Tyurin V. , Professor
Shanti Jayasekara, Professor
Archeology, scientific research, as well as individual hypotheses and assumptions of world history with varying degrees of reliability, are currently submitted to the judgment of experts and interested public.
In this case, the following areas of scientific papers and presented hypotheses and propositions are obvious:
– hypotheses of the existence of prehistoric civilizations and cultures;
– “justifications” by individual authors, and even groups and “schools” in revaluation and adjustments of taken historical propositions;
– “expansion” of historical and ideological formations, consisting in claims for justification of its “birthright” in historical chronology and authorship of the subsequent development of other civilizations and cultures.
As a rule, the findings of such historical research and reflections are projected on modern ideology and politics.
The scientific community is wary of rethinking the history. But it only excites the opponents.
At the same time, the established historical tenets in some cases are based on dubious sources, give rise to critical assessments.
The present work is a brief summary of the research and scientific works on the first, in our opinion, human civilizations.
So, the place of birth of the first human civilization – the Middle East, Mesopotamia. Yes, yes, where Eden was, where Adam and Eve, who gave us life, were expelled from.
Duration, without further ado, we will also take from the known sources – about four and a half thousand years BC. Name and location of occurrence – Schumer. And its population, Sumerians, who came out of nowhere.
Artifacts, supporting livelihoods in Mesopotamia before the Sumerians, were discovered. And in Sumerian sources they say about a city-state of Aratta, located somewhere near the Caspian Sea. However, some researchers suggest that Aratta is the ancestral home of the Sumerians. But for us the evidence base is Schumer.
Economic basis for the existence of Sumer was agriculture. Hard work of the Sumerians for several centuries has created a self-sufficient provided community.
Irrigation facilities allowed to organize agriculture on fertile soils. Sludge, pressed into bricks, served stout construction material. The existing structure of society, collaboration and struggle for existence became the foundation of the first state.
Apparently, artisans met the needs of consumers, using both their own raw materials and raw materials purchased at the market.
Trade was developing, both with neighbors and by sea. And a sail first appeared in Sumer, when it was requested by the economy.
An army was organized, well-armed regular troops. Schumer owed its superiority in armament and organization of warfare in their victories over their neighbors.
Schumer country consisted of several city-states. Surrounded with high walls villages and settlements belonged to it were located around the city.
.The structure of society was represented by such social strata, like grand people, the rich stratum of the population, who owned large estates, the so-called commoners collectively owning the land, and “clients”.
Temple dependents and valuable artisans were considered customers, small plots of land were given to some of them, labor of others was paid.
Society was slave-holding, but according to the sources, slaves were treated well. A slave could redeem freedom and possessed certain rights, etc.
At the head of the city was a “big man”, who was elected among free citizens. In the case of making important decisions for the state, free citizens convened on bicameral “assembly”, including a house of “husbands” and a house of “elders”.
However, there was some spiritual motivation for the existence and development of society. We mean religion.
According to the beliefs and convictions of the Sumerians, the gods created people to serve themselves. Acknowledge and thank to the creator formed the ideology of worship and glorification of the gods, that was reflected in the construction of temple buildings, rituals and ceremonies.
The main building of the Sumerian city was the temple. It was the tallest and most beautiful building in the city.
The priests were the most influential class, determining the spiritual content and the development of society.
What are the foundations laid by the civilization of Sumer, what is its heritage?
The most outstanding achievements of the Sumerian civilization is considered cuneiform writing and a system of education. Sumerian script spread throughout the Middle East, there is evidence of its impact on the creation of Egyptian writing. Sumerian script motivated improvement of writing in many nations, and led to the creation of the alphabet, Aramaic and Phoenician, which gave rise to the ancient and the modern alphabets.
Sumerian system of teaching spread throughout the Middle East, and being adapted, improved and significantly changed in form, has spread throughout the world.
Pupils learned how to write, studied native Sumerian language, mathematics. In particular textbooks, found by researchers, include multiplication tables, squares and square roots, cubes and cube roots, exponential functions, etc.
The second type of discovered mathematical texts involves finding of Pythagorean numbers, extracting cube roots, solution of the equations of a practical nature, etc.
There were found tables with medical, better to say, with pharmaceutical information, and also medical textbooks, but with weird names of diseases.
