Mesopotamia and Ancient Persia
Iraq covers a large portion of land in what was known in ancient times as Mesopotamia. The word itself is Greek, meaning "between two rivers." In this case, the two rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates.
Sumerians settled into the region around 4000 B.C., marking the first civilization (Sumer), and developing the earliest writing system (cuneiform), as well as the first form of banking and currency.
The Sumerians were eventually overrun and conquered by a number of tribes. One of these new leaders was King Hammurabi, who took control of Sumer in 1700 B.C. (people often misspell this as Sumeria).
Hammurabi united the many indigenous tribes, building an impressive and large civilization. He is also credited with the creation of a uniquely detailed book of laws, still referenced today, known as Hammurabi's Code. It was this tome that orginated the expression, "Eye for an eye." Hammurabi also transformed Babylon from a Sumerian suburb into a cultural hub still talked about today.
Persia is a name that has been used for centuries to designate the region of Iran formerly known as Persis or Parsa, the name of the Indo-European nomads who migrated to the region around 1000 BC.
One of Persia's leaders was Cyrus II, also known as Cyrus the Great. He ruled Mesopotamia from 559-529 BC, and took control of Babylon (a major city in southern Iraq) in 539 BC.
In the center of the map you can visualize where Iran and Iraq are positioned. The two rivers connecting at the Persian Gulf are the Tigris and Euphrates.
Over the centuries, the boundaries have changed, even to the point where modern-day Mosul (in northern Iraq), and modern-day Herat (in Afghanistan) used to be part of Persia.
This work is copyright, (c) 2005 Dan Taxson.