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World History Lesson 1

Ancient World – Down to 500 AD

Bronze Age Civilization

The Bronze Age is a period in a civilization's development when the most advanced metalworking consisted of techniques for smelting copper and tin from naturally occurring outcroppings of ore, and then alloying those metals in order to cast bronze.

Sl No
Name of Civilization
Modern Era
River Valley
Mesopotamian Civilization 4000BC to 6th Century BC
Tigris and Euphrates
Egyptian Civilization 3400BC to 1000 BC
Harappan Civilization 2500 BC to 1750 BC
India and Pakistan
Chinese Civilization 1765 BC to 250 BC

  • Mesopotamia - Mesopotamia is a name for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, corresponding to modern-day Iraq and to a lesser extent northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and smaller parts of southwestern Iran.

  • Mesopotamia has been called the 'cradle of civilisation' because agriculture, animal herding and domestication developed there earlier than anywhere else, almost 8,000 years ago.

  • By 3,000 BC, the Mesopotamians invented the wheel, developed writing, and created the world's first cities and monumental architecture.

  • Mesopotamia was the name of an area rather than a country, but has come to be applied to the many rich cultures that flourished in ancient Iraq. These included Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and many other cultures, whose influence extended into neighbouring countries, certainly from around 5,000 BC.

  • After the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 612 BC, Mesopotamia was ruled by a succession of foreign dynasties. Eventually, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War One, the modern state of Iraq was formed, a state that became independent in 1932.

  • Hammurabi (C.2100BC), the greatest Babylonian ruler, united the whole of what is now called Iraq into a single Kingdom. Hammurabi gave his people a code of laws. His code covered every aspect of life. His code was based on the law of ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ i.e. the law of tit for tat.
  • Hitties who came from Asia Minor now called Turkey and damaged the Babylonian kingdom were the first to make regular use of horses for war chariots and to make the iron implements.
  • The potter wheel was perhaps first used in Mesopotamia.
  • The Mesopotamians also seems to have been the first to make glassware.
  • The Sumerians were the first to evolve proper system of writing. This system is called cuneiform. The cuneiform script was deciphered by Henry Rawlinson.

  • The Mesopotamian system of counting is known as sexagesimal because the Mesopotamian people counted by sixties as we count by tens (decimal system). Their sexagesimal system is no longer in use but we still use it as the basis of division of time into minutes and seconds and of a circle into 360 degrees.
  • In geometry, the Mesopotamians had discovered what was later called the Pythagoras Theorem.
  • In astronomy, the Mesopotamians made astonishing progress. They could calculate the length of the day and night. They divided the whole day into 24 hours. They divided the sky into 12 parts, each given name. This has come down to us as 12 signs of zodiac or rashis as we call them in India. Another notable achievement of the Mesopotamian was the invention of lunar calendar, based on the moon.

Egyptian Civilization

  • Ancient Egypt considered a land of mysteries. No other civilization has so captured the imagination of scholars and laypeople alike.

  • The seeds of Egyptian civilization were first sown along the banks of the Nile. This mighty river, which flows north from the heart of Africa to the Mediterranean Sea, nourished the growth of the pharaonic kingdom.

  • The sun was a principal deity whose passage across the sky represented the eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

  • The pharaohs were seen as gods, divine representatives on earth who, through rituals, ensured the continuation of life. After death, they became immortal, joining the gods in the afterworld.

  • The Egyptians also believed that the body and soul were important to human existence, in life and in death. Their funerary practices, such as mummification and burial in tombs, were designed to assist the deceased find their way in the afterworld. The tombs were filled with food, tools, domestic wares, treasures -- all the necessities of life -- to ensure the soul's return to the body so that the deceased would live happily ever after.

  • The most imposing tombs are the famous pyramids, shaped like the sacred mound where the gods first appeared in the creation story.

  • The gigantic pyramids were conspicuous targets for tomb robbers, whose plundering jeopardized the hope for eternal life.

  • Subsequent generations of kings hid their tombs in the Valley of the Kings in an attempt to elude the robbers.

  • In the desert valley near the ancient capital of Thebes, now called Luxor, they prepared their royal tombs by cutting into the side of the mountain. Despite efforts to hide the entrances, thieves managed to find the tombs, pillaging and emptying them of their treasures.

  • One tomb was spared, however: Tutankhamun's. Although his resting place was disturbed twice by robbers, the entrance was resealed and remained hidden for over 3,000 years. Its discovery by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922 is considered the greatest archaeological find in history.

  • Carter spent the rest of his life working on the tomb, removing its treasures to Cairo, and documenting and studying its contents, including the pharaoh's gold coffins and mask. Tutankhamun's mummy remains in his tomb, the only pharaoh to be left in the Valley of the Kings.

