Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization Revised Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0226631875
ISBN-10: 0226631877
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 445 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Revised edition (September 15, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226631877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226631875
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #510,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA : Portrait of a Dead Civilization. 433 pp. Chicago & London : The University of Chicago Press, 1968 (1964). (pbk.)

The civilizational achievements of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians of Mesopotamia only started to become known over the course of the last century or so. For our new understanding of the past we have to thank archaeology, in particular for its discovery of many tens of thousands of baked clay tablets which have miraculously preserved the complex cuneiform writing system, languages, and literatures of the ancient Mesopotamians, and for the patient decipherment of these tablets and other cuneiform-bearing artefacts by a small and dedicated group of international scholars.

The literature on this subject today is vast, and much of it is accessible only to specialists. Of the studies that are generally available - such as those of A. Leo Oppenheim, Samuel Noah Kramer, and Thorkild Jacobsen - most tend to be aimed at a more scholarly type of audience, the kind of people who like detailed footnotes, precise references to sources, bibliographies, etc.,

Oppenheim's valuable study, which weighs in at a hefty 433 pages, contains all of these plus fifteen plates, three maps, a Chronology, a Glossary of Names and Terms, and an Index. As a distinguished scholar and linguist who spent more than thirty years studying the cuneiform tablets, he offers us a personal picture of the Mesopotamians of three thousand years ago which sums up all that the tablets have to tell us about the ancient civilizations of Babylon and Assyria.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By M Manning on July 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilisation" is a classic among Mesopotamian Literature. The book deals with every passionate detail of the civisation between the rivers. Oppenheim covers enviromental factors in the creation of civilisation in Mesopotamia, urban life, interesting issues in there religion, and also the beginning of written literature in the Mesopotamian region. Oppenheim's book is more for the advanced reader of Mesopotamian culture, so it is not suggested for the beginner in the study of Mesopotamian history. However, I do recommend it for the library of anyone who is a avid enthusiast into Mesopotamian literature, history, and achaeology.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Bibliophile on March 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Georges Roux's outstanding book on ancient Iraq - which opens my eyes - seems amateurish compared to this one - probably the single best introduction to ancient Mesopotamia written in the English language.
Iraq's civilization is interesting for two reasons. From a purely archaeological/anthropological point of view, ancient Mesopotamia is by far the oldest civilization on this planet - even older than Egypt. The reasons why there's much less attention to it than to Egypt are the fact that there are so few monumental structures remaining there and the fact that Egypt is closer to the Graeoco-Roman civilization.
The other reason why Iraq's civilization is interesting is its potential importance IN THE FUTURE. With the war's outcome almost certain (truly it's like an Iron Age army crushing a Stone Age one), Iraq's long term prospects are quite good. Sitting on the second largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, Iraq has the potential to wield much influence, like Saudi Arabia.
Useful (but rather short) bibilography and glossary.
Oppenheim regrets not being able to make this book "twice the size of the present one." (p.334) I only regret that this book ISN'T three times as long. If this book isn't flying off the shelves, it should be. Get it before it's too late.
(Warning: This book does not include the Sumerian civilization, as the author makes explicit. For this subject you must turn to Sam N. Kramer.)
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Burak Eldem on May 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Without any doubt, this book is one of the most comprehensive works on ancient Near Eastern cultures with its distinguished structure and unique style. Mr Oppenheim, a well-known Assyrologist of the sixties, provides us a brief but deep and highly detailed portrait of Ancient Mesopotamia, as the subtitle of the book suggests ("Portrait Of A Dead Civilization".) First, I have to inform the enthusiastic reader that this is not a book for "beginners" - it requires a background on ancient history and an acquaintance with Mesopotamian civilizations. But you don't have to be a specialist or a scholar to enjoy the unique taste of the book.
While Samuel Noah Kramer's works feed us with the Sumerian part of Mesopotamian culture, Oppenheim focuses the main axis on Babylonia and Assyria. The book is not a plain history textbook in a chronological order. Oppenheim presents the "portrait" under well-designed chapters with essential concepts: The first chapter of the book is an overview on Mesopotamia. Then in the second chapter, Oppenheim leads us to the depths of urbanism, social texture and economical facts of the region in ancient times. Chapter 3 deals with the difference of "historical sources" and "literature" in Mesopotamia, and presents two essays on Assyrian and Babylonian history. The next chapter is, about ancient Mesopotamians' relations with their "gods": Oppenheim discusses why a "Mesopotamian Religion" should not be written. (According to my opinion, this is one of the most important parts of the book which underlines the "revolutionary" nature of the work.) The last two chapters deal with "the writing" and "science" in Mesopotamia, respectively. J. A. Brinkman's "Mesopotamian Chronology of the Historical Period" is presented as an appendix at the end of the book.
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