Mesopotamia, located in modern-day Iraq, was a region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that played a significant role in the development of early literate societies. It witnessed many changes in civilization and gave birth to great cities like Ur and Babylon. The Mesopotamians believed in a pantheon of gods and built large pyramid structures called ziggurats as places of worship. They were also known for their love of music, dance, wrestling, and boxing. Mesopotamia was the birthplace of writing, and the clay tablets of the region shed extraordinary light on the daily events, philosophies, and religious inclinations of these complex societies. The region was also the source of the current form of timekeeping and cartography. The language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia was Sumerian, later replaced by Akkadian and finally by Aramaic.
Mesopotamia was an ancient region that existed primarily in what is now Iraq, and is recognized for its role in the development of early literate societies. Although its borders were loosely defined, its core area lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, with outer borders extending into the regions now known as Syria and Turkey.
This region prospered from the late 4th millennium BC to 4 BC when Alexander the Great conquered the region for the Greeks. During Mesopotamia’s long existence, it witnessed many changes in civilization and gave birth to great cities like Ur and Babylon. The ancient peoples of the region included the Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Armenians. No wonder the geography of this area is also known as The Cradle of Civilization.
The Mesopotamians believed in a pantheon of gods and built large pyramid structures called ziggurats as places of worship. They loved music and dance and are often depicted playing a stringed wooden instrument called the Oud. Wrestling and boxing were popular sports among the ancients, commonly depicted in their art.
The earliest evidence of writing comes from Mesopotamia, where clay tablets with engraved styluses were used to record cruciform pictograms. The clay tablets of the region shed extraordinary light on the daily events, philosophies and religious inclinations of these complex societies. They reveal debts, land deals, marriages, poems and epics, such as the oldest known literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Many themes present in the Epic of Gilgamesh, including the story of the Great Flood, strike a familiar chord from various sacred books written in the wake of these ancient civilizations.
Fortunately for modern scientists, a man named Ashurbanipal, who ruled Assyria in the 6th century BC, decided to build a library of cuneiform tablets, housing them in the city of Nineveh. At the time, libraries were located in temples, so Ashurbanipal sent scribes to Babylonian temples to collect the tablets, instructing them to copy those they could not get hold of. While much of the library has been lost, many remains survive.
Besides writing and literature, some important accomplishments of the Mesopotamians include weaving cloth or cloth, metalworking, and irrigation. The region was also the source of the current form of timekeeping and cartography, using a sexagesimal or base 60 system. The 24-hour day and 360-degree circle originate from this culture. The ancients could also read the skies and stars, locate solstices and predict eclipses.
The language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia was Sumerian, later replaced by Akkadian and finally by Aramaic. As newer languages replaced older ones, older languages continued to be used in academia and for official business. Eventually, root languages were only used in temples, where they would survive a few more centuries.