The Mesopotamia fall is one that occurred during the turn of the 22nd century BC due to constant invasions, bad leadership, and some unfortunate climate changes. It’s true, the once cradle of civilization met its ill-fated demise due to mostly unlucky occurences.Although it occurred some 4000 years, the tragic fall of Mesopotamia reverberates up until this day.

Read on to find the details on the reasons Mesopotamia collapse.

How Did Mesopotamia Fall?

The Rise and Fall of Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia came to prominence following the conquests by its founder, Sargon of Akkad. The conquest included many of surrounding regions to create an empire that stretched westward as far as the Mediterranean Sea and perhaps Cyprus, northward as far as the mountains Anatolia, eastward over Elam, and as far south as Magan (modern Oman).

However, around the 22nd century BC, the empire entered its dark ages and began to unravel. The complicated situation culminated around the incompetence of leadership, incessant invasions, and even climate changes. All these events ultimately snowballed into the fall of Mesopotamia.

The Administrative Strains in Mesopotamia

As in most kingdoms, the onset of the decline of Mesopotamia started with several administrative issues. Amongst these were plagues of incompetence by the government. Clearly, the Mesopotamian empire lacked a strong structure of rule after the demise of Sargon.

As a result, the empire steadily deteriorated into a territory with no central imperial authority until the Third Dynasty of Ur. After that, the region’s political structure may have reverted to the status quo of local governance by city-states.

It was during this period that Mesopotamia became expeditiously vulnerable to foreign threats. The main threats were the Guti, who took advantage of the weak state and established their reign.

The Fall of Mesopotamia: Climate Changes

Accompanying their internal problems were nature’s disasters. In the 22nd century, harsh climatic conditions affected the region of northern Mesopotamia. The climatic conditions occurred in the form of destruction of the area and brought about several consequences to the empire’s health.

The cause of this Mesopotamia collapse remains disputed among the experts till today. One of the experts, Harvey Weiss, heralded his views on the subject which supports the notion that a sudden tide of drought led to the civilization’s collapse, which crippled the productive regions in northern Mesopotamia.

Further evidence uncovered in northern Syria by Harvey Weiss indicates that the once-prosperous region became abruptly deserted about 4000 years ago; this is reflected by the absence of pottery and other archaeological residues.

Interestingly, the rich soils of earlier periods were displaced by a great deal of wind-blown dust and sand, which initiated the drought that later consumed the land. Afterward, marine cores from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman, which connected the input of dust into the aquatic bodies to distant sources from ancient Mesopotamia, acted as more indications of a regional drought in ancient times.

Direct Effects of the Climate Change

Various accounts on the Mesopotamian climate and that of the world displayed a sudden weather change event by 6400 BC. Periods of intense cooling and drought dominated the environment for about the next 300 years. Then, as the cold and famine hit the region, rainwater was no longer sufficient to support agricultural activities in northern Mesopotamia.

The collapse was followed by mass migration from north to south which was met with resistance by the local populations. A 111-mile wall – the “Repeller of the Amorites” – was built between the Tigris and Euphrates to control this sudden immigration.

Around 2150 BC, the Gutian people, who originally inhabited the Zagros Mountains, defeated the demoralized Akkadian army, took Akkad, and destroyed it around 2115 BC. Hence, widespread agricultural change in the Near East is visible at the end of the third millennium BC.

The Bareness of Ancient Mesopotamian Land

River Euphrates and River Tigris allowed for the cultivation of wheat on the Mesopotamian savannahs. However, the dry weather in ancient Mesopotamia ultimately overwhelmed the manufactured irrigation systems, which flooded the fields faster than the water drained out.

Then, the amount of salt accumulated from irrigated water made fertile land into salt deserts. Continuous irrigation elevated groundwater levels, and capillary actions increased the soil salt concentration, which poisoned the soil and rendered it impractical for wheat growth. Barley, which is a more salt-resistant crop than wheat, was cultivated in the less damaged regions.

The fertile soil later turned to sand by drought, resulting in the shift of River Euphrates to its present course, which is situated some miles away from Ur and Nippur.

About 2,000 years from this event, the formerly fertile region of Mesopotamia became barren. This heralded the fall of Mesopotamia as the lands were no longer viable.

Minor sedentary populations later resettled the northern savannahs. These resettlements took place around 1900 BC, about three centuries from the collapse.

Moreover, fossil corals studied in Oman have shown evidence of prolonged winter Shamal periods. Such periods led to high salt concentrations in Mesopotamian irrigated fields around 4200 years ago, and ultimately caused the drastic fall in crop production. These conditions triggered widespread famine and were also another reason for the downfall of ancient Mesopotamia.

