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Sumeria: First in Many Things


Part 2: It's All Business

Businessmen in Sumeria were concerned with maintaining their incomes and their standing. They didn't want to get cheated or taken advantage of. They came up with the idea of the written contract. Both sides of a transaction would agree to terms, and they would both write down those terms and then sign the contract. If either party tried to pull a fast one, the other party could point to the written contract as evidence of being wronged. (It probably goes without saying that some of these contracts were stored in libraries.)

These businessmen also invented the idea of credit. The idea that you could pay only part of what you owed was probably not all that attractive to the seller, but Sumerian laws protected the sellers and granted the buyers the right to pay a little at a time. This practice contributed to a sort of leveling of the playing field in the world of business in that you as a consumer no longer needed huge sums of money to be able to buy things: You could pay as you went.

Lastly but certainly not least, the Sumerians were the first civilization to use the wheel effectively. Historians aren't sure whether the Sumerians invented the wheel; historians do agree, however, that the Sumerians were the first ancient civilization to most effectively exploit the wheel's capabilities. Carts had wheels, and shipments didn't take so long. Plows had wheels, and farming didn't take so long.

All in all, the Sumerians contributed mightily to the advancement of civilization. Their inability to build tall, strong walls or muster a sturdy defense contributed to their downfall, however.

First page > The Basics > Page 1, 2

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday


 
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