Near East

The Near East is a geographical term that roughly encompasses a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Despite having varying definitions within different academic circles, the term was originally applied to the maximum extent of the Ottoman Empire. The term has fallen into disuse in English and has been replaced by the terms Middle East, of which includes Egypt, and the latter strictly Southwest Asia, including the Transcaucasus.

According to the National Geographic Society, the terms Near East and Middle East denote the same territories and are "generally accepted as comprising the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey".[1] As of 1997, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defined the region similarly, but also included Afghanistan.[2]

Eastern Question

At the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire included all of the Balkan Peninsula south to the southern edge of the Hungarian Plain, but by 1914 had lost all of it except Constantinople and Eastern Thrace to the rise of nationalist Balkan states, which saw the independence of Greece, Serbia, the Danubian Principalities and Bulgaria. Up until 1912, the Ottomans retained a band of territory including Albania, Macedonia and Southern Thrace, which were lost in the two Balkan Wars of 1912–13.

The Ottoman Empire, believed to be about to collapse, was portrayed in the press as the "sick man of Europe". The Balkan states, with the partial exception of Bosnia and Albania, were primarily Christian, as was the majority of Lebanon. Starting in 1894, the Ottomans struck at the Armenians on the explicit grounds that they were a non-Muslim people and as such were a potential threat to the Muslim empire within which they resided. The Hamidian Massacres aroused the indignation of the entire Christian world. In the United States the now aging Julia Ward Howe, author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, leaped into the war of words and joined the Red Cross. Relations of minorities within the Ottoman Empire and the disposition of former Ottoman lands became known as the "Eastern Question", as the Ottomans were on the east of Europe.

It now became relevant to define the east of the eastern question. In about the middle of the 19th century Near East came into use to describe that part of the east closest to Europe. The term Far East appeared contemporaneously meaning Japan, China, Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam. Near East applied to what had been mainly known as the Levant, which was in the jurisdiction of the Ottoman Porte, or government. Those who used the term had little choice about its meaning. They could not set foot on most of the shores of the southern and central Mediterranean from the Gulf of Sidra to Albania without permits from the Ottoman Empire.

Some regions beyond the Ottoman Porte were included. One was North Africa west of Egypt. It was occupied by piratical kingdoms of the Barbary Coast, de facto-independent since the 18th century, formerly part of the empire at its apogee. Iran was included because it could not easily be reached except through the Ottoman Empire or neighboring Russia. In the 1890s the term tended to focus on the conflicts in the Balkan states and Armenia. The demise of "the sick man of Europe" left considerable confusion as to what was to be meant by "Near East". It is now generally used only in historical contexts, to describe the countries of Western Asia from the Mediterranean to (or including) Iran.[3] There is, in short, no universally-understood fixed inventory of nations, languages or historical assets defined to be in it.


B) Syria - Belka, Woman from Damascus, Arab from Baghdad
Inhabitants of the Near East, late 19th century

The geographical terms Near East and Far East referring to areas of the globe in or contiguous to the former British Empire and the neighboring colonies of the Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and Germans, fit together as a pair based on the opposites of far and near, suggesting that they were innovated together. They appear together in the journals of the mid-19th century. Both terms were used before then with local British and American meanings: the near or far east of a field, village or shire.

Ideas of the east up to the Crimean War

There was a linguistic predisposition to use such terms. The Romans had used them in near Gaul / far Gaul, near Spain / far Spain and others. Before them the Greeks had the habit, which appears in Linear B, the oldest known script of Europe, referring to the near province and the far province of the kingdom of Pylos. Usually these terms were given with reference to a geographic feature, such as a mountain range or a river.

Ptolemy's Geography divided Asia on a similar basis. In the north is "Scythia this side of the Himalayas" and "Scythia beyond the Himalayas".[4] To the south is "India on this side of the Ganges" and "India beyond the Ganges".[5] Asia began on the coast of Anatolia ("land of the rising Sun"). Beyond the Ganges and Himalayas (including the Tien Shan) were Serica and Serae (sections of China) and some other identifiable far eastern locations known to the voyagers and geographers but not to the general European public.

By the time of John Seller's Atlas Maritima of 1670, "India Beyond the Ganges" had become "the East Indies" including China, Korea, southeast Asia and the islands of the Pacific in a map that was every bit as distorted as Ptolemy's, despite the lapse of approximately 1,500 years.[6] That "east" in turn was only an English translation of Latin Oriens and Orientalis, "the land of the rising Sun", used since Roman times for "east". The world map of Jodocus Hondius of 1590 labels all of Asia from the Caspian to the Pacific as India Orientalis,[7] shortly to appear in translation as the East Indies.

Reception ceremony of the Conte de Saint Priest at the Ottoman Porte Antoine de Favray 1767
Ottoman Porte, 1767, gateway to trade with the Levant. Painting by Antoine de Favray.

Elizabeth I of England, primarily interested in trade with the east, collaborated with English merchants to form the first trading companies to the far-flung regions, using their own jargon. Their goals were to obtain trading concessions by treaty. The queen chartered the Company of Merchants of the Levant, shortened to Levant Company, and soon known also as The Turkey Company, in 1581. In 1582, the ship The Great Susan transported the first ambassador, William Harebone, to the Ottoman Porte (government of the Ottoman Empire) at Constantinople.[8] Compared to Anatolia, Levant also means "land of the rising sun", but where Anatolia always only meant the projection of land currently occupied by the Republic of Turkey, Levant meant anywhere in the domain ruled by the Ottoman Porte. The East India Company (short for a much longer formal name) was chartered in 1600 for trade to the East Indies.

It has pleased western historians to write of a decline of the Ottoman Empire as though a stable and uncontested polity of that name once existed. The borders did expand and contract but they were always dynamic and always in "question" right from the beginning. The Ottoman Empire was created from the lands of the former eastern Roman Empire on the occasion of the latter's violent demise. The last Roman emperor died fighting hand-to-hand in the streets of his capital, Constantinople, overwhelmed by the Ottoman military, in May, 1453. The victors inherited his remaining territory in the Balkans.

The populations of those lands did not accept Turkish rule. The Turks to them were foreigners with completely different customs, way of life, and language. Intervals when there was no unrest were rare. The Hungarians had thrown off Turkish rule by 1688. Serbia was created by the Serbian Revolution, 1815–1833. The Greek War of Independence, 1821–1832, created modern Greece, which recovered most of the lands of ancient Greece, but could not gain Constantinople. The Ottoman Porte was continuously under attack from some quarter in its empire, primarily the Balkans. Also, on a number of occasions in the early 19th century, American and British warships had to attack the Barbary pirates to stop their piracy and recover thousands of enslaved Europeans and Americans.

In 1853 the Russian Empire on behalf of the Slavic Balkan states began to question the very existence of the Ottoman Empire. The result was the Crimean War, 1853–1856, in which the British Empire and the French Empire supported the Ottoman Empire in its struggle against the incursions of the Russian Empire. Eventually, the Ottoman Empire lost control of the Balkan region.

