Geography of Mesopotamia

The word Mesopotamia means the "Land between the Rivers"--in this case, the rivers are the Tigris (Tie-grus) River and the Euphrates (You-fray-teez) River.  It was about 300 miles long and about 150 miles wide.  You could look on a map of the world ALL day long for Mesopotamia, and you'd probably never find it.  That's because it is no longer called Mesopotamia.  The current name for this area is Iraq.  You've probably heard of that place, huh?

Look at the map key.  The border of what we call Iraq is the dashed line.  The Tigris River is the blue line in the east and the Euphrates River is the blue line in the west.  The Mesopotamia region was the area in between those two rivers, where you see Assyria and Babylonia.  You'll learn about those two places in the history section of this website.

Take the poll to the right hand side before you continue.


Did you get the question right?  I hope so!

The early settlers of Mesopotamia decided that this land was a good place to live because they were close to two pretty big rivers.  Say their names out loud (look at the top if you need a refresher on how to say their names).  

Rivers give you fresh water to drink.  People can't live without water, and people can't drink salt water, so being near a river was most important because it meant survival.  Do you remember that fancy word that means to farm?  Yep, rivers were important for agriculture, too.  You can't water plants with salt water!  Besides to drink and for farming, what are some other ways to use a river?

Fertile Crescent

One last thing about the geography of Mesopotamia.  You may hear it called "the Fertile Crescent" on the Internet or in your textbook.  Look at the picture:  The Fertile Crescent includes all of Mesopotamia (on the right) and the land around the Nile River in Egypt (on the left).

It has this nickname because the land in this region is very fertile, and it is shaped like a crescent (think of a crescent dinner roll or a crescent moon).  What does fertile mean?  The easiest way to remember is to think of fertilizer.  When you put fertilizer on your garden, what happens to your plants?  They grow!  Fertile land is rich soil that is really good for growing crops.  This land is fertile because the rivers flood every year, leaving behind nutrients in the soil that make it really easy to grow food.