Best English documentary on Mesopotamia with a video and reading passages to practice listening and reading comprehension. Improve your advanced vocabulary in real context with images. You can also select any text and listen to it to improve your listening skills.
Source of documentary: National Geographic YouTube channel
Table of Contents
Listening comprehension on Mesopotamia
Reading comprehension on Mesopotamia
The story of writing, astronomy, and law; the story of civilization itself begins in one place. Not Egypt, not Greece, not Rome. But Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is an exceedingly fertile plain situated between the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. For five millennia, the small strip of land situated in what is today Iraq, Kuwait and Syria fostered innovations that would change the world forever.
From agriculture to civilization
Inhabited for nearly 12,000 years, Mesopotamia’s stable climate, rich soil and steady supply of fresh water made it ideal for agriculture to develop and thrive.
About 6,000 years ago, seemingly overnight, some of these agricultural settlements blossomed into some of the world’s first cities. In the period between 4,000 and 3,100 BC, Mesopotamia was dotted with a constellation of competing city states. At one point, they were unified under the Akkadian Empire and then broke apart forming the empires of Assyria and Babylon.
Advancement of science
Despite near constant warfare, innovation and development thrived in ancient Mesopotamia. They built on a monumental scale from palaces to ziggurats, mammoth temples served as ritual locations to commune with the gods.
They also developed advanced mathematics, including a base 60 system that created a 60-second minute, a 60-minute hour and a 360-degree circular angle.
From mathematics to astronomy
The Babylonians used their sophisticated system of mathematics to map and study the sky. They divided one earth year into 12 periods. Each was named after the most prominent constellations in the heavens, a tradition later adopted by the Greeks to create the zodiac. They also divided the week into seven days, naming each after their seven gods embodied by the seven observable planets in the sky.
The origin of literacy
But perhaps the most impactful innovation to come out of Mesopotamia is literacy. What began as simple pictures scrawled onto wet clay to keep track of goods and wealth developed into a sophisticated writing system by the year 3,200 BC.
This writing system would come to be called cuneiform in modern times and proved so flexible that over the span of 3,000 years, it would be adapted for over a dozen different major languages and countless uses including recording the law of the Babylonian king Hammurabi, which formed the basis of a standardized justice system. But Mesopotamia’s success became its undoing. Babylon in particular proved too rich a state to resist outside envy.
The decline of Mesopotamia
In 539 BC, the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon and sealed his control over the entirety of Mesopotamia. For centuries, this area became a territory of foreign empires.
Eventually, Mesopotamia would fade like its kings into the mists of history. And its cities would sink beneath the sands of Iraq. But its ideas would prevail in literacy, law, math, astronomy and the gift of civilization itself.