The Roots of civilisation, the formation of the cities and the culture they produced began in Mesopotamia, "The land between the two rivers," more than 5000 years ago.
Understanding this history and vast cultural legacy that Mesopotamia produced is necessary in order to respect and protect the cultural heritage of modern Iraq as well as understanding the people who inhabit this most ancient of the ancient lands.
Dawn of Civilisation in Mesopotamia
Neanderthal burials discovered at Shanidar
Late Paleolithic / proto-Neolithic remains discovered at Shanidar
c. 9500 BC
Early farming community at Nimrik
Elam (the highlands in present-day east and southeast Iraq) becomes a major farming region; organized agriculture with primitive irrigation begins
first temples are built in southern Mesopotamia
Samarran culture (prosperous highly organized Chalcolithic or Copper Age society) develops at Tell es-Sawwan
c. 5000-4700 BC
Kish, the earliest city in Mesopotamia we recognize today, founded circa 5000 BC, followed by Eridu, founded circa 4900 BC; followed by the ﬁrst true city Uruk, founded circa 4200 BC (would eventually grow to more than 80,000 inhabitants).
Development of the wheel; urban culture ﬂourishes.
Early Bronze Age
Uruk period: birth of Sumerian city-states, ‘proto-cuneiform’ notation, ﬁrst civil law, invention of astronomy, astrology, irrigation, potter's wheel.
The world's first cities appear along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers just north of what is now the Persian Gulf. Collectively, these cities comprise the Umk culture, named after the principal city, Uruk, which is the Biblical Erech
The Uruk culture invents writing and the lunar calendar, uses metals extensively, develops a practice of medicine, and builds monumental architecture. No unified government links these cities; they remain independent for almost one thousand years
Early Middle Bronze Age
City-states emerge in Sumer and Akkad; earliest kings found in the Sumerian kings list.
The city of Uruk, with a population of more than 50,000 is ruled by the Sumerian king. Gilgamesh who has since become me the subject of many epics, including the Sumerian "Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Nether World‘ and the Babylonian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh“.
The rise of cities under powerful rulers such as Gilgamesh, ﬁﬁh king of the First Dynasty of Uruk First literary texts appear ("Epic of Gilgamesh’) in cuneiform.
Great wealth and power are accumulated by the ruling class, as evidenced by the Royal Cemetery and the ‘Death Pit‘ at Ur (Ur Ill Style, early Dynastic IIIA period, the pinnacle of Sumerian culture); .
Tomb of Queen Puabi was still intact when British archaeologist C. Leonard Wooley excavated the site in the 19205. More than 1800 burials were found, including 16 royal graves
Dynasty of Lagash rises in Sumer; Laghash's king, Ur-Nanshe, is the earliest Sumerian ruler whose name is known from inscriptions
c. 2575 - 2550 BC
Ur-Nanshe's grandson, Eannaturn, the prince of Lagash (dates unknown) conquers Ur, Nippur, Akshak, Larsa, Umma and Uruk and annexes Kish - establishes one of the ﬁrst veriﬁable empires in history
Entemena. king of Lagash issues the first known legal decree ["Entemena instituted liberty in Lagash. He restored the child to its mother and the mother to its child; he cancelled interest.”].
2400 - 2380 BC
Urukagina, king of Lagash, creates ﬁrst judicial code and reforms to combat corruption.
2380 - 2360 BC
Lugal-Zage-Si, king of Uruk and Umma (reign: 2296 - 2271 BC), conquers Lagash.
Sargon, an ofﬁcal in the city of Kish, founds the city-state of Akkad and crowns himself Sargon I ["the Great"], is the ﬁrst ruler in history to maintain a permanent standing army (5,400 strong); by 2320 BC, Sargon conquers attacks Uruk, defeats its ruler Lugal-Zage-Si and conquers the independent city-states of Sumer, establishing the world's second empire, stretching from Elam in the south to the Meditewanean in the west.
c. 2334-c, 2279 BC
Akkadian Empire reaches its zenith under Sargon I's third successor and grandson, Naram Sln, the King Akkad, Sumer & Elam ["l'he Mighty One"], the ﬁrst Mesopotamian ruler to claim divinity ('Sin' refers to god) for himself. Akkadian Empire falls to the Gutians after Naram-Sin's death.
