Mesopotamia major cities varied greatly in terms of their foundation and specific culture. They were also very different from the major cities of today. Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of life” because the cities of Mesopotamia and its inhabitants gave us the basis of civilized human life.

Here we give an informative account of the important cities of Mesopotamia on the basis of their origin, culture, and social life.

Mesopotamian Cities

Mesopotamia formed on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This civilization came into being around 12000 BC, when people came to the region looking for water and fertile land. Mesopotamia, now the modern Iraq and Kuwait, was once a kingdom of scattered tribes and colonies.

Before Mesopotamian cities came into being, there were farming villages. People lived at the optimal locations according to their farming needs. These farming villages had no rulers and lacked any administrative system. Gradually, the number of Mesopotamia villages increased and the area began to populate.

Agriculture can easily be one of the founding forces behind Mesopotamia. As agriculture grew, people became wealthy. They now had the time to look at other aspects of life other than just working and feeding the family. This is the reason why the art of language and trade bloomed in this ancient civilization.

Mesopotamia has had many different empires and cultures running through its veins. The major cultures of Mesopotamia are the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. The history of all four of these empires is quite messy because these empires ruled over each other over the course of several thousand years.

The important cities in Mesopotamia can be listed as:

  • Eridu
  • Uruk
  • Akkad
  • Ur
  • Assur
  • Nineveh
  • Babylon

Following are the details of these exceptional cities.

The Sumerian Civilization

The earliest known civilization of Mesopotamia is the Sumerian civilization. Its remains have been widely found in what would have been the south of Mesopotamia. Many historians believe that nomads came from various places and settled near the banks of the rivers. Later, these groups merged into one and formed the first civilization.

– Eridu: Mesopotamia’s First Town

The Sumerians likely were highly religious. They built a temple to worship their God Enki at a place called Eridu. Eridu was the first constructed sacred place of the Mesopotamians. People started gathering around this temple.

Eridu is now known to be the first town of Mesopotamia. But this site is not the first known city of Mesopotamia as some might suggest. The reason for this is the population of Eridu. The population of Eridu does not qualify it to be titled as a city — so it was merely the first organized human settlement.

– Uruk: The World’s First City

Around 4500 BC, urbanization spread rapidly across the area. This urbanization gave rise to the first-ever city of Mesopotamia and the civilized world, called Uruk.

Even if a city was present before Uruk, we would not know. This is because the advent of writing is seen with the advent of Uruk.

Uruk is also known as the largest city of the early times. Evidence found at the site and in writings suggests that the people living in the area had a civilized life. Remnants of clay pots, houses, and carts have been found. Regardless of the difference of religion and ethnicity of the people of Sumer, Uruk was erected to practice and maintain order.

After the advent of the first city, other towns and villages combined to form more cities. The other important earliest cities discovered are Bad-tibira, Larak, Sippar, and Shuruppak all of which are located in Sumer.

– The Fall of Sumer

The increase in the number of cities and population required a ruling figure. Sargon of Akkad, another city of Mesopotamia, conquered the area of the Sumerians and unified the region under a single Akkadian Empire.

The Akkadian Civilization

Sargon was a visionary. History narrates him as a humble gardener before his conquest of Sumer. This Akkadian civilization brought about the first multinational empire to the world.

– Akkad

The city of Akkad, also known as Agade, was the heart of the Akkadian civilization. Interestingly, no one knows where this city was situated as no evidence of its location has been found. It is estimated that it would have been located somewhere along the western bank of the Euphrates river.

This city was enormous. It covered the land from the Euphrates river to the Persian Gulf. The founder of the Akkadian Empire is thus deemed as King Sargon the Great. Under his rule, the empire grew exponentially.

The Akkadian empire fell after the heirs of Sargon failed to keep the control of this vast empire. Many alien forces entered the society. What was one the greatest cities of all time was reduced to a sack of stone buildings and drought-stricken lands.

– Ur

Ur was a significant city in ancient Mesopotamia. Right when the Akkadian empire was in its dark ages, this city in the south of Mesopotamia became a blooming hub of trade and civilization. Due to its location, Ur received many immigrants and most of the trade was carried out from this city.

This city is known to be one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. Between 1922 and 1934 archaeologists unearthed 16 graves of kings and queens of Ur, along with their remarkable wealth of treasures.

The Assyrian Empire

After the fall of the Akkadian empire, the Assyrian empire took control.

– Assur

The city of Ashur was the first capital of the Assyrian Empire. Ashur was named after the primary god of the Assyrians. It was located on the western bank of the Euphrates river.

Assur is known best for being a religious center. It contains the temple of Ishtar, which is one of the oldest known temples. Ishtar was the God of love and war. At one time, the city housed around 34 temples that belonged to different Mesopotamian deities.

– Nineveh

Nineweh is one of the most popular and wealthy among the famous ancient Mesopotamian cities to date. The city became the capital of the Assyrian empire under the reign of Sennacherib. He fortified the city by building a 7 mile-long wall and 15 gates around the city to keep the enemies out.

It was a magnificent city. It is known to have botanical gardens, with palaces filled with luxurious bronze columns, sculptures of lions and bulls, and carved images of battles between Assyria and its enemies.

Nineveh is famous for its library. This library was built by the last known King of Assyria, Ashurbanipal. This library is known to host around 30,000  and scriptures of the ancient civilization.

The Babylonian Empire

In the south of Mesopotamia, a small Amorite-ruled state emerged into power. It was home to King Hammurabi, who revolutionized Mesopotamia. Hammurabi gave a set of laws called The Code of Hammurabi. These codes gave directions on living a civilized life and progressing towards success.

Babylon

Babylon was the capital of the Babylonian empire. Historians believe that Babylon progressed to a population of 200,000 inhabitants. Babylon is most famous for the Hanging Gardens of Babylons, which is one of the seven wonders of the world.

In the present times, the ruins of this great city can be found 50 miles south of Baghdad. Babylon is also reluctantly called the country of Akkad as a tribute to the previous glory of the Akkadian empire.

Other Cities of Mesopotamia

Other major cities of Mesopotamia include Persepols, Lagash, Hattusa, Kish, Mari, and Nippur. These cities existed along the history of different empires. These cities had their own Kings and Queens. These cities are also famous for following their own separate religions and Gods.

The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia are credited with various contributions to the modern, civilized society. Among their discoveries and inventions, the creation of cities is one of the most important, together with the art of writing.

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered the rise and fall of the major cities of ancient Mesopotamia. Let’s sum things up:

  • Mesopotamia is known as the cradle of Life
  • The first ever city was found on the land of Mesopotamia
  • Eriduk is the first recorded town of Mesopotamia
  • Uruk is the first recorded city of Mesopotamia
  • Uruk was the capital of the Sumerian Civilization
  • King Sargon unified the Sumerian and Akkadian civilization under one rule
  • Assur was the first capital of the Assyrian Civilization
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the seven wonders of the world
  • Nineveh, as the capital of the Assyrian empire, is among the Mesopotamia advanced cities

Did you have any idea there was so much to know about cities that are thousands of years old? At any rate, we hope we satisfied your curiosity!

References

  • Veenhof, K. R. “Ancient Mesopotamia and JESHO.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, vol. 36, no. 2, Brill, 1993, pp. 120–38, https://doi.org/10.2307/3632505.
  • Garbutt, Douglas. “THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA IN ACCOUNTING HISTORY.” The Accounting Historians Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, The Academy of Accounting Historians, 1984, pp. 83–101, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40697796.
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