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Ch 2: History of the Ancient Near East

About This Chapter

Watch video lessons and learn about the Fertile Crescent, Hammurabi's code, ancient religions and more. These lessons are accompanied by quizzes that test your understanding of events and developments in the ancient Near East.

The Ancient Near East

Prepare to witness the epic developments and experiences that shaped the ancient Near East. First off, we wouldn't have records of these colorful stories and historical trends without one of the most important inventions of all time: writing. Thoughts recorded as writing allowed civilizations to move forward, retain progress and spread knowledge. How exactly did the growth of cities, the invention of writing and countless invasions contribute to the development of religions in the ancient world? Our spiritual conversation will also cover the differences between polytheism and monotheism, what the movement from many gods to one supreme being really meant for religious practices.

We'll track the development of ancient currencies and outline why money became a necessity for increasingly complex societies. The advent of law, as we'll see with Hammurabi's code, was also a necessity for expanding civilizations. We'll also chronicle major developments in metallurgy, exploring the advantages that iron offered over bronze. As always, the historical implications of each development will be outlined and provide context for the amazing stories as lived by our ancestors.

What combination of factors made the Fertile Crescent the cradle of human civilization? As we explore the kingdoms that followed, we'll examine their laws, technologies, art and architecture. We'll pay special attention to Egypt as the pinnacle of Bronze Age society. We'll also take a look at the Iron Age empires, relatively short-lived kingdoms that arose after the Bronze Age collapse. Every good story has a conflict as well; there will be plenty of those as we look back on competing civilizations, exploring the effects of their victories and defeats.

20 Lessons in Chapter 2: History of the Ancient Near East
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
The Invention of Writing

1. The Invention of Writing

Writing, the original IT: This lecture covers the limitations and obstacles of aural transmission. It describes the invention of Cuneiform in the fertile crescent. Finally, it explains how writing enabled literate societies to dominate their pre-literate neighbors.

The History of Money and Rise of Complex Economies

2. The History of Money and Rise of Complex Economies

This lecture covers the development of money in response to the needs of complex economies. It begins with a discussion of gift economies. It then examines the factors that led to the growth of commodity economies. Find out how we came to use money, rather than goods, for commerce.

How Religion Developed in the Stone Age and Bronze Age

3. How Religion Developed in the Stone Age and Bronze Age

Have you ever wondered exactly how religion developed in the ancient world? Check out this lesson to see how the impact of cities, writing and invasion upon religion, the ascent of the sky father and the descent of the mother goddess contributed to the development of religion.

The Fertile Crescent: Cradle of Civilization

4. The Fertile Crescent: Cradle of Civilization

Complex civilization wasn't always the norm. In this lesson, we are going to check out the origins of civilization as we know it, and see where, when, and how this new system of living first began.

Sumerian Art and Architecture

5. Sumerian Art and Architecture

This lesson explores the artwork of one of the earliest civilizations: the Sumerians. Sumerians created beautiful works of art that inspired other cultures for centuries after their decline.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

6. The Epic of Gilgamesh

Witness the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story of adventure, love and friendship. This long poem will help us examine the hallmarks of civilization for a Sumerian and the importance of dreams. We'll also cover the Sumerian contributions to the epic form of literature.

Heirs of the Sumerians: Babylonians, Hittites, Hurrians and Assyrians

7. Heirs of the Sumerians: Babylonians, Hittites, Hurrians and Assyrians

This lecture covers the history of Mesopotamia from the disintegration of the Sumerian Empire to the great Bronze Age collapse. We'll explore the destructive force of the Elamites and the Hittites as well as the imperial ambitions of the Babylonians, the Mittani and the Assyrians.

Assyrian Art and Architecture

8. Assyrian Art and Architecture

This lesson explores the unique characteristics of a fierce and violent culture: the Assyrians. The Assyrians were a warrior culture living in ancient Mesopotamia who used art and architecture to display their power.

Hammurabi's Code: The Advent of Law, Prerequisites and Implications

9. Hammurabi's Code: The Advent of Law, Prerequisites and Implications

This lecture discusses the need for law and the benefits of a judicial system. Next, it reviews the history of early law codes, like those of Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi. Finally, we look at the implications of law for kings.

What's the Difference Between Polytheism and Monotheism?

10. What's the Difference Between Polytheism and Monotheism?

This lecture discusses the origins of monotheism. It then compares monotheism to polytheism, with especial emphasis on the problematic nature of holy law. Finally it uses the Greek story of Hippolytus to compare the ancient polytheistic perspective to a modern christian perspective.

The Hebrews and Their Beliefs

11. The Hebrews and Their Beliefs

This lesson covers the Hebrews and their beliefs. We look at the core tenets of Judaism and explore some of the stories from the Torah. Finally, we see how the Hebrews' history of oppression impacted their religion and the world today.

Ancient Egypt in the Bronze Age

12. Ancient Egypt in the Bronze Age

This lecture first compares the natural features of the Nile valley to those of Mesopotamia, enumerating the advantages that geography offered the Egyptians. This is followed by a brief discussion of why Egyptian material culture survives while so much of Mesopotamian culture has been lost. The lecture ends with a a whirlwind tour through 3,000 years of Egyptian history broken up into traditional historical periods.

Ancient Egyptian Art: History and Style

13. Ancient Egyptian Art: History and Style

This lesson provides a brief look at the exquisite art of the Ancient Egyptians. Egyptian art contains images of people and deities that represent the culture in which they lived.

Ancient Egyptian Architecture: History, Characteristics & Influences

14. Ancient Egyptian Architecture: History, Characteristics & Influences

This lesson explores the architectural wonders of ancient Egypt. Some of these structures include temples, pyramids and monumental statues constructed long ago and surviving into modern times.

Iron vs. Bronze: History of Metallurgy

15. Iron vs. Bronze: History of Metallurgy

This lecture explores the transition from the bronze age to the iron age. The difficulties of working with iron are enumerated. The properties of iron and steel are compared to those of bronze. Finally the implications for this transition on civilization are considered.

Iron Age Empires: Neo-Babylonian, Neo-Assyrian and Persian Empires

16. Iron Age Empires: Neo-Babylonian, Neo-Assyrian and Persian Empires

This lesson is a survey of the three empires that emerged after the Bronze Age collapse. Parts of the survey are viewed from the perspective of the Israelites, who found themselves the playthings of powerful empires. The lecture focuses on a few specific rulers and their impact on their empires. It also traces patterns of imperial tactics throughout this period and region.

Ancient Persian Art and Architecture: History & Style

17. Ancient Persian Art and Architecture: History & Style

This lesson explores the artwork of one of the most powerful and expansive empires in history: the Persian Empire. Persian artwork contained vivid imagery that recorded the success of the Persian kings in battle and their cultural tendencies.

Zoroastrianism: Definition, Beliefs & History

18. Zoroastrianism: Definition, Beliefs & History

Major religions, like Christianity and Islam, have been popular since ancient times, but what religion was popular before these belief systems developed? This lesson explores the beliefs of Zoroastrians, one of the earliest forms of organized religion.

Cult of Mithras: Myth & History

19. Cult of Mithras: Myth & History

The Cult of Mithras was a mysterious religion popular in Rome in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. This lesson explores the secretive beliefs, practices, and history of the cult and its initiates.

Mesopotamian Kings: History, Politics & Religion

20. Mesopotamian Kings: History, Politics & Religion

Ancient Mesopotamia was a land of chaotic weather and inner turmoil. Religion became a political weapon for fighting among the city-states. This lesson explores the link between religion and politics in the ancient land.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
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Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
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