Original diplomatic concept of near east

Men of 47th Regiment in winter dress crimea c 1855
British troops, Crimea, 1855

Until about 1855 the words near east and far east did not refer to any particular region. The far East, a phrase containing a noun, East, qualified by an adjective, far, could be at any location in the "far east" of the speaker's home territory. The Ottoman Empire, for example, was the far East as much as the East Indies. The Crimean War brought a change in vocabulary with the introduction of terms more familiar to the late 19th century. The Russian Empire had entered a more aggressive phase, becoming militarily active against the Ottoman Empire and also against China, with territorial aggrandizement explicitly in mind. Rethinking its policy the British government decided that the two polities under attack were necessary for the balance of power. It therefore undertook to oppose the Russians in both places, one result being the Crimean War. During that war the administration of the British Empire began promulgating a new vocabulary, giving specific regional meaning to "the Near East", the Ottoman Empire, and "the Far East", the East Indies. The two terms were now compound nouns often shown hyphenated.

In 1855 a reprint of a letter earlier sent to The Times appeared in Littel's Living Age.[9] Its author, an "official Chinese interpreter of 10 years' active service" and a member of the Oriental Club, Thomas Taylor Meadows, was replying to the suggestion by another interpreter that the British Empire was wasting its resources on a false threat from Russia against China. Toward the end of the letter he said:

To support the "sick man" in the Near East is an arduous and costly affair; let England, France and America too, beware how they create a "sick giant" in the Far East, for they may rest assured that, if Turkey is [a] European necessity, China is a world necessity.

Much of the colonial administration belonged to this club, which had been formed by the Duke of Wellington. Meadows' terminology must represent usage by that administration. If not the first use of the terms, the letter to the Times was certainly one of the earliest presentations of this vocabulary to the general public. They became immediately popular, supplanting "Levant" and "East Indies", which gradually receded to minor usages and then began to change meaning.

Original archaeological concept of nearer east


Near East remained popular in diplomatic, trade and journalistic circles, but a variation soon developed among the scholars and the men of the cloth and their associates: the Nearer East, reverting to the classical and then more scholarly distinction of nearer and farther. They undoubtedly saw a need to separate the biblical lands from the terrain of the Ottoman Empire. The Christians saw the country as the land of the Old and New Testaments, where Christianity had developed. The scholars in the field of studies that eventually became biblical archaeology attempted to define it on the basis of archaeology.

For example, The London Review of 1861 (Telford and Barber, unsigned) in reviewing several works by Rawlinson, Layard and others, defined themselves as making: "... an imperfect conspectus of the arrow-headed writings of the nearer east; writings which cover nearly the whole period of the postdiluvian Old Testament history ..."[10] By arrow-headed writings they meant cuneiform texts. In defense of the Bible as history they said: "The primeval nations, that piled their glorious homes on the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Nile, are among us again with their archives in their hands; ..."[11] They further defined the nations as "... the countries lying between the Caspian, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean ..."[12] The regions in their inventory were Assyria, Chaldea, Mesopotamia, Persia, Armenia, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Ancient Israel, Ethiopia, Caucasus, Libya, Anatolia and Abyssinia. Explicitly excluded is India. No mention is made of the Balkans.

The British archaeologist D. G. Hogarth published The Nearer East in 1902, in which he stated his view of "The Near East":[13]

The Nearer East is a term of current fashion for a region which our grandfathers were content to call simply The East. Its area is generally understood to coincide with those classic lands, historically the most interesting on the surface of the globe, which lie about the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea; but few probably could say offhand where should be the limits and why.

Hogarth then proceeds to say where and why in some detail, but no more mention is made of the classics. His analysis is geopolitical. His map delineates the Nearer East with regular lines as though surveyed. They include Iran, the Balkans, but not the Danube lands, Egypt, but not the rest of North Africa.[14] Except for the Balkans, the region matches the later Middle East. It differs from the Ottoman Empire of the times in including Greece and Iran. Hogarth gives no evidence of being familiar with the contemporaneous initial concept of the Middle East.

Balkan confusion

In the last years of the 19th century the term Near East acquired considerable disrepute in eyes of the English-speaking public as did the Ottoman Empire itself. The cause of the onus was the religiously motivated Hamidian Massacres of Christian Armenians, but it seemed to spill over into the protracted conflicts of the Balkans. For a time, "Near East" meant primarily the Balkans. Robert Hichens' book The Near East (1913) is subtitled Dalmatia, Greece and Constantinople.

Sir Henry Norman and his first wife

The change is evident in the reports of influential British travelers to the Balkans. In 1894, Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet, a journalist, traveled to the Far East, afterwards writing a book called The Peoples and Politics of the Far East, which came out in 1895. By "Far East" he meant Siberia, China, Japan, Korea, Siam and Malaya. As the book was a big success, he was off to the Balkan states with his wife in 1896 to develop detail for a sequel, The People and Politics of the Near East, which Scribners planned to publish in 1897. Mrs. Norman, a writer herself, wrote glowing letters of the home and person of Mme. Zakki, "the wife of a Turkish cabinet minister," who, she said, was a cultivated woman living in a country home full of books. As for the natives of the Balkans, they were "a semi-civilized people".[15]

The planned book was never published, however Norman published the gist of the book, mixed with vituperation against the Ottoman Empire, in an article in June, 1896, in Scribner's Magazine. The empire had descended from an enlightened civilization ruling over barbarians for their own good to something considerably less. The difference was the Hamidian Massacres, which were being conducted even as the couple traveled the Balkans. According to Norman now, the empire had been established by "the Moslem horde" from Asia, which was stopped by "intrepid Hungary." Furthermore, "Greece shook off the turbaned destroyer of her people" and so on. The Russians were suddenly liberators of oppressed Balkan states. Having portrayed the Armenians as revolutionaries in the name of freedom with the expectation of being rescued by the intervention of Christian Europe, he states "but her hope was vain." England had "turned her back." Norman concluded his exhortation with "In the Balkans one learns to hate the Turk." Norman made sure that Gladstone read the article. Prince Nicolas of Montenegro wrote a letter thanking him for his article.[16]

Throughout this article Norman uses "Near East" to mean the countries where "the eastern question" applied; that is, to all of the Balkans. The countries and regions mentioned are Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina (which was Muslim and needed, in his view, to be suppressed), Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Romania. The rest of the Ottoman domain is demoted to just "the east".

William Miller

If Norman was apparently attempting to change British policy, it was perhaps William Miller (1864–1945), journalist and expert on the Near East, who did the most in that direction. In essence, he signed the death warrant, so to speak, of the Age of Empires. The fall of the Ottoman Empire ultimately enmeshed all the others as well. In the Travel and Politics in the Near East, 1898, Miller claimed to have made four trips to the Balkans, 1894, 1896, 1897 and 1898, and to be, in essence, an expert on "the Near East", by which he primarily meant the Balkans.[17] Apart from the fact that he attended Oxford and played Rugby not many biographical details have been promulgated. He was in effect (whatever his formal associations if any) a point man of British near eastern intelligence.

