Iraq (Arabic: العراق al-ʿIrāq, Kurdish: Komara Êraqê), officially the Republic of Iraq, is a country in the Middle East. Much of the country is located in and around the basin of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the area traditionally known as Mesopotamia. Southeast Iraq is located on the Persian Gulf, further clockwise the country borders Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Iraq belongs to the Arab League. The capital is Baghdad.
The name of the country is said to have been derived over the centuries from the name of the city of Uruk in Sumer.
The territory occupied by present-day Iraq is much the same as former Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. The first complex human civilizations on Earth arose here, those of the Sumerians. This people developed around 3400 BC. the first writing, the first examples of literature (Epic of Gilgamesh), the first written laws, the first cities. Iraq is therefore also called 'the cradle of civilization'. The Sumerians were from about 3500 BC. organized into city-states, such as Uruk, Ur and Lagash.
From 2500 BC. a series of Semitic cultures came to dominate the country: the Akkadians, the Arameans and Assyrians. Semitic slowly replaced Sumerian as the official language and language of government, although Sumerian continued to be used as a religious language throughout the centuries.
Under the Akkadians, the first empire arose in this area when the legendary Sargon the Great spread his authority over all of Mesopotamia (c. 2350 BC). This Akkadian Empire immediately collapsed after Sargon's death, because his successors lacked organizational skills and charisma. The empire would last for another two centuries, on a much smaller scale than under Sargon, before finally falling under the pressure of invasions by tribes from the Zagros Mountains (c. 2150 BC). Among the Akkadians there was a remarkable mixture of Sumerian and Semitic cultures. Sumerian literature (including the Epic of Gilgamesh) was translated into Akkadian, Sumerian gods were incorporated into the Akkadian pantheon, and the Sumerian language continued to be used as the language of government. The Akkadians also elaborated on the Sumerian traditions in architecture.
Around 2100 BC. the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur, the last Sumerian kingdom, arose. During this period, the rulers tried to emphasize their Sumerian origin and Sumerian culture. This period is therefore called a 'Sumerian renaissance'. Yet these Sumerians did not completely distance themselves from the Akkadian heritage. Sargon is honored as a great hero during this period and the kings all use the title 'king of Sumer and Akkad'. The Third Dynasty of Ur came to an end in 2004 BC, after a devastating invasion from Elam.
After the collapse of Ur, Mesopotamia came under the influence of the Amorites, a Semitic people who originally lived in northern Syria. The area was then dominated by dozens of Amorite and Akkadian city-states. One of these states was that of Babylon.
In northern Mesopotamia, Akkadian kings established the city of Assur. The city came to dominate northern Mesopotamia and would give its name to this area: Assyria. The Assyrians built a vast trading network based on the karum. These were Assyrian trading colonies, which regulated and controlled Assyrian trade in neighboring states. These karums were usually founded in or near existing settlements and were governed by Assur. The best known karum is that of Kanesh. Besides Asia Minor, there were also karums in northern Syria. This Assyrian trade network came to an end around 1700 BC; unknown