The end of the third millennium - World History

The end of the third millennium - World History
Posted on 27-12-2022

The end of the third millennium ( 2225 ) Ups and downs of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

In the last quarter of the third millennium civilization met with even more drastic changes than in the preceding period. In China appears the first kingdom of which we have historical evidence. Chinese historians located legendary kings at the beginning of their history, to each of whom a cultural advance was attributed: Fuxi invented divination, Shennong agriculture, Huangdi technique, Yao and Shun the art of governing and Yuhe is introduced as an engineer who ended up with a great flood. One of the legends surrounding Yu says that when he regulated the waters, a divine turtle appeared with numbers written on his shell. Yu examined them and arranged them according to the diagram on the right. The Chinese called this diagram the Loh Shu (Loh River Script), because the first written reference (after the present time) seems to have been found along the Loh River. The Loh Shu is what modern mathematicians call a magic square,and its "magic" consists in the fact that it is an arrangement of the numbers from 1 to 9 in which the three rows, the three columns and the two diagonals of the square add up to the same amount, namely 15. Another legend attributes to Fuxi the invention of the Loh Shu, which dates it back to the beginning of the millennium.

Still according to legend, Yu founded the Xia dynasty, which reigned for nearly 500 years. No specific details are known about this kingdom. According to the legends his capital was in Anyi. The Chinese were, at that time, a people of hunters, fishermen and cereal farmers. They built with beaten earth, practiced divination with tortoise shells, and celebrated festivals with ritual dances and songs. They had a very strong sense of family cohesion and great respect for elders and ancestors.

Meanwhile, in 2218 Naram-Sin, the king of Acad, died, who was succeeded by his son Sharkali-Sharri.  By this time the empire was greatly weakened. So many centuries of repression had diminished the warlike capacity of the subject territories, and all the force was centralized around the armies of the capital. In the absence of outside influences, this situation would be optimal for Acad, but Mesopotamia never ceased to be threatened by nomadic peoples, both from Arabia and from the Zagros Mountains, and now the population was not only unable to defend itself against their incursions, but that any attack on the empire was well received and encouraged by its subjects. On the other hand, the control of a vast territory had forced the kings to transfer part of their authority to a nobility that would soon generate various aspirants to the throne. To overthrow a king requires an army of its own, or at least a state of confusion that encourages the army to change leaders. For this reason, part of the nobility also viewed the barbarian incursions with good eyes.

Thus, around 2200 a tribe of barbarians invaded Mesopotamia from the Zagros Mountains. They called themselves the guti. Sharkali-Sharri's attempts to stop the looting were unsuccessful, and in 2193 he was killed, as the city of Acad was razed to the ground. The destruction was so thorough that Acad is the only major city of the time whose location is unknown. It is reasonable to think that the Sumerians and the Elamites joined the Guti and unloaded on Acad all the hatred and desire for revenge that they had accumulated for many years. The result was that no stone was left unturned.

Now, the Mesopotamians would soon discover that the Guti were no better than the Akkadians. The Guti had the power, but they lacked the culture to use it with the efficiency of the Akkadians. The river channel systems fell into disrepair and a time of famine ensued.

in 2182Pepi II, the last king of the 6th Egyptian dynasty, died. The evolution of the country had been similar to that of the Akkadian Empire. From the reign of Pepi I the nobility acquired more and more power. This must have been accentuated in the years when King Pepi II was a child and, therefore, did not exercise direct command. While the king lived, all was apparently well, for the loyalty to the king of the army and the people must have been nothing short of unwavering. Perhaps the nobility managed to have the king die without issue, so that many concealed aspirations to occupy the position after his death. The fact is that nobody succeeded and the Old Empire broke up into many small kingdoms in continuous struggle. As in Mesopotamia, this was a time of misery. In a papyrus that has survived, its author,Ipuwer (perhaps with some poetic exaggeration), describes the situation thus:

...laughter has perished and has not been given again. Sorrow haunts the country mingled with lamentation... The country has given itself up to ennui... the wheat has perished everywhere... the barn is empty and its guard lies full length on the ground...

