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Mesopotamia, located in a region that included parts of what is now eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and most of Iraq, lay between two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The name Mesopotamia is a Greek word meaning “between the rivers.” Its oldest known communities date from 7000 BC. Several civilizations flourished in the region. In the 6th century BC it became part of the Persian Empire, the largest empire in the world up to then.


The Tigrisforms the eastern edge of the ancient region of Mesopotamia, a fertile area which contained the ancient city of Babylon. The Tigris flows from Turkey into Iraq, past the Iraqi capital of Baghdâd, and joins the Euphrates to form the Shatt al Arab before flowing into the Persian Gulf.

sumer 3500 bce 1900 bce
SUMER: 3500 BCE-1900 BCE

Sumerians move in from the north to take over Mesopotamia (3300 BCE)

  • Cuneiform writing develops
  • A system of mathematics using a base of 60 is developed
  • A system of canals and irrigation ditches is designed to water the fields.
  • The shoulder yoke for oxen is invented to make ploughing easier.
  • A seed drill is added to the plough
sumer 3500 bce 1900 bce7
SUMER: 3500 BCE - 1900 BCE
  • Pulleys are created to raise water from wells
  • The Sumerians develop wheeledcarts and chariots
babylonia 1900 bce 1300 bce
BABYLONIA: 1900 BCE - 1300 BCE

The Amorites establish their capital at Babylon (1900 BCE)

  • Currencies are introduced; one of the first times money is used.
  • Hammurabi’s Law Code is developed

Hammurabi, king of Babylon, united the diverse tribes in Mesopotamia by strategically conquering territory in the region. During his rule (circa 1792 to 1750 BC), he proved to be as able an administrator as a general. The Code of Hammurabi, a set of laws for the conduct of individuals and society that he codified, is one of the first bodies of written law.

the code of hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi contains no laws having to do with religion. The basis of criminal law is that of equal retaliation, comparable to the Semitic law of “an eye for an eye.” The law offers protection to all classes of Babylonian society; it seeks to protect the weak and the poor, including women, children, and slaves, against injustice at the hands of the rich and powerful.

6. If a man has stolen goods from a temple, or house, he shall be put to death, and he that has received the stolen property from him shall be put to death.

the code of hammurabi14
The Code of Hammurabi

14. If a man has stolen a child, he shall be put to death.

25. If a fire has broken out in a man’s house and one who has come to put it out has coveted the property of the householder and appropriated any of it, the man shall be cast into the self-same fire.

195. If a son has struck his father, his hands shall be cut off.

196. If a man has knocked out the eye of the noble, his eye shall be knocked out.

assyria 1300 bce 609 bce
ASSYRIA: 1300 BCE - 609 BCE

The Assyrians establish an independent kingdom in northern Mesopotamia with a capital at Ashur (1300 BCE)

  • Library containing 22000 clay tablets reflects new interest in science and math
  • Efficient drainage and sewage systems are perfected
  • Establishes roads and postal service for the empire (745 BCE)
  • They were among the fiercest and most warlike people in the region, known for committing wartime atrocities against unarmed civilians and treating conquered armies with cruelty. Their enemies were shown no mercy, and they often tortured and killed their captives.
assyria 1300 bce 609 bce17
ASSYRIA: 1300 BCE - 609 BCE

Several factors contributed to the Assyrian military success:

  • Assyrian kings viewed professional armies as essential to conquest, and so they created large, skilled armies that were well organized into units of...

- foot soldiers

- charioteers

- cavalry

- archers

  • The Assyrians learned the secret of making iron, and they used that knowledge to make lances and arrows of superior quality.
chaldea 609 bce 530 bce
CHALDEA: 609 BCE - 530 BCE

The Chaldean people of Babylonia and the Medes people of Persia joined forces to conquer the Assyrian people.

  • King Nebuchadnezzar, a warrior king as noted in the Bible, transformed Babylon into one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are constructed.
  • The Chaldeans are overthrown by the Persians in 530 BCE
plan of the hanging gardens of babylon
Plan of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Remains of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon


Ziggurat, a temple-tower, the principal form of religious edifice in ancient Mesopotamia. Ziggurats were built from the 4th millennium BC to 600 BC. Constructed of mud brick and often faced with glazed brick, they rose in stepped stages to a small temple or sanctuary at the peak.