The historical record opens
east of the Mediterranean Sea
in the mid-third millennium
circa 2250 B.C.E.
The earth of the Fertile Crescent,
the Cradle of Civilization,
provided the generating spark
that instigated society's creation.
Sumer arose from the sea
in lower Mesopotamia
on a vast alluvial plain laid down
by the Tigris and Euphrates.
Sumerians built walled city-states
like Ur, Lagash and Umma,
Eridu, Larsa, Adab and Kish,
Nippur, Erech and Kissura.
Outside each city's walls
were cluster! s of farms and orchards
watered by irrigation canals that ran
from the rivers many miles o'erland.
Harvesters swung sickles
in lush fields of cereal grains.
Ox-drawn wagons of produce
plodded by in a well-laden parade.
Among stands of date palms and olive groves
grazed fat cattle, sheep and goats.
The rivers swarmed with large transports,
luxury vessels and small boats.
Four-wheeled chariots rolled by in the dust
kicked up by bronze-helmeted infantry,
which settled on the gemlike flowers
reproduced in Sumerian jewelry.
Like a necklace these outer suburbs
ringed a high, defensive wall
enclosing flat-roofed, mudbrick buildings
each with its own small courtyard
opening on a maze of narrow streets
thronged with scarlet and orange clad people
shouting over whirring potters' wheels
and the clang of hammer on metal.
Colonnades that made shade were inlaid
with scintillating tiled tesserae
of cows and doves and the god, Anu,
who ruled the all-encircling sky.
Stone-carving was well-developed
in bas-relief of power and beauty.
Multi-hued mosaic friezes depicted
winged lions, bulls and eagles.
In fine houses the sun may have shown
through walls of clerestory windows
on furniture of simple, but elegant design
of which Sumerians used very little.
The odor of roast Tigris salmon and music
floated slowly out mudbrick grill windows.
Indoors olives in translucent green bowls
sat on low, reed wickerwork tables.
Guest seated on backless chairs
ate roast pig and goat's milk cheese,
honeyed platters of dates and pomegranates,
and garlic in sour cream.