Dawn and Sunset is a compelling Tale of the Oldest Cities of the Near East written by amateur historian and Israeli high school English teacher, Michael Baizerman. It’s clear, Baizerman has spent countless hours researching and documenting this work. He has compiled minute details of everyday life of the inhabitants of the old world known as Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilization. The oldest cities encompassed the Persian Gulf area and were referred to as Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian regions. The Mesopotamia area today is known as Eastern Turkey, IRAQ, Kuwait, Baghdad, Iran and Northern Syria. The Greek meaning of Mesopotamia is, “land between two rivers.” The twin rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates nourished Mesopotamia and made it possible for nomadic tribes to begin to cultivate the land for agriculture and eventually settle into communal villages where life as we know it began. Then much changed over the course of time. A lot of historical ground is covered in the many millenniums referenced with some emphasis on the third and fourth millennia BCE.
This work may be more than A Tale, perhaps it’s a social study of our earliest ancestors? Perhaps it’s closer to a documentary of facts, yet facts that are sometimes verified through myths, legends and the poetry of that millennium? Baizerman blazes on undaunted by the scarcity of information for some periods and events. He gathers his content from different angles to expose discrepancies and biases for what they were. If there is no documentation to support the claim he will pursue other avenues; he will find a hieroglyphic, a poem or an architectural marker of that time period so his points are well documented. The author himself says it best, “only artists and scholars are entitled to examine our history through a magnifying glass with inexhaustible vigor,” which he does very well in creating this educational volume called Dawn and Sunset.
The Gods drove every decision in the ancient world. Temples attested to their glory and power. In the beginning, the Temples controlled the economic life of a community. They were central to all the regions and the many Gods were worshipped and honored constantly. Life was a battle, a consistent struggle with the hostile land and various populations of people. Irrigation and farming allowed for communal villages to give way to more complex societies with district states. Then pristine cities became early empires and these gave way to dynasties with corruption and exploitation that would bring in the Dark Ages and the eventual collapse of this early civilization that had been “two thousand turbulent years in the making.” The temples fell to government rule and general’s built extravagant palaces to display power and demand respect whether they deserved it or not. Many great leaders and warriors would rise and fall. Some were virtuous and some were not. War was inevitable and peace was all but nonexistent.
Though it all, writing, language and technological advancement prevailed; metals, ceramics and new building materials enhanced and changed their way of life forever. New transportation routes and foreign trade changed the landscape, social classes, and the expectations of the people. Division of labor and other inequities emerged that would lead to more wars and the eventual demise of a once glorious nation known as Mesopotamia. From pre-civilization to civilization to its very downfall, this book delivers a lot as each chapter is organized and packed with great detail about the grueling and difficult historical times between the Dawn and Sunset of Mesopotamia– A Tale of the Oldest Cities of the Near East. Ironically, through this writing we can see many parallels of modern day society as it faces some of the same indignities and dilemmas of this historical period.
After Dawn and Sunset author Michael Baizenman emerges with a new book and is already writing it. It’s about the attitude of the Latin West to the East on the eve of the Age of Discovery. Both books should appeal to history lovers and educators who like a dedicated spirit of inquiry and documented exposure of facts that may not be so factual. Of course, any differences in opinion, by this author is well researched, well documented and well written. These volumes are sure to be a handy resource for any educator who would like that little extra detail when it comes to the history of ancient civilizations.