Ancient Mesopotamian History


 

Iraq: area: 438,446sq.km .Population: 18 000 000. Capital: Baghdad 5 000 000 . About 80%Arabic speaking , 15%Kurds 2%Turks . Average annual rate of population increases 1,6% Currency: Iraqi dinar= 1,000 fils. Economy: crude petroleum( in 1000 tonnes): 46,819, natural gas 17000tj Industries: naptha 460 000 tonnes, jet fuel, woven cotton fabrics, sugar, canned fruit and vegetables. It's the land of ancient Mesopotamia. At one time Mesopotamia ( the land between the rivers), which encompassed much of the present-day Iraq, formed the center not only of the Middle east but also of the civilized world. The people of the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, the ancient Sumerians, using the fertile land and the abundant water supply of the area, developed sophisticated irrigation systems and created what was probably the first cereal agriculture as well as the earliest writing, cuneiform. After them came the Babylonians, they devised the most complete legal system of the period, the code of Hammurabi. Located at the crossroads in the heart of the ancient Middle East. They also created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven Wonders of the ancient world. After them , the warlike Assyrians took the control of the area. Sumer is the ancient name for southern Mesopotamia. Historians are divided on when the sumerians arrived in the area, but they agree that the population of sumer was a mixture of linguistic and ethnic groups that included the earlier inhabitants of the region.The Sumerians were highly innovative people who responded creatively to the challenges of the changeable Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Sumerians were the first people known to have devised a scheme of written representation as a means of communication. Cuneiform - a way of arranging impression stamped on clay by the wedge-like section of chopped-off reed. Another important Sumerian legacy was the recording of literature. The most famous Sumerian epic and the one that has survived in the most nearly complete form is the epic of Gilgamesh. The story of Gilgamesh, who actually was king of the city of Uruk in approximately 2700 B.C., is a moving story of the ruler's deep sorrow at the death of his friend and of his consequent search for immorality. Other central themes of the story are a devastating flood and the tenuous nature of man's existence. Sadam with complex abstraction and emotional expression, the epic of Gilgamesh reflects the intellectual sophistications of the Sumerians. After them came the Babylonians.During the time of sixth ruler, King Hammurabi (1792-1750B.C.), Babylonian rule encompassed a huge area covering most of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley from Sumer and the Arabic Gulf ( Persian Gulf). Hammurabi devised an elaborate administrative structure. His greatest achievement, however, was the issuance of a law code designed " to cause justice to prevail in the country, to destroy the wicked and evilness.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

On Hammurabi's death, however, a tribe known as the Cassites (Kassites) began to attack Babylonian as early as the period when Hammurabi's son ruled the empire. Over the centuries, Babylonian was weakened by the Cassites. Finally, around 1530 BC (given in some sources as 1570 or 1595 BC), a Cassite Dynasty was set up in Babylonian.

The Mitanni, another culture, were meanwhile building their own powerful empire. They were having a "considerable, if temporary importance"--they were very powerful but were around for only about 150 years. Still, the Mitanni were one of the major empires of this area in this time period, and they came to almost completely control and subjugate the Assyrians (who were located directly to the east of Mitanni and to the northwest of Cassite Babylonian).

The Assyrians, after they finally broke free of the Mitanni (who were having political troubles of their own), were the next major power to assert themselves on Babylonian. After defeating and virtually annexing Mitanni, the Assyrians, reasserted themselves on Babylonian. They weakened Babylonian so much that the Cassite Dynasty fell from power; the Assyrians virtually came to control Babylonian, until revolts in turn deposed them and set up a new dynasty, known as the Second Dynasty of Isin. Nebuchadnezzar the First, of this Dynasty, added a good deal of land to Babylonian and eventually came to attack Assyria. the land was under Assyrian rule for about two centuries. the Assyrian culture showed a dramatic growth in science and mathematics, among the great mathematical inventions of the Assyrians was the division of the circle into 360 degrees and were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation. They also developed a sophisticated medical science, which greatly influenced medical science as far away as Greece. It was not until the reign of Naboplashar (625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that the Mesopotamian civilization reached its ultimate distinction. His son, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is said that the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his wife or concubine, Amyitis, who had been "brought up in Media and had a passion for mountain surroundings". He did this because his wife had lived in the mountains and she was homesick on the flat plains of Babylon. He planted a large amount of brightly colored tropical plants on the roof of the palace. The gardens were completed around 600 BC. It was Nebuchadnezzar II who restored Mesopotamia to its former Babylonian glory and made Babylon the most famous city of the ancient world.

