Iraq Early History

Almost a landlocked country, Iraq is situated at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. Its coastline along the gulf is only 30 kilometers long. The country is bounded by Turkey in the north; by Iran in the east; by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf in the south; and in the west by Jordan and Syria.


As a country located in Middle East according to AGOODDIR.COM, Iraq occupies the territory of one of the oldest civilizations in the West. The Mesopotamia was the place to be developed around the year 5000 BC, the Sumerian culture.

In 2371 BC, King Sargon of Akkad took control of the region and established the First Assyrian Dynasty. The Assyrian Empire expanded its dominions including modern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Israel, until it collapsed in 612 BC with the fall of its capital, Nineveh (present-day Mosul) and was replaced by the Babylonian civilization.

King Hammurabi (who would have ruled between 1792-50 BC) made Babylon his capital and created the first legal code. Nebuchadnezzar II (circa 605-562 BC), a magnificent builder, developed the hanging gardens that made the city one of the most splendid of antiquity.

The Babylonian era saw its end when the Persians, under the command of King Cyrus the Great, invaded in 539 BC and dominated the region until the conquests of Alexander the Great in 331 BC. His successors, the Seleucids, ruled for 175 years until the new Persian invasions. led by the Parthians, who built multiple canals and irrigation systems. Later, the Sassanids founded a new capital at Ctesiphon, near the Tigris.

Old era

After the Arab conquests in the 7th century Mesopotamia was the geographic center of a huge empire. A century later the new dynasty of the Abbas moved the capital of Damascus to the east, where the Caliph al-Mansur built, on the banks of the Tigris, a new one: Baghdad. For three centuries, the city of Thousand and One Nights was the center of a nascent culture.

Since the Greeks, the Mediterranean world had not seen such a flourishing of the arts and sciences. However, the great extension of the empire caused that, on the death of Harum al-Raschid, the collapse began. With the African provinces lost, the entire region to the north and east of Persia having become independent under the Tahirids (Kingdom of Khorasan), the caliphs had to resort more and more to armies of slaves or mercenaries (Sudanese or Turkish) to maintain control of a continually waning state. When the Mongols killed the last caliph of Baghdad in 1258, the caliphate as a political reality no longer existed.

After the conquests of Genghis Khan, which devastated the agricultural economy, the region was profoundly modified and numerous states (Turks, Seleucids or Ottomans, Mongols, Turkmen, Tatars or Kurds) alternated in power. The displacement of peoples from the steppes (see Afghanistan) brought great instability to the fertile crescent that, after the attempt of Timur Lenk (Tamerlane) in the fourteenth century, led to unification under the rule of the Turks-Ottomans in the 16th century.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Sunnism was in power in Iraq, under Ottoman rule. Similarly, the southern Shiites (identified with the Iranian regime) continued to maintain high prestige, limiting Turkish authority. Efforts were aimed at keeping open the trade routes (linking East and West to the Mediterranean) through the territory, as an alternative to the maritime routes that surrounded Africa. This meant confronting the indomitable Arab and Kurdish tribes and continued Iranian advances. Suleiman imposed strict and direct control over Iraqi territory, seeking to fulfill these objectives.

By the early 17th century, the authority of local leaders within Iraq had grown dramatically. At that time, Bakr Su Bashi, the military chief of a Baghdad- based garrison, joined Shah Safavid ‘Abbas I, who gained control of the center of the country. While Mosul and Shahrizor continued under Ottoman rule the central area remained under the rule of Abbas I between 1623 and 1638. The Treaty of Qasr-i Shirin (also called the Treaty of Zuhab) of 1639 ended the conflict and returned control of Baghdad to the Ottomans. With the exception of tribal unrest, Iraq was relatively stable. The south of the country was definitely controlled in 1668 and the problems that followed reflected what was happening in Istanbul, the center of the Ottoman Empire.

The 18th century brought important changes to the region. The government of Sultan Ahmed III in Istanbul was characterized by political calm and reforms (influenced by the European model). In Baghdad, Hasan Pasha (1704 – 1724), of Georgian origin, was succeeded by his son, Ahmed Pasha (1724- 1747), who introduced the Mamluks from Georgia. They were slaves, mainly Caucasian Christians, trained for military and administrative tasks, which, upon Ahmed’s death, were left in power by naming his son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Layla, Iraq’s first Mamluk pasha. From the second half of the 18th century, Mamluk power passed alternating periods of prosperity and calm with others plagued by internal problems and corruption.

Iraq Early History