Iraq Early History

By | December 19, 2021

Seat from ancient times of the ancient Sumero-Akkadian civilization (see Babylon and Assyria), then, from the century. VI to IV a. C., a Persian province, the Mesopotamian territory suffered, under the Seleucid empire, the influence of the Greek civilization, which nevertheless left no deep traces; the resurgence of Persian power with the Parthians and even more with the Sassanids almost entirely canceled this influence, the presence of which was not felt except indirectly, through the action of Christianity spread in those regions since the century. II d. C. In the meantime (continuation of a phenomenon that began in ancient times) the nomadic Arabs were getting closer and closer to the course of the Euphrates, through the ill-determined and unsafe border of the desert, with all the greater intensity the deeper the political decay manifested itself. and economy of the country. At the beginning of the century VII,aramei), was mixed with numerous Persian and Arab elements. The dominant religion was Christian (in the forms of the Jacobite or Monophysite and Nestorian heresies); but the Jewish nuclei were numerous; vigorous, despite the persecution by the Sassanids, Manichaeism; and the official religion of the Persian empire, Zoroastrianism, was, of course, firmly established there. For Iraq religion and languages, please check

The Arab conquest (for which see Arabs: History) therefore found himself faced with a composite and luxuriant civilization: in the process of assimilation, which was slow, the Arabs imposed their religion and their language, but in turn absorbed many extraneous elements, which, following the The predominant part that Iraq played in the formation of Islamic civilization extended to this whole civilization. The cities (at first simple Bedouin camps) of al-Küfah and al-Baṣah were centers of expansion and further conquests towards the Iranian plateau and Central Asia, and at the same time the scene of the political-religious rivalries that soon developed they manifested within Islam. Iraq became the center of Muslim political life when the fourth caliph ‛Alīvi settled to fight the Umayyad-dominated Syria. The victory of these (40 èg., 61 d. C.) made Iraq a hearth of opposition, and in it the two parties of the Shiites and the Khārigites developed, whose uprisings disturbed the peace of the country for almost a century. Even the energetic action of some Umayyad governors, especially al-Ḥaggiāǵ, helped to promote the prosperity of Iraq, especially by rehabilitating the irrigation and navigation channels, an essential element of Iraqi economic life. This work was continued under the ‛Abbāsidi (v.); who, having replaced the Umayyads in the caliphate, moved their headquarters to Iraq, where soon, and in the central point of the country, the splendid capital Baghdād arose. The 9th and 10th centuries saw an extraordinary development of the wealth and civilization of the Iraq, which became the center of international trade and culture:mandei); the same Christians and Jews, while keeping Syriac and Hebrew as liturgical and religious culture languages, adopt Arabic in daily use and Arabicize in secular culture.

However, the political decline of the caliphate, which began in the century. XI, removed the position of pre-eminence in the Islamic world from Iraq and promoted its economic decline.

Especially the northern part, which is difficult to access, and where the invasions of the Kurds, nomads of Iranian race, spread, the southern part, where the neglect in the maintenance of the canals allowed the reform of a swampy area, and the border towards the desert, where the raids by nomads no longer found firm resistance, quickly barbarized and were the site of rebellion movements, especially of a Shiite character. The splitting of the Seljuk dominions into a series of small local dynasties and their struggles against Shiite enemies (and in part against the Crusaders) deprived Iraq of political unity during the course of the century. XII; nevertheless the moral prestige of the caliphate and the splendor of Baghdād, above all cultural, were maintained until the invasion of the Tartars, which took place in the middle of the thirteenth century.

From this time on, Iraq is dominated by dynasties descending from the lineage of Genghīz Khān, which, completely Islamized, continue the cultural traditions of the caliphate, but in an impoverished and decayed environment. The Persian element regains vigor, without however depriving the region of the Arab character, by now definitively assured. The dynasties of Mongol origin, however, are replaced in the century. XVI, the Persian Ṣafawids, who brought Shiism back to Iraq, which had its origin there but had been eradicated from Sunni orthodoxy. However, the dominion of the Persians was opposed, from the beginning, by the expansion of the Ottoman Turks: already under the sultan Selīm part of northern Mesopotamia was annexed to the Turkish empire: Suleiman took possession of Baghdād (1534) and of ‛Southern Iraq; but under his successors it was repeatedly lost, and especially the region of al-Baṣrah repeatedly fell into the power of the Persians. This succession of wars, intertwined with the periodic invasions and rebellions of the Bedouins settled on the borders of the desert and penetrating more and more into the regions deserted by agriculture, led Iraq to a degree of extreme decadence. Only in the second half of the century. XIX there is reference to a revival, determined not only by the reforms introduced, albeit without energy and without continuity, by the Ottoman government, by the interest of the European powers, for which the Iraq constituted not only a possible field of economic exploitation, but also an element in the game of rivalry of international politics. The German project of a railway from Constantinople to Baghdād, and from there to al-Baṣrah, appeared a threat to England, which aimed to cut off to India. Hence the importance that Iraq assumed in the world war: England, with mostly Indian contingents, immediately began the advance from the Persian Gulf towards Baghdād. and, despite the serious chess suffered, he took possession of Baghdād in March 1917; meanwhile, by the Turks, persecutions and massacres were carried out in the alien elements of the population suspected of hostility towards the Ottoman government (Armenians and Assyrian-Chaldeans, denomination of Christians of Nestorian origin, partly passed to the confession of Rome).

At the end of the war (November 1918) the Iraq (comprising the ancient Ottoman vilāyets of al-Baṣrah, Baghdād and Mossul) was entirely occupied by England, which had previously, together with France, proclaimed that it wanted to give a autonomous government to the country. But the constitution of this government (for which a constituent assembly was immediately assembled) encountered serious difficulties both for the requests of the minorities (Kurds, Assyrian-Chaldeans), and for the complicated question of the borders towards Turkey, Syria, the Transjordan, the Neǵd, is finally due to the ambitions of complete independence shown by a large part of the population. Assigned Iraq to England as a mandate territory, it was erected as a kingdom (23 August 1921) under Faiṣal (v.), son of king al-Ḥusain of Ḥigiāz and former pretender to the throne of Syria. The new king ruled with great skill in the midst of continuous difficulties produced by the need for an understanding with England, on the one hand, and by not losing popularity with a too submissive policy, on the other. Numerous changes in ministries (one of the presidents, ‛Abd al-Muḥsin Sa‛dūn, killed himself in November 1929 due to the difficult situation in which he found himself) and frequent dissolution of parliament (met for the first time in 1925), repeated treaties with England (1922, 1926, 1927, 1930), raids by Wahhābite gangs, Kurdish revolts signaled the troubled first decade of Faiṣal’s reign; but, at the same time, the economic and civil life of the Iraq made enormous progress: communications (especially automotive) were ensured, agriculture developed, both elementary and higher education promoted, Iraq quickly became one of the most advanced regions of the Muslim world and its king gained widespread popularity, which he was able to exploit by proposing (1930) an alliance between the Arab states which seems to many to be a prelude to the rebirth of the ancient caliphate, but which has little chance of immediate success. Even with Ibn Sa‛ūd pursuing the same goal with more conservative tendencies, Faiṣal was able to conclude a friendship treaty which, at least temporarily, ended the rivalry between the two kingdoms. Finally, in 1932, the Iraq received from England full independence (however with some economic and military concessions that give England effective control of the country) and on 3 October was admitted to the League of Nations. Its great natural wealth and geographical situation allow Iraq, if order and good administration are maintained there, a very prosperous future.

Iraq Early History