HS101 textual analysis

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The Epic of Gilgamesh, ca. 2700 BCE One significant story was written down on stone tablets in Mesopotamia: the Epic of Gilgamesh. As you read this description, consider what this story tells us about history and the people who heard and retold the story to each other. Six days and seven nights Came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land. When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding, The flood was a war struggling with itself like a woman writhing [in labor]. The sea calmed, fell still, the whirlwind (and) flood stopped up. I looked around all day long quiet had set in And all the human beings had turned to clay! The terrain was as flat as a roof. I opened a vent and fresh air (daylight!) fell upon the side of my nose. I fell to my knees and sat weeping, Tears streaming down the side of my nose. I looked around for coastlines in the expanse of the sea, And at twelve leagues there emerged a region (of land). On Mt. Nimush the boat lodged firm, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. One day and a second Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. A third day, a fourth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. A fifth day, a sixth, Mt. Nimush held the boat, allowing no sway. When a seventh day arrived I sent forth a dove and released it. The dove went off, but came back to me; No perch was visible so it circled back to me. I sent forth a swallow and released it. The swallow went off, but came back to me; No perch was visible so it circled back to me. I sent forth a raven and released it. The raven went off, and saw the waters slither back. It eats, it scratches, it bobs, but does not circle back to me. Then I sent out everything in all directions and sacrificed a sheep. I offered incense in front of the mountain-ziggurat. Seven and seven cult vessels I put in place, And into the fire (or: into their bowls) underneath I poured reeds, cedar, and myrtle. The gods smelled the savor, And collected like flies over a sacrifice. Just then Beletili arrived. She lifted up the large beads which Anu had made for his enjoyment. ‘You gods, as surely as I shall not forget this lapis lazuli around my neck, May I be mindful of these days, and never forget them! The gods may come to the incense offering, But Enlil may not come to the incense offering, Because without considering he brought about the Flood And consigned my people to annihilation.’ The Epic of Gilgamesh. (n.d.). The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI, The Story of the Flood. Retrieved from http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab11.htm In this text, we learn about the relationship between mankind and gods. We see references to women and childbirth. We see the fear of Mother Nature in a time when storms and floods were sudden and unexpected. Weather was a complete unknown. We also read about the complete despair of a man caught in a flooded sea. In his desperation, he sacrifices a goat to appease the gods. Then the gods act like children in a candy shop, or animals who find treats: they gather around the sacrificial sheep “like flies.” That is striking behavior considering our modern idea of powerful gods and goddesses. This story may or may not have happened; it could be the story of a real flood, or it could be a lesson or fable to teach obedience to the gods. We have little way of knowing how true the story is. What we can know is what it tells us about the people who heard it, accepted it, and told it to others around them. Questions: What can we guess about the gods in this religion, based on this story? How do believers in this religion take control of events around them? Write at least 150 words considering this poem and what we can try to figure out about the historical society that produced it.
2. Mesopotamian Marriage Contract, 1700 BCE Marriage was one of the earliest legal documents. As civilizations began to craft ideas of ownership, the rather egalitarian format of Neolithic societies began to skew in favor of a more elite, wealthy group. This group sought to protect its assets, including property, honor among men and women, future care and responsibilities, and slave holdings. In this contract, we see that the two parties are sketching out ideal solutions for future possible problems, from infertility to divorce. Laqipum has married Hatala, daughter of Enishru. In the country (Central Anatolia) Laqipum may not marry another woman but in the City (Ashur) he may marry a hierodule (a temple slave). If within two years Hatala does not provide him with offspring, she herself will purchase a slave woman, and later on, after [the slave woman] will have produced a child by him, he may then dispose of her by sale wheresoever he pleases. Should Laqipum choose to divorce her (Hatala), he must pay her five minas of silver and should Hatala choose to divorce him, she must pay him five minas of silver. Witnesses: Masa, Ashurishtikal, Talia, Shupianika. (Source: http://jewishchristianlit.com//Topics/Contracts/marri02.html#AMC1) Questions: What do we learn about the Mesopotamian ideas of marriage? Was marriage only between two people? What were the primary concerns of marriage? If one party was miserable after getting married, was divorce an option? Write 150 words considering what we can tell about history based on this document. Feel free to add your own thoughts about why this sort of marriage contract was practical.