In Miller's view, the Ottoman officials were unfit to rule:[18]

The plain fact is, that it is as hard for an Ottoman official to be honest as it is for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle. It is not so much the fault of the men as the fault of the system, which is thoroughly bad from top to bottom... Turkish administration is synonymous with corruption, inefficiency, and sloth.

These were fighting words to be coming from a country that once insisted Europe needed Turkey and was willing to spill blood over it. For his authority Miller invokes the people, citing the "collective wisdom" of Europe, and introducing a concept to arise many times in the decades to follow under chilling circumstances: "... no final solution of the difficulty has yet been found."[19]

Miller's final pronouncements on the topic could not be ignored by either the British or the Ottoman governments:[20]

It remains then to consider whether the Great Powers can solve the Eastern Question ... Foreigners find it extremely difficult to understand the foreign, and especially the Eastern policy of Great Britain, and we cannot wonder at their difficulty, for it seems a mass of contradictions to Englishmen themselves ... At one moment we are bringing about the independence of Greece by sending the Turkish fleet to the bottom of the bay of Navarino. Twenty-seven years later we are spending immense sums and wasting thousands of lives in order to protect the Turks against Russia.

If the British Empire was now going to side with the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire had no choice but to cultivate a relationship with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was supported by the German Empire. In a few years these alignments became the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance (already formed in 1882), which were in part a cause of World War I. By its end in 1918 three empires were gone, a fourth was about to fall to revolution, and two more, the British and French, were forced to yield in revolutions started under the aegis of their own ideologies.

Arnold Toynbee

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-95000-347, Türkei, Anzac-Bucht, Truppenlandung
Australian troops, Gallipoli, 1915. The battle was an Ottoman victory.

By 1916, when millions of Europeans were becoming casualties of imperial war in the trenches of eastern and western Europe over "the eastern question", Arnold J. Toynbee, Hegelesque historian of civilization at large, was becoming metaphysical about the Near East. Geography alone was not a sufficient explanation of the terms, he believed. If the Ottoman Empire had been a sick man, then:[21]

There has been something pathological about the history of this Near Eastern World. It has had an undue share of political misfortunes, and had lain for centuries in a kind of spiritual paralysis between East and West—belonging to neither, partaking paradoxically of both, and wholly unable to rally itself decidedly to one or the other.

Having supposed that it was sick, he kills it off: "The Near East has never been more true to itself than in its lurid dissolution; past and present are fused together in the flare." To Toynbee the Near East was a spiritual being of a "Janus-character", connected to both east and west:

The limits of the Near East are not easy to define. On the north-west, Vienna is the most conspicuous boundary-mark, but one might almost equally well single out Trieste or Lvov or even Prag. Towards the southeast, the boundaries are even more shadowy. It is perhaps best to equate them with the frontiers of the Arabic language, yet the genius of the Near East overrides linguistic barriers, and encroaches on the Arabicspeaking world on the one side as well as on the German-speaking world on the other. Syria is essentially a Near Eastern country, and a physical geographer would undoubtedly carry the Near Eastern frontiers up to the desert belt of the Sahara, Nefud and Kevir.

From the death of the Near East new nations were able to rise from the ashes, notably the Republic of Turkey. Paradoxically it now aligned itself with the west rather than with the east. Mustafa Kemal, its founder, a former Ottoman high-ranking officer, was insistent on this social revolution, which, among other changes, liberated women from the strait rules still in effect in most Arabic-speaking countries. The demise of the political Near East now left a gap where it had been, into which stepped the Middle East.

Rise of the Middle East

Origin of the concept of Middle East

The term middle east as a noun and adjective was common in the 19th century in nearly every context except diplomacy and archaeology. An uncountable number of places appear to have had their middle easts from gardens to regions, including the United States. The innovation of the term Near East to mean the holdings of the Ottoman Empire as early as the Crimean War had left a geographical gap. The East Indies, or "Far East", derived ultimately from Ptolemy's "India Beyond the Ganges." The Ottoman Empire ended at the eastern border of Iraq. "India This Side of the Ganges" and Iran had been omitted. The archaeologists counted Iran as "the Near East" because Old Persian cuneiform had been found there. This usage did not sit well with the diplomats; India was left in an equivocal state. They needed a regional term.

The use of the term Middle East as a region of international affairs apparently began in British and American diplomatic circles quite independently of each other over concern for the security of the same country: Iran, then known to the west as Persia. In 1900 Thomas Edward Gordon published an article, The Problem of the Middle East, which began:[22]

It may be assumed that the most sensitive part of our external policy in the Middle East is the preservation of the independence and integrity of Persia and Afghanistan. Our active interest in Persia began with the present century, and was due to the belief that the invasion of India by a European Power was a probable event.

The threat that caused Gordon, diplomat and military officer, to publish the article was resumption of work on a railway from Russia to the Persian Gulf. Gordon, a published author, had not used the term previously, but he was to use it from then on.

A second strategic personality from American diplomatic and military circles, Alfred Thayer Mahan, concerned about the naval vulnerability of the trade routes in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, commented in 1902:[23]

The middle East, if I may adopt a term which I have not seen, will some day need its Malta, as well as its Gibraltar; it does not follow that either will be in the Gulf. Naval force has the quality of mobility which carries with it the privilege of temporary absences; but it needs to find on every scene of operation established bases of refit, of supply, and, in case of disaster, of security. The British Navy should have the facility to concentrate in force, if occasion arise, about Aden, India, and the Gulf.

Apparently the sailor did not connect with the soldier, as Mahan believed he was innovating the term Middle East. It was, however, already there to be seen.

Single region concept

Until the period following World War I the Near East and the Middle East coexisted, but they were not always seen as distinct. Bertram Lenox Simpson, a colonial officer killed eventually in China, uses the terms together in his 1910 book, The Conflict of Color, as "the Near and Middle East". The total super-region consisted of "India, Afghanistan, Persia, Arabistan, Asia Minor, and last, but not least, Egypt."[24] Simpson (under his pen-name, Weale) explains that this entire region "is politically one region – in spite of the divisions into which it is academically divided." His own term revives the Nearer East as opposed to the Far East.

The basis of Simpson's unity is color and colonial subjection. His color chart recognizes a spectrum of black, brown and yellow, which at the time had been traditional since the late 19th century. Apart from these was "the great white race", which the moderate Simpson tones down to simply the white race. The great whites were appearing as late as the 1920s works of James Henry Breasted, which were taught as the gospel of ancient history throughout the entire first half of the 20th century. A red wavelength was mainly of interest in America. The eastern question was modified by Simpson to "The Problem of the Nearer East", which had nothing to do with the Ottomans but everything to do with British colonialism. Simpson wrote of the white man:[24]

... in India, in Central Asia, and in all the regions adjacent to the Near East, he still boldly remains a conqueror in possession of vast stretches of valuable territory; a conqueror who has no intention of lightly surrendering his conquests, and who indeed sees in every attempt to modify the old order of things a most hateful and unjustifiable revolt which must at all costs be repressed. This is so absolutely true that no candid person will be inclined to dispute it.

