Mesopotamia referred to the region in the eastern Mediterranean Sea which was bound in the Northeast by the Zagros Mountains and the Southeast by Arabian Plateau. In the modern times, this land forms parts of Iraq, Iran and Turkey. Mesopotamia was watered by two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and it is famous for its association with the invention of the wheel as well as being regarded as the cradle of civilisation characterised by the mixture of cultures. As a land with many cultures, it is here that many works were developed and written that there is impact is felt in modern society; the notable ones being the code of Hammurabi, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, the creation myth, the fall of man and the ark of Noah. This paper seeks to discuss in details the significance of some of these historical works which happened centuries ago.
The land of Mesopotamia was ruled by rulers among them was Hammurabi, who was the sixth king in the Babylonian dynasty (Van de Mieroop, 4). Under his leadership, Hammurabi used codes as laws to rule which were to be observed by the citizens. This code that is a collection of 282 laws and standards stipulated rules of commercial interactions and they set the fines which the culprits were to pay and punishments that such people could receive for acting contrary to the code, thus meeting the requirements of justice. Though the code had many harsh punishments including removal of body parts of victims in order to serve justice, it remains as the pioneers of the idea of a person being accused remaining innocent until proven guilty.
The code of Hammurabi is an example of how justice was served in the ancient times and is significant to today’s learning and builds the ideas of justice and fairness. Hammurabi helped to protect the weak from the oppressors, and he fostered an environment of justice and righteousness for his people. Unearthed in 1901 by Jean-Vincent Scheil, the code provides a perfect example of laws that advocated for ‘an eye for an eye’ doctrine. For example, a doctor who caused death of a patient would have his hands cut off while he would be rewarded with pieces of silver for curing a severe wound. Hammurabi’s reputation remains years on as a pioneering lawgiver who worked to prevent social injustices and to see that justice was done to the widows and orphans. The code offers a remarkable insight into the history of law, social justice and the Bible today.
The epic of Gilgamesh is another important work which was done during the ancient Mesopotamia. It is among the earliest works of literary fiction, an epic poem believed to have originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about the mythological hero-king Gilgamesh (Ziolkowski, 11).The story in the poem revolves around the disgruntled ruler, Gilgamesh, who has become distracted and disheartened by his rule and Enkidu, a friend who is described as wild as well as undertaking dangerous missions with Gilgamesh. The epic’s focus is on the thoughts of Gilgamesh following the death of his friend. The poem shows Gilgamesh’s search for immortality after the death of Enkidu so that they would re-unite and become human together.
The epic poem shows how Gilgamesh is a hero and portrays him as an icon of popular culture (Ziolkowski, 36).Gilgamesh’s legend is significant to the advancement of written literature today. It has made great contributions to the science and History such as how the accounts of the great flood of Utnaptshism were used to describe Noah’s story in the bible. It is widely known today as the poem and novel which set the foundation for future works.
The Hebrew monotheism is another practice by the Hebrews, which has much significance to the modern society. It is the belief about the existence of only one God. It evolved in the 19th century, and it started in Israel by Julius Wellhausen. The general belief was that the Hebrews had several other gods and the monotheism belief was conjured to provide some unity among the believers that there was only one God. Monotheism originated in Egypt with Akhenaten, who believed the sun was the true god who then evolved into the Hebrew god and Jesus (Duggan, 4). The significance of Hebrew monotheism is that it succeeded in bringing and uniting the Hebrews into a nation with a common cause. It is the belief held even today by the Christians and the Muslim today.
It is also important to note the existence of significant relationships among the works done in the ancient Mesopotamia and the present day. For instance, the flood of Utnaptshism draws similarities as well as close parallels to the story of the ark of Noah and the great flood. It raises the question whether it is an independent confirmation of the existence on Noah’s ark or the bible is just a repetition of a pagan legend.
The epic of Gilgamesh uses different themes to pass the message and the themes concern how to deal with grief when someone close dies or what happens when we die. The tale also has themes ranging from love, friendship to immortality. Gilmanesh built a magnificent city which is an illustration of how he achieved immortality through his acts. To portray how man can harness nature, Enkidu wrestles the bull that is a symbol of powerful and destructive force of nature.
In conclusion, the ancient Mesopotamia provides very important historical events which have laid the foundations upon which some of the modern histories is built. The above examples have truly shown how the ancient works have impacted modern man and how core they are in modern man’s beliefs and activities.
Duggan, Michael W. "Review of Smith, Mark S., God in Translation: Deities in Cross-Cultural Discourse in the Biblical World (Grand Rapids, Mich./Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans, 2010)." Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 11 (2011).
Van de Mieroop, Marc. King Hammurabi of Babylon: a biography. Vol. 19.John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Ziolkowski, Theodore. Gilgamesh Among Us: Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic. Cornell University Press, 2011.