Ancient Near East

The Ancient Near East was one of five locations in the world where civilization first emerged about five thousand years ago.  (China, India, Mesoamerica and Egypt were the other areas.)  Most of these early civilizations are termed "riverine" because they were based on river locations, and in the Near East, early societies arose along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia.  This particular region featured a succession of kingdoms/empires that rose, developed and then fell over time, and the area is generally considered by scholars to have lacked long-term socio-cultural stability.  In the long run, the Near East proved especially important to the development of Western civilization because it was there that the basic religious forms of the Western world evolved.
The West has always had a rather peculiar view of its Near Eastern origins. Most history texts begin with a first chapter devoted to the history of the Ancient Near East (Mesopotamia) and Egypt, return to the region in a chapter devoted to the emergence of Islam in the seventh century and then, in a much later chapter, deal with nineteenth-century British imperialism (and the construction of the Suez Canal), maybe later adding a few words on the creation of the "mandate" system by the League of Nations to supervise imperial control after World War I.  These "standard" textbooks then tend to return to the area in chapter 26 for a discussion of the post-1945 Arab-Israeli conflict. It is strange to credit the area as being the origin of Western civilization, especially in regard to the Western religious experience, but then pay little attention to what actually happened in the region for long sweeps of time; and, it is even stranger that many people today, especially in the United States and Europe, do not even view Islam, the dominant religion of the Near East, as being part of the Western experience.

One of my former students has made available some photos of Babylon.

Some recommended online lectures and websites:  

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