The land between the two rivers has been the site of some of the oldest civilizations in the world, and it is difficult to recall that as late as 150 years ago, they were almost entirely forgotten. Nevertheless, the impact of Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian thought is still present today, and is felt whenever we divide a circle into 360 degrees, or measure a year by 12 months. To classical peoples, the Babylonians were considered a witty, urbane, mysterious, occult, and very decadent folk; a realistic appraisal in some ways since, by their own standards, the Babylonians had seen everything that could happen to a nation and a people, and could no longer be much surprised.

Presently this covers Adab, Adiabene, Akkad, Akshak, Araba, Arrapha, Assyria, Babylon, Basra, Characene, Comukha, Dayani, Elam, Eshnunna, Garamaea, Guti, Hatra, Hit, Isin, KisurraKirkuk, Kish, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Lagash, Larsa, Classical, Mediaeval, and modern Mesopotamia and Iraq, Mitanni, Mosul, Nippur, Sea-Land, Seleucid Empire, Shuruppag, Takrit, Umma, Ur, Urakluiras, Uruk.

Note also: Hirah/Hillah, in the Arabia file

ADAB Ancient Sumerian city located south of Nippur. Excavations (1903-04) carried out by the American archaeologist Edgar James Banks revealed buildings dating from as early as the prehistoric period and as late as the reign of Ur-Nammu (reigned 2112 - 2095 BC). Adab was an important Sumerian centre only up to about 2000 BC.

AKKAD In northern Iraq. The Akkadians were not Sumerian, they were an early Semitic folk.

AKSHAK A city in eastern Mesopotamia. Its specific location is not known, but it is understood to have been near Eshnunna, in the Diyala Valley.

ASSYRIA One of the best-known early Mesopotamian states, the Assyrians began as tent-dwelling nomads, developed into a brilliant and long-lasting empire, and then were plowed under by succeeding peoples in turn. They survived the collapse of their empire, though, and even today there are Assyrian people living both in Mesopotamia and abroad.

BABYLON Perhaps the best-known of the early Mesopotamian imperial peoples - and something of a byword for crafty, luxurious, and somewhat decadent savants - this early Semitic folk created a powerful and artistically gifted civilization which endured for more than 1300 years in one form or another. Even after the final destruction of the Babylonian state by Persia in the 6th century BCE, the Babylonian people survived for more than 1100 years more before being submerged within their distant relatives, the Arabs.

BASRA (al-Basrah) City in southern Iraq; Iraq's second-largest city and main port. Basra is located on the Shatt-al-Arab waterway which connects the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers to the Persian Gulf. It was the home of the legendary Sindbad and for much of the Middle Ages a major center of trade and culture. The modern city dates back to 638, but several ancient cities, including Ur and Charax, are located in close proximity. Because of it's highly strategic location, it quickly developed into a burgeoning city, despite it's unhealthy location and the lack of easy access to fresh drinking water. It's location also contributed to a strongly heterogeneous community locally governed by a military aristocracy but characterized by the strong presence of three powerful religious communities (the Sunni's - adherents of the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphs, the Shi'ites - adherents of the descendants of Caliph 'Ali (murd. 661), and the Karijites - those that believed that any devout Muslim, regardless of ancestry, could be Caliph). The city also home to a variety of Muslim ethnic communities (Indians, Africans, Persians, and Malays) and, between the religious and ethnic diversity, civil unrest and sometimes outright rebellion was a constant theme.

COMUKHA A minor Kingdom centered on the city of Sherisha, on the east bank of the upper Tigris River.

DAYANI A minor Kingdom located on the upper Tigris.

ELAM The coastal regions along the northern shore of the Persian Gulf, from what is now Kuwait to the Straits of Hormuz.

ESHNUNNA A city in eastern Mesopotamia, modern Tall al-Asmar, on the Diyala River about 20 miles (32 km.) north of modern Baghdad.

GUTI Eastern Mesopotamia; a people inhabiting what are now the Zagros Mountains.

