Rise of Sumer: Cradle of Civilization DOCUMENTARY

Rise of Sumer: Cradle of Civilization DOCUMENTARY

Two thousand years ago, ancient civilisations
such as the Roman Empire in the West and the Han Dynasty in the East had risen to prominence.
In the modern Middle East, the Parthian Empire ruled ancient Persia and the surrounding regions
from their main capital at Ctesiphon. These cultures are known to us as being almost unfathomably
ancient, but what was ancient to them? Six thousand years ago – four thousand years before
Augustus created the Roman Empire, one of the first true urban settlements emerged in
the ancient region of Sumer. Its people’s accomplishments sowed the seeds for civilisation
to spread, first to the ancient near east, and then the entire world. Welcome to our
series on the ancient Near East, beginning with the period from Uruk to Akkad.
Beginning in the aftermath of the last ice age – 10,000 years ago – the human population
of Mesopotamia and several other regions gradually began to adopt a more settled mode of living.
This was a lifestyle which contrasted with the earlier ways in which humans had survived
– most commonly by functioning as hunter-gatherers. They would begin to cultivate, modify, plant
and harvest crops in the earliest forms of agriculture and herd animals.
Many humans gradually began to live in this manner in small village communities, while
others retained their primal hunter-gatherer lifestyle. However, over the thousands of
years following the glacial retreat, agricultural lifestyles increased in popularity. In ancient
Mesopotamia, the increased surpluses of food generated by agricultural production would
soon lead to the blossoming of civilisation’s first seeds.
At this point it is important to detail the unique geographical and environmental state
of Mesopotamia, and to understand how this affected the development of civilization there.
The name itself literally means ‘Land between rivers’ – specifically the Tigris and Euphrates.
The latter of these water courses was given the name Buranun by the native Sumerians,
a word meaning ‘Great Rushing Flood’, a phenomenon which would define the relationship
of the native people with their gods and land. Consequently, many prominent Mesopotamian
deities such as Enlil, the chief god of the pantheon, were related to wind, air and storms.
The faithful of Sumer would seek to appease these gods to stave off the common devastating
and inexplicable flash floods which struck the region, made worse by the flat nature
of the Tigris-Euphrates plain. For instance, on one occasion in Sumerian myth, Enlil destroyed
all of humanity with a flood simply because they were too noisy – showing the arbitrary
and often capricious nature of the Mesopotamian gods.
Early village settlements in the ‘land between rivers’ required most or all of the population
to be engaged in the production of food. This was known as the Ubaid period – which lasted
from around 6,500 to 3,800BC – of which Eridu was a prominent settlement. However, the increasing
food surplus allowed the maintenance of full-time specialised workers who were not engaged in
agriculture, such as merchants, weavers, metallurgists and craftsmen. It is worth noting that the
taxation and redistribution of food supplies lead to the formation of governments.
The first true city of the Mesopotamian area is disputed, but most historians believe that
it was the famous urban centre at Uruk, whose urban way of life was indisputably superior
to all of its surrounding contemporaries. Huge buildings were present, as well as social
hierarchy, high officials and temple-sponsored craft workshops. This early city developed
a stratified society and was initially not ruled by a king as we know them, but a high
priest of the temples. There were two of these temple complexes in Uruk – the Eanna district
and the older Anu district. This proto-king’s power was derived from
his leading role in the temple itself, representing the various gods and goddesses of Sumer. Just
below the ‘priest-king’ in status were the keepers, scribes, priests and administrators
whose activities were meant to ensure the community’s organisation and cohesion. At
the bottom of the hierarchy were the producers, such as farmers and fishermen. The very first
systems of writing also developed in this period, possibly as a memory aid for the recording
of tributes, taxes and distributions of surplus food – and were mainly based on simple symbols,
rather than representing a spoken language. From 3,500 BC onwards, the influence of Uruk
over the surrounding areas became increasingly clear to see. The buildings of the ascendant
city and its iconic and pioneering mass-produced pottery and tools also found themselves in
settlements all across the near-east from Syria to Iran, such as Susa. The people who
brought them probably settled in existing towns with existing populations, made colonies
of their own in unoccupied land or even invaded other settlements violently from their dominant
position in Uruk. The latter phenomenon occurred at Tell Hamoukar,
where native architecture was burned and destroyed, followed by the construction of buildings
in the Uruk style – the earliest noted occurrence of organised warfare. The pseudo-colonial
effort may have been attempted in order to obtain resources which were not present in
resource-poor Mesopotamia, such as wood, obsidian, stone or metals, rather than it being a conscious
effort to forge an Empire. Attesting to the far-reaching nature of Uruk’s
civilisation at this time, it is also thought that they had a presence in Egypt as well
– whose tombs in the predynastic period began to be constructed in the Uruk niche and buttress
style. However, around the year 2,900 BC, it seems that the Uruk colonies such as Habuba
