Several thousand years ago, the center of the civilized world was Sumer, a fertile land developed with sophisticated irrigation systems and the home of the world’s earliest form of writing, cuneiform. Later, this same area cultured a complex legal system known as the Code of Hummurabi upon which many legal systems and beliefs are still based, designed to “destroy the wicked and evilness.”
A thousand years later, Nebuchadnezzar II built nearby the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, solely to please his mate Amytis (historians are not certain whether she was his wife or a concubine) who was homesick in the flat plains of Babylon for her mountain ancestral home in Media, now part of northwestern Iran.
Twelve hundred years later in 633 AD, an army of 18,000 Arab Muslims, under the leadership of Khālid ibn al-Walīd, reached the perimeter of the delta. The Muslims offered the inhabitants of the region an ultimatum: “Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute. If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame.” The mostly Christian local tribes, after much bloody fighting, eventually succumbed to the Islamic conquest. As a result, the native Persian language was converted to Arabic, and the official religion became Islam.
The region’s capital city, just a few scant miles from the ancient Hanging Gardens and the birthplace of most modern civilizations, became second in size only to Constantinople, possible only because of its mastery of the flows of the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers and the construction of a myriad canals, dÿkës, and reservoirs around the city.
Now, almost a millennium and a half later, American tanks roll through the Tigris and the Euphrates basin, intent on the capture of that city — Baghdad.
Mesopotamia continues to remain worldly significant after almost 6,000 years.