Caesar's planned invasion of the Parthian Empire
Caesar's planned invasion of the Parthian Empire was to begin in 44 BC. The campaign was to start followed by an invasion of Parthia. Plutarch recorded that once Parthia was subdued the army would continue to Scythia Germania and back to Rome; these grander plans are found only in Plutarch's Parallel Lives, their authenticity is questioned by most scholars. There is evidence that Caesar had begun practical preparation for the campaign some time before late 45 BC. By 44 BC Caesar had begun a mass mobilization, sixteen legions and ten thousand cavalry were being gathered for the invasion; these would be supported by light armed infantry. Six of these legions had been sent to Macedonia to train, along with a large sum of gold for the expedition. Octavius was sent ostensibly as a student, to remain in contact with the army; as Caesar planned to be away for some time he reordered the senate and insured that all magistrates and tribunes would be appointed by him during his absence. Caesar intended to leave Rome to start the campaign on 18 March.
The expedition was planned to take three years. It was to begin with a punitive attack on Dacia under King Burebista, threatening Macedonia's northern border, it has been suggested by Christopher Pelling that Dacia was going to be the expedition's main target, not Parthia. After Dacia the army was to invade Parthia from Armenia. Here the ancient sources diverge. Suetonius states that Caesar wished to proceed cautiously and would not engage the Parthian army unless he could first determine their full strength. Although he implies that Caesar's goal was an expansion of the empire, not just its stabilization. Plutarch, describes a bolder campaign; as he writes that once Parthia had been subdued, the army would move through the Caucasus, to attack Scythia and return to Italy after conquering Germania. Plutarch states that the construction of a canal through the isthmus of Corinth, for which Anienus had been placed in charge, was to occur during the campaign. Plutarch's Parallel Lives was written with the intention of finding correlations between the lives of famous Romans and Greeks.
Buszard's reading of Parallel Lives interprets Plutarch as trying to use Caesar's future plans as a case study in the error of unbridled ambition. Some academics have theorized that Caesar's pairing with Alexander and Trajan's invasion of Parthia, near the time of Plutarch's writing, led to exaggerations in the presented invasion plan; the deployment of the army to Macedonia near the Dacian frontier and the lack of military preparation in Syria have been used to lend support for this hypothesis. Malitz, while acknowledging that the Scythia and Germania plans appear unrealistic, believes they were credible given the geographic knowledge of the time; the public pretense for the expedition was that less than ten years prior in 53 BC an invasion of the Parthian Empire had been attempted by the Roman consul Marcus Crassus. It ended in his death at the Battle of Carrhae. To many Romans this required revenge. Parthia had taken Pompey's side in the recent civil war against Caesar; as Rome in 45 BC was still politically divided after the civil war, Marcus Cicero tried to lobby Caesar to postpone the Parthian invasion and solve his domestic problems instead.
Following a similar line of thought in June of that year Caesar temporarily wavered in his intention to leave with the expedition. However, Caesar decided to leave Rome and join the army in Macedonia. A number of motivations have been proposed to explain his decision to continue his military career. After a victorious campaign he would have, as Plutarch wrote, "completed this circuit of his empire, which would be bounded on all sides by the ocean" and return home with his lifelong dictatorship secured, it has been proposed that Caesar knew of the threats against him and felt that leaving Rome and being in the company of a loyal army would be safer and politically. Caesar may have wished to heal the rift from the civil war, or distract from it, by reminding the populace of Rome of the threat of a neighboring empire. In order to support a royal title for Caesar a rumor was spread in the lead up to the planned invasion, it alleged. As Caesar's greatest internal opposition came from those that believed he wanted royal power, this strengthened the conspiracy against him.
