For the assignment, take a well-defended position on the following question:
Q: Given their surviving documents, many of the earliest cultures appeared quite
concerned with the idea of order ‘the human place in society and the universe.
Compare and contrast two of these four cultures’ the Mesopotamians, the
Egyptians, the Hebrews, and the Persians’ regarding their ideas of order. What
best accounts for their similarities and differences?
We do not want you simply to summarize course materials. You must critically analyze
relevant primary readings, providing a direct response to the question. You may take any stance you
wish, as long as you make a persuasive, coherent argument based on historical evidence from class.
Do not attempt to avoid using course materials by relying upon unreliable sources on the
Internet or elsewhere! Not only will such behavior rob you of the opportunity to exercise your
historical skills, but we also will consider it academic misconduct.
Your essay must include, and my grading criteria will judge whether your essay features:
1) a strong, clear thesis. This is the most important part of your paper. It is your central
argument, boiled down into one or two sentences and typically located at the end of your
introduction. It should be your direct answer to the question above.
2) a logical, coherent structure, with an introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, and
transitions. If you wish, create an outline before you write to help structure your thoughts
around your thesis. Each body section should clearly relate back to your thesis.
3) your own original, critical thoughts on the topic. I want to hear your voice, not someone
else’s. Judiciously use the personal pronoun ‘I’ only in order to introduce subjectivity,
because it tends to weaken your argument if you’re making more objective claims.
4) specific, accurate, and cited details from the document packet, course discussions,
lecture, and, if necessary, The Earth and Its Peoples. You may use either parenthetical citations
(MLA format) or footnotes/endnotes (Chicago format), as long as you are consistent.
NOTE: The majority of your cited material should be from the primary documents in the
course packet, as the strongest historical arguments rely on thorough analysis of original
sources. Use discussions, lecture, and the textbook sparingly, such as to provide context.
5) correct grammar, spelling, and formatting
For help, draw on the books that I recommended for
this course ‘Patricia T. O’Connors Woe is I; Mary Lynn Rampolla’s A Pocket Guide to Writing
in History; and William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White’s The Elements of Style. The primary resource is below “Mesopotamia and Egypt
‘The Flood’ The Epic of Gilgamesh, c. 2500 BCE
Gilgamesh was the fifth king of Uruk, modern day Iraq and Kuwait, placing his reign ca. 2500 BCE. He is the central character in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the greatest surviving work of early Mesopotamian literature. In Mesopotamian mythology, Gilgamesh is a demigod of superhuman strength who built the city walls of Uruk to defend his people from external threats. Gilgamesh also sought out the sage Ut-napishtim, a survivor of the Great Deluge, to find the secret of his immortality.
Gilgamesh spoke to him, to Ut-napishtim the far-distant,
‘I look at you, Ut-napishtim
And your limbs are no different-you are just like me.
Indeed, you are not at all different-you are just like me.
I feel the urge to prove myself against you, to pick a fight. [H]ow [did] you come to stand in the
gods’ assembly and sought eternal life?’
Ut-napishtim spoke to him, to Gilgamesh,
‘Let me reveal to you a closely guarded matter, Gilgamesh, and let me tell you the secret of the gods.
Shuruppak is a city that you yourself know, situated on the bank of the Euphrates.
That city was already old when the gods within it decided that the great gods should make a flood.
There was Anu their father, Warrior Ellil their counsellor, Ninurta was their chamberlain,
Ennugi their canal-controller.
Far-sighted Ea swore the oath of secrecy with them, so he repeated their speech to a reed hut,
“Reed hut, reed hut, brick wall, brick wall, listen, reed hut, and pay attention, brick wall:
Ut-napishtim, Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubara-Tutu, Dismantle your house, build a boat.
Leave possessions, search out living things.
Reject chattels and save lives!
Put aboard the seed of all living things, into the boat.
The boat that you are to build shall have her dimensions in proportion, her width and length shall be
in harmony, roof her like the Apsu.
