What Were the Sumerian Social Classes?

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There were four Sumerian social classes: priests, the upper class, the lower class and slaves. In some cases, it was possible to identify who belonged to which class by the way they dressed.

The highest Sumerian social class were the priests. They told people what to do to keep the gods happy, and they were the people society turned to when they were sick. Priests usually had shaved heads.

Below the priests were the upper classes. Both men and women wore jewelry, as well as wool during the winter to keep warm. Women wore a long dress with one shoulder exposed, and men wore a long skirt. In addition to rich individuals, the upper classes included government officials and warriors.

The working classes also wore jewels, but theirs did not feature precious stones. In addition, their clothes were less lavish than those wore by the upper classes. The middle classes were made of artisans, merchants and traders, who were known as “freemen.”

At the bottom of the Sumerian social hierarchy were the slaves. Usually Sumerians acquired slaves by beating another tribe in a battle, and taking those who were alive home to work for them. Most slaves belonged to the royal family, but wealthy Sumerians could also purchase them.