The term Near East can be used interchangeably with Middle East , but in a different context, especially when discussing ancient history , it may have a limited meaning, namely the northern, historically Aramaic -speaking Semitic people area and adjacent Anatolian territories, marked in the two maps below.
Geographically, the Middle East can be thought of as Western Asia with the addition of Egypt which is the non- Maghreb region of Northern Africa and with the exclusion of the Caucasus. The Middle East was the first to experience a Neolithic Revolution c. Historically human populations have tended to settle around bodies of water, which is reflected in modern population density patterns. Irrigation systems were extremely important for the agricultural Middle East: for Egypt that of the lower Nile River , and for Mesopotamia that of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Levantine agriculture depended on precipitation rather than on the river-based irrigation of Egypt and Mesopotamia, resulting in preference for different crops. Since travel was faster and easier by sea, civilizations along the Mediterranean , such as Phoenicia and later Greece, participated in intense trade. Similarly, Ancient Yemen , much more conducive to agriculture than the rest of the Arabian Peninsula, sea traded heavily with the Horn of Africa , some of which it lingually Semitized.
The Adnanite Arabs, inhabiting the drier desert areas of the Middle East, were all nomadic pastoralists before some began settling in city states , with the geo-linguistic distribution today being divided between Persian Gulf , the Najd and the Hejaz in the Peninsula, as well as the Bedouin areas beyond the Peninsula. Since ancient times the Middle East has had several lingua franca : Akkadian c.
Familiarity with English is not uncommon among the middle and upper classes. Initially the ancient inhabitants of the region followed various ethnic religions , but most of those began to be gradually replaced at first by Christianity even before the AD Edict of Milan and finally by Islam after the spread of the Muslim conquests beyond the Arabian Peninsula in AD.
Some of the smaller ethnoreligious minorities include the Shabak people , the Mandaeans and the Samaritans. It is somewhat controversial whether the Druze religion is a distinct religion in its own right or merely a part of the Ismailist branch of Shia Islam. Red Sea rifting began in the Eocene , but the separation of Africa and Arabia occurred in the Oligocene, and since then the Arabian Plate has been slowly moving toward the Eurasian Plate.
Because the Arabian Plate and Eurasia plate collide, many cities are in danger such as those in south eastern Turkey which is on the Arabian Plate. These dangers include earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. The earliest human migrations out of Africa occurred through the Middle East, namely over the Levantine corridor , with the pre-modern Homo erectus about 1.
follow site One of the potential routes for early human migrations toward southern and eastern Asia is Iran. There is evidence of rock carvings along the Nile terraces and in desert oases.
In the 10th millennium BC , a culture of hunter-gatherers and fishermen was replaced by a grain -grinding culture. Early tribal peoples migrated to the Nile River, where they developed a settled agricultural economy and more centralized society. Fertile Crescent Mesopotamia. The ancient Near East was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture and currency -mediated trade as opposed to barter , gave the rest of the world the first writing system , invented the potter's wheel and then the vehicular and mill wheel , created the first centralized governments and law codes , served as birthplace to the first city-states with their high degree of division of labor , as well as laying the foundation for the fields of astronomy and mathematics.
However, its empires also introduced rigid social stratification , slavery , and organized warfare. The earliest civilizations in history were established in the region now known as the Middle East around BC by the Sumerians , in Mesopotamia Iraq , widely regarded as the cradle of civilization.
The Sumerians and the Akkadians , and later Babylonians and Assyrians all flourished in this region. The most prominent of the city-states was Sumer, which gave its language to the area, [presumably the first written language ,] and became the first great civilization of mankind. About BC, Sargon the Great c.
Since then, Ancient Egypt experienced 3 high points of civilization, the so-called "Kingdom" periods:. Thereafter, civilization quickly spread through the Fertile Crescent to the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea and throughout the Levant , as well as to ancient Anatolia.
The Phoenician civilization, encompassing several city states, was a maritime trading culture that established colonial cities in the Mediterranean Basin , most notably Carthage, in BC. The Assyrian Empire, at its peak, was the largest the world had seen. Before Assyrian hegemony ended, the Assyrians brought the highest civilization to the then known world.
From the Caspian to Cyprus, from Anatolia to Egypt, Assyrian imperial expansion would bring into the Assyrian sphere nomadic and barbaric communities, and would bestow the gift of civilization upon them. From the early 6th century BC onwards, several Persian states dominated the region, beginning with the Medes and non-Persian Neo-Babylonian Empire , then their successor the Achaemenid Empire known as the first Persian Empire, conquered in the late 4th century BC by the very short-lived Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great , and then successor kingdoms such as Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid state in Western Asia.
After a century of hiatus, the idea of the Persian Empire was revived by the Parthians in the 3rd century BC—and continued by their successors, the Sassanids from the 3rd century AD. Between the 1st century BC and the early 7th century AD, the region was completely dominated by the Romans and the Parthians and Sassanids on the other hand, which often culminated in various Roman-Persian Wars over the seven centuries. Eastern Rite, Church of the East Christianity took hold in Persian-ruled Mesopotamia , particularly in Assyria from the 1st century AD onwards, and the region became a center of a flourishing Syriac — Assyrian literary tradition.
Even areas not directly annexed were strongly influenced by the Empire, which was the most powerful political and cultural entity for centuries. Though Roman culture spread across the region, the Greek culture and language first established in the region by the Macedonian Empire continued to dominate throughout the Roman period. Cities in the Middle East, especially Alexandria , became major urban centers for the Empire and the region became the Empire's "bread basket" as the key agricultural producer. As the Christian religion spread throughout the Roman and Persian Empires, it took root in the Middle East, and cities such as Alexandria and Edessa became important centers of Christian scholarship.
