”First Cities” at the Metropolitan museum
”First Cities” the exhibition now at the Metropolitan museum is a look at the great communities that arose and thrived in the fertile wedge that brought forth crops in the spring and stories to fill the seasons. Many of these ”First Stories” are ingrained through out the great religions of today.
The land between the Tigris and the Euphrates was silted over each flood period and became verdant when the water level dropped. The myths of the birth and death cycles can be found in the rhythm of these seasons. This was the land now called Iraq.
The vocabulary of images, idols and Gods is remarkable in their variations as well as their similarities. There is no question that these were an ancient people with long standing trade traditions. Beliefs as well as grain were traded freely. The show manages to point up the regional and individual cities traits that make each city stand out alone.
Certain rulers came to great power and skewed the regions wealth to put their gods to the forefront. High craftsmen kept ancient traditions and cities alive. The story tellers and craftsmen depicted their gods so beautifully that everyone in the region recognized and revered the story of that deity. This practice lasted and sustained the Byzantine mosaics and early Renaissance frescoes. These simple direct depictions of the gods created the first myths that traveled and took hold in the Mediterranean region.
The craftsmanship of the period is extraordinary in its precision and use of very simple tools. Lapis lazuli is used as the beard of a bull in the "Great Lyre" with bull's head and inlaid front panel, ca. 2550–2400 B.C. I love the scorpion god in the lower panel under the flowing Lapis Lazuli beard. In the "Standard of Ur," ca. 2550–2400 B.C.; Early Dynastic IIIA. Mesopotamia, Ur, (Click on ”Mesopotania” on the map.) The Lapis is used as a background to bring the white luster of the shell figures out in the light.
It was from these city states that the first laws were written. The first religions were transferred and assimilated by neighbors. After all when you are a good neighbor you support your friends even if you don’t buy their ideals. Isn’t that what we are all about? We claim to love freedom and the utmost freedom is of religion and that is why our government CANNOT take any oath, prayer or creed from any one religion. If we say ”In God We Trust” we have made a choice of one god over another. This goes against the freedom of religion. I’m sorry but the ”In God We Trust” that was put on our coins during WWII is hurtful to the republic. Acceptance of all Gods and credos is the only answer in a true democracy.
The ”First Cities” at the Metropolitan museum can help make the world understand that we are one people with similar yet gloriously different souls.