The Sumerians - Men Dominate Women / Education / War & Slavery

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The Sumerians - Men Dominate Women / Education / War & Slavery

Post  dave on Mon Apr 27, 2009 3:36 pm

Physically stronger than women, men could rule women by brute force, and in societies where men were the warriors it was they who got together and made decisions for their entire society. Presumably before the time of the Sumerians, kings were chosen by the warriors, with the king as the leading warrior.

The Sumerians put the domination of men over women into law. If a husband died, the widow came under the control of her former husband's father or brother, or if she had a grown son she was put under his control. A woman in Sumer had no recourse or protection under the law. A woman's power, if she had any, was the influence of her personality within her family.

Early in Sumerian civilization, schooling was associated with the priesthood and took place in temples. But this changed, and an education apart from the temples arose for the children of affluent families, who paid for this education -- and with men dominating women, most if not all students were males. The students were obliged to work hard at their studies, from sun up to sun down. Not believing in change, there was no probing into the potentials of humankind or study of the humanities. Their study was "practical" -- rote learning of complex grammar and practice at writing. Students were encouraged with praise while their inadequacies and failures were punished with lashes from a stick or cane.

Sumerian kings sent men out to plunder people in hill country, and they acquired slaves. The Sumerian name for a female slave was mountain girl, and a male slave was called mountain man. The Sumerians used their slaves mainly as domestics and concubines. And they justified their slavery as would others: that their gods had given them victory over an inferior people.

As Sumerian cities grew in population and expanded, the swamps that insulated city from city disappeared. Sumerians from different cities were unable or unwilling to resolve their conflicts over land and the availability of water, and wars between cities erupted -- wars the Sumerians saw as between their gods. And the Sumerians made slaves of other Sumerians they had captured.

It was a new kind of warfare. In herding and hunter-gatherer societies -- mobile societies -- the entire community might enter the field of battle. In settled agricultural communities such as those of the Sumerians, the younger and stronger, maybe fourth or fifth of society, went to war. The others remained at home, working at farming or other chores.

Some people associate Uruk with the city commonly spelled Ereck in the Book of Genesis 10:10

Wars with distant people were fueled by the greed and ambitions of kings. The Sumerians described this in a poetic tale of conflict between the king of Uruk [note] and the distant town of Arrata, a tale written by a Sumerian some five hundred years after the event, a tale of which only fragments remain. Here was reporting as it would be for more than 3,000 years, as it would be with Homer and his Iliad, the sacred writings of Hindus and with the Old Testament, with gods in command and not disapproving of war.

Among the Sumerian cities was an impulse to be supreme, and, around 2800 BCE, Kish had become the first of the cities to dominate the whole of Sumer. Then Kish's supremacy was challenged by the city of Lagash, which launched a bloody conquest against its Sumerian neighbors and extended its power beyond Sumerian lands. A bas-relief sculpture uncovered by archaeologists depicts a king of Lagash celebrating his victory over the city of Umma, the king's soldiers, with helmets, shields and pikes, standing shoulder to shoulder and line behind line over the corpses of their defeated enemy.
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dave
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