Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hi there. I'm John Green; you're watching Crash Course World History, and today we're

  • going to talk about "Iraq" No, you purportedly smart globe. We're going to talk about Mesopotamia.

  • I love Mesopotamia because it helped create two of my favorite things: Writing and taxes.

  • Why do I like taxes? Because before taxes, the only certainty was death.

  • Mr. Green. Mr. Green, did you know that you're referencing Mark Twain?

  • I'm not referencing Mark Twain, me from the past, I'm referencing Benjamin Franklin,

  • who was probably himself quoting the unfortunately named playwright Christopher Bullock. Listen.

  • You may be smart, kid, but I've been smart longer. By the way, today's illustration

  • points out that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world monocular.

  • [music intro]

  • [music intro]

  • [music intro]

  • [music intro]

  • [music intro]

  • [music intro]

  • So 5,000 years ago in the land meso, or between, the Tigris and Euphrates potomoi, or rivers,

  • cities started popping up much like they had in our old friend the Indus River valley.

  • These early Mesopotamian cities engaged in a form of socialism, where farmers contributed

  • their crops to public storehouses out of which workers, like metalworkers or builders or

  • male models or whateverwould be paid uniform "wages" in grain. So, basically

  • MR GREEN MR GREEN WERE THERE REALLY MALE MODELS? CAN YOU DO BLUE STEEL?

  • Oh younger version of myself, how I hate you. [Scoots to strike dramatic chair pose, laughs

  • at own buffoonery] Oh the humiliation I suffer for you people... that was my best Blue Steel.

  • That was as close as I can get.

  • So anyway, if you lived in a city, you could be something other than a shepherd, and thanks

  • to this proto-socialism you could be reasonably sure that you'd eat--

  • STAN, Is there any way we could get another globe in here? I feel like this shot is inadequately

  • globed. Yes, much better.

  • You know you can tell the quality of the historian by the number of his or her globes.

  • But even though you could give up your flock, a lot of people didn't want to.

  • One of the legacies of Mesopotamia is the enduring conflict between country and city.

  • You see this explored a lot in some of our greatest art such as

  • The Beverly Hillbillies and Deliverance, and the showdown between Enkidu and Gilgamesh

  • in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is one of the oldest known works of literature and

  • I'm not gonna spoil it for youthere's a link to the poem in the video

  • infobut suffice it to say that in the showdown between country and city, the city wins.

  • So what were these city states like? Well, let's take a look at one such city-state,

  • Gilgamesh's home town of Uruk, in the Thought Bubble:

  • Uruk was a walled city with an extensive canal system and several monumental temples, called

  • ziggurats.

  • The priests of these temples initially had all the power, because they were able to communicate

  • directly with the gods.

  • That was a useful talent, because Mesopotamian gods were moody and frankly pretty meanlike,

  • according to Gilgamesh they once got mad at us because we were making too much noise while

  • they were trying to sleep so they decided to destroy all of humanity with a flood.

  • The Tigris and Euphrates are decent as rivers go, but Mesopotamia is no Indus Valley, with

  • its on-schedule flooding and easy irrigation.

  • A lot of slave labor was needed to make the Tigris and Euphrates useful for irrigation;

  • they're difficult to navigate and flood unpredictably and violently. Violent, unpredictable,

  • and difficult to navigate: Oh, Tigris and Euphrates, how you remind me of my college

  • girlfriend.

  • So I mean given that the region tends to yo-yo between devastating flood and horrible drought,

  • it follows that one would believe that the gods are kind of random and capricious, and

  • that any priests who might be able to lead rituals that placate those gods would be very

  • useful individuals.

  • But about 1000 years after the first temples we find in cities like Uruk, a rival structure

  • begins to show up, the palace. This tells us that kingsand they were all dudesare

  • starting to be as important as priests in Mesopotamia.

  • The responsibility for the well-being and success of the social order was shifting from

  • gods to people, a power shift that will seesaw throughout human history until...um, probably

  • forever actually.

  • But in another development we'll see again, these kings, who probably started out as military

  • leaders or really rich landowners, took on a quasi-religious role.

  • How? Often by engaging in "sacred marriage" -- specifically skoodilypooping with the

  • high priestess of the city's temple.

  • So the priests were overtaken by kings, who soon declared themselves priests.

