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Architectural  Mesopotamia
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Architectural Marvels of Ancient Mesopotamia

The land between the rivers


Some of the cities of the Fertile Crescent



Sites of Ancient Mesopotamia

I - The Ancient Period (3,000 - 538 BC)

1 Sumer And Akkad
Early Dynastic Period (3000 - 2340 BC) at Warka (Uruk)
The white temple
Akkadian Period (2340 - 2180 BC) at Ur
The royal tombs

Neo-Sumerian Period (2125 - 2025 BC) at Ur
The ziggurat


2 FIRST BABYLONIAN EMPIRE (2025 1594 BC)
Isin Larsa Period, Tel Harmal
Early Babylonian Period (Hammurabi)

3 KASSITE DYNASTY (1600 1100 BC)
Agarguf (Dur-Kuri-Galzu)
4 ASSYRIAN PERIOD (1350 - 612 BC)
Assur - Nimroud - Nineveh - Khorsabad
5 LATE BABYLONIAN PERIOD (625 - 538 BC)
Babylon and the Hanging Gardens

II - PERSIAN & GRECO-ROMAN PERIOD
(538 BC - 637 AD)

1 HELLENISTIC PERIOD (331 - 141 BC )
Babylon and the Greek Theatre
2 PARTHIAN PERIOD (141 BC - 224 AD)
Hatra
3 SASSANIAN PERIOD (224 AD - 637 AD)
Ctesiphon

Maps showing the territories ruled by successive dynasties
The Map of Mesopotamia Map of the Akkadian dynasty (2340 - 2180 BC)
Map of the Babylonian dynasty (2000 -323 BC) The Map of Assyria (1350 - 612 BC)




In the middle of Iraq lie the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar's Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Babel) close to the place where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego sang their hymn of praise in the midst of the fiery furnace. Here Daniel read the mysterious Aramaic handwriting on the wall "mene tekel peres" (counted, weighed, divided) in the Aramaic or Chaldean language for Nebuchadnezzar and under the later rule of Darius, the biblical Daniel sat unharmed in the lions' den. The Old Testament "Daniel" story, probably written between 167-164 B.C., was borrowed from Babel and Persian literature and adapted for Jewish readership.

Judaism had been a presence in Mesopotamia since the Babylonian captivity from 586 to 538 B.C. Nearby, Xenophon and his 10,000 fought against the Persians and in 1700 B.C. Hammurabi composed his famous collection of laws. After conquering the world, Alexander the Great, at the age of 32 died an untimely death at Babel in 323 B.C. The Sassanid settlement of Selucia-Ctesiphon (Ma-da-in) boasted of a giant arch (the only remnant of the palace still standing) which was believed to have been the widest span of pure brickwork in the world. The Arch of Ctesiphon (Taq-ki-sra near Baghdad) testifies to the skill of its third century builders.

On this panel from the gates of Balwat, Jehu, the king of Israel, is shown bowing to Shalmaneser 111 (859- 824 BC) who forced Tyre, Sidon and Israel to pay tribute to him.


Early Mesopotamian science
In "History Begins at Sumer", Samuel Kramer tells of the third millennium B.C Sumerian astronomers living along the Tigris River who noticed that there were roughly 360 days in the year. The missing five days were declared occasional holidays. This number 360 was very convenient since it
was divisible by many smaller numbers, so they divided each day into 360 gesh, which were later changed by the Babylonians to 24 hours with two levels of subdivisions. Present day use of minute and second is traced to the Latin translations of the Babylonian designations for these subdivisions: small bits (minuta -> minutes) and secondary small bits (secunda minuta -> seconds). Around 2400 B.C. the Sumerians developed an ingenious sexagesimal system to represent all integers from 1 to 59 using 59 different patterns of wedges (cunei . . . cuneiform) which were usually imprinted in soft clay and later hardened. Integers from 60 to 3600 were then represented by a different symbol for 60 which was combined with the other 59 patterns. Like our decimal system it was positional so that the successive symbols were assumed to be multiplied by decreasing powers of 60. For instance, the number 365 in the decimal system would, in the sexagesimal system, be written 6 5 (= 6 times 60 + 5 times 1), just as 65 in our decimal system of base ten means 6 times 10 plus 5 times 1.

An adventuresome, determined and curious reader with a calculator can verify that the Babylonian number 4 23 36 (equals {4 times 60 times 60} + {23 times 60} + {36 times 1}) represents 15,816 in our decimal system. In their grasp of the workings of arithmetic the Babylonians were far superior to the Greeks of later centuries. The latter used letters for numbers (so 888 would be wph) and they would have trouble multiplying a simple problem like 12 times 28 which would be ib times kh. The multiplication rules for letters were beyond the reach of an ordinary person.

Kramer uses as his main source the content of tens of thousands of Sumerian tablets, uncovered in this century from 1902 on, which date back to 2,400 B.C. and reveal a rich literature long before Greek civilization. These remarkable tablets gave us the first Farmer's Almanac filled with astronomical and mathematical data, proving that Sumerian schoolboys were learning the Pythagorean theorem 1,800 years before Pythagoras (circa 585-500 B.C.) was born. In this mainstream of our own cultural background, the Mesopotamian civilization, a fortuitous event in the evolution of arithmetic symbols occurred through the adoption of Sumerian "cuneiform" symbols by the Akkadians to represent their semitic language as it became more popular in Mesopotamia.

