ABSTRACT

Semitic inhabitants at the beginning of recorded history. Akkad in the north had the stronger Semitic element, but with them was a non-Semitic Sumerian race: in the south the Sumerians predominated. These Sumerians seem to have been migrants from Central Asia and connect with tribal groups south of the Sea of Aral . History describes the Semites as generally appearing from the west, i.e. from the desert highland between Mesopotamia and Syria. Apparently the Sumerian movement into Mesopotamia took place first, and then came the Semites, the larger body of these new-comers arriving in the north so as to cut off the Sumerians from their original home. As we have noted, the Syrian desert is an integral part of Arabia, and i t was from that desert that the Semites descended into Syria and Mesopotamia. I n the case of Syria i t seems that the earlier inhabitants in the south were able to defend their country from invaders, but their northern neighbours were weaker and less warlike, and therefore the Semites entered the northern land earlier than the south. I n precisely similar fashion the Israelites tried to enter Canaan from the south but were repulsed, and then came across the Jordan from the eastern desert. Probably there were like conditions in Mesopotamia, and so the Semitic invasion from the western desert fell earlier upon the north than upon the south. Some have supposed a Mesopotamian home for the Semites. I n a sense this may be admitted,

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if the Semites be indeed part of a larger community once more widely diffused but pushed back into the barren highlands of south-western Asia, and the Sumerian migration into Mesopotamia may have been one of the factors which brought about the segregation of the Semites, but in any case northern Mesopotamia was not i n continuous Semitic occupation: those who afterwards founded the kingdoms of Agade and Assyria were invaders who entered Mesopotamia after the Sumerians were already there. The northern land of Akkad, where the Semitic element predominated, came under the influence of Sumerian culture, though not perhaps to the extent commonly assumed, and i t seems that the Sumerian culture itself had an earlier source in an Elamite parent, though the Sumerians introduced elements of their own which show a cultural community with Turkestan, presumably their earlier home. Thus the whole population of Mesopotamia was a mixed one, and we can say no more than that i t was predominantly Semitic in the north, and less Semitic in the south, but there was a constant drifting of Semites, that is, of Arabs, across the western frontier and this very often resulted in their settling in with the older inhabitants and adopting their culture.