The region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers has long been known as Mesopotamia, and the fertile land of this area allowed for the rise of some of the most ancient civilizations and associated arts available in the archaeological record. Numerous early civilizations either passed through or established kingdoms in the area, including the Greeks, Assyrians, Amorites, Persians and Chaldeans. Much of what is known of Mesopotamian religion comes from the famous poem “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and Herodotus’ great work titled History.
Ancient Mesopotamia contained the Sumer, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires, which lived in a symbiotic cultural relationship for hundreds of years until a series of ambitious rulers began conquests against their close neighbors. By the Iron Age, new civilizations had sprung up from the ruins of failed cities, and a new set of dynasties began to shape this epically fertile region. Rome’s initial foray into Mesopotamia happened around the dawn of the first millennium. This brought a completely new set of technologies and arts, yet Rome’s empire was soon to fade, which left an opening for the culture by which this region is most closely known: Islam.
Mesopotamian arts most often take the form of sculpture, with many figures found in the temples and religions locations whose ruins remain in the area, some dating as far back as 3000 B.C.E. The vast timeline of Mesopotamian arts allows us to see the slow advances in technology that allowed for diverse mediums and advanced techniques. By the early 1st millennium AD, the kingdoms of the Mesopotamian region had fallen to a succession of Roman and Arabic Empires, removing many vestiges of its ancient civilizations. The Tigris and Euphrates have remained unchanged for thousands of years, while the borders surrounding these great rivers have shifted as empires fall and rise. The region’s legacy will always be that of the Fertile Crescent, a land where harsh terrain mixes with lush valleys, and the imagination of the ancients still lingers to this day.