It is worth mentioning the work of art and crafts by Sumerians. Small sculptural forms, various reliefs, precious jewelry and other works of applied art survived to our time.
Temple architecture, with the filing of the Sumerians, was the beginning of architecture in the states of Mesopotamia and later in neighboring countries.
Cursory mentioning about certain aspects of the Sumerian civilization, we are only denoting the areas and directions in which they were manifested. At the same time we must realize that it was the first major achievements of the human mind.
Deep spiritual and intellectual aspects of the life of the Sumerians reveal us familiarity with their literature. We can not agree with the statement that all Sumerian literature was religious. Epic poems, lyrical essays, myths and proverbs differ in content and form from hymns and laments performed in the temples. The Sumerians were the first creators of epic literature. Kings kept minstrels, who composed works of the exploits of heroes, their fearlessness and adventures, singers and musicians staged theatrical performances.
Schumer, developing as a state system had legislative and legal system. For fairness and justice in the country was responsible the king personally, but in fact both state control and the proceedings were in the hands of administration. This led to the bureaucracy in its worst manifestation, and offences and corruption. It should also be counted among the heritage of Sumer.
The most important result of law formation in Sumer was a formal statement of law in the form of legal codes and regulations. Legal procedure was based on approved written laws. Taxation also had a legal basis.
And, finally, let’s talk about religion and theology. In brief and to the point.
So, Samuel Kramer* identifies three major aspects of religion of the Sumerians:
– Creating cosmology and theology, which became the basis of religions of all the Middle East;
– Creating rites, rituals and ceremonies, and worships;
– Writing hymns, prayers and hymns to the gods;
– Creating myths and epics, glorifying the divine origin and divine involvement in people’s lives.
According to the Sumerian cosmology there was a primary sea, where the Universe originated, “earth-sky”. Between earth and sky the “atmosphere” was moving (the same spirit, breath, wind, air). In this regard, remember “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”.
After the separation of heaven and earth the life originated: flora, fauna, people.
The gods ruled the universe, all phenomena and processes of all living and nonliving. But the gods acted in accordance with the plan, too, in harmony with the laws and regulations. The divine pantheon consisted of seven gods, “the fate of the judging”, and fifty “great gods”.
To understand the role of religion in Sumerian society it is important that the presiding deity was recognized as a personal god.
A separate person could have a personal god, this or that Sumerian city, there was the personal god of the union of cities and state. Gods in the image resembled people. But they were immortal and omnipotent.
A huge role in religion and spiritual culture in general poets and writers, bards and minstrels played. Their writings – myths, epics, poems and hymns formed the spiritual environment of the society.
The characters of works, gods and people arranged the universe, performed feats, organizing people’s lives.
Mythology, epics and literature were in the service of religion. At the same time secular literature, poetry, prose, and “folk art”, fables, proverbs evolved on their basis.
Thousands of clay tablets containing these works are a treasure of the world culture.
Here we find stories of the creation of a man and woman from the rib of the god Enki, about the Deluge, ethical religious dogmas, which later became the basis of subsequent religions.
A temple was a living center of the Sumerian city-state. From humble sanctuary the temple turned into a functionally organized religious institution with a caste of priests and the staff, with workers and slaves.
We can assume that the foundations of religious organization and structure also originated in Sumer.
The main motive for determining the behavior of the Sumerians, was the belief that the gods created people to serve themselves. It is required from the person to serve gods faithfully, praise them and ask them for mercy.
Therefore it is not surprising that in the religious literature there is a “motive of Job”. A prosperous and believing person becomes miserable and poor. But does not complain about the fate and continues to praise God. And he is rewarded. This theme, thousands of years later, was developed in the Jewish Book of Job.
Other passing themes should be noted, too. So, baby Sargon Ancient as well as the Old Testament Moses arrives in a basket and is taken to be raised in the royal house. However, it occurs a thousand years before Moses, etc.
Researchers cite dozens of parallels between the Pentateuch and the traditions of the Sumerians (or the first successors of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon).
Sumerians themselves as later both Babylonians and Jews, “God’s chosen” people. According to them, the gods chose Sumer to be a place of their habitation. Sumerians constitute a sacred community, which has a close relationship with the gods, closer than any other nation. High moral of the Sumerians, developed over many years, meets the gods’ will.
