The Mesopotamian Era which consists of the tribes of Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians lived between the valley of the river, the Tigris and Euphrates. These empires were known to contribute to the Mesopotamian culture and beliefs. This ancient civilization is notorious for their religious views and view on life. The ancient beliefs now help us understand the religious perspectives of the great ancient civilizations which sprouted to other cultures and empires. The people of Mesopotamia viewed life as a place to serve and please their deities.
Religion was the basis of their civilization, and every aspect of their lives revolved around religion. The ancient Mesopotamian people believed that humans were created to serve the gods completely. They were slaves to the gods, always trying to appease them with prayer and sacrifice. Anything that happened good or bad, they attributed to the gods. Every act performed by the people was either the will of or for the gods. The existence of the Mesopotamians was wholly indebted to their gods.
In Enuma Elis, a Babylonian myth, Marduk a god and the hero of the story, kills Kingu and uses his blood to create mankind (Enuma Elis).
This Mesopotamian belief supports the lifestyle that many have. Many of the jobs of the people consisted of building statues and temples for their gods, which they thought would please the gods with their loyalty and hard laborious work. The ziggurat, a famous Mesopotamian temple of brick made out of clay, was thought to represent a mountain. The people viewed a mountain to be powerful and influential, thus the ziggurat served as a religious symbol to the people of Ur, where it was located (Hollister & Rogers, 20).
The religion they practiced consisted of a polytheistic religion, where the goddess of Earth, Inanna was their most beloved and the chief deity was Anu. The Mesopotamians believed that there was a god for every purpose, and even demons causing destruction. Their view on religion was heavily based on myths and good and evil was assessed by the gods. They feared the wrath of their gods and in accordance people worked and served the gods in every which way. The Mesopotamians believed that their rulers were a linkage to the gods and thus were very obedient to them as well.
In this way, rulers were able to suppress the people and seized what they pleased from the lesser people without being punished. The punishments that the rulers would enforce many of the times resulted from anger, greediness, and selfishness. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian story of how a man seeks to find glory and fame, shows the wrath that the Mesopotamian gods and goddesses are capable of. A flood was sent to the people who slightly disrespected the gods, which wiped out almost all of mankind except for a sole survivor Utnapishtim.
In the story the flood is described as follows “For six days and six nights the wind blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts” (Epic of Gilgamesh,25). The gods did not care for the people and this shows the justice and morals that the gods clearly did not bestow upon the people of Mesopotamia. The justice and morals of the Mesopotamians gods are not considered moral to today’s standards, however, to the ancient civilization that believed and valued their gods as almighty, took the punishments and rules of their gods with acceptance.
Looking at the tales of Enuma Elis and The Epic of Gilgamesh, we see that the gods behave very immoral and human like themselves. The only thing that distinguished them from humans is the supernatural powers they possess, which many of the times they use when betrayed or angered by their people. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar who is rejected by Gilgamesh convinces her father to release the Bull of Heaven which is said to cause seven years of famine, and once released to the Earth kills hundreds of men, caused by the crack in the Earth.
The morals of the gods depicts the flaws in them, however the loyalty and belief of the people remained unchanged. The morals and ethics of how gods dealt and handled affairs reflected off to the people of Mesopotamia. Leaders were as viscous and cold as the gods and in turn the people were very obedient and worked to please the gods, the rulers, and the world ultimately. Virtue and nobility was earned by obtaining fame and glory as shown in The Epic of Gilgamesh, where happiness was only obtained with heroic adventure, many of the times battling other gods and evil leaders.
The fact that they fought against their own gods shows that disobedience was displayed by great heroes and rulers, who were sometimes considered to be great and godly after completely the heroic journey. But it also shows that great rulers and people fought against cruelty and injustice where Gilgamesh first is saddened and disappointed by Enkidu’s tyrannical rule and infliction of injustice among the commoners. This shows that people were moral to other human beings, maybe even more to them than their own gods.
However they still seem to preach the fact that the god/goddesses were almighty. It’s surprising to examine the Mesopotamians view on the afterlife. Although they believed in an afterlife, the afterlife was said to be a dull and gloomy place, where there was nothing to do and remained humans, with no title of achievement; an afterlife in which solitary was for eternity. It is interesting to see that even though Mesopotamians are a very hardworking and an obedient civilization, they worked all their life looking forward to basically nothing.
The perspective on life was in a sense hopeless and in only servitude to the authoritative figures. Comparing the morals and viewpoints of the Mesopotamians to mine, I would say that we have many differences in how we perceive things. The fact that I believe in a monotheistic religion, Islam, where god is almighty, just, and merciful, it shapes how I act and am as a person. The people of Mesopotamia seemed to only respect and honor those with status and who achieved fame, however for me and most others, we are respectful and appreciative to those who do the same.
A person who treats others with kindness and is equal to all, in my opinion is someone moral. One thing I can relate to however, is that I view my life to please god, who created and gave me everything. Most people in modern days believe we earn everything, but in my viewpoint, God gives everything to us. However, this world should be used as an opportunity to do your best as a human and utilize your abilities that are given to you. In Mesopotamia, morals were regarded as decreed by the rulers; however my morals are influenced by religion, experience, and through humanity.
Cite this Mesopotamian View of Life
Mesopotamian View of Life. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/mesopotamian-view-of-life/