This is the post that all have been dreading for days……one of the Professor’s historical perspectives.
In my attempts to explain or at least help people understand the Middle East I am always confronted with the same explanation…..”those people have always been a violent bunch”…..or something along those lines….
Let me begin this post with…of course there has always been violence but that can be said about any region of the planet and as always something changed somewhere for the present day to be happening…..
I was fortunate enough to study Middle East studies while in school….so I hope that this short and concise history lesson will answer your questions….if not I can provide reading material if one cares to check out my conclusions….
In the begin there were wandering peoples that came together to form the first settlements and the beginning of civilization. A natural progression was that these cities became self-contained states on their own…..the Sumerian were never a mighty empire but rather a collection of city-states similar to early Greece. During these time there is not much evidence of widespread violence or major warfare.
Then came the Akkadians…this became a kingdom after absorbing most of the Sumerians culture. Again not much evidence of widespread war but the culture was expanded to modern day Lebanon most probably through trade.
Next up were the Amorites or the “Old Babylonians”…this kingdom consolidated the old Akkadian empire under the rule of a monarch with strict legal code…..think Hammurabi. These citizens of the Futile Crescent were more interested in their area and made life good for its citizens. Again warfare was not a major component of the kingdom. Life thrived through trade and commerce, not war.
Coming down from Anatolia (Turkey) were the Hittites….these people brought the concept of a violent conquest to the people of Iraq and Syria…..wars helped the Hittites stretch their empire from Turkey to Iraq and Egypt and even onto Greece. The ideas of warfare were introduced to the region and as they say everything changes.
Enter the Assyrians (1200 B.C.)–this is when warfare became a science….the Assyrians used technologically improved weapons to fight and conquer ……the had strict laws and they would take conquered people and have them migrate to another region to prevent uprisings….the Israelites were one of these people. They conquered regions but then there was a peaceful co-existence, for the most part. (There is so much more and I would gladly cover it if it is wanted)
Rising up next were the Chaldeans or new Babylonians…..these became an empire through conquest and they even adopted the migration of conquered people that the Assyrians had employed to keep the chance of uprisings down to a minimum. Once the war was over then the empire settled down and life went on through trade and commerce.
Then about 540 B.C. came the Persians of or modern day Iran….The Persians belief in one god had them having to dominate the world for good….after the conquest the local people were allowed to continue to belief in the religion and customs as long as there was peace then the Persian army would not intervene. (On a side note it was Cyrus the Great that conquered Babylon and allowed the Israelites to return to their land).
The the Greeks came with their army and Alexander gave the region its first taste of savagery….up until this time wars were fought and then followed by a peaceful co-existence but Alexander turned the region into a river of blood….from Lebanon to norther India. He had to deal with uprising after uprising until his death in 323 B.C.
Greek commander Seleucus was given the territory of Iraq, Syria and Persia after the death of Alexander. Not much is known about the period after until its fall in 170 B.C. to the Parthians.
The next major event for the Middle East was in 634 A.D. when the armies of Islam conquered Mesopotamia. By 762 the Abbasid Dynasty established the city of Baghdad as the capital of the Islamic world. By the 10th century Baghdad had become the cultural and intellectual center as well as a successful trading center.
All was safe and prosperous for about 200 years….then the murderous horde that the world called the Mongols entered into the Middle East….the grandson of Genghis Khan entered into Mesopotamia in 1250 and set about massacred the citizens, plundered the country’s riches, wrecked irrigation canals, flatten most cities and left the countryside totally barren….this effected the region terribly.
After the Mongols destruction the region suffered constant economic depression so the once noble civilization gave way to the rivalry of the tribal or clan based existence….and existence that continues to this day.
So to say the the region has always been a region of constant conflict is just wrong…..the destruction wrought by the Mongols doomed the region to the events and violence of today.
The history is more complex than the post would lead you to believe…..I just wanted to let my readers know that the region has not always been a source of conflict.