Two river basins: the birthplace of civilization

The tower temple of Ur City provides inspiration for the pyramids of ancient Egypt and the temples of ancient Greece.

When it comes to Iraq, many people will think of the country that appeared in the last five minutes of the “News Network”, the chaotic, dangerous and complicated country; few people think of it, it was once the birthplace of human civilization.

Civilization, a poetic word, is one of the most vocabulary to stimulate human emotions, speculation and imagination. The English word “Civilization” has the root “Civil”, meaning “urban, citizen.” Therefore, the birth of civilization is marked by the emergence of the city. The birthplace of the earliest civilization of mankind is the two river basins of the main Iraq today, called Mesopotamia in the West.

Ancient Mesopotamia

The two rivers refer to the Euphrates River and the Tigris River, both of which originate from the mountains of the Armenian plateau and inject into the Persian Gulf from the northwest to the southeast. The two rivers are like a beautiful woman, and the waist is in Baghdad – the two rivers are the closest. In the history of civilization, the Assyrian regime was born north of Baghdad, and Babylonia was to the south; Babylonia was bordered by Nepal, with Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south.

Different from our general impression, the Sumer region in the lower reaches of the two rivers has a dry climate, serious soil salinization, and various natural resources. Stones and wood are scarce here, and poor people can only build houses with mud and reeds. It is in this environment that solidarity and cooperation, represented by irrigated agriculture, has become the only choice. Around 3500 BC, the first light of human civilization bloomed here. Isn’t this the best embodiment of the human power represented by the word “civilization”?

“The history of poor children”
About 2000 years before the birth of “civilization”, people in the two rivers began to settle down. The village is mainly located in the upper reaches of natural resources. However, why did civilization not appear here first, but in the post-Summer region?

We still don’t know the reason behind this, but the “population pressure theory” may be worthy of reference. This hypothesis holds that in resource-rich places, the form of villages can meet people’s needs, and in the poor downstream areas, people have to develop irrigated agriculture to expand their living space. This kind of business that requires large-scale social collaboration has led to the integration of the people, and the city, the country, the text, and the religion will follow.

Tower of Babel and Babylon Sky Garden

The earliest form of civilization we know is Sumer’s Uluk culture, which is roughly from 3500 BC to 3100 BC. Uluk is one of the many city-states on the lower reaches of the two rivers. It may be the city with the greatest impact due to its relatively advantageous geographical location, concentrated population and increasing scale. Therefore, this period is also known as the Uruk period.

During this period, humans began to experience urban life. The earliest heroic epic “Gilgamesh Epic” describes the basic components of Uruk City: urban areas, date palm forests, clay pits, and temples. It seems that it is an urban space that combines material and spiritual life.

The existence of the temple deserves our attention, because the temple is the center of social life in the city of Sumer. For the Sumerians, the purpose of human beings was to serve God. Therefore, each city-state belongs to God, and Uruk belongs to the great god Annu and his daughter Ishmu. The episode of Gilgamesh records the story of King Uluk’s Gilgamesh exploring the world, seeking to live forever and eventually dying, and the goddess Ishmuer is an important part of the story.

The Amorites gave the two rivers a new look, and the Hammurabi Code is a great achievement.

The invention of the text is another great achievement of the Sumerians. In the Sumerian epic “King of Nemika and Alata” written around 3000 BC, Uluk’s King Nemika needs frequent communication with the king of Iran’s Alata, in the process Found many difficulties:

The messenger’s mouth was so heavy that he could not repeat the words of the king. The king of Kuraba (Enmeca) licked some clay and wrote it on it, just like writing it on a board. Before this day, no one ever wrote on clay; but when the sun rises that day, everything is different!

Indeed, from the day the text was invented, everything was different, but the invention of the text was attributed to Enmeca, just as we have made the inventor of Chinese characters a clam, although simple and easy to remember, it must not be true. .

