The history of Mesopotamia began with the civilization of the Sumerians, who
emigrated from the highlands of Iran and northern Anatolia in about 3000 BC.
Two kingdoms, Sumer and Akkad, combined in about 2350 BC to form one
nation under King Sargon of Akkad. In about 2000 BC the Amorites assumed
control. Their king, Hammurabi, made Babylon a famous city, though he is best
known for his code of laws. After his death came invasions by the Hittites and
then by the Kassites, who formed the Kingdom of Assyria about 1350 BC.
Kassites originally had their capital at Ashur, but they moved
it in 720 BC to Nineveh, or Mosul. Various tribal invasions
weakened the Assyrian empire during the next century, and the
Chaldeans under King Nebuchadnezzar II rebuilt Babylon and ruled
for 40 years. The Persian ruler Cyrus the Great invaded in 539
BC, and Persia ruled Babylonia until Alexander the Great's conquests
in 331 BC. His successors, the Seleucids, ruled for 175 years,
during which Greek cultural influences became paramount. Persian
invasions under the Parthians and, later, the Sassanids established
a new capital at Ctesiphon near the midpoint of the Tigris.
Persians constructed many irrigation systems and canals.
A new era began with the Arab
conquests in AD 637 when tribes from Arabia, bearing the message
of Islam, conquered Mesopotamia. The early conquests outside
Arabia by Muslim armies spread throughout the territory previously
weakened by conflicts between the Sassanid Empire and the Byzantines
to the west. The Muslims established their first dynasty, the
Umayyad, with their capital at Damascus in Syria. By 750 conflicts
over the succession of rulers and discord between Arab and Persian
Muslims led to a change in rule, and the 'Abbasid dynasty in
Iraq was established with its capital at Baghdad.
'Abbasid dynasty ruled from 750 to 1258, a period during which
Arab- Muslim culture and scholarship merged with Persian administration
and arts. This was also a period when many Greek and Roman philosophical
and scientific works were translated into Arabic and at times
synthesized with Islamic values and concepts.
The stories of Scheherazade as told in the 'Arabian Nights' give an idea of life
in the court of one of the most famous 'Abbasid rulers, Caliph Harun ar-Rashid.
The tales include those about Sinbad the sailor, 'Ali Baba and the forty thieves,
and Aladdin and his magic lamp. They describe the clothing, courtlife, and
government of the period. They show that the role of the grand vizier, or royal
minister, indirecting state affairs came from Persian administrative practices.