When the first light of dawn appeared, the country gathered about me.
The carpenter brought his axe, the reed-worker brought his stone.
Children carried the bitumen, the poor fetched what was needed. On the fifth day I laid down [the
One acre was her circumference, ten poles each the height of her walls, her top edge was likewise ten poles all round.
I laid down her structure, drew it out, gave her six decks, divided her into seven.
Her middle I divided into nine, [and] drove the water pegs into her middle. I sacrificed sheep
I gave the workmen ale and beer to drink, oil and wine as if they were river water.
They made a feast, like the New Year’s Day festival.
When the sun rose I provided hand oil.
When the sun went down the boat was complete.
The launching was very difficult; launching rollers had to be fetched from above to below.
Two-thirds of it stood clear of the water line.
I loaded her with everything there was, loaded her with all the silver, loaded her with all the gold,
loaded her with all the seed of living things, all of them.
I put on board the boat all my kith and kin.
Put on board cattle from open country, wild beasts from open country, all kinds of craftsmen.
On the first day the tempest rose up, blew swiftly and brought the flood-weapon. No man could
see his fellow, nor could people be distinguished from the sky.
Even the gods were afraid of the flood-weapon.
They withdrew; they went up to the heaven of Anu.
The gods cowered, like dogs crouched by an outside wall.
Ishtar screamed like a woman giving birth. The Mistress of the Gods, sweet of voice, was wailing,
“Has that time really returned to clay, because I spoke evil in the gods’ assembly?
How could I have spoken such evil in the gods’ assembly?
I should have ordered a battle to destroy my people.
I myself gave birth to them, they are my own people,
yet they fill the sea like fish spawn!”
The-gods of the Anunnaki were weeping with her.
The gods, humbled, sat there weeping.
Their lips were closed and covered with scab.
For six days and seven nights, the wind blew, flood and tempest overwhelmed the land.
When the seventh day arrived the tempest, flood and onslaught, which had struggled like a woman
in labour, blew themselves out.
The sea became calm, the imhullu-wind grew quiet, the flood held back.
I looked at the weather. Silence reigned, for all mankind had returned to clay.
The flood-plain was flat as a roof.
I opened a porthole and light fell on my cheeks.
I bent down, then sat. I wept.
My tears ran down my cheeks.
I looked for banks, for limits to the sea.
Areas of land were emerging everywhere.
The boat had come to rest on Mount Nimush. When the seventh day arrived,
I put out and released a dove.
The dove went; it came back, for no perching place was visible to it, and it turned round.
I put out and released a swallow.
The swallow went; it came back, for no perching place was visible to it, and it turned round.
I put out and released a raven.
The raven went, and saw the waters receding.
And it ate, preened, lifted its tail and did not turn round.
Then I put everything out to the four winds, and I made a sacrifice, set out an offering upon the
mountain peak, arranged the jars seven and seven. Into the bottom of them I poured essences of
reeds, pine, and myrtle. The gods smelt the fragrance, the gods smelt the pleasant fragrance,
the gods like flies gathered over the sacrifice.
As soon as the Mistress of the Gods arrived, she raised the great flies that Anu had made to please
“Behold, O gods, I shall never forget the significance of my lapis lazuli necklace, I shall remember
these times, and I shall never forget.
Let other gods come to the offering.
But let Ellil not come to the offering, because he did not consult before imposing the flood,
and consigned my people to destruction!”
As soon as Ellil arrived, he saw the boat. Ellil was furious, filled with anger at the gods.
“What sort of life survived? No man should have lived through the destruction!”
Ninurta made his voice heard and spoke, and he said to the warrior Ellil,
“Who other than Ea would have done such a thing?
For Ea can do everything!”
