What Was the Mesopotamian Social Structure Like?

Mesopotamia’s social structure included a king and the nobility, priests and priestesses, the upper and lower classes and slaves. The social structure in Mesopotamia was hierarchical.

Kings in Mesopotamia were thought to have a special relationship with gods and goddesses, which allowed them to act as an intermediary between common people and divine powers. This was reflected in how successful they were at running the country.

Priests and priestesses ranked as highly as the nobility. In addition to presiding over religious services, they were the individuals people turned to when they needed healing. Priests and priestesses were usually highly educated and able to read and write.

The upper classes were usually made of merchants, artisans, tutors and other affluent individuals. Normally, they owned slaves, and were able to afford an education for their children. Women in the upper classes usually enjoyed the same rights as men, with the exception of receiving formal education.

The lower classes were made of people working in occupations that made cities run smoothly. These included fishermen, chariot drivers and basketmakers. Some occupations intersected with the upper classes, like jewelry makers. It was possible for people to move between classes, but women usually occupied the less desirable lower class occupations.

Slaves were at the bottom of the Mesopotamian hierarchy. They performed a number of tasks, ranging from manual labor to tutoring their masters’ children. People would become slaves either after being captured during war, being punished for a crime or being kidnapped and sold into slavery from another region. Some slaves were able to work hard enough to buy their freedom.