Atlas of Mesopotamia
Martin A. Beek
Mesopotamia, the ‘land between the rivers’, is the name given by the Greek historian Polybius (second century b.c.) and the geographer Strabo (first century a.d.) to a part of the region enclosed between the Euphrates and the Tigris. They confined the name to an area stretching from the edge of the highlands in the north, where the rivers enter the plain, to what is now Baghdad, where the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other most closely. Not until later did the name acquire a much wider significance than that intended by the two Greeks, and it came to include southern ‘Chaldaea’. When we speak of Mesopotamia nowadays, we always mean the whole of the region between the great rivers, from the mountain country to the Persian Gulf.
The name Mesopotamia became known in Europe as a result of the translation of the Bible. The Old Testament (Gen. 24: 10) mentions a district called Aram Naharaim, which literally means ‘Aram of the two rivers’. The Hebrew writer probably did not mean the Euphrates and the Tigris. It is more likely ...