2190 - 2154 BC
Lagash recovers, its King Gudea rebuilds the city's temple; many statues of Gudea are created to celebrate his good works.
The Sumerian King List records all kings and dynasties that ruled Sumer from the earliest times. Eridu is the earliest identiﬁed settlement on the list that modern archaeologists have been able to confirm.
c. 2125 - 2100 BC
Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur ill, also known as the Sumerian Renaissance or neo-Sumerian period) begins
Ur-Nammu, founder of the Third Dynasty of Ur, unites - Lagash and Ur, builds the Great Zlgurrat at Ur, writes the Law Code of Ur-Nammu, the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today, written in the Sumerian language circa 2100-2050 BC.
Middle to Late Bronze Age
c. 2125 - 2100 BC
Ur III rule and Sumer weaken, probably due to an increase in the salt content of the soil, thereby making farming difﬁcuit; the Elamites from Persia invade Sumer, destroy its capital, Ur, then withdraw; Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur Ill) collapses.
c. 2000 BC
The Amorites, a Semitic people situated south of Babylon, sweep north and conquer Sumer; Babylon henceforth serves as religious and intellectual capital of southern Mesopotamia; the Old Babylonian era begins.
c. 1900 BC
Amorites rule Akkad & Sumer (North & South Babylonla)
c. 1000-1595 BC
Laws of Eschunna written at Babylon.
c. 1900 BC
The Old Babylonlans employ advanced mathematics, such as multiplication, division and square roots; they use a system based on 12 and 6 to measure time; we still use their system for counting minutes and hours.
c. 1800 BC
Old Babylonian (Amorite) ruler Harnrnurabi writes law code in 1758 BC; his 282 rules include the principles of "an eye for an eye‘ and ‘let the buyer beware. ‘
c. 1792 - 1745 BC
The Hittltes from Anatolia (modem-day Turkey) expand their empire into northern Mesopotamia (present-day Kurdistan).
The Kassitea, an obscure tribe from the Zagros mountains, invade and defeat Old Babylon with the help of light chariot warfare, unite the feuding city states, create "œBabyIonia"; Kassite rule continues to circa 1157 BC.
Akkadian Cuneifonn becomes the common language of the Near East for official/religious texts.
Hittite culture reaches its high point, dominating the territory to the north and west of Babylon, Indudlng Turkey and northern Palestine.
Early Iron Age
Late Bronze Age
the "Bronze Age Collapse" sweeps across the ancient world; drought ensues; crops fail; trade routes are interrupted; palace cultures are replaced by isolated village cultures; literacy declines.
circa 1206-1150 BC
nomadic invaders and disruptive migration contribute to the 'Dark Age of Mesopotamia'; few written records exist from Mesopotamia & Egypt during this period.
The Elamite army (from western Persia) seizes Babylonia. Kassite rule in Babylonia comes to an end.
Tlgleth Plleser I re-ignites the Assyrian Empire, captures Babylonia, and begins to rebuild temples, giving rise to the Neo-Assyrian era.
Ashurpasirpal I1's son, Shalmanosar III, spends 31 of his 35-year reign at war; the Neo-Assyrians occupy Babylon and rule an empire from Egypt to Persia.
After decades of war between Ashumasirpal II and the Syrian alliance, the Neo-Assyrian king Adad-nerara II sacks Damascus in 796 BC (confirmed by archaeology and reported in the Bible, 2 Kings 13:5).
one of the most successful military leaders in history, Tlglauu-Plluor III, signals the beginning of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, conquers most of the remaining world known to the ancient Assyrians.
ï¬gleth-Pileser III's son and successor Shalmaneoer V dies in battle quelling a revolt in Samaria (present"”day Israel); is succeeded by Sargon II.
Sargon I! abandons the Assyrian capital at Nimrud, builds a new capital at Dur-Sharrukun ("Fortress of Sargon'); re-captures or tightens control over Babylonia, Syria, Samaria; crowns himself king of Assyria and Babylonia.
