Through the development of writing, mathematics, metalworking, detailed law codes, and the wheel, Mesopotamians have shown their ingenuity with many different achievements. The world as we know it could not survive without writing. I am writing right now in order to do this paper, and the economy and so much of our lives is dependent on writing. Although it goes hand-in-hand with writing, mathematics is also a very important achievement of the Mesopotamians. Mesopotamians based their math system on sixty, but it is just as important and influential regardless. Metal work is another great achievement of the Mesopotamians; it improved warfare, made better tools, and is very important in life today also. Law codes, although mostly used as a guideline, helped to keep the peace and gave a true sense of authority and respect for the king. The wheel was one of the most influential inventions of all time, despite its simplistic origins as a potter’s wheel and then later a solid way of pulling a cart easier.
Writing is by far the most important achievement of Mesopotamian society. Developing from writing on clay “envelopes” as a way of keeping business records, writing was first used as a counting method. Later on, Sumerians, who were the first to develop a writing system, realized that it would be easier to simply write these notes on clay rather than on the round “envelope.” The writing system that began to emerge is called Cuneiform and pushing a reed into a clay tablet produced these Cuneiform symbols. However, before the Cuneiform we know today developed, pictograms were used to represent several different sounds or words. These pictograms gradually became more abstract over time, and developed into a system of triangular shapes and lines. Writing promoted a person’s social status, if you knew how to read and write you were someone.
The choicest profession in Mesopotamia was to be a scribe, as almost no common people knew how to write, and even kings usually did not know how to write. With writing and the writing profession, schools began to develop to teach their pupils to become scribes. Most scribes worked either for the government or worked as the town scribe. Writing is extremely important today. It has been used in as simplistic things such as writing journals, to much bigger things, such as declaring independence from a mother country. The clearest way of describing the importance of writing is to show that definable history begins with the development of writing.
Mathematics, used mainly for business transactions, arguably changed the world as much as writing did. The Sumerians were also the peoples to develop mathematics. Their math system was based on the number sixty, and this is where we get the sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour. This system of mathematics allowed the peoples of Mesopotamia to do everyday things such as the area of a room or how old a person was. The Sumerian system greatly improved trade, especially while using the barter system.
It allowed Mesopotamians to put a value on goods so that it was possible to know the difference between the value of a sheep and a bag of grain, or the difference between the value of a pound of bronze and a pound of clay. The development of mathematics lead to great advancements in architecture as well. Planning and executing the construction of a building required a great deal of math in order to calculate wall size, shape, angle, etc. Today, mathematics is also very important. Students spend years studying the different methods of math to be able to apply it to their everyday lives. Math and numbers are used everywhere everyday from telling someone your phone number to calculating your percent profit at the end of a busy week.
Another important advancement of Mesopotamians is their work with metals. Mesopotamians began to branch out from stone tools and use metals such as copper and bronze. This branching out and grasping a new material lead to widespread specialization of work. Blacksmithing became a known occupation, and allowed for the “mass” producing of metal weaponry (In the ancient near eastern sense). Metal weaponry became the basis for whether or not you would win the war. If you were still using wooden weapons, a city-state that had copper weaponry could wipe you out or defeat you fairly quickly. The same would be true if you were a city-state that was using copper weapons and an enemy using bronze weapons attacked you. The enemy would either destroy or capture your city-state with a fair amount of ease. Metalworkings and trading were not only important to the daily lives of Mesopotamians for tools and such, but for more than a thousand years they were the definitive factor in warfare.
With the development for such weaponry, governments had to institute law codes to help to keep the control and the peace amongst their city-state or empire. The most famous of these law codes, though not the only one found, is the Law Code of Hammurabi, the ruler of Babylonia from about 1792 B.C.E to about 1750 B.C.E. This law code has hundreds of laws dealing with simple matters of contracts and other ordinary functions to laws regarding thievery, murder, and mal practice. Hammurabi’s code, although used as mainly a guideline for Babylonian judges, was presented to the people of Babylonia as a direct command from the Gods indicating that these were the proper behaviors.
This caused the peoples to want to follow the laws even more, because they believed that the Gods would curse them if they did not obey. These punishments, however, had different punishments for different classes, showing the different levels of respect that the government had for its people. Most of these laws, however, dealt with criminals in a very strict, eye-for-an-eye, vengeful manner. Law is very important today because it continues to try and keep the peace on the streets and in our country by making people realize that there are consequences to their actions. This is a great achievement for Mesopotamians because it shows their realization that there must be order in the kingdom for the kingdom to survive, and that there also needs to be obedience and distribution of work for a kingdom to advance in status.
The wheel is also one of the greatest achievements of Mesopotamians, because it allowed for faster travel, more efficient warfare, and also lead to thousands upon thousands of inventions in the future. The wheel began as part of a potter’s wheel for making pots, and then gradually the idea began to emerge to use a rolling something, the wheel, for easier ways to pull something in a cart. Before, sleds were used to drag stuff along, but this method was very tedious and slow because it created a lot of friction against the ground. The wheel was then used as a solid circle attached with an axle to a cart that pulled soldiers to and from places during a battle.
A dependable, yet slow moving, donkey-like creature often pulled this cart. The idea for spokes in the wheels did not emerge until later, but it allowed for the cart to become a chariot and be pulled by a horse quickly around battlefields. With the initiation of horse-drawn chariots, warfare improved by allowing soldiers to fight from their chariots, thus decreasing their chance of injury. The improvements of warfare, and the allowance that the development of the wheel has had on technological advances over time are the reasons that the wheel was such an important achievement of the Mesopotamians.
The achievements and firsts of Mesopotamian society are great and numerous. These achievements have paved the way for outstanding advancements in technology that allow us to live the lives we live today and to do the things that we are so accustomed to doing, such as typing this paper using this computer with a spinning hard disk a writing system.