West Asian Architecture - Ancient Mesopotamia
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

West Asian Architecture

Ishtar Gate
Ishtar Gate of Babylon (now in Berlin)

Builders in West Asia always had a serious problem - there was not enough stone or wood. But there was lots and lots of clay. So their buildings were usually built of brick, or mud-brick. West Asian builders got so used to building in brick, that even buildings which are built of stone often look like they are made of brick.

Another thing which made West Asian people build a certain way is the constant arrival of nomadic people into the area: the Persians, the Parthians, the Arabs. All of these people were used to living and entertaining in tents, and they built their houses and palaces kind of like tents, so they would feel at home.

Ziggurat at Ur
Ziggurat at Ur

The Sumerians, about 3000 BC, were the first people to build big buildings in West Asia: they built ziggurats, or towers made of clay bricks, with temples to the gods on top of them. They also built city walls out of bricks (But recent excavations seem to show that people in southern Iran were building big ziggurats about the same time, and maybe even earlier).

The Assyrians, about 1000 BC, did not build ziggurats anymore, but they built themselves great palaces out of limestone. And city walls, still out of bricks.

When the Babylonians threw out the Assyrians, about 600 BC, there was a sort of revival of old pre-Assyrian ideas, which showed up in building clay brick buildings again, like the famous Ishtar Gate at the top of this page.

Persepolis
Persepolis

But soon after that the Persians conquered West Asia (in 539 BC). These nomads did not build anything at all for some time, but when they did decide to build a palace at Persepolis (the city of the Persians) they hired the best workers from all over West Asia and the Mediterranean to work on it. Some of the men who worked on it were Greek.

Bosra
Greek theater at Bosra in Syria

The Persians were eventually defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, which led to a great many Greek temples and theaters and gymnasia being built all over West Asia and even into India in the Hellenistic period.

Learn by doing: Assyrian palaces project
Parthian architecture in West Asia

Bibliography and further reading about Assyrian architecture:

More about West Asia
Quatr.us home


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 30 March, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT