Early Western Civilization

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  • I. The Concept of Western CivilizationA. Defining Western Civilization1. Civilization and Simpler Ways of Life — Traditional historical definitions focus on urbanized communities, central authority, and complex social organizations of labor, trade, and religion. Civilization can be productive of prosperity and complexity, but some historians contest its effect on quality of life and equality, and the role of civilization in generating or increasing conflict.2. Civilization and Geography — The geographic notion of the West is Greek in origin (place where the sun sets), but the issue of definition always struggles with where to draw a line between East and West. Example: Modern Turkey was part of the Roman Empire, but in the twenty-first century, its “Westernness” and fitness to join the EU is much debated.3. Ideas and Customs — It is difficult to define what ideas and customs make up the culture of a civilization. The notion that cultures vary, and that some are superior to others because of particular customs or practices, is ancient. Over time Western civilization has included a wide range of cultural variation. Example: Polytheism was widely practiced in the ancient West (Mesopotamia, Egypt), but the idea of monotheism also has Western (Jewish) roots in a later era.
  • I. The Concept of Western CivilizationA. Defining Western Civilization (cont.)4. Social Hierarchies and Status — All known civilizations have established some kind of social hierarchy. Some practices, like metalworking, led to increased social differentiation as the acquisition of metals allowed individuals to display visible differences in social status. 5. Western Civilization and Cultural Interaction — Ultimately, the West is and was a story about the interaction over time of a range of cultures, including both tremendous variations within the West and with nonwestern cultures. The West can only be understood by studying the history of these interactions.B. The Societies of Early Western Civilization1. Mesopotamia — The first cities developed among the Sumerians in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq/Iran/Middle East) by 4000–3000 B.C.E.2. Egypt — Civilization emerged along the Nile River around 3050 B.C.E. 3. Anatolia — By about 2000–1900 B.C.E., civilization appeared in Anatolia, Crete, and other islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as well as Greece. All of these peoples learned from and built on the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
  • II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. A. The Emergence of Cities, 4000–2350 B.C.E. 1. The Cities of Sumer — The need to irrigate the fertile but dry plains around the Euphrates and Tigris rivers produced centralized political authority and organized cities led by kings, who also controlled the surrounding regions. By 3000B.C.E., the Sumerians established twelve independent city-states, each of which expanded to 20,000 residents or more by 2500. City-states were fiercely separate and fought each other over land and resources. Cities were similar in layout, crowded, walled, and dominated by large temples (ziggurats). City-states were prosperous from agriculture and trade but unhealthy because of poor sanitation. 2. Kings in Sumer — Kings ruled with councils, and came from royal families at the top of the social hierarchy. Kings (not queens) were responsible for ensuring justice, developing laws, keeping order, and waging war, and in return they extracted taxes from the people. They lived in great palaces and enjoyed wealth, luxury, and the power of life and death over their servants.3. Slaves in Sumer — Slaves were at the bottom of the social hierarchy. They could be owned by gods (through temple officials) or individuals. People became slaves by being captured in war, being sold into slavery, or being born to slave parents. 4. The Invention of Writing —Developed in 3500 B.C.E. to track more complex economic transactions, writing evolved from pictographs that symbolized specific objects to mixed pictographs and phonetic symbols. Fully developed Sumerian cuneiform was made up of wedge marks pressed into clay tablets to record spoken language; it was only understood or used by elite scribes. Writing soon expanded to recording stories, beliefs, oral traditions, poetry, and literature.
  • II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. A. The Emergence of Cities, 4000–2350 B.C.E. (cont.)5. Mesopotamian Myths and Religion — Writing supported civilization by recording and passing down myths about the gods or origins, and written religious teachings that emphasized communal religious responsibilities and divinely ordained hierarchy. Myths and religion taught that the gods, their power, and human well-being were closely connected. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a long poem, tells the story of a hero-king of the city Uruk, his efforts to control his people and build a city, his struggles with and then alliance with a divinely created rival, Enkidu, and their conflicts with monsters and the gods. The story emphasizes the human desire for fame, power, and accomplishment, but also the vulnerability of humans in the face of the gods. Mesopotamian culture honored priestly divination, the ritual process for discovering the will of the gods and earning their favor.