HATRA (Beit Elaha; al-Hadr) A ruined city located in the al-Jazirah region of present-day northern Iraq, 180 miles (290 km) northwest of Baghdad and 68 miles (110 km) southwest of Mosul. A religious and trading centre of the Parthian empire, it flourished during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. The city survived several invasions before being razed in AD 241. It is an important archaeological site with well-preserved ruins. Because of its strategic position along caravan trade routes, the town prospered and became an important religious centre. In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, Hatra was ruled by a dynasty of Arabian princes whose written language was Aramaic, and it became known as Beit 'Elaha' (“House of God”), a reference to the city's numerous temples. Among the gods honoured were the Sumero-Akkadian god Nergal, Hermes (Greek), Atargatis (Aramean), and al-Lat and Shamiyyah (Arabian), along with Shamash, the Mesopotamian sun god. Built in a circular plan of military tradition, Hatra was able to turn back many attacks, including sieges by Roman forces in 116/117 (led by the emperor Trajan) and 198/199 (under the emperor Septimius Severus). According to legend, al-Nadirah, the daughter of the king of Hatra, betrayed the city and permitted Shapur to conquer it, slay the king, and later marry her. (Tradition also holds that Shapur soon killed his bride, however.)

A town in west-central Iraq, on the Euphrates about 90 miles (145 km.) west-northwest of Baghdad.

ISIN In south-central Iraq, a little east of the modern city of al-Diwaniyah.

KIRKUK City in northern Iraq, about 150 miles (250 km.) north of Baghdad near the foot of the Zagros Mountains. The city is built by the Hasa river on an area with archaeological remains over 5000 years old. Under its ancient name of Arrapha, the city reached great prominence in the 10th and 11th centuries. It is a major center for both the Kurdish and Assyrian populations of Iraq.

KISH In central Mesopotamia, a short distance northeast of modern Baghdad - one of the earliest recognizable states in the region.

modern Tell Abu Hatab)
An ancient Sumerian city situated on the west bank of the Middle Euphrates River, north of Shuruppak - the modern rubble mound is about 120 miles (193 km.) southeast of  Baghdad. The city's name has been translated as variously as "place of spinning" or "boundary-ditch".

KURDISTAN A large region encompassing much of northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, and western Iran. The Kurds are an Indo-European people who have lived in northern Mesopotamia for ages; their language is most closely related to Iranian, although the people do not strongly resemble Iranians. The Kurdish people have never held an independent state of their own: they are, in fact, the largest ethnic group (estimated number of Kurdic language speakers is as much as 17 million) in the world without it's own homeland. The following list is a review of the various rulers who have held the Upper Mesopotamian Kurd districts.

KUWAIT A small but wealthy Emirate at the head of the Persian Gulf. Nominally a dependency of the Ottoman Empire until 1914, it was a protectorate of Great Britain from 1914 to 1961.

LAGASH In south-central Iraq, a short distance north of the modern city of ash-Shatrah.

LARSA In southeastern Iraq, (modern Tall Sankarah), about 25 miles (40 km.) west of modern an-Nasiriyah.

MESOPOTAMIA A general survey of the "Land Between the Rivers" in Classical and Modern times.

MITANNI Northern Iraq, Syria, and southern Anatolia.

NIPPUR Nippur (Sumerian "Nibru") was one of the most ancient Mesopotamian city. It was the site of the great temple of Enlil, to whom the city was sacred; in fact, the Sumerian cuneiform symbols for "Nibru" and "Enlil" are identical. It was situated on both sides of the Shatt-en-Nil canal, one of the earliest courses of the Euphrates, between the present bed of that river and the Tigris, about 100 miles (160 km.) southeast of Baghdad. It is represented by the great complex of ruin mounds known to the Arabs as Nuffar, written by the earlier explorers Niffer, divided into two main parts by the dry bed of the old Shatt-en-Nil (Arakhat). The highest point of these ruins, a conical hill rising about 30 m above the level of the surrounding plain, northeast of the canal bed, is called by the Arabs Bint el-Amiror "prince's daughter." Nippur was a phenomenally important city to both the Sumerians and their Semitic, Gutian, Kassite and Elamite successors; the Kassite kings who conquered Babylon made the city their center of administration. Settlement on the site which may date to the sixth millenium BCE, and was disrupted only in the thirteenth century CE, possibly by the Mongol invasions.

