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HIST231: Empire and States in the Middle East and Southwest Asia

Unit 1: Pre-Islamic Peoples and Civilizations of the Middle East and Southeast Asia   The Middle East is a truly ancient and complex region.  The oldest civilizations in recorded history originated in the Middle East and Southwest Asia in roughly the fourth millennium BCE.  By the first millennium BCE, major centers of urban civilization had developed in modern-day Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt.  Warfare and trade competition between these competing urban centers shaped the economic and social growth of the region.  Outside factors, including Greek and Roman invasions at the end of the first millennium BCE, also had a powerful influence on the development of the region.   In this unit, you will examine the history of the peoples and civilizations of the Middle East and Southwest Asia prior to the rise of Islam in the 7th century CE.  You will look at how political, social, and cultural influences from both the East and the West led to the development of complex and diverse societies throughout the region and influenced the growth and expansion of new empires at the beginning of the first millennium CE.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 26 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 1.1: 11 hours ☐    Introduction: 1.5 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.1.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.4: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.5: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.6: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.7: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 1.1.8: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 5.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 1.4: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.5: 2 hours

☐    Unit 1 Assignment: 3 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Analyze the interactions between ancient civilizations of the Middle East and Southwest Asia in the pre-Islamic period. - Identify major ancient civilizations and their contribution to world history. - Appreciate the cultures of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. - Describe and identify the role of war in the progress of civilization.

1.1 Ancient Civilizations   - Reading: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Selections from Herodotus’s The History of the Persian Wars, 450 BCE Link: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Selections from Herodotus’s The History of the Persian Wars, 450 BCE (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text.  In this selection from The History of the Persian Wars, ancient Greek historian and ethnographer Herodotus discusses the peoples and civilizations of Babylonia, Chaldea, and Assyria in the 5th century BCE.  Herodotus offers detailed descriptions of Babylonian culture, including dress and religious practices.  He also provides information about the design of Babylonian cities and their extreme opulence.  He contrasts this opulence with the harsh living conditions of the surrounding region, which encompasses modern-day Iraq.  The subunits below (1.1.1 through 1.1.8) outline some of the ancient civilizations that took root in the region.  This reading should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
 
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1.1.1 Sumerians   - Reading: Grand Valley State University: Michael Webster’s “Sumerian Myth" Link: Grand Valley State University: Michael Webster’s “Sumerian Myth” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage in which you will learn about Sumerian creation myths.  At the end of each section, there are some questions to think about.  As you read, also consider the following question: what great contributions did the Sumerians provide our world?  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
 
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1.1.2 Hittites   - Reading: International World History Project: Robert A. Guisepi’s “The Hittites” Link: International World History Project:Robert A. Guisepi’s “The Hittites” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text, and carefully view the map.  Why do you think the Hittites occupied a significant place in the ancient world?  This should be the question in your mind while reading the text.  This reading and a careful study of the map should take you approximately 1.25 hours to complete.
 
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  • Web Media: Smithsonian Channel’s “The Hittites:” “The King of Kings,” “The Written Word,” and “Above All Warriors” Link: Smithsonian Channel’s “The Hittites:” “The King of Kings,” (Adobe Flash) “The Written Word,” (Adobe Flash) and “Above All Warriors” (Adobe Flash)       
     
    Instructions: Please watch these three short videos (each video is approximately 2-2:30 minutes).  These will provide great narration and visuals on the Hittite civilization.  After viewing the videos, take about 5-7 minutes to write a brief summary paragraph about what you have learned.  These videos and paragraph should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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1.1.3 Hebrews   - Reading: International World History Project: Robert A. Guisepi’s “Civilization of the Hebrews” Link: International World History Project: Robert A. Guisepi’s “Civilization of the Hebrews” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage.  What are the significant names and places associated with this group?  Think about how this civilization is connected to the modern world.  This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.1.4 Assyrians   - Reading: Livius: Jona Lendering’s “Assyria” Link: Livius: Jona Lendering’s “Assyria” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text, and view the images on the webpage.  Click on any embedded hyperlinks for more information.  As you read about this and other ancient empires, consider the following questions: How did Assyria emerge and collapse?  Do you think there are any patterns?  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.1.5 Egyptians   - Reading: BBC: Dr. Joyce Tyldesley’s “Ancient Egypt and the Modern World Link: BBC: Dr. Joyce Tyldesley’s “Ancient Egypt and the Modern World” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article.  As you read, think about the rich legacy that Egyptian civilization left to the modern world.  This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.1.6 Babylonians   - Reading: Travis’ Ancient History: “Babylonian Culture” Link: Travis’ Ancient History: “Babylonian Culture” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage for an overview of Babylonian culture, including information on its legacy, geography, military, government, religion, economy, and architecture.  As you read, take notes and then write a brief paragraph about the significance of this empire in terms of political and religious contributions to world.  This reading, taking notes, and writing a paragraph should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.1.7 Phoenicians   - Reading: Phoenicia.org: Sanford Holst’s “Origins of the Phoenician Empire” Link: Phoenicia.org: Sanford Holst’s “Origins of the Phoenician Empire” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire article.  In this text, you
will read about the emergence of the Phoenician Empire and its
interaction with surrounding empires, such as the Romans.  This
reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.  
    
