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HIST101: Ancient Civilizations of the World

Unit 2: The Rise of Civilization in the Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean   The first mature civilizations of the ancient world, Mesopotamia and Egypt, arose in the Tigris-Euphrates and Nile valleys, respectively. Both were dependent on neighboring river systems, but Mesopotamian civilization and Egyptian civilization differed in significant ways. By 1000 B.C.E., both of these formative civilizations had begun to decline, but they still influenced the development of other smaller civilizations in the Mediterranean littoral.

In this unit, we will examine the emergence of societies in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean and explore how social patterns and political conflicts shaped their evolution. When examining Mesopotamia, we will focus primarily on the emergence of Sumerian society and the Babylonian Empire, while we will focus on the three most important phases of ancient Egypt  the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. We will also discuss the Minoan civilization in the Mediterranean.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 18 hours.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 9 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Unit 2 Assessment: 0.5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify the cultural origins of early Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations; - describe the relationship between the geographical features of the ancient world and developments of early civilizations; - trace the development of Minoan commerce, cities, and political institutions during the Greek Bronze Age;and - assess the political, social, and cultural legacies of the early civilizations of the Middle East, Africa, and the Mediterranean.

2.1 Mesopotamia   - Reading: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History: “Lecture 2: Ancient Western Asia and the Civilization of Mesopotamia” Link: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History: “Lecture 2: Ancient Western Asia and the Civilization of Mesopotamia” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article in order to get a sense of Mesopotamia – before civilization as well as at the height of Sumer and the Babylonian Empire.
 
About the link: This text was developed by Dr. Steven Kreis as an open educational resource for use in undergraduate history courses.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “The Near East, 3000-1500, B.C.” Link: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “The Near East, 3000-1500, B.C.” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this article and pay special attention to the section “Mesopotamia, Proper,” which offers a brief overview of Ancient Mesopotamian History.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. It is attributed to Jack E. Maxfield, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: Steve Muhlberger’s “General Characteristics of Mesopotamian Civilization” Link: Nipissing University: Steve Muhlberger’s “General Characteristics of Mesopotamian Civilization” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entirety of this lecture for a sense of the origin and prominent features of Mesopotamian culture.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.1 The Emergence of Sumerian Culture   - Reading: Gateways to Babylon’s version of Robert Temple’s *The Epic of Gilgamesh* Link: Gateways to Babylon’s version of Robert Temple’s The Epic of Gilgamesh (HTML)
 
Also available in:
Google Books
 
Instructions: Read this text, paying close attention to the roles of individual characters, especially Enkidu, and the unique syntax of the epic.
 
About the link: The Gateways to Babylon website offers primary-source materials relating to ancient Mesopotamia.
 
Note on the Text: The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought by many scholars to be one of the earliest known works of literature. Originally written on twelve clay tablets, this story centers around the adventures of the mytho-historical figure of Gilgamesh, the King of Uruk, and his friend, Enkidu. The text sheds light on the nature of ancient Babylonian culture and belief systems.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: University of Cambridge: Martin West’s reading of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI Link: University of Cambridge: Martin West’s reading of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI (Flash)
     
    Instructions: Listen to this recording to augment the reading listed above.
     
    About the link: This website, hosted by the University of Cambridge, is devoted to exploring ancient texts with new media.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposed with the kind permission of Martin West, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this resource is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicity permission of the copyright holder.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Study Questions for the Epic of Gilgamesh” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Study Questions for the Epic of Gilgamesh” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Complete this assessment. You can check your answers against the “Guide to Responding”.

2.1.2 The Fall of Sumer and the Rise of the Babylonian Empire   - Reading: Livius: Jona Lendering’s “Babylonian Empire” Link: Livius: Jona Lendering’s “Babylonian Empire” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article for a good overview of the rise and fall of ancient Babylon.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposed with academic permission. It is attributed to Jona Lendering, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 B.C.E.” Link: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Code of Hammurabi, c. 1780 B.C.E.” (HTML)
     
    Also available in:
    Google Books
     
    Instructions: Read this document to understand the importance of the rule of law in ancient Babylonia. Also scan the “commentary” to get a sense of the historical context of the Code.
     
    About the link: The Ancient History Sourcebook, developed by Professor Paul Halsall at Fordham University, contains a translation by L.W. King of Hammurabi’s Code.
     
    Note on the text: Hammurabi’s Code is the oldest known set of written human laws. Hammurabi, king and chief priest of Babylonia from 1792-1750 B.C.E., set out these 282 laws to preserve order and justice while also protecting all strata of Babylonian society, including women and slaves. The Code is most well-known for its “eye for an eye” philosophy of social justice.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain. The original version may be found here.

