Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations

This timeline tracks the history of the regional and imperial powers in antiquity. The chronology of the timeline follows Mario Liverani in his book titled, The Ancient Near East: History, Society, and Economy.

0539 BC-09-01 17:07:15

The Fall of Babylon

Babylon fell to the Persians at the hands of Cyrus the Great. This brought an end to Mesopotamian dominance of the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Mesopotamian cuneiform culture all but disappeared from history in the centuries that followed.

0625 BC-09-01 17:07:15

Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire

Though relatively short-lived, the Neo-Babylonian empire has the distinction of conquering the Neo-Assyrians. It is perhaps most famous for its king Nebuchadnezzar, who exiled hordes of Judeans to Babylon and conquered Jerusalem. He was also a magnificent builder, who made Babylon world-famous in antiquity for its architecture.

0900 BC-09-01 17:07:15

Neo-Assyrian Empire

Starting with king Assurnasirpal, the Neo-Assyrian Empire grew to at least four times larger than its size under any previous Assyrian king. At its height, the empire covered modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, most of Egypt, and parts of Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, and Iran. Their tactics were harsh, their military fierce. The violent nature of a Neo-Assyrian attack is preserved in reliefs found in Sennacherib's palace, which depict the seige of the Judean town of Lachish.

0922 BC-10-01 21:30:54

Kingdom of Judah

Judah was able to outlast its more powerful northern neighbor Israel due in part to the fortification projects (and a generous tribute) carried out by King Hezekiah, who the Assyrian king Sennacherib bragged was locked up in Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage." Though most of Judah was laid waste by the Assyrians, Jerusalem survived the siege. Judah could not withstand the Babylonians, however, who destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.

0922 BC-10-01 21:30:54

Kingdom of Israel

Referred to as the House of Omri by sources outside the Bible, the northern kingdom of Israel was a much more formidable regional power than its southern neighbor Judah. Israel was engaged in regional conflicts with its neighbors throughout most of its history, and eventually joined an alliance against the invading Assyrians. But this was to no avail, Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.

1000 BC-11-01 23:36:35

The United Kingdom of Israel

According to the Bible, the kingdom was first lead by King Saul, who died in battle. He was succeeded by David, who made his capital and established a dynasty in Jerusalem. David was succeeded by his son Solomon, who built a temple dedicated to their national deity, Yahweh. The Bible presents Solomon as expanding the kingdom to its largest size. Shortly after his death, the kingdom split into two separate states: Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Even at its height, the kingdom of Israel was no more than a modest regional power.

1360 BC-09-01 17:07:15

Middle Assyrian Period

After a period of decline, Assyria once again rose to prominence in the region, led most notably by king Tukulti-Ninurta. The king had many military victories, including the defeat of Babylon and the deportation of its people; he destroyed the city's walls and temples and removed the statue of Marduk (the patron god of Babylon).

1370 BC-11-01 23:36:35

Hittite Kingdom

With its capital Hattusa located in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Hittite empire grew to be one of the largest the ancient world had seen until that time. It stretched from the Aegean to the Upper Tigris, and from the Black Sea to Lebanon. Though the Hittite language was Indo-European and not Semitic, the Hittites adopted Mesopotamian cuneiform writing.

1600 BC-09-01 17:07:15

Kassite Period

In the presence of a power vacuum in Babylon, the throne was seized by people who called themselves Kassites, recent immigrants to the region. Though this group gained political prominence, it is difficult to detect their cultural impact in Babylon. Mesopotamian scribal culture thrived under the Kassites, in fact, it is during this period that the literary dialect of Akkadian known as Standard Babylonian developed and that many of the most important works, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, were given their standardized form. Standard Babylonian would remain the literary dialect for the rest of Mesopotamian history.

1850 BC-06-01 19:05:23

Mari

The archives found at Mari have shed light on a previously unknown region and period. Mari is important because of its location on the route between Mesopotamia and Syria. As a result of this location, Mari has the distinction of being culturally both West and East Semitic. While its power structure reflected the palace structure of Mesopotamia, it also reflected the tribal kin-based structure of the west.

1894 BC-09-01 17:07:15

Old Babylonian Period

King Hammurabi rose to power in Babylon and eventually conquered most of modern-day Iraq and part of Syria. However, Hammurabi is best known for his law code. The code provides a great picture of Babylonian society. In particular it demonstrates the social classes that existed during that time.

1950 BC-07-01 16:48:09

Old Assyrian Period

When the Ur III dynasty collapsed, Ashur to the north became independent and native Assyrian kingship/dynasties of Assyria began to rise. In the Old Assyrian period a long distance trading network with Anatolia is well-documented.

2120 BC-10-01 21:16:21

Ur III Period

After the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, the Sumerian king Ur-Namma of the 3rd dynasty at Ur united much of modern-day Iraq. He also constructed a large Ziggurat, and is the first king known to have put laws into writing. The scribal school, known as the edubba, developed during this period, making Mesopotamian scribal culture more uniform and advanced, and leading to the production of literary texts in the Sumerian language. Thus, this era is sometimes referred to as the Sumerian renaissance.

2350 BC-10-01 21:16:21

The Akkadian Empire

The rise of the Akkadians, a Semitic-speaking people, marks a major shift in Mesopotamian history. King Sargon was the first to attempt to control such a vast and diverse territory (much of modern-day Iraq). The imperial ideology of the Akkadians is reflected in the militaristic territorial expansion that characterized the empire. Though the Akkadians spoke a different language than the Sumerians, they adopted the Sumerian writing system and Sumerian culture.

2900 BC-12-01 19:10:11

Sumer - Early Dynastic Period

As the title suggests, it is during this period that hereditary kingship developed in Mesopotamia. As the palace gained prominence and power, the temple became more of an independent unit, though it was controlled by the palace. The realm of the gods closely resembled that of people. Writing became more advanced during this period. Though still mostly employed for administrative record-keeping, kings began using writing for things like dedication inscriptions.

4000 BC-01-01 01:10:05

Sumer - The Uruk Period

The building of Uruk in Sumer coincided with tremendous innovations. The center of Sumerian civilization, at its zenith it was the largest city in the world. This period (4,000-3100 B.C.E.) was marked with advances in technology, architecture, mass production, labor specialization, and social stratification. It is also in this period that writing developed. The most important and most powerful institution in early urban life was the temple. In Uruk, a massive temple complex was built for the goddess Inanna. In the famous Epic of Gilgamesh, King Gilgamesh is credited with building the walls of Uruk. Tablet XI of Gilgamesh contains a flood story that resembles the biblical story of Noah in Genesis.

Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations

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