In the 3rd millennium BC arose the small state of Assyria, in what is today Northern Iraq, transforming into the first world empire and changing the course of human history forever with the revolutionary changes it brought among the peoples of the Middle East.
The name Assyria has survived up to our modern day thanks to Greek historians. In antiquity, the Assyrians themselves took their name from their god Ashur. Until the 19th century BC, the small kingdom in North Mesopotamia was constantly dependent on one Sumerian kingdom or another. It finally gained true independence during the reign of king Ilu-shuma.
With the arrival of the Amorite dynasty in Assyria began its first rise as well. The state managed to conquer the neighboring peoples and become a regional power. The period was marked by extravagant building. But even so in the middle of the 18th century BC, Assyria was weakened and fell under the rule of the Babylonian king Hammurabi. During the 16th - 15th centuries BC, rose the mighty Mitanni kingdom, which with the help of Egypt conquered all of the neighboring lands, including Assyria.
But toward the end of the 15th century BC, Mitanni found itself incredibly vulnerable because of the wars with the Hittites. The Assyrian kings took advantage of this and began holding their own politics.
The true rise of Assyria occurred during the 1st millennium BC. It was then that the Assyrians first began using iron weapons, with nearly all of the people dedicated to war and the conquering of neighboring peoples. In less than a century, Assyria had changed completely from a small kingdom to a never-before-seen Empire. The flags of the Assyrian kings were raised from Egypt to Persia. The state sprawled on 2 continents.
War became the only way of carrying out politics for the Assyrians. Theirs is the only state in world history to have waged ceaseless wars for an entire 700 years. Each of their conquests was accompanied by unheard of ferocity. Entire cities and peoples were wiped off the face of the Earth. The numerous uprisings were quelled quickly and ruthlessly.
Thanks to the untold riches acquired throughout their victories, the Assyrian kings built many cities, with Nineveh and Nimrud being the jewels in the crown. The two settlements were the largest in the world at the time.
Even though powerful, the Assyrians had built an unstable state, hated by all of the surrounding peoples. In 615 BC, worn out by the numerous uprisings and civil war, the world's 1st empire was crushed by the unified forces of Media and Babylon. Its cities were razed to the ground, while its populace was brutally murdered. Centuries later, different rulers of empires that emerged over the ruins of the state continued to prestigiously label themselves as kings of Assyria.
Even though their empire was destroyed more than 2000 years ago, the Assyrians survived. In the 5th century they embraced Christianity. Today there are about 600 000 Assyrians living in northern Iraq, with about another million scattered across the world.