Life in Acient Sumer Essay
Sumer is the earliest know civilization to us. It is located in Mesopotamia in present day southern Iraq. It’s located between two rivers; the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The rivers were their big source of life. The Sumerians could use it for irrigation, fishing, and water. They had rich soil to provide for their crops, and their central location attracted people for trade. There were three different cities in Sumer: Kish, Erech, and Ur. The Sumerians soon became a very successful people.
When the snow melted from the mountains, it ran down into the rivers. There was so much water that the land flooded. This was a good thing because it left good topsoil. The farmers would plant and grow barley, tomatoes, rice, and grapes. But then the rivers could be a bad thing; the floods didn’t happen during the same times of the year. Without warnings, some animals, people, and homes were washed away by the strong water. The Sumerians would pray the next flood wouldn’t be as damaging. They had to then rebuild their homes and buildings that were damaged.
Since their location was in the middle of Mesopotamia with good soil and rivers, many traders were attracted. Farmers began to have surpluses in food and many more people could live there. By 3500 B.C., the cities were soon rapidly increasing. Sumer was very busy and crowded. When spring came around, the rivers made clay when it traveled down the mountains. It would be smooth, damp, and soft. They would take a pointy tool and make the clay into tablets. Eventually it hardened and saved the shape with the writing engraved into it. . The tablets had different shapes and sizes for its purpose. Small tablets were often used for postcards and letters. Big tablets such as dictionaries and atlases were mostly found in libraries. Clay would also be used for their pipes so their liquid waste could drain.
When the population picked up so many different people and new things came to Sumer. There were merchants, which were people who sold goods, and they would shout out and try to sell. People would sometimes admire their fine goods. There were also acrobats, musicians, beggars, and water sellers. Water sellers were important because travelers would come from long trips from deserts. The streets were very skinny and crowded. There was always a ton of people in the public squares and it was hard to get to places. People would have to squeeze against buildings to let their animals, such as donkeys, get through.
The biggest and most impressive building is the Ziggurat. A Ziggurat is the temple to the gods and goddesses of the city; this is where they would worship. They were made out of terraces stacked on top of one another, which were linked by stairs and ramps. On the top was a temple, and the Sumerians believed the gods descended to Earth using the Ziggurat as a ladder. The Sumerians were polytheisms, the beliefs in many gods. They had a fear that if they didn’t keep them happy, the gods would punish them. Their myths, or traditional stories in some cultures, were legends explaining the people’s beliefs as their warnings. They kept them well cared for; priests would clean the statues. The Gods were offered plentiful foods everyday such as three ostrich eggs, eight lambs, three cranes, and 243 loaves of bread, and it all would be offered with incense burning and music playing.
In 3500 B.C., the people of Sumer created a system of writing. Scribes were people who graduated from school who could read and write. But it wasn’t easy in school. There were mostly boys with a few girls. They started at about age eight and finished around the age of twenty. Punishments were very strong and the teachers were really strict. Sometimes they were caned, beat, or whipped. They were highly valued especially for kings and priests. Scribes were very wealthy because people would pay them to read their tablets, such as letters. The scribes of Sumer recorded events of deaths, marriages, gifts to gods, and tax payments. The scribes for the military calculated food and army supplies. Government scribes found the number of diggers to make a canal.
The Sumerian houses face a courtyard. The families could eat and the children could run and play. Their houses had flat roofs and were easy to get to. On hot nights they would sleep on the roofs. The light they used for inside was an oil lamp. This was probably a nice place to come home after a loud, busy day. The clay pipes were used here, and plumbing would not come along until thousands of years later. Since Sumer was doing very well with money and food, there were more families that could have more kids.
Cities developed in different areas on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The cities were apart by a long distance mostly by deserts. With such widespread land it was hard for them to have one ruler. So their solution was to form city-states. A city-state was a city with its own tradition and government. They all had one god that they believed in and worshipped. Each one was separate and independent. Having a smaller area to control was much easier for the empire.
Sumer helped us a lot today with irrigation, plumbing, growing crops, and uses for rivers. Their uses for clay and the invention of writing led us to new forms, such as the alphabet. Their merchants worked in a great bazaar, which we have still have today. Although our religion is monotheism and theirs is polytheism, we both are very dedicated to our gods/ and to God. Now a days we go to school earlier aged and usually stay in longer, but still have a similar background as the Sumerian children. Our discipline is different but we still have it! With many rulers for every city-state, it worked out well. It was easy to have control over their people. We have one major ruler, the president, but each city has mayors and assistants. So as a result, we carried on many of the Sumerian’s culture, and use it in our own separate ways.