Lecture 11. Mesopotamian Cities and the First Risk Economies

created by:

Mark Jarzombek

from the module:

First Societies

This is a long lecture that can easily be shortened or split into two. It covers the emergence of cities in the Tigris-Euphrates marshes. Unlike the conventional approach, which ‘naturalizes’ this phenomenon as part of the inevitable march of civilization, I want to make sure students realize that at that time, the first cities were highly speculative and filled with extreme risk. They had economies that had never been attempted before, namely single production economies (think of the story of steel in Korea) that were vulnerable to the vicissitudes of nature and humanity. This required a stronger, centralized relationship between religion and state. The temple became an instrument of power and control. The concept of Theocratic Urbanism that I introduce at the end of the lecture tries to bring home the fact that temple-based urbanism has a long history in Asia and is still going strong today.

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