In its position midway between the Middle Eastern coastal strip,
Mesopotamia, and the mountains of the north, Syria has always been a
crossroads for the distinct geographical regions of the Middle East.
For most of its history Syria also falls into several cultural
Eastern Syria was part of Mesopotamia in terms of its cultural
affinities, while the coastal region formed part of the Canaanite
zone of city states, sharing their development with the southern
Only Central Syria developed a cultural identity which was
unique to itself. During the Early Bronze Age (between approximately
3500-2200 BC), the native Amorite population in this region,
inheriting much of their civilisation from Sumer and possibly
founding Babylon, built large and powerful city states such as Ebla
in the north and Hamath in the south.
Because of its lucrative trade with Mesopotamia, Syria did not
suffer the same period of economic recession as Canaan in the last
quarter of the third millennium (2250-2000 BC), and the city states
continued to prosper.
The second millennium saw the infiltration of non-Semitic
northerners, the Hurrians, whose origins are still obscure. The best
theory is that they emerged in circa 2000 BC from the
mountains to the north and west to occupy the upper Tigris Valley
and the upper Euphrates.
Although the Hurrians became a dominant political force in their
own right in the region of Urkesh, they only began their rise to
greatness thanks to the arrival around four hundred years later of a
new influx of settlers.