The Assyrians were first both to acquire such a large territory and to try to govern it cohesively. In many ways, they proved to be skilled administrators.
For example, they built roads to unify their holdings, governing and trade over large area was the Assyrians' use of Aramaic as a common languageIn the 3,000 years that make up the history of the ancient Middle East, many elementsthat characterize Western civilization emerged. Great cities sprang up, introducing commerce,excitement, diversity, and extremes of wealth and poverty that the West both valuesand struggles with even today. Tyranny and oppression arose, as did the laws andprinciples designed to hold them in check. Sophisticated religions provided vehicles for metaphysical reflection, and artists expressed those hopes and dreams in beautiful forms.
Perhaps most important, writing systems evolved to letpeople preserve their accumulated knowledge for future generations, including ours. Finally, these early centuries established a pattern of interaction and cross-fertilization of goods and ideas that would mark Western civilization from its beginnings through today.
The great civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates valley-the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and others- were ultimately absorbed by larger empires. Yet their contributions endured as a result of the mutual influence that alwaysoccurs when cultures mingle. The same was true for the complex civilization of Egypt. The Hebrews, too, contributed much to the growing body of Western ideas and values. By 500 B.C., the Persian kings had united the region, creating an empire rich with the diversity of many peoples and thousands of years of history. The Persian Empire marks a culminationof the first stirrings of Western civilization in the ancient Middle East. The next developments in the story of the West would come from different peoples: the Greeks.
In the Hebrew laws boys were circumcised as a mark of the covenant...