Kebira abruptly disappear from outside southern Mesopotamia. Meanwhile, Uruk itself appears
to have been razed in some devastating event and gradually lost its hegemonic status. We
do not know exactly what happened to end the Uruk period, but it could have been that those
‘colonised’ individuals rebelled against Uruk, or a civil war occurred between different
factions in the city. Over the centuries following the decline of
Uruk, a number of Sumerian city-states emerged and grew in size. This created a political
map which would have appeared similar to Ancient Greece and its network of city states. These
city-states mostly consisted of an urban centre and a hinterland consisting of various villages.
Examples of such city-states included Lagash, Umma, Ur, Nippur, Eridu, Larsa and Uruk itself
– which retained its power, but not its hegemony. In the centuries from 2,900 to around 2,350
BC, known as the Early Dynastic Period, the population of Sumer grew dramatically, possibly
due to immigration from other regions or increasing agricultural productivity. This strained the
resources of the various city-states and necessitated territorial expansion, leading to continuous
inter-city conflicts over border regions. The military leaders during these small-scale
wars were often elected by a popular assembly in a form of primitive democracy, though this
soon unravelled into a dynastic system. These military leaders are said to have been the
first kings or ‘Lugals’ – Literally ‘Great Men’. Also in this period, another dominant
structure emerged to rival the temple: The palace – house of kings. The iconic Gilgamesh
is thought to have been a historical king of Uruk in the Early Dynastic Period, possibly
reigning around 2,800 to 2,500BC – though the tale also could have been based on a mythical
figure. We have a documented account of one of the
many border conflicts over a 150-year period from 2,500 to 2,350 BC. The kings of Lagash,
wealthy on account of their prosperous agriculture and position on a trade route to Susa, wrote
their accounts of a continuous border conflict with their western neighbor – the city of
Umma. Owing to the prominence of agriculture in the economies of ancient Mesopotamia, these
two rival city-states engaged in a conflict over the region of Gu’edena – which was
rich in fields and pasturelands. One victorious King, Eannatum of Lagash, portrayed
himself as a champion of his respective local god. Ningursu of Lagash and Sharu of Umma
were depicted as the lords of the conflict, using the kings of the various cities as their
deputies. It is interesting to note that this initial borderland between Umma and Lagash
was reportedly drawn by Enlil of Nippur – the supreme god, and this again indicates his
prominence in Mesopotamian religion. Due to the amount of victory inscriptions by the
kings of Lagash during this conflict, it can be inferred that they were dominant.
While the temple had largely lost its political dominance over Sumerian city-states to the
Kings at this point, the economic and ideological position of the temple remained strong. They
were a ‘total institution’, comprising spaces dedicated to the gods – only accessible
by high priestly officials, courtyards for communal gatherings, storehouses for the accumulation
and distribution of food surpluses, archives and workshops. Another example of the ideological
dominance of religion is that while the king would lead the military action, the outcome
would be credited to and determined by the will of the city god. The concept of city
gods is worth further discussion: During this time of relative equilibrium between
the many city-states of lower Mesopotamia, each political entity housed one of the Sumerian
gods. For instance, Ur was the home of Nanna, god of the moon and wisdom, while Uruk housed
Inanna, goddess of war and fertility. Most prominent was the long-lasting city of Nippur
which sat on the border between Sumer and Akkad to the north. Its patron god was Enlil
– considered as the supreme god of the Mesopotamian pantheon. Many prospective kings of cities
such as Ur containing lesser gods commonly sought the recognition of Nippur, due to its
prominent religious position. The period of labyrinthine diplomatic and
military relations between the many Sumerian city-states gradually began to give way to
additional centralisation in the region by the later 3rd millennium BC. Why this happened
is not known, but it is possible that the rulers in this period had heard of the now-unified
Old Kingdom of Egypt, which ruled the entirety of the Nile river valley and built the famous
pyramids, and wished to emulate their power and wealth.
For a century and a half, Umma had been humbled by their more powerful neighbor of Lagash
– but this was soon to change. A dynamic new ruler – Lugalzagesi, ascended to the kingship
in Umma and began to expand his realm, hungering for revenge against Lagash. He first conquered
the prominent cities of Ur and Uruk, before defeating his rival, sacking the city and
plundering its temples of rich goods. Having established this territorial kingdom by 2,350BC,
Lugalzagesi moved his capital to the prestigious city of Uruk – establishing the Third Dynasty
of that city. However, this new kingdom would not last for long, and soon a figure from
north of Sumer would create the first true Empire in history. Our series on the history of the Mesopotamian
civilizations will continue, so make sure you are subscribed to our channel and pressed
the bell button. We would like to express our gratitude to our Patreon supporters and
channel members, who make the creation of our videos possible. Now, you can also support
us by buying our merchandise via the link in the description. This is the Kings and
Generals channel, and we will catch you on the next one.

