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Wednesday, September 6, 2017


In Al Qosh, Iraq, this ancient Christian monastery is literally built into caves on the side of a mountain

In Al Qosh, Iraq, this ancient Christian monastery is literally built into caves on the side of a mountain

There is one country that is acclaimed for almost single-handedly opening the door for the world to the modern civilisation we enjoy today.

The people of this land created the wheel and the plough, they became the first bankers.

This nation has a rich culture of poetry and epic literature and even the first written alphabet was created here.


This country, which is known as the Cradle of Civilisation, is not Greece or Rome, not even Egypt - but Iraq.

Originally known as Mesopotamia, the land was profoundly fertile thanks to the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Even its earliest farming populations, dating back to 9000 BC, were successful at growing vast quantities of food, mostly cereal crops.

As they adopted more advanced farming techniques, including irrigation and division of labour, from 5000 BC they even produced surplus amounts.

By 3700 BC the Sumerian people had invented the wheel and the plough to help their agriculture, an invention that would change the face of the world forever.

The success of the fledgling civilisation and its excess produce led to the need for trade and commerce.

The Sumerian people put this into a structured form by creating counting systems using first of all clay tokens then early accounting tablets.

Within two millennium, the Sumerians, with their zest for advancement had formed the first written alphabet and fair trade practices were commonplace - whereby the producer got a good price for his merchandise, whoever bought it.


Culturally, a literary tradition sprang up, establishing itself to a level of prominence that its themes are seen in the Christian bible read today.

The epic story of Gilgamesh was created in 2700 BC which included the tale of an ancient and wise man who survived a great flood by building an ark.

Noah was in fact believed to have lived in Fara about 100 miles southeast of the grand capital Babylon (meaning Gate of God).

Other biblical figures thought to have come from Mesopotamia included Abraham -recognized by Muslims, Christians, and Jews as the father of prophets - who lived close to Eridu (now Mughair) which is thought to be the location of the Garden of Eden.

The Tower of Babel, a massive structure built to reach the heavens, according to the Old Testament, was also said to have been erected in Borsippa, south of Babylon. However, it has never been proven whether the mythical tower ever existed outside the mind.

However, in 2340BC a powerful military leader from the Arabian peninsula, Sargon, led his army of Akkadian soldiers and successfully overthrew the Sumers.

But his victory was relatively short-lived in the history of Iraq as the Sumers revolted in 2125BC and reclaimed much of the country - which by now was known as Babylonia - as their own.


The Sumerian civilisation - which was made up of two main populations, the Assyrians in the north and Babylonians in the south - dwindled and was not put back on track until King Hammurabi came to power in 1700 BC.

After expanding his empire to as far west as the Mediterranean, Hammurabi then went on to establish a fair sense of social justice for his country - including establishing the edict 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,' which was known as the Hammurabi code.

After his death, the country fell under the power of several dynasties before the Assyrians asserted their power and enabled a period of stability.

The Assyrians were great mathematicians and scientists and were the first to split a circle into 360 degrees.

The next great Emperor was Nebuchadnezzar who expanded the borders into Jerusalem in 586BC.

But it was his son Nebuchadnezzar II who transformed the city of Babylon - a couple of hours drive south of modern-day Baghdad - into the envy of the world.

It was he who created the Hanging Gardens of Babylon on the banks of the Euphrates, one of the seven wonders of the world, for his wife Amyitis who was homesick for the mountains of her home while living on the plains near Baghdad.

Following his rule, the country was invaded several times - including by Alexander the Great who died there - before the Persians were beaten to the territory by the Muslims in the mid 7th century AD.

Cultural capital

Baghdad was to become the cultural capital of the Islamic world under the Abbasid empire and an important commercial center.

It remained powerful until Ghengis Khan swept through the country in the 13th century.

The country became destabilised in the following centuries and was repeatedly battled over by the Ottoman Turks and Iran.

The Turks eventually won out and effectively stayed in place until the First World War when the Ottoman empire collapsed.

The British invaded and after a few years agreed to an independent Arabian government which, with several wars and coups along the way, has led to the present day ruling of Iraq.


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