  • II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. B. Metals and Empire-Making: The Akkadians and the Ur Dynasty, c. 2350–c. 20001. Sargon and Akkadian Empire — Some city-states were especially aggressive. Under King Sargon the city-state of Akkad began to build the first empire around 2350 B.C.E., as they conquered neighboring territory and cities in search of metals. 2. The Spread of Sumerian Culture — These conquests spread Mesopotamian language, art, and literature throughout the Near East; in this way war promoted cultural interaction.3. The Fall of the Akkadians, c. 2200 B.C.E. — Civil war and an attack from the Gutian “hill people” overthrew the Akkadian Empire around 2200 B.C.E.4. Ur III Rulers and Political Instability, 2112–2004 B.C.E. — Leaders of the Ur III dynasty seized power in Sumer in 2112 B.C.E. and created a centralized economy and system of laws under kings who claimed to be divine. Civil war again weakened the empire and external Amorite marauders caused its collapse after only about a century of rule.
  • II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. (cont.) C. The Achievements of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Canaanites, 2000–1000 B.C.E. 1. The Assyrians and Long-Distance Commerce —Western civilization advanced even during a period of long-term economic instability caused by climate change and agricultural pollution. Assyrians, inhabiting an independent kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, pioneered long-distance trade by private entrepreneurs. They conveyed Anatolian products such as wood, copper, and gold throughout Mesopotamia. Privately funded donkey caravans conveyed goods over long distances, and when successful, yielded high returns for investors. Royal regulators settled complaints and supported trade.2. Hammurabi of Babylon and Written Law — Written laws helped Mesopotamian city-states maintain order, especially as commerce and trade expanded. Kings had a sacred duty to maintain order, and the Babylonia king Hammurabi (1792–1750 B.C.E.) established a famous code of laws based on earlier Mesopotamian legal traditions. Hammurabi’s code sought to maintain “truth and equity,” and gave new attention to supporting less powerful members of society. The code included severe penalties for property crimes and offered some limited legal rights to women. The organizing principle of the code was “equivalent justice.”3.Mesopotamian City Life and Learning — Mesopotamian cities included many taverns and wine shops as well as some parks. Public health was a problem because of contaminated drinking water. Intellectual life was stimulated by the close proximity of so many, and tremendous advances in mathematics and astronomy had enduring consequences.4. Canaanites, Commerce, and the Alphabet — Canaanite populations expanded as merchants from many lands were absorbed into the population. A diversity of population and practices led to innovation, especially in business. One important consequence was the emergence of an alphabet where letters stood for sounds, a system that became the basis of Greek and Roman alphabets.
  • III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. A. From the Unification of Egypt to the Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. 1. King Narmer (Menes), the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, and the Old Kingdom — Around 5000–4000 B.C.E., climate change forced people to migrate out of the Sahara region and eventually settle along the Nile River. By 3050 B.C.E., King Narmer united the upper and lower regions of Egypt into a large political state. By 2687 B.C.E., Egyptian kings “of the two lands” established a strong centralized state, referred to as the Old Kingdom by scholars, which had few cities but was a united country.2. Egyptian Agriculture and Demographics — A narrow strip some 700 miles long of rich farmland along the Nile River was at the heart of the Old Kingdom, with flanking deserts containing valuable metals that protected Egypt from invasion. Melting snow swelled the Nile predictably several times a year, enriching the soil and nourishing animals. All of this supported rapid population growth.3. Religion and the Authority of the King — Egyptian kings who successfully fulfilled religious obligations and maintained order were believed to keep the country powerful and rich, while other kings struggled to preserve stability. Egyptians saw their monarchs as helpful divinities in human form, who lived ordered and stable lives and ensured stability and prosperity by acting justly and thereby guaranteeing the regular flooding of the Nile. Egyptian polytheism may have had a more benign understanding of the gods because of Egyptian environmental advantages.
  • III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E.A. From the Unification of Egypt to the Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. (cont.)4. Pyramids and the Afterlife — Large building programs directed by Egyptian monarchs demonstrated piety and power. Tombs for the kings were enormous pyramids: centerpieces for networks of temples and halls for religious ceremonies. Old Kingdom rulers spent vast resources on tombs and pyramids in order to proclaim their divine status, and their burial rituals and preparation of mummified remains testified to Egyptian belief in an afterlife. 5. Hierarchy and Order in Egyptian Society — Egyptian society valued stability and order and was strongly hierarchical. Kings and queens came first, followed by priests, royal administrators, and army commanders. Free commoners worked the land and served the state as laborers on building projects. Slaves taken captive in war served in small numbers, and the army was largely a mercenary force. Women had relatively equal status to men, although their responsibilities were ordinarily domestic.
  • 1. How does the Great Sphinx indicate a wealthy, powerful society?(Answer: Its impressive size suggests a complex society with the time and resources to spare on a massive building project; this was not necessarily a subsistence society.) 2. What does the creature itself signify, and why would these be important qualities?(Answer: The sphinx symbolizes values that were important to society: the body of a lion symbolizes physical power, while the head of a human symbolizes intelligence. The image of the sphinx was a way to communicate these values to illiterate people.)
