Ancient Civilisations

The ancient lands of Mesopotamia were home to the Sumerian civilisation and to several powerful empires which ruled most of the Middle East, notably the Assyrian Empires of 1365 -1076 BC and the Neo Assyrian Empires of 911 – 605 BC.

Sumerian artifact: Standard of UR.
Sumerian artifact: Standard of UR. Source: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

From the early 6th century BC onwards, several Persian states dominated the region and by the 1st century BC the Middle East saw the rise of Egyptian civilisation and its monumental accomplishments. Achievements in writing, nation building, engineering and construction, were further cultivated by Greek and Roman societies, both of which later exercised their control and influence in the region. The Greeks under Alexander the Great spread their influence to Persia which they conquered and then the expanding Roman Republic conquered regions and left its lasting mark on the Middle East.

Importantly, some of the most significant contributions to human civilisation heralding from the lands of the Middle East during antiquity include:

  • The invention of the wheel and plough in ancient Mesopotamia
  • First samples of Sumerian writing (cuneiform writing), hieroglyphics in Egypt and the Phoenician alphabet propagated in the Mediterranean
  • The discovery of iron, iron smelting and smithing resulting in the Iron Age
  • Major religious and philosophical views were created, explored or codified
  • Alexandria in Egypt was a significant cultural and literary centre - its library housed the largest collection of writing in the world, which was tragically lost in a fire