The Ancient Crucible

  • Geoff Simons


The region of the world that the ancient Greeks called Mesopotamia (land ‘between the rivers’) and that we know today as Iraq was a fount of civilisation — a veritable crucible, cockpit, cradle, womb of cultural progress (the metaphors run through the books). Here it was that restless tribes and peoples jostled for land and power, contending with their neighbours, being shaped by defeats, successful conquests, and the collisions of different cultures. Here it was that the first cities were bom, writing began, and the first codified legal systems were established. Here it was — through such ancient lands as Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria — that the vital cultural brew was stirred, the quite remarkable concoction from which Western civilisation would emerge. We often tend to begin the chronicle of Western culture with the achievements of the classical world but it is worth remembering that the Greco-Roman states owe much to the ancient worlds of Egypt and Mesopotamia, as far removed in time from them as Greece and Rome are from the nation states of the modem era. We may reflect also that a modem Iraqi is entitled to contemplate with awe and pride the fructifying richness of the cultures that first emerged in his land more than five thousand years ago.


Ancient World Semitic Language Settle Community Modem Time Western Frontier 
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  1. 3.
    Jacquetta Hawkes, The First Great Civilisations, Hutchinson, London, 1973, p. 63. A translation of the full Sumerian King List is included as an appendix in Leonard Woolley, Excavations at Ur, Ernest Benn, London, pp. 249–53.Google Scholar
  2. 21.
    Judah Goldin, ‘The Period of the Talmud’, in Louis Finkelstein, The Jews: Their History, Culture and Religion, New York, 1955, p. 115.Google Scholar

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© Geoff Simons 1996

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  • Geoff Simons

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