Sargon II's death in battle against the Cimmerians is considered a bad omen; his successor Sennacherib abandons Dur Sharmkin, builds a new capital at Ninevah where he forms a library of Sumerian and Babylonian tablets. Sennacherib is a proliï¬c builder and powerful ruler who subdues most of western Asia.
Sannacherib invades Judah, lays seige to Jerusalem, but ceases and returns to Nineveh to quell an attempted coup. According to the Bible (2 Kings 19:35), the seige of Jerusalem failed because the angel of Jehovah struck down 185,000 of Sannacherib's Assyrian troops.
After years of conï¬‚ict, Sannacherib sacks Babylon, leaves the ruined city unoccupied for several years, while turning his attention to the invasion of Egypt.
Assyrian king Ealrhaddon (reign: 681-668 BC) invades Egypt, captures, Memphis, crowns himself "King of Egypt, Patros and Kush', returns to Nineveh with vast booty; Egyptians begin to revolt almost immediately.
Assyrian capital Nineveh becomes the world's largest city; the second largest is Thebes in Egypt.
A generation after Sannacherib destroyed it, Ashurbanlpal rebuilds Babylon, continues his military campaign, sacks Susa, defeats the Elamites; founds a library at Nineveh which contains the earliest complete copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
650 - 640 BC
Nabopolassar, ruler of the tiny kingdom of Chaldee (southern Mesopotamia), seizes Babylon and founds the Chaldean Dynasty (625-539 BC).
An alliance of Chaldeans and Babylonians, Medes from northern Persia and Susianlans from Egypt attack Assyria; the Assyian king is kiIIed; Assyria's key cities Nineveh and Ashur are sacked.
Nabopolassar's son and successor, the Babylonian-Chaldean King Nabuchadnozzar II conquers Jerusalem, destroys the Temple (the Jews and Temple goods are exiled to Babylon (\"Babylonian Captivity\") until the Persian conquest of Babylon in 538 BC); Nebuchadnezzar invades Egypt (568), re-builds Babylon Palace, builds the Ishtar Gate and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Eight Wonders of the Ancient World.
Achaemenid ruler Cyrus the Great seizes Babylon (538); Neo-Babylonian Empire collapses; the 'Babylonian Captivity' of the Jews ends (Jews are allowed to return to Jerusalem); Cyrus's successor Darius I makes Aramaic the ofï¬cial language from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.
which began at the Battle of Marathon (490 BC) culminates in the defeat of the Persian army by Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugemela (331 BC) near present-day Arbil.
492-330 BC - Generations of conflict between the Adiaemenld Persians and the Greeks
Alexander dies at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.
disagreements among Alexander's generals over division of the newly-won empire leads to conï¬‚ict "” the War of the Diadochi ("War of the sucessors").
Alexander's cavalry commander Seleucus I Nlcator and two other ofﬁcers assassinate Perdiccas, the Empire's newly-Installed regent and guardian of Alexander's unborn son. Securing himself at Babylon, Seleucus seizes all of Alexander's conquered territory from Syria to India, including all of Mesopotamia, forming the vast Seleucld Empire.
Rome's victory In the Second Punic War (218-201BC) and conquest of Greece (146 BC) pressures and destabilizes the Seleucld Empire; taking advantage of this weakness, the Parthians defeat the Seleucid army in Mesopotamia; using local Greek-trained builders, the Parthians erect a splendid Hellenistic-style city at Hatra in northern Iraq and a capital at Cteslphon, across the river from Seleucia-on-the-Tigris. Mesopotamia becomes the center of the Silk and Spice Route linking China in the east with Rome in the West.
The Parthians deal the Roman legions under Crassus a decisive defeat at Haran (ancient Carrhae) in northern Mesopotamia.
Parthians maintain control over Mesopotamia, a critical link in Silk Road trade between China and the Mediterranean.
Roman emperor Trajan invades Parthia.
Parthians try to retake Mesopotamia, are repulsed by Roman general Septimius Severus. Ctesiphon is re-captured (198); the gold and silver brought from Ctesiphon to Rome was sufficient to postpone a European economic crisis for three or four decades. The Parthians were ruined.
Persian vassal king, Ardasil, re-unites the Persians under the Sassanid dynasty and seizes Ctesiphon (AD 226) as their new capital. setbacks incurred by the Romans and the Byzantine Empire allowed the Sassanids to prosper until the advent of Islam.
