mesopotamia_map.gif Man’s transition from being primitive to being civilised took place in the land between the Tigris and the Euphrates river. It was first called Sumer, and the people who lived here in 4000BC invented the wheel, wrote the first alphabet and the cuneiform (the earliest form of writing), designed urbanisation, irrigation systems, originated the 60-minute hour, created the calendar, composed the longitude and latitude in navigation, thought of the 360-degree circle, and recorded literature (the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest in the world of literature). The Sumerians made countless other contributions to culture and the sciences, which have shaped what our world is today.

Some people who hailed from this region were Abraham, Noah, King Hammurabi (known for the codification of laws that governed Babylonia, the stone tablet of which is in the Louvre), and Nebuchadnezzar who had the Hanging Gardens built for his wife. The Garden of Eden is believed to be located here.

Mesopotamia then became part of the Persian Empire in 539BC. It was conquered by the Macedonian ruler, Alexander the Great, who died here. Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks (Mesopotamia is a Greek word meaning between rivers), Parthians and the Sassanid dynasty conquered and ruled the region successively.

When the Abbasid dynasty founded its capital in 762AD, the caliphs made it an important centre for commerce and education. Its people translated the medical works of Galen, and the works of Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras and many others, bringing a wealth of knowledge to other peoples of the world. The students of this city originated the laws and principles of integral calculus and spherical astronomy. It was here that algebra and algorithms were first formulated. Arabic numerals and zero were invented here.

But the Abbasid caliphs were unable to unite the Islamic communities against the invading Catholic Crusades, and when the Mongol tribes under Genghis Khan invaded Mesopotamia, they destroyed the Abbasid Empire and slaughtered everyone in sight. Petty rulers came and went, many of its inhabitants massacred. The sultans of Turkey established an outpost of the Ottoman Empire at its capital. The Turks remained for 400 years, until the end of WW1 when the Empire collapsed. British forces then invaded in 1917. Oil was discovered here. It became an independent kingdom in 1932.

But while other Arab nations wished to unify Arab States in a defence pact, the corrupt government of this nation, then under the Hashemite monarchy, wanted to ally with the British. King Faisal and members of the royal family were assassinated in a revolution in 1958, which ended the Hashemite monarchy. Abdul Karim Qassem, who led the overthrow of the Monarchy, declared the country a Republic and became Prime Minister until his assassination in 1963.

Qassem developed industry and land reform programmes, as he tried to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. The Ba’ath Party took over under Al-Bakr, then by Arif, then regained again by Al-Bakr. In 1979, his vice president replaced him. This vice president established a dictatorship and executed all his political opponents.

Mesopotamia–the cradle of civilisation. It is now called the Republic of Iraq, a name given to them by the British.The Abbasid dynasty founded its capital, Baghdad. It was ruled by Al-Bakr’s former vice president, Saddam Hussein.

It’s future lies in the hands of its people.