During this period, all the tombs from the time of the pyramids were looted. Many of the kings listed in Egyptian annals after Pepi II were local rulers who reigned simultaneously. Thus, the kings of the VII and VIII dynasties reigned in Memphis or Heliopolis, in Lower Egypt, while those of the IX and X dynasties were from Heracleopolis, next to Lake Moeris.

In both Egypt and Mesopotamia, the first signs of recovery from the crisis are found in cities far from what had been the great centers of power. Thus, in Egypt the city of Thebes began to prosper , to the south, of whose previous history very little is known. It was probably a village founded during the 5th Dynasty that lived off the trade routes that reached Nubia, beyond the first cataract of the Nile. The rulers of the northern cities forgot the "far south" in their disputes, so Thebes prosperous. Their main god was Amun, a completely unknown fertility god in Old Kingdom times.

In Mesopotamia, meanwhile, the Guti had settled to the north, where the capital of Acad had been. This allowed some cities in Sumer to buy their freedom by pledging to pay tribute. Uruk progressed under his 4th Dynasty, Ur under his 2nd Dynasty, but the most notable ruler of the period was Gudea of ​​Lagash, around 2141,under which the city prospered in peace, free from the conquering urges of King Eannatum's time. Gudea embellished the existing temples and built fifteen new ones. Lagash sculptors learned to work diorite, a very hard stone that was brought from abroad. The first Sumerian remains to be discovered (at the end of the 19th century AD) was the palace of Gudea. After his death, the people showed their gratitude by including the king among their gods.

Meanwhile, the guti were absorbing the Akkadian culture, just as the Akkadians had absorbed the culture of the Sumerians and the latter that of the primitive inhabitants of the region.

Returning to Egypt, in 2132 a dynasty of Theban kings began, recorded as the XI Egyptian dynasty, which fought the kings of Heracleopolis, so that in 2124 Thebes dominated all of Upper Egypt.

At the same time, in 2123 King Utu-Hegal, of the V Dynasty of Uruk, managed to expel the Guti from Mesopotamia, in coalition with the city of Ur. One of the officials of Utu-Hegal became King of Ur (thus beginning his III dynasty ) under the name of Ur-Nammu.Under his reign, all of Mesopotamia was united in an empire as large as the Akkadian, but more commercial than military in character. Although it is not likely that he was the first, the fact is that the oldest law code we know of comes from this period. The progressive nature of these laws is surprising. The ancients tended to punish crimes by death or mutilation, while the code of Ur-Nammu provides for monetary compensation. Perhaps this idea was natural in a trading town. Under the III dynasty of Ur, the largest Ziggurat built up to then was built. Its base measured 90 by 60 meters, and its lower walls (made of brick) were eight meters thick. Two floors are preserved, but it seems that it had a third, with a total height of 40 meters. Sumerian once again became the official language of Mesopotamia and this period is considered the Golden Age of its literature.

Around 2052 the fifth king of the XI Theban dynasty of Egypt, known as Mentuhotep II, conquered Lower Egypt, bringing the entire country back to being unified under a single king, this time a Theban. Thus arose the Middle Kingdom Egyptian. 130 years had passed since the dismemberment of the Old Kingdom. Here a religious conflict arose, since the main god of Thebes was Amun, while in Lower Egypt the priests of Ra continued to direct religion and, with it, much of politics. Fortunately, Amun did not have such a highly developed priestly body, and the priests of Ra quickly discovered that Amun and Ra were actually the same god, henceforth called Amun-Ra. The idea worked and the priests of Ra maintained their status in the new times. Thebes, the new capital of the empire, grew and became richer with temples and monuments.

Meanwhile, the glory days of the Third Dynasty of Ur were coming to an end. Indeed, Mesopotamia had many wars with neighboring regions, especially with the kingdom of Elam. However, at one point the Sumerian cities resumed the ancient habit of fighting each other. The last king of the dynasty was Ibbi-Suen, who reigned from 2028 with no domain other than his own city. In 2004 an Elamite army took advantage of the anarchy and a period of famine that struck Ur itself to enter the city and take Ibbi-Suen prisoner.

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