These regions were occupied by "the brown men", with the yellow in the Far East and the black in Africa. The color issue was not settled until Kenya became independent in 1963, ending the last vestige of the British Empire.

This view reveals a somewhat less than altruistic Christian intent of the British Empire; however, it was paradoxical from the beginning, as Simpson and most other writers pointed out. The Ottomans were portrayed as the slavers, but even as the American and British fleets were striking at the Barbary pirates on behalf of freedom, their countries were promulgating a vigorous African slave trade of their own. Charles George Gordon is known as the saint of all British colonial officers. A dedicated Christian, he spent his time between assignments living among the poor and donating his salary on their behalf. He won Ottoman confidence as a junior officer in the Crimean War. In his later career he became a high official in the Ottoman Empire, working as Governor of Egypt for the Ottoman khedive for the purpose of conducting campaigns against slavers and slavery in Egypt and the Sudan.

One presumed region, one name

The term Near and Middle East, held the stage for a few years before World War I. It proved to be less acceptable to a colonial point of view that saw the entire region as one. In 1916 Captain T. C. Fowle, 40th Pathans (troops of British India), wrote of a trip he had taken from Karachi to Syria just before the war. The book does not contain a single instance of "Near East". Instead, the entire region is considered "the Middle East".[25] The formerly Near Eastern sections of his trip are now "Turkish" and not Ottoman.

Subsequently, with the disgrace of Near East in diplomatic and military circles, Middle East prevailed. However, Near East continues in some circles at the discretion of the defining agency or academic department. They are not generally considered distinct regions as they were at their original definition.

Although racial and colonial definitions of the Middle East are no longer considered ideologically sound, the sentiment of unity persists. For much, but by no means all, of the Middle East, the predominance of Islam lends some unity, as does the transient accident of geographical continuity. Otherwise there is but little basis except for history and convention to lump together peoples of multiple, often unrelated languages, governments, loyalties and customs.

Current meaning


In the 20th century, subsequent to major warfare and decades of intense political turmoil, the terms, such as Near East, Far East, and Middle East continued to be used, but evolved in their meaning and scope. This increased confusion, the resolution of which became the study of experts in the new field of political science. The new wave of diplomats often came from those programmes.

Archaeology on the international scene, though very much of intellectual interest to major universities, was overshadowed by international relations. The archaeologists' domain became the Ancient Near East, which could no longer be relied upon to be the actual Near East. The Ottoman Empire was gone, along with all the other empires of the 19th century, replaced in the region with a number of republics with various affinities, regional and global.

The many and varied specialized agencies that were formed to handle specific aspects of complex international relations, evolved with the terms. Definitions from the present came to be not in concert with those of the past. Reconciling these terms and their definitions remains difficult due to ongoing territorial disputes and non-free nuclear powers' territorial ambitions, putting any reconciliation of definitions out of scope of diplomatic corps in the classical sense.

The ancient Near East is frozen in time. The living Near East is primarily what the agencies each define as a matter of practice; often guided by their political leadership. In most cases, this single term is inadequate to describe the geographical range in practical applications. This has resulted is multiple definitions used differently by each major region, power, or instituation.

Influential agencies represented in the table

Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Logotype of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

The United States is the chief remaining nation to assign official responsibilities to a region called the Near East. Within the government the State Department has been most influential in promulgating the Near Eastern regional system. The countries of the former empires of the 19th century have in general abandoned the term and the subdivision in favor of Middle East, North Africa, and various forms of Asia. In many cases, such as France, no distinct regional substructures have been employed. Each country has its own French diplomatic apparatus, although regional terms, including Proche-Orient and Moyen-Orient, can be used in a descriptive sense.

Some of the most influential agencies in the United States still use Near East as a working concept. For example, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, a division of the United States Department of State, is perhaps the most influential agency to still use the term Near East. Under the Secretary of State, it implements the official diplomacy of the United States, called also statecraft by Secretary Hillary Clinton. The name of the bureau is traditional and historic. There is, however, no distinct Middle East. All official Middle Eastern affairs are referred to this bureau.[26]

Working closely in conjunction with the definition of the Near East provided by the State Department is the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies (NESA), an educational institution of the United States Department of Defense. It teaches courses and holds seminars and workshops for government officials and military officers who will work or are working within its region. As the name indicates, that region is a combination of State Department regions; however, NESA is careful to identify the State Department region.[27] As its Near East is not different from the State Department's it does not appear in the table. Its name, however, is not entirely accurate. For example, its region includes Mauritania, a member of the State Department's Africa (Sub-Sahara).

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is a non-profit organization for research and advice on Middle Eastern policy. It regards its target countries as the Middle East but adopts the convention of calling them the Near East to be in conformance with the practices of the State Department. Its views are independent.[28] The WINEP bundles the countries of Northwest Africa together under "North Africa". Details can be found in Policy Focus #65.[29]

Table of near eastern countries recognized by some agencies

Country UN
Palestinian territories
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates

Legend: included; excluded

Other regional systems

The United Nations formulates multiple regional divisions as is convenient for its various operations. But few of them include a Near East, and that poorly defined. UNICEF recognizes the "Middle East and North Africa" region, where the Middle East is bounded by the Red Sea on the west and includes Iran on the east.[30] UNESCO recognizes neither a Near East nor a Middle East, dividing the countries instead among three regions: Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, and Africa. Its division "does not forcibly reflect geography" but "refers to the execution of regional activities."[31] The United Nations Statistics Division defines Western Asia to contain the countries included elsewhere in the Middle East.[32] Its total area extends further into Central Asia than that of most agencies.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a quasi-independent agency of the United States Government. It appears to have multiple leadership. On the one hand its director is appointed by the president. It plays a significant role in providing the president with intelligence. On the other hand, Congress oversees its operations through a committee. The CIA was first formed under the National Security Act of 1947 from the army's Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which furnished both military intelligence and clandestine military operations to the army during the crisis of World War II. Many revisions and redefinitions have taken place since then. Although the name of the CIA reflects the original advised intent of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, the government's needs for strategic services have frustrated that intent from the beginning. The press received by the agency in countless articles, novels and other media have tended to create various popular myths; for example, that this agency replaced any intelligence effort other than that of the OSS, or that it contains the central intelligence capability of the United States. Strategic services are officially provided by some 17 agencies called the Intelligence Community. Army intelligence did not come to an end; in fact, all the branches of the Armed Forces retained their intelligence services. This community is currently under the leadership (in addition to all its other leadership) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Under these complex circumstances regional names are less useful. They are more historical than an accurate gauge of operations. The Directorate of Intelligence, one of four directorates into which the CIA is divided, includes the Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis (NESA). Its duties are defined as "support on Middle Eastern and North African countries, as well as on the South Asian nations of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan."[33] The total range of countries is in fact the same as the State Department's Near East, but the names do not correspond. The Near East of the NESA is the same as the Middle East defined in the CIA-published on-line resource, The World Factbook. Its list of countries is limited by the Red Sea, comprises the entire eastern coast of the Mediterranean, including Israel, Turkey, the small nations of the Caucasus, Iran and the states of the Arabian Peninsula.[34]