It has been proposed that Caesar's opposition would be fearful of him returning victorious from his campaign and more popular than ever. The assassination occurred on 15 March 44 BC on the day the senate was to debate granting Caesar the title of king for the war with Parthia. However, some of the aspects of Caesar's planned kingship may have been invented after the assassination in order to justify the act; the relationship between the planned Parthian war and his death, if any, is unknown. After Caesar's death Mark Antony vied for control of the legions from the planned invasion, still stationed in Macedonia and he temporarily took control of that province in order to do so. From 40 to 33 BC Rome and Antony in particular would wage an unsuccessful war with Parthia, he used Caesar's proposed invasion plan, of attacking through Armenia, where it was felt the support of the local king could be relied on. In Dacia, Burebista was to die the same year as Caesar. History of Rome podcast: by Mike Duncan
Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628
The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 was the final and most devastating of the series of wars fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran. The previous war between the two powers had ended in 591 after Emperor Maurice helped the Sasanian king Khosrow II regain his throne. In 602 Maurice was murdered by his political rival Phocas. Khosrow proceeded ostensibly to avenge the death of Maurice; this became a decades-long conflict, the longest war in the series, was fought throughout the Middle East: in Egypt, the Levant, the Caucasus, Armenia, the Aegean Sea and before the walls of Constantinople itself. While the Persians proved successful during the first stage of the war from 602 to 622, conquering much of the Levant, several islands in the Aegean Sea and parts of Anatolia, the ascendancy of emperor Heraclius in 610 led, despite initial setbacks, to a status quo ante bellum. Heraclius' campaigns in Iranian lands from 622 to 626 forced the Persians onto the defensive, allowing his forces to regain momentum.
Allied with the Avars and Slavs, the Persians made a final attempt to take Constantinople in 626, but were defeated there. In 627 Heraclius invaded the heartland of Persia. A civil war broke out in Persia, during which the Persians killed their king, sued for peace. By the end of the conflict, both sides had exhausted their human and material resources and achieved little, they were vulnerable to the sudden emergence of the Islamic Rashidun Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the war. The Muslim forces swiftly conquered the entire Sasanian Empire and deprived the Byzantine Empire of its territories in the Levant, the Caucasus and North Africa. Over the following centuries, much of what remained of the Byzantine Empire, the entire Sasanian Empire, would come under Muslim rule. After decades of inconclusive fighting, Emperor Maurice ended the Byzantine–Sasanian War of 572–591 by helping the exiled Sasanian prince Khosrow, the future Khosrow II, to regain his throne from the usurper Bahrām Chobin.
In return the Sasanians ceded to the Byzantines parts of northeastern Mesopotamia, much of Persian Armenia and Caucasian Iberia, though the exact details are not clear. More for the Byzantine economy, they no longer had to pay tribute to the Sasanians. Emperor Maurice began new campaigns in the Balkans to stop incursions by the Slavs and Avars; the magnanimity and campaigns of emperor Tiberius II had eliminated the surplus in the treasury left from the time of Justin II. In order to generate a reserve in the treasury, Maurice instituted strict fiscal measures and cut army pay; the final mutiny in 602 resulted from Maurice ordering his troops in the Balkans to live off the land during the winter. The army proclaimed a Thracian centurion, as emperor. Maurice attempted to defend Constantinople by arming the Blues and the Greens – supporters of the two major chariot racing teams of the Hippodrome – but they proved ineffective. Maurice was soon intercepted and killed by the soldiers of Phocas. Upon the murder of Maurice, governor of the Byzantine province of Mesopotamia, rebelled against Phocas and seized Edessa, a major city of the province.
Emperor Phocas instructed general Germanus to besiege Edessa, prompting Narses to request help from the Persian king Khosrow II. Khosrow, only too willing to help avenge Maurice, his "friend and father-", used Maurice's death as an excuse to attack the Byzantine Empire, trying to reconquer Armenia and Mesopotamia. General Germanus died in battle against the Persians. An army sent by Phocas against Khosrow was defeated near Dara in Upper Mesopotamia, leading to the capture of that important fortress in 605. Narses escaped from Leontius, the eunuch appointed by Phocas to deal with him, but when Narses attempted to return to Constantinople to discuss peace terms, Phocas ordered him seized and burned alive; the death of Narses along with the failure to stop the Persians damaged the prestige of Phocas' military regime. In 608, general Heraclius the Elder, Exarch of Africa, urged on by Priscus, the Count of the Excubitors and son-in-law of Phocas. Heraclius proclaimed himself and his son of the same name as consuls—thereby implicitly claiming the imperial title—and minted coins with the two wearing the consular robes.
