Questions About Sumer

What the religion of Sumer was called. I mean was there just one religion in that land?
I doubt it had a name. There would have been the worship of Ishtar and the worship of Im-Dugud, but otherwise the whole collection of beliefs and rituals was probably just "religion." In most cultures you can pick and choose between which religious traditions you personally devote yourself to.

How did Hammurabi come to power?
The easy way: he inherited the throne from his father Sin-muballit.

What did Gilgamesh have to do with the great flood?
Nothing directly; he just was told the story as an answer to his quest for eternal life.

Why is Gilgamesh mortal?
Because he's human. The point of the story is to prove that even the greatest of humans is mortal.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, what was the point of all the loaves of bread?
See footnote 13 at the end of the selection.

Could you explain in the Epic of Gilgamesh why 6 days 7 nights?
The point is, can you stay awake for a week (7 nights)?

Can you provide more explanation about the Code of Hammurabi, specifically, laws 129-132?
I'm not sure what parts of these laws you're finding difficult to understand. #129 is interesting because it punishes man and woman equally--rare in the ancient world. Note that the death penalty can be waived by the aggrieved husband or the owner of an adulterous slave. #131 concerns the rape of a bride-to-be. #132 is about suspected adultery. As in the Bible and in Islam, witnesses of the adulterous act are required to impose punishment. These restrictions have often been ignored, however, and women condemned on mere reputation.

Was everyone supposed to follow the Code of Hammurabi & how many years was it practiced?
Different parts applied to different citizens, as the reader notes. It was recopied for centuries after his time, so it was probably used over a long period.

If death was so terrible3, didn't they have remorse for killing animals simply to predict the future? Or so they thought.
They didn't think of animals as being that similar to humans. Since they weren't vegetarians they were killing animals for food all the time anyway--might as well tell something about the future from the entrails after doing the butchery. Seriously: most "sacrifices" were eaten by the priests or worshippers.

Could women have any businesses besides just wine-selling?
Aside from prostitution, I don't know. I would be surprised if they didn't, however. It's interesting to note that in Elizabethan England beer was often sold by women, called "Alewives."

Did Hammurabi make up the laws himself, or did someone help him?
Of course he claimed Shamash gave him the laws; but in fact they probably evolved over centuries and he just approved the code. We can't know how much was original with him. It's the first legal code we have, but there are bound to have been earlier ones.

How did the Sumerians get the connection between human sexuality and the prosperity of crops?
Agricultural peoples even before civilization were making this connection. They noted their own reproductive activity as analogous to that of their animals and plants and thought one could encourage the other.

Did the Sumerians believe in an afterlife or not?
Like many ancient peoples, including most ancient Greeks, they believed a vague sort of after-death state--a miserable existence surrounded by demons. They had no Heaven or Hell for humans.

I am unclear about the name "Sumeria." Does it refer to the whole region, time, or just one group of people?
"Sumeria" is not a proper term at all. The people are called "Sumerians." The civilization and place are called "Sumer."

What exactly is the Code of Hammurabi?
The law code promulgated by the Babylonian king Hammurabi.

Who was the guy who wrestled the lions, and why was he important?
Gilgamesh. Important originally because he was a powerful king who built up the city of Uruk into a major power, but many myths grew up around him, including those told in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Were the Sumerians polytheists as much as the Greeks were?
I suspect they commonly worshipped even more gods than the Greeks, and they seem to have taken them a good deal more seriously.

How were the social classes different from each other & how were they distinguished?
I didn't really talk about this much, but the main classes were rulers, priests and priestesses, business people, farmers, soldiers, and slaves. You can see the way in which Hammurabi's Code discriminates against the poor when they run up against the powerful nobles and in favor of the nobles when they harm slaves: look at #196-201. That was the point I was trying to make when we ran out of time.

I would like to know more about how they learn from the lamb's liver.
This practice is called "Haruspicy." I don't know much about the details in Sumerian times, but you can read a detailed account of the Roman practice online.

How is it known for sure that the dates in which these civilizations existed are accurate? Don't they fluctuate as new findings occur? When was the Bible written?

This is a huge and complex question I can't completely answer here. You'd need an advanced course in ancient history. But we have both written sources and archeological measures. Yes, there is room for some fluctuation, but no doubt whatever among scientists that ancient Babylon long predated the existence of the ancient Hebrews, let alone the writing of the Bible, the very earliest parts of which were probably composed (if not written down) in the 11th century BCE, but many Biblical scholars believe the Jews learned the flood story while in exile in Babylon in the 6th century. The Bible was gradually assembled over many centuries.

I thought it was interesting how similar to the flood story was to the Genesis flood story. Is there a theory or explanation of this?
Fundamentalists dismiss the Gilgamesh myth and a distortion of the "true" story recorded in the Bible, but most other modern scholars consider that the Hebrews picked it up from their neighbors. A couple of scientists have been arguing lately that a vast flood at the end of the last ice age may have triggered the myth when an ice dam broke and released a deluge on the Middle East, later exaggerated in the imagination to a universal flood which covered the earth. One of the most important books on this subject is Frank Moore Cross' Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel BS1171.2 .C76 in our library.

The exact classifications of the cultures. Do Sumer and Babyon fall under Mesopotamian? I'm not really clear. Which culture was Hammurabi?
Hammurabi was an Akkadian/Babylonian, but we study him as part of the culture which the Babylonians inherited from Sumer. Both Sumer and Babylon are located in the general area called "Mesopotamia" ("between the two rivers").

Besides Mesopotamian myths relating to the bible were there other parts of the world relating to the Bible?
We'll read some other creation myths which you can compare with the one in Genesis. There is a whole discipline called "comparative religion" devoted to tracing these sorts of analogies and relationships.

The fall of Hammurabi?
He didn't "fall." He died while on the throne, though fighting against various enemies.

I wonder how the Aztecs had the same story of the Goddess of the unvierse getting overthrown.
They were so distant in time and space from each other that it was probably a coincidence. Male-dominated stories like to make up stories about the necessity for subduing women.

One thing I'm not real clear on is the life of Babylonians and Assyrians.
It's hard to know a lot about daily life, but you can infer certain things by reading the proverbs and laws.

I don't fully understand the tale of Hammurabi and I was wondering if we could go over the small details of the story.
It sounds like you're confusing the Epic of Gilgamesh with the Code of Hammurabi, so I'm not sure which you're asking about. See me if you want to know more.

Why did the priestess and the military head have ritual sex? To prevent warfare?
He didn't have sex with her as a military leader, but as political ruler. The idea was to encourage the prosperity of the nation by promoting fertility. Most babies died in infancy and crops often failed. You did all you could to keep things reproducing.

Did cuneiform evolve over a long time or did writers draw a picture and then turn it into cuneiform?
It evolved over a long time.

What social custom is referred to in the final Babylonian proverb in your book?
Read the last three words of the proverb. Take them literally.


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