Assyria was a major Mesopotamian East Semitic kingdom, and often empire, of the Ancient Near East, existing as an independent state for a period of approximately nineteen centuries from c. 2500 BC to 605 BC, spanning the Early Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. For a further thirteen centuries, from the end of the 7th century BC to the mid-7th century AD, it survived as a geo-political entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers, although a number of small Neo-Assyrian states such as Assur, Adiabene, Osroene and Hatra arose at different times between the 1st century BC and late 3rd century AD.
Centered on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey) the Assyrians came to rule powerful empires at several times, the last of which grew to be the largest and most powerful empire the world had yet seen.
As a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization" which included Sumer, Akkad and much later Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Assyrian empire stretched from Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea to Persia (Iran), and from the Caucasus Mountains (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan) to the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Aššur (a.k.a. Ashur) which dates to c. 2600 BC (located in what is now the Saladin Province of northern Iraq), originally one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia. In the 25th and 24th centuries BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders, and from the late 24th century BC became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Akkadian Semites and Sumerian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC. Following the fall of the Akkadian Empire c. 2154 BC, and the short lived succeeding Neo-Sumerian Empire which ruled southern Assyria but not the north, Assyria regained full independence.
The history of Assyria proper is roughly divided into three periods, known as Old Assyrian, Middle Assyrian and Neo-Assyrian. These terms are in wide use in Assyrology and roughly correspond to the Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, respectively. In the Old Assyrian period, Assyria established colonies in Asia Minor and the Levant and, under king Ilushuma, it asserted itself over southern Mesopotamia. From the mid 18th century BC, Assyria came into conflict with the newly created state of Babylonia, which eventually eclipsed the far older Sumero-Akkadian states in the south, such as Ur, Isin, Larsa and Kish.
Assyria experienced fluctuating fortunes in the Old Assyrian period. Assyria became a regionally powrful nation with the Old Assyrian Empire from the late 21st century to the mid 18th century BC. Following this, it found itself under Babylonian and Mitanni-Hurrian domination for short periods in the 18th and 15th centuries BC respectively, and another period of great power occurred with the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire (from 1365 BC to 1056 BC), which included the reigns of great kings, such as Ashur-uballit I, Arik-den-ili, Tukulti-Ninurta I and Tiglath-Pileser I. During this period, Assyria overthrew the Mitanni-Empire and eclipsed both the Hittite Empire and Egyptian Empire in the Near East.
Beginning with the campaigns of Adad-nirari II from 911 BC, it again became a great power over the next three centuries, overthrowing the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt and conquering Egypt, Babylonia, Elam, Urartu/Armenia, Media, Persia, Mannea, Gutium, Phoenicia/Canaan, Aramea (Syria), Arabia, Israel, Judah, Edom, Moab, Samarra, Cilicia, Cyprus, Chaldea, Nabatea, Commagene, Dilmun, the Hurrians, Sutu and Neo-Hittites, driving the Ethiopians and Nubians from Egypt, defeating the Cimmerians and Scythians and exacting tribute from Phrygia, Magan and Punt among others.
After its fall (between 612 BC and 605 BC), Assyria remained a province and geo-political entity under the Babylonian, Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian, Roman and Sassanid empires until the Arab Islamic dominance of Mesopotamia in the mid-7th century, when it was finally dissolved, after which the remnants of the Assyrian people (by now almost exclusively Eastern Rite Christians) gradually became a minority in their homeland.