The Sumerian cities were surrounded by walls, much like the Forbidden City, as a way to keep their culture secret and sacred. Sumerian city dwellings were constructed out of sun-dried bricks, including peasant quarters and the larger dwellings of priestly and civic officials.
One of the Sumerian cities, Uruk, occupied an area of 1000 acres enclosed by a wall 6 miles long with defense towers every 35 feet or so। Uruk was founded by Enmerkar who constructed the Eanna temple for the goddess Inanna in the Eanna District of Uruk. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh builds the city wall around Uruk and is king of the city.
Marduk, Babylonian God of ancient Mesopotamia
Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia, although short on stone supplies, constructed their walls and dwellings out of mud. Mudbricks were left to bake in the hot sun until they were hard enough to use for building. Mesopotamian people were incredibly innovative, inventing an arch and some of the largest brick buildings in the world. Mud bricks are still used to build in the Middle East today.
Great Ziggurat of Ur
The most prominent building found in Sumerian cities is the temple, dedicated to the chief god or goddess of the city and built on top of a massive stepped tower, or ziggurat. The Sumerians believed the gods owned the temples therefore wealth and riches were used to construct luxurious homes for the priestly officials who served the gods.
The priests of Sumerian cities had great power, and as history shows, the priests and priestesses played a vital role in ruling those Sumerian cities in the early stages. Thus, if the gods played a role in government, this made the state a theocracy-a form of government in which god or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God's or deity's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities. The ruling power was primarily, however, in the hands of the kings of Sumerian cities.
Kingship in Sumerian Cities
Kings in the Sumerian cities were believed to derive their power from the gods, or so the Sumerians believed this to be true. Kings had the power, as they led the armies, supervised public works, and organized workers for irrigation projects. Sumerian kings typically lived in large palaces with their children and wives, and were aided by the army, priests, and bureaucracy.
Society in Sumerian Cities
There were four distinctive social groups in the Sumerian cities: elites, dependent commoners, free commoners, and slaves. The elites, of course, included the royals and the priestly officials. Dependent commoners included those that worked on the palace grounds or the temples. Free commoners were farmers, merchants, artisans, scribes, and craftsmen. Since close to 90% of the population was farmers, they exchanged their goods with the artisans and craftsmen at town markets. Sumerian male slaves were used for building purposes, usually in the construction of temples for officials. Sumerian women were used to grind grain and weave cloth and landowners used them for domestic jobs and farming.
Economy in Sumerian CitiesThe economy in Sumerian cities was largely based on agricultural means, however industry was starting to become more important as well. Textiles such as pottery, metalwork, and woolen products were produced for trade purposes. Luxury items were imported by the royal officials such as dried fish, barley, wheat, and wool. Foreign trade was highly expensive and primarily a monopoly. Trade was typically by land in the west and by sea in the east. In 3000 BC, however, the invention of the wheel made transport of goods much easier.
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Uruk Period Kings
The landscape during the Uruk Period was dominated by agricultural growth, as cities competed for resources and warfare and hostilities sparked from disputes over water rights and property. Mudbrick walls were constructed around the developing and urbanizing cities in order to cut tensions. Ziggurats were created by the kings to protect the people and house the gods. The question remains, however, were there actual kings during the Uruk Period?
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