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Iraq (from Eraq, an ancient Semitic word for lowlands) is the Arabic term for the area known in the West as Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers). It was the existence of these two rivers (Euphrates and Tigris) that enabled what would otherwise have been barren desert to become one of the cradles of civilization. This entry briefly reviews the history of Iraq and its evolution as a modern state.

Historical Background

By 4000 BCE, farming was already widespread, and by 3000 BCE, Sumer, the first of several empires that were to control the area, had developed. Between 3000 BCE and 500 BCE, several empires, mostly Semitic states, ruled the area. The best known of these are Babylon and Assyria.

In 530 BCE, Babylon was defeated by ...

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