At about the same time rebellions began in Roman Syria and Palaestina Prima in the wake of Heraclius' revolt. In 609 or 610 the Patriarch of Antioch, Anastasius II, died. Many sources claim that the Jews were involved in the fighting, though it is unclear where they were members of factions and where they were opponents of Christians. Phocas responded by appointing Bonus. Bonus punished the Greens, a horse racing party, in Antioch for their role in the violence in 609. Heraclius the Elder sent his nephew Nicetas to attack Egypt. Bonus was defeated by the latter outside Alexandria. In 610, Nicetas succeeded in capturing the province, establishing a power base there with the help of Patriarch John the Almsgiver, elected with the help of Nicetas; the main rebel force was employed in a naval invasion of Constantinople, led by the younger Heraclius, to be the new emperor. Organized resistance against Heraclius soon collapsed, Phocas was handed to him by the patrician Probos. Phocas was executed, though not before a celebrated exchange of comments between him and his successor:"Is it thus", asked Heraclius, "that you have governed the Empire?""Will you," replied Phocas, with unexpected spirit, "govern it any better?"
The elder Heraclius disappears soon afterward from sources dying, t
Crisis of the Third Century
The Crisis of the Third Century known as Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis, was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed under the combined pressures of barbarian invasions and migrations into Roman territory. The crisis began with the assassination of Emperor Severus Alexander by his own troops in 235; this initiated a 50-year period during which there were at least 26 claimants to the title of emperor prominent Roman army generals, who assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire. The same number of men became accepted by the Roman Senate as emperor during this period and so became legitimate emperors. By 268, the empire had split into three competing states: the Gallic Empire, including the Roman provinces of Gaul and Hispania. Aurelian reunited the empire; the crisis resulted in such profound changes in the empire's institutions, economic life and religion, that it is seen by most historians as defining the transition between the historical periods of classical antiquity and late antiquity.
After the Roman Empire had been stabilised once again after the turmoil of the Year of the Five Emperors in the reign of Septimius Severus, the Severan dynasty lost more and more control. Septimius Severus raised the pay of legionaries, gave substantial donativum to the troops; the large and ongoing increase in military expenditure caused problems for all of his successors. His son Caracalla raised the annual pay and lavished many benefits on the army, in accordance with the advice of his father to keep their loyalty, considered dividing the Empire into eastern and western sectors with his brother Geta to reduce the conflict in their co-rule; the situation of the Roman Empire became dire in 235. Many Roman legions had been defeated during a previous campaign against Germanic peoples raiding across the borders, while the emperor Severus Alexander had been focused on the dangers from the Sassanid Empire. Leading his troops the emperor resorted to diplomacy and accepting tribute to pacify the Germanic chieftains rather than military conquest.
According to Herodian this cost Severus Alexander the respect of his troops, who may have felt that more severe punishment was required for the tribes that had intruded on Rome's territory. The troops assassinated Severus Alexander and proclaimed the new emperor to be Maximinus Thrax, commander of one of the legions present. Maximinus was the first of the barracks emperors – rulers who were elevated by the troops without having any political experience, a supporting faction, distinguished ancestors, or a legitimate claim to the imperial throne; as their rule rested on military might and generalship, they operated as warlords reliant on the army to maintain power. Maximinus continued the campaigns in Germania but struggled to exert his authority over the whole empire; the Senate was displeased at having to accept a peasant as Emperor. This precipitated the chaotic Year of the Six Emperors during which all of the original claimants were killed: in 238 a revolt broke out in Africa led by Gordian I and Gordian II, soon supported by the Roman Senate, but this was defeated with Gordian II killed and Gordian I committing suicide.
