Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian Civilization

8 August 2016

Many ancient civilizations developed as a result of the Neolithic Revolution, or the turning point in which the utilization of systematic agriculture created societies. Two civilizations, Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, both transformed into civilizations by changing from nomadic hunter-gatherers to agriculture and trade civilizations. Both civilizations were created as a result of the same revolution, but they still differ in numerous ways. Egypt and Mesopotamia had similarities and differences in religion, social and political structure, and geography.

These variations shaped the two civilizations into completely contrasting societies. The religion of Egypt greatly differs from that of Mesopotamia, yet it is also similar. First of all, the ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife and resurrection for all people, whereas the Mesopotamians believed in only a world of darkness after death. Both Mesopotamia and Egypt were polytheistic civilizations, meaning that they both believed in multiple gods or deities. Ancient Mesopotamian religion is associated with biblical mythology.

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Egypt and Mesopotamia had drawings and artwork to represent and worship their gods. They each believed in prayer as a form of interaction with their gods. Since Egyptians did believe in an afterlife, they performed a process known as mummification to preserve the bodies of the people who passed. The priests would remove organs, preserve the body, and bury them in tombs along with the items one would need in the afterlife. Not all Egyptians were mummified. Only the wealthy or important people were mummified in hopes that they had the afterlife they deserved.

The religions of these civilizations developed differently. Social and political structure of a civilization can vary depending on religion, economy, and the technology available to the people. Egyptian social structure resembles Mesopotamian social and political structure because they are both able to be thought of as a pyramid; the least important, poorer subjects are at the base of the pyramid, the commoners and average people are in the middle, and the kings, priests, or pharaoh belong at the top, except there was no middle class for Egypt. There was a Pharaoh and it’s subjects.

Egyptians had pharaohs, while Mesopotamia had Kings and priests. Egypt had priests, but they were not higher than the pharaoh. Priests were able to speak to the gods, teach, and go through with the process of mummification. Pharaohs were said to be very god-like and after their death, become a god. In Mesopotamia, the priests were the highest in means of communication with the gods. Kings were trusted to protect and better the kingdom or empire. Mesopotamia would raid “hill peoples” for potential slaves and Egypt would keep prisoners of war as slaves.

Slaves did not have rights, but in Mesopotamia they were still treated as a whole being, like the commoners and were the lowest possible class of the two civilizations. The Egyptians had a centralized government with a Pharaoh as the ruler, and its subjects serving them. The Pharaohs has one main servant that is in power to make small decisions in the case of the Pharaoh’s request. They are called vizers and somewhat resemble having the privileges that a prime minister would. In Mesopotamia, they have a king and either a city-state government or an aristocracy, meaning the wealthy individuals and families are more powerful that the commoners.

Peasants are able to own land in Mesopotamia, but they must provide a portion of their harvest of wheat or barley to pay a tax for their land. Egypt and Mesopotamia had similar form of empowerment, and their governments were also somewhat similar. The geography of Egypt and the geography of Mesopotamia directly affects the development of the two civilizations. Egypt is located in northern Africa and one river, the Nile, runs through it. The Nile river was a geographically asset to the Egyptians, with fertile silt and soil lining its banks. They called this black land, which they used for farming.

The Nile occasionally flooded, but it was predictable and the Egyptians learned to control the flooding to use it to their advantage. They created irrigation systems that utilized the floods. Egypt’s early civilizations did not expand very far from the Nile river because of what they called red soil. Red soil is the barren desert, which provided a natural blockade from other invasive armies. The desert did not have arable land and was of no real use to the Egyptians. They were relatively isolated due to the surrounding desert, but the desert did provide glass and precious metals for trade.

Mesopotamia was amongst two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Mesopotamia has a Greek making of “between the rivers”. The rivers were unpredictable when it came to flooding and we’re thought of as signs from god. When the Mesopotamians experienced a flood, they believed it was due to upsetting the gods. The rivers run through present-day Iraq and the Euphrates runs through a portion of Syria. The southern region of Mesopotamia was marshy wetland due to the flooding of the rivers, and the northern region of Mesopotamia was hills and plains.

Contact and communications without outside civilizations near Mesopotamia as important to them. The resources and geographic location of these areas allowed for their development and growth into civilizations. Mesopotamia and Egypt are civilizations that grew on completely different continents under diverse conditions. The Neolithic Revolution allowed for the change in lifestyles of Egypt and Mesopotamia. These conditions affected their beliefs and growth. The two are similar and different in their ideas and religion, structure, and geographic location.

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