Augusta McMahon

in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199589531
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History


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This article discusses the key aspects of Mesopotamian cities, including the earliest ‘organic’ examples in late pre-history (c.3850 bce, Late Chalcolithic Period) and the artificial cities of the first millennium bce (Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian empires). It explores the definition and origins of Mesopotamian cities and aspects of their cityscapes, addresses positive and negative aspects of urban life, considers Mesopotamian emic thinking about the city, and sketches diachronic trends in urbanization and deurbanization. It also examines the relationship of the city's inhabitants to their sustaining area and the idea of the ‘city-state’. It shows that Mesopotamian cities contained planned temple and palace complexes but unplanned neighbourhoods and areas of industry. Many cities were organic developments, with water supply, transport routes, hinterland links, and immigration critical to development. Fewer were planted political cities, associated with regional states. Mesopotamian cities also experienced cycles of growth and decline.

Keywords: Mesopotamian cities; cityscapes; urban life; emic thinking; urbanization

Article.  8548 words. 

Subjects: History ; World History

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