The Senate, fearing Imperial wrath, raised two of their own as co-Emperors and Balbinus with Gordian I's grandson Gordian III as Caesar. Maximinus marched on Rome but was assassinated by his Legio II Parthica, subsequently Pupienus and Balbinus were murdered by the Praetorian Guard. In the following years, numerous generals of the Roman army fought each other for control of the empire and neglected their duties of defending it from invasion. There were frequent raids across the Rhine and Danube frontier by foreign tribes, including the Carpians, Goths and Alamanni, attacks from Sassanids in the east. Climate changes and a sea level rise disrupted the agriculture of what is now the Low Countries, forcing tribes residing in the region to migrate into Roman lands. Further disruption arose in 251; this plague caused large-scale death weakening the empire. The situation was worsened in 260. Throughout the period, numerous usurpers claimed the imperial throne. In the absence of a strong central authority, the empire broke into three competing states.
The Roman provinces of Gaul and Hispania broke off to form the Gallic Empire in 260. The eastern provinces of Syria and Aegyptus became independent as the Palmyrene Empire in 267; the remaining provinces, centred on Italy, stayed under a single ruler but now faced threats on every side. An invasion of Macedonia and Greece by Goths, displaced from their lands on the Black Sea, was defeated by emperor Claudius II Gothicus at the Battle of Naissus in 268 or 269. Historians see this victory as the turning point of the crisis. In its aftermath, a series of tough, energetic barracks emperors were able to reassert central authority. Further victories by Claudius Gothicus drove back the Alamanni and recovered
Julian's Persian War
Julian's Persian War, or the Perso-Roman War of 363, was the last undertaking of the Roman emperor Julian, begun in March 363. It was an aggressive war against the Persian Empire ruled by the Sassanian king Shapur II. Shapur is believed to have expected an invasion by way of the Tigris valley. Julian sent a detachment to take the Tigris route. Meanwhile, with his main army he advanced down the Euphrates valley, meeting only scattered opposition, reached the walls of the Persian capital Ctesiphon, where he met and defeated the Persian army at the Battle of Ctesiphon. Unable to take the city, with a faltering campaign, Julian was misled by Persian spies into burning his fleet and taking a disadvantageous route of retreat in which his army was harassed and his progress crawled to a halt. In one of the skirmishes Julian was wounded and died of his wounds, leaving his successor, along with his army, trapped in Persian territory; the new emperor, in light of the "crushing military defeat" the Romans had suffered, was left no option but to agree to humiliating terms in order to save the remnants of his army, himself, from complete annihilation.
The ignominious treaty of 363 transferred to Persian rule the major cities and fortresses of Nisibis and Singara, renounced the alliance with Armenia, giving Shapur de facto authority to invade and annex Arsacid Armenia as a result. Thus Arsaces II of Armenia was left without any diplomatic support, he was captured and imprisoned by Shapur in 368. According to contemporary Roman sources Julian's aim was to punish the Persians for their recent invasion of Rome's eastern provinces. Among the leaders of the expedition was Hormizd, a brother of Shapur II, who had fled from the Persian Empire forty years earlier and had been welcomed by the Roman emperor Constantine I. Julian is said to have intended to place Hormizd on the Persian throne in place of Shapur. A devout believer in the old Roman religion, Julian asked several major oracles about the outcome of his expedition; the philosopher Sallustius, a friend of Julian, wrote advising him to abandon his plan, numerous adverse omens were reported.
He instructed Arshak II of Armenia to prepare a large army, but without revealing its purpose. These preparations are thought by scholars to have suggested to Shapur that an invasion from the north, by way of the Tigris valley, was Julian's plan. Julian had wintered at Antioch in Roman Syria. On 5 March 363 he set out north-east with his army by way of Aleppo and Manbij, where fifty soldiers were killed in the collapse of a portico while they were marching under it; the whole army mustered there, crossed the middle Euphrates and proceeded to Harran, known to the Romans as Carrhae, site of the famous battle in which the Roman general Crassus was defeated and killed in 53 BC. "From there two different royal highways lead to Persia," writes the eyewitness Ammianus Marcellinus: "the one on the left through Adiabene and across the Tigris. Julian made use of both, he sent a detachment under Procopius and Sebastianus towards the Tigris where they were to join Arshak and his Armenian army. They were to attack the Persians from the north.
