What Was a City-State in Mesopotamia?

The city-states of ancient Mesopotamia were independent cities constructed around temples and entirely self-contained within mighty perimeter walls. City-states were unified with each other only by their shared use of the Sumerian language. They spent most of their time engaged in conflict over resources.

Each city-state’s central temple was devoted to a specific deity and administrated by a priest king. This priest king was also responsible for fortifying the perimeter and protecting the citizens.

The priest king of each city-state was housed in a palace, while his citizens typically lived in thatched and tightly packed homes. Most people worked in agriculture, either on their own land or land owned by the state. Others beneath the ruling priest class served as scribes, artisans or merchants.