Sumerians cultivated kindness and justice, freedom, mercy and compassion in themselves. And human vices as follows were condemned by the society: evil, deceit, perversion, cruelty, etc.
At the same time, that in relation to other nations, they were not indulgent in their evaluations, so the Amorites, the ancestors of the Babylonians and Jews – savages, “Amur … who eats raw meat, who throughout life has not home, and after death he lies unburied”; residents Urartu – boors and fools; people of Marta – servile tribe.
We remind that an overview we presented – brief and sketch and we will try to expand what is necessary for our thesis arguing about continuity and succession of spiritual and material achievements of Sumer by other Asiatic nations, and then the rest of humanity.
Continuity was to take the achievements of Sumer, the assimilation of its experience, its imitation of customs. And, most importantly, the resulting property has stimulated the development and improvement of acquisitions.
Continuity was a two way process. The lands, conquered by Sumer, were included in its material and spiritual space.
On the other hand, neighboring nations, primarily Semitic tribes of Arabia, were peacefully penetrating in Schumer.
With time Sumer was replaced by new nations and people who have took possession of the Sumerian heritage.
Babylon and Assyria, the coastal countries of the Mediterranean, as well as rival countries, such as Persia, later the state of the Hittites absorbed directly or indirectly the heritage of Sumer. There are reasons to believe that the states of antiquity as follows: Carthage, Greece and Rome were influenced by the Mesopotamian civilization.
The social system of the first Sumerian city-states was a rural community. The transition of communal lands into private ownership defined social stratification of the society.
There are officials, artisans, merchants, peasants, and, of course, soldiers. Soldiers and officials were a special group of landowners. They got allotment for their service and for the period of service.
Priesthood was getting particular importance, occupying a privileged position in the society.
And slaves, who were recruited from the prisoners and debtors, were closing the social hierarchy.
Isn’t it a typical structure of almost any ancient society, with some additions and changes specific to a particular state?
However a principle position is that such a system in Sumer was developed for the first time.
The society was ruled by Lugal, “The big man”. The society consisted of free citizens, who the bicameral “Assembly” was elected from, to participate in governing the state. Lugal was “the supreme commander” and personally supervised the construction and maintenance of irrigation facilities.
With time Lugal turned into a monarch, officials in a bureaucratic machine. A monarch became the supreme legislator and rules “on behalf of the all-knowing god of Sun”.
Authorship of governmental legislation belongs to the Sumerians, too.
History of law can not be understood without the ancient Sumerian records of laws and regulations. An interesting fact is that in the Sumerian courts was considered necessary to execute all things in writing.
Courts usually consisted of three people. There are records, describing the procedure of the legal procedure, etc.
Legislation and law, obtained from the Sumerians in several centuries reflected in the so-called Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi himself ruled Babylon in the eighteenth century BC.
Article of the Code are located according to the areas of the law. Among the main legal categories are considered:
– Ownership. Obviously, there was a state, palace, communal (collective) and private ownership of land.
– Contract Law, which states that obligations arise from contracts and offenses.
– Family Law concerned the life of the community, the status of women in society, the status of children.
– Inheritance law. In Mesopotamia the practice for inheritance was provided either by will or by law.
– Criminal Law. The main provision of the criminal law considered that punishment must be proportionate to the crime (“an eye for an eye”).
The most common penalty was a fine.
The Code permitted lynching, too. At the same time the legislation provided mitigation of guilt, for example for manslaughter.
– Court and judicial proceedings. Judges were appointed by the state. And “council of elders”, appointed from respected citizens, helped them.
The judge ordered to be fair, otherwise he could be punished himself.
For consideration of state crimes, such as infringement of public order or insulting the king, a special court was created.
We talked about the Code of Hammurabi, but before it there were “laws of Eshnunna”, in three-quarters of a similar law of Hammurabi. And before that the laws of rulers Lippe-Ishtar, Ur-Nammu, written in Sumerian, were created.
And they all are projected from ancient Sumer, which have written evidence.
Late states of Mesopotamia, and their near and far neighboring states used finished legislations directly or made feasible, in their opinion, amendments and adjustments. And the Code of Hammurabi was translated into several languages.
Due to usage of the Code of Hammurabi in other Near Eastern countries in our time there was controversy over the “birthright of the Biblical Law”.
