Countries in Ancient History

These city-states, countries, empires, and geographic regions feature prominently in ancient history. Some continue to be major players on the political scene, but others are no longer significant.

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Assyrian Empire Under Sargon II 720 B.C.
Assyrian Empire Under Sargon II 720 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection
The Ancient Near East is not a country, but a general area that often extends from what we now call the Middle East to Egypt. Here you'll find an introduction, links, and a picture to go with ancient countries and peoples around the Fertile Crescent.

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Detail from a relief from the palace of Tiglath-Pileser III at Kalhu, Nimrud.
Detail from a relief from the palace of Tiglath-Pileser III at Kalhu, Nimrud. From St Petersburg Hermitage. CC Flickr User thisisbossi
A Semitic people, the Assyrians lived in the northern area of Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers at the city-state of Ashur. Under the leadership of Shamshi-Adad the Assyrians tried to create their own empire, but they were squashed by the Babylonian king, Hammurabi.

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Cylinder seal showing moon god of Ur.
Cylinder seal showing moon god of Ur. PD Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, by Donald A. Mackenzie
Babylonians believed the king held power because of the gods; moreover, they thought their king was a god. To maximize his power and control, a bureaucracy and centralized government were established along with the inevitable adjuncts, taxation and involuntary military service.

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Column at the excavation site of the Antoninus Pius Therms in Carthage
Column at the excavation site of the Antoninus Pius Therms in Carthage. Public Domain; Courtesy of BishkekRocks/Wikipedia
Phoenicians from Tyre (Lebanon) founded Carthage, an ancient city-state in the area that is modern Tunisia. Carthage became a major economic and political power in the Mediterranean fighting over territory in Sicily with the Greeks and Romans.

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Physical geography with the boundaries of ancient China with 250 B.C. area marked
Physical geography with the boundaries of ancient China with 250 B.C. area marked. CC Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL formerly at. www.flickr.com/photos/normanbleventhalmapcenter/2678419608/in/set-72157606239098473
A look at ancient Chinese dynasties, writing, religions, economy, and geography.

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Ra
Ra. CC Flickr User Ralph Buckley
The land of the Nile, sphinxes, hieroglyphs, pyramids, and famously cursed archaeologists exhuming mummies from painted and gilded sarcophagi, Egypt has lasted for thousands of years.

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The Beginnings of Historic Greece 700 BC-600 BC
The Beginnings of Historic Greece 700 BC-600 BC. Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd

What we call Greece is known to its inhabitants as Hellas.

  • Archaic Greece
    With the return of literacy at the beginning of the 8th century B.C. came what is called the Archaic Age.
  • Classical Greece
    The Classical Age of Greece begins with the Persian War (490-479 B.C.) and ends with the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.). Besides war and conquest, in this period the Greeks produced great literature, poetry, philosophy, drama, and art.
  • Hellenistic Greece
    Archaic and Classical Greece produced a culture that the third era, the Hellenistic Age, spread throughout the known world. Because of Alexander the Great, the realm of Greek influence spread from India to Africa.

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Regions of Italy Map
Regions of Italy Map. Clipart.com
The name Italy comes from a Latin word, Italia, which referred to a territory owned by Rome, Italia was later applied to the Italic peninsula.

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The Euphrates River
The Euphrates River. CC Flickr User nukeit1
Mesopotamia is the ancient land between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. It roughly corresponds with modern Iraq.

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Phoenicia

Ruins of a Phoenician Temple of Tophet
Ruins of a Phoenician Temple of Tophet. CC Flickr User cristianocani
Phoenicia is now called Lebanon and includes part of Syria and Israel.

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Romulus and Remus at Rome
Romulus and Remus at Rome. Claire Campbell

Rome was originally a settlement amid the hills that spread throughout Italy and then around the Mediterranean.

The four periods of Roman history are the period of kings, the Republic, the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. These eras of Roman history are based on the type or place of central authority or government.

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Sarmatian heavy cavalry fleeing from Roman riders
Sarmatian heavy cavalry fleeing from Roman riders. From Conrad Cichorius: "Die Reliefs der Traianssäule", Erster Tafelband: "Die Reliefs des Ersten Dakischen Krieges", Tafeln 1-57, Verlag von Georg Reimer, Berlin 1896. Photo © Conrad Cichorius (1863-1932) at Wikipedia
The people of the Steppe were mainly nomadic in the ancient period, so the locations changed. These are some of the main tribes that are featured in ancient history mostly because they came in contact with the people of Greece, Rome, and China.

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Tigris River north of Tikrit, Iraq.
Tigris River north of Tikrit, Iraq. CC Flickr User jamesdale10
For a long time, it was thought the earliest civilizations began in Sumer in Mesopotamia (roughly modern Iraq).

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Palmyra
Palmyra. Clipart.com
To the fourth millennium Egyptians and third millennium Sumerians, the Syrian coastland was the source of the soft woods, cedar, pine, and cypress. The Sumerians also went to Cilicia, in the northwest area of Greater Syria, in pursuit of gold and silver, and probably traded with the port city of Byblos, which was supplying Egypt with resin for mummification.

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A Pillar of Ashoka
A Pillar of Ashoka. CC Flickr User ampersandyslexia
Read about the script developed in the area, the Aryan invasion, caste system, Harappa, and more.