When did Mesopotamia begin and end


The ancient city of Babylon could be entered through gates. The "Ishtar Gate" was named after a goddess and is now in a museum in Berlin.

Antiquity is a chapter in human history. It is one of three great eras, the oldest and longest. The other epochs after that are the Middle Ages and the modern age. We too live in the modern age.

When you hear the word antiquity you think of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Then there is the Middle East. For other continents, such as South America and Asia, the idea of ​​antiquity does not quite fit. The history of these continents is sometimes divided differently.

When did antiquity begin?

In the time before antiquity, prehistory, people lived in smaller groups. When the groups got bigger, with over 10,000 people, the high cultures emerged. It is no coincidence that these early advanced civilizations were located on large rivers such as the Nile, because there was always enough water there for agriculture. The earliest advanced civilizations were ancient Egypt and Sumer.

Antiquity began with the invention of writing. That was about 3300 years before Christ, about 5300 years ago. At first, people only wrote down what they had in their warehouses. But soon they also wrote down entire stories and laws.

The first script was probably the cuneiform script from Mesopotamia. Other peoples adopted the cuneiform script or developed their own script from it. There were also peoples who were not yet a high culture with a script. But we know a little more about them today because other peoples wrote about them.

What was typical of antiquity?

About 3800 years ago: Babylonians wrote the Codex Hammurabi on a column. This is a long text with rules for society. In the photo you can see the piece on top of the column: on the right is King Hammurabi, who issued these rules. On the left you can see a Babylonian god, Shamash, the god of justice.

Because the groups were larger in ancient times than in earlier epochs, new ways of living together were needed. The first states were formed, headed by a powerful ruler. New and different professions emerged. Because it was possible to settle bad disputes in large groups, the most important rules were finally written down. The high cultures were also the cradle of law.

In the advanced civilizations, important inventions were made. For example, we got our calendar today from the ancient Egyptians. There were already good astronomers and mathematicians in Egypt and Babylonia.

The Greeks and Romans learned a lot from the advanced civilizations in Babylonia and Egypt, for example about mathematics and astronomy. Knowledge came to the rest of Europe via the Greeks and Romans, for example our current calendar. The wheel and the potter's wheel were also invented.

A part of antiquity is called antiquity. This means the time of the Greeks and Romans, from about 750 BC to 500 AD. The Greeks and Romans are particularly important for today's Europe. You have preserved a lot of ancient knowledge and also invented new things yourself. This knowledge was used in Europe in the Middle Ages. Today scientists still use many words from the Greek language and from the Latin language of the Romans.

When did antiquity end?

Antiquity ended with the Roman Empire. But this end lasted for centuries: the great empire disintegrated into several small empires. So there is a long time between antiquity and the Middle Ages, of which one is not entirely sure where it belongs.

Some say that the Great Migration was the beginning of the end. Even with her, the beginning is not certain: The Germanic Visigoths came to the Balkans and the Roman Empire in 376 AD. In 410 they were able to conquer Rome. In the south, Mohammed's Muslims conquered Roman North Africa.

The Roman Empire gradually became Christian: In 312, Emperor Constantine the Great allowed this new religion. His successor Theodosius ruled in 380 that all residents should be Christians.

Another well-known emperor was the Franconian Charlemagne. He was crowned emperor in 800. It is said that the Middle Ages began there at the latest.

How do we know about antiquity?

Johann Joachim Winckelmann was one of the first real archaeologists. He researched and wrote, among other things, about the Pompeii area.

In Europe, the Bible and the Old Testament were already known in the Middle Ages. There is much in it about some of the ancient peoples. In addition, books were passed down as Roman times. In the course of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, scholars passed on more and more knowledge about antiquity: some knowledge came from the countries of Islam, some from Byzantium, and some was undiscovered in the libraries of the monasteries.

Since the Renaissance, around 1500, people have learned more and more about things that have been found in the ground. It could be an old vase or an ancient statue. Around 1800 travelers, scientists and soldiers from Europe came to North Africa and the Middle East. There they specifically looked for things from ancient times. Around this time a new science arose: archeology, the science of old things.

Since then, thanks to archaeologists, much more has been known about antiquity than before. Remains of peoples have also been found in the ground that were previously unknown or barely known. One example is the high culture of the Hittites that existed in today's Turkey. One only knew the name from the Bible. That changed only around 1900: Scientists found ancient documents in Egypt in which the Hittites were mentioned. Finally, many remains of the Hittites were found in Turkey.

  • This statue with a deer and bulls comes from the Hittites who lived about 3000 years ago.

  • This mausoleum is the tomb of a famous Persian king: Cyrus the Great. He died in 530 BC.

  • About 2000 years ago: Such a picture from India shows that there were Greek rulers there at that time.