Portal:Ancient Near East

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Babylonian approximation to the square root of 2
Babylonian mathematics refers to the mathematics developed by the ancient Mesopotamians. The earliest writing developed by the Sumerians (ca. 3500 BC) was in fact not words, but numbers — accounting records and tokens. From ca. 3000 BC they developed a complex system of metrology, a move from purely concrete accounting to abstract mathematics. From 2600 BC onwards, we find multiplication tables on clay tablets, geometrical exercises, and division problems. The sexagesimal (base-60) numeral system also comes from this period. This is the source of our modern day usage of 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 (60×6) degrees in a circle.

During the First Babylonian Dynasty (ca. 1700 – 1531 BC (short chronology)), Babylonian mathematicians were able to make great advances for two reasons — firstly, the number 60 is a highly composite number, facilitating calculations with fractions, and second, unlike the Egyptians and Romans, the Babylonians had a true place-value system, where digits written in the left column represented larger values (much as in our modern base-ten system). They worked with fractions, algebra, quadratic and cubic equations, the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagorean triples, and possibly trigonometric functions.

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Tiglath-Pileser III
Tiglath-Pileser III (Akkadian: Tukultī-apil-Ešarra, "my trust is in the son of Eshara", reigned 745 – 727 BC) is considered the founder of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He is considered to be one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the ancient Assyrians before his death. A former governor of Kalhu, he seized the throne on 13 Iyyar, 745 BC, in the midst of a civil war during which the royal family was killed.

Upon ascending the throne, Tiglath-Pileser instituted reforms to several sectors of the Assyrian state, which arguably revived Assyria's hegemony over the Near East. He curtailed the powers of the high officials, often by appointed eunuchs as governors to remove provincial dynastic threats, and reducing the size of provinces. He expanded the army by incorporating large numbers of conquered people in it, with native Assyrians comprising the cavalry and chariotry. This also allowed it to campaign year-round rather than seasonally, and he used it to conquer the entire middle east. Unlike previous Assyrian rulers, his heirs were able to maintain his empire.

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Murex shell bearing the name "Rimush, king of Kish"
Credit: Jastrow
Murex shell bearing the name "Rimush, king of Kish"
Akkadian Empire, ca. 23rd century BC (Louvre)

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Did you know...

Silver cup from Marvdasht with Linear Elamite inscription on it, c. 3rd millennium BC (National Museum of Iran)
...that the ancient Elamite language is proposed to be distantly related to the modern Dravidian languages? It is attested from c. 2500 BC, and a still undeciphered "proto-Elamite" goes back to c. 3000 BC.

...that the earliest attested Semitic language is Akkadian, c. 2500 BC?

...that the earliest attested Indo-European language is Hittite, from c. the 18th century BC?

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