The Sassanlan Empire, which once extended from the Eastern boundary of the Roman Empire to present-day Afghanistan, disintegrates as its lands were seized by: 0 - - Arab armies under Mohammed (662-632 AD); - during the Patriarchal Caliphate (632-661 AD); and during the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750).
First Islamic Civil War
Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib is assassinated and succeeded by Hasayn ibn All as the Shia imam and Muawiyah I as the Sunni Caliph - the foundation of the Umayad Caliphate.
Battle of Karbala occurs near Kufa, which led to the killing of Husayn ibn Ali and the division of the Muslim community into Sunni and Shia sects.
Second Islamic Civil war
The last Umayyad Caliph Marwan II (744-750) is overthrown and executed by the ï¬rst Abbasid Caliph, Abu al-Abbas al-Saffah. The Caliphate moves to Baghdad, within the territory of the former Persian Empire; Baghdad evolves into a center of trade and culture.
The House of wisdom, a library and translation center, established by the Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun in Baghdad, preserves the culture of the ancient world by translating classic works from Greek and Persian for the Muslim world. One of the ï¬rst works of algebra ('The Compendlus Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing") by Al-Khawarizmi was completed at the House of wisdom.
Revolt in Baghdad forces the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil to move to Samarra, where he built a city, mosque and minaret, and palace complex (al Jafariyya, 859-860).
The Caliph returns to Baghdad, which for the next four centuries was a center of learning and the leading metropolis of the Arab and Muslim world (population: more than one million).
Baghdad is captured, sacked and burned by the Mongol leader Hulagu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Kahn. The Grand Library of Baghdad ("House of Wisdom") is destroyed along with thousands of irreplaceable historical, scientiﬁc and artistic works. The city never regains its status as a center of culture and inﬂuence.
Ottoman Empire (established in 1299) seizes Baghdad.
Ottomans lose Baghdad to the Persians.
Ottomans re-take Baghdad; the next 250 years, the Mesopotamian region serves as a buffer between the Ottoman Turks in the west and the Persians in the east.
Mamluks (former slave military cadre) govern Baghdad as client-rulers under Ottoman Turk protection.
Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) formed, concession given to the British by 1914
Boundary with Kuwait defined by Anglo-Turkish Convention
The Ottomans were driven from Baghdad for most of World War I
Mandate for Iraq and Palestine awarded to Great Britain by the League of Nations.
The Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra are combined by Great Britain to form modern Iraq; Kurdish and Arab rebellions are suppressed;.
(23 August) Hashemite King Faysal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, is crowned as a client ruler with Sunni Arab ministers; boundary with Saudi Arabia is agreed upon, along with creation of Iraq-Saudi Neutral Zone (entire boundary re-deï¬ned by treaty in 1981);
(October 3) Iraq becomes an independent state; British maintain a military presence.
(October) ï¬rst military coup d'etat, under General Bakr Sidqi.
UK invades Iraq, fearing that the government of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani might cut oil supplies to Western nations, as well as his sympathies toward Nazi Germany.
Hashemite monarchy restored under military occupation (ends 26 October 1947).
Iraqi troops participate in the Arab League invasion of the state of Israel.
(February) Hashemlte kingdoms of Iraq and Jordan join into Arab Union Federation.
(July 14) second military coup, led by Iraqi Army Brigadier General Abdul al-Karim Qasim and Colonel Abdul al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq is declared a republic; Qaslm becomes prime minister; the monarchy is eliminated; friendly relations with the Soviet Union begin.
Qasim claims Kuwait as integral part of Iraq; Kurds begin an11ed revolt against Baghdad.
(8 February) Qasim killed in third military coup, led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP); Abdul al-Salam Muhammad Arif becomes president.
(18 November) Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.
(17 April) after Arif dies in a helicopter crash on 13 April, his elder brother, Major General Abdul al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.
cease-fire is effected between rebellious Kurds and government forces.
(17 July) fourth military coup, a Baathist led group ousts Abdul ai-Rahman Muhammad Arif; General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr becomes president.
