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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Birth of Civilization


      Ur, was the first city humans build, writing was developed by these first Mesopotamians, so we can date the city and it existed at least from 6,500 BCE. Ur probably existed for two thousand years before the invention of cuneiform. Cuneiform was the first written language, the earliest was record keeping of sheep sacrificed at the temples. Slowly cuneiform developed to express ideas, record battles, and save oral traditions. Cuneiform scribes wrote of the heroic deeds and events that happened thousands of years before their time.

      I have read several history books written by eminent archeological professionals. I have read many modern translation of Cuneiform. A picture of our first civilization emerges that I found surprising.

      The first city started as a temple that farmers and shepherds would travel to for religious rites. Eventually the priest build themselves permanent residents, support personal for the temple starting living at the shrines. Slowly a city came into being.

      Other city states followed, Kisk, Uruk, Niveveh, Sippar, Assur, Lrasa, and finally Babylon. All appear to have started as temple complexes, each city was created by a God. The creation myths told of the Gods bringing “Me” to the people. “Me” being those principles of civilization.

      The first civilizations were a theocratic communism, the temple own everything, all land, all beast, and all people. The priest managed central planning, the temples collected all food stuff and redistributed as needed, all worked to their ability and all received as they needed. Of course, the priest were more equal than the farmers. The priest did not rule, they were just passing on the desires and wishes of the Gods. After the collection of the farmer’s required foodstuff, any surplus was allowed for sale in a market place. The Gods set the selling price and the qualities allowed for sale. The Gods decided who could sale and what they could sale. No one cheated on the system, the God would see you cheating and visit plagues and misery on your family.

      The Gods were a terrible and vengeful bunch, often starting wars with each other. Humans were commanded (through their priest) to attack another city, or to depopulate a desirable farming region for their God's pleasure, which priest would take over. The priest would tell that they had no choice, no input into the God’s demands, the Gods demands were duly recorded and published, and everyone accepted that this was the way the world worked. Cities were run by the Gods, and anyone defying a God died a horrible death. The smallest scratch could become infected (by the God) and you died.

      The Gods were the center of everything. Storms, floods, drought, disease, good luck, bad luck, would your child be born boy or girl, would your child survive their first year, even solar eclipses and comets were due to the Gods seeming vanity. Humans were an afterthought, we are just the flotsam of the Gods.

      The theocratic command economy and priestly ruling elite quickly passed into history. Their downfall was war. Priest make very bad generals.

      The generals redefined society’s meme, the generals became Kings. The King could talk back to the Gods, and the Gods listened. Kings ruled by divine right.

      Cities now became a hereditary communist state, the state still owned everything, including the people. The concept of citizen was thousands of years into the future. The word “Ama-gi”, which could be translated as freedom, would not appear until 2350 BCE. Central planning and redistribution became a highly refined and perfected system, a large agrarian population could be supported with specialist such as boat builders and soldiers, and of course, priest.

      Again war became the problem. The original King would be a Great War Master, a bold tactician and strategist. The son, due to the dice roll of genetics, would be great at flower arrangements.

      And so things continued for 6,000 years until Greece and then Rome rewrote the meme once more and started us to our modern form of civilization.

      Communism is the oldest and most successful of human institutions. It moved us from hunter gathers to the Roman republic. The new concepts (memes) of citizenship and freedom prevailed the old fashion way, it won wars.

      The next time someone tells you communism only works till all the money is spent, ask them why Hammurabi and Sargon the Great never ran out of money.

1 comment:

Shirley said...

This is an interesting blog; thanks for summarizing the history of early civilization. I learned something, which I never studied at school. It really does make perfect sense that man would socialize himself that way.