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an independent agency under the Department of State established in place of the Marshall Plan for the purpose of determining and distributing foreign aid, does not use the term Near East. Its definition of Middle East corresponds to that of the State Department, which officially prefers the term Near East.[35]

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of United Kingdom recognises a Middle East and North Africa region, but not a Near East. Their original Middle East consumed the Near East as far as the Red Sea, ceded India to the Asia and Oceania region, and went into partnership with North Africa as far as the Atlantic.[36]

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Greece conducts "bilateral relationships" with the countries of the "Mediterranean – Middle East Region" but has formulated no Near East Region.[37] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey also does not use the term Near East. Its regions include the Middle East, the Balkans and others.[38]


The Ancient Near East is a term of the 20th century intended to stabilize the geographical application of Near East to ancient history. The Near East may acquire varying meanings, but the Ancient Near East always has the same meaning: the ancient nations, people and languages of the enhanced Fertile Crescent, a sweep of land from the Nile Valley through Anatolia and southward to the limits of Mesopotamia.

Resorting to this verbal device, however, did not protect the "Ancient Near East" from the inroads of "the Middle East". For example, a high point in the use of "Ancient Near East" was for Biblical scholars the Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament by James Bennett Pritchard, a textbook of first edition dated 1950. The last great book written by Leonard Woolley, British archaeologist, excavator of ancient Ur and associate of T. E. Lawrence and Arthur Evans, was The Art of the Middle East, Including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine, published in 1961. Woolley had completed it in 1960 two weeks before his death. The geographical ranges in each case are identical.

Parallel with the growth of specialized agencies for conducting or supporting statescraft in the second half of the 20th century has been the collection of resources for scholarship and research typically in university settings. Most universities teaching the liberal arts have library and museum collections. These are not new; however, the erection of these into "centres" of national and international interest in the second half of the 20th century have created larger databases not available to the scholars of the past. Many of these focus on the Ancient Near East or Near East in the sense of Ancient Near East.

One such institution is the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents (CSAD) founded by and located centrally at Oxford University, Great Britain. Among its many activities CSAD numbers "a long-term project to create a library of digitised images of Greek inscriptions." These it arranges by region. The Egypt and the Near East region besides Egypt includes Cyprus, Persia and Afghanistan but not Asia Minor (a separate region).[39]


A large percentage of experts on the modern Middle East began their training in university departments named for the Near East. Similarly the journals associated with these fields of expertise include the words Near East or Near Eastern. The meaning of Near East in these numerous establishments and publications is Middle East. Expertise on the modern Middle East is almost never mixed or confused with studies of the Ancient Near East, although often "Ancient Near East" is abbreviated to "Near East" without any implication of modern times. For example, "Near Eastern Languages" in the ancient sense includes such languages as Sumerian and Akkadian. In the modern sense, it is likely to mean any or all of the Arabic languages.

See also


  1. ^ "Middle East, Near East". Style Guide. National Geographic Society.
  2. ^ "The Near East". Food and Agriculture Organization. United Nations.
  3. ^ "Near East". Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003.
  4. ^ Book VI, Chapters 14, 15.
  5. ^ Book VII, chapters 1, 2.
  6. ^ Tooley & Bricker 1989, pp. 135–136
  7. ^ Tooley & Bricker 1989, p. 133
  8. ^ Bent, J. Theodore, ed. (1893). Early Voyages and Travels in the Levant. London: The Hakluyt Society. p. viii.
  9. ^ Meadows, Thomas Taylor (October–December 1855). "Chinese Insurgents and British Policy". Littell's Living Age. 47: 356–359.
  10. ^ Telford & Barber 1861, p. 14.
  11. ^ Telford & Barber 1861, p. 6.
  12. ^ Telford & Barber 1861, p. 7.
  13. ^ Hogarth 1902, p. 1.
  14. ^ Hogarth 1902, Frontispiece
  15. ^ "Literary Chat: Two Traveled Authors". Munsey's Magazine. XV (1): 121–22. April 1896.
  16. ^ Norman, Henry (June 1896). "In the Balkans – the Chessboard of Europe". Scribner's Magazine. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 19 (6): 653–69.
  17. ^ Miller 1898, p. ix.
  18. ^ Miller 1898, pp. 391–392.
  19. ^ Miller 1898, p. 479.
  20. ^ Miller 1898, p. 489.
  21. ^ Toynbee, Arnold J.; Great Britain Foreign Office (1916). The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. London, New York [etc.]: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 595.
  22. ^ Gordon, Thomas Edward (Jan–June 1900). Knowles, James, ed. "The Problem of the Middle East". The Nineteenth Century: a Monthly Review. London: Lowe, Marston & Company: 413. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  23. ^ Mahan, Alfred Thayer (1902). Retrospect and Prospect: Studies in International Relations Naval and Political. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. p. 237.
  24. ^ a b Weale, Bertram Lenox Putnam (1910). The conflict of colour: the threatened upheaval throughout the world. New York: The MacMillan Company. pp. 184–187.
  25. ^ Fowle, Trenchard Craven William (1916). "Preface". Travels in the Middle East: Being Impressions by the Way In Turkish Arabia, Syria, and Persia. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company.
  26. ^ "Near Eastern Affairs: Countries and Other Areas". Diplomacy in Action. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  27. ^ "NESA Region". NESA. Archived from the original on 30 September 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  28. ^ "Research Areas". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  29. ^ Hunt, Emily (February 2007). Islamist Terrorism in Northwestern Africa: a 'Thorn in the neck' of the United States? (PDF). Policy Focus #65. Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Archived from the original on 2008-08-27.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  30. ^ "Middle East and North Africa". unicef. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  31. ^ "Arab States". UNESCO. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  32. ^ "Composition of macro geographical (continental) regions, geographical sub-regions, and selected economic and other groupings". United Nations Statistics Division.
  33. ^ "The Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Analysis". Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 2007-06-12. Retrieved 27 June 201. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  34. ^ "The Middle East". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  35. ^ "USAID Middle East Countries". USAID. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  36. ^ "Travel Advice by Country". Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  37. ^ "Bilateral Relations". Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Greece. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
  38. ^ "Regions". Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  39. ^ "Egypt and the Near East". CSAD. Retrieved 24 June 2011.


  • Hogarth, David George (1902). The Nearer East. Appletons' World Series: The Regions of the World. New York: D. Appleton and Company.
  • Miller, William (1898). Travel and Politics in the Near East. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
  • Telford, John; Barber, Aquila. "Article I". The London Review, April and July 1861. London: Hamilton, Adams and Co. XVI: 1–33.
  • Tooley, R.V.; Bricker, Charles (1989). Landmarks of Mapmaking: an Illustrated History of Maps and Mapmakers. England: Dorset Press (Marlboro Books Corporation).

