Ten Interesting Facts about Ancient Egypt

For thousands of years, the civilization of Egypt was among the most significant in the ancient world. Introduction Ancient Egypt is defined as the civilization which flourished in North Africa between c. 6000-30 BCE – from the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 – c. 3150 BCE) through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE) before Egypt became[…]

Asherah: Ancient Canaanite Mother Goddess, Consort to Yahweh

Together, El (sometimes Yahweh) and Ashera were viewed as the father and mother of the gods. Introduction Asherah was a major northwest Semitic mother goddess, appearing also in Akkadian sources as Ashratu, in Hittite as Asherdu and in Ugaritic as Athirat. She was the consort of the chief deity El and the mother of 70[…]

‘When On High’: The Ancient Akkadian Enuma Elish Creation Epic

As warlike nomadic herdsmen began to dominate in Mesopotamian culture, they imposed their mythologies on preexisting legends. Introduction Enûma Eliš (also transliterated Enuma Elish) is the Babylonian or Mesopotamian creation epic, composed probably in the eighteenth century B.C.E. A fragmentary copy written in the seventh century B.C.E. was first discovered by modern scholars in the[…]

Ancient Mesopotamian Cosmology and Mythology

Mesopotamian myths appear to have had a more practical purpose and were used to cure and prevent various physical ailments. Introduction In order to understand the place of myth in Mesopotamian culture, it is first necessary to give a general introduction to Mesopotamian religion. First, there is no single Mesopotamian ‘religion.’ The region known by[…]

Inventions and Innovations of Ancient Persia

While these contributions may be understood as commonplace in the present day, they were entirely novel in their time. Introduction Ancient Persian culture contributed many of the aspects of the modern world which people simply take for granted as having always existed. The designation “Persia” comes from the Greeks – primarily standardized by the historian[…]

Children in the Ancient Middle East – Valued and Vulnerable

Exploring data from archaeology, letters, contracts, laws, material culture, ancient stories, and religious practices. Introduction The choices that societies make concerning the treatment of children can bring about the greatest of debates and prompt significant political action. Our research teaches us that the question of a how a child should be treated — what value[…]

Zoroastrianism: Monotheism in Ancient Persia

Zoroastrianism was adopted by the Achaemenid Empire, the Parthian Empire, and found its fullest expression under the Sassanian Empire. Introduction Zoroastrianism is the monotheistic faith established by the Persian prophet Zoroaster (also given as Zarathustra, Zartosht) between c. 1500-1000 BCE. It holds that there is one supreme deity, Ahura Mazda (Lord of Wisdom), creator and[…]

Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Persia

Ancient Persia had the same interest in what happens after death as any culture in the present day. Introduction A vision of the afterlife is articulated by every culture, ancient or modern, in an effort to answer the question of what happens after death, and this was as true for the ancient Persian view of[…]

Architecture of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

The Achaemenid Empire was a period of artistic growth that left an extraordinary architectural legacy. Introduction Achaemenid architecture includes all architectural achievements of the Achaemenid Persians manifesting in construction of spectacular cities used for governance and inhabitation (Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana), temples made for worship and social gatherings (such as Zoroastrian temples), and mausoleums erected in[…]

Persepolis: Capital of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

Persepolis has a long and complex history, designed to be the central city of the ever expanding Persian empire. Introduction Persepolis was an ancient ceremonial capital of the second Iranian dynasty, the Achaemenid Empire, situated some 70 km northeast of modern city of Shiraz. It was built by Darius the Great, beginning around 518 B.C.E.[…]

Key Elements of Persian Architecture since Ancient Mesopotamia

Iran has inherited numerous architectural traditions over the course of history. Introduction From the Islamic period the architectural achievements of the Seljuq, Il-Khanid, and Safavid dynasties are particularly noteworthy. During that time Iranian cities such as Neyshabur, Isfahan, and Shiraz came to be among the great cities of the Islamic world, and their many mosques,[…]

Sumerian Temple Architecture in Early Mesopotamia

This period is characterized by major cultural and political changes. Historical Overview During the Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 BCE) (fig. 1), southern Mesopotamia was split into two regions, Akkad in the north and Sumer in the south. The Early Dynastic (ED) period can be divided into four phases: EDI (2900–2700) EDII (2700–2600) EDIIIa (2600–2450) EDIIIb[…]

The Immortals: Ancient Persia’s Elite Fighting Force

Introduction The Ten Thousand Immortals were the elite force of the Persian army of the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550-330 BCE). They formed the king’s personal bodyguard and were also considered the shock troops of the infantry in Persian warfare. Their name comes from the policy of always keeping their number at exactly 10,000; if one[…]

