Middle East 500 CE

The Middle East is divided between the Eastern Roman empire and the Persian empire.

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What is happening in Middle East in 500CE

A divided region

The Middle East has remained divided between two superpowers. The Roman Empire (now ruled from Constantinople and known to modern scholars as the Byzantine Empire) rules the western parts of the region, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. In the eastern parts of the region – Iran and Mesopotama – the Parthian Empire has been replaced by a new empire under the Persian Sasanian dynasty.

Politics, religion and culture

The Sasanian kings have proved more aggressive and formidable opponents of the Romans than their Parthian predecessors. They have presided over an Iranian revival which has centered round the establishment of Zoroastrianism as the state religion. It has been during this period that a distinctively “Persian” civilization, which will later influence much Islamic art, architecture and literature, has evolved.

Zorosatrianism has not had it all its own way. In the 3rd century a new Iranian cult, called Manichaeism, briefly won many converts, at all levels of society. However, heavy persecution has since driven it underground. Also, Christianity has spread throughout the Middle East, under both the Romans and Persians; in the towns and cities of both empires it is probably the most popular faith.


Mesopotamia, with its intensive irrigation agriculture, has long been the breadbasket of the empires of the region, and the Sasanian government invests heavily in its irrigation systems. This, and along with it the entire productive economy of the region, reaches a level which it will not match until the 20th century.  The expansion of Mesopotamian productivity increases the wealth of the whole empire.

Next map: Middle East 750


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The Ancient Middle East

The Late Roman Empire

The Byzantine Empire

The Sasanian Empire

Ancient Palestine

The History of Ancient Turkey

The History of Ancient Syria

The History of Arabia

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