3. The Code of Nesilim, ca. 1650-1500 BCE The Hittites were a civilization in the region of modern-day Turkey. They used their written language to write down a legal code, referring to themselves as “Nesilim.” The following are a few of their laws. Do you recognize any laws from our society today? Are any laws different? • 1. If anyone slay a man or woman in a quarrel, he shall bring this one. He shall also give four persons, either slave men or women, he shall let them go to his home. • 2. If anyone slay a male or female slave in a quarrel, he shall bring this one and give two persons, either slave men or women, he shall let them go to his home. • 3. If anyone smite a free man or woman and this one die, he shall bring this one and give two persons, he shall let them go to his home. • 4. If anyone smite a male or female slave, he shall bring this one also and give one person, he shall let him or her go to his home. • 5. If anyone slay a merchant of Hatti, he shall give one and a half pounds of silver, he shall let it go to his home. • 6. If anyone blind a free man or knock out his teeth, formerly they would give one pound of silver, now he shall give twenty half-shekels of silver. • 8. If anyone blind a male or female slave or knock out their teeth, he shall give ten half-shekels of silver, he shall let it go to his home. • 10. If anyone injure a man so that he cause him suffering, he shall take care of him. Yet he shall give him a man in his place, who shall work for him in his house until he recovers. But if he recover, he shall give him six half-shekels of silver. And to the physician this one shall also give the fee. • 20. If any man of Hatti steal a Nesian slave and lead him here to the land of Hatti, and his master discover him, he shall give him twelve half-shekels of silver, he shall let it go to his home. • 21. If anyone steal a slave of a Luwian from the land of Luwia, and lead him here to the land of Hatti, and his master discover him, he shall take his slave only. • 24. If a male or female slave run away, he at whose hearth his master finds him or her, shall give fifty half-shekels of silver a year. • 31. If a free man and a female slave be fond of each other and come together and he take her for his wife and they set up house and get children, and afterward they either become hostile or come to close quarters, and they divide the house between them, the man shall take the children, only one child shall the woman take. • 32. If a slave take a woman as his wife, their case is the same. The majority of the children to the wife and one child to the slave. • 33. If a slave take a female slave their case is the same. The majority of children to the female slave and one child to the slave. • 34. If a slave convey the bride price to a free son and take him as husband for his daughter, nobody dare surrender him to slavery. • 36. If a slave convey the bride price to a free son and take him as husband for his daughter, nobody dare surrender him to slavery. • 164. If anyone come for borrowing, then make a quarrel and throw down either bread or wine jug, then he shall give one sheep, ten loaves, and one jug of beer. Then he cleanses his house by the offering. Not until the year has elapsed may he salute again the other’s house. • 170. If a free man kill a serpent and speak the name of another, he shall give one pound of silver; if a slave, this one shall die. • 190. If a man and a woman come willingly, as men and women, and have intercourse, there shall be no punishment. • 197. If a man rape a woman in the mountain, it is the man’s wrong, he shall die. But if he rape her in the house, it is the woman’s fault, the woman shall die. If the husband find them and then kill them, there is no punishing the husband. (Source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/1650nesilim.html) As you read these laws, you can see what issues were bothering the lawmakers. We can also see what was common in the Hittite society: slavery, assault, murder, theft, witchcraft, even divorce and matters of love. Questions: How do the different rights of men and women appear? What kinds of punishments are recommended by these laws? Do these laws help you see modern society in a different light? Write 150 words considering these laws, society, and history. Feel free to talk about the laws together or to isolate one or two of them and talk about them by giving the number of the law you are discussing.
