On a historical map, locate the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and identify Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria as successive civilizations and empires in this region, and explain why the region is sometimes called β€œthe Fertile Crescent.” On a modern map of western Asia, identify the modern countries in the region (Iraq, Iran, and Turkey).
Mesopotamia (highlighted in red)
Mesopotamia (highlighted in red)

Focus Questions:

  • Where are the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria on historical successive maps?

  • Why has this region been called "the Fertile Crescent?”

  • What modern day countries are in this region and where are they on a map?

  • What is significant about these civilizations that has earned them the status of successive civilizations and empires?

Topics on the Page
Teaching Resources
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
The Fertile Crescent
Modern Day Middle East Countries
Sumeria, Babylon and Assyria

Teaching Resources

Modern Day Countries of the World: Iraq
  • The land between the Tigris and Euphrates River is known as Al-Jazirah or "the island" in Arabic and Mesopotamia in Greek.

primary_sources.PNGHerodotus' Description of Babylon and the Babylonians

mesopotamia map.gif
A map showing where Assyria, Sumer and Babylonia were in Mesopotamia

assyrian empire.jpg The Assyrian Empire, by Don Nardo

external image Red_apple.jpgAncient Mesopotamia: This History, Our History from the University of Chicago Oriental Institute Museum offers teaching materials, artifacts and interactive activities.

images.jpeg Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids Provides a description of the fertile crescent, detailed maps and more, made for kids. It has games, stories, clipart and more!


Locating the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers / Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria on Historic Maps

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers make up the river system which sustained some of the earliest human civilizations. They were the cornerstone of countless civilizations, historically this includes Sumer (c.5300-1900BCE), Babylon (c.2500-539BCE), and Assyria (c.2200-605BCE). On the maps located below of these locations is demarcated.

Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and Sumer  (c.600-300BCE)
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and Sumer (c.600-300BCE)

Babylonia, Assyria (Assur), and the other civilizations of the region.
Babylonia, Assyria (Assur), and the other civilizations of the region.

  • For an interactive overview, go to Mesopotamia from the British Museum.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngFor a timeline, go to Mesopotamia, 1000 B.C.--1 A.D. from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

external image OrteliusWorldMap.jpegThis is a great handout briefly summarizing the geographic history of Mesopotamia, with a great map and questions for students to answer.

Screen Shot 2016-10-29 at 12.06.19 PM.png
  • Interactive map of early Mesopotamian civilizations
  • Check out this interactive model of a house excavated from Jarmo in Mesopotamia. It's a great example of how people began to settle in the Fertile Crescent.

Fertile Crescent

Mesopotamia (Sumer, Assyria and Babylon) was nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This region is called the Fertile Crescent because, despite being located in an arid region of the world, this arc or crescent-shaped piece of land is fertile.
  • Beginning with the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flood once a year, and all the way to the coast of the Mediterranean as far as Egypt, this area has provided life for civilizations for more than nearly 5,000 years.
  • Yearly flooding leaves behind a thick bed of mud called silt. In this rich new soil, farmers could consistently plant enough wheat and barley, allowing for villages and cities to grow.

The Fertile Crescent in relation to the modern day locations

external image Music_notation_signatures.pngCheck out this Fertile Crescent Rap, which includes lyrics with historical explanations to learn more about the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and their accomplishments. There is also an accompanying lesson plan.

Not only did the Fertile Crescent provide the basic elements of water and food to the migrating shepherds it provided a place for them to settle down and build the foundations of civilizations. The result of migrant shepherds settling down in this region earned it another name, the Cradle of Civilization.
  • Only a settled population growing excess food could start to build the foundations of a civilization. With extra food being grown people could devote their times to pursuits other than gather or growing food.
    • With more time on their hands people started new endeavors such as: pottery/ceramics, writing, building structures (Ziggurats), and especially trading.
      • Trading surplus grain allowed the early Sumerians and the later Babylonians and Assyrians to get materials that were not found in their environment. Materials such as wood from India or metal and stone from Egypt and Asia Minor are all items needed to build a civilization (constructing buildings, arming soldiers, facilitating more trade with boats).
  • The Fertile Crescent/ the Cradle of Civilization served not only as a place to settle down and grow food to make life easier, it also allowed the creation of technologies that became the foundations of all civilizations to follow.

Multimedia.pngFollow the link and watch the video to learn more about the impact of trade on the region.

The links here explains cuneiform and the like here will type translate your name into cuneiform.

What modern day countries are Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers located in?

Sumeria, Babylon, Assyria, and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are located (mostly) in what is now Iraq.
  • Additionally, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers stretched northward into Turkey and Syria, and Assyria reached into what is now Iran.

Compare the modern day map below to the right with the maps located throughout the page to gain a sense of where the civilizations were located.

Pictured are Turkey (upper left), Iraq (center), and Iran (center right).
Pictured are Turkey (upper left), Iraq (center), and Iran (center right).

How did Sumeria, Babylon, and Assyria earn the status of successive civilizations and empires?

  • They overcame the geographic challenges they faced:
    • Irrigation provided consistent water for crops in drought ridden areas.
    • Walls, made of mud bricks, protected cities from invaders.
    • Trading grain, cloth and tools with other civilizations allowed populations to grow despite a lack of stone, wood, and metal.
    • Each city was surrounded by fields of barley and wheat.
    • Each city developed their own government with their own rulers.
    • Each city and the surrounding land formed a city-state.
  • Specialized workers:
    • Priests, kings, merchants, farmers, artisans, etc. are all more readily prevalent in city-states as the focus on day-to-day life is already being met.
  • Complex institutions:
    • Ruling class and government in regard to taxes.
  • Record Keeping:
    • The Sumerians are credited with the first form of written language, called cuneiform. See Grade 7.10 for more on the development of early systems of writing
  • Advanced technology:
    • The invention of the wheel, sail, plow, numbering system, writing system and contributions to astronomy.
  • Strong leadership:
    • Earliest governments were controlled by priests. People believed the success of their crops depended upon the blessings of various gods.
    • Ziggurats were places of worship and a quasi-city hall. See Grade 7.9 for more on the accomplishments of Mesopotamian civilization.
    • Priests demanded a portion of every farmer's income as tax to the city-state.
    • In times of war, priests would not rule. Instead rule was passed onto a tough fighter who could command the city's soldiers. Eventually, permanent control of the city-state was granted to the commanders. Rulers would pass their control onto their sons.
  • Food surpluses and population growth:
    • With excess food, population and trade expands.
    • Increased contact with neighboring cultures.
  • Laws:
    • King Hammurabi's set a code of laws that dealt with everything. It affected the community, businesses, families, and crime. These laws solidified the power of the government See Grade 7.11 for more on Hammurabi's Code

Factors in Creating the Assyrian Empire

  • Kings with absolute power were able to rally support and raise armies
  • Strong organization from government, laws, and centralization of society.
  • Efficient system of communication with network of posts to relay messages via horses
  • Strong use of military leaders and fighters
  • Use of terror: fire set to crops, destroyed dams, laid waste to land they were fighting (Spielvogel, 2005)
  • Click here for more information about Assyria from the Khan Academy.

Who are the descendants of the Mesopotamians?
Meet the Chaldeans: http://www.chaldeansonline.org/chald.html