AP World History: Ancient Middle East

Watch video lessons about the history of the ancient Middle East and learn about religious beliefs, social structures, technology developments, and more. Find out why the area's fertile crescent is known as the 'cradle of civilization' in this online AP World History course. 

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AP World History: Ancient Middle East - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

The Middle East was an area of great prosperity for the earliest civilizations on Earth. In this chapter, our knowledgeable and engaging instructors will inform you about these various civilizations, including what they built, what they believed, and how they lived. You'll learn about early Egyptians, Indians, and Hebrews and the characteristics of the societies they formed. Our lessons each focus on a specific subject, so you'll learn about the Bronze and Iron Ages by looking at the people who lived during them. After completing this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Explain why the areas in the Middle East were ripe for civilization
  • Talk about some early writings found in these civilizations
  • List aspects of ancient Middle East societal structures
  • Elucidate various religious beliefs of the era and region

The Fertile Crescent: Cradle of CivilizationExplore the features that made the Fertile Crescent such a lovely place to build a civilization and which kingdoms dominated there.
The Epic of GilgameshLearn about the Sumerians' view of the gods in this ancient myth that questions whether or not immortality can be achieved.
Heirs of the Sumerians: Babylonians, Hittites, Hurrians, and AssyriansDiscover the culture, technology, art, and architecture of these kingdoms in the region.
Hammurabi's Code: The Advent of Law, Prerequisites, and ImplicationsExamine this ancient text that is one of the first instances of written law in civilization.
What's the Difference Between Polytheism and Monotheism?Compare and contrast polytheistic and monotheistic religions, categorizing some of the more prevalent ones.
The Hebrews and Their BeliefsTake a look at the main beliefs and laws of Judaism, including the Jewish holy texts of the Torah and the Talmud.
Ancient Egypt in the Bronze AgeUnderstand Egyptian society and what was accomplished by this civilization at the height of the Bronze Age.
The Achievements of the EgyptiansExplore the achievements of kings and pharaohs, including the use hieroglyphs, the construction of the pyramids, and the creation of a calendar.
Egyptian Women: Royalty, Privileges, and TraditionCompare and contrast the roles, responsibilities, and rights of Egyptian women as compared to their Mesopotamian counterparts.
The Egyptian Social StructureUnderstand the structure of society in Egyptian culture, which can be thought of like a pyramid.
Iron vs. Bronze: History of MetallurgyLearn about the differences between iron and bronze and how different metals were discovered and used.
Iron Age Empires: Neo-Babylonian, Neo-Assyrian, and Persian EmpiresDiscover the three empires that emerged after the Bronze Age collapse and what they are known for.
Cult of Mithras: Myth and HistoryExamine this Roman mystery cult, what myths are at its core, and how its followers worshiped.
Zoroastrianism: Definition, Beliefs, and HistoryTake a look at this ancient religion and philosophy with two opposing forces at its core.
Mesopotamian Kings: History, Politics, and ReligionExplore the kings who ruled Mesopotamia and how they used religion to justify and secure their power.
Indus Valley CivilizationUnderstand this Bronze Age society in India and why this was also a great place to start a civilization.
The Aryans ArriveLearn about the Aryans and what happened when they arrived in the Indus Valley. Take a look at the caste system in this society.

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This lecture begins by exploring the features that made Mesopotamia such an appealing place to build an empire. It briefly discusses the challenges faced by historians of Mesopotamian history. Finally, we examine the material culture of the Sumerian/Akkadian empires, and their pivotal role as the inventors of civilization.

Witness the Epic of Gilgamesh, a story of adventure, love and friendship. This long poem will help us examine the hallmarks of civilization for a Sumerian and the importance of dreams. We'll also cover the Sumerian contributions to the epic form of literature.

This lecture covers the history of Mesopotamia from the disintegration of the Sumerian Empire to the great Bronze Age collapse. We'll explore the destructive force of the Elamites and the Hittites as well as the imperial ambitions of the Babylonians, the Mittani and the Assyrians.

This lecture discusses the need for law and the benefits of a judicial system. Next, it reviews the history of early law codes, like those of Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi. Finally, we look at the implications of law for kings.

This lecture discusses the origins of monotheism. It then compares monotheism to polytheism, with especial emphasis on the problematic nature of holy law. Finally it uses the Greek story of Hippolytus to compare the ancient polytheistic perspective to a modern christian perspective.

This lesson covers the Hebrews and their beliefs. We look at the core tenets of Judaism and explore some of the stories from the Torah. Finally, we see how the Hebrew's history of oppression impacted their religion and the world today.

This lecture first compares the natural features of the Nile valley to those of Mesopotamia, enumerating the advantages that geography offered the Egyptians. This is followed by a brief discussion of why Egyptian material culture survives while so much of Mesopotamian culture has been lost. The lecture ends with a a whirlwind tour through 3,000 years of Egyptian history broken up into traditional historical periods.

This lecture explores the transition from the bronze age to the iron age. The difficulties of working with iron are enumerated. The properties of iron and steel are compared to those of bronze. Finally the implications for this transition on civilization are considered.

This lesson is a survey of the three empires that emerged after the Bronze Age collapse. Parts of the survey are viewed from the perspective of the Israelites, who found themselves the playthings of powerful empires. The lecture focuses on a few specific rulers and their impact on their empires. It also traces patterns of imperial tactics throughout this period and region.

The Cult of Mithras was a mysterious religion popular in Rome in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. This lesson explores the secretive beliefs, practices, and history of the cult and its initiates.

Major religions, like Christianity and Islam, have been popular since ancient times, but what religion was popular before these belief systems developed? This lesson explores the beliefs of Zoroastrians, one of the earliest forms of organized religion.

Ancient Mesopotamia was a land of chaotic weather and inner turmoil. Religion became a political weapon for fighting among the city-states. This lesson explores the link between religion and politics in the ancient land.

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