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In order to completely understand the relationship between two events, comparing and contrasting is necessary. Through comparing similarities and differences it is easier to analyze why things developed and occurred the way they did. For example, in comparing Egypt and Mesopotamia it will be easier to achieve understanding of major aspects of their culture, the way other cultures impacted them, and their influence on the future. In addition to the similarities between the two cultures, the differences are what make them unique.
Although Egypt and Mesopotamia both left stable heritage in their respective regions, due to geographic location their influences on politics, economy, and social relations differ. The root of the differences between the Mesopotamian cultures lies within the politics. The two cultures operated very differently as Mesopotamia was ruled regionally while Egypt used a more centralized government. Kings in the Mesopotamian region formed city states ruled by leaders of their armies while they just oversaw what was going on via these mediums.
On the other hand, Egyptian culture featured “god-kings” or pharaohs that controlled much larger expanses of land than Mesopotamian leaders did. Logically, it makes sense that this would occur because of the differences in influence for these two regions. For example, unification of Egypt was inspired by Sudan’s use of small kingdoms that governed the agriculture of the rulers. The Egyptians then faced competition which caused their small kingdoms to conquer neighboring kingdoms to the point where they controlled much larger territories.
The notion of kings and pharaohs leads into another difference.
Mesopotamian societies featured monarchies as they were led by kings while Egyptians had a theocracy as pharaohs were divine rulers. In Mesopotamia it is figured that their monarchs evolved from men making decisions on behalf of their whole community. Lastly, due to the Mesopotamians being centered on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; they were frequently invaded. This frequent invasion led to the Mesopotamians having a strong army to defend their land.
Conversely, Egyptians did not develop a very strong army because of their isolated location invasions were rare. These armies also influenced other aspects of culture as their cost greatly affected the economy of these cultures, which leads into yet another difference: economy. The economies of Mesopotamia and Egypt differed mainly because the economy of Mesopotamia was much more extensive yet less stable than that of Egypt. Though both civilizations were known for supporting large amounts of people, the economy of Mesopotamia was more modern due to implementation of taxes, trade, and influence.
The cost of the Mesopotamian army had to be covered by citizen’s paying taxes, and because of the minor Egyptian army, heavy taxes did not need to be implemented. Another difference in economy was the lack of extensive trade routes from Egypt. Trade was a major part of culture in Mesopotamia, and they even started water-based trade with Great Britain where copper, dyes, and other metals were exported. With Egypt, they used trade routes in a different way; due to their lack of natural resources much was imported.
For example, due to Egypt’s lack of trees almost all wood had to be imported. Also, Egyptians traded with Nubians mainly; they did not have these routes of transportation to trade with farther away lands. Finally, the most obvious difference is the effect that Mesopotamians are still influential today. For example, bronze metallurgy began in Mesopotamia and spread metallurgy to the rest of the world including Egypt. However, the influences of Egypt basically ended following the fall of their civilizations.
Finally, the social structure of the cultures reflects them in a more relatable way in the sense that it is more interesting to understand their daily life. Mesopotamian and Egyptian social structures are similar because of the fact that they have a structure which divides their cultures into classes. In both cultures, the bottom of the social ladder was reserved for peasants and slaves who did the dirty work and hard labor that led to agricultural surplus and then the modernization of these cultures.
In contrast, people in Egypt that were born commoners had more of an opportunity to attain high positions than those in Mesopotamian society where nobles were born into their rankings. In addition to social classes, both civilizations also formed a patriarchal society. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, men dominated public affairs as well as household decisions, and they always held positions of power. In both societies, women were able to influence men and even some positions of power such as high priestesses in Mesopotamia who managed states owned by the temples whereas in Egypt women could serve as regents and ultimately hold positions of real power.
For example, Hatshepsut was a female ruler who filled the role of pharaoh for her stepson as he was too young. Despite their new found power in Egypt, they still where mainly responsible for family and still seen as inferior to men. In the end, both cultures had their positives and negatives and it is hard to truly tell which was more successful or influential. It is important to compare ancient cultures in order to properly understand one’s own culture and how it developed.
Egypt and Mesopotamia are similar cultures, but due to their geographic locations and the difference in cultures that influenced them, they served significant purposes for the world. Their foundations like politics and economy are different which set them off to develop in different ways and to succeed in different things. However, socially the societies were similar which provides that on a local level these cultures were more similar on their day to day than the rulers and government would suggest. Despite their differences and similarities, both cultures played important roles in the flow of history.
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