This historic region which saw the birth of the first civilizations has left us an unforgettable legacy. Some elements to better understand Mesopotamia.
Where is Mesopotamia located?
Located in the fertile crescent in the Middle East, Mesopotamia is a historic region, most of which today would be located at the level of present-day Iraq. Mesopotamia comes from the Greek terms “meso” (in the middle of) and “potamós” (river) and means a land “between rivers”. It is in fact bounded by the Tigris and the Euphrates.
The northern region was made up of agricultural plateaus fed by rainwater, and the southern part and its desert plains could later be irrigated by water from the two rivers.
Mesopotamia: the cradle of the first civilizations
Traces of the first identified civilizations were found there: the Sumerians, Akkadians and Babylonians settled there and developed the first knowledge such as writing, literature, geometry, arithmetic and certain major advances in agriculture.
Mesopotamia: a major historical period
More than just a territory, Mesopotamia is a prominent historical region. Its historical period is divided into several chapters and begins in 3400 BC:
Between 3400 and 2900 BC. J.-C: the recent Uruk period. Writing begins to develop and the first written documents of human history appear in southern Mesopotamia. It was also during this period that the Sumerians invented the wheel, and laid the foundations of our modern civilization.
From -2900 to -2340: the archaic dynasties. The first city-states are established in Lower Mesopotamia
From 2340 to 2180: the Akkad Empire. Sargon of Akkad federated city-states to create a first united state, which would evolve into an empire thanks to dynasty descendants such as the Akkadian Emperor Naram-Sin.
From -2180 to -2004: the neo-Sumerians. Weakened by attacks from barbarian peoples, the Akkad Empire collapsed and the old city-states regained their independence. Later, the first kings of the Ur dynasty unified them again and founded a new empire in the region. It will end around -2000 because of the attacks of the Amorites and Elamites.
From -2004 to -1595: the Amorites (or the Paleo-Babylonian period). The Amorites take control of all Mesopotamian territories divided into kingdoms, including Babylon, which becomes the heart of this region under the reign of the sixth king of the dynasty, Hammurabi, who founded the first Babylonian empire.
From -1595 to -1080: the mid-Babylonian period. For more than 400 years, the new Kassite dynasty reigned over Babylon. In the northern part of the region, the Mid-Assyrian kingdom prevails and there is strong opposition between northern and southern Mesopotamia. It is also the period of the first Aramaic invasions.
From -910 to -609: the neo-Assyrians. In the 9th century BC, the Assyrian Empire wielded power over the entire Near East during the reign of the Sargonid dynasty. But in -609, Babylon regains control of Mesopotamia.
From -620 to -539: the Neo-Babylonian period. Babylon is at its peak under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. It was then one of the largest cities (nearly 1,000 hectares) and arguably the most prosperous in the world. At this time, Aramaic (which is written in alphabet) begins to supplant Akkadian, a cuneiform script which is now used more by intellectuals. This is also the period that will see the development of the agricultural economy. The empire stretches from the Egyptian borders in the west to the Anatolian Taurus and the borders of Persia. In -539, twenty years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Persian king Cyrus II took Babylon back.
From -539 to -331: the Achaemenid period. By taking control of Babylon, King Cyrus II absorbed Mesopotamia into his own Persian Empire and founded the Achaemenid Empire.
From -331 to -140: the Seleucids. In -331, after years of struggle, Alexander the Great completed the conquest of the great Persian Empire and tried to unify the different cultures that then made up his vast empire by laying the foundations for what would become Hellenistic civilization. Mesopotamia will then be controlled by the Seleucids, a dynasty founded by the successor of Alexander the Great.
From -140 to the year 224: the Parthians. In the 2nd century BC, the Parthians recaptured Mesopotamia from the Seleucids. With them, the surviving Mesopotamian culture disappears for good. Then, from the year 116, the Romans set out to conquer these territories. In 198, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus captured northern Mesopotamia.