2.2 Ancient Egypt   - Reading: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “Africa, 3000-1500 B.C., Northeast Africa” “Africa, 1500-1000, B.C., Northeast Africa”, and “Africa, 1000-700, B.C., Northeast Africa” Link: Jack E. Maxfield’s A Comprehensive Outline of World History: “Africa, 3000-1500 B.C., Northeast Africa” (PDF), “Africa, 1500-1000, B.C., Northeast Africa” (PDF), and “Africa, 1000-700, B.C., Northeast Africa” (PDF)
  
Instructions: Read these three articles to get a historical overview of the specific phases of ancient Egyptian history that will be discussed in this subunit.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. It is attributed to Jack E. Maxfield, and the original version can be found here, here, and here.

2.2.1 Egyptian Society and Religion   - Reading: Internet Archive: E.A. Wallis Budge’s translation of Papyrus of Ani: Egyptian Book of the Dead Link: Internet Archive: E.A. Wallis Budge’s translation of Papyrus of Ani: Egyptian Book of the Dead (HTML)
 
Instructions: Scan this text in order to get a sense of ancient Egyptians’ perception of the afterlife.
 
About the link: This website offers several versions of the E.A. Wallis Budge translation of the Papyrus of Ani: Egyptian Book of the Dead, including scanned pages and text-only formats.
 
Note on the text: This document, an ancient Egyptian funerary text, describes the Egyptian conception of the afterlife in a collection of hymns, spells, and instructions. It was used to help the deceased pass through obstacles and attain an afterlife of bliss in the Field of Reeds. Commonly written on a papyrus scroll, the Egyptian Book of the Dead highlights the importance of the afterlife in the ancient Egyptian civilization.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.2 Dynasties in Egypt: the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms   - Reading: P.A. Piccione’s “Comprehensive List of Egyptian Kings with Chronology” Link: P.A. Piccione’s “Comprehensive List of Egyptian Kings with Chronology” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Scan this chronology to get a sense of the various dynasties that came to power in ancient Egypt.
 
About the link: This website was developed by Peter A. Piccione, Associate Professor of ancient near eastern history at the College of Charleston.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History: “Egyptian Civilization” Link: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide:Egyptian Civilization” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entirety of the website in order to get a sense of the various kingdoms that rose to power in ancient Egypt.
     
    About the link: This online text was developed by Dr. Steven Kreis as an open educational resource.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.
     

2.3 Civilization Centers in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean   2.3.1 Kush and Axum   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Kush and Axum: Empires of East Africa” Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Kush and Axum: Empires of East Africa”
 
Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Kush and Axum: Empires of East Africa” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please read “Kush and Axum: Empires of East Africa” in its entirety to get a sense of the kingdoms of Axum and Kush that emerged after the decline of Egypt. 

  • Reading: Fordham University: Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s selected “Accounts of Meroe, Kush, and Axum c. 430 BCE-550 CE” Link: Fordham University: Ancient History Sourcebook: Professor Paul Halsall’s selected “Accounts of Meroe, Kush, and Axum c. 430 BCE-550 CE”” (HTML)
     
    Instructions:  Please read the entire webpage to get a sense of how outsiders such as Herodotus and Strabo described the powerful African kingdoms that emerged at Kush, Axum, and Meroe.
     
    About the link:  Professor Paul Halsall has selected portions of important primary source documents in order to shed light on three important ancient civilizations that emerged in northern Africa.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain. The original version can ve found here.

2.3.2 The Minoans   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's “History of Minoan Crete” Link: Ancient- The Saylor Foundation’s “History of Minoan Crete” (PDF).
 
Instructions: Please read this text in its entirety.  This reading offers an overview of the history of the Minoan Civilization, one of the most important mercantile civilizations of the Bronze Age. 
 
Terms of Use: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

  • Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Colette Hemingway and Sean Hemingway, “Minoan Crete” Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Colette Hemingway and Sean Hemingway, “Minoan Crete” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article to get a sense of the material culture of the Minoan world on the Mediterranean island of Crete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Fall of Minoan Civilization” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Fall of Minoan Civilization” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire article to get a sense of the theory that Minoan civilization declined and eventually disappeared on the island of Crete because of a massive volcanic eruption.

2.3.3 The Hebrews   - Reading: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide: Lectures on Ancient and Medieval European History: “The Akkadians, Egyptians and the Hebrews” Link: Dr. Steven Kreis’s The History Guide:The Akkadians, Egyptians and the Hebrews” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please scroll down the webpage and read the section entitled “The Hebrews” to get a sense of the influential Hebrew civilization.
 
About the link: This online text was developed by Dr. Steven Kreis as an open educational resource.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Jewish Virtual Library: Gerald A. Larue’s “Who Were the Hebrews” Link: Jewish Virtual Library: Gerald A. Larue’s “Who Were the Hebrews” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this entire article to learn about the origins of the Hebrews and their culture.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: Pearson Education’s World Civilizations: The Global Experience: “Chapter 2, Multiple Choice Quiz” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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