Sumer nights
Iraq, whose definition is ultimately tied to the ancient region of Mesopotamia, contains the now-deserted first cities of civilisation - Akkad, Ur, Nineveh and many others - built by a succession of cultures, some of which predate 4004 BC. They were the earliest known societies to use writing and accounting, codify their laws, and develop basic astronomy and mathematics. Eventually the region became the centre of the powerful Assyrian and Babylonian empires, the latter of which features prominently in the Old Testament on account of its conquest of ancient Israel and transportation of the Jews from their homeland. Eventually the area was itself conquered, by Rome and Persia.
 Sunni delight and Shia bliss
In 633 CE, Asuristan (Persian form of "Assyria"), as it was then called, was conquered by Arab forces spreading Islam, their shiny new religion, which soon split into Sunni and Shia factions, especially after the battle of Karbala (now in Iraq) in 680. Baghdad became the purpose-built capital of the huge Abbasid Caliphate in 762, and a famed centre of learning, but after a Mongol invasion in 1258 its influence declined. Iraq eventually became a mere province of the Ottoman Empire until the twentieth century.
 Ur a n00b
The Ottoman Empire collapsed after the First World War, and after a brief period of British rule (which included being bombed by the RAFn) became an independent kingdom. In 1958 it became a republic after a bloody coup, and the Ba'athists took power in 1963, holding it until the 2003 invasion and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.