Sumer (/ˈʃuːmər/)[note 1] was the first urban civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, and arguably the first civilization in the world with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place.
Sumer was the southernmost region of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait) which is generally considered the cradle of civilization. The name comes from Akkadian, the language of the north of Mesopotamia, and means “land of the civilized kings”. The Sumerians called themselves “the black headed people” and their land, in cuneiform script, was simply “the land” or “the land of the black headed people”. In the biblical Book of Genesis Sumer is known as Shinar. According to the Sumerian King List, when the gods first gave human beings the gifts necessary for cultivating society, they did so by establishing the city of Eridu in the region of Sumer. While the Sumerian city of Uruk is held to be the oldest city in the world, the ancient Mesopotamians believed that it was Eridu and that it was here that order was established and civilization began.
Uruk and Ur
Uruk was one of the most important cities (at one time, the most important) in ancient Mesopotamia. According to the Sumerian King List, it was founded by King Enmerkar sometime around 4500 BCE. Located in the southern region of Sumer (modern day Warka, Iraq), Uruk was known in the Aramaic language as Erech which, it is believed, gave rise to the modern name for the country of Iraq (though another likely derivation is Al-Iraq, the Arabic name for the region of Babylonia). The city of Uruk is most famous for its great king Gilgamesh and the epic tale of his quest for immortality but also for a number of `firsts’ in the development of civilization which occurred there. It is considered the first true city in the world, the origin of writing, the first example of architectural work in stone and the building of great stone structures, the origin of the ziggurat, and the first city to develop the cylinder seal which the ancient Mesopotamians used to designate personal property or as a signature on documents. Considering the importance the cylinder seal had for the people of the time, and that it stood for one’s personal identity and reputation, Uruk could also be credited as the city which first recognized the importance of the individual in the collective community. The city was continuously inhabited from its founding until c. 300 CE when, owing to both natural and man-made influences, people began to desert the area. It lay abandoned and buried until excavated in 1853 CE by William Loftus for the British
Even though the city lost the position of pre-eminence it had enjoyed during the Uruk Period, it continued to play an important position down through the Ur III Period (2047-1750 BCE). The Third Dynasty of Ur governed in such a way as to give birth to a Sumerian Renaissance and Uruk benefited from this as much as the rest of the region. With the fall of the city of Ur in 1750 BCE and the invasion of Sumer by Elamites, along with the incursions of the Amorites, Uruk went into decline along with the rest of Sumer. The city continued to play a significant role, however, throughout the Seleucid and Parthian periods of Sumer’s late history. This is a substantial point to note in that many other Sumerian cities fared far less well at this same time. The sacred districts continued to be maintained, though to lesser degrees, into the 7th century CE; long past the time when many other Mesopotamian cities had been abandoned. The historian Bertman writes, “Uruk had a life-span of 5,000 years. Its oldest layers lie virtually unexplored, submerged deep in the mud of the alluvial plain from which its life once sprouted” (37. Perhaps buried in the ancient ruins is the answer to why the first city in the world rose as it did, where it did, and remained so important to the people of Mesopotamia for so long. Unlike other cities throughout the region, it was not abandoned until the Muslim Conquest of Mesopotamia in 630 CE.
The First War In Recorded History
The first war in recorded history took place in Mesopotamia in 2700 BCE between Sumer and Elam. The Sumerians, under command of the King of Kish, Enembaragesi, defeated the Elamites in this war and, it is recorded, “carried away as spoils the weapons of Elam .” At approximately the same time as this campaign, King Gilgamesh of Uruk marched on his neighbors in order to procure cedar for construction of a temple. While it has been argued that Gilgamesh is a mythological character,The archaeological evidence of a historical King Enembaragesi, who is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, lends weight to the claim that the latter was also a real historical figure. The region of Sumer traditionally looked upon Elam as `the other' to the point where, in the Ur III Period of Sumer's history (2047-1750 BCE) King Shulgi of Ur constructed a great wall to keep the Elamites and Amorites at bay.
Hammurabi (alsoknown as Khammurabi and Ammurapi, reigned 1792-1750 BCE) was the sixth king of the Amorite First Dynasty of Babylon, assumed the throne from his father, Sin-Muballit, and expanded the kingdom to conquer all of ancient Mesopotamia. The kingdom of Babylon comprised only the cities of Babylon, Kish, Sippar, and Borsippa when Hammurabi came to the throne but, through a succession of military campaigns, careful alliances made and broken when necessary, and political maneuvers, he held the entire region under
Babylonian control by 1750 BCE and, according to his own inscriptions and letters and administrative documents from his reign, sought to improve the lives of those who lived under his rule. He is best known in the modern day for his law code which, although not the earliest code of laws, came to serve as a model for other cultures and is thought to have influenced the laws set down by Hebrew scribes, including those from the biblical Book of Exodus.