36 thoughts on “Rise of Sumer: Cradle of Civilization DOCUMENTARY

  1. Hey guys, 1$ on patreon gives you access to our discord and early access to our videos: https://www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals

  2. Lol when you said pasturelands, I thought you said pestilence. (In sumerian) "oh boy, I sure could use more pestilence! For… biological warfare, of course"

  3. This flood and floods were first described in the Indus Valley, in the Indian Continent, and the ice and waterand floods came from the Himalayas, with the telling of a story before Noah/Noh who was told by Rishtys, or wise men, to build a boat and put all the seeds needed to rebuild the farms after the floods had gone.

  4. Although Sumer is most uknown to the average person, it is the first ever moderm human civilization which developed many sciences to which the rest emerged from

  5. 4000 BC is quoted as 4000 years before Augustus created the Roman Empire and not as 4000 years before Christ. 
    How much does the narrator is trying to erase even the mention of Christianity?

  6. I believe the theory that man settled and took up agriculture in order to grow crops to make beer. Sounds like something humans would do.

  7. Anu a God King of the Sumerians, It was said that the Anunaki were the giant winged Gods of the race and made the Sumerians slaves by manipulating their genes to produce a worker class, then an uprising to stop the Kings, then a major flood almost wiped out every part of that civilization An end to the Anunaki influence

  8. Gilgamesh that you spoke about is no mythical figure he is Nimrod. i figured the years givin in the bible and Nimrod was born around 2840 b.c. so he created uruk akkad calneh ninevah all them cities in the 2700's 2600's and the division of the tongues and people happend about 2570 b.c. 300 years later… akkadian empire and the rest is history.

  9. I’ve watched so far five minutes of this and this is the best video I’ve watched explaining something to me, the words and pictures are so well put. Please be my high school teacher 👨‍🏫 😂

  10. Actually, it is eight thousand years ago, the Sixth Millennium BCE. Çatalhöyük precedes it by a thousand years. And Göbekli Tepe precedes Çatalhöyük by two to three thousand years…

    Would like to see you do videos on both…

  11. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee


  13. Fascinating!!

    I suppose the climate was so much different than today.
    It probably was much cooler in Middle East region and had more vegetation shortly after the ice age.

  14. Sumerian City "Shinar" + Armenian root "ar" makes the word "Shinarar" means in the Armenian language builder/ constructor. And Shinararakan means structural contruction/ building. Shinararut'yun is structure construction work. Agrarian – Agriculture – Sumerian Agar field – Armenian Agarak field.

  15. Garbage stories, if you read about evolution and how humans conquered the world, civilizations from India evolved way quicker than Sumerians, but that's what they teach us in school, only about Mesopotamia and Bible stories, but way far east in India and the region, their Religion and Philosophy are way more older than Sumerians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *