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Empire, one of the major empires in the ancient Near East. The heartland and original core of Assyria lay in what is now northern Iraq around the upper Tigris River. Its greatest period—and the only one involving direct contact with Israel—was its last: the Neo-Assyrian period of the first millennium BCE (934–609). The triumphant achievement of Neo-Assyria was the creation of an empire that went far beyond earlier forms to become the largest political configuration the Near East had yet seen.