3450 BCE: The Near East - The world's first cities appear along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers just north of what is now the Persian Gulf. Collectively, these cities make up the Uruk culture, named after the principal city, Uruk, which is the Biblical Erech. This culture invents writing and the lunar calendar, uses metals extensively, develops a practice of medicine, and builds monumental architecture. Even so, no unified government links these cities, and they remain independent for almost one thousand years.

3200 BCE: The Near East - Archeological evidence indicates that the SUMERIANS are making use of wheeled transportation.

3100 BCE: The Near East - CUNEIFORM WRITING emerges in MESOPOTAMIA. This form of writing, involving wedge-shaped characters, is used to record the first epics in world history, including Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta and the first stories about Gilgamesh.

2700 BCE: The Near East - The Sumerian King, Gilgamesh, rules the city of Uruk, which has now grown to a population of more than 50,000. Gilgamesh is the subject of many epics, including the Sumerian "Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Nether World" and the Babylonian "Epic of Gilgamesh."

2340-2315 BCE: The Near East - Sargon I founds and rules the city-state of AKKAD, after leaving the city of Kish, where he was an important official. Sargon is the first ruler in history to maintain a standing army. Even so, his empire lasts less than two hundred years.

2320 BCE: The Near East - Sargon conquers the independent city-states of SUMER and institutes a central government. But by 2130, Sumer regains its independence from Akkadian rule, though it does not revert back to independent city-states. At this time, Sumer is ruled from the important city of Ur.

2100 BCE: The Near East - The Sumerian King List is written, recording all the kings and dynasties ruling SUMER from the earliest times. According to this list, Eridu is named as the earliest settlement, a claim that seems to be confirmed by archeological evidence.

2000-1600 BCE: The Near East - The Old Babylonian period begins in MESOPOTAMIA after the collapse of SUMER, probably due to an increase in the salt content of the soil thereby making farming difficult. Considerably weakened by poor crops, and therefore a lack of surplus goods, the Sumerians are conquered by the Amorites, who are situated in BABYLON. Consequenly, the center of civility shifts to the north. Though they preserve most of the Sumerian culture, the Amorites introduce their semetic language, an early ancestor to HEBREW, into the region.

1900 BCE: The Near East - The Epic of Gilgamesh is redacted from Sumerian sources and written in the semetic language. Thus, though Gilgamesh was Sumerian, his Epic is Babylonian.

1900-1500 BCE: The Near East - Sometime between these dates a semetic group of nomads migrate from SUMER to CANAAN and then on to EGYPT. They are led by a caravan trader, the Patriarch Abraham, who will become the father of the nation of ISRAEL.

1800 BCE: The Near East - The Old Babylonians are employing advanced mathematical operations, such as, multiplication, division and square roots. In addition, they are using a duodecimal system (a system based on 12 and 6) to measure time. We still use their system for counting minutes and hours.

1763 BCE: The Near East - The Amorite King, Hammurabi, conquers all of SUMER. Around the same time, he writes his Code of Laws containing 282 rules including the principles of "an eye for an eye" and "let the buyer beware." It is one of the first codes of law in world history, predated only by the Laws of Lipit-Ishtar.

1750 BCE: The Near East - Hammurabi dies, but his empire lasts for another one hundred and fifty years, until 1600, when the Kassites, a non-semetic people, conquer most of MESOPOTAMIA with the help of light chariot warfare.

1595 BCE: The Near East - The HITTITES, another non-semetic people who speak an Indo-European language, capture BABYLON and retreat, leaving the city open to Kassite domination. The Kassites remain in power for about three hundred years, maintaining the Sumerian/Babylonian culture without offering innovations of their own.

1450-1300 BCE: The Near East - The HITTITE culture reaches its high point, dominating the territory to the North and East of BABYLON, including Turkey and northern Palestine. By this time, the Hittite's have constructed a mythology with a state pantheon.

1300-612 BCE: The Near East - The ASSYRIANS, a semetic people, establish an empire spreading out from the town of Assur in northern MESOPOTAMIA. By 1250, they commit themselves to conquering the Kassite Empire to the south.

1286 BCE: The Near East - The HITTITES fight off invading EGYPTIANS, thereby demonstrating the strength of their power. This power is probably rooted in an economic advantage they have from trading the metals that are abundant in the region of Turkey. Even so, their empire falls in 1185, to the "Sea People," an invading group coming from the West whose precise identity is unknown.

1250-1200 BCE: The Near East - The HEBREWS, who migrated from CANAAN to EGYPT several hundred years earlier, return from Egypt after wandering for several years in the Sinai desert and begin the conquest of Canaan. This conquest is slow and painful and will take a hundred years. When the fighting stops, the Hebrews emerge as victors. They parcel the land of Canaan into tribal territories creating a system of government known as an amphictyony.

1200-1020 BCE: The Near East - The HEBREWS are ruled by the Judges during a period of relative stability that will be upset with the Philistine invasion of 1050.

1225 BCE: The Near East - The Assyrian ruler, Tukulti-Ninurta, captures BABYLON and the region of southern MESOPOTAMIA, but Assyrian control does not last long.

1114-1076 BCE: The Near East - Tiglath-Pileser I rules the ASSYRIANS.

