8 Exploring World History through Geography Assyrians (912–615 BCE) After Hammurabi, successive rulers weakened Babylon’s control. In 1595 BCE, Babylon was conquered by the Hittites, who came from Anatolia (Turkey). Two other tribes, who came from outside Mesopotamia, took turns in ruling Babylon over the next 500 years: the Kassites and the Elamites. In 912 BCE, however, they were subjugated by the Assyrians, who had settled in upper Mesopotamia around 2000 BCE. The Assyrians were, more than their predecessors, ruthless and insatiable con- querors. The Assyrian military was the largest—the army was 150,000–200,000 strong—most organized, and sophisticated in terms of tactics and equipment, army of the time (Gabriel 2003). Beginning under Sargon II, the Assyrian Empire grew quickly and included Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Babylonia. At the time, it was the world’s largest empire. By 669 BCE, the Assyrian Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf, across the Fertile Crescent, and halfway down the Nile River. The Assyrians recorded their military exploits in gruesome bas-reliefs, or carv- ings, that decorated palaces in the northern Mesopotamian capital of Nineveh (near present-day Mosul) and other cities. Keeping control of their massive empire from Nineveh required establishing civil offices in each territory, a strong police presence, and constant travel. Assyrians recorded travel itineraries on clay tablets. In addition to place names, the Assyrians also sometimes included descriptions of terrain and vegetation. In addition, treaties and tax records left behind (in clay) also reveal geographic features, as do maps, plans of homes, temples, towns, and regions, as well as bas-reliefs. Lachish Reliefs The Assyrians were great warriors. They, more than other Mesopotamian civi- lizations, concentrated on expansion by conquering other peoples. They were known to be ruthless fighters and victors, oftentimes torturing the conquered fighters in particularly grisly ways. They preserved their great battles and the aftermath of those battles in bas-reliefs, or carvings that decorated the walls of the palaces of Nineveh and other cities. Not only did those bas-reliefs A cultural hearth is a place that developed advanced culture and technology in early human history. These hearths had a hierarchical society, a division of labor, established legal sys- tems, organized religion, and advanced artistic practices. They also initiated their own written languages. A common factor among hearths is a surplus of food, resulting from good soil and irrigation systems, allowing for a division of labor and therefore excess time for some to practice the arts, religion, and technological innovation. Most scholars recog- nize four areas in the world as cultural hearths: the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley—Meso- potamia—in modern-day Iraq, the Nile River Valley in Egypt, the Indus River Valley in modern Pakistan, and the Huang He (Yellow) River Valley in China. Like Hammurabi’s code and the stories from the Epic of Gilgamesh, culture and science from the world’s hearths spread to other civilizations, through a process that geographers call diffusion.
Previous Page Next Page