When the Elamites invaded the central plains of Mesopotamia from the east, Hammurabi allied himself with Larsa to defeat them. That accomplished, he broke the alliance and swiftly took the cities of Uruk and Isin, previously held by Larsa, by forming alliances with other city states such as Nippur and Lagash. The alliances he made with other states, would repeatedly be broken when the king found it necessary to do so but, as rulers continued to enter into pacts with Hammurabi, it does not seem to have occurred to any of them that he would do the same to them as he had previously to others. Once Uruk and Isin were conquered, he turned and took Nippur and Lagash, and then conquered Larsa. A technique he seems to have used first in this engagement would become his preferred method in others when circumstances allowed: the damming up of water sources to the city to withhold them from the enemy until surrender or, possibly, withholding the waters through a dam and then releasing them to flood the city before then mounting an attack. This was a method previously used by Hammurabi’s father but with considerably less efficacy. Larsa was the last stronghold of Rim Sin and, with its fall, there was no other force to stand against the king of Babylon in the south.
HAMMURABI’S DEATH & LEGACY
By 1755 BCE, when he was the undisputed master of Mesopotamia, Hammurabi was old and sick. In the last years of his life his son, Samsu-Iluna, had already taken over the responsibilities of the throne and assumed full reign in 1749 BCE. The conquest of Eshnunna had removed a barrier to the east that had buffered the region against incursions by people such as the Hittites and Kassites. Once that barrier was gone, and news of the great king weakening spread, the eastern tribes prepared their armies to invade. (Hammurabi died in 1750 BCE,) and Samsu-Iluna was left to hold his father’s realm against the invading forces while also keeping the various regions of Babylonia under control of the city of Babylon; it was a formidable task of which he was not capable. The vast kingdom Hammurabi had built during his lifetime began to fall apart within a year of his death, and those cities that had been part of vassal states secured their borders and announced their autonomy. None of Hammurabi’s successors could put the kingdom back together again, and first the Hittites (in 1595 BCE), then the Kassites invaded. The Hittites sacked Babylon and the Kassites inhabited and re-named it. The Elamites, who had been so completely defeated by Hammurabi decades before, invaded and carried off the stele of Hammurabi’s Law Code which was discovered at the Elamite city of Susa in 1902 CE.
Hammurabi is best remembered today as a law giver whose code served as a standard for later laws but, in his time, he was known as the ruler who united Mesopotamia under a single governing body in the same way Sargon the Great of Akkad had done centuries before. He linked himself with great imperialists like Sargon the Great by proclaiming himself “the mighty king, king of Babylon, king of the Four Regions of the World, king of Sumer and Akkad, into whose power the god Bel has given over land and people, in whose hand he has placed the reins of government” and, just like Sargon (and others), claimed his legitimate rule was ordained by the will of the gods. Unlike Sargon the Great, however, whose multi-ethnic empire was continually torn by internecine strife, Hammurabi ruled over a kingdom whose people enjoyed relative peace following his conquest. The historian Gwendolyn Leick writes, “Hammurabi remains one of the great kings of Mesopotamia, an outstanding diplomat and negotiator who was patient enough to wait for the right time and then ruthless enough to achieve his aims without stretching his resources too far” (83). It is a testimony to his rule that, unlike Sargon of Akkad or his grandson Naram-Sin from earlier times, Hammurabi did not have to re-conquer cities and regions repeatedly but, having brought them under Babylonian rule, was, for the most part, interested in improving them and the standard of living of the inhabitants (a notable exception being Mari, of course). His legacy as a law giver reflects his genuine concern for social justice and the betterment of the lives of his people.
VA 243 (so named because it is number 243 in the collection of the Vorderasiatische Museum in Berlin).
In simplest terms, the alleged "sun" in the upper left corner of the seal isn't a sun, and so the artwork doesn't depict the sun and our solar system. It's a STAR. We know this because of the consistent sun iconography of Sumero-Mesopotamian art. In case you're thinking, "well the sun is a star", the Sumerians and Mesopotamians distinguished these bodies in their artwork.
In regard to these god-planet correlations, here are the Sumero-Akkadian god names and planet names tied to each other in MUL.APIN, an astronomical compendium in two cuneiform tablets (and it's not incomplete - see the PDF file for scholarly studies on it so you can check the facts for yourself). (Click the button below )
During the 19th century the symbol began to proliferate amongst the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, ultimately being used amongst the Jewish communities in the Pale of Settlement. A significant motivating factor was the desire to imitate the influence of the Christian cross. The earliest Jewish usage of the symbol was inherited from medieval Arabic literature by Kabbalists for use in talismanic protective amulets (segulot) where it was known as a Seal of Solomon.The symbol was also used in Christian churches as a decorative motif many centuries before its first known use in a Jewish synagogue. Before the 19th century, official use in Jewish communities was generally known only in the region of today's Czech Republic, Austria and possibly parts of Southern Germany, having begun in medieval Prague.