Mesopotamia is considered to be the cradle of civilization. The word Mesopotamia has a Greek origin and means a “land between two rivers. ”The name refers to area between Euphrates and Tigris and its tributaries. It roughly comprises modern Iraq and part of Syria. The climate of the region is semi-arid with a vast desert expanse in the north. The rains in the region are also irregular hence rain-fed agriculture was difficult in ancient Mesopotamia. Worse still, portions of land farther from the water were dry and largely uninhabitable and not arable.
And since the geography of Mesopotamia is such that agriculture is possible only with irrigation and good drainage, Sumerians and Akkadians built their cities along the Tigris and Euphrates and the branches of these rivers and settled into farming. The rivers provided water for irrigation, fish, reeds and clay for building materials. With irrigation, the food supply in Mesopotamia was quite reliable. They grew crops such as barley, onions, grapes, turnips, and apple. They invented wooden plows to till and innovated dams and aqueducts to control water.
They were among the first people to make beer and wine from grapes. The geography of Mesopotamia contributed greatly to the political development of the region. This is clearly seen as the Sumerians developed cities along the rivers, streams and irrigation canals. However, these cities were separated by vast stretches of open deserts and swamps which were occupied by the nomadic tribes. Efforts to unify the cities were defeated due to geographic distance, communication and constant war among the cities.
The Akkadians conquered Sumeria in 2331 BC and formed the first successful empire, The Akkadian Empire. Control of land and water was also a major cause of conflicts among the farming communities and this formation of law government to end conflicts. References Postgate, J. Nicholas. Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the dawn of history. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Roux, Georges. Ancient Iraq. 3rd . New York: Penguin Group, 1993. William, T. R. “Complexity, Diminishing Marginal Returns, and Serial Mesopotamian Fragmentation. ” Journal of World Systems Research 3 (2004).
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