Thursday, October 30, 2014

Digital Scrapbook Entry #3 - Mesopotamia
Author: British Government Communication Service
Speiser, E. A. "Ancient Mesopotamia: A Light That Did Not Fail." The National Geographic Magazine [Washington D.C.] Jan. 1951: 41-57. Print.
Author: E. A. Speiser
   Symbolic Kings

          The role of monarchs differs from nation to nation, often based off of political and cultural beliefs of that area. Monarchs can fall anywhere on the spectrum, from supreme dictator, to a figurehead holding little or no power. This latter form of monarchy is often accompanied by some form of republic which holds true power of the nation. This form of government is often called a constitutional monarchy, in which the true power is held by a group of people. This form of government became prevalent in ancient Mesopotamia as a result of their religious, cultural, and moral beliefs. The Mesopotamian government first evolved through several different forms until reaching a government very similar to modern constitutional monarchies. Mesopotamian cities began acting as theocracies with features similar to a republic. The heads of temples and other religious centers shared the
power and together made decisions. While this is similar to a constitutional monarchy in that there is power delegated to a group of people, however the part that would make it a  monarchy, the monarch, is lacking. After this the city-states of Mesopotamia evolved into absolute monarchies, in which the monarch has absolute power. This is again only half of a constitutional monarchy, in that it actually has a monarch, but unlike the symbolic power of a constitutional monarchy, the monarch truly has complete control of their nation. The Mesopotamian cities then evolved into a system now recognized as a constitutional monarchy. This change happened due to the religious and cultural beliefs of Mesopotamia at the time. The people of Mesopotamia had a much greater sense of equality and human rights than other cultures of the time, and this was in part due to and solidified by their religion. The religion of Mesopotamia believed that all humans were held accountable under the same laws and expectations, meaning in this sense they were all equal. The gods of the Mesopotamian people were also considered very powerful and moody, meaning that pleasing them was a high priority. This belief sparked from the irregular floods of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which were believed to be in the control of the gods. In order to keep these essential floods coming, the gods had to be pleased. Because all kings were human, and fallible, and the gods had to be pleased, most kings created councils of trusted advisers to help them maintain a safe balance with their people and their gods. Over time, these councils grew in power, as the kings relied more and more on their support. This occurred until the kings had almost no power, and thus forming a constitutional monarchy. One in which a group of people, voting and deciding on decisions of a nation, are in power, while the monarch appears merely as a symbol of the nation.
          Constitutional monarchies have become even more prevalent as more and more nations are diverting power from singular rulers to larger groups of citizens. One nation which has developed a strong constitutional monarchy is the United Kingdom, which maintains a ruling monarch and a parliamentary government. The parliament holds two houses, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Back when the class system was prevalent in the UK, the House of Lords and House of Commons were staffed by people of different backgrounds. The House
of Lords was staffed by the nobles of the nation. Meanwhile the House of Commons was made to represent the commoners and traders of the nation. These two separate houses create and withhold the laws of the nation, while the monarch acts as a symbol for the nation to unite behind. The monarchs of England have some powers, such as the ability to stop a prime minister to dissolve Parliament if it would lead to a minority party
from gaining power in the nation. They can also call Parliament into a meeting, and call for a new election for representatives into the House of Commons.
          This form of government has been created in many different places, and at many different times, however often for different reasons. The Parliament of England, which later evolved into the Parliament of the United Kingdoms, began due to nobles of England wishing to regain power within the nation as Henry III began to rely less and less upon their support. A revolution began, and after winning, the revolutionaries installed early forms of Parliament. This is radically different from the Mesopotamian evolution into a constitutional monarchy, and can give key insights into why this form of government can become prevalent. One of the most obvious reasons is that councils of people can be more trustworthy and reliable than individuals, as they can keep themselves in check and generally, with obvious exceptions, are less susceptible to personal bias influencing decisions. Monarchies are unreliable, as it is possible to have one good king, but then the next may be poor. Meanwhile councils in which representatives are voted in based on skill, and not due to family lines, are much more likely to have continually good members. People also often trust elected individuals more, as they are more sure of that individuals ability and beliefs. The second reason these governments have not evolved into complete republics is that monarchies often act as symbols from which nationalism and unity can form. This is why monarchies persist, as they are symbolic for the unity and power of the nation.

