School in a Book: A Brief History of the Middle East

Prehistory (to 3500 BCE)

13,000 B.C.: Mesopotamians (people living in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, called the Fertile Crescent) started raising animals.

10,000 B.C.: Mesopotamians humans began growing grain, particularly wheat and barley, and settling into small towns. They created religious sites. They began growing grain, particularly barley and wheat, and smelting copper. They invented the wheeled cart.

5,000 B.C.: The Sumerians built a collection of individual city-states in Mesopotamia (the Fertile Crescent), creating the world’s first civilization. It was located on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They had irrigation, ziggurats (centers of worship with a shrine, step-pyramid like), scribes, and accountants.

Ancient History (3500 BCE to 500 CE)

3000 B.C.: The Bronze Age began in the Middle East when copper was smelted by Egyptians and Sumerians.

3000 B.C.: Writing was developed in Sumer (cuneiform) and Egypt (hieroglyphs), triggering the beginning of recorded history.

2360 B.C.: Sargon of Akkad (one of the Sumerian cities) united Mesopotamia into the world’s first empire. (Note that ‘Sumer’ refers to the collection of cities and Akkad refers to the Sumerian city that became dominant during Sargon’s time.)

2100 B.C: Ur, then Assyria and Babylon took over location of prominence in Mesopotamia.

1200-1150 B.C.:Bronze Age collapse

1100 B.C.: Use of Iron spreads.

1180 B.C.: Disintegration of Hittite Empire

In Mesopotamia, assyrian empire, persians… Nebuchadnezzar rules as king of Babylon …Cyrus the Great rules over Medes and Persians

3000 B.C.: Wheels first used on chariots in Mesopotamia. Before that, carts/ wheelbarrows.

2500 B.C.: Bricks first used for buildings (Indus Valley).

1900-700 B.C.: Babylon. Under Hammurabi the Great Babylonians began to take over southern Mesopotamia. Then controlled whole of Mesopotamia. Famous for code of law. Stable, efficient rule. Well-disciplined armies. Hittites sacked Babylon, the main city, in 1595 B.C. Continued on but soon overshadowed by Assyria. From Babylongians we get the system of counting based on the number 60 that divides hours and the degrees of a circle. Built on Sumerian math and science. Code of Hammurabi especially known for fairness and “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” as quoted in the Bible.

1900-612 B.C.: Assyrians: While Babylon ruled in southern mesopotamia, Assyrians dominated the north. Valley of Upper Tigris River. Last great ruler was Ashurbanipal, who built the great library at Ninevah and vast gardens with plants from all over the world–a major palace. Ordered many historic records and math, chemistry, astronomy texts to be written down. Had some setbacks due to dictatorial leadership style and rebellions, but eventually conquered Babylon. At its greatest in mid-700s. Included Babylon, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus, northern Arabia, Egypt. Siege warfare experts. Women and children sometimes sold into slavery.

1800-587 B.C.: The Hebrews: First settled Palestine (Canaan) about 1800 B.C. Came from Ur. “Hebrews” means “people from the other side” of the Euphrates River. OT says leader was Abraham, a shepherd from Ur. Grandson Jacob had twelve sons, twelve tribes of Israel. When famine struch Canaan they all went to Egypt but became enslaved there until Moses brought them back to Canaan, around 1200 B.C. Fought the Philistines (Palestinians) for land, established Israel. Conquered city of Jericho as part of this effort. Wise king Solomon was one of their leaders. Fair, and very rich, too. After his death Israel split into two different states, Israel and Judah, which weakened them and led to their downfall.

1600-1200 B.C.: The Hittites. First to use iron. Warlike people. Chariots. 1,000 gods (chief is a strom god). Boulder sculptures. Peak 1300. Developed writing. Introduced the horse to the Middle East. Raided by the Sea Peoples and weakened, then fell. (Made up of several city-states united by warfare around 1650.) Partly concurrent with the Assyrians and Babylonians.

1500 B.C.: Iron smelted by Hittites in Middle East. Stone age – bronze age – iron age sometimes describe historical periods but dates of these ages are different for different areas, depending on when these technologies developed there.

1500-500 B.C.: The Phoenicians. Greatest seafarers of ancient times. East end of Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Lebanon. String of independent city-states. Trade with India, China and crafts, not much large-scale farming or land conquering.. Prosperous, powerful. Saw rise and fall of Minoans and Myceneans and actively helped the rise of Greece and Rome. Invented glass blowing. Purple dye. Supplied materials and craftworkers to Solomon to build temple of Jerusalem. Had many colonies around the Med, inc Carthage.

1037 B.C.: Alongside the Abassids, the Sejuk Turks from central Asia arrived in modern-day Afghanistan and conquered it. Then they conquered Baghdad and defeated the Byzantines

1020 B.C.: Philistines threatened them again. Hebrews changed to a king system (instead of judges between tribes). Saul, then David, who united all the tribes and made Jerusalem the capital and enlargened territory. Built great temple of Jerusalem. Peace-loving, wise king. Temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, the greatest tresure of the Israelites, which housed Moses’ Ten Commandments. (here insert solomon stuff) (cut child in two to discover mom story)

721 B.C.: Assyrians invaded Israel, dispersing many Jews.

683 B.C.: Took Judah, too. Scattered Jews widely. Some became Assyrian slaves.

656-661 B.C.: Muslims divided between Sunis and Shiites due to dispute over who should lead. Sunis more successful. During this time, Muslims seen as liberators and tolerant since they didn’t force conversiona. Arabic became a universal language except in Persia which was mainly Shiite.

