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Located some 400 km (250 mi) north of Baghdad, Mosul stands on the west bank of the Tigris, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank.

The metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Bank" (east side) and the "Right Bank" (west side), as the two banks are described by the locals compared to the flow direction of Tigris.

Mosul's population grew rapidly around the turn of the millennium and by 2004 was estimated to be 1,846,500.

The Iraqi government recaptured it in the 2016-2017 Battle of Mosul.

Historically, important products of the area include Mosul marble and oil.

The city of Mosul is home to the University of Mosul and its renowned Medical College, which together was one of the largest educational and research centers in Iraq and the Middle East.

Mosul, together with the nearby Nineveh plains, is one of the historic centers for the Assyrians and their churches; the Assyrian Church of the East; its offshoot, the Chaldean Catholic Church; and the Syriac Orthodox Church, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, some of which were destroyed by ISIL in July 2014.

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The name of the city is first mentioned by Xenophon in his expeditionary logs in Achaemenid Assyria of 401 BC, during the reign of the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

There, he notes a small Assyrian town of "Mépsila" (Ancient Greek: ) on the Tigris somewhere about where modern Mosul is today (Anabasis, 10).

It may be safer to identify Xenophon's Mépsila with the site of Iski Mosul, or "Old Mosul", about 30 km (19 mi) north of modern Mosul, where six centuries after Xenophon's report, the Sasanian Empire's center of Budh-Ardhashir was built.

Be that as it may, the name Mepsila is doubtless the root for the modern name.

In its current Arabic form and spelling, the term Mosul, or rather "Mawsil", stands for the "linking point" – or loosely, the "Junction City," in Arabic.

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