Civilizations of the Ancient World

Midterm Review Sheet

To see this review sheet in PDF form instead, click here.

The exam will consist of different kinds of questions:

  • Identifications (5 or so)—you’ll be provided with a term and you’ll need to give both (a) a description of what it refers to and (b) its significance or importance. Note: All the identification terms will come from the names and terms on this sheet.
  • Multiple choice (6 or so)
  • Map—you’ll need to be able to locate on a blank map some of the important cities and peoples and key geographic features (seas, rivers, etc.) that we have discussed.
  • Short answer (2)—a couple of paragraphs on a topic we’ve discussed, with examples.
  • Essay (1)—a longer discussion giving your interpretation and analysis of a major theme we’ve covered; you’ll be asked to give an opinion and support it with examples from three societies we’ve studied.

For each written section, you will be able to choose from several possibilities and write about the ones you’re most familiar with. For example, if you need to answer 5 identifications, I’ll give you a choice of 10 or 12.

Any material in the lectures, class discussions, the assigned readings in the textbook, and the assigned tablets of Epic of Gilgamesh are fair game, and can be used as examples for points you are trying to make.

Approach to Preparing

Make a list of the most important milestone events in the periods we’ve discussed.

  • CAUSES— Make sure you can identify the most important factors that helped cause these events—including long-term factors (“the environment”) and short-term factors (“the spark”)
  • LEGACIES— Make sure you can identify the legacies of the milestone event. How did it change the culture, society, etc.? What impact did it have on future milestones and events?
Using this review sheet
  • For each of the questions below, see whether you have a strong idea how to answer, an okay idea how to answer, or a weak sense of how to answer. Review from the books and your notes at least the “weak” ones.
  • Approach the questions below as a means of gauging topic to spend more time with in review, and as a guide to how you’ll express and illustrate what’s really important—the larger themes of the course.
  • Take note of the terms below and review ones you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Note that there is seldom one and only one answer to the kind of questions on this review sheet.
    • WHY almost always means “For what reasons…”?
    • HOW almost always means “In what ways…?”
  • Try to come up with possible essay questions and map out in advance the kinds of examples that might help you make your point.
Concerning dates
  • I’m not going to ask you for dates but you should know the period in which a people are important or an event occurs, and which events occur before or after which other events.
  • You’re best off if you know centuries (e.g., the Greeks acquire writing, ending the Greek Dark Age, during the eighth century BCE, between 800 and 700).
  • At the very least you should know if a person, event, or concept is associated with the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, or the Iron Age.



For each, you should be able to discuss their distinctive geography, social structure, religion, trade, gender roles, and other aspects of their society that we read about or discussed, as well as relations to each other.

  Indigenous Semitic Indo-European
Bronze Age
Earliest Civilizations
  • Sumerians
  • Minoans
  • Egyptians (Old Kingdom)
  • Egyptians (New Kingdom)
  • Akkadians
  • Assyrians (Bronze Age)
  • Mycenaean Greeks
  • Hittites
Indus Valley
  • Harappans
  • Hindus
Iron Age 
  • Phoenicians
  • Hebrews
  • Aramaeans
  • Chaldeans / Babylonians
  • Neo-Assyrians
  • Dorian Greeks
  • Sea Peoples / Philistines
  • Persians
  • Medes

For each, you should have an idea of the period and culture they belong to and the effect they had on it.

Mesopotamia:Gilgamesh – Innana/Ishtar – Enlil – Sargon – Hammurabi – Ashurbanipal
Egypt: Osiris – Horus – Hatshepsut – Akhenaten
Canaan:Abraham – Moses – Delilah – Saul – David – Solomon
Persians:Cyrus – Zoroaster – Darius – Xerxes
Asia / North Africa: Asoka – Buddha

In addition to the locations of the peoples listed above, you should be familiar with key geographic terms and where they are in relation to each other, and how their environments and neighbors relate to development of local cultures. (Don’t forget the maps on the website.)

Southwest Asia:Mesopotamia – Sumer – Tigris and Euphrates Rivers – Fertile Crescent – Canaan – BactriaCities: Uruk – Akkad – Babylon – Tyre – Jerusalem
North Africa:Nile River – Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt Cities: Memphis – Thebes – Carthage
Eastern Mediterranean:Anatolia – Aegean Sea – Black Sea – Crete – Peloponnese – Greek mainlandCities: Troy – Knossos – Athens

Sample map:

Blank physical map of the Mediterranean World

Introduction and Sources
  • What does Umberto Eco mean in Name of the Rose when he has William of Baskerville say, “Books are not meant to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry”?

