On a Friday Evening
Friday evening is often that time in which many people begin their weekend, a time of relaxation. It is a time in which we celebrate the seven-day week, especially the weekend part of it. For many the weekend will begin with a visit to a pub, tavern, bar, or nightclub. Beer will be ordered and new friends made with the inevitable opening line “What’s your [zodiac] sign?”
As you might have guessed, I am reading comments and while that might not sound like as much fun as going out, it does please me. I find it interesting that the two most repeated comments tie into our next topic of conversation. “Why Mesopotamia? How could anything from such an ancient place relate to me?”
We tend to call the area known as the Middle East in its own land mass. In reality, it is on the Asian continent since Turkey marks the divide between Europe and Asia. I promised in September we would discuss the mythologies of Asia, the Far East and the Near East but to do so, we must first get there and that involves Mesopotamia. AS mentioned before, the hundreds of creation myths told cannot belie the archaeological proof of mankind’s origins in the regions surrounding Mesopotamia. Perhaps that is why the history of this area goes back so far into antiquity.
Those living in Mesopotamia in 9000 BCE domesticated dogs and sheep in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. They cultivated wheat and barley and by 5500 BCE has developed the first irrigation system. One thousand years later this technology to aid in farming would reach the Indus Valley in India. In 7000 BCE mankind began living in rudimentary mud huts and not only had livestock consisting of goats, sheep, and pigs but also grew wheat from seed.
Also in 5500 BCE trading commenced from the Persian Gulf to Mediterranean port cities. Mankind was no longer living in isolation, meeting others on the battlefield. Culture was being sold and bought and spread along the trade routes. In 3100 BCE cuneiform script developed and was used to record sales and contracts. Cuneiform is not just one alphabet but a group of scripts all employing the use of wedge-shaped symbols. In 2700 BCE Gilgamesh reigned over the city of Uruk, the fifth king to do so and many believe it was his reign that inspired the mythological poem about him we discussed yesterday.
“Why Mesopotamia?” someone asked. The answer is quite simple and hearkens back to the early beginnings of mankind. Mesopotamia and its mythologies are important because they cannot be ignored. In 1797-1750 BCE, during what is known as the Old Babylonian Period, Babylon became the capital of Mesopotamia. Hammurabi composed one of the first legal codes in the history of mankind, a code which said to have been the basis for the Ten Commandments of the Jewish and Christian faiths, and a code upon which many legal systems have been based.
In 1295-1200 BCE, exact dates are unknown, the Jewish people participated in a great exodus from Egypt and the epic poem about Gilgamesh was composed. It is not only the oldest surviving epic poem, it is considered the first known written legend. In 1005-967 King David reigned in Israel and Jerusalem was established at the capital. And yes, this is the same King David we discussed last year during Pentecost when we studied the psalms and hopefully, you wrote your own along with me.
So, in a few short paragraphs, we have connected Mesopotamia to the Greeks and Romans, the Abrahamic faiths, and, if you were paying close attention, even the typical Friday night club scene. You see, the Mesopotamians not only developed that receipt the waitress gives you as a bill of sale and the alphabet it employs but also the beer served, the astrological calendar with its zodiac signs and the seven-day week that gave you the weekend.
For many, the weekend is the time they celebrate their beliefs. For others, it is the end of one week and the beginning of another. “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa was not referring to the love one seeks to find on the weekend but the love of mankind, one being for another being, we all seek to experience in our daily lives and which our belief systems encourage. Today is the first sentence of the next chapter of your own story, the mythology you are writing with your living. I hope it is your best one yet!