1. What is the justification for the assertion that "history begins at Sumer"?

2. What is the basis for the claim that Mesopotamia was the first civilized territory on earth?

3. Identify the three major Sumerian contributions to the course of civilization.

4. Why was the development of a calendar essential to the flourishing of civilization in Mesopotamia?

5. Trace the steps in the development of writing by the Sumerians.

6. Show how religious concepts evolved from the Sumerians through the Old Babylonians to the Chaldeans.

7. Describe the characteristics of Sumerian temple architecture. What purposes other than religious did the temple serve?

8. What classes comprised Sumerian society? How free were the "free farmers"?

9. What were the causes of the Sumerian economic decline around 2000 B.C.E.?

10. What were the two chief differences between the cultures of the Sumerians and the Old Babylonian eras?

11. Describe the character of justice embodied in the Code of Hammurabi. To whom did the term "man" apply in the code

12. How do you account for the seemingly unfair provisions of Hammurabi's Code? What is the lasting importance of this ancient document?

13. What philosophical or dictatorial principles are embodied in the Gilgamesh epic?

14. What changes in religion came under the Old Babylonians? Explain the difference between "political gods" and "personal gods."

15. Explain the following statement: "The Old Babylonians were the most accomplished arithmeticians in antiquity."

16. What superior military techniques were used by the Kassites and the Hittites?

17. Why was the discovery of ancient Hittite civilization important? What early misjudgments were made about it?

18. How important was the use of iron for the Hittites?

19. Point out the distinctive features of Assyrian civilization at its height. To what extent were the Assyrians indebted to earlier Mesopotamian cultures?

20. What part did "frightfulness" play in Assyrian society and government policy? How did this affect the Assyrians' ultimate fate?

21. Describe the city of Babylon under the New Babylonians.

22. How do you account for the development of astrology by the New Babylonians? What were some of the valuable by-products of the development of this pseudo-science?

23. Why were the Hebrews heavily indebted to Mesopotamian civilization?


1. Read the first five chapters of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament and comment on the picture you derive of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans. Why were Daniel's gifts so peculiarly appealing to his captors?

2. Ancient Mesopotamian civilization produced a number of remarkable contributions to civilization. Explore the reasons why so many groundbreaking advancements came from one civilization, and trace the effects of those contribution.

3. What "lessons" do you think modern nations might draw from the history of the Mesopotamian peoples?

4. Compare the premises underlying the Code of Hammurabi with those underlying a variety of modern law codes. Consider both differences and similarities.

5. Trace the growth of Assyria from a small independent state to a great empire.

6. Study the forms of Assyrian art and evaluate its quality.

7. Compare the mathematical achievements of the Mesopotamians with those of the ancient Greeks.

8. Read the Epic of Gilgamesh to discover what light it throws upon Babylonian culture and value judgments. What are the major themes found in this work of literature?

9. What can we learn about the process of historical discovery and interpretation from the early misconceptions about ancient Hittite and other early civilizations? Examine the ways in which our understanding of ancient civilizations has changed over time.


W.W. Norton
REVIEW: World Civilizations
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