Mesopotamia based Empire which fell in 612BC. Located in the fertile rolling hills of modern day northern Iraq.
Excavations have revealed that humans were in this area around 6000BC. In about 2500BC, the city Ashur (from which Assyria draws it name) was founded. In its early days it was a dependency of Babylon. Soon the Assyrians formed their own kingdom.
The Assyrians were similar in many ways to the Babylonians. Nineveh, Ashur and Kahlu were the three core Assyrian cities. The people were Semitic and originally spoke Akkadian. Writing was in Cunieform. Later Aramaic supplanted Akkadian. Tunics and sandals were worn. High ranking officials wore long beards squared at the bottom.
Over 1600 years Assyria underwent three periods of expansion followed by retreat. The first began under Ashur-uballit (1350BC). Under Tiglath-pileser (1100BC) Babylon was conquered. Shalmaneser III (856-824BC) expanded the Assyrian empire to modern day Syria and Palestine. The Assyrians were forced out of Anatolia (modern day Turkey) by the Hittites. The Babylonian Hammurabi also interupted their hegemony.
The Assyrian empire at its peak encompassed modern day Iraq, Syria, Israel,Palestine and much of Egypt. They are sometimes known as the "Romans of Asia" due to their superior military and superb organisation. Many norms of civilisation began in the Mesopotamian empires of Assyria and Babylon.
In 612BC a coalition of Babylonians and Medes sacked Nineveh. It was completely burnt to the ground. Ashur-uballit II was the last Assyrian king.
Since then the Assyrians have been ruled by Persia, Macedonia (under Alexander the Great),Rome, the Byzantine empire, Sasanian, Arab and Ottoman. They adopted Christianity in the first century AD and have been persecuted by their Muslim neighbours (particularly under Ottoman rule). They remain Christain today. Most belong to the following four denominations: Christian Apostolic, Catholic Assyrian Church of the East,Assyrian Orthodox Church of Antioch,Chaldean Catholic Church.
In WWI the Assyrians sided with the Allies against Turkey (and dubbed "Our smallest ally" by a British historian). In the division the Middle East by the western powers, they did not gain a homeland. During the Gulf War many Assyrians fled Iraqi persecution.
Today there are about three million Assyrians worldwide, the majority in their original homeland in northern Iraq. There are about 93,000 in Europe and 300,000 in the US and Canada. Assyrians are proud of their ancient heritage and are still campaigning for autonomy within Iraq.