Cover image for Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia
Handbook to life in ancient Mesopotamia
Bertman, Stephen.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York NY : Facts on File, [2003]

Physical Description:
xii, 396 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS69.5 .B47 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS69.5 .B47 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
DS69.5 .B47 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



For almost three thousand years, a succession of glorious communities flourished in ancient Mesopotamia. This book explores the culture of these great civilisations, which gave rise to literature, art, government, and urban life. It examines the daily lives of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, breathing life into the facts that modern-day archaeologists have unearthed about Iraq's past. Each chapter includes an extensive bibliography, as well as original line drawings, photographs, and maps. It combines archaeological and historical sources to provide a bounty of useful and fascinating information for anyone interested in the history, archaeology, religion, or culture of the ancient Near East.

Author Notes

Stephen Bertman is professor emeritus of classical studies at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and adjunct lecturer in art history at the University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Bertman, professor emeritus of classics at the University of Windsor, has made a useful contribution to Facts On File's Handbook to Life series. Covering the lives of Assyrians, Babylonians, and Sumerians from around 3500 to 500 B.C.E., the book is arranged topically, with chapters on geography, archaeology, government, religion, language and literature, arts, and daily life, among other subjects. Each chapter has citations to the extensive bibliography. Most of the works in the larger bibliography are technical and specialized, but a Note to the Reader lists several popular works that could be found in a larger public library. Bertman's writing is formal but accessible, with touches of dry humor. Subsections within the chapters deal with more specific topics. In the chapter on government, there are capsule biographies of political leaders, mostly kings. The chapter on archaeology provides a list of archaeologists who have made major discoveries in the region. Gods and goddesses are described in the chapter on religion. There is an interesting concluding chapter about the legacy of Mesopotamia and how it endures. A brief section on Aramaic-speaking Chaldeans who migrated from an ancient village in Iraq to Detroit in the twentieth century suggests that the legacy is more alive than we realize. Bertman notes, too, how many archaeological sites have been put at risk by recent political and military actions in the region. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs and line drawings, which should copy well. Appendixes include a chronological table and a list of museums with major Mesopotamian collections. A useful purchase for medium-sized to large public libraries and academic libraries with undergraduate Middle Eastern ancient history classes. -- RBB Copyright 2003 Booklist

Choice Review

Bertman's compact, clearly written handbook, part of the "Facts on File Library of World History" series, presents a broad overview of life over three millennia (3500 BCE to 500 BCE) during which the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians lived. Beginning with a chapter on the region's geography, the volume continues with chapters on its archaeology and history, government and society, religion and myth, language, writing and literature, architecture and engineering, sculpture and other arts, economy, transportation and trade, military affairs, everyday life, sacred scripture, and finally, the legacy of Mesopotamia. Each chapter concludes with a list of further readings. A chronological table, a one-page list of museums with major Mesopotamian collections, a 34-page bibliography, and an index complete the volume. It has more than 100 black-and-white illustrations, including maps, photos, tables, and drawings. This handbook will be useful to librarians as a reference tool and to students, teachers, and general readers at all levels for its wealth of readily accessible information on ancient Mesopotamian life and times. Summing Up: Recommended. All collections. M. R. Dittemore Smithsonian Institution Libraries