4. Part II: River Valley Records Instructions: As you read about River Valleys this week, consider the following pieces of historical evidence. I have included stories, poems, pictures, and proverbs that reflect the civilizations we have been studying. After each example, I have written a series of questions for you to consider. Write at least 150 words for each example. When you are thinking about what to write, you might look at specific phrases or particular pictures. Does the mention of crime remind you of modern-day news anchors? What about the comments about the importance of learning? Is it interesting that they might use one very strong word, like “choke” or “struggle”? If you want any help, feel free to talk it over with me or in the Cybercafé. China: We can see evidence of cultural markers in one of the earliest Chinese writings to survive. The Book of Songs celebrates Zhou culture by writing about the exploits of heroic leaders following the Mandate of Heaven. And yet, life was not always perfect. Read the following complaint about life under the Zhou Dynasty and consider the questions below it. Heaven sends down its net of crime Devouring insects confuse men’s minds, Ignorant, oppressive, negligent, Breeders of confusion , utterly perverse These are the men [politicians] employed to tranquilize our country Insolent and slanderous The king does not know a flaw in them. We, careful and feeling in peril, For long in unrest, Are constantly subjected to degradation. As in a year of drought, The grass not growing readily As water plants attached to a tree; So do I see in this country, All going to confusion. The wealth of former days Was not like our present condition. The distress of the present Did not previously reach this degree. Those are like coarse rice, these are like fine Why do you not retire of yourselves, But prolong my anxious sorrow? (Source: “Song 265” http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/chinese/shijing/AnoShih.html) Questions: What elements of ancient Chinese culture do you detect? Do you recognize comments that people say about modern US society? Write at least 150 words considering what this essay tells us about Ancient Chinese culture and the concerns of the author, or indeed, of authors throughout time.
5. Indus River Valley: The evidence unearthed from the Indus River Valley have not yet led to a breakthrough in reading their script. Nevertheless, many important images have been recovered and these can give us some ideas of what was important to society. Look at the following images and try to figure out what they are saying.
Questions: If you found these inscribed on a pot, how would you interpret this scene? First, what do you think these images are? What can we guess from the Indus society based on the images here? Write at least 150 words on what kinds of ideas we can read into these images based on the history of the Indus people. If you want help with knowing where to start, feel free to open a discussion in the Cybercafé.
6. Mesopotamia and Sumer: The following is a Sumerian proverb. Poverty is a human condition common to all recorded societies. Some societies celebrate the sacrifices of the hard-working poor; for instance, early Christians believed that the meek would inherit the Earth. Other societies believed that poverty was a curse sent to those who sin. What do we learn about Sumerian attitudes towards paupers in this proverb, found on various stone tablets? How lowly is the poor man! A mill for him is [merely] the edge of the oven; His ripped garment will not be mended; What he has lost will not be sought for!
The poor man by his debts is he brought low! What is snatched out of his mouth must repay his debts.
Whoever has walked with truth generates life. (Source: http://www.sumerian.org/proverbs.htm) Questions: Does this seem to be an accusatory poem or a sympathetic poem? What lesson do you think those who told this story were trying to convey, based on what we know of Sumerian culture? Write at least 150 words considering what you think this poem tells us about Sumerian society.
7. Egypt: Many written records survive in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Some of the most interesting surviving ideas survive on the sides of Egyptian temples and pyramids. Consider these words of wisdom: • The best and shortest road towards knowledge of truth [is] Nature. • For every joy there is a price to be paid. • If his heart rules him, his conscience will soon take the place of the rod. • Exuberance is a good stimulus towards action, but the inner light grows in silence and concentration. • Not the greatest Master can go even one step for his disciple; in himself [the disciple] must experience each stage of developing consciousness. • True teaching is not an accumulation of knowledge; it is an awaking of consciousness which goes through successive stages. • People bring about their own undoing through their tongues. • If one tries to navigate unknown waters one runs the risk of shipwreck. • Leave him in error who loves his error. • Every man is rich in excuses to safeguard his prejudices, his instincts, and his opinions. • To know means to record in one’s memory; but to understand means to blend with the thing and to assimilate it oneself. • There are two kinds of error: blind credulity and piecemeal criticism. Never believe a word without putting its truth to the test; discernment does not grow in laziness; and this faculty of discernment is indispensable to the Seeker. Sound skepticism is the necessary condition for good discernment; but piecemeal criticism is an error. • Love is one thing, knowledge is another. • An answer brings no illumination unless the question has matured to a point where it gives rise to this answer which thus becomes its fruit. Therefore learn how to put a question. • Understanding develops by degrees. • There grows no wheat where there is no grain. • The only thing that is humiliating is helplessness. (Source: http://www.duboislc.org/html/Proverbs.html) Questions: Based on these philosophical and religious sayings, what can we tell was important to the Egyptian people? Does it seem to be a product of their history or culture? What elements of their leadership and administration might have encouraged these ideals? Write at least 150 words considering what these wise maxims tell us of Ancient Egypt.

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