Each slide will give you some important information on the Fertile Crescent.
Whenever you see orange text click on the text to learn more about the topic and participate in interactive activities.
You may go through the PowerPoint at your own pace. If you already are familiar with the information just skim it and move on. If this is new to you, read carefully follow the links for more information on the topic.
The Fertile Crescent is the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
The land of Mesopotamia is made fertile by the irregular and often violent flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
The first civilization in the Fertile Crescent was discovered in Mesopotamia, which means land between the rivers.
The first Sumerian cities emerged in southern Mesopotamia around 3200 B.C
Learn more about the Geography of Mesopotamia.
RELIGION SOCIAL STRUCTURE 3 Government Social Structure Religion City-states with hereditary rulers. Ruler led army in war and enforced laws. Complex government with scribes to collect taxes and keep records. Each state had distinct social hierarchy, or system of ranks. Most people were peasant farmers. Women had legal rights; some engaged in trade and owned property. Worshiped many gods. Believed gods controlled every aspect of life. Saw afterlife as a grim place. Everybody would go into darkness and eat dust. To keep the gods happy, each city built a ziggurat, or pyramid temple.
Temples were originally built on platforms. During the third millennium B.C., these were made higher and bigger. Eventually it was decided to build even higher temples on platforms which were stepped. These stepped towers we call ziggurats.
By 2000 B.C. mud-brick ziggurats were being constructed in many Sumerian cities. Later, ziggurats were constructed in Babylonian and Assyrian cities.
Developed cuneiform, believed to be the earliest form of writing.
Developed basic algebra and geometry.
Made accurate calendars, essential to a farming society.
Made the first wheeled vehicles.
Cuneiform was a system of writing established by the Sumerians which required the use of a stylus in order to make wedge-shaped marks on wet clay tablets, once the tablets were dry they could by stored, transported, etc.
After its development, cuneiform became the dominant system of writing in Mesopotamia for over 2000 years.
5000 BC Earliest evidence of human culture in Mesopotamia
2900 BC Pre-dynastic Sumerians
2750 BC First Sumerian dynasty of Ur
2340-2125 BC Sargon I begins the Akkadian rule in Mesopotamia
2100-1800 BC Third Sumerian dynasty of Ur
1800-1170 BC Old Babylonian period
1728-1685 BC Hammurabi, author of the first known Code of Laws
1600-1100 BC Staggered periods of Hittite hegemony over Mesopotamia
1520-1170 BC Periods of Kassite dominance
1200-612 BC Assyrian period
A series of strong rulers united the lands of the Fertile Crescent into well organized empires.
Nomadic warriors invaded the rich cities of the Fertile Crescent.
Some looted and burned the cities. Others stayed to rule them.
About 1790 B.C., led by their king, Hammurabi, they conquered the other city-states in the Tigris-Euphrates valley and formed the Babylonian Empire.
The Babylonians adopted and built upon the prevailing Sumerian culture.
The first attempt by a ruler to codify, or arrange and set down in writing, all of the laws that would govern a state.
One section codified criminal law, the branch of law that deals with offenses against others, such as robbery and murder.
Another section codified civil law, the branch that deals with private rights and matters, such as business contracts, taxes, and property inheritance.
Conquerors brought ideas and technologies to the conquered region.
For example, when the Hittites conquered Mesopotamia, they brought the skill of ironworking to that region.
When the conquerors were in turn conquered, they moved elsewhere, spreading their ideas and technologies.
For example, when the Hittite empire was itself conquered, Hittite ironworkers migrated to other regions and spread the secret of iron making across Asia, Africa, and Europe.
About 2000 B.C. the Indo-European- speaking Hittites appeared in northern Asia Minor, a region rich in iron.
In 1650 B.C. the Hittites began building a powerful empire.
They extended their control in Asia Minor, seized northern Syria from the Egyptians, and expanded into northern Mesopotamia, where they conquered the Babylonians.
Hittite culture was greatly influenced by contacts with the Babylonians. W
They were the first to make tools and weapons of iron.
The Hittites heated iron ore and pounded out impurities before plunging it into cold water.
The tools and weapons they made with iron were harder and had sharper edges than those made out of bronze or copper.
Because iron was plentiful, the Hittites were able to arm more people at less expense.
Their empire collapsed about 1200 B.C.
Hittite ironsmiths migrated to serve customers elsewhere.
The new knowledge thus spread across Asia, Africa, and Europe, ushering in the Iron Age.
The Assyrians began expanding their power into the Fertile Crescent around 1100 B.C. The Hittite Empire fell in 1200 B.C., but had survived for 450 years.
After 800 B.C. the Semitic-speaking Assyrians from northern Mesopotamia embarked on a policy of expansion.
Having learned from the Hittites, the Assyrians were the first to outfit armies entirely with iron weapons.
To besiege cities, they devised new military equipment - moveable towers and battering rams.
For 500 years they terrorized the region, earning a lasting reputation as one of the most warlike people in history.
In 539 B.C., Babylon fell to the Persian armies of Cyrus the Great. Cyrus and his successors went on to conquer the largest empire yet seen.
Cyrus the Great and his successors conquered the largest empire yet seen, from Asia Minor to India.
Persians were tolerant of the people they conquered. They respected the customs and religious traditions of the diverse groups in their empire. Emperor Darius unified the Persian empire.
Drew up single code of laws for empire.
Had hundreds of miles of roads built or repaired to aid communication and encourage unity.