Julian himself, with the larger part of his army turned south towards the lower Euphrates, reaching Callinicum on 27 March and meeting the fleet under the command of Lucillianus. There he was met by leaders of the "Saraceni", he refused to pay the traditional tribute in return. The army followed the Euphrates downstream to Circesium and crossed the river Aboras with the help of a pontoon bridge assembled for the purpose. Once over the border, Julian invigorated the soldiers' ardor with a fiery oration, representing his hopes and reasons for the war, distributed a donative of 130 pieces of silver to each; the army was divided on the march into three principal divisions. The center under Victor, composed of the heavy infantry; the baggage and the rearguard were under Dagalaiphus, while the scouts were led by Lucilianus, the veteran of Nisibis. A by-no-means-negligible detachment was left to hold the fortress of Circesium, as several of the fickle Arabian tribes near the border were allied with Persia.
Julian penetrated into Assyria. Since the main part of the population of Assyria was located in the towns on the banks of the Euphrates, while the interior of the country was for the most part a desert wasteland, Julian's march, burning every town which hindered his advance and devastating the adjacent country damaged the industry of the province. Since Shapur II had not expected Julian's attack so soon, nor from that direction, Julian was unopposed, but the main cities of the province were captured: Anah capitulated, Macepracta fell, the last resort of the natives, the flooding of the mar
Roman–Sasanian War of 421–422
The Roman–Sassanid war of 421–422 was a conflict between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanids. The casus belli was the persecution of Christians by the Sassanid king Bahram V, which had come as a response to attacks by Christians against Zoroastrian temples. In 421, Bahram V succeeded his father Yazdegerd I, who shortly before he had been killed, began a persecution of Christians as reprisal for attacks against Zoroastrian temples by Christians during his reign. Among them was James Intercisus, a political counsellor of Yazdegerd's, who had converted to Zoroastrianism but converted back to Christianity; the persecuted Christians fled to Roman territory and were welcomed by the bishop of Constantinople, who informed the Emperor of the persecution. The Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II was at the time influenced by his religious sister Pulcheria, had become more and more interested in Christianity; the Roman-Sassanid relationship had some friction. The Persians now refused to send them back.
For these reasons, when the Persian ambassadors reached the Roman court to demand the return of the fugitives, Theodosius choose to break the peace and declare war, rather than giving them back. The commander-in-chief of the Roman army was Ardaburius, incidentally, came from the Iranian tribe of the Alans. Ardaburius needed to collect many troops for his campaign. Theodosius, allowed some Pannonian Ostrogoths to settle in Thracia, to defend the province from the Huns while the Thracian Roman troops were sent to the East. Ardaburius sent Anatolius to Persarmenia, where he joined the rebels, while Ardaburius entered Persian territory and devastated Arzanene; the general of the Sassanid army, engaged Ardaburius in battle, but was defeated and forced to retreat. Narses planned to attack Mesopotamia, a Roman province, left unguarded, moved there, but Ardaburius foresaw his enemy's plan and intercepted him there. Ardaburius put the fortress of Nisibis under siege. Bahram allied with the Lakhmid Arabs of Alamundarus, however, were dispersed by the Romans.
In the meantime, the King of the Huns, had attacked the dioceses of Dacia and Thracia and had menaced Constantinople. To avoid a war on two fronts, Theodosius recalled Ardaburius. According to a Roman ecclesiastical source, the Sassanids besieged Theodosiopolis for 30 days, with thousands of soldiers and siege engines. According to this source, the Romans did not try to aid the besieged, but the Sassanids were convinced to lift the siege when the bishop of the city, had a stone-thrower, named after Thomas the Apostle, kill a lesser king of the Sassanid army. Despite the evident religious theme of this account, the passage is important as it testifies to an unsuccessful Sassanid attack on Theodosiopolis; this could be the Theodosiopolis in Armenia, in this case the siege should be dated to 421, while Narses was in Mesopotamia, or Theodosiopolis in Osroene, in this case the attack should be dated after the Roman retreat from Nisibis. The peace treaty that ended the war was negotiated by the magister officiorum Helio.
