Mesopotamia, the land of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, contains the heritage of several of the world's oldest civilizations.
|“||He carved on a stone stela all of his toils, |
and built the wall of Uruk-Haven,
the wall of the sacred Eanna Temple, the holy sanctuary.
—Epic of Gilgamesh
The Land of the Two Rivers, as Mesopotamia is sometimes called, had many probable "firsts", such as writing, mathematics, natural science, measurements of time, the wheel, urban planning and centralized government; the main contenders are Ancient Egypt and Ancient China. Mesopotamia has a prominent role in the Abrahamite religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and a shared history with the Holy Land. The Israelites' exile in Babylon around 600 BCE is well described in the Old Testament, and is one of the oldest Biblical events supported by historical records. Like many other ancient empires, Babylon primarily became known among Europeans through the Bible.
Most ancient civilizations, especially those in the Mesopotamian region, arose at and around rivers, and were highly dependent on them for farming, water supply, and transportation. Many empires rose and fell here—Sumeria, Akkad, Babylon, and Assyria are the best-known in historical circles today. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a famous piece of ancient Mesopotamian literature, and one of its stories, the story of Utnapishtim, is a great flood story that resembles the story of Noah in the Bible.
The land between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf is called the Fertile Crescent, especially when referring to the region's ancient history; however, due to erosion and overgrazing in modern times, the Fertile Crescent is less productive today than it was in ancient times. The land later became a subject under many global empires: the Hittites, the Hellenic Empire, the Roman Empire, various incarnations of the Persian Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Caliphate of Baghdad (see Islamic Golden Age), the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. Mesopotamia has been devastated by war more than once in history, and western Iraq and most of Syria is, as of 2016, a dangerous destination, where many archaeological sites have been torn down.
- 1 Babylon. This old, and extremely famous, ancient city is often associated with Biblical history; Babylon managed to again rise to prominence as the Chaldean Empire, after the fall of the Assyrians.
- 2 Ur. An early city in the region, in the Bible this city is associated with Abram (also known as Abraham).
- 3 Nimrud and 4 Nineveh were severely damaged by the so-called Islamic State during the 2014-17 Civil War. Nineveh was an important Assyrian city and it is mentioned in the Biblical book of Jonah.