The Hanging Gardens on the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50-km south of Baghdad, Iraq, "has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators."


THE ARAB CONQUEST AND THE COMING OF ISLAM:


In 634, an army of 18 000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khalied ibin al Walied, reached the perimeter of the Eurphrates dealta .Although the occupying persian force was vastly superior in techniques and numbres, its soldiers were exhausted from their unremitting campaigns against the Byzantines. The sassanid troops fought ineffectually, lacking sufficient reinforcement to do more. The first battle of the Muslims campaign became known as the battle of the Chains because Persian soldiers were reputedly chained together so that they could not flee. Muslims offered the inhabitants of Iraq an ultimatum:" Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame. A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life.". Most of the Iraqi tribes were Christian at the time of the Islamic conquest. They decided to pay the "jizaya", the tax required of non-Muslims living in Muslam-ruled areas, and not further disturbed. The persian rallied briefly under their hero, Rustam, and attacked the Muslims at Al-Hirah, west of the Euphrates. There, they were soundly defeated by the Muslims. The next year, in 635, the Muslims defeated the Persians at the Battle of Buwayb. Finally, in May 636 at Al-Qadisiyah, a village south of Bagdad on the Euphrates, Rustam was killed. The persians, who outnumbered the Muslims six to one, were decisively beaten. From Al Qadisiyah the Muslims pushed on to the Sassanid capital at Ctesiphon( Madain ). The second caliph Umar(634-44) ordered the founding of two garrisoned cities to protect the newly conquered territory: Kufah, named as the capital of Iraq..and later the capital of Imam Ali, and the founding of Basra, which was also to be a port. The Muslims cotinued the Sassanid office of divan( Arabic form diwan ) . Esssentially an institution to control income and expenditure through ercord keeping and the centralization of administration, the divan would be used henceforth throughout the lands of the Islamic conquest. Arabic erplaced Pesian as the offical language and it slowly filtered into common language usage. Iraqis intermarried with Arabs and converted to Islam .


THE ABBASID CALIPHATE,750-1258


In 750, Abd al Abbas was established in Bagdad as the first caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. The Abbasids, whose line was called " the blessed dynasty" by it supporters, persented themselves to the people as divine-right rulers who would initiate a new era of iustice and prosperity. Their political plicies were, however, remarkably similar to those of the Umayyads. During the reign of its first seven caliphs, Bagdad became a center of power in the world, where Arab and Persian cultures mingled to produce a blaze of philosophical, scientific, and literary glory. This era is remembered throughout the Arab world, and by the Iraqis in particular, as the pinnacle of the Islamic past. It was the second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754-75 ), who decided to build a new capital, surrounded by round walls, near the site of the Sassanid village of Bagdad. Within fifty years the population outgrew the city walls as people thronged to the capital to become part of the Abbasids' enormous bureaucracy or to engage in trade. Bagdad became a vast emporium of trade linking Asia and the Mediterrian. By the reign of Mansur's grandson, Harun ar Rashid ( 786-806 ) , Bagdad was second in size only to Constantinople. Bagdad was able to feed its enormous population and to export large quantities of grain because the political administration had realized the importance of contolling the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The Abbasids reconstructed the city's canals, dikes, and reservoirs, and drained the swamps around Bagdad, freeing the city of malaria. Harun ar Rashid, the caliph of the Arabian nights, actively supported intellectual pursuits, but the grat flowering of Arabic culture that is credited to the Abbasids reached its apogee during the reign of his son, Al-Mamun ( 813-33 ). After the death of Harun ar Rashid, his son, Amin and Al-Mamun, quarreled over the succession to the caliphate. Their dispute soon erupted into civil war. Amin was backed by the Iraqis, while Al Mamun had the support of the Iranians. Al Mamun also had the support of the garrison at Khorasan and thus was able to take Bagdad in 813. The Iranians had hoped that Al Mamun would make his capital in their own country, possibly at Merv. Al Mamun, however, eventually realized that the Iraqi would never countenance the loss of prestige and economic power if they no longer had the capital.

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