It returned everything to the situation before the war. Both parties agreed to reject Arab defectors of the other party, as well as to guarantee liberty of religion in their territories, it is related that Acacius, bishop of Amida, had the consecrated gold and silver plate of his church melted down, to procure a sum sufficient to buy 7,000 Persian captives who had wound up in the slave market in consequence of the war, whom he sent back in freedom to their homeland, as a gesture of Christian generosity to the Persian persecutors. If the story is true, Gibbon remarks, this will have facilitated the conclusion of peace. Stephen Williams, Gerard Friell, The Rome that did not fall: the survival of the East in the fifth century, Routledge, 1999, ISBN 0-415-15403-0, p. 31. Warren T. Treadgold, A history of the Byzantine state and society, Stanford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8047-2630-2, p. 90. Michael Gaddis, There is no crime for those who have Christ: religious violence in the Christian Roman empire, University of California Press, 2005, ISBN 0-520-24104-5, pgs.
196-197The most complete account of the war is preserved in Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica VII.18, but some passages are included by Theodoret in his Historia Ecclesiastica. English translations of these sections are present in: Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. C. Lieu, Geoffrey Greatrex, The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars, Part 2, CRC Press, 2002, ISBN 0-203-99454-X, p. 38-41
Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days corresponding to most of Iraq, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders. The Sumerians and Akkadians dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire, it fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire. Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, the eastern regions of Mesopotamia fell to the Sassanid Persians; the division of Mesopotamia between Roman and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines.
A number of neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene and Hatra. Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC, it has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics and agriculture". The regional toponym Mesopotamia comes from the ancient Greek root words μέσος "middle" and ποταμός "river" and translates to " between two/the rivers", it is used throughout the Greek Septuagint to translate the Aramaic equivalent Naharaim. An earlier Greek usage of the name Mesopotamia is evident from The Anabasis of Alexander, written in the late 2nd century AD, but refers to sources from the time of Alexander the Great. In the Anabasis, Mesopotamia was used to designate the land east of the Euphrates in north Syria.
The Aramaic term biritum/birit narim corresponded to a similar geographical concept. The term Mesopotamia was more applied to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris, thereby incorporating not only parts of Syria but almost all of Iraq and southeastern Turkey; the neighbouring steppes to the west of the Euphrates and the western part of the Zagros Mountains are often included under the wider term Mesopotamia. A further distinction is made between Northern or Upper Mesopotamia and Southern or Lower Mesopotamia. Upper Mesopotamia known as the Jazira, is the area between the Euphrates and the Tigris from their sources down to Baghdad. Lower Mesopotamia is the area from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf and includes Kuwait and parts of western Iran. In modern academic usage, the term Mesopotamia also has a chronological connotation, it is used to designate the area until the Muslim conquests, with names like Syria and Iraq being used to describe the region after that date. It has been argued that these euphemisms are Eurocentric terms attributed to the region in the midst of various 19th-century Western encroachments.
Mesopotamia encompasses the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, both of which have their headwaters in the Taurus Mountains. Both rivers are fed by numerous tributaries, the entire river system drains a vast mountainous region. Overland routes in Mesopotamia follow the Euphrates because the banks of the Tigris are steep and difficult; the climate of the region is semi-arid with a vast desert expanse in the north which gives way to a 15,000-square-kilometre region of marshes, mud flats, reed banks in the south. In the extreme south, the Euphrates and the Tigris empty into the Persian Gulf; the arid environment which ranges from the northern areas of rain-fed agriculture to the south where irrigation of agriculture is essential if a surplus energy returned on energy invested is to be obtained. This irrigation is aided by a high water table and by melting snows from the high peaks of the northern Zagros Mountains and from the Armenian Highlands, the source of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that give the region its name.