  • Thanks, Thought Bubble. So how do we know that these kings were skoodilypooping with

  • lady priests? BECAUSE THEY MADE A SKOODILYPOOPING TAPE AND PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. No, because

  • there's a written record. Mesopotamia gave us writing, specifically a form of writing

  • called cuneiform, which was initially created not to like woo lovers or whatever but to

  • record transactions like how many bushels of wheat were exchanged for how many goats.

  • I'm not kidding, by the way; a lot of cuneiform is about wheat and goats.

  • I don't think you can overestimate the importance of writing but let's just make three points

  • here:

  • 1. Writing and reading are things that not everyone can do. So they create a class distinction,

  • one that in fact survives to this day. Foraging social orders were relatively egalitarian;

  • but the Mesopotamians had slaves and they played this metaphorically resonant sport

  • that was like polo except instead of riding on horses you rode on other people.

  • And written language played an important role in widening the gap between classes.

  • 2. Once writing enters the picture, you have actual history instead of just a lot of guesswork

  • and archaeology.

  • 3. Without writing, I would not have a job, so I'd like to personally thank Mesopotamia

  • for making it possible for me to work while reclining in my lay-z-boy.

  • So why did this writing happen in Mesopotamia? Well the fertile crescent, while it is fertile,

  • is lacking the pretty much everything else. In order to get metal for tools or stone for

  • sculptures or wood for burning, Mesopotamia had to trade. This trading eventually led

  • Mesopotamia to develop the world's first territorial kingdom, which will become very

  • important and will eventually culminate in some extraordinarily inbred Hapsburgs.

  • So the city state period in Mesopotamia ended around 2,000 BCE, probably because drought

  • and a shift in the course of rivers led to pastoral nomads coming in and conquering the

  • environmentally weakened cities. And then the nomads settled into cities of their own

  • as nomads almost always will unlesswait for it

  • ...You are the Mongols.

  • These new Mesopotamian city states were similar to their predecessors in that they had temples

  • and writing and their own self-glorifying stories but they were different in some important

  • ways.

  • First, that early proto-socialism was replaced by something that looked a lot like private

  • enterprise, where people could produce as much as they would like as long as they gave

  • a cut, also known as taxes to the government. We talk a lot of smack about taxes but it

  • turns out they're pretty important to creating stable social orders.

  • Things were also different politically because the dudes who'd been the tribal chiefs became

  • like full-blown kings, who tried to extend their power outside of cities and also tried

  • to pass on their power to their sons.

  • The most famous of these early monarchs is Hammurabi or as I remember him from my high

  • school history class, "The Hammer of Abi". Hammurabi ruled the new kingdom of Babylon

  • from 1792 BCE to 1750 BCE.

  • Hammurabi's main claim to fame is his famous law code which established everything from

  • like the wages of ox drivers to the fact that the punishment for taking an eye should be

  • having an eye taken.

  • Hammurabi's law code could be pretty insanely harsh. Like if a builder builds a shoddy building

  • and then the owner's son dies in a collapse, the punishment for that is the execution of

  • the builder's son. The kid's like, that's not fair! I'm just a kid. What did I do?

  • You should kill my dad.

  • All of which is to say that Hammurabi's law code gives a new meaning to the phrase

  • tough on crime, but it did introduce the presumption of innocence.

  • In the law code Hammurabi tried to portray himself in two roles that might sound familiar:

  • shepherd and father.

  • "[I am] the shepherd who brings peace. My benevolent shade was spread over the city,

  • I held the peoples of Sumer and Akkad safely on my lap."

  • So again we see the authority for protection of the social order shifting to men, not gods,

  • which is important, but don't worry, it'll shift back.

  • Even though the territorial kingdoms like Babylon were more powerful than any cities

  • that had come before, and even though Babylon was probably the world's most populous city

  • during Hammurabi's rule, it wasn't actually that powerful, and keeping with the pattern

  • is was soon taken over by the formerly-nomadic Kassites.

  • The thing about Territorial kingdoms is that they relied on the poorest people to pay taxes,

  • and provide labor and serve in the army, all of which made you not like your king very

  • much so if you saw any nomadic invaders coming by you might just be like "Hey nomadic invaders!

  • Come on in; you seem better than the last guy."

