Iraq's History: An Interactive Timeline

Iraq's History: An Interactive Timeline

Experience the history, from the Sumerians to modern-day Iraq through this interactive timeline.

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Scroll through to tour a history of Iraq, from the Sumerians to modern day.

Around 4800 BC, Sumerians were the very first people to settle in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), marking the emergence of the first human civilization.

The Sumerians

The Sumerians were the very first people to settle into Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) around 4800 BC marking the emergence of the first human civilization. Gifted and imaginative, they developed the first known system of writing. The Sumerian language, linguistically separate from any other, has been preserved for us today through the thousands of clay tablets its speakers left behind. Sumerians also invented the wheel, a mathematical system based on the number 60 (the basis of time in the modern world), and a system of banking.

Sumerians developed the first known system of writing, invented the wheel, the basis of time in the modern world and a system of banking.

The Sumerians

The Sumerians were the very first people to settle into Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) around 4800 BC marking the emergence of the first human civilization. Gifted and imaginative, they developed the first known system of writing. The Sumerian language, linguistically separate from any other, has been preserved for us today through the thousands of clay tablets its speakers left behind. Sumerians also invented the wheel, a mathematical system based on the number 60 (the basis of time in the modern world), and a system of banking.

Mesopotamia eventually coalesced into two distinct empires: Assyria in the north and Babylonia in the south.

The Akkadians

In 2340 BC Sargon of Akkad conquered most of the Sumerian city-states, thus ending Sumer with the rise of the Akkadian Empire, sometimes regarded as the first empire in history. The Akkadians were a Semitic-speaking group who united the Semites and Sumerian speakers under one rule. The Akkadian empire was short-lived and in 2125 BC the empire fell. Mesopotamia eventually coalesced into two distinct empires: Assyria in the north and Babylonia in the south.

Sargon of Akkad conquered most of the Sumerian city-states, ending Sumer with the rise of the Akkadian Empire.

The Akkadians

In 2340 BC Sargon of Akkad conquered most of the Sumerian city-states, thus ending Sumer with the rise of the Akkadian Empire, sometimes regarded as the first empire in history. The Akkadians were a Semitic-speaking group who united the Semites and Sumerian speakers under one rule. The Akkadian empire was short-lived and in 2125 BC the empire fell. Mesopotamia eventually coalesced into two distinct empires: Assyria in the north and Babylonia in the south.

The ruins of the city of Babylon are near Hillah, Babil Governorate, Iraq. Above: the Tower of Babel.

The Babylonian Empire

The Babylonian Empire ushered in a new era in Mesopotamia after the downfall of the Akkadians. The reign of Hammurabi 1792-1750 BC the sixth King of Babylon is regarded as one of the highlights of ancient Mesopotamian civilization. Hammurabi was the first to develop a code of law, moving justice from the whips of the powerful, to a codified system of regulation applicable to all society. It’s most famous phrase is “an eye for an eye” representing the Babylonian sense of justice.

The Assyrian Empire, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur (Ashur) was centered in northern Mesopotamia.

The Assyrian Empire

The Assyrian Empire, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur (Ashur) was centered in northern Mesopotamia. The Assyrians were known for their mastery in battle and their penchant for city-building (such as Nineveh and Kalakh) and by the 9th century BC grew to control Mesopotamia and substantial territory in the greater region. In 626 BC, Nabopolasser, the king of Babylonia threw off Assyrian rule and named Babylon the capital of the empire.

Assyrians were known for their mastery in battle and their penchant for city-building (such as Nineveh and Kalakh).

The Assyrian Empire

The Assyrian Empire, named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur (Ashur) was centered in northern Mesopotamia. The Assyrians were known for their mastery in battle and their penchant for city-building (such as Nineveh and Kalakh) and by the 9th century BC grew to control Mesopotamia and substantial territory in the greater region. In 626 BC, Nabopolasser, the king of Babylonia threw off Assyrian rule and named Babylon the capital of the empire.

Babylon was made into one of the wonders of the ancient world with the construction of the Gate of Ishtar (eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon).

Babylonian Independence

With the recovery of Babylonian independence under King Nabopolasser, a new era of architectural activity ensued and Babylon was made into one of the wonders of the ancient world with the construction of the Hanging Gardens, the Gate of Ishtar, and the Tower of Babylon.

With the recovery of Babylonian independence under King Nabopolasser, a new era of architectural activity ensued.

Babylonian Independence

With the recovery of Babylonian independence under King Nabopolasser, a new era of architectural activity ensued and Babylon was made into one of the wonders of the ancient world with the construction of the Hanging Gardens, the Gate of Ishtar, and the Tower of Babylon.

In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great rode through the Gate of Ishtar to conquer the Babylonian people.

Babylonians Conquered

The Babylonians are defeated by Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire (539 BC), and Mesopotamia would later become subject to subsequent conquests by Alexander the Great (331 BC), the Romans under Trajan, the Parthian empire in the 3rd century BC, and the Sassanid dynasty in the 3rd through 7th centuries AD.

Thousands of Persian soldiers followed Cyrus the Great through the Ishtar Gate.