Some researchers claim about borrowing many of the provisions of Jewish Law from the earlier Babylonian sources.
The opening of the Sumerian laws texts says about ancient Sumerian sources of legislation.
As already noted, the most important achievement of the Sumerian civilization was the invention of writing.
Administration of the state, school and education, science and literature, medicine, law, culture and art, and finally religion, which were the basis of the Sumerian civilization, were cemented and lasted more than a thousand years, thanks to writing.
To date, there is no final opinion on the origin of the alphabet. However, it is proved that the development of Sumerian cuneiform led to the creation of the first phonetic writing.
The creation of Phoenician letters can be viewed as finding a new more advanced form of writing. A universal distribution of Mesopotamian cuneiform could serve as an impulse for the ancient Phoenicians linguists.
Sumerian script was caused by economic necessity, economy. The first found and decrypted clay tablets contain temple records of economic, business life, such as receiving or issuing of goods, a variety of products, in warehouses in particular, the quantity of pets, etc.
Usage of writing quickly spread in religious purposes, and soon engulfed other areas of activities of the Sumerian society.
It is interesting that the literary works began to be written only a thousand years after the invention of writing.
And the greatest number of literary records refers to the period of the decay of Sumer.
The continuity of Sumerian writing, as a tool for cultural heritage, was provided by its feature. Sumerians invented the concept of syllabogramme. It allowed to use a “sound shell” of this or that symbol, or this or that mark of icon.
This approach gave a possibility to write down other languages other than Sumerian. Here, first of all, Akkadian language is meant, i.e. Chaldean and Assyrian, languages of states that replaced Sumer.
It is remarkable that the literary works of the Sumerians in their artistic value are unique. And if taking into account the fact that they were the first literary works, they can be put at the head of the ancient world literature.
- Kramer gives information about the fact that the Assyrians and Babylonians borrowed Sumerian literary works in their entirety. Hittites and Canaanians translated them into their native language. And in their own literature they imitated Sumerian originals.
“The form and content of Jewish literary works and, to some extent, even the Greek ones turned out to be under strong influence of the Sumerian originals”.
Mathematical achievements of the Sumerians were perceived by neighbors in the east and west up to Greece. And even famous Pythagoras lived for several years in Babylon, studying mathematics among many sciences.
Sumerian mathematics left the most noticeable trace in development of the world mathematics and civilization as a whole.
By the above-mentioned mathematical achievements of the Sumerians, which were borrowed by descendants, it is necessary to add significant discoveries in mathematics as follows:
– Creation of a sextuple counting system, which defined the appearance of denary Indo-Arabic counting system;
– Creating on the basis of the sextuple practice of counting the systems of circle and angles, as well as some of the measures used in our days.
The subsequent use of medical achievements of the Sumerians can be regarded as documentary evidence. Numerous records firstly in Sumerian, and later on in Akkadian languages, containing detailed medical writings: treatment procedures, descriptions of diseases, etc. reached us.
The art of Sumer left trace in history, especially by its architecture. Sumerian temples with their columns, painted walls and altars, mosaic decoration served as a model of the following temple and church architecture .
Sumerian sculpture, according to the researchers, presumably also created sculpture as an art in many countries, including ancient Greece. Such finds of Sumerians as a set, arch, floor, were borrowed by the ancient world.
We will not forget that a seemingly insignificant, but eternal invention by Sumerians – a cylindrical seal, which to this day is a treasure of officials and financiers.
A significant scientific contribution of Sumer is the creation of astronomy. We should note that the Sumerians did not divide astronomy and astrology.
Astronomy as a science about the Universe, studied celestial bodies, their movements, changes and features. Observations of Venus were made, the dates of solar and lunar eclipses, etc. were fixed.
It can not be said that astronomy was recognized with high achievements. We emphasize only the main fact – it was the first, and this in itself should inspire respect.
After the final absorption of Sumer by the Amorites, known in history as the Babylonians – on behalf of their capital and their country – all the spiritual, cultural and technological heritage of Sumer passed into the hands of conquerors.
Astronomy became a science, distinguished with world achievements under the successor of Sumer, Babylon.
Astrology of the Sumerians was the main of “celestial sciences”. Astrologers studied connections with of celestial phenomena with signs, weather, other natural processes and, most importantly, with society.