  • Well, that was the case until the Assyrians came along, anyway. The Assyrians have a deserved

  • reputation for being the brutal bullies of Mesopotamia. The Assyrians did give us an

  • early example of probably the most important and durable form of political organization

  • in world history, and also Star Wars history, the Empire.

  • Let's define empire as the extension by conquest of control over people who do not

  • belong to the same group as the conquerors. The biggest problem with empires is that by

  • definition they're diverse and multi-ethnic, which makes them hard to unify.

  • So beginning around 911 BCE, the neo-Assyrian Empire grew from its hometowns of Ashur and

  • Nineveh to include the whole of Mesopotamia, the Eastern Coast of the Mediterranean and

  • even, by 680 BCE, Egypt! (INSERT MAP)They did this thanks to the most brutal, terrifying

  • and efficient army the world had ever seen. More adjectives describing my college girlfriend.

  • For one thing the army was a meritocracy. Generals weren't chosen based on who their

  • dads were, they were chosen based on if they were good at Generalling.

  • Stan, is generalling a word? [pauses, two thumbs up w answer] It is!

  • The armies also used iron weapons and chariots and they were massive. Like the neo-Assyrian

  • Empire could field 120,000 men.

  • Also, they were super MEAN. Like they would deport hundreds of thousands of people to

  • separate them from their history and their familes and also moved skilled workers around

  • where they were most needed.Also the neo-Assyrians loved to find would-be rebels and lop off

  • their appendages. Particularly their noses for some reason. And there was your standard

  • raping and pillaging and torture, all of which was done in the name of Ashur, the great god

  • of the neo-Assyrians whose divine regent was the King.

  • Ashur, through the King, kept the world going, and as long as conquest continued the world

  • would not end. But if conquest ever stopped, the world would end and there would be rivers

  • of blood and weeping and gnashing of teeth. You know how apocalypses go.

  • The Assyrians spread this world view with propaganda like monumental architecture and

  • readings about how awesome the king was at public festivals, all of which were designed

  • to inspire awe in the Empire's subjects.

  • Oh that reminds me, ITS TIME FOR THE OPEN LETTER.

  • An Open Letter to the Word Awesome:

  • But first lets see what's in the Secret Compartment today. [opens door] Oh, Stan is

  • this yellow cake uranium? You never find that in Mesopotamia...

  • Dear Awesome,

  • I love you. Like most contemporary English speakers in fact, I probably love you a little

  • too much.

  • The thing about you, awesome, is that awesome is just so awesomely awesome at being awesome.

  • So we lose track of what you really mean, awesome: You're not just cool, you're

  • terrifying and wonderful. You're knees-buckling, chest-tightening, fearful encounters with

  • something radically other- something that we know could both crush and bless us. That

  • is awe, and I apologize for having watered you down.

  • But seriously, you're awesome.

  • Best wishes, John Green

  • So what happened to the Assyrians? Well, first they extended their empire beyond their roads,

  • making administration impossible.

  • But maybe even more importantly, when your whole world view is based on the idea that

  • the apocalypse will come if you ever lose a battle, and then you lose one battle, the

  • whole world view just blows up. That eventually happened and in 612 BCE, the city of Nineveh

  • was finally conquered, and the neo-Assyrian Empire had come to its end.

  • But the idea of Empire was just getting started. Next week we'll talk about mummiesoh,

  • I have to talk about other things too? Crap, I only want to talk about mummies. Anyway,

  • we'll be talking about [tapping stylus to talking globe replying Sudan] No! Dangit!

  • We'll actually be talking about [taps globe to reply Egypt] Thank you, Smart Globe.

  • See you next week.

  • Crash Course was produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our Script supervisor is Danica

  • Johnson. The show is written by Raoul Meyer my high school history teacher and myself

  • and our graphics team is ThoughtBubble.

  • Last week's phrase of the week was "Better Boyfriend." If you want to take a guess

  • at this week's phrase of the week, you can do so in Comments where you can also suggest

  • new phrases of the week.

  • And if you have any questions about today's show, leave them in Comments and our team

  • of semi-professional quasi-historians will endeavor to answer them.

  • Thanks for watching and as we say in my hometown: Don't forget to be awesome.

Hi there. I'm John Green; you're watching Crash Course World History, and today we're

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 CrashCourse de la los mesopotamia una

Mesopotamia: Crash Course World History #3

  • 527 47
    Chi-feng Liu posted on 2013/04/17
Video vocabulary