1050 BCE: The Near East - The Philistines invade ISRAEL from the North. Facing the threat of annihiliation, the HEBREWS institute a governmental reform. The amphictyony proves insufficient in the face of the new dangers, so the people of Israel ask Samuel, the last of the judges, to select a king.

1020 BCE: The Near East - Samuel selects Saul to be king of ISRAEL thereby unifying the tribes of Israel into a nation. Facing many losses against the Philistines, Saul eventually commits suicide. Around the same time, David, undertaking his own campaign against the Philistines, proves victorious.

1004 BCE: The Near East - David becomes king of ISRAEL. As such, he begins to build a centralized government based in Jerusalem, implementing forced labor, a census and a mechanism for collecting taxes. The First Temple period of Hebrew history begins with the rule of David.

965 BCE: The Near East - Solomon becomes king of ISRAEL. Intent on completing David's plan to make Jerusalem stand out among the region's cities and to affirm the religious commitment of the HEBREWS, Solomon undertakes many expensive building projects, including the building of the temple in Jerusalem. Facing financial difficulties, Solomon raises taxes and employs forced labor.

928 BCE: The Near East - Solomon dies. The northerners, unwilling to pay taxes to help with the financial difficulties of Jerusalem and the national court, separate from the southern people. Two nations are created, ISRAEL to the north with its capital in Samaria and Judah to the south with its capital in Jerusalem. Solomon's sons rule the two kingdoms, Jeroboam in the North and Rehoboam in the South.

900 BCE: The Near East - The ASSYRIANS expand their empire to the west. By 840, they will have conquered Syria and Turkey, the territory that at one time belonged to the HITTITES.

810-805 BCE: The Near East - Sammuramat rules ASSYRIA as Queen. She is one of the very few women to achieve prominance in the ancient world. It is remarkable that the mighty Assyrians were willing to accept a Queen as ruler.

722 BCE: The Near East - The ASSYRIANS conquer ISRAEL, leaving nothing behind. The Hebrew kingdom of Judah manages to survive.

705-681 BCE: The Near East - Sennacherib rules the ASSYRIANS and builds a new capital in Ninevah where he begins to form a library of Sumerian and Babylonian tablets. Sennacherib is a powerful ruler who manages to subdue the entire region of western Asia.

689 BCE: The Near East - Sennacherib destroys BABYLON, but his son rebuilds it. By 650, it has once again become prosperous.

668-627 BCE: The Near East - Ashurbanipal succeeds Sennacherib as ruler of ASSYRIA. He continues to develop the library and, by the time he has finished, collects more than 22,000 clay tablets. In 648, Ashurbanipal destroys the newly rebuilt city of BABYLON in a fierce campaign.

614 BCE: The Near East - The BABYLONIANS (particularly, the Chaldeans) with the help of the Medes, who occupy what is today Iran, begin a campaign to destroy the ASSYRIANS. In 612 they succeed, and the Assyrian capital of Ninevah is destroyed. Without the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, a semetic people, rule the entire region thereby issuing in the New Babylonian period, which lasts until 539.

604-562 BCE: The Near East - Nebuchadnezzar II rules in BABYLON, where he undertakes several monumental building projects, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This New Babylonian Revival uses glazed bricks for building thereby creating a colorful city.

600 BCE: The Near East - The Persian prophet Zoroaster (Zarathushtra) founds the religion known as Zoroastrianism.

586 BCE: The Near East - Jerusalem falls to the forces of Nebuchadnezzar II. Several HEBREWS are taken to BABYLON beginning the "Babylonian Captivity." The book of Ezekiel is written at this time.

539 BCE: The Near East - Cyrus the Persian captures BABYLON after the New Babylonian leader, Belshazaar, fails to read "the handwriting on the wall." Cyrus founds the Persian Empire which lasts until 331 BCE, when it is conquered by Alexander the Great. Cyrus returns some of the exiled HEBREWS to Palestine; others among the Hebrews prefer to stay in Babylon, where a second Jewish center is established, the first being the one in Jerusalem.

529 BCE: The Near East - Cyrus dies leaving behind him the largest empire to date. His son, Cambyses, succeeds him and adds to the empire by conquering EGYPT.

521 BCE: The Near East - Darius I ("The Great") succeeds Cambyses as emperor of Persia. He engages in many large building programs, including a system of roads. In addition, he institutes the first postal system.

520-516 BCE: The Near East - The HEBREWS rebuild Solomon's Temple which had been destroyed in the sack of 586, thereby beginning the Second Temple period of Hebrew History.

486-465 BCE: The Near East - Xerxes I is emperor of the Persian Empire.

331 BCE: The Near East - Alexander the Great conquers the Persian Empire. He makes his way to INDIA and conquers part of it, before he dies in 323.

168 BCE: The Near East - Antiochus Epiphanes rules over ISRAEL and tries to outlaw Judaism. The HEBREWS resist thereby beginning the Maccabean revolt. The Maccabees are successful, until internal dissention tears them apart. They appeal to the Roman Pompey in 63 BCE who intervenes, thereby beginning the Roman occupation of Palestine.

66 CE: The Near East - Attempting to deliver themselves from Roman control, the HEBREWS revolt, but this time they prove unsuccessful. In 70 CE, the Roman Emperor, Titus, defeats the Hebrews and destroys the temple in Jerusalem. It has never been rebuilt.