  • Today, Egyptian archaeologists are still making important discoveries, and the scientific study of royal mummies is shedding new light on the genealogy of the pharaohs.

  • The ongoing deciphering of hieroglyphic writings and research on the life of the peasants are also answering many questions related to the evolution of Egyptian culture. The pharaonic religion gives the impression that the Egyptians were preoccupied with death; however, there are ample indications that they were a happy lot who knew how to enjoy life.

Egypt in Chronological Order

  • 3100-2770 BCE: Egypt - During this period in ancient Egypt, the Archaic period, Narmer unites Egypt. Hieroglyphic writing develops.

  • 2772 BCE: Egypt - The 365 day calendar is introduced.

  • 2700 BCE: Egypt - King Djoser founds the third dynasty in Egypt thereby issuing the period of the Old Kingdom, which lasts until 2200. He also builds the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the first known pyramid in Egypt. During the Old Kingdom, the power of the pharoah is absolute.

  • 2560 BCE: Egypt - Pharoah Khufu builds the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

  • 2200 BCE: Egypt - The first intermediate period begins with the collapse of the Old Kingdom, mostly because of crop failure combined with low revenue due to the pyramid building projects. It ends in 2050.

  • 2050 BCE: Egypt - The period of the Middle Kingdom begins with its capital at Thebes. It ends in 1786. Around this time, an early political treatise, The Plea of the Eloquent Peasant, is written, calling for a benevolent ruler.

  • 2000 BCE: Egypt - The Egyptians domesticate the cat for the purpose of catching snakes. Around this time, advances in astronomy enable the Egyptians to predict the annual flooding of the Nile.

  • 1990 BCE: Egypt - The Twelfth Dynasty, Egypt's "golden" age, begins. It ends with the Middle Kingdom in 1786. During this period, power is somewhat distributed through the social classes. Religion shifts from a wealth-based system to one based on proper conduct. Queen Soreknofru is one of the rulers during this dynasty.

  • 1786 BCE: Egypt - The second intermediate period begins due to internal dissention between the nobility and the pharaoh. It lasts until 1560.

  • 1750 BCE: Egypt - The Hyksos occupy Egypt from Syria and Palestine and introduce the horse and chariot into Egypt. Their position is strengthened by the internal problems in the Egyptian state.

  • 1600 BCE: Egypt - A revolution against the Hyksos begins in Upper (southern) Egypt and spreads throughout the country.

  • 1560 BCE: Egypt - The period of the New Kingdom begins when Ahmose defeats the Hyksos and establishes the XVIII Dynasty. The New Kingom ends around 1087. Unlike earlier periods, this period is imperialistic enabled by new modes of warfare introduced into Egypt by the Hyksos. Queen Hatshepsut is one of the rulers of the XVIII Dynasty.

  • 1500 BCE: Egypt - By this time, the kingdom of Kush has been established to the south of Egypt. The people of Kush, known as the Kushites, are dark-complexioned Negroids.

  • 1375 BCE: Egypt - Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), concerned about abuses in the Osiris cult of Egypt, posits a new monotheistic religion, perhaps the first, dedicated to the worship of the sun. He moves the capital of Egypt from Thebes to El-Amarna. The new religion does not last long; the cult of Akhenaton is abolished under the reign of his successor, Pharaoh Tutankhamen ("King Tut"), who moves the capital back to Thebes and returns to the old religion. Akhenaton's beautiful wife, Nefertiti, achieves her own position in world history.

  • 1304-1237 BCE: Egypt - Rameses II ("the Great") rules Egypt.

  • 1250 BCE: Egypt - Under the direction of Moses, the Israelites leave Egypt and head for the "promised land."

  • 1182 BCE: Egypt - Rameses III defeats the Sea People. Rameses is pharaoh until 1151. He is the last great pharaoh to rule in Egypt. In 1175 he builds his temple palace at Medinet Habu.

  • 750 BCE: Egypt - Kashta, the ruler of Kush, begins a campaign against Egypt. With the help of his son, Piankhy, he is successful. Piankhy becomes pharaoh of Egypt.

  • 671 BCE: Egypt - Egypt is conquered by the Assyrians. But when the Assyrian empire collapses just under ten years later, Egypt enjoys a century or so of independence.

  • 525 BCE: Egypt - Egypt is conquered by the Persians, who rule until 405. From this point onward, Egypt is ruled by Persian or Greek forces.

  • 343-332 BCE: Egypt - The Persians rule Egypt for a second time.

  • 332-331 BCE: Egypt - Alexander the Great occupies Egypt and founds the city of Alexandria.

  • 305 BCE: Egypt - The Hellenistic Ptolemaic Dynasty begins.

  • 311-383 CE: Egypt - The Arian Controversy, a Christian theological dispute over the precise relationship between the members of the Trinity, threatens the unity of the Christian churches in the East.

