(Turkey-Türkiye-Asia Minor): The Heartland of
"The gateway between Europe
"A country situated at
the heart of the oldest continents of earth...Turkey"
"The crossroads of many important routes
"A bridge between ages, nations and
The Ancient Near
The ancient Near
East refers to early civilizations in a region roughly corresponding
to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria),
Persia (modern Iran), Anatolia (modern Turkey), the Levant (modern
Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Jordan), and Ancient Egypt,
from the beginnings of Sumer in the 6th millennium BC until the
region's conquest by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
The ancient Near East is considered the cradle of civilization. It
was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture; it
produced the first writing system, invented the potter's wheel and
then the vehicular- and mill wheels, created the first centralized
governments, law codes and empires, as well as introducing social
stratification, slavery and organized warfare, and it laid the
foundation for the fields of mathematics, medicine and astronomy.
(Turkey-Türkiye-Asia Minor), Mesopotamia and Ancient
Mesopotamia is "between" (or in the middle of,
mesos) the "rivers" (potamoi). Those are the Tigris and the Euphrates. These rivers arise near each other in the mountains of Anatolia. The Tigris, to the east, runs more or less straight down to the Persian Gulf. The Euphrates, to the west, wanders off further to the west for a while. The large plain between the two rivers in the north is the
jazîra, the "island," or the nahrain, the "two rivers," in Arabic. This area is now divided between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The historic kingdom actually based in the
Mitanni. Just below midcourse, the rivers approach each other. In this area one finds the historic cities of Babylon, Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Baghdad, progressing roughly from south to north. Babylon was on the Euphrates, the later cities all on the Tigris. Below these cities, the rivers spread out again before merging into the Shatt-al-Arab, which flows into the Gulf. This southern area between the rivers, lying entirely in modern Iraq, constituted ancient
Sumeria. Akkad, which conquered Sumeria under Sargon, straddled the rivers north and south of their middle course convergence. Sumer and Akkad together become Babylonia. The Tigris valley north of this becomes the heartland of Assyria. Assyria frequently sought to expand across the
jazîra and eventually conquered not only Babylonia but the Levant, the mountains to the north and east of Assyria, and, briefly, even distant Egypt. The Persian Empire finally encompased all this area, including the Iranian plateau and central Asia.
We work out here ancient Mesopotamia down to Alexander the Great, and the culturally related nearby states in Anatolia
(Asia Minor), the Levant, and Iran.
Ancient Anatolian Peoples,
Cultures, Civilisations Index