How Were the Social Classes of Sumer Organized?

The social classes of ancient Sumer were organized into four main levels: the king and priests, the wealthy upper class, freemen and slaves. Class in Sumer was generally determined by a person's wealth and occupation.

The highest level of Sumerian society was made up of the king and priests, who were believed to have a connection to the gods. Just below the king and priests was a wealthy upper class. This class was made up of noblemen and women, government officials, rich merchants and high-ranking soldiers.

The third rank of Sumerian society was composed of free men and women who were not wealthy, generally thought of as peasants. These peasants could be farmers, craftsmen and low-ranking soldiers. The majority of people in ancient Sumer were in this middle class.

The lowest class in Sumer was made up of slaves, primarily prisoners of war or people with debts they could not repay. Orphaned children, or those sold by poor parents, could become slaves at a temple. Slaves in ancient Sumer were able to do business when their masters allowed, borrow money and eventually buy their freedom.

Women in Sumer were not considered a separate class and could be found at every level of society. Free women could become priestesses, own land on their own, or become artisans. However, most married women were responsible for running the family home and raising children.