Back when pharaohs ruled and ziggurats towered, two civilizations rose to form the customs and cultures of today. Ancient Egypt and ancient Sumer were the first two civilizations to establish what we know now as every day life. Even though both of the empires were located relatively close in the whole scheme of things, both cultures evolved utterly different. They differed in four main categories: geography, how they interacted with others, religion, and government.
Ancient Egypt was a very unique culture mostly because of the fact that nature provided natural protection from the outside world. Their geography determined everything about they way they live. The Libyan Desert, Mediterranean Sea and cataracts, were all major difficulties in getting in and out of Egypt. The Nile River is another attribute to the uniqueness of Egypt. Every thing that they have comes form the Nile, Their clothes, paper, some gods, food, and water. The Nile floods every year to provide a “black earth”. No life could exist within ten miles of the Nile.
The Nile also provided a natural “highway” for later merchants and armies. Tombs of the ancient pharaohs were built utilizing the Nile. Egypt’s geography had a large impact on Egyptian society.
Ancient Sumer’s geography was completely different than that of its neighbor Egypt. The few natural barriers were not nearly as difficult to cross as Egypt’s. Instead of just one river, in Sumer they had two major waterways, the Euphrates and the Tigris. These rivers were not as gentle as the flowing Nile. When they flooded they FLOODED! Entire villages washed away and people drowned in the mighty force of the rivers. Crops wouldn’t grow near the rivers because all of the topsoil got washed away.
Interaction with other cultures did not happen in ancient Egypt until about 1700 B.C. when foreign invaders, the Hyksos, conquered Egypt. They awed the Egyptians with their horse drawn carriages. For over a hundred years these intruders ruled Egypt until they were driven out by Egyptian leaders. During the reign of Queen Hatshepsut a trading expedition was sent to Punt down the Red Sea coast of Africa. Ramses II led the way to Egypt’s finest hour, taking over Palestine and as far as Syria. Though with the death of Ramses II Egypt started to slowly die away too.
Ancient Sumer got along very well with others. They had a massive trade economy. They traded with people all over Asia. Traders risked the dangers of the rivers and desert travel to carry goods to distant regions. Archeologists have found artifacts as far away as Egypt and India.
Although the wheel was invented earlier the Sumerians were the first to get credit with the first wheeled vehicles. These helped enormously with carry goods to far off lands.
Life in Egypt revolved around religion. Farmers were willing to work for months to help their pharaoh get to the afterlife. There afterlife was just like regular life except better, they called it the Happy Field of Food. In order to get to the afterlife a person must pass a number of tests starting with the weighing of the heart ceremony. A person had their heart compared to the weight of the Feather of Truth by the God Osiris. Skilled workers preserved bodies in what is called mummification. Bodies were preserved so that the Ba and Ka could recognize their owner’s face. The Egyptian gods were based on nature and the pharaoh was closely linked with the gods.
The Sumerian approach on religion was completely different. The gods were exactly like people except they were all powerful. The humans were a mistake that the gods created and they were constantly being punished and trying to be killed. The flooding of the two rivers was one way of trying to kill all of the humans. Their afterlife was a sad and grim realm from which there was no release.
One person, the pharaoh, ruled the entire Egyptian government. The Pharaoh had absolute power over the land; he was a god and owned everything. The pharaoh depended on a vizier or chief minister to supervise the business of government. Under the vizier different bureaus looked after different matters, such as tax collecting or the all important irrigation system.
Sumer included many independent city-states. In each state a ruler was in charge of keeping the city safe and the irrigation systems running. Each city had it’s own army and enforced the laws. Scribes were hired to help with things such as taxes and keeping records. The ruler was also the head servant to the gods and led ceremonies to please them.
In closing I hoped that somebody somewhere learned something about something from my essay. As you can probably already tell ancient Egypt and ancient Sumer were entirely different in geography, interaction with others, religion and government.