Mesopotamian Kings:
Parliamentary Elections:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Egyptian Sarcophagus

Conner Lewis
World History 4

The symbols placed upon my sarcophagus will help me in the afterlife in many ways. The first is that both the knife and the gun will protect me from any possible threats of violence. The band-aid and first aid kit will allow for me to preform simple medical procedures. The clothes are there for both decency and protection against the elements. The flashlight will allow me to see in the dark. The cross will allow me to continue my religious practices in the afterlife, and the false eye will protect my body from grave robbers. The door will allow my spirit to escape the sarcophagus and enter my eternal afterlife. The phoenix shall be the symbol of my rebirth, and is placed on my heart as a necklace as to be weighed against the Feather of Truth on Anubis' scale. The bike will allow easy transportation, while the glasses allow me to see the world. The image of my family will hopefully keep me company and allow me to find them in the afterlife. The key will allow me to enter through any gate or door I may come across. The Money was for the ability to have enough money to survive. The practice of creating a sarcophagus for individuals, and detailing them with very important items, shows that the Ancient Egyptians believed death to simply be a brief halt in life, and that after death came eternal life, at least if you were pious towards the gods. In order to reach the afterlife, one had to not only be a good person, but also recite many spells and passwords from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This belief probably came from the importance gods had in daily life, and that it would make sense that they would be important to reach the afterlife. The belief that life continues after death in the same way as before probably stemmed from the fact that life in Egypt had remained the same for so many centuries, and that life after death wouldn't change either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Light That Did Not Fail

Conner Lewis, World History 4 10/16/14
Thoughts and Reflections On: Ancient Mesopotamia: A Light That Did Not Fail
Article by E A. Speiser
Published By The National Geographic Society
Publishing Date: January, 1951

Mesopotamia, The Multicolored Light the Hardly Faltered
Mesopotamia was a melting pot for many cultures, and this helped it greatly in its road to success. Many cultures, for example the Sumerians, migrated into Mesopotamia and decided to settle down within the area because of the highly fertile lands and rich culture already in place. While the Sumerians migrated peacefully, as far as we can tell, many cultures came through conquest of Mesopotamia and decided to settle down in the area due to the rich and enticing culture which had developed in the area. Many of these conquerors, such as the Kassites, came from the mountains in the north, which is present day Iran. All of these people added to the diversity of the civilization developing within Mesopotamia. 
Mesopotamian ideals and beliefs still live on into modern day society, and many of these beliefs are the foundation of modern governments and communities. One of the most important ideals to survive is that of democracy, which appeared in part due to the belief that the kings of Mesopotamia were mortal men, prone to the same mistakes as commoners. Due to this belief, and to the belief that Nature was a dangerous and precarious being, kings relied on the word of councils to advise them on matters. This assembly grew in power due to kings relying more and more upon them until they acted as the parliamentary government of the state. This new council was that of a parliamentary democracy in which a group of people voted and decided upon matters of the state. Another belief that survives until today was that of equality. Equality stemmed similarly from the way of democracy, through the belief that all humans were mortal men under the command of the gods. This belief meant that under the eyes of the gods and nature and king and commoner were equal. From this stemmed the belief in personal security. This came about because laws were rules laid out by the gods, and applied to all people. This means that nobody was above the law, and that personal property was encouraged. Since Mesopotamian people were protected by the gods to own their property, nobody could take it legally.
People in Mesopotamia built mounds atop the covered ruins of old settlements for several reasons. One reason is that by tracing the layout of the old town, the inhabitants believed they could receive the blessings of the gods worshiped by the old settlement. Another reason is that by building atop the mound of a destroyed city, the new settlement was much more defensible. Now that it acquired higher ground it could more easily defend itself from outside invasions. The final reason is that by building atop another settlement, the new settlement acquired the prestige and influence of the old state. The influence of the old settlement tended to remain centered around its location, and most often times the new settlement would be a successor to the old, filling its place culturally.