TERMS:  civilization – empire – primary source – intentional bias – unintentional bias

  • What is “civilization”? What motivates its creation? What changes does it represent? Why do I call it an invention? Why is it a sacrifice?
  • What kinds of technological and social developments are part of creating civilization?
  • Why is the significance of monumental building, such as ziggurats and pyramids, in the emergence of civilization?
  • What types of government form in the ancient era? Whom do they empower? What is the role of the citizen?
  • What did Egyptians believe about the pharaoh? Practically, what limited his power?
  • How does the arrival of Indo-European peoples affect the societies of the eastern Mediterranean? How is their society and culture distinct from the peoples already living in these regions?
  • Since they left no writings, how do we know anything about the Indo-Europeans’ origins?
  • Who were the Scythians? What did they represent to the Greeks who wrote about them?

TERMS:  Paleolithic age – Neolithic age – Bronze Age – agricultural revolution – ziggurat – citizen – city-state – palace-city – pharaoh – Greek dark age – Asoka – Bactria

Epic of Gilgamesh
  • How do the events and characters in The Epic of Gilgamesh reflect Sumerian ideas about gods, humans, and civilization? (Be ready to discuss the actions of the major characters in terms of how they represent the ideas of Sumerian culture.)
  • Why is the cure for Gilgamesh’s tyranny the creation of Enkidu?
  • Why does intercourse with the harlot transfer Enkidu from the wild to civilization, and why is his process of civilization significant?
  • What do Ishtar’s interactions with Gilgamesh tell us about her as a goddess? What factors are involved in Gilgamesh’s rejection of her?
  • What themes are involved in Enkidu’s death and Gilgamesh’s search for immortality?
  • How does the depiction of the gods in The Epic of Gilgamesh compare and contrast with the gods elsewhere—in Egypt, for example? What does the depiction of the gods in Gilgamesh suggest about how Sumerians thought about the world?

TERMS:  Uruk – Enkidu – Humbaba – Uta-napishti – Shamhat – bull of heaven – door of cedar – House of Dust

  • Why is the development of writing crucial to an urban civilization?
  • What kinds of writing systems are there? Give examples of each.
  • Why is the advent of the Phoenician writing system so revolutionary?
  • What’s the significance of the Aramaic language in southwest Asia?

TERMS:  cuneiform – hieroglyphics – Linear A – Linear B – Phoenician alphabet

Religion and Philosophy
  • How are people’s ideas about their relationship with their gods and the natural world related to the emergence of civilization?
  • What are some of the different kinds of ideas about mortality that develop in the ancient civilizations we’ve studied? How are they different and why?
  • What are some of the different ideas that develop about the relationship between a people’s ruler and their gods? What might explain them?
  • How does the role of women vary among ancient cultures? What reasons can you suggest for these differences?
  • In what ways does the idea of the flood play a central role for both Egyptians and Sumerians? What do these roles have in common between the two cultures? How are they different?
  • How does the history of the Hebrews—both early and later on—contribute to the Jewish religion, especially the importance of monotheism?
  • What’s distinctive about the way Minoans related to their gods? What might this suggest about Minoan beliefs?
  • What role does religion play in Greek society? How is Greek religion different from the other religions we’ve studied (e.g., Hebrew or Egyptian)?
  • What are some of the elements that Hinduism and Buddhism have in common? How are they different? How do these eastern religions contrast with paganism as practiced in the Mediterranean world?

TERMS:  ma’at – Zoroastrianism – polytheism – paganism – dualism – monotheism – god-king – priest-king – peak sanctuary – Hinduism – Buddhism – samsara – karma – nirvana – Confucius

Trade and Empire
  • Why is long-distance trade necessary to the emergence of civilization?
  • What is the purpose of empire?
  • What do I mean when I talk about the difference between conquest and dominion?
  • How does bronze technology enable and encourage cultures to create large empires?
  • How does the advance of the Bronze Age affect international relations? Why does the Bronze Age become more global?
  • What might be some of the reasons why Egypt unifies early on under a single ruler, but early Mesopotamia remains constantly divided and at war? How do these differences affect the cultures of each region?
  • What are some of the reasons Egypt changes between the Old and New Kingdoms?
  • How do the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures relate to each other?
  • What might have brought it about the end of the Bronze Age? What was the result for the Bronze Age civilizations?
  • What kinds of effects does the use of iron instead of bronze have on the peoples that master it?
  • What factors make the vast Persian empire so much more stable than the Neo-Assyrian Empire?
  • Why did the Persians invade the Aegean? How was the culture of the Greeks a threat to the Persian empire?

TERMS:  Indo-Europeans – chariot – period of calamities – Babylonian captivity – satrap – entrepreneurial trade – centralized trade