Mari: the world’s largest city in 2400 BC
Episode #2 of the course “Greatest Cities Throughout History”
Mari had 50,000 citizens in 2400 B.C. It was the trade capital of Mesopotamia, and it was the central hub for trading stone, timber, agricultural products, and pottery in the area. Located in Syria near modern Abu Kamal, Mari was close to the bank of the Euphrates River. Its location and control over trade is likely the reason that it became so large and important in Mesopotamia.
Mari was actually destroyed twice. The first time was about 2300 B.C., but historians are unsure of who actually conquered the city. They suggest that it may have been the traditional rival, the Ebalites, or a passer-though, Sargon of Akkad. After its destruction, Mari became no more than a simple village, but it gained importance once again in about 1900 B.C. It was during this time that historians and archeologists estimate that Zimri-Lim’s palace was built. Zimri-Lim was the king of Mari from about 1775 to 1761 B.C., and his palace was decadent—it contained over 300 rooms and may have been the largest palace in the world at the time.
The king was not the only person in the city who was a bit elaborate. The citizens had complex hairstyles and dress, reflecting the wealth of the city overall. They also worshiped many Sumerian gods and goddesses, and they often built temples to them. For example, they had a temple built to honor Dagan, the god of storms, and Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. Their sun god Shamash was believed to be all-knowing and all-seeing, and he is often shown as standing between two doors. Supposedly these doors are located between Mount Mashu, and according to the legend of Gilgamesh, they will lead straight to heaven. The city was destroyed again in 1759 B.C. by Hammurabi, the sixth Amorite king of Babylon.
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