Important 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.

Ancient Near East

Digital illustration of the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia and Egypt and location of first towns
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

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.

Assyria

Al Mawsil, Ninawa, Iraq, Middle East
Walls and gates of the ancient city of Nineveh, now Mosul (Al Mawsil), the third capitol of Assyria. Jane Sweeney / Getty Images

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.

Babylonia

BABYLONIA, IRAQ
Siqui Sanchez / Getty Images

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.

Carthage

Antonin Thermal baths
Tunisia, archeological site of Carthage listed as World Heritage by UNESCO. DOELAN Yann / Getty Images

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.

China

Village in Longsheng Rice Terraces
Ancient village in Longsheng rice terraces. Todd Brown / Getty Images

A look at ancient Chinese dynasties, writing, religions, economy, and geography.

Egypt

Egypt, Luxor, West Bank, Tombs of the Nobles, The tomb of Ramose, Vizier and Governor of Thebes
Michele Falzone / Getty Images

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.

Greece

Parthenon of Athens
Parthenon in Acropolis of Athens, Greece. George Papapostolou photographer / Getty Images

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.

Italy

Sunrise, Roman Forum, Rome, Italy
Sunrise at the Roman Forum. joe daniel price / Getty Images

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.

Mesopotamia

Euphrates River
Euphrates River and fortress ruins at Dura Europos. Getty Images/Joel Carillet

Mesopotamia is the ancient land between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. It roughly corresponds with modern Iraq.

Phoenicia

Phoenician Art. A Phoenician Commercial Ship. Bas-relief from a Sarcophagus found in Sidon, Lebanon. Musee du Louvre, Paris, France
Art of a Phoenician commercial ship at the Louvre. Leemage / Getty Images

Phoenicia is now called Lebanon and includes part of Syria and Israel.

Rome

Greek-Roman theater of Taormina, Italy, Greek-Roman civilization, 3rd century BC-2nd century AD
Greek-Roman theater of Taormina, Italy. De Agostini / S. Montanari / Getty Images

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.

Steppe Tribes

Ancient nomads
Mongolian sword and leather shield of nomads. Getty Images/serikbaib

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.

Sumer

Ancient Sumer
Sumerian cylinder-seal impression depicting a governor being introduced to the king. Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images

For a long time, it was thought the earliest civilizations began in Sumer in Mesopotamia (roughly modern Iraq).

Syria

Syria, Aleppo
The Great Mosque in Aleppo was founded in the 8th century. Julian Love / Getty Images

To the fourth millennium Egyptians and third millennium Sumerians, the Syrian coastland was the source of the softwoods, 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.

India and Pakistan

Fatehpur Sikri city
Ancient abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, India. Getty Images/RuslanKaln

Learn more about the script developed in the area, the Aryan invasion, caste system, Harappa, and more.