Mesopotamia means "the land between the rivers." Located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present-day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, ancient Mesopotamia was an area where different cultures thrived, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians. The close geographical location of these societies meant that similarities emerged between them. Stringent law codes and strict moral beliefs were common among Mesopotamian civilizations.
Mesopotamian societies found moral guidance in their religion. Hundreds of gods oversaw all spheres of life, including professions. Major deities were worshipped with festivals, offerings and through building constructions. Pleasing the gods ensured that people were well cared for, but displeasure could bring famine or disease, thus cultures aimed to worship their gods correctly.
Social Hierarchies and Obedience
Mesopotamian cultures portrayed social hierarchies which existed in every level of society, from ruler to subject, husband to wife, and parents to children. Complete subservience was required by the weaker party, and disobedience resulted in punishment. Rank in society determined what was moral and appropriate behavior.
Hammurabi's Law Code
Hammurabi was a Babylonian king who is most famous for his collection of strict laws, inscribed on stone and now found in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The adage "An eye for an eye" directly stems from one of Hammurabi's laws. Hammurabi recorded his laws in stone. The laws and corresponding punishments were public, citizens in Hammurabi's kingdom were aware of the expected moral code and knew the consequences of misbehavior. Staying true to the importance of social hierarchy, Hammurabi implemented different punishments for the same crime, depending upon the offender's social status.
The Sumerians' introduction of written records and its moral code have influenced ancient and modern cultures alike. Writing as a means for record keeping has been in constant use since it was first invented in Mesopotamia five thousand years ago. The hierarchical social structure and law codes from Mesopotamian societies impacted ancient cultures and continue to resonate with modern ones as well.
- Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear Through the Ages; 2004; Mesopotamia
- The British Museum: Mesopotamia Timeline
- Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide; Sarah Iles Johnson; Harvard University Press; 2004
- The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago: Mesopotamia: Religion
- Ancient Civilizations History: Religion in Mesopotamia and Primary Gods
- USHistory: Hammurabi's Code: An Eye for an Eye
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