  • III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E.B. The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E. 1. The Middle Kingdom — After a period of disorder and social breakdown (the First Intermediate Period, 2190–2061 B.C.E.), the Egyptians kings of the Middle Kingdom (2061–1665 B.C.E.) restored order, while also expanding their territory to the south and expanding trade and diplomatic contacts with the rest of the Mediterranean region.2. From Hyksos Rule to the New Kingdom — By 1664 B.C.E., aggressive foreign invaders (termed the Hyksos) settled in Egypt and gained control of the state. The Hyksos introduced new technologies such as bronze-making and battlefield chariots, and increased cultural contact between Egypt and other Near Eastern states. After long struggle with the Hyksos, Egyptian rulers based in Thebes reunited the kingdom and founded a series of dynasties called the New Kingdom (1569–1081 B.C.E.).3. Warrior Pharaohs —The New Kingdom rulers, known as pharaohs, built a strong central state and a standing army to ward off invaders, portrayed themselves as warrior gods, and fought campaigns in lands to the south and up and down the eastern Mediterranean coast. They brought wealth and luxury goods to Egypt and built massive stone temples.
  • 1. How would this image potentially have been one of continuity for ancient Egypt?(Answer: Hatshepsut portrays herself as a man, suggesting that she is as capable as a traditional male leader; she also performs the traditional religious duties of a pharaoh in her offerings here.)  2. Why would Hatshepsut have placed this in her personal temple?(Answer: Because the afterlife was so important in ancient Egypt, such an image could have shown the gods her respect for them.)
  • III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E.B. The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E. (cont.) 4. Religious Tradition and Upheaval — Religion retained its central place in New Kingdom society. Egyptian temples and the cultic practices associated with them were intended to sustain public life. A religious calendar organized festivals and ceremonies. Early New Kingdom pharaohs from Thebes promoted state gods, especially Amun-Re (a combination of Thebes’s patron god and the sun god), so enthusiastically that he became more important than other gods. Despite the emphasis on Amun-Re, the Theban cult did not deny the existence of other gods or the continued importance of their priests. In contrast, the pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1372–1355), who favored the sun god Aten, proclaimed that all official religion would concentrate solely on worshipping Aten. Akhenaten also claimed exclusive access to Aten, thereby using religion to strengthen his own rule.5. Life and Belief in the New Kingdom —Labor and the annual flood of the Nile was at the center of most Egyptian lives. Fields were worked year round except when the river flooded, during which time many Egyptians worked on the king’s construction projects. Although slavery existed, free workers did most of the labor on royal construction projects. Ordinary Egyptians worshipped many gods, especially those they hoped could protect them in their daily lives. They prepared the dead for the afterlife through the process of mummification. Magicians, herbs, and charms were also an important part of ordinary life, as they were believed to be able to provide aid in romance, curing illness, or promoting eternal salvation.
  • IV. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. A. The Hittites, 1750–1200 B.C.E. 1. Hittite Origins, Language, and Religion — By 1750 B.C.E., the Hittites, a migrant tribe from the Caucasus who excelled in war and diplomacy, had conquered the region and become the most powerful people in Anatolia. The Hittites spoke an Indo-European language and worshipped their own gods as well as those of earlier Anatolian peoples. Hittite religion emphasized ritual purity and the role of kings as guardians of a just social order.2. Building the Hittite Kingdom — Hittite expansion, which produced conflict with the Egyptian New Kingdom pharaohs, was facilitated by the aggressive use of armies with chariots and the forging of strong personal alliances. Hittite kings controlled long-distance trade routes, especially for metals, and focused particularly on controlling the lucrative trade between the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Syria.
  • IV. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. B. The Minoans, 2200–1400 B.C.E. 1. Palace Society on Crete — By around 2200 B.C.E., Minoans on Crete and nearby islands established sprawling palaces, some five stories high, which housed kings (who also served as priests), servants, and royal officials, as well as the political, economic, and religious administrative offices of the state. The general population clustered around the palaces, with some settlements reaching the size of small cities and serving as focal points for trade with the Egyptians and Hittites.2. Mediterranean Polyculture — The Minoans and others developed Mediterranean polyculture, an agricultural model focused on growing olives, grapes, and grains in a single interrelated agricultural system. This efficient use of labor and space provided a healthy diet, population growth, and the development of an economic surplus.3. The Interdependent Minoan Economy — The economic surplus allowed artisans to specialize and produce goods, such as storage jars, clothes, or lamps, which they traded for food. The Minoan economy thus became increasingly interdependent and focused on internal and external trade.
  • III. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E.C. The Mycenaeans, 1800–1000 B.C.E. 1. Mycenaean Commerce and Culture — Mycenaean civilizations arose in the Greek Peloponnese around 1800 B.C.E. According to palace records, the Mycenaeans operated under a redistributive economy in which rulers tightly controlled the distribution of goods to the community. The Mycenaeans spoke an Indo-European language, formed independent and competitive communities, relied on the sea for food and trade, and engaged in war to control resources and territory. 2. Mycenaean Interaction with Minoan Crete — Coastal Mycenaean trading relations with Minoan Crete prompted economic and cultural developments, including the construction of Mycenaean palaces. 3. Mycenaean Control of Crete — By about 1400 B.C.E., warlike Mycenaean rulers had come to control Crete, possibly in a war over commerce in the Mediterranean. 4. War in Mycenaean Society — The Mycenaeans were a warrior culture, their most important deities were male gods of war, and wealthy men were all buried with weapons and armor. They also made use of lightweight chariots in battle.
  • III. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E.D. The Violent End to Early Western Civilization, 1200–1000 B.C.E. 1. The Sea Peoples and Upheavals in the Eastern Mediterranean — The Sea Peoples, a loose coalition of warlike seaborne invaders, many of them probably Greeks, emerged around 1200 B.C.E. and overwhelmed the Hittite kingdoms by devastating its trade and razing its capital city. Egypt also came under sustained attack and was severely weakened; its trade was devastated and its borders reduced.2. Conflicts and the Weakening of Mycenaean Civilization — Mycenaean civilization reached the zenith of its power from 1400–c. 1250 B.C.E., but also came under pressure from the Sea Peoples. Increasingly, resources had to be dedicated to wall building and defense against the Sea Peoples and other Mycenaean powers. Earthquakes also weakened the Mycenaeans, and central authority collapsed.

Transcript

  • 1. Early Western Civilization 4000–1000 B.C.E.
  • 2. I. The Concept of Western Civilization A. Defining Western Civilization 1. Civilization and Simpler Ways of Life 2. Civilization and Geography 3. Ideas and Customs
  • 3. I. The Concept of Western Civilization A. Defining Western Civilization (cont.) 4. Social Hierarchies and Status 5. Western Civilization and Cultural Interaction B. The Societies of Early Western Civilization 1. Mesopotamia 2. Egypt 3. Anatolia
  • 4. II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. A. The Emergence of Cities, 4000–2350 B.C.E. 1. The Cities of Sumer 2. Kings in Sumer 3. Slaves in Sumer 4. The Invention of Writing
  • 5. II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. A. The Emergence of Cities, 4000–2350 B.C.E. (cont.) 5. Mesopotamian Myths and Religion
  • 6. II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. B. Metals and Empire-Making: The Akkadians and the Ur Dynasty, c. 2350–c. 2000 1. Sargon and Akkadian Empire 2. The Spread of Sumerian Culture 3. The Fall of the Akkadians, c. 2200 B.C.E. 4. Ur III Rulers and Political Instability, 2112–2004 B.C.E.
  • 7. II. Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. C. The Achievements of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Canaanites, 2000–1000 B.C.E. 1. The Assyrians and Long-Distance Commerce 2. Hammurabi of Babylon and Written Law 3. Mesopotamian City Life and Learning 4. Canaanites, Commerce, and the Alphabet
  • 8. III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. A. From the Unification of Egypt to the Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. 1. King Narmer (Menes), the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, and the Old Kingdom 2. Egyptian Agriculture and Demographics 3. Religion and the Authority of the King
  • 9. III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. A. From the Unification of Egypt to the Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. (cont.) 4. Pyramids and the Afterlife 5. Hierarchy and Order in Egyptian Society
  • 10. III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. B. The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E. 1. The Middle Kingdom 2. From Hyksos Rule to the New Kingdom 3. Warrior Pharaohs
  • 11. III. Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. B. The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E. 4. Religious Tradition and Upheaval 5. Life and Belief in the New Kingdom
  • 12. IV. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. A. The Hittites, 1750–1200 B.C.E. 1. Hittite Origins, Language, and Religion 2. Building the Hittite Kingdom
  • 13. IV. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. B. The Minoans, 2200–1400 B.C.E. 1. Palace Society on Crete 2. Mediterranean Polyculture 3. The Interdependent Minoan Economy
  • 14. III. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. C. The Mycenaeans, 1800–1000 B.C.E. 1. Mycenaean Commerce and Culture 2. Mycenaean Interaction with Minoan Crete 3. Mycenaean Control of Crete 4. War in Mycenaean Society
  • 15. III. The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. D. The Violent End to Early Western Civilization, 1200– 1000 B.C.E. 1. The Sea Peoples and Upheavals in the Eastern Mediterranean 2. Conflicts and the Weakening of Mycenaean Civilization