Introduced a uniform system of coinage and encouraged a money economy. Before it was a Barter economy-exchanging one set of goods or services for another.
The real unification of the Persian empire was accomplished under the Persian emperor Darius, who ruled from 522 B.C. to 486 B.C.
Like Hammurabi, Darius adapted laws from the people he conquered and drew up a single code of laws for the empire.
Hundreds of miles of roads built or repaired. Roads made it easier to communicate with different parts of the empire. Darius himself kept moving from one royal capital to another. In each, he celebrated important festivals and was seen by the people.
Darius set up a common set of weights & measures.
Most people continued to be part of the barter economy, exchanging one set of goods or services for another.
Coins, however, brought merchants and traders into an early form of a money economy, replacing barter with the exchange of money.
By setting up a single Persian coinage, Darius created economic links among his far-flung subjects.
Zoroaster helped to unite the empire. He lived about 600 B.C. and rejected the old Persian gods. He taught that a single wise god, Ahura Mazda, ruled the world.
Two later religions that emerged in the Middle East, Christianity and Islam, stressed similar ideas about heaven, hell, and a final judgement day.
From 1200 to 800 B.C. the Semitic-speaking Phoenicians lived and prospered on the Mediterranean coast north of Palestine.
Their chief cities were Tyre and Sidon.
Called “carriers of civilization” because they spread Middle Eastern civilization around the Mediterranean.
Phoenicians also used papyrus from Egypt to make scrolls, or rolls of paper, for books.
The words Bible and bibliography come from the Phoenician city of Byblos.
Phoenicians needed a simple alphabet to ease the burden of keeping records. They replaced the cuneiform alphabet with a phonetic alphabet, based on distinct sounds, consisting of 22 letters.
After further alterations by the Greeks and Romans, this alphabet became the one we use today!
The coastal land, though narrow, was fertile and supported farming.
Phoenicians traded with people all around the Mediterranean Sea. To promote trade, they set up colonies from North Africa to Sicily and Spain. A colony is a territory settled and ruled by people from a distant land.
They made glass from coastal sand. From a tiny sea snail, they produced a widely admired purple dye, called "Tyrian purple" after the city of Tyre, which became their trademark. It became the favorite color of royalty.
Due to their sailing skills, the Phoenicians served as missionaries of civilization, bringing eastern Mediterranean products and culture to less advanced peoples.
A few Phoenician traders braved the stormy Atlantic and sailed as far as England. There, they exchanged goods from the Mediterranean for tin.
About 600 B.C., one Phoenician expedition may have sailed down the Red Sea and then followed the African coast around the southern tip. That historic voyage was forgotten for centuries.
The Hebrews were among the many peoples who occupied the Fertile Crescent.
Living at the crossroad of civilization, they came into contact with many people and ideas.
Over time, the Hebrews developed their own ideas, which reflected a blend of many traditions.
At the heart of Judaism are the Ten Commandments, laws that Jews believed God gave them through Moses.
The laws set out both religious duties toward God and rules for moral conduct toward other people.
The early Hebrews came to believe that God was taking a hand in their history.
As a result, they recorded events and laws in the Torah their most sacred text.
Like many Mesopotamian peoples, the Hebrews told of a great flood that devastated the land.
They believed that God had sent the flood to punish the wicked.
The Hebrews were monotheistic , teaching a belief in one God. At the time, most other people worshipped many gods & goddesses.
A few religious leaders, like Zoroaster in Persia and the Egyptian ruler Akhenaton, believed in a powerful diety.
However, their ideas did not have the world-wide impact that Hebrew beliefs did.
The ancient Hebrews prayed to God to save them from their enemies.
Many other ancient people had also turned to particular gods or goddesses as their special protectors.
But they thought of such gods as tied to certain places or people.
The Hebrews believed in an all-knowing, all-powerful, male God who was present everywhere.
According to the Torah, the Hebrews had lived near Ur in Mesopotamia.
About 2000 B.C., they migrated, herding their flocks of sheep and goats into a region known as Canaan (later called Palestine).
By 1000 B.C., the Hebrews had set up the kingdom of Israel. Among the most skillful rulers of Israel were David and Solomon.
Solomon, turned Jerusalem into an impressive capital.
He built a splendid temple dedicated to God, as well as an enormous palace for himself.
King Solomon won praise for his wisdom and understanding. He also tried to increase Israel's influence by negotiating with powerful empires in Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The kingdom of Israel paid heavy price for Solomon's ambitions. His building projects required such heavy taxes and so much fored labor that revolts erupted soon after his death about 930 B.C.
The kingdom then split into Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Weakened by this division, the Hebrews could not fight off invading armies.
In 722 B.C., Israel fell to the Assyrians. In 586 B.C., the Babylonian armies captured Judah.
King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the great temple in Jerusalem and forced many Hebrews into exile in Babylon. During their captivity, the Hebrews became known as the Jews. world.
Years later, when the Persia ruler Cyrus conquered Babylon, he released the Jews from captivity.
Many Jews returned to Palestine, where they rebuilt King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. They continued to live under a series of foreign rulers, including Persians, Greeks, and Romans.
Ancient Civilizations http://www.eduplace.com/kids/socsci/ca/books/bkf3/
Explore World Cultures, The British Museum, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/world_cultures.aspx
Mysteries of Egypt http://www.civilization.ca/civil/egypt/egypt_e.html
World History of Ancient Civilizations. McDougal Littel, Houghton Mifflin. 2006