Cuneiform used by ancient Sumer

Sargon appointed his daughter Enkhdiana as the highest priestess of the Ur City Temple, offering sacrifices to the moon goddess

In fact, Sumer’s text has also undergone a long process of development. The “cuneiform” we are familiar with today is the late stage of its development; in the early days, it was like hieroglyphics like Oracle. The advantage of hieroglyphics is that the glyphs are highly consistent with the meaning of the words, which is easy to identify, but the disadvantage is that it is difficult to express complex abstract meanings. Therefore, after a long period of development, the cuneiform text is finally in the mainstream position. It is a text pressed on a clay mud board by a pen made of reed, similar to a wedge, hence the name.

From city to empire
In the early days of the birth of civilization, the city of Babylonian was established. The larger five city-states (Kish, Uruk, Ur, Lagos, Uma) are like the “Spring and Autumn Five Commandments”. But none of them really achieved unity, and the first winner was the Sargon the Great who established the Akkad Empire.

In the city of Kish in the 24th century BC, the water picker of the palace saw a reed basket floating in the river with an abandoned boy in the basket. Picking the water husband adopted him, this little boy is Sargon.

It is said that the mother of Sargon was a priestess, and because the priest could not have children, he abandoned him. Sargon served as a servant in the Kish Palace, and later overthrew the rule of the master, established the first standing army in the history of world military, and basically unified the two rivers, ending the state of city-state autonomy, and establishing a centralized state. Card Empire.


In order to show that he is the “king of the four parties”, Sargon cleans his weapons in the Persian Gulf in the form of a winner. This move has been imitated by latecomers. The city of Akkad, built by Sargon on the Euphrates River, is the origin of the name of his empire and the only ancient capital of the two rivers that has not yet found its exact location.

Sargon’s success lies not only in the emphasis on military power, but also on cultural integration. In order to strengthen the rule of the southern Sumer, he appointed his daughter Enkhdian as the highest priestess of the Ur City Temple. Under the tradition of the time, Enkhdiana was regarded as the wife of God and could only remain a virgin for the rest of her life. As you can imagine, as a princess and a priest, how lonely and lonely her life is. Therefore, she has created many excellent literary works, mainly about her relationship with the Uluk goddess Ishmu. She has thus become the first author of the history of world literature.

Replacement of the empire
The Akkad Empire reached its peak in the hands of Sargam’s grandson, Naramsin. His 30-year rule, almost all spent in the Eastern Expedition. He defeated countless enemies and therefore proudly called himself “the king of the universe.” But after the death of Naramsin, the Akade Empire quickly declined.

The first is the rebellion of many city-states. The neighboring Elan was even on the outskirts of the city of Akad. The ultimate destruction of the empire was the Gupti from the north. The Gupti people were barbarians. They destroyed buildings and slaughtered them. The cruel rule made future generations call this period a “dark age.”

The Akkad region suffered the most damage, while the Sumer region in the south began the revival of the city-state. Lagsh and Uruk in the “five hegemons” successively occupied hegemonic status, but in the end, the reunification was the third dynasty established by Urnamu. This is the final glory of the Sumerian civilization.

Urnamu took the title of “King of Ur, Sumer and King of Akkad” and achieved the unification of Babylonia. The third dynasty of Ur has lasted for more than 100 years. In many respects, the dynasty has created brilliant civilization achievements. For example, the most complete temple of the tower, the tower temple of Ur City, has been inspiration for the pyramids of ancient Egypt and the temples of ancient Greece. Urnamu’s son, Sorge, also promulgated the first statute code in the history of mankind, the Urna Wood Code, about 300 years before the most well-preserved Hammurabi Code.

The dynasty fell into internal and external troubles during the reign of Sergei’s grandson, Ibizin. In 2004 BC, neighboring Elan occupied Ur and burned this great city. This not only marks the end of the third dynasty of Ur, but also means that the Sumerian people officially withdrew from the historical stage, and the great Sumerian civilization can only be inherited by outsiders.

In the late third dynasty of Ur, the Amorites from the West entered the Babylonian. By 1894 BC, one of the chiefs of the Amorite, Sum Abum, established the city of Babylon on the Euphrates River, meaning “the gate of the gods.” This ancient city is near today’s Baghdad and it is destined to be one of the greatest cities in the two rivers.

