9 Questions

What does the word 'Mesopotamia' mean?

Which civilization dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC?

What was the official provincial administration language of the Neo-Assyrian and Achaemenid Empires?

What is the sexagesimal numeral system?

What was the most extensive Babylonian medical text and what concepts did it introduce?

What was the most famous law code in Mesopotamia?

What was the dominant material for Mesopotamian architecture?

What were the popular games in ancient Mesopotamia?

What did the Mesopotamian temples function as?


Mesopotamia: A Historical Overview

  • Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent. Today, Mesopotamia occupies modern Iraq.
  • The Sumerians and Akkadians dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.
  • Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC and is recognised as the cradle of some of the world's earliest civilizations.
  • Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire, which became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians.
  • The regional toponym Mesopotamia comes from the ancient Greek root words μέσος (mesos, 'middle') and ποταμός (potamos, 'river') and translates to '(land) between rivers'. It is used throughout the Greek Septuagint (c. 250 BC) to translate the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalent Naharaim.
  • Mesopotamia encompasses the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which have their headwaters in the neighboring Armenian highlands. Both rivers are fed by numerous tributaries, and the entire river system drains a vast mountainous region.
  • Agriculture throughout the region has been supplemented by nomadic pastoralism, where tent-dwelling nomads herded sheep and goats (and later camels) from the river pastures in the dry summer months, out into seasonal grazing lands on the desert fringe in the wet winter season.
  • The documented record of actual historical events — and the ancient history of lower Mesopotamia — commenced in the early-third millennium BC with cuneiform records of early dynastic kings.
  • The earliest language written in Mesopotamia was Sumerian, an agglutinative language isolate. Along with Sumerian, Semitic languages were also spoken in early Mesopotamia. Old Aramaic became the official provincial administration language of first the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and then the Achaemenid Empire.
  • Libraries were extant in towns and temples during the Babylonian Empire. An old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn." Women as well as men learned to read and write.
  • Mesopotamian mathematics and science was based on a sexagesimal (base 60) numeral system. This is the source of the 60-minute hour, the 24-hour day, and the 360-degree circle.
  • The Babylonians also had theorems on how to measure the area of several shapes and solids. They measured the circumference of a circle as three times the diameter and the area as one-twelfth the square of the circumference, which would be correct if π were fixed at 3.
  • Mesopotamia has had a complex history of breakdowns in the cultural system, military vulnerability, and trade collapse. These trendsAncient Mesopotamia: Contributions to Algebra, Astronomy, Medicine, Technology, Religion, Philosophy, Culture, Economy, Agriculture, and Trade


  • Babylonians developed an advanced arithmetical system for algorithmic calculations
  • Babylonians used linear interpolation for approximations and the Plimpton 322 tablet gave a table of Pythagorean triples
  • Babylonians were not interested in exact solutions, but rather approximations


  • Babylonian astronomers could predict eclipses and solstices and worked out a 12-month calendar based on the cycles of the moon
  • Babylonian astronomers developed a new approach to astronomy with an internal logic within their predictive planetary systems
  • Babylonian astronomy served as the basis for much of Greek, classical Indian, Sassanian, Byzantine, Syrian, medieval Islamic, Central Asian, and Western European astronomy


  • The Diagnostic Handbook was the most extensive Babylonian medical text and introduced the concepts of diagnosis, prognosis, physical examination, enemas, and prescriptions
  • The Babylonian physicians relied on exorcism if a patient could not be cured physically
  • Esagil-kin-apli's Diagnostic Handbook described the symptoms for many varieties of epilepsy and related ailments along with their diagnosis and prognosis


  • Mesopotamians invented many technologies including metal and copper-working, glass and lamp making, textile weaving, flood control, water storage, and irrigation
  • According to a recent hypothesis, the Archimedes' screw may have been used by Sennacherib, King of Assyria, for the water systems at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Nineveh in the 7th century BC
  • The Baghdad Battery, which may have been the world's first battery, was created in Mesopotamia

Religion and philosophy:

  • Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic and had regional variations
  • The origins of philosophy can be traced back to early Mesopotamian wisdom, which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics
  • Babylonian thought had a considerable influence on early Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy


  • Ancient Mesopotamians had ceremonies each month and some songs were written for the gods
  • Hunting, boxing, wrestling, and the "Royal Game of Ur" were popular games
  • Mesopotamia became more and more a patriarchal society and only royal offspring and sons of the rich and professionals went to school


  • Sumerian temples functioned as banks and developed the first large-scale system of loans and credit while the Babylonians developed the earliest system of commercial banking
  • Irrigated agriculture was important for settlers of Mesopotamia and the food supply was comparable to that of the Canadian prairies
  • Mesopotamian civilizations traded with the Indus Valley civilization and ancient Egypt


  • Mesopotamian trade with the Indus Valley civilization flourished as early as the third millennium BC

  • Mesopotamian civilizations also traded with ancient Egypt starting in the 4th millennium BCMesopotamia: A Brief Overview

  • Mesopotamia was a trade nexus between Central Asia and the Mediterranean world, as well as north-south between Eastern Europe and Baghdad.

  • The geography of Mesopotamia led to the development of city-states, which were independent and protective of their independence.

  • The Mesopotamian kings were believed to be descended from the city gods and named themselves "king of the universe" or "great king".

  • Assyria divided into smaller provinces, each named after their main cities, and each had their own governor who enforced the laws and called up soldiers to war.

  • Warfare was incorporated into the Mesopotamian political system, leading to regional states and eventually empires.

  • The city-states created the first law codes, drawn from legal precedence and decisions made by kings, the most famous of which was the Code of Hammurabi.

  • Mesopotamian art rivalled that of Ancient Egypt, with a focus on various forms of sculpture in stone and clay.

  • The Assyrians developed a style of extremely large schemes of very finely detailed narrative low reliefs in stone for palaces, with scenes of war or hunting.

  • Brick was the dominant material for Mesopotamian architecture, and the ziggurat is the most distinctive form.

  • The most notable architectural remains from early Mesopotamia are the temple complexes at Uruk and the Third Dynasty of Ur remains at Nippur and Ur.

  • Textual sources on building construction and associated rituals include Gudea's cylinders from the late 3rd millennium and the Assyrian and Babylonian royal inscriptions from the Iron Age.

  • Mesopotamia was a center of learning, with Babylon becoming one of the main cities and one of history's greatest centers of learning.


Test your knowledge of Mesopotamia with our quiz! From the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution to the fall of Babylon, Mesopotamia has a rich history filled with significant contributions to algebra, astronomy, medicine, technology, religion, philosophy, culture, economy, and trade. This quiz will challenge you to remember important dates, key figures, and the lasting impact of Mesopotamia on the world today. Don't miss out on the chance to show off your knowledge of this

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