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Iraq: history


Ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamian Timeline from 5000 to 250 BC

Mesopotamia: an introduction
Geographical and climatological background, including an introduction to the people (Sumerians, Akkadians, etc), the divine world, economy, Assyriology and archaeology. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

Pre-history in Mesopotamia
The Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

Proto-history in Mesopotamia
Sumerian kings, the Flood story, first cities (Jemdet Nasr), the Old Sumerian Age, and the Early Dynastic period. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

The Bronze Age in Mesopotamia
The Empire of Sargon, plus the neo-Sumerian, Old Babylonian, Old Assyrian and late Bronze Age periods. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

The Iron Age in Mesopotamia
The New Assyrian period and the New Babylonian empire. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

The Sumerians 2900-1800 BC
In an area now in Kuwait and northern Saudi Arabia, a mysterious group of people, speaking a language unrelated to any other known language, began to live in cities, and began to write... [World Civilisations website]

Gilgamesh c2700 BC
Gilgamesh, a historical king of Uruk in Babylonia who lived about 2700 BC, was the subject of numerous stories and myths - some of which were written down on clay tablets which still survive. [World Civilisations website]

The Akkadians 2340-2135 BC
The Akkadians were a Semitic people, originally living on the Arabian peninsula, who migrated north and came into conflict with the Sumerian city-states. In 2340 BC, the great Akkadian military leader, Sargon, conquered Sumer and built a capital city called Akkad (later known as Babylon). [World Civilisations website]

The Old Babylonian period (Amorites) 1900-1530 BC
Around 1900 BC, a group of Semites called the Amorites gained control of most of the Mesopotamian region and based their capital in Babylon, which was originally called Akkad. [World Civilisations website]

The Code of Hammurabi c1792-1750 BC
An early example of legislation. Translated by L.W. King (1910). Edited with footnotes by Richard Hooker. [World Civilisations website]

The Hittites 1600-717 BC
The invasion of the Hitties ended the Old Babylonian empire in Mesopotamia. Although little is known about their origins, the Hitties ruled a huge area stretching from Mesopotamia to Syria and Palestine. [World Civilisations website]

The Kassites 1530-1170
In the  second millenium BC, Indo-European peoples began vast and chaotic migrations out of Europe towards Persia and India - migrations powered by the stunning new technology of horses and chariots. These invasions displaced many peoples who began to migrate in many directions, and some headed towards Mesopotamia - among them the Kassites. [World Civilisations website]

The Assyrians 1170-612 BC
The Assyrians were Semitic people in the northern reaches of Mesopotamia. Under the monarch, Shamshi-Adad, they attempted to build their own empire, but Hammurabi soon crushed the attempt. [World Civilisations website]

The Chaldeans (Neo-Babylonian period) 612-539 BC
Suffering mightily under the Assyrians, the city of Babylon finally rose up against its hated enemy, the city of Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire, and burned it to the ground.

Mesopotamia and the Persians
By 486 BC, the Persians controlled all of Mesopotamia and, in fact, a vast area stretching from Macedon (north-east of Greece) to Egypt, from Palestine and the Arabian peninsula across Mesopotamia and all the way to India. [World Civilisations website]

Ancient culture

The earliest writing in Mesopotamia was a picture writing invented by the Sumerians who wrote on clay tablets using long reeds. [World Civilisations website]

The Cuneiform writing system
A detailed explanation [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

Sumerian riddle T-shirt
The University of Pennsylvania is selling T-shirts with a cuneiform riddle found on an ancient clay tablet at Ur.

The Akkadian language
An introduction to Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform texts. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

Akkadian linguistics
Explanation of the grammatical system. [From Akkadian Language by John Heise]

The Sumerians: mythology and religion
by Christopher Siren

Babylonian mathematics
School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland


Stolen Stones: the Modern Sack of Nineveh
A case of archaeological vandalism in the great imperial capital? [Archaeological Institute of America]

Bismya or The Lost City of Adab
Full text of the book by Edgar James Banks (New York, 1912) detailing the rediscovery and excavation of the lost city of Adab

The Samarra' Archaeological Survey  
Samarra', 125 km north of Baghdad, on the east bank of the Tigris, was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphs. With the remains of collapsed pisé and brick walls still visible, Samarra' is now one of  the largest archaeological sites in the world.

The holy city of Nippur
In the desert a hundred miles south of Baghdad, Iraq lies a great mound of man-made debris 60 feet high and almost a mile across. This is Nippur, for thousands of years the religious centre of Mesopotamia. [Oriental Institute excavations report]

The palace of Ashurnasirpal II
An animated fly-through of the palace [University of Pennsylvania]

Artifacts from ancient Iraq
Virtual Museum Online - The Assyrian Gallery

Photographic archives: Iraq
Oriental Institute


The royal tombs of Ur
Travelling exhibition from University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Assyrian gallery
from the collection of the Oriental Institute Virtual Museum

Early Islamic period

The Arab conquest and the coming of Islam

The golden age of Arab and Islamic culture
by Gaston Wiet. From "Baghdad: Metropolis of the Abbasid Caliphate", University of Oklahoma Press

Baghdad under the Abbasids
(c.1000 CE)
A contemporary description of the city in its heyday

Civil war and the Umayyads
From the death of the Prophet to the end of the Ummayad Dynasty (661-750 CE). By Richard Hooker [World Cultures website]

The Abbasid Dynasty (750 to 1258 CE)
by Richard Hooker [World Cultures website]

The Golden Age of Arab and Islamic Culture
by Gaston Wiet, from "Baghdad: Metropolis of the Abbasid Caliphate", chapter 5. University of Oklahoma Press

Ottoman period

The Ottoman period 1534-1918
[US Library of Congress]

The Ottomans
[World Civilisations website]

Twentieth century

The First World War and the British Mandate
[US Library of Congress]

Iraq as an independent monarchy
[US Library of Congress]

Republican Iraq
[US Library of Congress]

Coups, coup attempts, and foreign policy
[US Library of Congress]

The emergence of Saddam Hussein 1968-79
[US Library of Congress]


In the Iraqi history section


In the Iraq section

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Last revised on 03 August, 2015