ASSYRIANS (also known as Syriacs, Arameans, and Chaldeans) are a Semitic people – same as Hebrews, Arabs, Maltese, and some Ethiopians. Semitic is a term used by linguists to denote people speaking closely-related languages with the same root (Proto-Semitic), though not necessarily of the same genetic stock.
Linguists can trace Proto-Semitic to around 3750 BC, though the Assyrians themselves use a calendar that starts in 4750 BC. So 2017 is the Assyrian year 6767! The Assyrians’ day in the sun was the period between 900 BC to 600 BC, when it controlled most of the Middle East.
Assyria’s innovations were the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievement for their time. Con-tributions to human knowledge include the first locks and keys, paved roads, law code, postal service, central administration, magnifying lens, library, university, plumbing, aqueducts, arches, and guitars.
Their vernacular language, Aramaic, was the language spoken by Jesus. It became used by all the region’s peoples for cross-cultural communication (like English now) and is still spoken by Assyrians today.
Assyrians were among the first to adopt Christianity, and their religious practices are among those closest to original Christian rites. By 1200 AD the Assyrian Church of the East extended from Syria to Japan.
When Islam became the dominant religious and political power (ca 650 AD) the Assyrians became a subject people in their own land, a status they’ve had since.
The 20th century has been a disaster for the Assyrians, with genocides by the Turks, Iraqis, and now IS. Today there are about 3.3 million Assyrians world-wide. Less than 1 million are still in their native land, which includes northern Iraq between the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers, parts of NE Syria, NW Iran, and SE Turkey.
Famous Assyrians include actor F. Murray Abraham, filmmaker Terence Malick, poet Khalil Gibran, and tennis star Andre Agassi.