The Mesopotamians

Articles on the culture, history, and peoples of ancient Mesopotamia

Articles on the culture, history, and peoples of ancient Mesopotamia


Mesopotamia: Overview and Summary

Mesopotamia is the region within the Tigris and Euphrates rivers located south of Anatolia and West of the Iranian plateau. It hosted the earliest large-scale civilizations, who bequeathed the earliest forms of organized government, religion, warfare, and literature. Mesopotamian civilizations flourished from the founding of the Sumerian Empire in 3100…

Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Neo-Assyrian Warfare

While the Sumerians, Akkadians and Babylonians were all good at war, they were pikers compared to the Assyrians who took warfare to new heights. During the time of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c. 1000 to 609 B.C.), the Assyrian army was the most powerful military force yet seen. The 300 year…

mesopotamian warfare

Mesopotamian Warfare: The Sumerians, Akkadians and Babylonians

Each of these three great Mesopotamian civilizations, all related to each other, brought in new weapons and tactics to Mesopotamian warfare. All warred among themselves and with others. Mesopotamian cities usually went to war for water and land rights. As cultures based on agriculture, land and sufficient water supply were…

Illustration of Assyrian relief of Tiglath-Pileser III besieging a town. From Nineveh; in the British Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Assyrian Empire: The Most Powerful Empire in the World

For 300 years, from 900 to 600 B.C., the Assyrian Empire expanded, conquered and ruled the Middle East, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, and parts of today’s Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Since around 1250 B.C., the Assyrians had started using war chariots and iron weapons, which…

Assyrian Empire: The Middle Empire

For a few centuries after the death of Shamshi-Adad I, Assyrian cities were subjugated by a succession of outsiders: Babylonians under Hammurabi, Hittites and Mitanni-Hurrians. From 1791 to 1360 B.C. control over Assyria passed back and forth, although Assyria itself remained more or less stable. After a power struggle between…

Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East in 14th century B.C. (the Armana period). Alexikoua [CC BY SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Assyrian Empire: The Old Kingdom

Over the centuries of its long existence, the Assyrian empire expanded and grew only to fail and fall many times. Scholars divide Assyrian history into three main periods: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Empire and the Neo-Assyrian Empire. While Assyria ended as a political entity, Assyrians as a people still…


Ziggurats and Temples in Ancient Mesopotamia

Ziggurats are as emblematic of Mesopotamia as the great pyramids are of ancient Egypt. These ancient stepped buildings were created to be home to the patron god or goddess of the city. As religion was central to Mesopotamian life, the ziggurat was the heart of a city. Starting around 3000…

The Deluge tablet of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Epic of Gilgamesh

The oldest epic tale in the world was written 1500 years before Homer wrote the Illiad. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” tells of the Sumerian Gilgamesh, the hero king of Uruk, and his adventures. This epic story was discovered in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh by Hormuzd…

Code of Hammurabi stele. Louvre Museum, Paris. Mbzt 2011 [CC BY SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

King Hammurabi and His Code of Law

Babylon reached its first height with the reign of the great King Hammurabi, an Amorite prince, the sixth of his dynasty. The Amorites were a semi-nomadic people who migrated east into Mesopotamia from Syria. During the reign of Hammurabi’s father, Babylon’s kingdom contained only a few cities: Babylon, Kish, Borsippa…

“Hanging Gardens of Babylon” probably 19th century after the first excavations in the Assyrian capital. Public domain, via Wikimedia Common

The Wonders of Ancient Babylon

What remains today of Old Babylon are the ruins of an ancient city under the water level of the Euphrates River, although some later city ruins still exist. However, archeology tells us much about the 4,000-year history of this storied city that passed through many hands and empires during its…

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