News in Bet-Nahren, Assyria

The Rise and Fall of a Great and Ancient Civilization

Posted: Monday, June 04, 2001 at 03:22 PM CT


AssyriaThe rise and fall of a great and ancient civilization Assyrians rose to power in Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. The area was better known as the "land between the two rivers," ­ the Euphrates and Tigris.

The Assyrians created many ideas and technologies used today, including the first postal system, a sexagesimal system of keeping time, paved roads, magnifying glasses, libraries, plumbing and flush toilets, guitars, aqueducts, laxatives and the use of lock and key.

They also created the first boot a calf-high, laced leather boot with a sole reinforced by metal developed for soldiers, who had used open-toe sandals up until then.

The Assyrian government also served as a model for future empires, especially the Persian and Roman.

Known for its brutal and cruel warriors with well-organized and well-equipped armies, Assyrian rule extended over a vast area between 2,400 BC and 612 BC. Assyrians held power from Egypt to Cyprus in the west, through Anatolia, to the Caspian in the east.

In 612 BC, however, the empire collapsed.

In the first century, the Assyrians were among the first people to embrace Christianity. Until then, they worshiped their god, Ashur. In 33 AD, the Assyrian Church was founded.

In the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, Assyrians translated Greek works, including religion, science, philosophy and medicine. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen and many others were translated into Assyrian and from Assyrian into Arabic.

It was these Arabic translations that the Moors brought with them into Spain and which the Spaniards translated into Latin and spread throughout Europe, thus igniting the European renaissance.

In the fourth century, the Assyrians founded the first university in the world. The school of Nisibis had three departments: theology, philosophy and medicine.

By the end of the 12th century, the Assyrian Church was larger than the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches combined. It expanded over the Asian continent from Syria to Mongolia, Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines. But the days of glory were coming to an end.

By 1300 AD, the Arabs levied heavy taxes on Christians, forcing many Assyrians to convert to Islam. Timurlane the Mongol did his share by destroying many cities in the Middle East, drastically shrinking the Assyrian community.

Many in the Assyrian population fled to the Hakkari mountain (present-day Turkey) while the remaining Assyrians stayed in northern Iraq, Syria and Urmi (Iran).

In time, the Assyrian community split into three Christian sects: The Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorian), established in 33 AD by Theodos, Thomas, and Bartholomew, the Assyrian Orthodox Church (Jacobite), established in 450 AD, and the Chaldean Church of Babylon (Roman Catholic), established in 1450 AD.

In the following decades, a series of massacres forced the Assyrians to flee from one nation to the other.

In Iran, the Ottomans and Kurds massacred hundreds of Assyrians, forcing survivors to escape to Iraq. On the 25-day day journey, another 7,000 perished from starvation, diseases and more massacres.

In exchange for their support in World War I, Britain, France and Russia promised the Assyrians their own homeland in northern Iraq.

The promise was never fulfilled and in 1933, an estimated 3,000 Assyrians were massacred in the Iraqi village of Simeil, creating what is known as the Assyrian diaspora.



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