Empires and city-states
Since the time of the Akkadians, about 2300 BC, West Asian government has cycled back and forth between unity and disunity. Sometimes there are big empires ruled by a “king of kings”. Other times there are smaller kingdoms or city-states ruled by ordinary kings.
Most of the time there have been larger empires. In the Bronze Age, it was the Akkadians. Then in the Iron Age there were a lot more and bigger empires. These empires include the Assyrians, the Persians, the Parthians, and the Sassanians. In the early Middle Ages, the big empire was the Islamic Empire. Later came the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid Empire. Around the edges, however, there have always been communities of nomads. Nomads like the Arabs and the Scythians were not part of these empires.
A governor for each province
Within these empires, the ruler split the land up into smaller provinces. A governor appointed by the ruler controlled each of these provinces. The ruler took care of some things directly. The Persian king, for instance, built good roads all over his empire. Then people could travel more easily. He established a good messenger service to carry messages quickly. And he fought off invasions. The governors took care of other things, like collecting taxes and hearing court cases.
Learn by doing: which government (federal, state, or city) takes care of which things in your country?
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.