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Iraq in History, Part One: The Mesopotamian Civilization PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 19 December 2004 00:00
THIS is the first issue of the Hanoudi letter, a weekly email to my American friends in which I will be discussing some aspects of few very interesting topics namely, history, geopolitics, ethnic-religious conflicts, and the situation in this currently very turbulent country.  The following is the first installment of a four part essay on the history of Iraq, the second part  is called Islam and the big rift, the third will be from golden age to the monarchy and the fourth part is Iraq the turbulent century.

THE history of modern Iraq as a separate entity began with the joining of three provinces from the Old Ottoman Empire following its defeat and dismemberment after the 1914-1918 war, but this country has a much older history which dates back to Sumer were humanity started its march into history more than 5000 years ago. Man was able here to achieve some astonishing accomplishments, the invention of writing and the ability to control the water supply to the lands and start a real revolution in agriculture which allowed him to create a very advanced society and inaugurate man’s first civilization.

IN the narrow sense Mesopotamia is the 180,000 square miles area between the Tigris and Euphrates this was the name it was given in the 5th century BC by Herodotus. Only from the latitude of Baghdad were the two rivers become at their nearest points do the Tigris and Euphrates become truly twin rivers and continue to do dos so until they meet at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab which empties into the gulf. Most of the southern part of this area is nowadays dry barren and very hot in most of its expanse, it is very difficult to imagine that this piece of harsh geography was the womb and the cradle of man’s first civilization and this is the legacy of the Sumerians who were able to invent an extremely successful system of dikes, dams and canals which allowed them to make excellent use of the surplus water during times of flooding and produce  agricultural products mainly grain which was used to feed an increasingly growing population with the surplus used in the service of the higher interests of the state and  this is were and how man’s civilization was born.

CIVILIZATION was born, cradled and nurtured in Mesopotamia, but this birth was not a sudden chance eruption out of vacuum, it was the culmination of a long period of evolution. Here was born some of the earliest philosophies, religions and myths of mankind. Here were built great cities were very complicated political and legal systems evolved and extremely advanced science medicine and art developed all inside a strict code of morality and law, but their most important contribution was their invention of writing. Writing is  one of the greatest contributions of the Sumerians to humanity, history began with writing which gave us our first solid ideas about the story of man. History began with writing. History began at Sumer.

THE Mesopotamian civilization lasted for almost a three thousand years with a striking cultural unity. From UR its  first center it radiated over the entire near east and was kept alive in other major centers, towns like, Babylon, Assur and Nineveh all situated on or near the Tigris and Euphrates within the boundaries of modern Iraq remaining fairly uniformly throughout though repeatedly shaken by political convulsions and recurrent  incursions by its neighbors which led to its gradual decline and final disappearance alas  some of its cultural and scientific achievements were salvaged by the Greeks and  became part of recent western heritage, the rest either perished or were buried for centuries in the sand  awaiting the picks of archeologists.

A glorious past was forgotten In Man’s short memories of these opulent cities, of their powerful gods, of their mighty monarchs only a few often distorted names survived. the dissolving rain, the sand bearing winds, the earth splitting sun conspired to obliterate most of the material remains, and the desolate mounds which since concealed the ruins of Babylon and Nineveh offer perhaps the best lesson in modesty that we shall ever receive from history

Dr. Najeeb Hanoudi
Baghdad, Dec, 19, 2004
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