The Neolithic revolution is often cited as the start of civilization. Here we see the end of the hunter-gatherer stage. Man has started farming and keeping livestock. It was the need of the Ice Age and thus, food was more available. The need to travel far distances for food came to an end. Groups started living in the same place all year round. People started to build permanent dwellings. This is important not only to western civilization but to all of us as a whole. The Neolithic revolution laid the groundwork for towns and cities.
It fostered population growth and the need for an organized body to govern these settlements (Mithen, 2003, p55). What we now know as the Fertile Crescent was once occupied by the Sumerians thousands of years ago. At 4000 BCE, Sumerians lived in Mesopotamia. They built irrigation for their crops and great walled-in cities. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Sumerians to early Western civilization was their system of writing and counting. It was the Sumerians who widely used the base ten for counting (Kramer, 1971, p25). Something that is still in use today.
When we picture Pharaohs, we almost automatically see pyramids and the Nile. The Pharaohs were considered heads of government and the high priest of every temple. They were also considered half god and half man. Pharaohs are one of the earliest examples of a continuing monarchy as well as absolute rule. Their greatest contribution to civilization is their bureaucracy (Dowling. October 23, 2004. “Mr. Dowling’s Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt page,”. http://www. mrdowling. com/604-pharaoh. html. 24 February 2008) A Greek city-state is called a Polis. These were independent cities with their own laws and rulers.
Greeks pride themselves as being the only people who practiced democracy. It is said that the greatest innovation of the Greeks was the creation of the Polis. Democratic government required the creation of another foundation of modern civilization. And this was the determination of citizenship. Only citizens could participate in democratic exercises. Much of what the Greeks have instituted is still in practice today. (Hines, 1996, p. 156) The three early civilizations; Sumerian, Egyptian and Assyrian civilizations had much in common. First, these three civilizations each had a way of writing and counting.
Second, all three were polytheistic (worshipped more than one god). Lastly, these civilizations thrived because they had a stable system of food production and were located near a body of water. The Sumerians used a system of writing called cuneiform. They used a sharp writing instrument called a stylus. The Egyptians used a set of “picture words” called hieroglyphics. The Assyrians used the Akkadian language, a branch of Semitic language. This was also written a form of cuneiform script (Ascalone, 2007, pp. 55, 90, 127) All three were polytheistic. The Sumerians worshipped various gods whom governed their daily lives.
Like the Sumerians, the Egyptians viewed their gods as immortals with mortal attitudes. The Assyrians worshipped gods which they inherited from earlier civilizations (such as the Hittites and the Sumerians) (Simpson, 1971, p. 35) Lastly, the Egyptians thrived near the Nile River. The Sumerians and the Assyrians both thrived in the Mesopotamia, an area between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. These civilizations benefitted greatly from being near a source of food and irrigation. All three differ at two points. First, are their ideas of an afterlife. And secondly, is their view on the absolute rule of monarchy.
Sumerians believed that after death, there was no hope of being happy at all. In contrast, the Egyptians saw the afterlife as a joyous and abundant time for all. The Assyrians, owing to their ferocity and power did not stress the importance of an afterlife. Event though they did share the Sumerians’ beliefs. (Kramer, 1983, pp. 15, 68, 88) The Egyptians believed that their Pharaohs were half deity. In contrast, the Sumerians had different city states and were ruled by governors, kings and priests. The Assyrians had “merchant colonies” which also served as cities (Schomp, 2005, pp 74, 36, 11).