Are the Sumerians and the Assyrians the same?

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tstawson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although the Assyrians and Sumerians both lived in ancient Mesopotamia, they are not the same.  The Sumerians lived in southern Mesopotamia beginning around 4000 BCE and were one of the first civilizations to create urban centers.  One of their cities, Uruk, was probably the largest city in the world during roughly 2800 BCE.  Some scholars believe there may have been as many as 60,000–80,000 inhabitants during this time. One of the greatest inventions of the Sumerians was the first written language, known as cuneiform. This wedge shaped form of writing was incised on wet clay tablets with an instrument known as a stylus.  In the beginning, it was used strictly for accounting and business purposes, but over time it allowed the Sumerians to record poetry, history, and law.

The Assyrians lived in northern Mesopotamia under the rule of the Akkadian empire until around 1900 BCE when they gained their independence.  During the period of roughly 911 BCE and 612 BCE, the Assyrians boasted the most powerful empire in the Middle East, stretching from what was then Persia to Egypt.  The capital city during the 800s BCE was Nimrud, and it was there that King Ashurnasirpal II created the first zoo. Later, they established the first known library at their capital city, Nineveh, during the reign of King Ashurbanipal from 668–621 BCE.  Interestingly, one of the major works of literature found in this library was the "Epic of Gilgamesh," a famous Sumerian poem.

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