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- Sumer (Sumerians) began early in history (before 3100 BC) and ended with the fall of the third dynasty of Ur about 1950 BC. This is the period of Abraham, who lived in Ur of the Chaldees until departing for Haran, probably around the time of the Elamite invasion of Ur.
- Egypt began as a unified state around 3000 BC under Narmer/Menes. Joseph went to Egypt about 1707 BC, and was followed later by Jacob and his family. Moses led Israel out of Egypt about 1446 BC. Egypt was always a temptation to Israel. Egyptian fortunes rose and fell throughout her history.
- Akkadian empire (2350 to 2150 BC) centered in Akkad, a city north of Sumer. Sargon of Akkad (around 2300 BC) was the most famous ruler.
- Assyria began as city states a little after 2100 BC with Assur as the capital of the empire. Under Adad-nirari II in 911 BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire was formed. After about a century of decline Tiglath-Pileser III in about 747 BC (ruled 745-727 BC), began to restore the fortunes of Assyria. He invaded Babylon, Syria, Philistia, and Israel, among other lands. The Assyrians attacked Israel and Judah over the centuries, defeated and destroying the Northern Kingdom around 722 BC. In 721 Babylon broke free from Assyria, but Sargon II retook it in 710 BC. Sargon II was killed in 705 BC. Sennacherib, his son, moved the capital to Nineveh. In 701 BC the angel of the Lord destroyed his army outside of Jerusalem (Isaiah 37).
- Babylon began about 1895 BC as an Amorite kingdom. Around 1750 BC, Hammurabi reigned as one of the most famous and successful Babylonian kings. He authored the Law Code of Hammurabi.
- The Phoenicians were the Iron Age Canaanites (Phoenician is the Greek equivalent of Canaanite), centered in Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos in what is now Lebanon, with colonies around the eastern Mediterranean. They became known for maritime trade and navigation and were at the height of their power around 1200-800 BC. They spoke Phoenician, which is a later form of Canaanite in the Semitic family of languages.
- Philistines probably originated in Crete and the Aegean Islands. Their culture is connected with the Minoans and Myceneans. They are identified as one of the “Sea Peoples” and mentioned by name in inscriptions of the Egyptians. They adopted aspects of Canaanite language and culture, but also retained many Aegean traditions and technologies. They lived in the southwest area of Canaan from as early as the patriarchal age until they disappear in the 5th century BC. The Judges and David fought the Philistines. The name Philistine is the source of the name Palestine, and the Philistines were distinct from the Arabs.
- Neo-Babylon began with in 626 BC when Nabopolassar successfully rebelled against Assyria. The Babylonians, with the help of the Medes, destroyed Nineveh, Assyria’s capital, in 612 BC, and Assyria soon fell. Nebuchadnezzar II was Babylon’s most famous king. He destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC and took the Judeans into exile. He constructed palaces, temples, and the Ishtar gate in Babylon.
- Media was conquered by Cyrus in 550 BC. He was probably born in Persis, in Anshan, which became the old Persian empire (Iran). Cyrus was related to both the Persians and the Medes, and his grandfather was Astyages, king of the Medes, giving him right to rule. Cyrus joined Media and Persia under his rule with Persia eventually becoming the dominant of the two, and formed the Achaemenid Persian Empire.
- Persia became the dominant power in 539 BC when the armies of Cyrus the great conquered Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River and infiltrating the city without a battle. This occurred while Daniel was in Babylon and Belshazzar was hosting a feast. Cyrus died in 529 BC. A grandson of Cyrus the Great, Xerxes I, was the Persian king of Esther’s time.
- Greece came to prominence with Alexander the Great (July 356 BC–June 11, 323 BC). His father was Philip, king of Macedon. Alexander became king of Macedon and then all of Greece when his father died. Alexander conquered Persia and most of the known world during his short life. Upon his death, four of his generals divided up his kingdom. Syria produced Antiochus Epiphanes IV.
- Rome, a kingdom founded in 8th century BC centered at the city of Rome, became a republic in 510 BC and an empire in 27 BC when the Roman Senate, after years of civil war, conferred the name Augustus upon Gaius Octavius. Rome was dominant until the AD 400s. Rome ruled Israel and much of the world during Christ’s life, the apostles’ lives, and the development of the church.