Times & Places


Mesopotamia, located in modern day Iraq, is known by several names, including the "Cradle of Civilization" and "Land Between Two Rivers." This land is known for its innovative move to farming culture from hunting and gathering practices. These new practices of domesticating animals and plants led to the development of larger societies. In the 4th millennium BCE, the inhabitants of ancient Sumer, the first great Mesopotamian civilization, also established the earliest complex urban societies, called city-states, and invented writing. They may also have been the first culture to use pictures to tell coherent stories, far surpassing Stone Age artists' tentative efforts at pictorial narration.

Soon, societies became entirely made up of food developers and artisans, and eventually the Secondary Products Revolution emerged. The Secondary Products Revolution allowed people to trade their product surpluses. Trade was particularly successful in these Central Asian areas thus creating the Urban Revolution in which the first cities were built. Mesopotamia underwent several changes in leadership, falling under the power of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE.

The Parthian Empire established itself in the area in 200 BCE Then Persians ruled until the 7th century. The highly developed Abbasid Dynasty took over what is now Baghdad in 77 CE. The Sassinians established their empire in 200 CE. Next, Islamic conquest reigned in 600 CE until they were destroyed by the Mongols in 1200. Each of these powers craved the fertile land and trading oasis of the former Mesopotamia and fought for their desire to obtain it. Thus, the Silk Road regions within modern day Iraq were managed by a wide variety of rulers, giving them a high traffic and ultimately, high profit.

Adapted from

"Silk Road Docent Training," 2011. File on TAZ.

Fun Facts

  • The name "Mesopotamia" derives from the Greek mesos (between) and potamus (river or stream), and refers to its location between the Tigris and Euprates rivers.

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