Iraq - 'The Past, Present and Future of the Cradle of Civilization'!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

    The Cradle of Civilization

    Sumer, Akkad, Babylon & Assyria are the out come of the first civilization which moved from prehistory to history in the Mesopotamia present Iraq. An advanced civilization flourished in Sumer long before that of Egypt, Greece & Rome. It is deep-rooted civilization had fostered humanity from its affluent fountain for thousands of years. Now Iraq contains the world's richest known archaeological sites.

    Mesopotamia was a land of lush vegetation, abundant wildlife, & copious water resources. By 6000 B.C., many people migrated from neighboring areas into its water rich land where the Tigers meet Euphrates in the South.

    The civilized life emerged in Sumer was shaped by the unpredictable devastating floods of the two rivers & the deposit of soil to make a low level fertile Marshy land.
    For the first time in history, the Sumerian people learned to grow surplus food. As surplus production increased and as collective management became more advanced, a process of urbanization evolved and Sumerian civilization took root in the Southern Iraq.

    The Sumerians were highly innovative people who responded creatively to the challenges of nature. They innovated many great legacies to the humanity, such as writing, irrigation, the wheel, astronomy, & literature.

    The Sumerian Great Legacies

    1. Writing

    The first letter in history was written in Sumer as a pictograms (simplified pictures on clay tablets), gradually they created the Cuneiform writing which contains phonetic & syllabic, elements providing a flexible way of communication. Through writing, the Sumerians were able to pass on knowlege & exprience to successive generations; this led to marked improvements in agricultural production & science advancment.

    2. Literatures:

    Recording of poetry, epics, events & history was started by the Sumerians. The famous Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh has survived in almost the complete form. Laden with complex abstractions & emotional expressions, the epic of Gilgamesh reflects the intellectual sophistication of the Sumerians, & it has served as the prototype for all Near Eastern inundation stories.

    3. Religion:

    The precariousness of existence in southern Mesopotamia led to a highly developed sense of religion. Cult centers like Eridu, 5000 B.C., served as important centers of pilgrimage & devotion. These cult centers emerged in most Sumerian cities, thus reinforcing the close relationship between communities & people with important political aspects. A powerful priesthood emerged to oversee ritual practices.
    The priests ruled from the temples, (ziggurats) which were essentially artificial mountains of sun-baked brick, built with outside staircases that tapered toward a shrine at the top.

    4. Civil Rules:

    Sumerian considered that all properties belong to God & land rentals, agricultural questions, trade, commercial relations, & war were determined by law. Unlike Egypt where Pharaoh used to own every thing including the people & properties as the living God, in Sumer the Royalty were no difference from the people & they are questionable by them. The Summerian used to believe in private property & any one including the Royalty may bargain for their own goods. The Sumerian society was a "Matriarchal" & women had a highly respected place in the community.

    5. The Math system:

    The Sumerian care for the wellbeing of the community led to close observation of the scientific phenomena which led to innovation of the basic unit of calculation & numbers. They developed a math system based on the numeral (60) which is the basis of time in the modern world.

    6. Time scale:

    The concept of minutes & hour is Sumerian innovation. The first human calnder was the Sumerian Calnder.

    7. Agricultural system:

    The first land cultivated by a man was here in the South of Iraq. The Sumerians then developed a highly advanced agricultural system with refined irrigation & water-control systems which was spread to the near & far neighboring countries by the invented Sumerian writing.

    8. City's plans:

    In Sumer emerged for the first time city planning before building the cities. With advancement of this the Sumerian who lack stones built bricks & achieved marked advancement in the technologies of making bricks. They also the first to use these bricks for roads. Their big cities like Uruk, Eridu, Kish, Lagash, Agade, Akshak, Larsa, & Ur attracting many immigrant who are looking for more settled & prosperous life to go there. Ur was the birth place of Prophet Abraham (PUH) who is the Grand father of Prophet Mohammad (PUH).

    9. The Wheel & Bronze:

    Both were innovated by the Sumerian 3700 B.C & led to advancement in war & technology. They discovered that when Tin melted with Copper it produce Bronze which is stronger & on the same time more durable. The first war was fought there & since then may wars happened a long it history.

    10. Role of peace:

    Sargon 2334 BC, was the first king to send his troops as far as to Egypt & Ethiopia to unify the unsettled areas who used to fight for lands and water & to introduce law & prosperity by creating mass jobs for the people with large mobilization of laborer. Sargon created the first empire in the history. Wars then started to get more so often for the wealth of this region. With civilization law & roles get more advanced but the first written & well documented law was established by Hammurabi the King of Babylon to the North of Sumer.

    11. Administrative structure:

    This was innovated by Hammurabi to the North of Sumer (Babylon) but he later ruled over Sumer as well. It was the first complete written structure for civil life in the human history called the Cod of Law.