(11 March) the Baath Party Revolution Command Council (RCC) and Mullah Mustafa Barzanl, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), sign a peace agreement, but legal status of Kurdish territory remains unresolved.
a 15-year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation is signed between Iraq and the Soviet Union.
Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), a consortium of Western companies, is nationalized.
implementing the 1970 agreement, Iraq grants limited autonomy to the Kurds, but the KDP rejects it.
(March) the Algiers Accord, codified in Baghdad Treaty, ï¬xes southern Iraq-Iran boundary along Thalweg of Shatt al Arab and formally ends Kurdish rebellion.
First export pipeline via Turkey to the Meditenanean is completed.
(1 February) Fifteen days after the departure of the Shah of Iran (ostensibly "on vacation"), Ayatollah' Ruhollah Khomeini takes control of Iraq, resulting in a Shi'ite Muslim theocratic state next to Iraq, which has a Shi'ite majority population and a Sunni Muslim regime and ruling class.
(16 July) President Al-Bakr resigns and is succeeded by Vice"”President Saddam Hussein Abdul al-Majid al Tikriti , who quickly arrests his rivals and emerges as President and Chairman of the Ba'ath Party Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).
(1 April) The pro-Iranian Dawah Party claims responsibility for an attack on Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Azlz, at Mustansiriyah University, Baghdad.
(4 September) lraq begins shelling lran-Iraqi border towns; (17 September) Iraq ofï¬cially renounces the 1975 Baghdad Treaty; Iran-lraq war ensues for the next eight years.
Export pipeline via Syria closed.
Diplomatic relations restored with U.S. (broken again in January 1991).
The 'tanker war' (increased Iraqi and Iranian attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf) transpires.
(16 March) Iraq is said to have used chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabjah.
(20 August) A ceaseï¬re comes into effect between Iran and Iraq, to be monitored by the UN Iran- Iraq Military Observer Group (Uniimog); Iraq reasserts claim to Kuwait.
(2 August) lraq invades Kuwait and is condemned by United Nations Security Council (UNSC); UNSC Resolution 660 calls for full withdrawal; (6 August) UNSC Resolution 661 imposes economic sanctions on Iraq; (29 November) UNSC Resolution 678 authorizes the states cooperating with Kuwait to use 'all necessary means' to uphold UNSC Resolution 660.
(16-17 January) U.S. and coalition forces begin aerial bombardment of Iraq ("Operation Desert Storrn').
(27 February) Kuwait is liberated.
(Mid-March/early April) Iraqi forces suppress rebellions in the south and the north of the country.
(8 April) A plan to establish a UN safe-haven in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds is approved at a European Union meeting. On 10 April the U.S. orders Iraq to end all military activity in this area.
(26 August) No-fly zones, which Iraqi planes are not allowed to enter, are set up in northern and southern Iraq.
(19 March) Kurdish groups opposed to Baghdad elect their own parliament.
(27 June) U.S. forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for the attempted assassination of President George Bush in Kuwait in April.
(29 May) Saddam Hussein becomes prime minister.
(10 November) Iraqi National Assembly recognises Kuwait's borders and its independence.
(14 April) UNSC Resolution 986 allows the partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and medicine (the 'oil-for-food programme"œ). It is not accepted by Iraq until May 1996 and is not implemented until December 1996.
(15 October) Saddam Hussein wins a referendum allowing him to remain president for another seven years.
(20 February) Hussein Kamil Hasan al-Majid and his brother, promised a pardon by Saddam Hussein, return to Baghdad and are killed on 23 February.
(31 August) Alter call for aid from KDP, Iraqi forces launch offensive into northern no-ï¬‚y zone and capture Irbil.
(3 September) U.S. extends northern limit of southern no-ï¬‚y zone to latitude 33 degrees north, just south of Baghdad.
(12 December) Saddam Hussein's elder son, Uday, is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt in Baghdad.
(31 October) lraq ends cooperation with UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom).
(16-19 December) After UN staff are evacuated from Baghdad, the U.S. and UK launch a bombing campaign, "Operation Desert Fox', to destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.
(19 February) Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shia community, is assassinated in Najaf.
(17 December) UNSC Resolution 1284 creates the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects the resolution.