In January I reflected on the dawn of man, and in February I spoke briefly about some of the earliest civilizations, and particularly about the earliest civilizations of the region known as Mesopotamia. I closed my February writing with a passage from the Book of Genesis describing the construction of the Tower of Babel.
The city of Babylon remained politically and culturally significant for more than a thousand years after it was founded. However, the city changed hands regularly during its tumultuous history. The Hittites, the Assyrians, the Persians, and eventually the Macedonian Greeks were among its conquerors. I would speculate that the prominence of the city made it the ambition of military chieftains eager to assert their greatness. The Tower of Babel itself is believed to have met its undoing at the hand of Alexander. After capturing the city and appointing it his capital he ordered the deteriorating tower demolished and rebuilt, however his untimely death proved also to be the death of the nobler half of that ambition.
The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia left an enduring legacy. They built impressive and enduring structures using simple sunbaked mud bricks. The earliest known use of the wheel and the earliest known form of writing, the cuneiform, are attributed to the ancient Sumerians, as well as what is widely considered the first great work of western literature, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Hammurabi, a Babylonian king, is given credit for being the first to establish a written code of laws, “The code of Hammurabi. And the hanging gardens of Babylon were considered to be among the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The early accomplishments of the civilizations of Mesopotamia have earned the land between the rivers the epitome “the cradle of civilization,” and it is well deserved. But the history of human kind is progressive, and while Mesopotamia may have given rise to western civilization, it was soon rivaled in greatness by another early riverine civilization, Egypt, on the banks of the Nile. Like the Sumerians, the ancient Egyptians developed their own system of writing. They had advanced systems of medicine, and agriculture, and unique religious beliefs, art and literature. They also first, equaled then surpassed the civilizations of Mesopotamia in building, first in mud brick and later in cut stone. The great Pyramid of Giza, the most famous of Egypt’s impressive monuments, was the tallest man made structure in the world until the Eifel tower was constructed in Paris 1889.
W.B. James P. Aglione Worshipful Master 2018