SEA-LAND Southeastern Iraq; the delta of the Euphrates, and upper Gulf coast.

The SELEUCID EMPIRE One of the largest and most significant of the Diadochoi States - the territories carved out by the Macedonian generals who were the successors to Alexander the Great. It began as territory seized by Seleucus I in Mesopotamia from 312 BCE, and quickly expanded to include most of what is now Iran and Afghanistan. Thereafter it expanded westward - at it's greatest extent, in the first half of the 3rd century, it covered much of Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine, in addition to the other regions mentioned above. A new capital was founded at Antioch in 301 BCE, which still remains an important Levantine city. The Empire proved too unwieldy for stability, however. In the second half of the 3rd century, much Anatolian territory slipped away, and a concommitant loss of Bactria and Persia confined the Seleucids to the Fertile Crescent. Thereafter, their ability to control their lands continued to be compromised, until by the middle of the first century, only the environs of Antioch remained. Nevertheless, the Empire is an important link in the Hellenization of the Near East, and its various dynasts were men of unusual vigour and influence. I place the Empire here, as a separate entry rather than as a phase of the Babylonian sequence, because it was a multicultural Empire which transcended any particular region. Here is an express, to return to pages you may have come here from: Abilene, Afghanistan, Akko, Aleppo, Ammon, Antioch, Armenia, Arvad, Azerbaijan, Bashan, Byblos, Cappadocia, Carchemish, Caria, Characene, Cilicia, Commagene, Damascus,Gadara, Hamath, Harran, Hirah, Homs, Iran, Israel, Iturea, Jaffa, Jordan, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lycia, Lydia, Mari, Melitene, Mesopotamia, Pergamum, Samaria, Seistan, Sidon, Sogdiana, Syria, Tripoli, Troy, Tyre.

SHURUPPAG Shuruppag was an ancient Sumerian city, also called Curuppag ("the healing place"). It is located at modern Tell Fa'rah, situated not far south of Nippur, on the banks of the Euphrates in what is now al-Qadisiyyah, in south-central Iraq. It was first excavated in 1902 by the "Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft". The city was dedicated to Sud or Ninlil, the goddess of grain and the air. Shuruppak became a grain storage and distribution city and had more silos than any other Sumerian city. It was abandoned before the Old Babylonian period.

SORAN A Kurdish emirate centered on the town of Rawanduz in far northeastern Iraqi Kurdistan, about 20 miles (32 km.) northeast of the modern provincial capital of Irbil, about 10 miles (16 km.) west of the Iranian frontier, and about 20 miles south-southeast of the Turkish frontier. It was autonomous under the Ottomans and briefly independent from 1816-1835 before being crushed by Turkish troops.

TAKRIT A small town in northern Iraq, historically Kurdish but with a sizable Arab population. It was normally tied with the various political entities which held sway over Mosul and Kurdistan, except for a brief period in the 1000s when a branch of the powerful Uqaylid clan seized control. Takrit has a certain significance in that it is the birthplace not only of of Salah-al-Din Yusuf (Saladin), but also of  Sadaam Hussein.

UMMA An ancient city-state in southern Iraq, about 65 miles (104 km.) east of the modern city of ad-Diwaniyah.

UR One of the earliest Mesopotamian cities, located in southern Iraq.

URAKLUIRAS A minor Kingdom located on the upper Tigris.

URUK (Erech) One of the earliest of the Sumerian city-states - located in southern Iraq, about 44 miles (70 km.) west of the modern town of an-Nasiriyah.