The usefulness of irrigation depends upon the ability to mobilize sufficient labor for the construction and maintenance of canals, this, from the earliest period, has assisted the development of urban settlements and centralized systems of political authority. Agriculture throughout the region has been supplemented by nomadic pastoralism, where tent-dwelling nomads herded sheep and goats from the river pastures in the dry summer months, out into seasonal grazing lands on the desert fringe in the wet winter season; the area is lacking in building stone, precious metals and timber, so has relied upon long-distance trade of agricultural products to secure these items from outlying areas. In the marshlands to the south of the area, a complex water-borne fishing culture has existed since prehistoric times, has added to the cultural mix. Periodic breakdowns in the cultural system have occurred for a number of reasons; the demands for labor has from time to time led to population increases that push the limits of the ecological carrying capacity, should a period of climatic instability ensue, collapsing central government a
Syria the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Armenians, Kurds, Circassians and Turks. Religious groups include Sunnis, Alawites, Isma'ilis, Shiites, Salafis and Jews. Sunni make up the largest religious group in Syria. Syria is a unitary republic consisting of 14 governorates and is the only country that politically espouses Ba'athism, it is a member of one international organization other than the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement. In English, the name "Syria" was synonymous with the Levant, while the modern state encompasses the sites of several ancient kingdoms and empires, including the Eblan civilization of the 3rd millennium BC. Aleppo and the capital city Damascus are among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
In the Islamic era, Damascus was the seat of the Umayyad Caliphate and a provincial capital of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt. The modern Syrian state was established in mid-20th century after centuries of Ottoman and a brief period French mandate, represented the largest Arab state to emerge from the Ottoman-ruled Syrian provinces, it gained de-jure independence as a parliamentary republic on 24 October 1945, when Republic of Syria became a founding member of the United Nations, an act which ended the former French Mandate – although French troops did not leave the country until April 1946. The post-independence period was tumultuous, a large number of military coups and coup attempts shook the country in the period 1949–71. In 1958, Syria entered a brief union with Egypt called the United Arab Republic, terminated by the 1961 Syrian coup d'état; the republic was renamed into the Arab Republic of Syria in late 1961 after December 1 constitutional referendum, was unstable until the 1963 Ba'athist coup d'état, since which the Ba'ath Party has maintained its power.
Syria was under Emergency Law from 1963 to 2011 suspending most constitutional protections for citizens. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000 and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad, in office from 1971 to 2000. Since March 2011, Syria has been embroiled in an armed conflict, with a number of countries in the region and beyond involved militarily or otherwise; as a result, a number of self-proclaimed political entities have emerged on Syrian territory, including the Syrian opposition, Tahrir al-Sham and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Syria is ranked last on the Global Peace Index, making it the most violent country in the world due to the war, although life continues for most of its citizens as of December 2017; the war caused more than 470,000 deaths, 7.6 million internally displaced people and over 5 million refugees, making population assessment difficult in recent years. Several sources indicate that the name Syria is derived from the 8th century BC Luwian term "Sura/i", the derivative ancient Greek name: Σύριοι, Sýrioi, or Σύροι, Sýroi, both of which derived from Aššūrāyu in northern Mesopotamia.
However, from the Seleucid Empire, this term was applied to The Levant, from this point the Greeks applied the term without distinction between the Assyrians of Mesopotamia and Arameans of the Levant. Mainstream modern academic opinion favours the argument that the Greek word is related to the cognate Ἀσσυρία, Assyria derived from the Akkadian Aššur; the Greek name appears to correspond to Phoenician ʾšr "Assur", ʾšrym "Assyrians", recorded in the 8th century BC Çineköy inscription. The area designated by the word has changed over time. Classically, Syria lies at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, between Arabia to the south and Asia Minor to the north, stretching inland to include parts of Iraq, having an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including, from west to east, Commagene and Adiabene. By Pliny's time, this larger Syria had been divided into a number of provinces under the Roman Empire: Judaea renamed Palaestina in AD 135 in the extreme southwest.
Since 10,000 BC, Syria was one of the centers of Neolithic culture where agriculture and cattle breeding appeared for the first time in the world. The following Neolithic period is represented by rectangular houses of Mureybet culture. At the time of the pre-pottery Neolithic, people used vessels made of stone and burnt lime. Finds of obsidian tools from Anatolia are evidences of early trade relations. Cities of Hamoukar and Emar played an important role during Bronze Age. Archaeologists have demonstrated that civilization in Syria was one of the most ancient on earth preceded by only those of Mesopotamia; the earliest recorded in