History of the Middle East  

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The Middle East, also known as the Near East, is home to one of the Cradles of Civilization and has seen many of the world's oldest cultures and civilizations. The region's history started from the earliest human settlements and continues through several major pre- and post-Islamic Empires to today's nation-states of the Middle East.

The Sumerians became the first people to develop complex systems that were to be called "civilization" as far back as the 5th millennium BC. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh. Mesopotamia was home to several powerful empires that came to rule almost all of Middle East, particularly the Assyrian Empires of 1365–1076 BC and the Neo-Assyrian Empire of 911–609 BC. From the early 7th century BC and onward, the Iranian Medes, followed by the Achaemenid Empire (First Persian Empire) and other subsequent Iranian states and empires, dominated the region. In the 1st century BC, the expanding Roman Republic absorbed the whole Eastern Mediterranean, which included much of the Near East. The Eastern Roman Empire, now commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, ruled from the Balkans to the Euphrates, became increasingly defined by and dogmatic about Christianity and gradually creating religious rifts between the doctrines dictated by the establishment in Constantinople and believers in many parts of the Middle East. From the 3rd century to the course of the 7th century AD, the entire Middle East was dominated by the Byzantines and the Sasanian Empire (Neo-Persian Empire). From the 7th century, a new power was rising in the Middle East, that of Islam. The dominance of the Arabs came to a sudden end in the mid-11th century with the arrival of the Seljuq dynasty. In the early 13th century, a new wave of invaders, the armies of the Mongol Empire, mainly Turkic, swept through the region. By the early 15th century, a new power had arisen in western Anatolia, the Ottoman emirs, who were linguistically Turkic and religiously Islamic and in 1453 captured the Christian Byzantine capital of Constantinople and made themselves sultans.

Large parts of the Middle East became a war ground between the Ottomans and the Iranian Safavid dynasty for centuries, starting in the early 16th century. By 1700, the Ottomans had been driven out of the Kingdom of Hungary and the balance of power along the frontier had shifted decisively in favor of the Western world. The British Empire also established effective control of the Persian Gulf, and the French colonial empire extended its influence into Lebanon and Syria. In 1912, the Kingdom of Italy seized Libya and the Dodecanese islands, just off the coast of the Ottoman heartland of Anatolia. In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, Middle Eastern rulers tried to modernize their states to compete more effectively with the European powers. A turning point in the region's history came when oil was discovered, first in Persia in 1908 and later in Saudi Arabia (in 1938) and the other Persian Gulf states, and also in Libya and Algeria. A Western dependence on Middle Eastern oil and the decline of British influence led to a growing American interest in the region.

During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Syria and Egypt made moves towards independence. The British, the French, and the Soviets departed from many parts of the Middle East during and after World War II (1939–1945). The Arab–Israeli conflict in Palestine culminated in the 1947 United Nations plan to partition Palestine. Later in the midst of Cold War tensions, the Arabic-speaking countries of Western Asia and Northern Africa saw the rise of pan-Arabism. The departure of the European powers from direct control of the region, the establishment of Israel, and the increasing importance of the petroleum industry, marked the creation of the modern Middle East. In most Middle Eastern countries, the growth of market economies was inhibited by political restrictions, corruption, cronyism, overspending on arms and prestige projects and overdependence on oil revenues. The wealthiest economies in the region per capita are the small oil-rich countries of Persian Gulf: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

A combination of factors—such as the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1970s energy crisis beginning with the 1973 OPEC oil embargo in response to US support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War, the concurrent Saudi-led popularization of Salafism/Wahhabism, and the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution—promoted the increasing rise of Islamism and the ongoing Islamic revival (Tajdid). The Fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought a global security refocus from the Cold War to a War on Terror. Starting in the early 2010s, a revolutionary wave that is popularly known as the Arab Spring brought major protests, uprisings, and revolutions to several Middle Eastern and Maghreb countries. Clashes in western Iraq on 30 December 2013 were preliminary to the Sunni pan-Islamist ISIL uprising.

The term Near East can be used interchangeably with Middle East, but in a different context, especially in discussing ancient history, it may have a limited meaning, namely the northern historically-Aramaic-speaking Semitic people area and adjacent Anatolian territories, marked in the two maps below.

[[File:NearEast3.png|right|thumb|Template:LegendTemplate:Legend]] [[File:Semitic languages.svg|right|thumb|The historical Semitic region, defined by the pre-Islamic distribution of Semitic languages and coinciding very roughly with the Arabian plate. Not so much lingually but rather culturally, politically and historically, the most significant division here has been between the north and the south, which is to some degree isolated from each other by the sparsely-populated Arabian Desert. The north comprises Mesopotamia and the Levant, which, together with the lower Nile (i.e., Egypt), constitute the Fertile Crescent.]]

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "History of the Middle East" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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