History of Mesopotamia
Ancient Mesopotamiawas settled and conquered by numerous ancient civilizations. Dates for events in ancient Mesopotamia are still controversial, and several different methods and standards of dating exist for the Chronology of the ancient Near East; therefore, all dates in this article are only estimates. The "short chronology" is used in this article for consistency. Mesopotamia has been home to some of the oldest major civilizations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Mesopotamia as a distinct and self-determining cultural region began with the rise of the first cities in southern Mesopotmia ca. 5300 BC, and ended with the Persian conquest in 539 BC.
Uruk periodThe Fertile Crescentwas inhabited with several distinct, flourishing cultures between the end of the last ice age (c. 10,000 BC) and the beginning of history. One of the oldest known Neolithicsites in Mesopotamia is Jarmo, settled around 7000 BC and broadly contemporary with Jericho(in the Levant) and Çatal Hüyük(in Anatolia). It as well as other early Neolithic sites, such as Samarraand Tell Halafwere in northern Mesopotamia; later settlements in southern Mesopotamia required complicated irrigationmethods. The first of these was Eridu, settled during the Ubaid periodculture by farmers who bought with them the Samarran culture from the north. This was followed by the Uruk periodand the emergence of the Sumerians.
The Sumerians were firmly established in Mesopotamia by the middle of the
4th millennium BC, in the archaeological Uruk period, although scholars dispute when they arrived.
It is hard to tell where the Sumerians might have come from because the
Sumerian languageis a language isolate, unrelated to any other known language. Their mythology includes many references to the area of Mesopotamia but little clue regarding their place of origin, perhaps indicating that they had been there for a long time. The Sumerian language is identifiable from its initially logographic script which arose last half of the 4th millennium BC. Sumer is known as the Cradle of civilization.
3rd millennium BC, these urban centers had developed into increasingly complex societies. Irrigation and other means of exploiting food sources were being used to amass large surpluses, huge building projects were being undertaken by rulers, and political organization was becoming evermore sophisticated.
Throughout the millennium , the various
city-statesKish, Uruk, Urand Lagashvied for power and gained hegemony at various times. Nippurand Ngirsuwere important religious centers, as was Eriduat this point. This was also the time of Gilgamesh, a semi-historical king of Uruk, and the subject of the famous " Epic of Gilgamesh".
It is during this period that the
potter's wheelwas developed into the vehicular- and mill wheel.
By 2600 BC, the
logographic script had developed into a decipherable cuneiform syllabicscript.
The chronology of this era is particularly uncertain, as it was early in the history of writing. Also, the multitude of city-states made for a confusing situation, as each had its own history. The
Sumerian king listis one record of the political history of the period. It starts with mythological figures with improbably long reigns, but later rulers have been authenticated with archaeological evidence. The first of these is Enmebaragesiof Kish, ca. 2600 BC, said by the king list to have subjected neighboring Elam. However, one complication of the Sumerian king list is that although dynasties are listed in sequential order, some of them actually ruled at the same time over different areas. Enshakushannaof Urukconquered all of Sumer, Akkad, and Hamazi, followed by Lugal-Anne-Munduof Adabcreating the first, if short-lived empire. Some time later Eannatumof Lagashalso conquered Sumer. His methods were force and intimidation (see the Stele of the Vultures [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Stele_of_Vultures] ), and soon after his death, the cities rebelled and the empire again fell apart. The last native Sumerian to rule over most of Sumer before Sargon of Akkadestablished Semiticsupremacy was Lugal-Zage-Si.
2270 BC( short chronology), Sargon became ruler of Akkad(or Agade) in northern Mesopotamia. He proceeded to conquer an area stretching from the Persian Gulfto the Mediterranean, including all of Mesopotamia, Elam, Mari, and Ebla, and the entire area was united under centralized rule. The Akkadians were a Semiticpeople and the Akkadian languagecame into widespread use during this period, but literacy remained in the Sumerian language. The dynasty continued until around ca. 2100, and reached its zenith under Naram-Sin, who began the trend for rulers to claim divinity for themselves (Naram-Sin's victory stele [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/
The Akkadian Empire lost power after the reign of Naram-Sin, and eventually was invaded by the Guti from the
Zagros Mountains. For a century the Guti controlled Mesopotamia, especially the north, but they left few inscriptions, so they are not well understood.
The Guti had less of a hold on southern Mesopotamia, where the second dynasty of
Lagashcame into prominence. Its most famous ruler was Gudea, who left many statues of himself in temples across Sumer.
Third dynasty of Ur
Eventually the Guti were overthrown by
Utu-hengalof Uruk, and the various city-states again vied for power. Power over the area finally went to the city-state of Ur, when Ur-Nammufounded the Third Dynasty of Ur(Ur III) and conquered the Sumerian region, which consequently enjoyed what is known as the "Sumerian Renaissance". Under his son Shulgi, state control over industry reached a level never again seen in the region. Shulgi may have devised the Code of Ur-Nammu, one of the earliest known law codes (three centuries before the more famous Code of Hammurabi).
By ca. 2000 BC, the power of Ur waned, and the
Amorites, Semitic nomadsfrom the desert west of Mesopotamia, came to occupy much of the area, although it was Sumer's long-standing rivals to the east, the Elamites, who finally overthrew Ur. This marked the end of city-states ruling empires in Mesopotamia, and the end of Sumerian dominance, but the succeeding rulers adopted much of Sumerian civilization as their own.
