak.

By this definition, Mesopotamia was indeed a true civilization. Beginning around 4000 B.C., cities began to pop up between the Tigris and Euphrates. Agriculture drew the earliest people to the banks of Mesopotamia's rivers. But as they figured out how to reroute some of the water through canals, they were able to irrigate fields farther away. With a food supply capable of sustaining large numbers of people, cities began to develop.

We might imagine these early city dwellers were visionaries. But the truth is much less dramatic. Mesopotamia became a civilized powerhouse largely out of necessity. Take, for example, their writing. The Sumerians produced some of the earliest writing discovered, on baked clay tablets. These tablets captured the more mundane aspects of life, such as accounting and tax records.

This writing eventually led to phonetic writing, which uses symbols to represent sounds rather than objects. "With a phonetic system, scribes could now represent words for which there were no images … thus making possible the written expression of abstract ideas," writes historian Steven Kreis.

This is a good example of how the civilization of Mesopotamia developed. Necessity bore invention, which after refinement, lead to the organized integration of these creations -- civilization.

So now we know that the Sumerians and other Mesopotamians developed writing and literature. But not everything civilization brings to the world helps humanity. Read about more innovations -- good and bad -- on the next page.

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