All absolute dates given below follow the Middle Chronology. Reconstructing an absolute chronology, that is measuring the exact chronological distance to present time, is still problematic for ancient Mesopotamia. Several systems have been proposed, of which the "Middle Chronology" is the most frequently used. This puts the reign of Hammurabi of Babylon at 1792-1750 BC (Before Christ) or BCE (Before Common Era).
|Periods (Dates BC)||Selected important events and kings|
|Late Uruk period (ca. 3500-3200/3150)||First city-states; urbanism; complex administration; invention of writing ('proto-cuneiform'), possibly Sumerian|
|Jamdat Nasr Period (ca. 3150-2900)||Breakdown of Uruk-networks; evolution of writing|
|Early Dynastic Period I-II (ca. 2900-2600)||Growing importance of city-states; archaic texts from Ur|
|Early Dynastic IIIa (ca. 2600-2500)||Conflicts between city states; cuneiform writing used more extensively (e.g. first literary texts, both in Sumerian and a Semitic language); archives from Fara (ancient Šurrupag) and Tell Abū Ṣalābiḫ.
Mesanepada c. 2500
|Early Dynastic IIIb (ca. 2500-2340)||City-states fight one another for hegemony over southern Mesopotamia; archives of Tello (ancient Girsu); Lagaš-Umma border conflict; Lugalzagesi succeeds in briefly conquering large parts of Mesopotamia.
Lugalzagesi c. 2350
|(Old) Akkadian (ca. 2340-2200)||First World Empire; Sargon of Akkad founded dynasty, defeats Lugalzagesi, conquers large parts of Near East; power centre shifts to north; Akkadian, oldest Semitic language, becomes language of administration in some areas. Narām-Sîn of Akkad, his grandson, defeats a rebellion of southern Mesopotamian city states and is deified in response.
Old Akkadian Dynasty
Sargon I 2323-2278
|Guti/Post-Akkadian (ca. 2000-2112)||It is unclear how long this period lasted and what happened during this time.
In the city-state of Lagaš, Gudea, famous for his statues and the cylinders, ruled; he was probably a contemporary of Ur-Namma of Ur.
|Ur III / Third Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2112-2004)||Ur-Namma of Ur rebuilds large territorial state, succeeded by Šulgi; this period is sometimes called a 'Sumerian renaissance,' because Sumerian became once more the language of administration. The Ur III kings, almost all of whom were deified, left a large literary legacy, in particular of self-laudatory hymns.
|Old Babylonian Period (ca. 2004-1595)||Some historians call this phase the 'Amorite' age, because a North-West-Semitic peoples called the Amorites became part of the ruling elites.
The first two centuries are dominated by the city-states of Isin and Larsa, who vie for hegemony over Mesopotamia.
In 1763 Hammurabi of Babylon conquers Larsa and once more builds an empire that stretches as far as northern Syria. Yet his empire was short-lived and soon collapsed. Akkadian becomes more important as the written language of choice.
In 1595 the Hittites raided and destroyed Babylon.
Dynasty of Isin
Dynasty of Larsa
Rim-Sin I 1822-1763
First Dynasty of Babylon
Upper Mesopotamian rulers
Šamši-Adad I c.1850
|'Dark Age' until ca. 1475 (?)||No written sources.|
|Kassite Dynasty (ca. 1475 (?) - 1155)||Kassites, an originally nomadic people, rule over Babylonia and adapt to Babylonian culture.
Kurigalzu I ?
Kadašman-Enlil I (1374)-1360
Kurigalzu II 1332-1308
Kadašman-Enlil II 1263-1255
|Middle Assyrian dynasty (ca. 1350-1000)||Assyria, the northern part of Mesopotamia, expands into territorial state, largest success under Tukulti-Ninurta I, becomes an important political and military power.
Shalmaneser I 1273-1244
Tiglath-Pileser I 1114-1076
|Second Dynasty of Isin (ca. 1157-1026)||Nebuchadnezzar I has short-lived military success, he conquers Elam (SW Iran) and puts an end to the Elamite dynasty.
Nebuchadnezzar I 1125-1104
|'Second Dark Age' (ca. 1100-900)||Lack of sources; this dark age lasted for different periods of time in different regions.
In the 8th century, Hebrew and Aramaic appear, Aramaic and its script became more and more important.
|Neo-Assyrian Period (ca. ca. 900-612)||Assyrian kings begin expanding their state. The period of the Neo-Assyrian empire is set at 744-612, during which Assyria became the most important political power in the ancient world, conquering not only all of Mesopotamia but also parts of Anatolia and even for a brief time Egypt. In 612 the Assyrian capital Ninive is destroyed, ending the Assyrian dominance.
Aramaic begins to replace Akkadian as a spoken language.
Aššurnaṣirpal II 883-859
Adad-nirari III 810-783
Shalmaneser V 726-722
|Neo-Babylonian Dynasty (ca. 625-539)||Babylon regains its former glory for the brief period of the Neo-Babylonian empire; Nebuchadnezzar II, who completely rebuilt the city of Babylon, was its most famous king. The last ruler, Nabonidus, is famous for having been in 'exile' for ten years.
The Neo-Babylonian dynasty is the last native Mesopotamian dynasty.
Nebuchadnezzar II 604-562
|Persian/Achaemenid Empire (ca. 538-331)||Persian kings conquer Mesopotamia and incorporate it into their empire, the largest empire to date. Scholarly, religious, and literary texts continue to be written in Akkadian, for example at the temple library in Sippar.|
|Macedonian rulers (ca. 330-307)||Alexander the Great of Macedon finally succeeds in defeating the Persian empire during the famous battle of Gaugamela and includes all of its territories, including Mesopotamia, into his own empire. Alexander dies in 323.|
|Seleucid Empire (ca. 305-64)||Seleucus, founder of the Seleucid dynasty, a former general of Alexander the Great, rules over the Near East, Iran, and parts of Central Asia.
Antiochus I Soter 281-261
|Parthian or Arsacid Empire (ca. 250 BCE - 224 CE)||The successor to the Seleucid empire, the Parthians, was a dynasty based in ancient Persia. It was probably around 70 AD, the last document was written in cuneiform, ending the ancient Mesopotamian cultural heritage until its rediscovery beginning in the 16th century CE.|
The following books offer basic introductions into the history of ancient Mesopotamia:
Nicole Brisch, 'Mesopotamian history: the basics', Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses, Oracc and the UK Higher Education Academy, 2013 [http://oracc.museum.upenn.edu/amgg/mesopotamianhistory/]