The people of Mesopotamia

The Sumerians created the earliest civilization in Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C.E. Large city-states developed near the Euphrates River. Some of the cities grew to have populations near 35,000 citizens. Although most Sumerians made their living by farming, professionals, such as doctors, organized into powerful associations. Both rich and poor Sumerians were considered citizens, and slaves could earn money and buy their freedom. While men enjoyed the most power in society, women in Sumeria held power in their families and a ruler's wife had authority in the government of a citystate.

Mesopotamia Babylonia Costumes
A Mesopotamian alabaster figurine. Reproduced by permission of© David Lees/CORBIS.

Living among the Sumerians for many years, the Akkadians took power of Mesopotamia around 2350 B.C.E. Little evidence is available to describe the Akkadian culture, but it is believed to have resembled the Sumerian culture but differed in language and ethnicity. Sumerians reclaimed control of the region after about two hundred years of domination by the Akkadians and others. Under the restored Sumerian rule, Mesopotamia was again dominated by thriving agriculturally-based cities.

By 1894 B.C.E. the Babylonians rose to power in Mesopotamia. Babylonians created a thriving, organized society. Under the rule of Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.E.), the king of Babylon, a code of laws was developed and written down. Although evidence exists that Babylonians sold clothing and perfumes in stores, little is known about what Babylonians actually wore. While there are some depictions of the king, which indicate that he dressed in styles very similar to the Sumerians, no pictures of Babylonian women exist. The Babylonian Empire fell in about 1595 B.C.E.

Assyrians had prospered in Mesopotamia for many centuries, but by 911 B.C.E. the society began conquering surrounding areas and united Mesopotamia into one enormous empire that encompassed the Taurus Mountains of modern-day Turkey, the Mediterranean coast, and portions of Egypt. To hold their empire together, the Assyrians aggressively protected their territory and battled constantly with enemies. At the same time as they multiplied and defended their conquests, Assyrians built cities with large buildings and statues. Assyrian society was controlled by men, and women were legally inferior to them. Although the Assyrians built strong economic ties over a vast territory, they ruled brutally and the conquered nations celebrated when the Assyrians were overthrown in 612 B.C.E.

After the Assyrians were conquered, the Persian Empire rose to prominence. The Persian Empire, which united approximately

twenty different societies, became known for its efficiency and its kindness to its citizens. Under Persian rule products such as clothing, money, and furniture were made in vast quantities.

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