The people that settled in Mesopotamia (Iraq) about 3500 B. C. were a short, stocky, black-haired people called the Sumerians.
Standard of Ur
-The highest was to be the ruler, high priest or official.
-The next was to be a lesser priest, a scribe, merchant or artist.
-Peasant farmers were third class.
-Slaves were the lowest rank.
The area that they settled in was called Sumer. Land in Sumer was divided into three parts: all of which were owned by the gods.
-Land farmed for the gods, used as storage for famine times, and to trade for foreign goods.
-Land farmed to produce food for priests and temple staff.
-Land rented by the citizens to grow food for themselves.
At the center of each Sumerian city was a temple, called a ziggurat. The word "ziggurat" meant "mountain of god" or hill of heaven. Each ziggurat was made up of a series of square levels. Each level was smaller than the one below it.
Around the ziggurat were courts, and the center of Sumerian life. Artisans worked there; children went to school there; farmers, artisans, and traders stored their goods there; and poor were fed there.
Narrow and winding streets went from the gates to the city center. The houses of the upper class were in the center of town.
Behind the upper class's houses were the houses of the middle class. The middle class was government officials, shopkeepers, and artisans. These houses were built around open courtyards, but were only one story high.
Farther out was where the lower class lived-farmers, unskilled workers, and fisherman.
The Sumerians believed that all forces of nature were alive. They viewed them as gods because they could not control them. There were more than 3,000 Sumerian gods and goddesses.
Only priests could know the gods' will. Because of this, Sumerian priests were very powerful For example, the city's god owned all land. But the priests administered the land in the god's name. Also, the priests ran schools.
Writing in Sumerian culture developed so that people could keep track of business deals. When the Sumerians lived in villages, they could keep track of everything easily. When they began living in cities, it became harder to keep track of everything in their heads. To solve this problem, they developed cuneiform.
When a pupil graduated from school, he became a scribe. The ziggurat, the palace, the government, or the army employed him.
Although Sumerian women did not go to school, they did have many rights. They could buy and sell property, run businesses, and own and sell slaves. Although a woman handled the house's affairs when the man was away, the men were the head of the Sumerian household. He could divorce his wife by saying," You're not my wife." If he needed money, he could sell or rent his family into slavery for up to three years. The man also arranged the marriages of his children.
Children were expected to support their parents when the parents got old. They were also expected to obey older family members.