The public festivals of the gods were important

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Unformatted text preview: religiously tolerant and readily accepted the possibility that different people might have different gods. The Mesopotamians had a vague and gloomy picture of the afterworld. The winged spirits of the dead were recog- 137. If a man had decided to divorce . . . a wife who has presented him with children, then he shall give back to that woman her dowry, and he shall give her the use of field, garden, and property, and she shall bring up her children. After she has brought up her children, she shall take a son’s portion of all that is given to her children, and she marry the husband of her heart. 138. If a man divorces his spouse who has not borne him children, he shall give to her all the silver of the bride-price, and restore to her the dowry which she brought from the house of her father, and so he shall divorce her. Source: The Human Record, vol. I, Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield, Houghton Mifflin College Division, 2008, pp. 14–15. Their source is Chilperic Edwards, The Hammurabi Code (1904), pp. 23–80. nizable as individuals. They were confined to a dusty, dark netherworld, doomed to perpetual hunger and thirst unless someone offered them food and drink. Some spirits escaped to haunt human beings. There was no preferential treatment in the afterlife for those who had led religious or virtuous lives—everyone was in equal misery. Mesopotamian families often had a ceremony to remember and honor their dead. People were usually buried together with goods such CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 12 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 12 Part 1 Human Origins and Early Civilizations to 500 B.C.E. as pottery and ornaments. In the Early Dynastic period, certain kings were buried with a large retinue of attendants, including soldiers and musicians, who apparently took poison during the funeral ceremony and were buried where they fell. But this practice soon disappeared. Children were sometimes buried under the floors of houses. Some families used burial vaults, others large cemeteries. No tombstones or inscriptions identified the deceased. Mesopotamian religion focused on problems of this world and how to lead a good life before dying. The Mesopotamian peoples who came after the Sumerians believed that the gods revealed a person’s destiny to those who could understand the omens, or indications of what was going to happen. The Babylonians therefore developed an elaborate science of divination based on chance observations, such as a cat walking in the street, and on ritual procedures, such as asking a question of the gods and then slaughtering a sheep to examine its liver and entrails for certain marks and features. Some omens, such as monstrous births or eclipses, were thought to apply to the government, while others, such as birds flying over a person’s house, were thought to apply to the individual. Thousands of omens, including both the observation and the outcome thereof, were compiled into huge encyclopedias that scholars could consult. Divination was often done before making major...
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