636-642 B.C.: Muslims took Palestine, Syria, Persia, Egypt (jihad)

630 B.C.: Muhammad captured Mecca and became its ruler.

626-539 B.C.: Babylon Revived: Babylon declared independence from Assyria, then took over the Assyrians. Nebuchadnezzar drove the Egyptians back into Egypt and took Syria. Also captured Jerusalem and forced Jews to live in Babylon as prisoners because they’d tried to revolt. Babylon now master of all lands in Fertile Crescent. Neb made Babylon a beautiful world capital. Made the Hanging Gardens–stepped gardens overlooking the city, a large bridge, the tower of Babel, a fine palace and more. In later years, became mad. Trade and seafaring flourished. Huge metropolis and world market.

612 B.C.: Assyria fell to the Babylonians, never to be (regained)

610 B.C.: Muhammed experienced his first vision, which led to his founding of Islam. At this time, Arabs worshipped many gods. Started preaching but Mecca felt threatened and he and his followers fled to Medina. There, religion grew. Based on prayer, one God, purification, assistance to poor.

587/97 B.C.: Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and deported most of the Jews to Babylon. Beginning of the “diaspora.” (?: who controlled israel now? assyria or babylong? compare all this with story of the world timelines)

570 B.C.: Muhammed born in Mecca.

559-331 B.C.: Persian Empire. Modern-day Iran. Medes and Persians who made up the Persian Empire came from central Asia around 800 B.C. Their ruler, Cyrus the Great, rebelled against the Medes and gained control, then expanded Persia with capital on the Silk Road. Persia reached from Mediterranean to Afghanistan. Ruled fairly to gain support of subjects. One Persian king, Darius, especially great general. Followed religious teachings of a Persian prophet named Zarathustra. (teachings brought from Asia.) (Zoroastrianism.) This religion influenced Christianity later.
Extended into India and Greece for a time. Satraps (governors) paid taxes and ruled peacefully. Darius built roads connecting all parts of the empire, introduced standard coinage and controlled the Western end of the Silk Road. Conquered by the Greeks.

238 B.C. to AD 63: First the Parthians, then the Sassanids rose to power in Persia. Not much is known about them, but they did halt Rome’s eastern expansion and were excellent warriors. They practiced Zoroastianism. They fell to Muslim Arabs in 63 and became Muslim, too.
early 500s: Haggia Sophia built in Constantinople.

200-100 B.C.: Rome destroyed Carthage and this started downfall of Phoenicians (fact check this).

69 B.C.: Cleopatra born

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

539 B.C.: Babylon conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia, who freed the Jews. Ruled till Alex the Great took it over in 331.

700: Major advances in chemistry in Baghdad
810: Algebra invented in Persia

900: Arabic advances in astronomy

750-1258: The Abbasid Dynasty. Abassids defeated previous Sunni leaders, the Umayyads. During this time the Islamic Empire was unified, culture flourished and Baghdad, the captial, became great. Court in Baghdad was the setting for much of ‘the Thousand and One Nights.
…taking Constantinople for Islam, and ruled over the Abassid Empire, too. The Byzantine Empire soon became the Ottoman Empire under the Ottoman Turks and built the Ottoman Empire. Byzantine Empire retook Constantinople in 1261, but Ottomans exanded all over Greece nd Central Europe, then in 1453 finally defeated Constantinople! Ottomans keen on good ties and trade with West. Occupied the Balkans, Blak Sea, Anatolia, Syria, more. Constantinople became Istanbul. Europe did feel threatened by closer presence of Muslims. Ottomans dominated Middle East, especially under Suleymon the Magnificent.

1258: The Monguls overra and destroyed the Abbasid dynasty and the Turks, who had been divided not 150 years before. Turks moved closer to Constantinople.

1095-1291: The Crusades

Palestine was the Muslim and Christian holy land, with Jerusalem as the holiest city. The Turks didn’t allow Crhristians to pilgrimage to there, which sparked the Pope to call on Christians to “fre” it from Muslims. At first, loners went. In 1099, well-disciplined army went and succceeeded in caturing Jerusalem. Massacred inhabitants.

1187: Recaptured by Muslims. Later, after attempts to get it back, a peace treaty signed sharing Jerusalem. Christians allowed to visit again. A fourth through eigth crusade unsuccessful. In 1291, Palestine conquered by the sultan of Egypt and crusades ended.

1347-1351: The Black Death. One of worst disasters in history. Wiped out 1/3 of population of Middle East and Europe.

Early Modern Times (1500 to 1900)

Early 1500s: Persians gained independence under the Safavid dynasty. Shiite Islam became sate religion. Many religious wars with Sunni Ottomans but held strong against being taken over by Ottomans.

1600s: Slow decline of the Ottomans began. Prosperity reduced gradually by military defeat[?}, plagues, new sea routes let to reductiion of traffic through trade routes. Lost more and more of the empire–chipped away. Russia took the Crimea and most of Ukraine. Whole middle east greatly weakened. Persia, though, remained stable. Did avoid colonization, though. (!)

The Modern Era (1900 to the present)

1948: State of Israel formed. Many Jews returned to Palestine. Conflict between Israel and the Arab countries of Egypt, Jordan and Syriaincreased. Arabs aided by other Arab countries, too.

The U.S. sided wih th Mid-Eastern allies who sold U.S. oil, especially Kuwait. Shiite fundamentalists came to power in Iran in 1979. Israel often aggressive, proactive.

1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait to improve its sea access and U.S. and other countries united against Iraq and liberated Kuwait.

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