The dynasty established by Sum Abum was called the first dynasty of Babylon. In the hands of the sixth generation of King Hammurabi, the dynasty was extremely powerful. He ended the disputes between the city and the city and re-established the unity of Babylonia. The Amorites gave the two rivers a new look, and the Hammurabi Code is a great achievement. In addition, during this period, people copied, compiled, and preserved a large number of Sumerian languages ​​and literature, such as “Gilgamesh Epic.” This is too important for us to study the ancient civilizations of the two rivers today!

On the existing reliefs of the British Museum, there are scenes where Assyrian Barnibal wrestles with the lion.

Assyrian Barnibal wrestles with the lion

Rule from the north
After the Hammurabi, the Babylonian dynasty also declined. In 1595 BC, before and after the establishment of the Shang Dynasty in China, the Hittite portrait from the north was like a whirlwind. It captured the city of Babylon and quickly left.

This was followed by a period of unclear history. We only knew that the Gaxi people from the East controlled Babylonia, while the northern part of the two rivers was ruled by the Mt.

During this period, there were close exchanges between different civilizations. A queen of widows in Egypt wrote to King Hittite and asked him to send a son to Egypt to be her husband. However, this tragic Prince Hittite was killed when he did not go to Egypt. Different kings also wrote letters to each other, complaining that the other party was too stingy and gave too little gifts to themselves. King Mitanni gave the statue of the goddess Ishmuel to the Egyptian Pharaoh for treatment. The first time was probably effective, but the second time was useless, and Pharaoh died.

We must remember that the earliest civilization of mankind was born in the Sumer region downstream of the two river basins. For a long time, Babylonia, south of Baghdad, was the protagonist of civilization, while the Assyrian region north of Baghdad was not strong. But then, the Assyrians will play the leading role in the historical arena.

At the beginning of the 14th century BC, the Kingdom of Mitanni fell into a state of internal and external difficulties, and Assyria took the opportunity to rise. After hundreds of years of ups and downs, the great king of Assyria, Tigra Palasa III, was born, bringing the Assyrian Empire to a new stage.

The Assyrian monarchs represented by him are incomparable to the use of force, and the Assyrian Empire was founded by strong force and cruelty. When the Assyrians slaughtered prisoners of war, they forced the prisoners of war into a row, breaking their heads one by one with a mace. In the inscription of Pelpa II in the 9th century BC, “I built a wall in front of the city gate, covered with a skin peeled off by the rebel leader; I built some people alive in the wall. Others, along the wall, plunged into the pointed piles and were beheaded.”

Assyrian Barnibal in the 7th century BC was the last great monarch of the Assyrian Empire. During his reign, Assyrian militarism reached its peak. On the existing reliefs of the British Museum, there are scenes of Assyrian Barnibal fighting with the lions in order to prove his power beyond ordinary people. These embossed murals are about the art of war—filled with power, shock, brutality, and nakedly showing the desire of the Assyrians to conquer.

But while these works of art sighed the strength of the Assyrian Empire, they also exposed the cruel and violent side of ancient civilization. In 612 BC, the city of Babylon joined forces with foreigners to destroy the city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a city known as the “blood lion city”, which was once the world’s greatest miracle. A few years later, the Assyrian Empire was completely destroyed.

Although the brave brutality of Assyrian Barnibal is disturbing, he is a great contributor to the civilization of the two rivers: when the fire burned the city, some of the libraries he built in the capital Nineveh were filled with only experts. The clay plate that can be understood can be more sturdy after the fire, and it has been preserved, which is the key to our interpretation of the cuneiform text.

In 539 BC, Percy King Cyrus II occupied Babylon. Since then, the two rivers have long been the object of foreign rule, and the history of independence has ceased to exist. Around 330 BC, the great Alexander the Great conquered Persia, and the Mesopotamian civilization and the cuneiform text that lasted for 3,000 years lost its inheritance. It will take about 1000 years for the two river basins to re-emerge as the center of civilization – then called Islamic civilization.