Fertile Crescent, an area, shaped roughly like a crescent, of fertile land in southwestern Asia where civilization flourished during ancient times. It stretched around the Syrian Desert, from Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia, the region of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that forms the eastern half of the Crescent, has been called the “cradle of civilization.” The Sumerians, who were living there by 3500 B.C ., learned to irrigate the land to grow their crops.

At the opposite end of the Crescent, in Palestine and Phoenicia, irrigation helped build other prosperous lands. Most events of the Old Testament took place in and near the Fertile Crescent. The Phoenicians were seagoing traders who helped carry the civilization of the region to ancient Europe. Many armies used the Fertile Crescent as a highway to conquest. The Mongol armies followed this route in the 13th century, Tamerlane and his Tatars in the 14th. The devastation was so complete that much of the area never recovered from it.