WCI lecture 2-1

WCI lecture 2-1 - Western Civilization I Lecture II.1...

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Western Civilization I Lecture II.1 September 6: the earliest “western” civilizations in Mesopotamia. Outline The idea of Civilization The importance of economic surplus Nomadic vs. Sedentary Society: the Agricultural Revolution Mesopotamia Physical conditions Ethnic groups: Sumerians, Semites, Hittites, Elamites Political Organization The City-States Early Empire-Builders: Sargon of Akkad Hammurabi of Babylon Sources of Instability Later Empires: Assyria, The New Babylonian Empire, Persia How to hold an Empire together? Religious Life Gods and Cities The character of the Mesopotamian Gods Signs of devotion 1
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Intellectual Life Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic The importance of economic surplus Nomadic vs. Sedentary Society: the Agricultural Revolution Last time we discussed the idea of Civilization – not just as an ethical notion. I told you that “civilization” is based on the Latin term “civitas”, which means city. It is a subset of the idea of culture. All the activities, beliefs, institutions and practices of any community of human beings constitute their culture. But there are many societies who only produce enough necessities of life to survive. It is when a society begins to produce a surplus of necessities, especially food, that it becomes possible for some people to specialize in activities other than producing necessities. “Civilization,” in the broadest sense, is what these specialized people do – whether political leadership, warfare, art, intellectual life, religion, etc. The city is where the people go who are no longer producing necessities. How did the first cities emerge? Beginning around 10,000 BC, wandering tribes of hunter-gatherers began the Agricultural Revolution. Initially, they were nomadic, meaning that they moved from place to place searching for food. But at this time, they began to plant seeds in suitable areas, so that it would be there for them when they migrated back, thus making it easier to find food. Eventually, they started to stay longer in the areas where the seeds grew best, remaining for a season or so, and finally, as they mastered the art of growing grain, to stay there permanently, becoming sedentary rather than nomadic. 2
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This happened first in Mesopotamia and soon spread to Egypt, which we consider part of western civilization, as well as to India and possibly China, which belong to Asian civilization. Even at this very early time, there was contact – perhaps originating in earlier nomadism – between the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Indian zones, though China seems to have been isolated. There are signs of goods and techniques being exchanged between them. But while agriculture and sedentary settlement developed simultaneously in all four zones, it was Mesopotamia that gave birth to the city. Mesopotamia
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This note was uploaded on 04/21/2008 for the course HIST 411 taught by Professor Craig during the Spring '07 term at New Haven.

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WCI lecture 2-1 - Western Civilization I Lecture II.1...

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