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Thursday, October 23, 2014

4000-539 B.C.: First civilizations advance medicine, part 4

Again, to understand how you might be treated if you were sick or injured (of if you were short of breath) in any particular era during our long history, it's important to understand the civilizations that existed at the time.  The various civilizations that existed around ancient Mesopotamian, along with the ingredients that make them a civilization, are listed in the chart below (all dates are estimates):

Ancient Mesopotamia 
     Sumerians: A mixture of non-Semitic people of unknown origin gathered together around 5000 or 4000 B.C. Sumerians populated Southern or Lower Mesopotamia
Cities formed: 3500-3000 B.C.
Archaic Period: 3360-2400 B.C.
Writing invented: 3200-2850 B.C.
Nimrod started building Babylon 3000 B.C.
Urek Kings Ruled: 2850-2360 B.C.

Invented the wheel, pottery wheel, cuneiform writing. City-states started out democratically, and ended up being ruled by kings. Invented plow, which was pulled by oxen to till the land. Most people were Caucasians. Invented tools to plant seeds and measure fields. 
Sumero-Akkadian Period
Akkadian Empire: 2334–2218 BC

Sargaon I of Akkadia was Semetic king who defeated natives, creating world's first empire. They were Semetic people who spoke Akkadian. Sargon had 544 soldiers eating with him. Their capital was Ur. Rulers had to motivate people to do the work. Defeated by Guti hoards from the Zargos (mountain range in Western Iran).

Gutian Period (Neo-Sumerian): 2218–2047 BC
Ur kings ruled: 2080-1950 B.C.
Ur was now their center; Bigger and better temples built to gods; The city was built around the Tigris River, and perhaps a change in the river's path forced the people to abandon the city to find food. Ur kings brought Sumeria to golden age of literature and Mathematics. Most Sumerian myths and legends come from here. Sumerian civilization slowly came to end.
Ancient Babylonia (Akkadian Semetic Society)
They were farmers and lovers of knowledge (Bradford, page 7-8)
The Babylonians populated the Southern or Lower Mesopotamia
Old Dynasty: 2000-700 B.C.

Hummarabi ruled: 1792-1750

Nebuchadrezzar I ruled: 1125-1104
Created by Amorites from the west and people of Elam from the east. Their capital was Babylon, their language Akkadian, and they assimilated Sumerian culture. Greatest ruler was Hummurabi (1792-1750), who created the Hummarabi codes. Conquered by Assyria in 689 B.C. Babylonia sacked, and Babylonia became part of Assyrian Empire.

New Dynasty: 612-539 B.C
Nebopolossar ruled: 625-605 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar II ruled: 605-561 B.C.
Babylon flourished to greatest glory: 612-539 B.C.
Persian Rule: 539-332 B.C.
Ruled by Alexander the Great: 332-323 B.C.
Founded by Nebopolossar defeated Assyrians. His son Nebuchadnezzar II brought Babylon to greatest glory. Fell to Persia in 539 B.C., and Babylonia continued to be wealthiest place in Persian Empire until defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. Babylonians copied onto clay tablets the Sumerian and Babylonian myths and legends, many of which were discovered by modern archaeologists.
Assyria (Semetic Society)
They were warriors or traders and cared nothing for books. (Bradford, page 7-8)
Asyrians populated the Northern or Lower Mesopotamia
Hurrion/Horite Invations: 1700-1500
Assyrian Civiliation: 2731-612 B.C.
Kingdom of Mitanni: 1500-1400 B.C. 
Hittite Invasions:  1400 B.C. 
Aramean invasions:  1078-935 B.C.
Chaldean invasions: 1078-935 B.C.
Ninevah flourished to greatest glory:  750-612 B.C
Assurbanipal was last king: 669-627 B.C. 
Their language was Akkadian. They adapted Babylonian culture, with some Hittite and Hurrion influence.  In the 12th century they made Ninevah their capital. They created great libraries consisting of stone tablets.  Assurbanipal amassed a library of over 20,000 stone tablets, including 660 medical tablets, at his palace at Nineveh.  It was destroyed by invaders, thus preserving the stash of books. Along with medicine, the Assyrians also advanced astronomy, engineering, military technology, literature, architecture, merchantry, and engineering.  

I just want to make a note here that the Sumerians were a non-Semitic people, so their language was different from the other societies of the area, most of which were Semitic.  So while each of the various societies may have had their own languages, they were similar in nature.  So while the Akkadians spoke the Akkadian language, it was not difficult for them to communicate with the other tribes in the area, such as the Chaldeans and Phoenicians.  (reference)

However, it is also interesting to note that the Sumerian language lived on until about 300 B.C. (Prioreschi, page 429) It was essentially used the way we use Latin to this day. Anyone who works in the medical profession today will know that many of the terms used are Latin.  This makes it easy for medical people to communicate regardless of what language is spoken.  (reference)

Likewise, because the various societies that later developed in ancient Mesopotamia -- Babylonia, Assyria, Persia -- adapted Sumerian culture, it is often difficult "to determine what elements in the religion of Babylonia were purely of Semitic origin," says Prioreschi.

Although, what is known is that the Sumerians set the cornerstones for the religious beliefs of all future ancient Mesopotameans, "which, broadly speaking, was based on the fear of evil spirits and of gods that were often unfriendly to mankind." (Prioreschi, page 429)

To conclude our introduction to the first civilizations, I want to mention here briefly the hierarchy of society in ancient Mesopotamia.  Essentially, it was similar to other ancient civilizations.  It started with the god who resided in the Ziggurat, and from there we have:
  • Aristocracy: Consisting about 10 percent of the people, and their job was to rule on behalf of god
    • Kings and Queens: They acted on behalf of gods to assure the work of gods was done
    • Princes and Princesses: They lived at palace and  basically enjoyed the rewards of the slaves and peasants
    • Nobles: Made up assembly of elders who guided monarchy in making decisions, they owned the land that was farmed by the slaves (peasants) the god or goddess made as laborers. 
  • Peasants: They consisted of about 90 percent of the people. They were the slaves created by the gods to do all the hard work
    • Commoners/ Farmers: They planted and harvested crops, and gave it all to nobles, who gave it to the king, who in turn gave it to the temple. In the way, the temple controlled everything. Some of them actually owned their own land, and gave their products to the temple.
    • Shepherds:  They took care of the animals.  All food and skins produced by them was also owned by the temples. 
    • Merchants: They ran factories and sold the goods of the temple at the shops.
    • Craftsmen:  They made tools, weapons, etc. for the temple to dole out to the people
    • Servants:  They worked at the palace and temples. 
    • Warriors: These might include farmers, Sheppard, servants, and slaves 
    • Slaves: Usually these were prisoners of war and criminals
So this kind of sums up what life was like in ancient Mesopotamia.  The hunters and gathers who roamed the earth during prehistoric times planted the seeds of almost all the later aspects of human life, including mythology, religion, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, and even medicine. Actually, in many ways, all these seeds were offshoots from the same tree of knowledge.  

The medicine that evolved from here was mythological in nature, although it would soon grow to a full and flourishing tree of its own.  Surely this early medicine was primitive, yet it still provided options for those who were sick in the ancient world.  

References:  See post "2000 B.C.:  Assyrian physicians will treat your dyspnea"

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