    12. Banking activities:

    Banking originated in Mesopotamia in Babylon first temples then palaces provided a safe place for the storage of valuables. Initially deposits of grain were accepted & later other goods including cattle, agricultural implements, then precious metals.

    Sumer became the most prosperous region & the others start to battle it for the wealth like the Akkadians who are Semitic & migrated up from the Arabian Peninsula. When the two peoples clashed, the Sumerians gradually lost control over the city-states they had so brilliantly created and fell under the hegemony of the Akkadian kingdom, which was based in Akkad (Sumerian Agade). This great capital of the largest empire humans had ever seen up until that point that was later to become Babylon, which was the commercial and cultural center of the Middle East for almost two thousand years.
    In 2125 BC, the Sumerian city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia rose up in revolt, & the Akkadian empire fell before a renewal of Sumerian city-states.

    A dramatic growth in science & mathematics were then set up, like the great mathematical inventions of the division of the circle into 360 degrees and were among the first to invent longitude and latitude in geographical navigation by the Assyrians. The Mesopotamians also developed a sophisticated medical science, which greatly influenced medical science everywhere. They invented the first medical law which regulated for the first time in man history the practice of medicine & the responsibility of the practitioners for their own mistakes toward the patients & society. Hammurabi's law was the first to put rules of who should and how should medicine practiced.


    Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC), was the 6th king of Amorites in Babylon. Babylon comes from Bab-ili which means the "Gate of God". Babylonian rule encompassed a huge area covering most of the Tigris-Euphrates river valley from Sumer and the Persian Gulf in the south to Assyria in the north. Hammurabi united the land again after the fall of the great state of the Summerians & extends the empire from the Arabian Gulf to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
    Under Hammurabi's dynasty, (the First Dynasty of Babylon - 200 years), Babylonia entered into a period of extreme prosperity & relative peace. Throughout his long reign he personally supervised navigation, irrigation, agriculture, tax collection, & the erection of many temples & buildings. Although he was a successful military leader and administrator, Hammurabi is primarily remembered for his codification of the laws governing Babylonian life. Under Hammurabi the Assyrians & the Babylonians achieved complete harmonious fusion & peace.

    Hammurabi was a great lawgiver. He introduced his Code of Law in the second year of his reign. It is considered the earliest legal comprehensive code known in history. Hammurabi recorded the law code on a block of black diorite 2.4 m (8 ft) high. This was discovered by a team of French archaeologists at Susa, Iraq, during the winter of 1901 & is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Many of his concepts were adopted by the other nations & used as principles of law in modern time like:

    1. The state is the authority responsible for enforcing the law
    2. Social justice should be guaranteed
    3. The punishment should fit the crime
    4. Legal protection should be provided to lower classes

    After Hammurabi

    As mentioned before the prosperity, peace, well advanced life & system led the others to fight many wars in that region but the Mesopotamian continued to make more advancement in all aspect of their life & system. In summary the following major events happened:

    1. Around 1590 BC a Kassite tribes succeeded to control Babylonia & set itself as a dynasty.

    2. Around 1168 BC, Elamites control power from Kassite.

    3. Assyrian become a regional power North to Babylon by around 1370 BC

    4. Babylonian revolt:dynasty of Isin take over Nebuchadnezzar-I expanded the land to the North & conquered Jerusalem & carried away thousands of Hebrews back to Babylon. He allowed them to practice their religion freely & make them to learn new professions & jobs where they dissolved in the society. One of the seven wonders the Hanging Gardens were built by his son Nebuchadnezzar-II around 700 BC. The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 meters above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. The roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. It was Nebuchadnezzar II who restored Mesopotamia to its former Babylonian glory and made Babylon the most famous city of the ancient world.

    5. Around 600 BC Assyria was in its glory & controlled Babylon

    6. Around 539 BC Iranian attacked Babylon & Cyrus the Great takeover in

    7. Alexander: Babylon then declined after controlled by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, who died there in 323 BC. Mesopotamia became under the Greek Seleucid dynasty

    8. Second century BC until 7th century AD, it became part of the Persian Empire & Sassanids had their capital in Ctesiphon in Iraq. Wars between the Persians & the Byzantine weakened the Sassanids.

    9. 7th century AD, the Arab Muslims captured it from Persian by three major battles; Dhat Al-Salasil (the battle of chains) for chaining the Persian POWs by chains; Al-Buwayb and Al-Qadisiyah after which Rustum the Persian emperor was killed. The second caliph Omar (634-644 AD) ordered the founding of two important cities Basrah and Kuffa which became later the Capital of the Isalm during Imam Ali (PUH) caliphate. Later his Son Imam Hussein (PUH) the grandson of Prophet Mohammed (PUH) was killed in Kerbala about 100 miles south west of Baghdad (680 AD) by the rulers of Kuffa Bin Ziad who represent the Umayyad dynasty of Yazied Bin Maaowiah in Damascus.