External links

Coordinates: 32°48′N 35°36′E / 32.800°N 35.600°E

1st millennium BC

The 1st millennium BC is the period of time between from the year 1000 BC to 1 BC (10th to 1st centuries BC; in astronomy: JD 1356182.5 – 1721425.5).

It encompasses the Iron Age in the Old World and sees the transition from the Ancient Near East to Classical Antiquity.

World population roughly doubled over the course of the millennium,

from about 100 million to about 200–250 million.


Anatolia (from Greek Ἀνατολή Anatolḗ; Turkish: Anadolu "east" or "[sun]rise"), also known as Asia Minor (Medieval and Modern Greek: Μικρά Ἀσία Mikrá Asía, "small Asia"; Turkish: Küçük Asya), Asian Turkey, the Anatolian peninsula, or the Anatolian plateau, is the westernmost protrusion of Asia, which makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Armenian Highlands to the east, and the Aegean Sea to the west. The Sea of Marmara forms a connection between the Black and Aegean Seas through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits and separates Anatolia from Thrace on the European mainland.

The eastern border of Anatolia is traditionally held to be a line between the Gulf of Alexandretta and the Black Sea, bounded by the Armenian Highland to the east and Mesopotamia to the southeast. Thus, traditionally Anatolia is the territory that comprises approximately the western two-thirds of the Asian part of Turkey. Nowadays, Anatolia is also often considered to be synonymous with Asian Turkey, which comprises almost the entire country; its eastern and southeastern borders are widely taken to be Turkey's eastern border. By some definitions, the area called the Armenian highlands lies beyond the boundary of the Anatolian plateau. The official name of this inland region is the Eastern Anatolia Region.The ancient inhabitants of Anatolia spoke the now-extinct Anatolian languages, which were largely replaced by the Greek language starting from classical antiquity and during the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Major Anatolian languages included Hittite, Luwian, and Lydian among other more poorly attested relatives. The Turkification of Anatolia began under the Seljuk Empire in the late 11th century and continued under the Ottoman Empire between the late 13th and early 20th centuries. However, various non-Turkic languages continue to be spoken by minorities in Anatolia today, including Kurdish, Neo-Aramaic, Armenian, Arabic, Laz, Georgian and Greek. Other ancient peoples in the region included Galatians, Hurrians, Assyrians, Hattians, Cimmerians, as well as Ionian, Dorian, and Aeolian Greeks.

Ancient Near East

The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East: Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, southwest Iran, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Egypt, ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia), Anatolia/Asia Minor and Armenian Highlands (Turkey's Eastern Anatolia Region, Armenia, northwestern Iran, southern Georgia, and western Azerbaijan), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan), Cyprus and the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient Near East is studied in the fields of Near Eastern archaeology and ancient history.

The history of the ancient Near East begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, though the date it ends varies. The term covers the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in the region, until either the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC, that by Macedonian Empire in the 4th century BC, or the Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD.

The ancient Near East is considered one of the cradles of civilization. It was here that intensive year-round agriculture was first practiced, leading to the rise of the first dense urban settlements and the development of many familiar institutions of civilization, such as social stratification, centralized government and empires, organized religion and organized warfare. It also saw the creation of the first writing system, the first alphabet (Abjad), the first currency in history, and law codes, early advances that laid the foundations of astronomy and mathematics, and the invention of the wheel.

During the period, states became increasingly large, until the region became controlled by militaristic empires that had conquered a number of different cultures.


Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East and the Levant. It existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC (in the form of the Assur city-state) until its collapse between 612 BC and 609 BC - spanning the periods of the Early to Middle Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. From the end of the seventh century BC (when the Neo-Assyrian state fell) to the mid-seventh century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers such as the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, the final part of which period saw Mesopotamia become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.A largely Semitic-speaking realm, Assyria was centred on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran). The Assyrians came to rule powerful empires in several periods. Making up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria reached the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Neo-Assyrian Empire of 911 to 609 BC stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.The name "Assyria" originates with the Assyrian state's original capital, the ancient city of Aššur, which dates to c. 2600 BC - originally one of a number of Akkadian-speaking city states in Mesopotamia. In the 25th and 24th centuries BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders. From the late 24th century BC, the Assyrians became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Akkadian- and Sumerian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC. After the Assyrian Empire fell from power, the greater remaining part of Assyria formed a geopolitical region and province of other empires, although between the mid-2nd century BC and late 3rd century AD a patchwork of small independent Assyrian kingdoms arose in the form of Assur, Adiabene, Osroene, Beth Nuhadra, Beth Garmai and Hatra.

The region of Assyria fell under the successive control of the Median Empire of 678 to 549 BC, the Achaemenid Empire of 550 to 330 BC, the Macedonian Empire (late 4th century BC), the Seleucid Empire of 312 to 63 BC, the Parthian Empire of 247 BC to 224 AD, the Roman Empire (from 116 to 118 AD) and the Sasanian Empire of 224 to 651 AD. The Arab Islamic conquest of the area in the mid-seventh century finally dissolved Assyria (Assuristan) as a single entity, after which the remnants of the Assyrian people (by now Christians) gradually became an ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minority in the Assyrian homeland, surviving there to this day as an indigenous people of the region.

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age is a historical period characterized by the use of bronze, and in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the three-age Stone-Bronze-Iron system, as proposed in modern times by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen, for classifying and studying ancient societies.

An ancient civilization is defined to be in the Bronze Age either by producing bronze by smelting its own copper and alloying with tin, arsenic, or other metals, or by trading for bronze from production areas elsewhere. Bronze itself is harder and more durable than other metals available at the time, allowing Bronze Age civilizations to gain a technological advantage.

Copper-tin ores are rare, as reflected in the fact that there were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before trading in bronze began in the third millennium BC. Worldwide, the Bronze Age generally followed the Neolithic period, with the Chalcolithic serving as a transition. Although the Iron Age generally followed the Bronze Age, in some areas (such as Sub-Saharan Africa), the Iron Age intruded directly on the Neolithic.Bronze Age cultures differed in their development of the first writing. According to archaeological evidence, cultures in Mesopotamia (cuneiform script) and Egypt (hieroglyphs) developed the earliest viable writing systems.

Central Intelligence Agency

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.

Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, the CIA has no law enforcement function and is mainly focused on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic intelligence collection. Though it is not the only agency of the Federal government of the United States specializing in HUMINT, the CIA serves as the national manager for coordination of HUMINT activities across the U.S. intelligence community. Moreover, the CIA is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action at the behest of the President. It exerts foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.Before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the CIA Director concurrently served as the head of the Intelligence Community; today, the CIA is organized under the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Despite transferring some of its powers to the DNI, the CIA has grown in size as a result of the September 11 attacks. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in fiscal year 2010, the CIA had the largest budget of all IC agencies, exceeding previous estimates.The CIA has increasingly expanded its role, including covert paramilitary operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations.


