Beth Nahrain[a] (Classical Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, romanized: Bêṯ Nahrayn, [be̝θˈnah.rajn]); "between (two) rivers"[b]) is the name for the region known as Mesopotamia in the Syriac language. Geographically, it refers to the areas between and surrounding the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (as well as their tributaries). The Aramaic name also refers to the area around the rivers, not only literally between the rivers. The area is considered by Assyrians as their homeland.
This area roughly encompasses almost all of present-day Iraq, parts of southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, and, more recently, northeastern Syria. The Assyrians are considered to be indigenous inhabitants of Beth Nahrain. "Nahrainean" or "Nahrainian" is the Anglicized name for "Nahrāyā" (ܢܗܪܝܐ), which is the Aramaic equivalent of "Mesopotamian".
While it may be thought that the name is calqued from Mesopotamia (Ancient Greek: Μεσοποταμία), the opposite is more probable. The Aramaic name has been attested since the adoption of Old Aramaic as the lingua franca of the Neo Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BCE, but the Greek name Mesopotamia was first coined in the 2nd century BCE by the historian Polybius during the Seleucid period. The name Bayn al-Nahrayn is also found in Arabic (بين النهرين, "between the two rivers"). Other, less common Classical Syriac variants of the name include Bêṯ Nahrawwāṯā (ܒܝܬ ܢܗܪ̈ܘܬܐ, "between the rivers") and Meṣʿaṯ Nahrawwāṯā (ܡܨܥܬ ܢܗܪ̈ܘܬܐ, "the middle of the rivers").
The term "Beth Nahrain" is commonly used by both Eastern and Western Assyrians and acts as a united front for an autonomous Assyrian region. Political and military organizations have developed using the "Beth Nahrain" name, including:
The Assyrians (also referred to as Syriacs, Arameans or Chaldeans) view themselves as the native people of Beth Nahrain. They speak different dialects of Neo-Aramaic depending on their geographical location within Beth Nahrain. Today, Assyrians in Iraq and Iran as well as the Khabur River Valley in Syria speak varieties of Northeastern Neo-Aramaic while the Assyrians in Turkey and Syria mainly speak Turoyo, a dialect of Central Neo-Aramaic.
Beth Nahrain occupies the land between two rivers - referring to the Euphrates and Tigris. The Tigris-Euphrates river system covers 35,600 km2 (13,700 sq mi) and forms a major river system originating from the Taurus mountains of Eastern Turkey through Syria and Iraq towards the Persian Gulf.
- Also transliterated Bet, Beet; Nahrayn, Nahreen, Nahrin, etc.
- Often erroneously translated as "house of the (two) rivers" due to the homonym bêṯ (ܒܝܬ, "house of"), used in many placenames.
- Sokoloff, Michael (2009). A Syriac Lexicon: A Translation from the Latin, Correction, Expansion, and Update of C. Brockelmann's Lexicon Syriacum. Eisenbrauns; Gorgias Press. p. 142a. ISBN 978-1-57506-180-1.
- Donabed, Sargon (2015). Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0-7486-8605-6.
- Simo Parpola, Assyrian Identity in Ancient Times and Today, Lecture given at the March 27, 2004 historical seminar of the Assyrian Youth Federation in Sweden (AUF)
- Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies Past and Present Archived May 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Perceptions of Syriac Literary Tradition by Lucas VAN ROMPAY
- Finkelstein, J. J.; 1962. “Mesopotamia”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 21: 73–92
- Geoffrey Wigoder, The Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Sterling Publishing (2005).