Ancient Sumerians: What We Know About The Earliest Civilization

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The Sumerian civilization was the first civilization in recorded history. Ancient Sumerian texts are the oldest in the world. The Sumerians left behind a legacy of art, architecture, and literature that is still studied and admired today.

The Sumerians also set the stage for the future of human civilization by inventing the first written script, designing the first cities, and developing the first schools.

This is a brief overview of the Sumerian civilization and what we know about their sprawling empire.

Ancient Sumerians - A Brief History

The Sumerian civilization dates back almost 6,000 years. It was an ancient culture in modern day Iraq and Syria. The Sumerians lived in ancient Sumer, an area that is now in modern day Iran and southeast Iraq. Sumer was the first location where the Sumerians settled and established their civilization.

It was in Sumer where the Sumerians invented the first writing system, devised the first standardized systems of mathematics and astronomy, and set in motion the processes that would eventually lead to the development of the first political organization known to man.

Egyptian & Sumerian Civilization

The ancient Sumerians were known to the Egyptians as the urabu, meaning "the children of the ugarite god". The etymology of urabu is still a mystery, but the ancient Egyptian believed that the urabu were children of the moon god.

The first documented reference to the Sumerians is found in the Old Assyrian king list. The kings of Sumer, known as "Elamites", are listed along with other major ancient empires. For nearly 6,000 years, the Sumerians had dominated much of the Mesopotamia region.

They built cities, as well as storied temple complexes. The city of Ur, the most renowned of the cities of Sumer, was considered the second Largest & developed city in the world, after Rome.

Read More : About the City of Ur

The language of the Sumerians, an ancient civilization was adopted by the ancient Egyptians.

It was an early step in Egypt's alphabet transition from logograms, which were symbols with different meanings, to phonograms, which represent sounds.

Sumerian Contributions to Civilization

The Sumerians are considered to be the most important ancient civilization in history. They are the origin of many other civilizations including those in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Turkey. They are credited with the invention of writing and the first city states. The Sumerians are known to have invented many things like architectural marvels, cities, and civilizations.

The Sumerians are also famous for being responsible for two significant events in the history of humanity:

  • The invention of the Hittite cuneiform script , which was used to form the first chronological form of writing.


  • The invention of the first phase of agriculture , which allowed humans to migrate from the more tropical climates of Mesopotamia to the temperate climates of Europe and Asia.

The Sumerian Legacy

Sumer, named after the Sumerians, is a region in northern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). The Sumerians were one of several great civilizations that flourished in Mesopotamia.

The Sumerians originated in the south of Mesopotamia. For most of their history, they were culturally and politically subordinate to the Akkadians, the earliest empire in Mesopotamia. The Sumerians had advanced technologies, and the city of Babylon, under the influence of the Akkadians, became the world's first great city.

But over the course of three centuries, Babylon was weakened by wars and attacks from other great powers, and fell to the Akkadian Empire in approximately 3100 BC.

The Akkadians ruled Mesopotamia until 3150 BC, when they were overthrown by the Hurrians.

The Sumerian God

The Sumerian God is the first (and largest) manifestation of a singular deity. Ea the Sumerian God Ea was the Sumerian equivalent to the Greek god Zeus.

The two shared the same name but had very different attributes. Ea was the creator of the world and husband of the Akkadian goddess Ninsun (sometimes called “Tammuz”) with whom he fathered many daughters and sons.

Despite sharing many similarities with Zeus, Ea was also an extremely complex, violent, and malevolent being.

He was a figure of much beauty and power, but he was also the embodiment of lust, violence, war, and destruction. His people worshipped Ea, but despite seeing him as the embodiment of all good, he was actually a tyrant who cultivated an oppressive, violent society.

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The Sumerians were the first civilization in recorded history. They were also the first civilization to use metal tools, agriculture, and concrete. Today, the Sumerian civilization is studied and admired.

A Sumerian tablet from the city of Eridu written in the cuneiform script, which means "wheel," is considered by many to be the oldest known piece of literature in the world. It was an early proto-literate text which contains the story of the beginning of time. It was translated into the modern-day Akkadian language in 1914.

Image source : Unsplash & Pixabay

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