The breadth and depth of the Mesopotamian culture has played a notable role in the development of its own uniqueness that had been extended in light of other cultures that were related with its historical evolution. In particular, the paper considers such vivid illustrations of this statement as the architecture of ziggurats, Hammurabi’s Code of Laws in the field of legislation, and Mesopotamian myths that influenced on the conception of the later biblical motifs.
Ziggurats, prominent examples of the Sumerian architecture, as well as tradition of big cities and comfortable dwellings, transmitted from Babylonian, Akkadian and Assyrian to the Egyptian culture. These magnificent buildings were constructed in a form of terraced step pyramid with levels or stories successively receded. Ziggurats, including other buildings, were the parts of the temple complex with a pyramidal structure, a flat top, and thick walls. The facing was covered with colorful glaze, sometimes with engraved king’s names and images. Each ziggurat was created as a dwelling of a particular god. Those buildings were sacred places not closed for worship or ceremonies (Aleff). As powerful and influential members of the community, priests had access to gods and a responsibility to care for them. The pyramidal form of ziggurats was used in order to connect the heaven and earth. More practical functions included the safety during floods, security from the non-privileged part of population, had a bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. Later, the Egyptians borrowed the idea of Mesopotamian pyramids, the original symbols of Mesopotamian culture, and created unsurpassed examples of pharaoh burial vaults and tombs closed for the most of the population.
Hammurabi’s Code of Laws
By establishing the Code of Laws, Hammurabi’s, the sixth ruler of Babylon Empire, influenced the development of early civilization’s legal system, and contributed to the social, economical and political formation of the neighboring nations and states. During his early reign years, Hammurabi introduced himself as a strong military and political leader by invading vast territories of the Mesopotamian lands and became the dominant power between Elam and the Euphrates (Sasson 906). To be able to control such extensive territories, the ruler analyzed different legal and administrative documents, exchanged the ideas of contemporaries, and established the Code of Laws, carved on a stone stela (Sasson 907). While Hammurabi was not the first Mesopotamian ruler to put law into writing, his code is the most comprehensive. His aim was to introduce the notion of justice into social, political and economical spheres of life (“AP World History 2012-2013”). The objective was to protect weak individuals, such as widows, orphans, or poor, from strong ones and define legal and illegal. The principle of justice was implied to each social class of landowners, free people without land, and slaves. Government should protect people in order to eliminate personal revenge as a way of solving the problems and providing a fair punishment. The condemnation of adultery, theft, murder, assault and strict punishment accordingly was later traced in Egyptian, Aramean, Roman, and Greek cultures. The Law gave women a right to divorce on the certain grounds and have some property usually in a form of dowry. The principle that the person is innocent until proven guilty successfully replicated into multiple civilizations, including the Islamic, Jewish and Christian systems. The king justified and enforced his laws by using the fear of religion and gods that later became a core principle of Early Egypt ruling. The Code of Laws shaped the experience and worldview of Hammurabi contemporaries and descendants, ranging from Assyrians, Persians, Arameans, and Egyptians to Romans, and Greeks.
In addition, the Mesopotamian myths contributed to formation of the religious beliefs and creation of the Bible. To a certain extent, biblical motifs, background and origin reach deep into the Sumerian culture. For instance, some of the Sumerian myths about paradise treat gods as humans and describe paradise as a pure, bright land without death and sickness; divine garden is full of flowers, fruits, meadows and laden fields. Therefore, the idea of divine paradise has the Sumerian origin. At the same time, the story tells about Ninhursag, a great Sumerian mother-goddess, who planted eight sprouts. One of the gods, Enki, and his messenger tasted fruits one by one which made Ninhursag furious. She cursed Enki to death and disappeared from the garden. Enki’s eight organs become sick. The fox promised to bring the Ninhursag back. Nonetheless, the great goddess saved the water god Enki and seated him by her side. If to trace the location of the Sumerian divine garden in south-western Persia and the Biblical paradise as a garden planted in the eastward of Eden where the Tigris and the Euphrates begin, it is possible to assume that the Sumerian and Biblical gardens have the same location.
On the other hand, the motives of disobedience, punishment, and right-hand were transmitted through Babylonians to the Bible as well. The Biblical story of the Great deluge is also of Sumerian origin. Sumerian myth narrates about that the gods decided to destroy the mankind by the flood. Some of the gods were not so cruel. Ziusudra, or Biblical Noah, was kind and pious and received a revelation from the gods about the retribution. He built a giant boat and was saved from the destruction. After seven days and seven nights of the severe storm, the god of the sun Utu shed the light on the earth and on the boat. As soon as the flood finished, Zudra became an immortal god and king. Thus, one can clearly trace the parallel to the Great Deluge in the New Testament. The other analogous biblical and Sumerian motives, themes, ideas, are related to the creation of the Universe, or man, the Cain-Abel motif, the tower of the Babel, the dissension of mankind, and the organization of the Earth among others (Krammer 292). Therefore, the Mesopotamian religious traditions, views, have speeded around the world through the cultures of Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
Mesopotamian culture has rich and diverse history. It is an extremely valuable stage of the development of mankind because of unmeasurable influence on early civilizations and cultures and contemporary world. Mesopotamian architecture manifested through ziggurats inspired the neighboring nations on building their own pyramids to unite the earthy and heavenly life and evolved into the Egyptian pyramids. Mesopotamians introduced the first compilation of laws which was successfully used by the descendants, including Arameans, Geeks, and Romans. The Hammurabi’s tradition of justice shaped the views of millions of people. Moreover, one can easily trace its influence on the Bible and formation of the religious beliefs. Hence, the traces and influences of the ancient Mesopotamian culture can be identified in the contemporary cultures across the world.