The Chalcolithic (English: ), a name derived from the Greek: χαλκός khalkós, "copper" and from λίθος líthos, "stone" or Copper Age, also known as the Eneolithic or Aeneolithic (from Latin aeneus "of copper") is an archaeological period which researchers usually regard as part of the broader Neolithic (although scholars originally defined it as a transition between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age). In the context of Eastern Europe, archaeologists often prefer the term "Eneolithic" to "Chalcolithic" or other alternatives.

In the Chalcolithic period, copper predominated in metalworking technology. Hence it was the period before it was discovered that adding tin to copper formed bronze (a harder and stronger metal). The archaeological site of Belovode, on Rudnik mountain in Serbia has the oldest securely-dated evidence of copper smelting, from 7000 BP (c. 5000 BC).The Copper Age in the Ancient Near East began in the late 5th millennium BC and lasted for about a millennium before it gave rise to the Early Bronze Age.

The transition from the European Copper Age to Bronze Age Europe occurs about the same time, between the late 5th and the late 3rd millennia BC.

Code of Hammurabi

The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian code of law of ancient Mesopotamia, dated back to about 1754 BCE (Middle Chronology). It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code. A partial copy exists on a 2.25 meter (7.5 ft) stone stele. It consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis) as graded based on social stratification depending on social status and gender, of slave versus free, man versus woman.Nearly half of the code deals with matters of contract, establishing the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon for example. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity, and reproductive behaviour. Only one provision appears to impose obligations on an official; this provision establishes that a judge who alters his decision after it is written down is to be fined and removed from the bench permanently. A few provisions address issues related to military service.

The code was discovered by modern archaeologists in 1901, and its editio princeps translation published in 1902 by Jean-Vincent Scheil. This nearly complete example of the code is carved into a basalt stele in the shape of a huge index finger, 2.25 m (7.4 ft) tall. The code is inscribed in the Akkadian language, using cuneiform script carved into the stele.

It is currently on display in the Louvre, with replicas in numerous institutions, including the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, the Clendening History of Medicine Library & Museum at the University of Kansas Medical Center, the library of the Theological University of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, the Pergamon Museum of Berlin, the Arts Faculty of the University of Leuven in Belgium, the National Museum of Iran in Tehran, and the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, the University Museum at the University of Pennsylvania, and Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC.

Fertile Crescent

The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East where agriculture and early human civilizations such as Sumer flourished. Technological advances in the region include the development of writing, glass, the wheel, agriculture, and the use of irrigation.

It has been called the "cradle of civilization".

The Fertile Crescent lies in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Jordan as well as the southeastern fringe of Turkey and the western fringes of Iran. Some authors include Cyprus in the Fertile Crescent - which is the birthplace of agriculture. This is where settled farming first began to emerge as people started the process of clearance and modification of natural vegetation in order to grow newly domesticated plants as crops.

Iron Age

The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age system, preceded by the Stone Age (Neolithic) and the Bronze Age. It is an archaeological era in the prehistory and protohistory of Europe and the Ancient Near East, and by analogy also used of other parts of the Old World.

The three-age system was introduced in the first half of the 19th century for the archaeology of Europe in particular, and by the later 19th century expanded to the archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Its name harks back to the mythological "Ages of Man" of Hesiod. As an archaeological era it was first introduced for Scandinavia by Christian Jürgensen Thomsen in the 1830s. By the 1860s, it was embraced as a useful division of the "earliest history of mankind" in general and began to be applied in Assyriology. The development of the now-conventional periodization in the archaeology of the Ancient Near East was developed in the 1920s to 1930s.

As its name suggests, Iron Age technology is characterized by the production of tools and weaponry by ferrous metallurgy (ironworking), more specifically from carbon steel.

The duration of the Iron Age varies depending on the region under consideration. It is defined by archaeological convention, and the mere presence of some cast or wrought iron is not sufficient to represent an Iron Age culture; rather, the "Iron Age" begins locally when the production of iron or steel has been brought to the point where iron tools and weapons superior to their bronze equivalents become widespread. For example, Tutankhamun's meteoric iron dagger comes from the Bronze Age. In the Ancient Near East, this transition takes place in the wake of the so-called Bronze Age collapse, in the 12th century BC. The technology soon spreads throughout the Mediterranean region and to South Asia.

Its further spread to Central Asia, Eastern and Central Europe is somewhat delayed, and Northern Europe is reached still later, by about 500 BC.

The Iron Age is taken to end, also by convention, with the beginning of the historiographical record.

This usually does not represent a clear break in the archaeological record; for the Ancient Near East the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire c. 550 BC (considered historical by virtue of the record by Herodotus) is usually taken as a cut-off date, and in Central and Western Europe the Roman conquests of the 1st century BC serve as marking for the end of the Iron Age. The Germanic Iron Age of Scandinavia is taken to end c. AD 800, with the beginning of the Viking Age.

In South Asia, the Iron Age is taken to begin with the ironworking Painted Gray Ware culture and to end with the reign of Ashoka (3rd century BC). The use of the term "Iron Age" in the archaeology of South, East and Southeast Asia is more recent, and less common, than for western Eurasia; at least in China prehistory had ended before iron-working arrived, so the term is infrequently used. The Sahel (Sudan region) and Sub-Saharan Africa are outside of the three-age system, there being no Bronze Age, but the term "Iron Age" is sometimes used in reference to early cultures practicing ironworking such as the Nok culture of Nigeria.


The Levant () is an approximate historical geographical term referring to a large area in the Eastern Mediterranean, primarily in Western Asia. In its narrowest sense, it is equivalent to the historical region of Syria. In its widest historical sense, the Levant included all of the eastern Mediterranean with its islands; that is, it included all of the countries along the Eastern Mediterranean shores, extending from Greece to Cyrenaica.The term entered English in the late 15th century from French. It derives from the Italian Levante, meaning "rising", implying the rising of the sun in the east, and is broadly equivalent to the term Al-Mashriq (Arabic: الْمَشْرق‎, [almaʃriq]), meaning "the east, where the sun rises".In the 13th and 14th centuries, the term levante was used for Italian maritime commerce in the Eastern Mediterranean, including Greece, Anatolia, Syria-Palestine, and Egypt, that is, the lands east of Venice. Eventually the term was restricted to the Muslim countries of Syria-Palestine and Egypt. In 1581, England set up the Levant Company to monopolize commerce with the Ottoman Empire. The name Levant States was used to refer to the French mandate over Syria and Lebanon after World War I. This is probably the reason why the term Levant has come to be used more specifically to refer to modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, and Cyprus. Some scholars misunderstood the term thinking that it derives from the name of Lebanon. Today the term is often used in conjunction with prehistoric or ancient historical references. It has the same meaning as "Syria-Palestine" or Ash-Shaam (Arabic: الـشَّـام‎, /ʔaʃ-ʃaːm/), the area that is bounded by the Taurus Mountains of Turkey in the North, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and the north Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia in the east. Typically, it does not include Anatolia (also called Asia Minor), the Caucasus Mountains, or any part of the Arabian Peninsula proper. Cilicia (in Asia Minor) and the Sinai Peninsula (Asian Egypt) are sometimes included.

