Uruk, a megacity?

Walking around Berlin, you can’t help notice the advertisements for a new show at the Pergamon Museum, called ‘Uruk Megacity‘. While you might forgive the curators for trying to lure visitors, the question is whether Uruk was really a city, let alone a mega-city. The walls themselves at the greatest expanse in the fourth millennium encompassed 6 square kilometres. Huge? More like a country town. Estimating population is a bit like divination, so estimates range from 20,000 to 50,000 (the top end is little fanciful). A decent town, perhaps, or even a small city. Except that this is the total population of the whole city-state of Uruk, which was really a rather modest affair. At a stretch, you may want to argue that by comparison with other places, it counts as a city, where most of the few centres were around 3000 each. But ‘mega-city’ is really pushing it. Then again, ‘Uruk, Megatown’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.


2 thoughts on “Uruk, a megacity?

  1. Well, if you came in from some reed village in the marshes, it would seem like New York. You could get lost!

    1. That’s the usual line taken, but to call it a megacity is a just a trifle misleading. As O’Connor points out: ‘the usage of English ‘city’ in the Bible is not an ordinary part of English usage. Biblical English ‘city’ is a calque, a term that transfers into another language the range of meanings and associations not found in the source language.’

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