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Are Mesopotamia and Babylon a similar thing?

Here we see ancient mud brick walls at the archaeological site of Babylon, capital of the ancient kingdom of Babylonia, in a photo taken in 1979.

Here we see ancient mud brick walls at the archaeological site of Babylon, capital of the ancient kingdom of Babylonia, in an image used 1979.(Image credit: Nik Wheeler/Corbis via Getty Images)

In world history class, students often learn that human civilization arose in Mesopotamia the so-called “Fertile Crescent” and in exactly the same breath, many teachers dive in to the history of Babylon. But are Mesopotamia and Babylon a similar thing?

The solution is no, they’re not similar; in a nutshell, Mesopotamia is really a region, and Babylon was a historical city (and later the biggest market of an empire) within that region.

The term Mesopotamia can be an ancient greek language name that’s often translated as “the land between two rivers” the rivers being the Euphrates and the Tigris, both which originate in eastern Turkey and flow south to the Persian Gulf. In accordance with early Greek sources, the word Mesopotamia”was useful for the Syrian Jazirah [part of northeast Syria] and later for the land between Tigris and Euphrates,” Lorenzo Verderame, a co-employee professor of Assyriology at Sapienza University of Rome, told Live Science within an email.

Related: What’s the oldest-known archaeological site on the planet?

Today, Mesopotamia falls into several countries: Iraq, eastern Syria, southeast Turkey, elements of western Iran and Kuwait. A few of humanity’s earliest farmers setup shop in Mesopotamia as the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers frequently flooded, abandoning nutrient-rich soil that helped crops thrive. And some millennia ago, Mesopotamia was home for some of the initial known cities and empires.

In about 4000 B.C. the Sumerians were the first known civilization to appear in the region, and so are named following the ancient city of Sumer, that was several miles south of the present day city of Kut in eastern Iraq. The Sumerians built towering temples referred to as ziggurats, had a written language, developed irrigation and had a complex pantheon of deities, Live Science previously reported. Because the Sumerian civilization went into decline, Babylon became an influential city close to the Euphrates River that lasted from about 2000 B.C. to 540 B.C.

A map of Mesopotamia (shown in pink).

A map of Mesopotamia (shown in pink). (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Babylonians achieved remarkable feats, like the publication of Hammurabi’s code of law and the creation of the beautiful (if the stories are true) Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The ancient denizens of Babylon also developed trigonometry and tracked Jupiter‘s movements with mathematical models, Live Science previously reported.

Sometimes, Babylon was at the biggest market of a big empire. This empire reached its greatest extent through the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar II (reign 605 B.C. to 562 B.C.), when it stretched from the Persian Gulf to the borders of present-day Egypt. Sometimes, the word “Babylonia” can be used to make reference to the broader area that Babylon controlled or had influence over.

However, other empires also rose and fell within the ancient Mesopotamian world. The Assyrian Empire, whose well-known cities included Nineveh, Ashur and Nimrud, flourished sometimes from around 2000 B.C. to around 600 B.C., and clashed with the Babylonains in the 13th century B.C. and seventh century B.C. A great many other empires held huge amounts of territory in Mesopotamia, like the Persian Empire (from 550 B.C. to 330 B.C.), the Parthian Empire (247 B.C. to A.D. 224), the short-lived empire of Alexander the fantastic in the fourth century B.C. and the Seleucid Empire (312 B.C. to 63 B.C.).

So if Babylon and Mesopotamia won’t be the same thing, how come this misconception exist? A Live Science reporter asked experts to obtain their undertake the problem.

It is possible that because ancient Egypt captures more interest on the list of modern public than other ancient places in the centre East, people’s general understanding of Mesopotamia and Babylon gets little attention, Frederick Bohrer, professor of art at Hood College in Maryland, told Live Science within an email. Bohrer has studied how people in 19th century Europe imagined Mesopotamia.

“Egypt dominates the imagination of so many, and there’s little space for all of those other Ancient Near East,” Bohrer said. Additionally some individuals lack geographical and historical understanding of the spot, Bohrer said.

For a lot of, Babylon will be the only location in Mesopotamia that they’ve heard about. “For all those unfamiliar with the region, Babylon may be the only geographical word they know, plus they assume it identifies an area larger than a city,” Agns Garcia Ventura, a fellow at in the Department of Antiquity and Middle Age Studies at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, told Live Science within an email. Ventura also noted that folks gets confused once the term “Babylonia” can be used, and may believe that this means Mesopotamia.

Originally published on Live Science.

Owen Jarus is really a regular contributor to call home Science who writes about archaeology and humans’ past. He’s got also written for The Independent (UK), The Canadian Press (CP) and The Associated Press (AP), amongst others. Owen includes a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University.

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