The Fall of Mesopotamia: Unfortunate Changes of Rule

The Damaging Reign of the Gutians

The Gutians were a horde of tribes that descended from the Zagros mountains, possibly drawn to the Mesopotamian plains for its prosperity. The ancient Mesopotamians treated them as subnormal beings for their unwillingness to conform to the customs and laws of civilizations. Mesopotamian chronicles described them as barbarians, having the intelligence of dogs and the appearance of monkeys.

Fair to say, the hatred was minimal between both cultures. However, the Gutians raided Mesopotamia with the use of hit-and-run tactics, and so these raids eventually crippled the economy of Mesopotamia. Travels became unbearably unsafe, as did farming activities, which escalated into famine. The Guti finally swept down and took the Akkadian kingdom of Mesopotamia, destroying it around 2083 BC.

A bit of Akkadia did remain in the form of several independent city-states where local dynasties thrived. Moreover, the Guti inevitably took over the rule of Mesopotamia, marking another point in the decline of Mesopotamian civilization.

Perhaps, as expected, the Guti proved to be incompetent rulers. Under their crude reign, prosperity declined as they were too unaccustomed to the complexities of civilization to organize matters properly. As a result, impactful issues, such as the Mesopotamian canal network, were neglected and allowed to sink into disrepair, leading to famine and death.

The Gutians became more cultured with time, but they were ultimately forced out by a coalition of rulers of Uruk and Ur. Utu-Hengal of Uruk is known to have defeated the last of the Gutian kings, Trigan. This victory revived the political and economic life of Mesopotamia.

The Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur III)

As the curtains closed on the reign of Gutians, the triumphant Ur dynasty took center stage. The Ur dynasty was founded by Ur-Nammu, a general of Utu-Hengal, the king who broke the Gutian rule.

The warrior king, Ur-Nammu, became famous after he caused a crushing defeat to the ruler of Lagash in battle, slaying the king himself.

This particular battle earned Ur-Nammu the prestigious title, ‘king of Sumer and Akkad.’ The kingdom of Ur consolidated its supremacy over the entire country by incorporating the famous Code of Ur-Nammu, the first set of laws in Mesopotamia since Urukagina of Lagash’s laws in earlier times.

The Ur III dynasty oversaw several monumental innovations and improvements. They took steps to centralize and standardize the procedures of the empire. What’s more, their dynasty helped consolidate the standardizing administrative processes, archival documentation, the tax system, and the national calendar.

The city of Susa and its surrounding region also got captured during this period, and this capture effectively toppled King Kutik-Inshushinak’s reign of Elam. The rest of Elam was controlled by the Shimashki dynasty.

The Fall of Ur

Under the reign of Ur’s final ruler, Ibbi-Sin, the power of the Mesopotamians once again waned. In the 21st century BC, Ibbi-Sin launched military campaigns into Elam but did not manage to penetrate far into the country.

Finally, in 2004 BC, the people of Elam sacked Ur and captured Ibbi-Sin. The attack was executed by an alliance of Elamites and the people of Susa, under the leadership of King Kindattu of the Elamite Shimashki dynasty, effectively ending the Ur III dynasty.

Elamite and Amorite Rule Over Mesopotamia

The Elamites’ victory vanquished Mesopotamia and governed the fallen kingdom by martial force for the next 21 years.

By the turn of the 19th century BC, Amorites had occupied much of the Mesopotamian territories in the south. At first, the Amorites did not practice agriculture; unlike the more advanced Mesopotamians, they preferred a more sedentary lifestyle of herding ship.

As time went on, Amorite grain merchants became more prominent and established their sovereign dynasties in several Mesopotamian states such as Isin, Larsa, Eshnunna, Lagash, and later on, founded their own state of Babylon.

The Amorite Dynasty of Isin effectively succeeded Ur III as the ruler of Mesopotamia, starting the Isin-Larsa period. They drove the Elamites out of Ur, reconstructed the city’s infrastructure, and recovered the statue of Nanna, which the Elamites had plundered. This ultimately marked the end of Mesopotamia.

Summary

In this article, we discussed the fall of the tragic fall of Mesopotamia.

These are the main reasons why the ancient empire fell:

  • Mesopotamia went through unfortunate periods in administration and climate
  • The rulers got weak, rendering the empire vulnerable
  • Climate change wore hard on the Mesopotamians, forcing them to abandon valuable territory
  • The Guti took advantage and conquered the kingdom
  • They later lost out to the third dynasty of Ur
  • Mesopotamia finally fell after Ur collapsed, as the Amorite Dynasty took over and created Babylon

It’s clear that Mesopotamia went through a series of turmoil. But, even though the empire was ultimately destroyed, it became a central source of valuable information regarding the development of civilization as a whole for historians.

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