10 Exploring World History through Geography was imported, possibly from Iran, because the climate in Mesopotamia was not ideal for grape growing. However, with the increasing popularity of wine, Meso- potamians began importing the plant and establishing vineyards in the northern reaches of the region. Side Effects of Expansion The Assyrians had to maintain control over the areas they conquered. New roads made travel—and control of the empire—easier, facilitated communication to all corners of the empire, and made trade faster and more efficient. The Assyr- ians traded cooking oil, pottery, leather, baskets, and cloth. They imported Egyp- tian gold, Indian ivory and pearls, silver from Anatolia, copper from Arabia, and tin from Persia. They also imported raw building and war materials such as wood and stone from other regions of their empire. In addition, Assyrian traders acted as middlemen, bringing goods from the west of Mesopotamia to the eastern part of their territory. The Assyrian focus on expansion also brought scientific innovation. New weaponry was developed: iron swords, metal armor, and the battering ram, used for knocking down walls and gates. There were great advances in medicine. Cleanliness was associated with health there was a concept of contagious disease and medicines were systematically tested for treatment success. Assyrian kings enlarged the waterworks that irrigated agricultural fields. Because of the expanded empire, there were more mouths to feed. Slaves were brought to Mesopotamia, taken from military exploits, and made to build and maintain nearly 100 miles of canals, aqueducts, and other waterworks in Nineveh alone. The Assyrians even had libraries. The last great Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, built an immense library at Nineveh, the first known library in the world (the famous library at Alexandria, Egypt, wouldn’t be built for 400 years yet). More than 30,000 tablets were kept there, collected from across the Assyrian Empire: government records, religious and divination texts, works of medicine and astron- omy, as well as poetry and literature. Here, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh was found. These records are the largest archaeological source of information about Mesopotamian culture. Chaldean Empire (615–331 BCE) The immense size of the Assyrian Empire made it difficult to control. The Assyrians, who ruled through fear, were continuously putting down rebellions. This eventually led to the downfall of the empire. Around 615 BCE, the Baby- lonians destroyed Nineveh, ending Assyrian control. This was the beginning of the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean Empire. (The people living in Babylon at this time were not Amorites, but Chaldeans, another Semitic tribe from southern Mesopotamia.) The most notable king of the Chaldean Empire was Nebuchadnezzar II, who came to power in 605 BCE. Under his rule, the Chaldeans ended Assyrian control
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