By the 5th century, Christianity was the dominant religion in the Middle East, with other faiths gradually including heretical Christian sects being actively repressed. The subsequent Fall of the Western Roman Empire therefore, had minimal direct impact on the region.
The Eastern Roman Empire, today commonly known as the Byzantine Empire , ruling from the Balkans to the Euphrates , became increasingly defined by and dogmatic about Christianity, gradually creating religious rifts between the doctrines dictated by the establishment in Constantinople and believers in many parts of the Middle East. By this time, Greek had become the 'lingua franca' of the region, although ethnicities such as the Syriacs and the Hebrew continued to exist. In the 5th century, the Middle East was separated into small, weak states; the two most prominent were the Sasanian Empire of the Persians in what is now Iran and Iraq , and the Byzantine Empire in Anatolia modern-day Turkey.
The Byzantines and Sasanians fought with each other a reflection of the rivalry between the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire seen during the previous five hundred years. The Byzantine-Sasanian rivalry was also seen through their respective cultures and religions. The Byzantines considered themselves champions of Hellenism and Christianity. Meanwhile, the Sasanians thought themselves heroes of ancient Iranian traditions and of the traditional Persian religion, Zoroastrianism.
The Arabian peninsula already played a role in the power struggles of the Byzantines and Sasanians. Thus the clash between the kingdoms of Aksum and Himyar in displayed a higher power struggle between Byzantium and Persia for control of the Red Sea trade. Territorial wars soon became common, with the Byzantines and Sasanians fighting over upper Mesopotamia and Armenia and key cities that facilitated trade from Arabia, India, and China.
But in the Sasanians invaded, conquering Damascus and Egypt.
It was Emperor Heraclius who was able to repel these invasions, and in he replaced the Sasanian Great King with a more docile one. But the fighting weakened both states, leaving the stage open to a new power. The nomadic Bedouin tribes dominated the Arabian desert, where they worshiped idols and remained in small clans tied together by kinship. Urbanization and agriculture was limited in Arabia, save for a few regions near the coast.
Mecca and Medina then called Yathrib were two such cities that were important hubs for trade between Africa and Eurasia. This commerce was central to city-life, where most inhabitants were merchants.
This included entire tribal chiefdoms such as the Lakhmids in a less controlled area of the Sasanian Empire, and the Ghassanids in a similar area inside of Byzantine territory; these political units of Arab origin offered a surprising stability that was rare in the region and offered Arabia further connections to the outside world. The Lakhmid capital, Hira was a center for Christianity and Jewish craftsmen, merchants, and farmers were common in western Arabia as were Christian monks in central Arabia. Thus pre-Islamic Arabia was no stranger to Abrahamic religions or monotheism, for that matter.
While the Byzantine Roman and Sassanid Persian empires were both weakened by warfare — , a new power in the form of Islam grew in the Middle East. In a series of rapid Muslim conquests , Arab armies , led by the Caliphs and skilled military commanders such as Khalid ibn al-Walid , swept through most of the Middle East, taking more than half of Byzantine territory and completely engulfing the Persian lands. In Anatolia , they were stopped in the Siege of Constantinople — by the Byzantines, who were helped by the Bulgarians.
The Byzantine provinces of Roman Syria , North Africa , and Sicily, however, could not mount such a resistance, and the Muslim conquerors swept through those regions.
At the far west, they crossed the sea taking Visigothic Hispania before being halted in southern France in the Battle of Tours by the Franks. At its greatest extent, the Arab Empire was the first empire to control the entire Middle East, as well three-quarters of the Mediterranean region , the only other empire besides the Roman Empire to control most of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Seljuq Empire would also later dominate the region. Much of North Africa became a peripheral area to the main Muslim centres in the Middle East, but Iberia Al-Andalus and Morocco soon broke away from this distant control and founded one of the world's most advanced societies at the time, along with Baghdad in the eastern Mediterranean.
Between and , the Emirate of Sicily was one of the major centres of Islamic culture in the Mediterranean. After its conquest by the Normans the island developed its own distinct culture with the fusion of Arab, Western, and Byzantine influences. Palermo remained a leading artistic and commercial centre of the Mediterranean well into the Middle Ages. Motivated by religion and conquest, the kings of Europe launched a number of Crusades to try to roll back Muslim power and retake the Holy Land.
The Crusades were unsuccessful but were far more effective in weakening the already tottering Byzantine Empire. They also rearranged the balance of power in the Muslim world as Egypt once again emerged as a major power. Religion always played a prevalent role in Middle Eastern culture, affecting learning, architecture, and the ebb and flow of cultures. When Muhammad introduced Islam, it jump-started Middle Eastern culture, inspiring achievements in architecture , the revival of old advances in science and technology, and the formation of a distinct way of life.
Islam also created the need for spectacularly built mosques which created a distinct form of architecture. Islam unified the Middle East and helped the empires there to remain stable. This created a mix of cultures, especially in Africa, and the mawali demographic. Although the mawali would experience discrimination from the Umayyad, they would gain widespread acceptance from the Abbasids and it was because of this that allowed for mass conversions in foreign areas. Arabian culture took off during the early Abbasid age, despite the prevalent political issues.
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Muslims saved and spread Greek advances in medicine , algebra , geometry , astronomy , anatomy , and ethics that would later finds it way back to Western Europe. The works of Aristotle , Galen , Hippocrates , Ptolemy , and Euclid were saved and distributed throughout the empire and eventually into Europe in this manner.