February 9 2020
The rediscovery of Babylon and Assyria in the 1840s transformed Western views on the origins of civilisation. The excavation of Nineveh proved that even the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians together did not constitute the ancient world. These peoples had nothing to do with the beginnings of civilisation on Earth. It was in Mesopotamia that humanity took the first steps on its path towards the society we know today. The Sumerians inaugurated civilisation itself, but it was the Babylonians and then the Assyrians who fulfilled its potential. Their early experiments in state formation remain fascinating to us today: just like our governments, for a thousand years Babylon and Assyria grappled with the challenges of organising central power, administering distant territories, and engineering social harmony in empires and their cities. These achievements form one of the momentous episodes in human history; the Mesopotamian invention of writing revolutionised our minds and increased our intellectual possibilities a hundredfold. The First Great Powers is a revelation: of kingship, warfare, society and religion. Here at last we can discover what it meant to be an ancient Mesopotamian living in such an extraordinary world.
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