Babylonians Conquered

The Babylonians are defeated by Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid Empire (539 BC), and Mesopotamia would later become subject to subsequent conquests by Alexander the Great (331 BC), the Romans under Trajan, the Parthian empire in the 3rd century BC, and the Sassanid dynasty in the 3rd through 7th centuries AD.

Arabs were the first people to call the country "Iraq" meaning "the fertile."

Arab Influence

The region of Mesopotamia came under Arab influence in 636 AD and it was the Arabs who were first to call the country “Iraq” meaning “the fertile”. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, Ali ibn Abi Talib, moved his capital from Medinah to the city of Kufa when he became the fourth Caliph.

In an effort to restore a non-violent atmosphere in Kufa, Ali ibn Abi Talib shifted the capital from Medina to Kufa.

Arab Influence

The region of Mesopotamia came under Arab influence in 636 AD and it was the Arabs who were first to call the country “Iraq” meaning “the fertile”. Under the Rashidun Caliphate, Ali ibn Abi Talib, moved his capital from Medinah to the city of Kufa when he became the fourth Caliph.

The construction of Baghdad was commissioned in the year 762; Baghdad became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th century.

Emergence of Baghdad

The second Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar Al Mansur commissioned the construction of Baghdad which became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th century. During the period beginning in the mid-8th century and lasting until the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in the mid-13th century, the city became a great center of civilizations at the crux of economic and informational trade routes. Universities were established, science, math, philosophy, and medicine flourished, and literature reached its height.

Baghdad became a center for learning and a hub for economic and informational trade routes.

Emergence of Baghdad

The second Abbasid Caliph Abu Jaafar Al Mansur commissioned the construction of Baghdad which became the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th century. During the period beginning in the mid-8th century and lasting until the Mongol conquest of Baghdad in the mid-13th century, the city became a great center of civilizations at the crux of economic and informational trade routes. Universities were established, science, math, philosophy, and medicine flourished, and literature reached its height.

In 1258 the Mongols besieged and sacked Baghdad.

Mongols Invade Baghdad

In 1258 the Mongols besieged and sacked Baghdad. They executed the remaining Abbasid family members, destroyed the city, and most of its architectural, religious and literary monuments, including the original Sumerian irrigation system that had initiated the region's prosperity.

Ottoman rule lasted until the end of World War I, when Iraq was divided into three provinces: Baghdad, Mosul and Basra.

Ottoman Rule

During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Black Sheep and White Sheep Turkmen ruled Iraq. In the 16th century, most of the territory of present-day Iraq came under the control of the Ottoman Empire with the exception of a sixteen year insurrection by the Safavid’s starting in 1622. Ottoman rule lasted until the end of World War I, throughout which Iraq was divided into three provinces, Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra.

In 1921, Faisal I was proclaimed King of Iraq and in 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League.

Monarchy to Republic

In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 Faisal I was proclaimed King of Iraq. The British mandate was terminated in 1932 and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations. In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League. The Hashemite monarchy ruled Iraq until 1958 when it was overthrown by a coup d’état by members of the Iraqi Army.

Faisal I was a member of the Hashemite dynasty which ruled Iraq until 1958.

Monarchy to Republic

In 1920, the Treaty of Sevres established Iraq as a mandate of the League of Nations under British administration, and in 1921 Faisal I was proclaimed King of Iraq. The British mandate was terminated in 1932 and Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations. In 1945, Iraq joined the United Nations and became a founding member of the Arab League. The Hashemite monarchy ruled Iraq until 1958 when it was overthrown by a coup d’état by members of the Iraqi Army.

Soldiers in trenches in southern Iraq during devastating wars.

Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party

Through the structure of the Ba’ath, Saddam Hussein rose to the presidency in 1979. The country existed under autocratic leadership until 2003 when Hussein was deposed. Between 1979 and 2003, Iraq underwent multiple wars—the Iraq-Iran war 1980-1988 and the Gulf war in 1991 followed by a decade of economic sanctions and isolation.

The opening session of Iraq's Transitional National Assembly, the first freely elected parliament in half a century, marked a milestone on the road to forming a new government.

Ouster of Saddam Hussein

In March 2003, a coalition led by the United States ousted Saddam Hussein from power through military force. In 2005, Iraqis held their first national election through which a National Assembly was elected and a Transitional Government was approved by the Assembly. Additionally, Iraqis approved a constitution in a national referendum, thus making the transition to Iraq’s first constitutional government in half a century.

Elections for a Council of Representatives.

Road to Democracy

Iraq held a national legislative election of 325 representatives in 2010; the elected Council of Representatives approved a new government in December 2012. A year later, the last remaining US military forces withdrew from the country, marking the end of US operations in Iraq.

Iraqi women show off their fingers, stained with purple ink, after they vote.

Road to Democracy

Iraq held a national legislative election of 325 representatives in 2010; the elected Council of Representatives approved a new government in December 2012. A year later, the last remaining US military forces withdrew from the country, marking the end of US operations in Iraq.

Iraq approved a new government in December 2012.

Road to Democracy

Iraq held a national legislative election of 325 representatives in 2010; the elected Council of Representatives approved a new government in December 2012. A year later, the last remaining US military forces withdrew from the country, marking the end of US operations in Iraq.

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