The Assyrians were the first people to employ a standing army, using recruits from conquered nations. The Assyrians are known for their use of light weight spoke wheeled chariots and cavalry, invented by the Scythians.
The history of the Assyrian people begins with the rise of the Akkadian Empire during the 24th century BC, in the early bronze age period. Sargon of Akkad united all the native Akkadian speaking Semites and the Sumerians of Mesopotamia (including the Assyrians) under his rule. After the fall of the Akkadian Empire, the Akkadians split into two nations, Assyria in the north and later on Babylonia in the south. However, Babylonia unlike Assyria, was founded and originally ruled by non indigenous Amorites, and was more often than not ruled by other waves of non indigenous peoples such as Kassites, Hittites, Elamites, Arameans and Chaldeans.
In Biblical tradition, they are descended from Abraham's grandson (Dedan son of Jokshan), progenitor of the ancient Assyrians. However there is no historical basis for the biblical assertion whatsoever; there is no mention in Assyrian records (which date as far back as 21st century BC), andAssyria existed many centuries prior to the estimated birth of Abraham, circa 1800 BC.
The Assyrian king list records kings dating from the 23rd century BC onwards, the earliest being Tudiya, who was a contemporary of Ibrium of Ebla. However, many of these early kings would have been local rulers, usually subject to the Akkadian Empire. Assyria essentially existed as part of a unified Akkadian nation for much of the period from the 24th century BC to the 21st century BC, and a nation state from the 21st century BC until 605 BC. Assyria was for most of this period a powerful nation and had three periods of empire, between 1813–1754 BC, 1365–1076 BC and 911–608 BC.
Following the collapse of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and final resistance after 605 BC, Assyria came under the rule of its Babylonian brethren for a short period, until 539 BC. The last king of Babylon, Nabonidus, was ironically an Assyrian from Harran. Assyria then became an Achaemenid province named Athura (Assyria). The Assyrian people were Christianized in the 1st to 3rd centuries, in Roman Syria and Persian Assyria. They were divided by the Nestorian Schism in the 5th century, and from the 8th century, they became a religious minority following the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia. They suffered a genocide at the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and today to a significant extent live in diaspora.
They are culturally, linguistically, and ethnically distinct from their neighbours in the Middle East – the Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks, and Armenians. Assyrian nationalism emphasizes their indigeneity to the Assyrian homeland, and cultural continuity since the Iron Age Neo-Assyrian Empire.