The term Levant was widely used to describe the region from the 18th to the mid-19th centuries, and has had steady but lower usage since the late 19th century; several dictionaries consider it to be archaic today. Both the noun Levant and the adjective Levantine are now commonly used to describe the ancient and modern culture area formerly called Syro-Palestinian or Biblical: archaeologists now speak of the Levant and of Levantine archaeology; food scholars speak of Levantine cuisine; and the Latin Christians of the Levant continue to be called Levantine Christians.The Levant has been described as the "crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and northeast Africa", and the "northwest of the Arabian plate". The populations of the Levant share not only the geographic position, but cuisine, some customs, and history. They are often referred to as Levantines.

List of cities of the ancient Near East

The earliest cities in history appear in the ancient Near East. The area of the ancient Near East covers roughly that of the modern Middle East; its history begins in the 4th millennium BC and ends, depending on the interpretation of the term, either with the conquest by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC or that by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.

The largest cities of the Bronze Age Near East housed several tens of thousands of people. Memphis in the Early Bronze Age, with some 30,000 inhabitants, was the largest city of the time by far. Ur in the Middle Bronze Age is estimated to have had some 65,000 inhabitants; Babylon in the Late Bronze Age similarly had a population of some 50,000–60,000. Niniveh had some 20,000–30,000, reaching 100,000 only in the Iron Age (ca. 700 BC).

The KI 𒆠 determinative was the Sumerian term for a city or city state. In Akkadian and Hittite orthography, URU𒌷 became a determinative sign denoting a city, or combined with KUR𒆳 "land" the kingdom or territory controlled by a city, e.g. 𒄡𒆳𒌷𒄩𒀜𒌅𒊭 LUGAL KUR URUHa-at-ti "the king of the country of (the city of) Hatti".


Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, parts of Northern Saudi Arabia, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.The Sumerians and Akkadians (including Assyrians and Babylonians) dominated Mesopotamia from the beginning of written history (c. 3100 BC) to the fall of Babylon in 539 BC, when it was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire. It fell to Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and after his death, it became part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.

Around 150 BC, Mesopotamia was under the control of the Parthian Empire. Mesopotamia became a battleground between the Romans and Parthians, with western parts of Mesopotamia coming under ephemeral Roman control. In AD 226, the eastern regions of Mesopotamia fell to the Sassanid Persians. The division of Mesopotamia between Roman (Byzantine from AD 395) and Sassanid Empires lasted until the 7th century Muslim conquest of Persia of the Sasanian Empire and Muslim conquest of the Levant from Byzantines. A number of primarily neo-Assyrian and Christian native Mesopotamian states existed between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD, including Adiabene, Osroene, and Hatra.

Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10,000 BC. It has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture".

Middle East

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey (both Asian and European), and Egypt (which is mostly in North Africa). Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest Middle Eastern nation while Bahrain is the smallest. The corresponding adjective is Middle Eastern and the derived noun is Middle Easterner. The term has come into wider usage as a replacement of the term Near East (as opposed to the Far East) beginning in the early 20th century.

Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds, and Azeris (excluding Azerbaijan) constitute the largest ethnic groups in the region by population. Arabs constitute the largest ethnic group in the region by a clear margin. Indigenous minorities of the Middle East include Jews, Baloch, Assyrians, Berbers (who primarily live in North Africa), Copts, Druze, Lurs, Mandaeans, Samaritans, Shabaks, Tats, and Zazas. European ethnic groups that form a diaspora in the region include Albanians, Bosniaks, Circassians (including Kabardians), Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Franco-Levantines, and Italo-Levantines. Among other migrant populations are Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Pashtuns, Romani, and sub-Saharan Africans.

The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the (geopolitical) importance of the region being recognized for millennia. Several major religions have their origins in the Middle East, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Baha'i faith, Mandaeism, Unitarian Druze, and numerous other belief systems were also established within the region.

The Middle East generally has a hot, arid climate, with several major rivers providing irrigation to support agriculture in limited areas such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates watersheds of Mesopotamia, and most of what is known as the Fertile Crescent.

Most of the countries that border the Persian Gulf have vast reserves of crude oil, with monarchs of the Arabian Peninsula in particular benefiting economically from petroleum exports.

Religions of the ancient Near East

The religions of the ancient Near East were mostly polytheistic, with some examples of monolatry (for example, Yahwism and Atenism). Some scholars believe that the similarities between these religions indicate that the religions are related, a belief known as patternism.Many religions of the ancient near East and their offshoots can be traced to Proto-Semitic religion. Other religions in the ancient Near East include Ancient Egyptian religion, the Luwian and Hittite religions of Asia Minor and the Sumerian religion of ancient Mesopotamia. Offshoots of Proto-Semitic religion include Assyro-Babylonian religion, Canaanite religion, and Arabian religion. Judaism is a development of Canaanite religion, both Indo-European and Semitic religions influenced the ancient Greek religion, and Zoroastrianism was a product of ancient Indo-Iranian religion primarily the Ancient Iranian religion. In turn these religious traditions strongly influenced the later monotheistic religions of Christianity, Mandeanism, Sabianism, Gnosticism, Islam, and Manicheanism, which inherited their monotheism from Judaism and Zoroastrianism.

Tell (archaeology)

In archaeology, a tell, or tel (derived from Arabic: تَل‎, tall, 'hill' or 'mound'), is an artificial mound formed from the accumulated refuse of generations of people living on the same site for hundreds or thousands of years. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with sloping sides and can be up to 30 metres high.Tells are most commonly associated with the archaeology of the ancient Near East, but they are also found elsewhere, such as Central Asia, Eastern Europe, West Africa and Greece. Within the Near East, they are concentrated in less arid regions, including Upper Mesopotamia, the Southern Levant, Anatolia and Iran, which had more continuous settlement.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) is an American think tank based in Washington, D.C., focused on the foreign policy of the United States as it pertains to the countries in the Near East. Established in 1985, the institute's mission statement says that it seeks "to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them."


Created in December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees, and their patrilineal descendants, who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports. Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.It also provided relief to Jewish and Arab Palestine refugees inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for Jewish refugees in 1952.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2020. Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States and the U.S. broker for peace talks, has advocated a "sincere effort to disrupt" UNRWA as part of the Trump administration's proposals for the Middle East, since according to Kushner it "perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace".UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR. Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world. Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible. UNRWA allows refugee status to be inherited by some descendants.


A ziggurat ( ZIG-uu-rat; Akkadian: ziqqurat, D-stem of zaqāru 'to build on a raised area') is a type of massive structure built in ancient Mesopotamia. It has the form of a terraced compound of successively receding stories or levels. Notable ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, the now destroyed Etemenanki in Babylon, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān and Sialk.

CIA activities in Asia
Earth's primary regions

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