Literary heritage of the Sumerians is more noteworthy.
Here it is necessary to give some explanations. Assessing the literary heritage, we consider the literature itself and mythology and epic, too.
Plots of the main mythical and epic works when borrowing them by other cultural communities, passed into the category of either literature or religious scriptures.
Myths, epics and literature of early Sumer were oral creativity.
At the same time, both myths and epos can be viewed as literature with characteristics inherent to this genre. Close intertwining of religious motives and practical description of the life of the Sumerians allow you to analyze spiritual parameters of the Sumerian society.
In the early Sumerian myths there are such subjects as the creation of the world outlook and the creation of a man, it is spoken about the heavenly tabernacles and the Deluge, death and afterlife existence. And at the same time the myths contain descriptions of the gods’ practical actions aimed at organizing life of people, that is, about the behavior of human-like behavior of gods.
So, in the best preserved Sumerian myth “Enki and the World Order”, the creation of the earth and the proclamation of the states’ fate that arise in the future, are presented. Then improvement of land is described. Enki fills the Tigris and Euphrates with invigorating water, makes soil fertile, teaches people to cultivate the land, gives to their usage a variety of cereals and vegetables, etc.
Enki claims the borders of states and resettlement of peoples. Prophets and oracles, sorcerers, which are also fixed for the deity, are not forgotten. It also assigns a goddess of dress, which should organize weaving, sewing and looking after female attire.
It was mentioned above that in Sumerian mythology the creation of the first woman on earth happened from a rib of the god Enki. For this purpose, the goddess Nin-ti was even created, or “Mrs. of a Rib”. A word “TI” in Sumerian means a rib, another meaning of the word “TI” – “enliven”. A mythological explanation of the emergence of a woman on earth was formed according to these interpretations. In another myth we are told how Enki created the first man.
In the poem of Dilmun, we are told about a wonderful country of Dilmun, a paradise of gods.
Researchers note many parallels with the paradise of Jewish of Genesis. Babylon, the heir to the Sumerian idea, arranged its abode of immortals in the same places as the Sumerian authors, to the east of Sumer.
One of the most exciting of Mesopotamian myths is the myth of the Deluge.
Numerous studies prove only one indisputable fact – the Deluge was in fact. To the questions: when the deluge was, was it of a World type and what the real consequences of this catastrophe are – no convincing answer.
Assumptions of deluge time vary from 33981 year (according to the Sumerian list of kings) and 35449 (according to an ancient Greek historian Berosus) BC; some scholars date the deluge for 8000-plus years BC. And finally, the Jewish Torah states that the deluge occurred in 3000 BC.
Information about the Deluge are in multiple sources, there are 13 deluges in Asia, in the New World – 37, in Australia and Oceania – 9. And delugeing period ranged from 5 days to 52 years.
We can not say whether the deluge was World or regional, whether it happened at the same time or we are talking about a few accidents.
The most complete description of the Deluge is in Mesopotamian myths and legends.
In chronological order we note that the description of the deluge is given:
– in the Sumerian myth, where the main character is a Sumerian king Ziusurda;
– in Babylon, where the character Utnapishtim, the only person who survived the deluge and told to Gilgamesh, Mesopotamian priest and king, the hero of many epics, about it;
– and finally, the deluge, which we know about from the Old Testament Book of Genesis.
In the mentioned myths, and in the Old Testament a generally similar pattern of global catastrophe is provided.
The crash occurred in the Sumerian-Akkadian legends at the whim of the gods. In the Old Testament story the Deluge – God’s punishment for man’s sins. “The Lord repented that he had made man on the earth”.
These versions have practically the same basic motives and plot as a whole.
Sumerian and Assyrian characters are warned by one of the gods of the Sumerian pantheon. Righteous Noah is warned by Lord himself.
In both cases an Ark is built. The Ark is loaded with representatives of all living beings.
In one case there are crows, in the other – pigeons, which indicate the end of the deluge.
We will repeat that one of the first descriptions of the deluge refers to the XVIII century BC. Also, there are earlier descriptions, which we have mentioned above. Both Gilgamesh and Utnapishtim are real historical figures. In particular, Gilgamesh lived in XXVII BC, was a priest and king simultaneously. His name is found in the myths, epics and particular texts.
