Fertile Crescent

Map of the Fertile Crescent
Map of the Fertile Crescent. Clipart.com

Definition: The "fertile crescent" refers to an ancient area of fertile soil and important rivers stretching in an arc from the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates. It covers Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. The Mediterranean lies on the outside edge of the arc. To the south of the arc is the Arabian Desert. On the east, the fertile crescent extends to the Persian Gulf. Geologically, this corresponds with where Iranian, African, and Arabian tectonic plates meet.

Orientalist James Henry Breasted is credited with introducing the term fertile crescent, according to Albert T. Clay*. The term was part of "the fertile crescent, the shores of the desert bay". The area covered Breasted defines as:

"This fertile crescent is approximately a semicircle, with the open side toward the south, having the west end at the southeast corner of the Mediterranean, the center directly north of Arabia, and the east end at the north end of the Persian Gulf."

Breasted says it was the earliest home of men in this area of western Asia: People who had been largely nomadic and in need of pasturage for their flocksĀ found the area conducive to agriculture and settled down.

The fertile crescent permitted transport of soldiers and traders.


  • *"The So-Called Fertile Crescent and Desert Bay"
    Albert T. Clay
    Journal of the American Oriental Society
    Vol. 44, (1924), pp. 186-201.
  • "Professor Giddings's Theory of History as Applied to the Ancient World"
    Ruth E. Messenger
    The Classical Weekly
    Vol. 17, No. 21 (Mar. 31, 1924), pp. 161-166
  • Ancient Times, a History of the Early World, by James Henry Breasted

Examples: The cradle of civilization in Mesopotamia is part of the fertile crescent. Early civilizations developed along the fertile crescent precisely because it was fertile.