Harappan Civilization- The Harappan civilization was spread over a larger area, for details regarding this civilization see Indus Valley Civilization.

Chinese Civilization

China is an East Asian country with a large territory, a huge population and an ancient history. With written records dating back 4,000 years, it is recognized as one of the four great ancient civilizations of the world, together with ancient Egypt, Babylon and India. Moreover, it is the only ancient civilization that has continued to this very day.

Timeline of Chinese History

10,000-2,000 BCE - Neolithic Cultures

ca. 2100-1600 BCE - Xia (Hsia) Dynasty

ca. 1600-1050 BCE - Shang Dynasty: One of the Three Dynasties, or San Dai (Xia, Shang, and Zhou), thought to mark the beginning of Chinese civilization: characterized by its writing system, practice of divination, walled cities, bronze technology, and use of horse-drawn chariots.

ca. 1046-256 BCE - Zhou (Chou) Dynasty: Western Zhou (ca. 1046-771 BCE), Eastern Zhou (771-256 BCE)

A hierarchical political and social system with the Zhou royal house at its apex: power was bestowed upon aristocratic families as lords of their domains or principalities. Although often compared to European "feudalism," what actually gave the system cohesion was a hierarchical order of ancestral cults. The system eventually broke down into a competition for power between rival semi-autonomous states in what became known as the Spring and Autumn period (ca. 770-475 BCE) and the Warring States (ca. 475-221 BCE) period. It was during these tumultuous times that Confucius (551-479 BCE) lived.
221-206 BCE

Qin (Ch'in) Dynasty: Created a unitary state by imposing a centralized administration and by standardizing the writing script, weights and measures. Known for its harsh methods of rule, including the suppression of dissenting thought.

206 BCE-220 CE- Han Dynasty: Western/Former Han (206 BCE-9 CE) and Eastern/Later Han (25-220 CE)

Modified and consolidated the foundation of the imperial order. Confucianism was established as orthodoxy and open civil service examinations were introduced. Han power reached Korea and Vietnam. Records of the Historian, which became the model for subsequent official histories, was completed.

220-589 CE- "Period of Disunity" or Six Dynasties Period

The empire was fragmented. The North was dominated by invaders from the borderland and the steppes. The South was ruled by successive "Chinese" dynasties. Buddhism spread.
581-618 CE    

Sui Dynasty: China reunified.

618-906 - Tang (T'ang) Dynasty: A time of cosmopolitanism and cultural flowering occurred. This period was the height of Buddhist influence in China until its repression around 845. Active territorial expansion until defeated by the Arabs at Talas in 751.

Song (Sung) Dynasty: Northern Song (960-1127) and Southern Song (1127-1279)

An era of significant economic and social changes: the monetization of the economy; growth in commerce and maritime trade; urban expansion and technological innovations. The examination system for bureaucratic recruitment of neo-Confucianism was to provide the intellectual underpinning for the political and social order of the late imperial period.

1279-1368- Yuan Dynasty: Founded by the Mongols as part of their conquest of much of the world. Beijing was made the capital. Dramas, such as the famous Story of the Western Wing, flourished.

1368-1644- Ming Dynasty: The first Ming emperor, Hongwu, laid the basis of an authoritarian political culture. Despite early expansion, it was an inward-looking state with an emphasis on its agrarian base. Gradual burgeoning of the commercial sector; important changes in the economy and social relations in the latter part of the dynasty; also a vibrant literary scene as represented by publication of the novel Journey to the West.

1644-1912- Qing (Ch'ing) Dynasty: A Manchu dynasty. Continued the economic developments of the late Ming, leading to prosperity but also complacency and a dramatic increase in population. The acclaimed novel Dream of the Red Chamber was written in this period. Strains on the polity were intensified by a rapid incorporation of substantial new territories. Its authoritarian structure was subsequently unable to meet the military and cultural challenge of an expansive West.

1912-1949 - Republic Period: Weak central government following the collapse of the dynastic system in 1911-12; Western influence was shown by the promotion of "science" and "democracy" during the New Culture Movement. The attempt of the Nationalist government (est. 1928) to bring the entire country under its control was thwarted by both domestic revolts and the Japanese occupation (1937-45). The Nationalists fled to Taiwan after defeat by the Communists.

1949-present- People's Republic of China

Communist government. The drive for remaking society ended in disasters such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Economic reform and political retrenchment since around 1978.

Iranian Civilization

Iranian history represents a rich blend of legend, mythology, recorded fact and living tradition. Several civilizations have risen in various parts of the country at different times, each leaving its own impression on the subsequent development of Iranian history.

  • The oldest known civilization in Iran is that of Elam in the 10th century B.C. and the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C.