Brief descriptions and pictures of some major Mesopotamian centers



Sumer (4000 - 2000 BC) southern region of ancient Mesopotamia, and later southern part of Babylon, now south central Iraq. An agricultural civilization flourished here during the 3rd and 4th millennia BC. The Sumerians built canals. established an irrigation system, and were skilled In the use of metals (silver, gold, copper) to make pottery. jewelry. and weapons. They invented the cuneiform system of writing. Various kings founded dynasties at Kish, Erech. and Ur. King Sargon of Agade brought the region under the Semites (c. 2600 BC). who blended their culture with the Sumerians The final Sumerian civilization at Ur fell to Elam, and when Semitic Babylonia under Hammurabi (c 2000 BC) controlled the land the Sumerian nation vanished.



Ur (3000 - 250 BC) ancient Babylonian city and birthplace of Abraham. Settled in the 4th millennium BC it prospered during its First Dynasty (3000-2600 BC), and during its Third Dynasty, it became the richest City In Mesopotamia. A century later it was destroyed by the Elamites only to be rebuilt and destroyed again by the Babylonians. After Babylonia came under the control of Persia the city was abandoned (3rd cent. BC).



Pictures of the art and architecture of ancient Mesopotamia found in the books listed below
The Painted Temple at Sumer Two Sumerian tablets: (c 2000 BC)
The first prescription and the Great Physician
found in Kramer's HISTORY BEGINS AT SUMER
The golden head of a bull on the front of a lyre found at Ur (c. 2685 BC) The ram and the shrub from the Royal Cemetery at Ur
Ur at peace: one side of the Standard of Ur
found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur
Ur at war: the other side of the Standard of Ur
(c. 2685 BC)
Model of the ziggurat at Ur  with the ascents partly restored The ziggurat at Ur (c. 2250 BC)
Drawing of the ziggurat at Ur: the moon-god Nanna The ziggurat at Ur  which was restored by successive rulers
The White Temple at Uruk Model of the Temple at Warka (Uruk)



The top of the Hammurabi stele shows the king
worshipping before a seated god.
Detail of part of the inscription
on the stele of Samurai's code
Harmal (c. 1800 BC) Tel Harmal: temple, palace and school
Temple tower of Agar Guf in the Kassite city of Dur Kurigalzu: Traces of the staircase have been found. An alabaster relief of an Arab - Assyrian battle
found near Ninevah (c. 660 BC)
Plan of Ashur (1385 - 1045 BC) Model of Ashur: the double temple of Anu and Adad
Plan of Khorsabad under Sargon (721 - 705 BC) Khorsabad palace in the middle of the picture
The winged Bull of Khorsabad Relief on palace of King Ashurnasirpal II (883 - 859 BC) with the winged god at Nimrud
Relief of lion hunting found at Nimrud Lion killing a slave found at Nimrud
Model of the city of Babylon Ruins of Babylon today
Plan of the Hanging gardens of Babylon Wall of Hanging gardens of Babylon still standing
Ishtar gate of Babylon built by Nebuchadnezzar II
(604 - 562 BC) now in the Berlin Museum
Plan of the palace at Babylon centering at the Ishtar gate


Sassanids, or Sassanians, last native dynasty of Persian kings.founded by Ardashiric AD226. There were approximately 25 Sassanid rulers the most important after Ardashir being Shapur II (309-79): Khosrau I (531-79), who invaded Syria: and Khosrau 11 (590-628) whose conquest of Egypt marks the height of the dynasty's power. The line ended when Persia fell to the Arabs in 641 AD.

Baghdad (762 - AD), capital city of Iraq, on the Tigris River. Established in 762 as capital of Abbaside caliphate. It grew to be a cultural and financial center hub of caravan trade between India, Persia, and the West. Destroyed by the Mongols in 1258: in the early 20th century Iraq gained independence from Turks and Baghdad became the capital (1921), and now is the modern administrative. transportation. and educational center.

Model of two Parthian shrines at Hatra (141 - 224 AD)
Hatra was an ally of Rome which led to its destruction at the hands of the Sassanians in 226 AD
Part of the arch of Ctesiphon still stands: the greatest arch of the ancient world (30 meters high). It was built in the fourth century, the middle of the Sassanian period (224 - 637 AD)
Plan of the circular city of Baghdad (c. 766 AD) by Caliph Al-Mansoor: the innermost circle had a diameter of 2000 yards. The four gates led to Khorasan (NE), Basra (SE),
Kufa (SW) and Syria (NW)
Drawing of the city of Baghdad with the Tigris in the background: done from memory by a visitor in 1638
The Abbaside caliph's plan of Samarra (836 AD): the city was 34 km long with a great esplanade 7 km long Model of the Abbaside palace of Ukhaider (8th cent. AD)
It was located SW of Kerbala




Bibliography

A SHORT HISTORY of ARCHITECTURE IN IRAQ (3,000 B.C. 1258 AD)
Samuel M. Ronaya, Lecturer, Al-Hikma University, Baghdad

5000 YEARS OF THE ART OF MESOPOTAMIA,
BY EVA STROMMENGER, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAX HIRMER, ABRAMS, NEW YORK: 1964

ANCIENT IRAQ, by GEORGES ROUX, LONDON: ALLEN & UNWIN: 1964

TWIN RIVERS By SETON LLOYD OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS: BOMBAY 1947

HISTORY BEGINS AT S U M E R, by Samuel Noah Kramer
Doubleday Anchor Books: Garden City, New York: 1959

EARLY MESOPOTAMIA AND IRAN by M. E. L. Mallowan
McGRAW-HILL NEW YORK 1969