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Ancient Mesopotamia
Assyria



Assyria
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 11
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.23

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    breakaways, razed, fiasco, circa, infallible, bustling, upstart, sovereignty, vassal, verge, present-day, submit, spite, significance, archaeological, emperor
     content words:    Tigris River, Qal'at Sharqat, Old Assyrian Period, Middle Assyrian Period, Neo-Assyrian Empire, Assyrian King, Neo-Babylonia Empire, Chaldean Dynasty, After Nineveh, Pharaoh Necho II


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Assyria
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Today, on the western bank of the upper Tigris River, stands an Iraqi city called Qal'at Sharqat. Thousands of years ago, this very site was once the capital of a great Mesopotamian empire. At the time, the place had a different name. It was called Ashur or Assur. The word Ashur eventually gave rise to the term Assyria, which was the northern part of Mesopotamia. People living in that region later became known as the Assyrians.
 
2     Historians often divide the long history of Assyria into three periods, even though they cannot reach a consensus over the exact dates of each era. The three periods were the Old Assyrian Period (circa 2000 B.C. - 1400 B.C.), the Middle Assyrian Period (circa 1365 B.C. - 1100 B.C.), and the Neo-Assyrian Empire (circa 934 B.C. - 609 B.C.).
 
3     Archaeological evidence showed that people began to settle in Ashur as early as 2500 B.C. But it did not attain any political significance until the 3rd dynasty of Ur collapsed in 2004 B.C. After that fiasco, the Assyrians transformed Ashur into a bustling commercial center, controlling trade routes to and from Anatolia. In 1813 B.C., the first great Assyrian king, Shamshi-Adad I, ascended the throne and began a series of military expansions. At the height of his reign, his kingdom owned the entire northern region of Mesopotamia. Its growing influence gave its neighbors plenty of reasons to be wary. While things were going splendidly for this Assyrian upstart, Shamshi-Adad passed away in 1791 B.C. Soon after his death, the kingdom began to fall apart. Knowing that Shamshi-Adad's empire was on the verge of collapse, Hammurabi of the 1st dynasty of Babylon jumped at the chance and invaded northern Mesopotamia. He conquered Ashur in 1760 B.C. From that point on to the middle of the 1300s B.C., Assyria was reduced to a mere vassal state. At first, it had to answer to the 1st dynasty of Babylon. After that empire was eradicated, it turned to submit to a Hurrian kingdom called Mitanni. It was not until 1365 B.C. that Assyria, then ruled by Ashur-uballit I, was able to regain its independence. For the next two hundred years, Assyria grew increasingly powerful. It eventually defeated Babylonia and even occupied Egypt.

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