Government Type: Social Levels

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The Priests: The priests were powerful. They were in charge of making sure everyone behaved in a way that would make the gods happy. They were the doctors of the time. If you were sick, you called for a priest. 

The Upper Class: Men and women wore jewelry, especially rings. Men wore skirts and had long hair, curly moustaches, and long beards. Women wore dresses, off one shoulder. They had long hair, which they braided or wore up in fancy arrangements. It was easy to tell who were the priests. The priests shaved their heads. Everyone wore cloaks made from sheep wool to keep warm in winter.

The Lower Class: In ancient Sumer, people were paid for their work. If they ran a shop or worked in the fields, they were paid for their goods or labor. Stealing was a serious crime and punishment was severe. Everybody paid, even the king. 

Although the lower class did not have the luxury lifestyle of the rich, they were comfortable. They worked very hard, but they had homes. They wore jewelry, although perhaps it was not made of gold. They followed the clothing fashions of the time as much as possible. There was no law that said they could not move up the social scale, or more likely, have their children move up the social scale by becoming a scribe, or a priest or priestess.

The Slaves: When the Sumerians conquered another town, they brought prisoners back with them to act as slaves. Slaves worked for the king, the temple and the wealthy. Slaves were bought and sold. Records have been found recording the amount paid for a slave. Typically, a slave bought at auction cost less than a donkey but more than a cow.

What The Government Did:

The geography of Mesopotamia had a profound impact on the political development of the region. Among the rivers and streams, the Sumerian people built the first cities along with irrigation canals which were separated by vast stretches of open desert or swamp where nomadic tribes roamed. Communication among the isolated cities was difficult and, at times, dangerous. Thus, each Sumerian city became a city-state, independent of the others and protective of its independence. At times one city would try to conquer and unify the region, but such efforts were resisted and failed for centuries. As a result, the political history of Sumer is one of almost constant warfare. Eventually Sumer was unified by Eannatum, but the unification was tenuous and failed to last as the Akkadians conquered Sumeria in 2331 BC only a generation later. The Akkadian Empire was the first successful empire to last beyond a generation and see the peaceful succession of kings. The empire was relatively short-lived, as the Babylonians conquered them within only a few generations.

KingsFurther information: Sumerian king list, List of Kings of Babylon, and Kings of Assyria

The Mesopotamians believed their kings and queens were descended from the City of Gods, but, unlike the ancient Egyptians, they never believed their kings were real gods.[31] Most kings named themselves “king of the universe” or “great king”. Another common name was “shepherd”, as kings had to look after their people.

PowerWhen Assyria grew into an empire, it was divided into smaller parts, called provinces. Each of these were named after their main cities, like Nineveh, Samaria, Damascus, and Arpad. They all had their own governor who had to make sure everyone paid their taxes. Governors also had to call up soldiers to war and supply workers when a temple was built. He was also responsible for enforcing the laws. In this way, it was easier to keep control of a large empire. Although Babylon was quite a small state in the Sumerian, it grew tremendously throughout the time of Hammurabi's rule. He was known as “the law maker”, and soon Babylon became one of the main cities in Mesopotamia. It was later called Babylonia, which meant "the gateway of the gods." It also became one of history's greatest centers of learning.

Fragment of the Stele of the Vultures showing marching warriors, Early Dynastic III period, 2600–2350 BCAs city-states began to grow, their spheres of influence overlapped, creating arguments between other city-states, especially over land and canals. These arguments were recorded in tablets several hundreds of years before any major war—the first recording of a war occurred around 3200 BC but was not common until about 2500 BC. At this point, warfare was incorporated into the Mesopotamian political system, where a neutral city may act as an arbitrator for the two rival cities. This helped to form unions between cities, leading to regional states.[31] When empires were created, they went to war more with foreign countries. King Sargon, for example, conquered all the cities of Sumer, some cities in Mari, and then went to war with northern Syria. Many Assyrian and Babylonian palace walls were decorated with the pictures of the successful fights and the enemy either desperately escaping or hiding amongst reeds. A king in Sumer, Gilgamesh, was thought to be two-thirds god and only one-third human. His exploits were recorded in many poems and songs of the time.

LawsKing Hammurabi, as mentioned above, was famous for his set of laws, the Code of Hammurabi (created ca. 1780 BC), which is one of the earliest sets of laws found and one of the best preserved examples of this type of document from ancient Mesopotamia. He codified over 200 laws for Mesopotamia.

The government of early Mesopotamia was somewhat similar to democracy. The early Sumerians elected an assembly or group of people like the ancient Greeks to run the government. The kings in Sumer were elected by the assembly but as time went on the lugals considered themselves similar to Gods. They gave their power to family members when they grew too old. Because the lugals were considered godlike the ancient governments were theocracies. The lugals provided military protection and leadership and established laws. As well as oversee building projects. Later the city-states divided into provinces and were ruled by governors. The first writings were records stone tablets filled with numbers recording distributed goods.

The first known states in history had a theocratic form of government. The city-states along the rivers Euphrates and Tigris were ruled by priest-kings called en, ensi or lugal who occasionally extended their authority over other city-states.

The rule of priest-kings in Mesopotamia came to an end with the conquest of the region by Sargon of Akkad around 2340 BC.

The rise of the Assyrian Empire at the turn of the 1st millennium BC was marked by great territorial expansion. The power was centralized in the hands of the Assyrian kings who were also the high priests of Ashur, the chief god of Assyria.

The Assyrian government was both theocratic and autocratic, while the vast empire was controlled by provincial governors who replaced the native rulers.
Sumer, the first civilization in Mesopotamia and the oldest known in the world consisted of city-states. Rulers of Sumerian city-states (by Sumerians called en , lugal or ensi ) were both secular and spiritual rulers. In contrary to Egyptians pharaohs, Sumerian priest-kings were not viewed as divine but as human representatives of patron gods of city-states and lived in temples which were both religious and administrative centers of Sumerian city-states.
Akkadians formed new form of government which became a model for later rulers although priesthood played very important role throughout the history of Mesopotamia. Akkadian kings were “classical” despots and had an absolute power, while the title was hereditary although usurpers seized the throne and established new ruling dynasties from time to time.
Babylonian kings also retained centralized administration introduced during the Akkadian Period, while the famous Code of Hammurabi indicates that the Babylonian kings had supreme legislative and jurisdictional authority.
Feudalism became predominant form of government throughout the ancient Near East by the middle of 2nd millennium BC.
Mesopotamia has three levels of their social ladder which begins with the first level of kings, nobles and rulers. They got there title from doing a superior job as a warrior. After the ruling class was first developed, the royal status soon became hereditary. The second level consist of teachers, labors, merchants, etc. while the third level is the slaves and prisoners.
The ancient Mesopotamians created a government that was a combination of monarchy and democracy.


Social Pyramid:

Hammurabi’s Stele:



Priest: Slave:

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