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1.1.8 Persians   - Reading: Pars Times’ “A Brief History of Persian Empire” Link: Pars Times’A Brief History of Persian Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage.  In your opinion, based on what they accomplished, who are the most significant contributors to this empire?  This reading and question should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
 
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1.2 Alexander the Great   - Reading: The History Channel’s “Alexander the Great” Link: The History Channel’s “Alexander the Great” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article (2 pages).  Make sure to click on the next button at the end of the page to continue on to the second page.  This link contains concise information about Alexander.  After reading it, write 1-3 paragraphs about in which ways he could be considered a ruler of a Middle Eastern/Southwest Asian empire.  This reading and writing should take you approximately 3 hours to complete.
 
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  • Reading: MIT: Plutarch’s “Alexander” Link: MIT: Plutarch’s “Alexander” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text, which talks about Alexander’s life, was written by Plutarch in 75 C.E, and translated by John Dryden.  It will give you an idea of how Alexander was perceived by a Greek author in the first century C.E.  You should spend approximately 2.5 hours reading this text and taking detailed notes.
     
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1.3 The Roman/Byzantine Period   1.3.1 Rise of the Byzantine Empire   - Reading: Flow of History: Chris Butler’s “The Byzantine Empire: c. 500-1025 Link: Flow of History: Chris Butler’s “The Byzantine Empire: c. 500-1025” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text, and view the chart on the webpage.  As you read, consider the following: why do most scholars consider the Byzantine Empire as the Eastern Roman Empire?  Think about the continuations and breaks of the Byzantine Empire with the Western Roman Empire.  This reading should take you approximately 1.5 hours to complete.
 
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1.3.2 Decline of the Byzantine Empire   - Reading: Flow of History: Chris Butler’s “Decline and Fall of the Byzantine Empire: 1025-1453” Link: Flow of History: Chris Butler’s “Decline and Fall of the Byzantine Empire: 1025-1453” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire text, and view the chart on the webpage.  Note that you may click on the chart to enlarge it.  Think about the reasons for the fall of this ancient empire.  This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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1.4 The Sassanid Empire   - Reading: Iran Chamber Society’s “The Sassanid Empire” Link: Iran Chamber Society’s  “The Sassanid Empire” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage to learn about the structure of and religious beliefs in the Sassanid Empire.  As you progress in the course, you will see how Islamic society was influenced by earlier political and social structures, such as the Sassanid Empire.  After the reading, research the relationship between this empire and Islam.  As you will see Islamic armies expended toward the Sassanid territories.  This reading and assignment should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
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1.5 Pre-Islamic Arabia   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation's "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East and Southwest Asia" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Ancient Civilization of the Middle East and Southwest Asia” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above to download the assessment.  Please write out one paragraph answers for each question.  After completing this assessment, please check your answers against the sample answers provided in the Saylor Foundation's "Ancient Civilizations of the Middle East and Southeast Asia Answer Key." (PDF)  Your answers should contain, but not be limited to, the information provided in the answer sheet.  Feel free to expand on your answers to include material that goes beyond what is in the sample. This assessment should take approximately 3 hours to complete.

  • Reading: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Ancient Accounts of Arabia, 430 BCE-550 CE” Link: Fordham University’s Ancient History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of “Ancient Accounts of Arabia, 430 BCE-550 CE” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this collection of accounts describing Arabia in the pre-Islamic period, written by ancient Greek and Roman writers: Herodotus, Strabo, Dio Cassius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and Procopius of Caesarea.  You will learn a lot about how outsiders viewed the land and the people.  You should spend approximately 2 hours reading and taking detailed notes on this text.
     
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