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Allie Eby

The class-divided culture of many Mesopotamian societies most clearly stood out to me in the differences between the treatment and the duties of the nobility, their citizens, and their servants/slaves. For example, the nobility were clearly deified and favored greatly, with servants catering to their whims and grand tombs being erected for past kings much like the later pharaohs of Egypt. Aside from controlling the military like we see in the Stele of Naram-Sin, we can also infer from sculptures and carvings that the duties of the ruling class were generally relegated to ceremonial and governmental activities. The carved vessel from Uruk and the carving of Assurnasirpal killing lions both portray the respective cultures’ rulers receiving tribute and partaking in organized and symbolic rituals. We know also from the Stele of Hammurabi that the ruling class defined all the laws of society, often under the guise of divine mandate. This stele shows us also that slaves were treated as lesser than citizens (as in the “eye for an eye” example), with punishments for crimes differing depending on the caste, gender and social standing of perpetrator and victim. We know also that there was likely a class of wealthy citizens, indicated by items such as the customized cylinder seals used to mark property, with more materially valuable and intricate seals used by those with a higher standing in society. Later rulers in Persia even had designated rooms for citizens to provide them with tribute, indicating to me that not only were the rulers near to gods themselves, but also that there was a class of citizens and artisans with the means to create, buy and sell said tribute. From all of these indicators, we could infer that the rulers were treated as mortal gods and had great power over their citizens, who they themselves possessed significant power over the lower servant class.