    10. In 750 AD Abbasid dynasty by Abo Al Abbas established its state in Baghdad which became the capital of the Islamic world after the fall of the Umayyad dynasty. Baghdad became the centre of power in the world. It became the center for scientific and philosophical glory for decades to come. The first university in the world was built there and called Al-Mustansryiah which is still standing there in Baghdad beside the river Tigers. They translated many books in medicine, science, astrology, philosophy, physics, maths, religion like Greek Old Testament and many other books for Aristole, Hippocrates, Plato, Ptolemy, Euclid & Pythagoras. They made many great discoveries like in spherical astronomy and integral calculus. Al-Khawarizmi invented the Zero & used Algebraic equations. The book of Bin-Sina in medicine (Al-Kanoon) (The Law) considered the main reference book for medicine for many decades in ME and Europe. Medicine advanced rapidly a lot and subs-specialization started here. The Abbasid era was not without many atrocities by some of their rulers and by the outside interferences. Later on these internal affairs and the unjust of some Caliphs weakened the state. At the end the Caliph was only a Puppet for others.

    11. Mongols invasion: In the early 13th century Genghis Khan (World Conqueror) led a huge force of Mongols swept from china to the conquered all the lands and states until reaching Iran. He then died and during the time of grandson Hulagu Khan (1217 AD - 1265 AD) he entered Baghdad with 200,000 soldiers on 10th Moharam 1258 and they killed hundred of thousands of people including the last Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustaa'sm Billah who was crushed under feet. Hulagu destroyed every thing including the artistic and science work built over centuries. He burned books and it said that the Tigris turned red from blood and blue fro the ink. After this destruction the history of Iraq came into chaos.

    12. From 16th - 20th century Iraq history was affected by the on going conflict between Safawid in Iran and Ottomanis in Turkey. It was mainly ruled for 400 years by the Ottoman Empire who ignored Iraq requirements and tried aggressively to implement "Turkifications" on the Iraqi society as well as to use as a buffer zone against the Iranian. This 400 years was a continuation of the destruction created by the Mongols with little improvements. Added to that the floods, plagues, malaria and other diseases and wars.

    13. British occupation: After the 1st world war the Ottoman Empire failed and Iraq became part of the British empire colonies by 1917. In 1920 the Iraqis revolted against British rule which led to a new plan for the rule of the country. Faisal Bin Hussian the brother the ruler of Jordan King Abdallah appointed by the British to be the ruler of Iraq in 1921. Six year later Iraq found to have huge reserves of oil which brought many improvement to its life. Iraq became an independent state in 3rd Oct 1932 & joined the League of Nations. In 1949 Iraq became a member of the UN & on the same year it became a founder member of the Arab League. The recent history of Iraq then influenced by Pro-Arab nationalists and many coups, war & instability.

    14. From Kingdom to Republic: On 14 July 1958 the Hashimite monarchy was overthrown by a coup executed by 19 officers under the leadership of Abdul-Karim Qassem and they executed King Faisal II and many others among the royal family and government.

    Four years later the Baath party and Arab nationals overthrown and assassinated Qassem by a coup on 8th Feb 1963 and by the leader of Abdul Salam Arif & Ahmad Al-Baker. Arif died on 13th April 1966 by helicopter accident in Basrah & his brother Abd Al Rahman succeeded him.

    Five years later on 17th July 1968 the Baath party took over after a coup against Abdul Rahman Arif the brother of Abdul Salam. Ahmad Al-Baker became president but power was in the hands of Saddam Hussien from a few days later when he controlled from behind the scenes then he put Al-Baker in house arrest and replaced him on 16th July 1979.

    During Saddam's presidency from 1979 until his fall on 9th April 2003 he led Iraq into 3 major wars with Iran (from 22nd Sep 1980 until 8th Aug 1988), invasion of Kuwait (2nd Aug 1990 until 3rd March 1991) and later the Coalition forces led by USA war started 20th March 2003 until the occupation of Baghdad in 9th April 2003.
    In addition to that he accepted to lead a country weakened by sever sanctions & strict inspections and the North of the country was not under the control of the central government. During his time the Iraqi people were dying from wars, sanctions, executions, and diseases. He also caused nearly 5 million Iraqis to leave the country accepting an alternative life bringing more suffering & pain for most of them. He governed Iraq with fear, imprisonment, execution, mass killing, expulsion, & discrimination.

    The New Iraq

    After decades of hardship and suffering Iraqis everywhere must now unite to build a new free and democratic Iraq which contribute to the welfare of its own people and humanity at large it formerly did in its history.


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