The next two centuries or so were dominated by the
Amoritecities of Isinand Larsain the south of Mesopotamia, as the two cities vied for dominance. This period also marked a growth in power in the north of Mesopotamia. Up until this point, the north had little or no writing and few big cities, but in this period, the cities of Assurand Eshnunnabecame important and participated in wars and diplomacy with the south.
Old Babylonian Empire
In the end, a city and dynasty that seemed minor during the wars of Isin and Larsa came to power.
Hammurabi(r. 1728 – 1686 BC, short chronology), the Amoriteruler of Babylon, conquered Mesopotamia. He is justly famous for his law code and conquests, but he is also famous due to the large amount of records that exist from the period of his reign.
After the death of Hammurabi, the Babylonian dynasty lasted for another century, but many of the lands conquered by Hammurabi became independent and Mesopotamia was again a patchwork of competing principalities. The dynasty ended in 1531 BC, when Babylonia fell to the
Hittitesoverthrew Babylon, another people, the Kassites, took it as their capital (ca. 1650 - 1155 BC (short)). They have the distinction of being the longest lasting dynasty in Babylon, reigning for over four centuries. They left few records, so this period is unfortunately obscure. They are of unknown origin; what little we have of their language suggests it is a language isolate.
Although the Mesopotamian region maintained its independence through this period, it was not a power in the Near East, and mostly sat out the large wars fought over the
Levantbetween Egypt, the Hittite Empire, and Mitanni(see below), as well as independent peoples in the region. Assyriaparticipated in these wars toward the end of the period, but the Kassites in Babylon did not. They did, however, fight against their longstanding rival to the east, Elam(related by some linguists to the Dravidianlanguages in modern India). In the end, the Elamites conquered Babylon, bringing this period to an end.
Hurrianswere a people who settled in northern Mesopotamia and South-East Anatolia circa 1600 BC, and by circa 1450 BC established a medium-sized empire called Mitanni, and temporarily made tributary vassalsout of kings in the west, making them a major threat for the Pharaohin Egypt. The Hurrian languageis related to the later Urartian, but there is no conclusive evidence these two languages are related to any others.
By 1300 BC the Hurrians had been reduced to their homeland and the status of vassal to the "Hatti", the
Hittites, a western Indo-Europeanpeople (belonging to the linguistic "kentum" group) who dominated most of Asia Minor(modern Turkey) at this time from their capital of Hattusa.
Bronze Age collapse
Records from the 12th and 11th centuries BC are sparse, but
Assyriaand Babylonremained important. The 10th century is even worse, with very few inscriptions. Mesopotamia was not alone in this obscurity: the Hittite empirefell at the beginning of this period and the Egyptians left few records. This was a time of invasion by many new people throughout the Near East.
Neo-Hittite states(ca. 1180 - 700 BC)
Urartu(ca. 850 - ca. 640 BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire(911-612 BC)
Neo-Babylonian Empire(626 - 539 BC)
Mesopotamia fell under Median Empire rule in the 7th-6th century BC (
Cyaxares). Cyaxares reorganized and modernized the Median Army, then joined with King Nabopolassar of Babylon. These allies overthrew the Assyrian Empire and destroyed Nineveh in 612 BC. After this victory, the Medes conquered Northern Mesopotamia, Armenia and the parts of Asia Minor east of the Halys River, which was the border established with Lydia after a decisive battle between Lydia and Media, the Battle of Halys ended with an eclipse on May 28, 585 BC. Babylon and Lydia fell under Persian rule in the 6th century BC ( Cyrus the Great).
After two centuries of Achaemenid rule, Mesopotamia fell to
Alexander the Greatin 330 BC, and remained under Hellenisticrule for another two centuries, with Seleuciaas capital from 305 BC. In the 1st century BC, Mesopotamia was in constant turmoil as the Seleucid Empire was weakened by Parthiaon one hand and the Mithridatic Warson the other. The Parthian Empirelasted for five centuries, into the 3rd century AD, when it was succeeded by the Sassanids. The Sassanid Empire finally fell to the Rashidun armyunder Khalid ibn al-Walidin the 630s.
Median Empire(728 BC – 549 BC)
Achaemenid Mesopotamia(549 – 330 BC)
Seleucid Empire(310 – 63 BC)
Parthian Empire(238 BC – 226 AD)
*Roman Mesopotamia (AD 116 – 118)
Sassanid Empire(226 – 651)
Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia(633 – 651)
Middle Ages to Early Modern
During the Early Middle Ages, Mesopotamia was ruled by the
caliphs, until the 1250s Mongol invasions. It remained under Mongol-Turkic rule for more than 650 years, throughout the Late Middle Ages and into the Modern period, under the Safavidsand later, following the conquests of the Ottomans( Suleiman the Magnificent).
Rashideen Caliphate(633 – 661)
Umayyad Caliphate(660 – 750)
Abbasid Caliphate(750 – 1258)
Ilkhanate(1256 – 1335)
Jalayirids(1335 – 1432)
Timurid Empire(1370 – 1506)
Safavid Empire(1501 – 1736)
Ottoman Empire(1533 – 1918)
World War Iand the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Mesopotamia was administered by the British Empire, in 1932 granted independence as a kingdom under Faisal I of Iraq, the first Arab monarch of Mesopotamia since caliph Al-Musta'sim. The Hashemitemonarchy was overthrown by a military coup in 1958, and replaced by the Republic of Iraq.
Mamluk rule in Iraq(1747 – 1831)
Decline of the Ottoman Empire(1828 – 1908)
Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire(1908 – 1922)
British Mandate of Mesopotamia(1920 – 1932)
Kingdom of Iraq(1932 – 1958)
Republic of Iraq(1958 – present)
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