Mediterranean and West Asia - The Fight for Land
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Land and Sea

One common theme in the history of West Asia has been the conflict between land-oriented people and sea-oriented people. Often there is a group of people living in West Asia who are mostly land-oriented. These people don't sail boats much, and they think of their kingdom as covering a certain piece of land. They often think that their land should include everything between the mountains of Afghanistan and the Mediterranean Sea. Some people who have thought this way are the Assyrians, the Persians, the Seleucids, the Parthians, the Sassanids, and the Abbasids.

But at the same time there is often a group of people living in West Asia who are mostly sea-oriented. These people sail boats a lot, and they think of their kingdom as being all the land around a certain body of water. These people often think that their land should include everything around the Mediterranean Sea. Some people who have thought this way include the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the Ottomans, and the British.

But it is impossible to make both groups of people happy at the same time. They are always fighting over the strip of land which is in West Asia, but borders on the Mediterranean Sea (modern Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel). Even today, these are countries where there is a lot of fighting. So the Egyptians fought the Assyrians, the Greeks and the Egyptians fought the Persians, the Egyptians fought the Seleucids, the Romans fought the Parthians and the Sassanids, the Islamic Umayyads fought the Byzantines, and the Seljuks fought the Crusaders.

Bibliography and further reading about West Asian history:

Mesopotamia, by Pamela Service (1998). Down to the Persian conquest of the area.

Find Out About Mesopotamia: What Life Was Like in Ancient Sumer, Babylon and Assyria, by Lorna Oakes (2004).

Ancient Mesopotamians, by Elena Gambino (2000). Retellings of Mesopotamian stories and lots of context.

Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors: An Activity Guide, by Marian Broida (1999). Not just Egypt! Includes activities about the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Hittites, and the Nubians.

The Persian Empire, by Karen Zeinert (1996). There are some errors, but basically a good introduction.

Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, by William H. Stiebing (2002). Expensive, and hard to read, but it's a good up to date account.

More about West Asia
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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.
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