The last great Ice Age not only influenced our planets climate and geology but also the migration of humans and their settlement to create vast civilizations. Upon these civilizations lied Mesopotamia, known as the “cradle of civilization,” and Ancient Egypt. These two civilizations flourished in their primitive times due to their political, social, and cultural advancements. Sharing many qualities of each other as people, these two societies were also exceedingly different, as are most cultures.
Both Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt became known as some of the most powerful and influential civilizations known to man. The world’s first civilization was derived from Mesopotamia and inhabited by the Sumerians. Ancient Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The Sumerians were intellectual people, as they discovered the use of irrigation through levees to produce a year round supply of food. This resulted in a permanent stay of the people instead of moving from place to place for food and depending on the climate.
This stability formed the first Mesopotamian government, the city-state. The center of the city-state consisted of a temple and public building and they governed themselves as well as constructed social classes. Blacksmiths, farmers, politicians and priests were examples of these social classes but because of the major architectural structure, the ziggurat, in which only priests were allowed inside, priests were looked upon as a high social standing. Arguably the most important technological advancement of the Mesopotamian civilization was the first system of writing.
The city needed a way to keep records so they developed cuneiform writing. It consisted of many pie shapes that symbolized words and were written on clay tablets that once finished were left in the sun to dry becoming permanent records. The Sumerians believed in many gods and each having a particular role or activity. They wrote stories about the gods like the Epic of Gilgamesh which is the oldest story in the world. It was said over thirty thousand clay tablets were used to make the story. Ancient Egypt is considered one of the most complex yet stable civilizations in history.
The first pharaoh unified upper and lower Egypt to create the society of Egypt. Like Mesopotamia, the civilization concentrated itself around the river system, in Egypt’s case, the Nile River. Egypt’s adaptation of the Nile and its irrigation system spurred the social development and culture of the land. The predictable flooding of the river and fertile soil created an empire of great agricultural wealth. Egypt took pride on its construction techniques, monumental architecture like the pyramids which were built as tombs for the pharaohs.
These pyramids took thousands upon thousands of workers to build and were gazed upon as there most proud achievements. Egypt also had their own independent writing system called hieroglyphics, which consisted of logographic and alphabetic elements. Highly advanced for its time was the system of medicine Ancient Egypt had developed as well as their mathematical system. In the political world of Egypt, the pharaoh was considered the ruler of the land and absolute monarch of its resources. The pharaoh maintained law and order as well as delivered justice.
Social classes in Ancient Egypt heavily consisted of farmers due to agricultural prosperity but they were considered lower class. The upper class consisted of scribes and government officials, who displayed their status through art and literature. Beliefs in the divine and the afterlife were heavily influenced in the Egyptian culture and temples were a place of worship for the gods. The ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt each portrayed successful societies that were governed well beyond expectation for their time. Mesopotamia had the earliest decentralized government.
Though kings ruled the land, the city-states played a role in participation and input whereas in Ancient Egypt, the pharaoh ruled the land indisputably. Because the pharaoh was looked upon being a descendent of god, large sculptures were built in his name. Egypt took pride in their architecture more than ancient Mesopotamia. Though both had their own individual writing systems, Mesopotamia cuneiform was more complex and advanced than Egypt’s hieroglyphics. Mesopotamia developed before Egypt therefore without Mesopotamia’s precedence of cuneiform, Egypt may never have developed their writing system.
Irrigation becomes another factor in Egypt’s success because without Mesopotamia’s levee system and other agricultural advancements, Egypt may never have been able to develop their prosperous system in which their culture was based upon. Egyptian society on the other hand had more achievements and advancements in medicine and a stronger outlook on religion and the divine. If I were given a choice to live in Ancient Mesopotamia or Ancient Egypt, personally I would choose Mesopotamia hands down. I believe the culture was more centralized as well as developed compared to Egypt.
The Sumerians were people of development and inspiration as well as a freer race. For myself, I would dislike the fact that I had no here-say in my land and being controlled by one man because he was looked upon as holy does not sit right with me. I prefer more of a democracy and sense of self in my society. I also am one to prefer the expansion of science rather than religion and being a part of a community that prides itself on technological advancements such as the wheel and the calendar is much more exciting than spending years building pyramids to store dead pharaohs.