We can assume that the oral traditions of the deluge, Ziusurd, Gilgamesh existed first in Sumer, and then in Babylon and Assyria, and subsequently reflected in the Old Testament.
Without touching the religious side of the point, we can say that the written description of the deluge is more than a thousand years older than the description, given in the Jewish Torah. Comparison of oral versions, telling about the deluge, it is not correct.
Another thing is that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have their arguments, whose name – Faith in God.
Babylonian culture, religion, education system were identical to Sumerian ones. And Babylon distributed a mastered domain to its neighbors: the Assyrians, Hittites, Canaanites, Urartu. And these people and nations absorbed innovations of Babylon, too.
However, Babylon, in a sense, was a continuation of Sumer.
The Sumerians are considered the first creators of epic literature. Played by the minstrels to the accompaniment of musical instruments epics and hymns were essential attributes of various celebrations and festivities.
We can claim that the epic as a literary genre, was born in Sumer and was borrowed initially neighbors, and then neighbors of neighbors.
Sumerian hymns were ones of the hardest, we can say, sophisticated genres of Sumerian literature. Hymns were sung in musical accompaniment, and there was a choral performance in conjunction with the declamation.
Hymns were grouped in the following areas: hymns praising the gods or kings, prayers, hymns in honor of the Sumerian temples.
Sumerian solemn worships and prayers became widespread in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the Middle East, of course taking into account the changes, made according to their own tenets of this or that religion.
There is known a so-called lament. These elegies are different because of artistic beauty, and express deep human feelings. In lament you are told about the destruction of cities or death of relatives and friends. According S. Kramera these expressive works precede, appearing at least in a millennium, laments for Hector of “Iliad” or lament by David for Saul.
Spiritual heritage of Sumer is a dark side of human existence. Demons and other creatures were actively present in everyday life. Diseases, infant mortality, human suffering and misery, all this is the work by evil spirits. There were evil men, sorcerers and witches, too, who also brought misery and misfortune.
You could protect yourself against demons or witches by asking for help to the deity or by magical spells and actions.
There were superstitions, and omens and signs warned a human about ills. And astrologers tried to predict future events.
A demon could live in the house, or wait for a person on the street, and they were a favorite retreat of the cemetery and the ruins. But a common place of their stay was a desert.
On Saturday (Shabbat in Sumerian, Akkadian and Hebrew) both the Babylonians and Assyrians avoided leaving their homes. Saturday was considered the most unlucky day, it was impossible to start any business, and domestic work not performed.
In Mesopotamia the first calendar was made, consisting of twelve months, and a seven-day week was introduced.
From the Sumerians calendar moved to Babylon and Assyria, Canaan, and then further to the Jews. It is interesting that the names of the months in the Babylonian calendar and in the Jewish are almost identical. The seven-day “Babylon” week spread to Rome during the reign of Augustus.
Researchers have found traces of Sumerian heritage in Jewish religious texts.
“Only the most obvious and significant” of them include such episodes as: creation of the universe, the creation of man, paradise, deluge, Law, Tower of Babel and the scattering of people, etc., a total of fifteen matches. “This list – only a small portion lying on the surface”. The number of such examples “will grow and multiply, especially books like Psalms, Proverbs, Laments and the Song of Songs”.*
Continuity and borrowing from Sumerian mythology and religious literature could occur through direct heirs of Sumer – Babylon and Assyria.
Writing the Torah coincides with the time of captivity of the Jews by Babylon. The captivity of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar in 588 BC and their seventy-year stay in an alien environment could not help affecting their culture. Despite the fact that most Jews assimilated or blended into Babylonian society, other Jews keenly felt the need for self-preservation.
The fate of the Jews of the first Babylonian captivity and the preceding Assyrian captivity of Israel did not repeat. However, the impact of the spiritual environment, literature and mythology, religion, life and customs of Babylon could not help leaving a mark in the minds of the Jews.
Sumerian material heritage: inventions and discoveries, technology, experience and organization were borrowed or served as a basis for development and improvement, self-development by countries in the Middle East and then Europe.
The contribution of Sumer in spiritual formation and the development of human civilization is large and not fully evaluated.
* S. Kramer. SUMERIANS. The first civilization on Earth.