  • Other major Iranian civilizations are Media, Achaemenids, Parthians and Sassanians.

  • The 16th century Safavids civilizations that has the most lasting number of monuments has inherited from both Persian civilization and its invaders.

  • Many other dynasties and monarchies succeeded the country until the Pahlavi, that was once again demolished by the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of Imam Khomeini, in a way similar to its predecessors.

  • Iran has a long history of almost 7,000 years since the Aryans emigrated to the Iran Heights.

  • Aryans gave their name to this land and called it "land of Aryans" or Iran.

  • Achaemenid appeared in the 550 B.C. was the first unified dynasty and until it was conquered by Alexander of Macedonia (Eskandar e Maghdooni) in 330 B.C., Iran prospered as "The Great Persian Empire" for more than two centuries.

  • Contributions of the Achaemenians to the worlds culture are many.

  • Cyrus (Xerxes) The Great (550 B.C.) was the first emperor who conquered Elam and gave Jews freedom. He was also the first one who declared and practiced human rights.

  • In the Great Persia Empire from East China to Libya, many nations were coexisting and all were declared free to pactice their own religion and follow their own traditions and customs.

  • Daryush The Great (500 B.C.) was the first emperor who commited to digging the ancient Suez Channel, joining the Red and Mediteranian sea.

  • There are many landmarks left from the Achaemenian period mostly in Persepolis and Naghshe-rostam near present Shiraz.

Political History of Iran in Chronology

750 BC -  The Medes era. Deioces (728 to 675 BC) was the founder of the Median knigdom. The Median capital Ekbatane or Hegmatane (Hamedan) was founded in this era.

600 BC-  The Achaemenids era. The capital of Achaemenids was located in Fars in southwestern Iran. Many present day landmarks, such as Takhte-jamshid and Persepolis are from this era.

329 BC- Defeat of the Achaemenids by Alexander. Aryo-barzan, a brave Persian commander fought to death with all his personnel and couldn't stop Alexander to invade and destroy the capital.

250 BC-  The Parthians era began by defeating the Greeks.

226 AD- The Sasanid era. The Sassanians overthrow the Parthians and established a vast and wealthy empire that included the Central Asia, Middle East, Turkey and North Africa.

570-632 AD- The birth and death of Muhammad (S.A.), the prophet.

642 AD- The Arab invasion. The Sassanid emperor Yazdgerd III was defeated by the Arabs at the Battle of Nahravan. Bisotoon, the capital of the Sassanian was destroyed. The palace and library hosting more the 20,000 old books and scripts were set on fire.

800 AD- Uprising of the Shi'ite movement in Khorasan (Northeastern Iran) by Abu Moslem Khosasany who fought the Arabs and established the first independent Persian state in Khorasan.

867 AD- The birth of the Saffarid dynasty by Yaqub Saffar who was the first leader to unite Persians under the Shi'ite flag.

874 AD- The rise of the Samanid dynasty in Northeastern Persia. Eventually, Samanid overthrow the Saffarids in 900 AD.

962 AD- Ghaznavid dynasty established in eastern Iran. The capital was Ghazneh located in present day Afghanistan. The Ghaznavids could defeat the Samanids in the early 11th cent and established a vast kingdom from India to Syria.

1040 AD
    The Seljuqians era began by defeating the Ghaznavids at the Battle of Dandanqan, near Marv. Seljuqians' reign ended with the death of Sanjar, the last king of this dynasty around 1160 AD.

1160 AD- The rise of Kharazmshahian in Northeastern Iran.

1220 AD- The Mongol invasion. The Mongols captured nearly all Persia except the Fars. In Bukhara and Samarkand, they ruined and killed more than one million residents. Later the Il-Khanid dynasty was established in central Persia.

1380-87 AD- The Tatar invasion under the command of Timur and the reign of the Timurid rulers started.

1502 AD- Safavid dynasty was established by Shah Ismail.

1729 AD- Nader Shah established the Afsharian dynasty by driving the Afghans out of Persia. He also captured Dehli and North India.

1751-1794 - Zandian dynasty.

1796-1925- Qajarian dynasty. Nehdzat Mashrooteh or the Constitutional Movement happend in this era and the first constitutional government was established.

1925-1979+  Finally Pahlavi dynasty, a constitutional monarchy ...
Concentrating on modernization, education and establishing close diplomatic relations with the Western countries were among the main objective of the King Reza and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The gap between the government and people's will, mostly due to corruption, ultra-speed modernization of the society and what was called unfair diplomatic relations, led to the Islamic movement in 1979, that established a kind of republic called Islamic Republic.

1979- today- The Islamic Republic; its capital city is Tehran. The mainly spoken languages in present day Iran are- Persian, Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Lori, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Balochi, Arabic, Turkmen.

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