The Atrahasis Epic: One of the Oldest Ancient Mesopotamian Flood Myths

Written down in the mid-17th century BCE, the Atrahasis can be dated to the reign of the Babylonian King Hammurabi’s great-grandson. Introduction The Atrahasis is the Akkadian/Babylonian epic of the Great Flood sent by the gods to destroy human life. Only the good man, Atrahasis (his name translates as `exceedingly wise’) was warned of the[…]

Dogs in Ancient Persia

Dogs played a major role in religious rituals as recorded by Zoroastrian texts. Introduction Dogs have been an integral aspect of the human condition in virtually every world culture for thousands of years. Some of the greatest civilizations of the past have kept dogs as companions, for various chores, and featured dogs in their art,[…]

Truths Wrapped in Fiction: Ancient Mesopotamian Naru Literature

The myth, in time, became the reality. Introduction Originality in literary compositions in the ancient world did not carry the same weight and value as it does in the present day. In recent centuries, authors have been applauded for the creation of original works, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have been derided for plagiarism or[…]

Nebuchadnezzar: Warrior King, Rebuilder of Cities, and Musical Muse

Thousands of years after his rule, Nebuchadnezzar’s name lives on in his buildings and in ancient literature. Introduction Kanye West’s first operatic work, Nebuchadnezzar, has just premiered at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Set in the 6th century BCE, the opera is based on the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar II, a powerful ruler and[…]

Ancient Persian Governors

Persian governors and the satrapy system established the paradigm recognizable in the present day of a central government. Introduction The Achaemenid Persian Empire functioned as well as it did because of the efficient bureaucracy established by its founder Cyrus the Great (r. c. 550-530 BCE) which was administered through the satrapy system. A Persian governor of[…]

Ancient Mesopotamia: ‘Between Two Rivers’

The ‘two rivers’ of the name referred to the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers and the land was known as ‘Al-Jazirah’. Introduction Mesopotamia (from the Greek, meaning ‘between two rivers’) was an ancient region located in the eastern Mediterranean bounded in the northeast by the Zagros Mountains and in the southeast by the Arabian Plateau,[…]

A History of Ancient Persia

The Persians settled primarily across the Iranian plateau and were established by the 1st millennium BCE. Introduction Persia (roughly modern-day Iran) is among the oldest inhabited regions in the world. Archaeological sites in the country have established human habitation dating back 100,000 years to the Paleolithic Age with semi-permanent settlements (most likely for hunting parties)[…]

The Seleucid Empire of Hellenistic Mesopotamia, 312-63 BCE

Seleucus was arguably the most successful of Alexander’s successors with the creation of a multi-national empire. Introduction The Seleucid Empire (312-63 BCE) was the vast political entity established by Seleucus I Nicator (“Victor” or “Unconquered”, l. c. 358-281 BCE, r. 305-281 BCE), one of the generals of Alexander the Great, after Alexander’s death in 323[…]

Mesopotamian Effects on Israel during the Iron Age

Archaeology, epigraphy, and literature function in tandem in order to establish a more coherent account. Introduction The Iron Age in the traditional Ancient Near Eastern chronology ranges from somewhere around 1200 BCE to 333 BCE. It begins from the era when it was first thought iron came to be used up to the ascendency of[…]

Ancient Mesopotamian Science and Technology

The Sumerians first explored the practice of the scientific hypothesis. Introduction Mesopotamian science and technology developed during the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE) and Early Dynastic Period (2900-1750 BCE) of the Sumerian culture of southern Mesopotamia. The foundation of future Mesopotamian advances in scientific/technological progress was laid by the Sumerians who first explored the practice of[…]

The Early Dynastic Period in Ancient Mesopotamia

Examining the three Dynastic Periods from 2900 to 2334 BCE. Introduction The Early Dynastic Period of Mesopotamia is the modern-day archaeological term for the era in Mesopotamian history – 2900-2334 BCE – during which some of the most significant cultural advances were made including the rise of the cities, the development of writing, and the establishment[…]

The Sumerians of Ancient Mesopotamia

The Sumerians were responsible for many important innovations, inventions, and concepts taken for granted in the present day. Introduction The Sumerians were the people of southern Mesopotamia whose civilization flourished between c. 4100-1750 BCE. Their name comes from the region which is frequently – and incorrectly – referred to as a “country”. Sumer was never[…]

A Brief Introduction to the Art of Ancient Assyrian Kings

Explore the themes, symbolism, and narrative techniques used to decorate the palaces of ancient Assyria. Introduction From the 800s to the 600s B.C., the kings of Assyria built grand palaces in their capital cities, located in the land we know today as Iraq. Inside these palaces were some of the most remarkable works of sculpture[…]