Ea made his voice heard and spoke,
and he said to the warrior Ellil,
“You are the sage of the gods, warrior,
So how, O how, could you fail to consult, and impose the flood? Punish the sinner for his sin,
punish the criminal for his crime, but ease off, let work not cease; be patient. Instead of your
imposing a flood, let a lion come up and diminish the people.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let a wolf come up and diminish the people.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let famine be imposed and lessen the land.
Instead of your imposing a flood, let Erra rise up and savage the people.
Ellil came up into the boat,
And seized my hand and led me up.
He led up my woman and made her kneel down at my side.
He touched our foreheads, stood between us, blessed us:
“Until now Ut-napishtim was mortal, but henceforth Ut-napishtim and his woman shall be as we
Ut-napishtim shall dwell far off at the mouth of the rivers.”
They took me and made me dwell far off, at the mouth of the rivers.
So now, who can gather the gods on your behalf, Gilgamesh,
That you too may find eternal life that you seek?
The Code of Hammurabi, c. 1700 BCE
Of the several law codes surviving from the ancient Middle East, the most famous after the Hebrew Torah is the Code
of Hammurabi, sixth king of the Amorite Dynasty of Old Babylon. It is best known from a beautifully engraved
diorite stela now in the Louvre Museum that also depicts the king receiving the law from Shamash, the god of justice.
This copy was made long after Hammurabi’s time, and it is clear that his was a long-lasting contribution to
Mesopotamian civilization. It encodes many laws that had probably evolved over a long period of time, but is
interesting to the general reader because of what it tells us about the attitudes and daily lives of the Babylonians.
Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the
rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should
not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten
the land, to further the well-being of mankind.
16: If any one receives into his house a runaway male or female slave of the court, or of a freedman,
and does not bring it out at the public proclamation of the [police], the master of the house shall be
put to death.
53: If any one be too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the
dam break and all the fields be flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred be sold for
money, and the money shall replace the [grain] which he has caused to be ruined.
54: If he is not able to replace the [grain], then he and his possessions shall be divided among the
farmers whose corn he has flooded.
110: If a “sister of a god” [nun] opens a tavern, or enter a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be
burned to death.
129: If a man’s wife is surprised [having intercourse] with another man, both shall be tied and
thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife and the king his slaves.
130: If a man violates the wife (betrothed or child-wife) of another man, who has never known a
man, and still lives in her father’s house, and sleep with her and be surprised [caught], this man shall
be put to death, but the wife is blameless.
131: If a man brings a charge against [his] wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must
take an oath and then may return to her house.
132: If the “finger is pointed” at a man’s wife about another man, but she is not caught sleeping with
the other man, she shall jump into the river for [the sake of her] husband.
138: If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the
amount of her purchase money and the dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let
141: If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt [to go into
business], tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband
offer her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her
husband does not wish to release her, and if he takes another wife, she shall remain as servant in her
142: If a woman quarrels with her husband, and say: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for
her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves
and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her
143: If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband,
this woman shall be cast into the water.
195: If a son strikes his father, his hands shall be [cut] off.
196: If a [noble-]man puts out the eye of another [noble-]man, his eye shall be put out.
197: If he breaks another [noble-]man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.
198: If he puts out the eye of a [commoner], or breaks the bone of a [commoner], he shall pay one
199: If he puts out the eye of a man’s slave, or break the bone of a man’s slave, he shall pay one-half
of its value.
200: If a man knocks out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.
201: If he knocks out the teeth of a [commoner], he shall pay one-third of a [silver] mina.
In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the
words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land
which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler
have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written
in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I
have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them,
give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his
Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred right (or law) am I. My
words are well considered; my deeds are not equaled; to bring low those that were high; to humble
the proud, to expel insolence.
Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE
This hymn dates from around 2100 BCE, towards the end of the Old Kingdom period of Egyptian history. It
manifestly emphasizes the central status of the River Nile in all aspects of Egyptian life.
Hail to thee, O Nile! Who manifests thyself over this land, and comes to give life to Egypt!