Ancient Mesopotamia was the home of not one but a succession of glorious civilizations that together flourished more than three millennia. It was Sumerian mathematicians who devised the sixty-minute hour. It was Babylonian architects who designed the fabled Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. And it was Assyrian kings and generals who conducted some of the most ruthless military campaigns in recorded history. Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia presents the glory and splendor of an area that was host to some of the world's greatest civilizations and their struggles to create civilized life in a fertile land racked by brutal conquest. This volume focuses on the civilizations of Mesopotamia that invented agriculture, cities, writing, law, and even beer. Known as the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia is now the heart of modern-day Iraq, a war-torn land where people still struggle to eke out their daily lives as did their ancestors thousands of years ago. Organized in the classic Handbook to Life format, this comprehensive reference examines the everyday routines of Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian life from about 3500 to 500 BCE by gathering in one comprehensive volume all that modern-day archaeologists and historians have unearthed about Mesopotamia's foods, homes, literature, arts, laws, wars, religions, political systems, class structures, economy, and more. A separate chapter explores the influence of Mesopotamia on the sacred scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Coverage includes: Geography, Archaeology, and History of Mesopotamia The land, dating the past, ancient narratives, and key rulers of Mesopotamia Government, Society, Religion, and Myth The structure of civilization, biographies of political leaders, and personal piety Language, Literature, Architecture, and Engineering Major languages, writing, techniques of construction, ziggurats, and city planning Sculpture, Arts, and Sacred Scripture The role of artists, pottery, painting, the Old Testament, and Mesopotamia and the Koran Economy, Transportation, and Trade Professions, wages and prices, transportation by water, trade, and weights and measures Military Affairs, Everyday Life, and More Weapons and equipment, the art of war, work, slavery, music, sports, and education. Excerpted from Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia by Stephen Bertman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. viii
Introductionp. x
List of Mapsp. xi
List of Illustrationsp. xi
1 Geography of Mesopotamiap. 1
The Land and Its Riversp. 2
Natural Resourcesp. 4
Surrounding Countriesp. 5
Gazetteerp. 6
Readingp. 37
2 Archaeology and Historyp. 39
The Discoverersp. 40
Dating the Pastp. 49
Digging for Historyp. 51
Ancient Narrativesp. 54
Survey of Historyp. 54
Key Rulers of Mesopotamiap. 58
Readingp. 59
3 Government and Societyp. 61
The Structure of Civilizationp. 62
The Stratification of Societyp. 62
The Beginningsp. 63
Kingshipp. 63
Taxationp. 67
Justice and Lawp. 68
Biographies of Political Leadersp. 72
Readingp. 111
4 Religion and Mythp. 113
The Multiplicity of the Godsp. 114
The Governance of the Worldp. 115
The Names and Functions of the Godsp. 115
Mythsp. 126
Places of Public Worshipp. 127
Priests and Priestessesp. 128
Holy Days and Festivalsp. 130
Divination and Exorcismp. 132
Personal Pietyp. 133
The Concept of Immortalityp. 134
Readingp. 135
5 Language, Writing, and Literaturep. 137
Languagep. 138
The Great Deciphermentsp. 138
Major Languagesp. 142
Writingp. 144
Literaturep. 149
Readingp. 182
6 Architecture and Engineeringp. 185
Building Materials and Housesp. 186
Domestic Architecturep. 188
Techniques of Constructionp. 190
From Village to Cityp. 191
Templesp. 191
Zigguratsp. 194
Palacesp. 198
City Planningp. 201
Wallsp. 202
Canals and Aqueductsp. 203
Bridgesp. 207
Roadsp. 209
Readingp. 210
7 Sculpture and other Artsp. 213
The Role of the Artistp. 214
Materialsp. 214
Sculpturep. 214
Potteryp. 223
Paintingp. 224
Mosaicp. 226
Glassp. 229
Cylinder Sealsp. 231
Carved Ivoryp. 236
Jewelryp. 237
Readingp. 241
8 Economyp. 243
Definition and Structurep. 244
Significancep. 244
Farming and Animal Husbandryp. 244
Fishing and Huntingp. 247
Craftsp. 248
Professionsp. 248
Wages and Pricesp. 248
Readingp. 250
9 Transportation and Tradep. 251
Transportation by Waterp. 252
Transportation by Landp. 253
Tradep. 255
Weights and Measuresp. 257
Readingp. 258
10 Military Affairsp. 261
The Influence of Geographyp. 262
Evidencep. 262
Fortificationsp. 262
Weapons and Equipmentp. 263
The Organization of the Armyp. 265
Siege Warfarep. 267
Psychological Warfarep. 267
The Art of Warp. 268
Ancient Monuments and Modern Warfarep. 270
Readingp. 271
11 Everyday Lifep. 273
Workp. 274
Slaveryp. 274
Marriage and Familyp. 275
Birth, Death, and the Belief in an Afterlifep. 281
Homesp. 285
Clothingp. 288
Cosmetics and Perfumep. 291
Food and Drinkp. 291
Musicp. 294
Toys and Gamesp. 298
Sportsp. 300
Educationp. 300
Health and Medicinep. 304
Readingp. 309
12 Mesopotamia and Sacred Scripturep. 311
The Old Testamentp. 312
Mesopotamia and the Apocryphap. 322
Mesopotamia and the New Testamentp. 322
Mesopotamia and the Koranp. 323
Readingp. 323
13 The Legacy of Mesopotamiap. 325
Continuity and Changep. 326
Inspiration and Imaginationp. 332
An Enduring Legacyp. 334
Detroit of the Chaldeesp. 335
Twin Legaciesp. 336
Readingp. 337
Chronological Tablep. 339
List of Museums with Major Mesopotamian Collectionsp. 342
Bibliographyp. 343
Indexp. 377