Ancient Near Eastern cultures established the first cities, the earliest code of laws, and the oldest known writing which was used, not for poetry, but for bookkeeping.
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Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians - no wonder we need an introduction!

We sometimes use the word "Ur" to speak of the origin of something (for example, "Adam spoke the ur-language"). In fact, Ur was an actual Sumerian city and we can go back there to learn about the origin of writing, cities, and even civilization. Ur really was the ur-Ur.

For two thousand years the myth of Babylon has haunted the European imagination. The Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, Belshazzar’s Feast and the Fall of Babylon have inspired artists, writers, poets, philosophers and film makers. Learn here about the source of these myths, Babylonia itself.

The Assyrian empire dominated Mesopotamia and all of the Near East for the first half of the first millennium, led by a series of highly ambitious and aggressive warrior kings. The culture of the Assyrians was brutal, the army seldom marching on the battlefield but rather terrorizing opponents into submission who, once conquered, were tortured, raped, beheaded, and flayed with their corpses publicly displayed. The Assyrians torched enemies' houses, salted their fields, and cut down their orchards.

Western histories often looked at the Persians only in relation to their confrontations with the ancient Greeks, but the Persian empire was long-lived, complex and sophisticated. The heart of ancient Persia is in what is now southwest Iran. In the second half of the 6th century B.C.E., the Persians created an enormous empire reaching from the Indus Valley to Northern Greece and from Central Asia to Egypt.