National Geographic : 1991 May
CALENDAR OF EVENTS 6000 B.C. As early herdsmen and farmers from the north filter into the Tigris and Euphrates River basins, villages and towns appear. Stockbreeding, grain cultivation, and irrigation evolve to form the agricultural basis of the prehistoric Ubaid culture. 3500 B.C. Irrigation systems create the food surpluses needed to nurture the world's first cities. Their inhabitants, the Sumerians, invent writing, a cornerstone of civilization. A power ful priesthood emerges to serve local deities, whose temples dominate each city. 3000 B.C. Ruled by newly powerful leaders, the first kings, cities become city-states. With lance and shield, they clash for power. Trade blossoms with cultures in Anatolia, Syria, Per sia, and the Indus Valley. 2300 B.C. Armed with spears and arrows, the Akkadians, under their king Sargon, subdue the Sumerians, creating the first Mesopotamian empire. After a Sumerian revival the region splinters into small kingdoms, absorbing incur sions from both east and west. 1792-1595 B.C. Under Hammurapi, whose legal code commands an eye for an eye, Baby lon gains ascendancy. Commerce, astrology, and the arts flourish before Babylon is sacked by the Hittites. 1595-1157 B.C. The Kassites-a tribe from the Zagros Mountains--control southern Meso potamia; in the north Assyria gains strength. 883-612 B.C. Following a 300-year Mideast ern dark age, a resurgent Assyria, with chariots and iron weapons, forges an empire that con trols the entire Fertile Crescent, from the Per sian Gulf to Egypt. 612-539 B.C. Medes, Scythians, and Chalde ans oust the Assyrians. A Neo-Babylonian em pire emerges. Nebuchadnezzar raises Babylon to new glory and takes the Israelites captive. 539 B.C.-A.D. 637 Eleven centuries of foreign domination begin with the conquest of Babylo nia by the Persians in 539 B.C. Following Hellenistic rule starting with Alexander the Great (who dies at Babylon in 323 B.C .), Meso potamia is controlled for 350 years by the Par thians, then by the Sassanids. A.D. 637 Five years after Muhammad's death at Medina, Arabs seize the Sassanid stronghold of Ctesiphon, gaining control of Mesopotamia. A.D. 750-1258 The Abbasid Caliphate establishes its capital at Baghdad, which becomes the beacon of an Islamic golden age in the arts and sciences. A.D. 1258 The Mongols destroy Baghdad, a city of 800,000 people, ending Abbasid rule. They become assimilated into Islamic culture. A.D. 1534-1932 Stileyman the Magnificent enters Baghdad. Some 400 years of Ottoman dominance end with the British occupation in 1917. In 1932 Iraq is admitted to the League of Nations as an independent state.