Students in a world history class often learn that human civilization arose in Mesopotamia – the so-called “Fertile Crescent” – and at the same time, many teachers dive into the history of Babylon. But are Mesopotamia and Babylon the same thing?
The answer is no, they are not the same thing. In short, Mesopotamia is a region, and Babylon It was an ancient city (and later the center of an empire) within that region.
Word Mesopotamia It is an ancient Greek name often translated as “the land between two rivers” – the two rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates, both of which originate in eastern Turkey and flow south into the Persian Gulf. According to ancient Greek sources, the term Mesopotamia was used to refer to the Syrian island [part of northeast Syria] and later for the land between the Tigris and Euphrates,” Lorenzo Verdiram, associate professor of Assyriology at Sapienza University in Rome, told Live Science in an email.
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Today, Mesopotamia is located in several countries: Iraq, eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, parts of western Iran and Kuwait. Some early farmers set up shop in Mesopotamia because the Tigris and Euphrates often overflowed, leaving behind nutrient-rich soil that helped crops flourish. Thousands of years ago, Mesopotamia was home to some of the oldest known cities and empires.
In about 4000 BC, the Sumerians were the first known civilization to arise in the region, and it was named after the ancient city of Sumer, which was a few miles south of the modern city of Kut in eastern Iraq. Live Science previously reported that the Sumerians built towering temples known as ziggurats, had a written language, developed irrigation, and had a complex array of deities. With the decline of the Sumerian civilization, Babylon became an influential city near the Euphrates which lasted from about 2000 BC to 540 BC.
The Babylonians achieved remarkable feats, including spreading the Code of Hammurabi and creating the astonishing (if the stories are true) Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The ancient Babylonians also developed and tracked trigonometry Jupiterwith Athlete models, Live Science previously reported.
At times, Babylon was the center of a large empire. This empire reached its greatest extent during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned from 605 BC to 562 BC), when it extended from the Persian Gulf to the borders of present-day Egypt. Sometimes, the term “Babylon” is used to refer to the broader area that Babylon controlled or had influence over.
However, other empires arose and fell in the ancient world of Mesopotamia. The Assyrian Empirewhose well-known cities include Nineveh, Assyria and Nimrud, flourished at times from about 2000 BC to about 600 BC, and clashed with the Babylonians in the thirteenth century BC and the seventh century BC Many other empires occupied large tracts of land in the Mesopotamia, including Persian Empire (550 BC to 330 BC), the Parthian Empire (247 BC to 224 AD), a short-lived empire from Alexander the Great In the fourth century BC and the Seleucid Empire (312 BC to 63 BC).
So, if Babylon and Mesopotamia are not the same thing, why does this misconception exist? A Live Science reporter asked experts for their opinion on the matter.
It is possible that because Ancient Egypt It attracts more interest among the modern public than it does in other ancient places in the Middle East, and people’s general knowledge about Mesopotamia and Babylon isn’t getting much attention, Frederic Bohrer, professor of art at Hood College in Maryland, told Live Science in an email. Bohrer studied how people in nineteenth-century Europe imagined Mesopotamia.
“Egypt dominates the imagination of many, and there is little room for the rest of the ancient Near East,” said Bohrer. In addition, Bohrer said, some people lack geographical and historical knowledge about the region.
For some people, Babylon may be the only Mesopotamian site they’ve ever heard of. “For those unfamiliar with the area, Babylon may be the only geographical word they know, and they assume it refers to an area larger than a city,” Agnès García Ventura, associate in the Department of Antiquity and Lifespan Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told Live Science in an email. Ventura also noted that people might get confused when using the term “Babylon,” and might think it meant Mesopotamia.
Originally published on Live Science.