Persepolis, Capital of the Ancient Persian Achaemenid Empire

It was the capital from the reign of Darius I (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE) until its destruction in 330 BCE by Alexander the Great. Introduction Persepolis was the capital of the Persian Achaemenid Empire from the reign of Darius I (the Great, r. 522-486 BCE) until its destruction in 330 BCE. Its name comes[…]

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 Umayyad Dynasty of the Middle East, 661-749 CE

The glory of the Umayyads was not to last. Introduction The Dome of the Rock. The Great Mosque in Damascus. The Great Mosque in Córdoba. These remarkable architectural and artistic achievements are associated with the Umayyads, “first” dynasty of the Islamic World. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E., there was a[…]

Painting Persepolis in the 18th Century: Sir Robert Ker Porter’s Travels

Porter gave a glimpse into a region that was largely unknown to most Europeans. Introduction Sir Robert Ker Porter’s accounts of his travels in the Middle East gave a glimpse into a region that was largely unknown to most Europeans. His original watercolours provide a compelling visual source and are both descriptive of their settings and[…]

Free Trade in the Ancient Middle East

For a long time, Baghdad was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Today many people believe that free markets and industrialization are new inventions. In fact, during the early Middle Ages a market model developed in the Islamic world. Europeans envied the economic, scientific and intellectual progress taking place in the Middle East[…]

The Sykes-Picot Agreement, 1916: The Creation of the ‘Middle East’

The Sykes-Picot Agreement created the modern Middle East. It represents one of the first installments in a long line of modern European – and subsequent American – meddling in the region. The Sykes-Picot Agreement created the modern Middle East. It represents one of the first instalments in a long line of modern European – and subsequent American[…]

Historical Overview of the Ancient Levant

The Levant stretches 400 miles north to south from the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai desert, and 70 to 100 miles east to west between the sea and the Arabian desert. Introduction The Levant is a geographical term that refers to a large area in Southwest Asia, south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Arabian[…]