Ancient Mesopotamian Warfare

By the time you finish reading this sentence, the act of you reading this sentence will be history. What evidence do you have that you ever read that sentence? You might answer with “Well, I remember reading that sentence.” So, of course your memory of the past is all you need to prove reading a sentence in the past happened, but we do not have memories of everything that has occurred in the past. How would you prove the war of 1812 occurred? There is not a single person alive today that has memories of the war of 1812. You might answer this question with a number of answers including: “We have artifacts from the war,” “We have written accounts of the war,” or “We have pictorial depictions of the war.” All of these answers are perfectly valid in proving that the war of 1812 existed, but how much information about the war can we get from these pieces of evidence, and how sure are we that the information we determine about the war of 1812 is actually accurate? With the war of 1812, we can get a very accurate understanding of the war and what it was like because it only happened 200 years ago and we have an excessive amount of evidence from the war. If we decided to go back to a time period such as Ancient Mesopotamia, the time period from around 2900 to 2200 BC, gaining an understanding of life in this time period would be enormously different. Little evidence from this time period exists, and there is much controversy over how to properly interpret this evidence. This makes the process of gaining an understanding of life in this time period much more difficult.

War was an enormous part of the daily life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Much of the artifacts left behind from this time period are war related. Nearly every civilization and king of the time believed in expansionism, which they justified by saying they were commanded by the gods to conquer cities, or the gods gave them cities (which they would have to take by force). This was a way of life — conquering and avoiding being conquered. It is easy to deduce these ideas from the written accounts, the iconography, and the excavated weaponry from Akkad and Sumer, but due to the evidence itself, it is impossible to paint a perfect picture of how warfare was conducted and how warfare impacted day to day life. Regardless of the difficulties the evidence creates, many historians propose theories of what warfare looked like and how it affected life; many of these theories require ignoring evidence and twisting logic, but many other theories are very plausible answers to the questions we have about ancient warfare.

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