Writing and City Life
Question 1: Why do we say that it was not natural fertility and high levels of food production which were the causes of early urbanization?
Answer: The early urbanization developed in Mesopotamia. It did not happen in the agriculturally fertile north-east rather it happened in the south. We have read that a city develops as a result of interdependencies among people for various economic activities. This only happens when people cease to be self-sufficient in terms of economic activities. It was not possible in naturally fertile land where food production could be the only or main economic activity. Examples of many earliest cities give concrete proof for this. So, it is said that it was not natural fertility and high levels of food production which were the causes of early urbanization.
Question 2: Which of the following were necessary conditions and which the causes of early urbanization, and which would you say were the outcome of the growth of cities:
- Highly productive agriculture
- Water transport
- The lack of metal and stone
- The division of labor
- The use of seals
- The military power of kings that made labor compulsory
Answer: Water transport and lack of metal and stone are the causes of early urbanization. Division of labor, use of seals and the military power of kings (that made labor compulsory) are the outcomes of early urbanization.
Question 3: Why were mobile animal herders not necessarily a threat to town life?
Answer: Some of the mobile animal herders ended up as farm laborers and hired soldiers. Some of them became prosperous and settled. A few of them even became rulers. In a way, some of the mobile animal herders cooperated in the process of building the urban civilization; and ended up being a part of it. Hence, it can be said that mobile animal herders were not necessarily a threat to town life.
Question 4: Why would the early temple have been much like a house?
Answer: The early temples were built on small scale. Building a large temple needs plenty of resources. Gathering so many resources is not possible for a single individual or even for a few families. Moreover, the early temples were just the places of worship. They had yet to develop as the centre of economic activities of the city. So, the early temples have been much like a house.
Question 5: Of the new institutions that came into being once city life had begun, which would have depended on the initiative of the king?
Answer: Army, system of providing ration, association of artisans, fleet of boats, etc.
Question 6: What do ancient stories tell us about the civilization of Mesopotamia?
Answer: As the example of the Gilgamesh Epic shows, people of Mesopotamia valued city life. When a city was destroyed in war, people recalled it through poetry. Such poetries also glorify people’s power in building a great city. The ancient stories also tell us about the prosperity of the city, about the influence of the king.