Mysterious is thy issuing forth from the darkness, on this day whereon it is celebrated! Watering the
orchards created by Re, to cause all the cattle to live, you give the earth to drink, inexhaustible one!
Path that descends from the sky, loving the bread of Seb and the first-fruits of Nepera, You cause
the workshops of Ptah to prosper!
Lord of the fish, during the inundation, no bird alights on the crops. You create the grain, you bring
forth the barley, assuring perpetuity to the temples. If you cease your toil and your work, then all
that exists is in anguish. If the gods suffer in heaven, then the faces of men waste away.
Then He torments the flocks of Egypt, and great and small are in agony. But all is changed for
mankind when He comes. If He shines, the earth is joyous, every stomach is full of rejoicing,
every spine is happy, every jaw-bone crushes (its food).
He brings the offerings, as chief of provisioning; He is the creator of all good things, as master of
energy, full of sweetness in his choice. If offerings are made it is thanks to Him. He brings forth the
herbage for the flocks, and sees that each god receives his sacrifices. All that depends on Him is a
precious incense. He spreads himself over Egypt, filling the granaries, renewing the marts, watching
over the goods of the unhappy.
No dwelling (is there) that may contain you! None penetrates within your heart! Your young men,
your children applaud you and render unto you royal homage. Stable are your decrees for Egypt
before your servants of the North! He stanches the water from all eyes and watches over the
increase of his good things.
Where misery existed, joy manifests itself; all beasts rejoice. The children of Sobek, the sons of
Neith, the cycle of the gods that dwells in him, are prosperous. No more reservoirs for watering the
fields! He makes mankind valiant, enriching some, bestowing his love on others. None commands at
the same time as himself. He creates the offerings without the aid of Neith, making mankind for
himself with multiform care.
He shines when He issues forth from the darkness, to cause his flocks to prosper. It is his force that
gives existence to all things; nothing remains hidden for him. Let men clothe themselves to fill his
gardens. He watches over his works, producing the inundation during the night. He causes all his
servants to exist, all writings and divine words, and that which He needs in the North.
It is with the words that He penetrates into his dwelling; He issues forth at his pleasure through the
magic spells. Your unkindness brings destruction to the fish; it is then that prayer is made for the
(annual) water of the season; Southern Egypt is seen in the same state as the North. Each one is
with his instruments of labor. None remains behind his companions. None clothes himself with
garments; the children of the noble put aside their ornaments.
He night remains silent, but all is changed by the inundation; it is a healing-balm for all mankind.
Establisher of justice! Mankind desires you, supplicating you to answer their prayers. You answer
them by the inundation! Men offer the first fruits of corn; all the gods adore you! The birds descend
not on the soil. It is believed that with your hand of gold you make bricks of silver! But we are not
nourished on lapis lazuli; wheat alone gives vigor.
A festal song is raised for you on the harp, with the accompaniment of the hand. Your young men
and your children acclaim you and prepare their (long) exercises. You are the august ornament of the
earth, letting your bark advance before men, lifting up the heart of women in labor, and loving the
multitude of the flocks.
When you shine in the royal city, the rich man is sated with good things, the poor man even disdains
the lotus; all that is produced is of the choicest; all the plants exist for your children. If you have
refused (to grant) nourishment, the dwelling is silent, devoid of all that is good, the country falls
O inundation of the Nile, offerings are made unto you, men are immolated to you, great festivals are
instituted for you. Birds are sacrificed to you, gazelles are taken for you in the mountain, pure flames are prepared for you. The Nile has made its retreats in Southern Egypt, its name is not known
beyond the Tuau. The god manifests not his forms; He baffles all conception.
11 Men exalt him like the cycle of the gods, they dread him who creates the heat, even him who has
made his son the universal master in order to give prosperity to Egypt. Come (and) prosper! Come
(and) prosper! O Nile, come (and) prosper! O you who make men to live through his flocks and his
flocks through his orchards! Come (and) prosper, come, O Nile, come (and) prosper!”
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