The Lost Kingdoms
The area between Egypt and India contains the world's oldest known civilisations: Uruk, Babylon, pharaonic Egypt. This area was also the birthplace for several of the world's cultures and religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The list of dates below shows this in more detail.
Ostensibly all these ancient civilisations died out long ago. Any long-dead king from ancient Babylon, or pharaoh, would not recognise much in the modern Middle East. The region's capital cities, its political entities and languages have all changed.
Yet religion often preserves, in its rituals and language, customs and habits that otherwise have become extinct. So it is with the surviving minority faiths of the Middle East - and with certain strands of Islam, too. The Mandaeans who lived for centuries in Iraq's southern marshes are the closest thing there is to descendants of ancient Babylon. The Zoroastrians of Iran keep alive the ideas and rituals of the ancient Persian Empire. The Druze, who practise a version of Islam, have preserved the ancient world's veneration for the Greek philosophers.
These traditions are under threat both from actual persecution and the spread of modernity and globalization. But these communities still do exist, as shown on the map above.
Tamerlane’s sack of Baghdad
Birth of Ibn Taymiyyah conservative critic of Druze and other heterodox Muslims
Sack of Baghdad by Genghis Khan
Death of Sheikh Adi one of the key figures in the development of the Ezidi religion of northern Iraq
The Druze faith is first openly taught in Cairo
Islam becomes majority religion in Egypt
Arab Muslims conquer all lands from Morocco to Iran
Constantine is the first Roman emperor to adopt Christianity
Death of Mani founder of Manichaeism; Mandaeans already exist in Iraqi Marshes
Sack of Jerusalem by the Romans and destruction of the Second Jewish Temple
Alexander the Great conquers Persia destroys Persepolis; soon after passes Hindu Kush
Approximate date of renovation of moon-temple at Harran: temple survives well into Islamic era
Nebuchadnezzar sacks Jerusalem deports leading Jews to Babylon; on their return forty years later Jewish-Samaritan hostility increases
First known agricultural settlement in what is now Iraq
Great Pyramid built in Egypt
Indo-Europeans arrive in India perhaps including ancestors of the Kalash people
Babylon emerges as an independent city state
Probable date of composition of the Zoroastrian scriptures the Avesta
740 / 722 BC
Assyrians attack Israel take some of its people into captivity – later known as the “Ten Tribes”; Samaritans say that their ancestors were spared