At some point, someone had buried some of the nuts, fruits, and berries they’d been eating (probably intending to save them for later), and discovered they made plants pop-up. Given human nature, he almost certainly boasted to people about his discovery, and then was put to death for blasphemy, because only the gods could make a tree, and they weren’t about to piss them off by trying their own hands at it.
It is also the way of humans to experiment at the fringes of morality, so, after a time, lots of other people realized they could stick certain things in the ground, wait a few months, and have a whole new plant growing. (This method only worked for plants. No one knows how many animals got buried, but it became clear, eventually, that a fresh crop of livestock would not spring up.)
As the evidence accumulated, more conservative elements were forced to admit that yes, people could make trees, too, along with corn, beans, wheat, barley, rye, etc. BUT, the conservative types argued, people could only do it because they had some of the original stuff the gods had left lying around, so they still had to go to church and pay tithes!
The farmer was born. Lots of them, actually.
Things were still tough. Early agricultural scientists quickly discovered you couldn’t just plant stuff anywhere and expect it to grow: places like deserts, where there were no plants, seemed to resist all efforts to cultivate them – river valleys, on the other hand, where there were tons of plants already, seemed to work much better, except there were all those other plants in the way …
There is nothing human-kind is better at than destroying stuff. Especially with fire. Once you’d burned down the jungle at the edge of a river, you were free to plant whatever you pleased, wait awhile, then harvest it. There were three catches to this process: first, you couldn’t just go off and do other stuff, because someone else would come along and swipe your crops, so you had to stay there and keep an eye on things. Secondly, it was a lot of hard work, and you needed lots of people to do it. People needed places to live, and river-valleys didn’t have a whole lot of caves, but they did have torrential rains, so the settlers were going to have to contrive some sort of shelter. Third, you had to have some of the sacred stuff the gods had left lying around, so you couldn’t just pig-out and eat it all … The stuff had to be stored somewhere, and people being what they were, they weren’t likely to trust each other with the fruits of their labors. Fourth, and finally, all this stuff – the clearing, tilling, planting, harvesting, building, and storing – had to be coordinated, and, people being what they were, someone was going to have to be in charge, or none of it would get done!
Everyone started fingering their shiny copper weapons.
Meanwhile, someone suggested “Hey, guys, why don’t we just pile it all together … it’ll be everyone’s, and no one’s! (If this sounds kinda familiar to you, you’re right: it was the shamans – who notably had done none of the actual farming.) Meanwhile, there was still the issue of where everyone was going to live, and building shelter was really hard work, so, “Damn it,” exclaimed one charismatic leader in ancient Sumer, “We should put away our shiny copper swords, work together, and put up lots of houses, along with the granaries for everyone’s/no one’s grain, and some sort of temple for the shamans, whom we’ll promote to priests, and hell, maybe a really big house for me since I’m the one with the moxie to make all this work – and we need to get it done before those bastards from Nineveh show up to give us a hard time!”
The very first cities popped up on the banks of great rivers just after the end of the last period of glaciation, and the first form of currency was what amounted to a share of all the grain in the Temple Granary. Cities usually had some sort of ruler, and democracy hadn’t been invented yet so there wasn’t gonna be any of that voting crap! The guy that got the job in each of the cities got to call himself a king, and while they were coordinating the cooperative building efforts of the populace, they saw nothing wrong with building themselves palaces, and, after some significant glances had been exchanged, and some careful consideration given to who had all the grain, it was usually decided to build a really big temple, too. With statues, and stuff.
The Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, and the Indus all quickly developed cities, absolutely teeming with people. When I say teeming, I mean in the tens of thousands: Harappa, on the Indus, is estimated to have had a population of over 23,000, while Memphis, on the Nile, boasted a population of 30,000, and Ur, on the Euphrates, an astonishing 65,000. That many people meant lots of people to farm, and therefore lots of food. Humanity being what it is, this meant there would be just tons of guys making raids to steal the food, because, as I mentioned, farming is damned hard work, and humans, on the whole, aren’t into that. What they are into is using their shiny copper swords to hack other people up, so as to steal their food.
The farmers complained. “Look, we’re doing all this work, and those bastards from Nineveh just roar into town, hack up our kids, rape our wives, and steal our food!!!”
The guy in charge had to admit, the farmers had a point. “What’s more,” we can imagine the newly-minted King arguing, ”Those bastards from Nineveh aren’t the only ones with shiny copper swords, because we can make some pretty cool ones, too, and what better use could there be for them than to defend our farmers? In fact, we could just go hack up the Ninevite’s and swipe their stuff!”
Armies began to be formed. People started taking sides. Propaganda started flying about. The bastards from Nineveh began claiming the ass-wipes from Ur ate babies, in addition to all that corn they grew, and who can get behind something like that? Meanwhile, the ass-wipes from Ur accused the bastards from Nineveh of keeping concentration camps, in addition to all that corn they grew, and that simply can’t be tolerated!
Rinse and repeat. Copper gave way to Bronze. Granaries got filled. People got more and more tense. So many accusations got made, and so many crops were growing, and so many raids took place, that it became hard to keep track, and the very first writing systems came into being, so as to make it possible to record who had donated how much grain, and detail the crap the bastards from Nineveh were said to be doing, and explain why it was necessary for everyone who had a shiny copper sword, or a cool new bronze one, to gather together, and go kick their asses!
There was name-calling. In cuneiform. The word got around.
In 612 BC, Nineveh was sacked by an unprecedented coalition of literate, but gullible Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians. We know this, because it got written down. What the Ninevite’s thought of it all did not get written down. It’s fair to assume that they’d probably bitch about it. The bastards.
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