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The Neo-Babylonian & Neo-Assyrian Empires

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  • 0:00 Background on Mesopotamia
  • 0:28 Prior to the Iron Age Empires
  • 1:55 Neo-Assyrians
  • 2:52 Neo-Babylonians
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

With the arrival of iron, the political landscape of Mesopotamia would change forever. Learn how a metal changed the course of history for the Neo-Assyrians and the Neo-Babylonians in this lesson.

Background on Mesopotamia

Many empires had tried to rule all of Mesopotamia, but the many small city-states made it very difficult. It was sort of like a game of whack-a-mole at the carnival - as soon as one revolt in one corner of a new empire was defeated, another one would start. However, by the 10th century BC new technology would finally make it possible for two empires to gain control, if only for a little while.

Prior to the Iron Age Empires

As you may know, Mesopotamia was a fairly divided place as far as cultures go. For thousands of years, a number of small city-states, such as Ur and Sumer, had managed to largely rule just the land within a few miles of their cities. Of course, there were occasional rulers like Sargon the Great who managed to unify large chunks of the region centuries before, but for the most part within a few years it would soon disintegrate back into a collection of many small city-states. However, that started to change as humans figured out how to use iron.

I know what you're thinking, how can iron create bigger civilizations? But think about it - iron was a much harder and sharper metal than other materials like bronze or copper. This had obvious applications on the battlefield, where harder and sharper metal typically means a bad day for whoever you're fighting. But the advantages of iron don't stop there. With this new, harder metal, farming could become more efficient. Hard dirt can bend tools and plows made of softer metal, but not those made of iron. In fact, many people still use iron tools today because they are so hard to break.

One of the first groups to figure out all the advantages that iron had to offer was the Neo-Assyrians. They lived in the northern part of Mesopotamia, meaning that they were close to iron mines in the mountains. Needless to say, it didn't take them long to use their new tools.

Neo-Assyrians

By the time that the Neo-Assyrians had finally established a true empire, meaning 'a collection of separate cultures under one government', the Neo-Assyrians had earned it. They managed to unite an empire that contained much of the known world at the time, stretching from Egypt to include the entire Fertile Crescent, the fertile curve of land reaching from the Persian Gulf to Phoenicia through Mesopotamia.

Neo-Assyrians did much to expand their influence throughout their new empire. Most famously, they destroyed the northern Kingdom of Israel, taking the Jewish people into their first trip of captivity. In fact, this was just one of many times that the Assyrians forced entire groups of people to leave their homes. Just as enduring were the changes that the Neo-Assyrians made to the culture of the region. The Neo-Assyrians began to change the language of the empire from Akkadian, an updated form of Babylonian, to Aramaic.

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