The Class System

In Ancient Mesopotamia there were 4 classes of people. The Kings and Priests were at the top of the class. The Upper Class were the wealthy. The Lower Class were paid for their work. The Slaves were at the bottom of the class system.

The Kings and Priests

The kings and priests, also known as the amelu class, were very powerful. The priests controlled the society because they owned most of the land, and a lot of business, including shipping fleets. They were also the doctors and they ran the schools and the libraries in their temples.
Statue of a Mesopotamian Priest

The Upper Class

The upper class were known as the mushkina class. They were mostly business people who owned land or manufacturing companies. They wore lots of jewellery. The men grew long hair and had beards and moustaches. The women wore their hair braided or up in a fancy way.

The Lower Class

The lower class worked for a living. They were farmers, skilled workers who made such things as pottery and spun thread, and merchants who sold goods.

The Slaves

Priests owned slaves who worked for them in the temples, and wealthy families owned slaves who worked for their family. Slaves worked to pay off debts. People became slaves if their parents or husbands sent them, or they could be born into slavery. They could also buy their way to freedom. Young female slaves started out as ladies' maids and when they got older they did jobs that were harder and required more strength and skill like housekeeping, grinding corn, collecting water and cooking. Male slaves did manual labour depending on what their owners needed, like building or yard work.


Generally, only boys went to school. Some really wealthy families could send girls as well. The schools were attached to the temples and were called edubbas, meaning tablet house.The teacher was called ummia, meaning expert. Students went to school from sunrise to sunset. Students learned reading, writing, scribing and mathematics. Scribing was an important job and it was a good skill to learn. The written language was called cuneiform which means wedge-shaped. They wrote it on clay and used tools to carve it. There were over 600 characters students had to memorize in order to be able to scribe. Unless they did a perfect job, students would get punished by being whipped. Students also learned cuneiform numbers. It must have been confusing since 1 and 60 were the same symbol. They used 10 as a base, just like we do. Sometimes they also learned about heroes and had music lessons.

CuneiformTablet1.jpgCuneiform Tablet

Critical Thinking

The class system in Mesopotamia is different than what we have in society today. Today, we do not have slaves, no one is forced to become a slave, and no one is sent into slavery. But, there are people who live on the street without money. Society now is better than in Ancient Mesopotamia because everyone is paid for their work and everyone has a chance to get a job. Everyone is allowed to and supposed to go to school; it doesn't matter if you are a girl or a boy or wealthy or poor. However, like Ancient Mesopotamia, there are leaders and very wealthy people who seem to control society. People who have more money can go to private schools and learn some different things. Poor people might not get as good a job as people with lots of money.

Some of the lessons that we learn now are the same kinds of things that they learned in Ancient Mesopotamia. We learn to read, to write, to use mathematics and music. We also get punished, but not as roughly as them, and for things like not paying attention, but no one gets punished for making a mistake.

I think that before organized schools were around children had to learn from their parents. They could only learn what their parents knew and not other things like writing, music and math. I think that before cuneiform, people had to memorize everything and share learning orally.

I think organized schools helped civilization by teaching more people, so they would know more, and could teach others. I think cuneiform helped civilization by having their information written down so they could keep it for longer and they wouldn't have to memorize everything. Cuneiform developed into regular writing and books over time. Schools developed over time by becoming buildings of their own and allowing everyone, even girls and the poor to get an education.


Living in Ancient Mesopotamia - Bancroft, Hunt - information about the priests and the slaves
Passport to the Past Mesopotamia - Lorna Oakes - information about education

images.jpegpassport_to_the_past.jpeg - Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids Ancient Sumer - information about class system - The Class System - information about the schools and the class system - Sumerian Society - what students learned, what the teachers were called, information about slaves - image of cuneiform tablet - image of statue of priest