The Geography and Early History of the Middle East The Outline The Land and its people Early Civilizations Judaism and Christianity.
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- The Geography and Early History of the Middle East The Outline The Land and its people Early Civilizations Judaism and Christianity
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- The Land and the People The Middle East stands at the crossroads of 3 continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. It has connected major trade routes, both overland and on the seas. Over thousands of years, migrating peoples, traders and conquerors crossed the Middle East spreading ideas, goods and achievements.
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- Strategic Location The Middle Eastern nations command vital sea routes. Egypt controls the Suez Canal which links the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Turkey controls the Bosporus and Dardanelles, two vital straits that link the Black and Aegean Seas. The Middle East sits atop of vast reserves of oil, which makes it a focus point for the rest of the world. The Straits of Hormuz is critical for oil tankers to pass from the Persian Gulf to the open seas.
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- 1. The Northern Tier: Stretches across Turkey and Iran. The Anatolian Plateau is surrounded by the Taurus and Pontic mountains. It supports farming, and is well populated. It is located in Asia Minor, a large peninsula that connects Asia with Europe. The Ottoman Empire flourished in this region for hundreds of years.
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- The Iranian Plateau is also surrounded by mountains. The Elburz in the north, and the Zagros in the west and southwest. Most of this region is dry and is sparsely populated, yet the Persian Empire was one empire founded on the Iranian Plateau. These empires had controlled large parts of the Middle East.
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- 2. The Fertile Crescent: An arc-shaped region that stretches from the eastern Mediterranean along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf. Rich soil and abundant water have made it a major population center. It has few natural barriers, which has made it easy for conquerors to invade throughout its history. Mesopotamia, called land between the rivers, was one of the wealthiest areas to settle. Syria and Palestine became populated along the coast.
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- 3. The Arabian Peninsula: It is a vast plateau, about 1 / 3 the size of the United States. It borders the important waters and Saudi Arabia is the largest nation in the region. It suffers a lack of water except for some areas along the southern coast. Its mostly desert but there are a few oasis. It suffers a lack of water except for some areas along the southern coast. Its mostly desert but there are a few oasis. It has huge amounts of oil and is the birthplace of Islam. Mecca attracts Muslims from around the globe.
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- 4. The Nile Valley: The Nile Valley was the cradle of ancient civilization. The Nile Valley had forbidding deserts in the east and west protecting it from invasion. The Nile Rivers flooding was predictable. It also provided for trade because it runs north and the winds blow south. In ancient times, trade linked the Fertile Crescent with others in the Nile Valley.
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- 5. The Maghreb: It includes the North African nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco. Maghreb means Western Isle in Arabic. To early Arabs it seemed isolated, surrounded by water, mountains and deserts. Arab armies carried Islam to the region. The Sahara desert and Atlas mountains dominate the region. Both lack enough water so it is sparsely populated. Most live along the Mediterranean coast.
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- Climate and Resources Climate dictates where the people of the Middle East live. Water is the key, the people cluster in well watered areas. Less than 10% of the land gets enough rain to support farming. Thus, irrigation is needed. A Shaduf, (a water hoist), was used by the Egyptians to transfer water to their fields. Oil is the most valuable resource, but it also has salt, phosphate, (for fertilizers) and copper.
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- People The Middle East is home to many different people with a variety of languages, religions, and traditions. Arabs are the majority group. In the mid 600s, they conquered different people in the Mid-East and North Africa. Over time they adopted the language of the Arabs and now anyone who speaks the language is known as an Arab. There are Turks, Iranians, and Kurds as well.
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- The Sumerians The 1 st Civilization in the Middle East. They were farming settlements. The best grew into powerful city states. They often fought each other. Each had its own gods, goddesses, laws and army. If the gods were angered, Sumerians feared they would cause disasters like floods or drought. Priests became powerful because it was thought they could communicate with the gods. Therefore the chief building in a city-state was a Ziggurat, a many tiered temple, where they controlled the lives of people.
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- Taxes were collected in the form of crops and grain and offered it to the gods as well. Scribes, young men in the temple who learned to read and write, kept records in the temple. At first their writing was in the form of pictographs, symbols that represented things. Later the symbols evolved to represent sounds. They used a stylus, or sharpened reed, to cut wedge shaped forms into clay tablets. When the Romans found it they called it cuneiform, Latin for wedge.
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- Laws, prayers, treaties, medical knowledge, and other information have been found on these tablets. They were the first people known to have used the wheel and invented the sail. They invented the plow and developed an accurate calendar. They used geometry to survey fields. They set up a measurement system based on the number 60. Today people use a 60 second minute, 60 minute hour and a 360 degree circle as a result.
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- Warfare and Trade Spread Culture The Fertile Crescent had few natural barriers. Nomads were attracted to fertile farms and rich cities. They conquered, settled, and added their beliefs to the advanced civilizations they defeated. Trade flourished, cultures blended.
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- Around 1700 BC under Hammurabi, they conquered much of the Fertile Crescent. He established law, based on an eye for an eye, or tooth for tooth. The laws were carved in stone and placed everywhere which made a lasting impression.
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- About 1500 BC they came into the region from Asia Minor and after conquering they absorbed the Babylonian culture. Hittites are best know for being masters of iron, which they tried to keep a secret, but failed. Their weapons were superior to the bronze weapons others used.
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- Phoenicians While Hittites ruled the Fertile Crescent, the Phoenicians moved into what is modern day Lebanon, setting up small city-states all along the coast of the Mediterranean. They became masters of sea trade, establishing trading colonies form North Africa to Spain. They are the Carriers of Civilization because they spread the culture across such a wide area. They simplified the alphabet passing it to Hebrews, Persians, and Arabs; later the Greeks and Romans.
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- Persians By 500 BC the Persians conquered the vast empire which ran from Asia Minor (Turkey) to the Indus Valley in India. Darius I developed an efficient system of government to rule such a diverse group of people. Government- His land was divided up into 20 provinces with each one roughly corresponding to the homeland of a particular people. A satrap, or governor was responsible for collecting taxes and keeping order.
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- Economics Darius improved and expanded roads to connect 4 capital cities of the Persian Empire. Peace and good roads encouraged trade. He established a uniform coinage system where there was a certain value for each coin. That was borrowed from the metal coins of the Lydians on the Anatolian plateau. Now people could use coins for trade.
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- Religion Zoroaster, the founder of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, influenced ancient Greeks, Hebrews, and Christians with his philosophy. Persian farmers believed in many gods and relied on priests called magi to please the gods. The world was a battleground between good and evil. Ahura Mazda led the forces of good. Ahriman commanded the forces of evil.
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- Alexander the Great from Macedonia conquered the Persians and led his armies to build a huge empire from Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and into the Indus Valley. His legacy isnt his conquests but the blending of the Greek culture with the Middle East. It was known as the Hellenistic civilization. Alexandria became the cultural center and was famous for its library. It was the center for research in science, mathematics, medicine, and philosophy that continues to influence the world today.
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- The Romans The Roman Empire expanded eastward and by 115 A.D. it ruled much of the Middle East, including Asia Minor, the Nile Valley, and the Fertile Crescent. Trade flourished under Roman rule. Ideas and technology spread which altered cultures. By A.D. 330 the empire split into two parts. The eastern half containing Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt and the eastern Fertile Crescent became known as the Byzantine Empire. From their capital, Constantinople, Byzantine emperors ruled for the next 1000 years.
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