Mesopotamia and Egypt
Throughout the history of the earth, man has evolved from nomadic hunters and gatherers into the civilized people we are today. Studying this progression, we come upon many fascinating places, things, and people. The most prominent developments, in my opinion, would be the developments of civilization. A civilization can be described as a high level of cultural, social, and political developments. The oldest two civilizations are Mesopotamia and Egypt, which developed along great river systems. These two civilizations both survived the test of time. Although the two civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt were established in river valleys, Egypt was more prosperous because of natural barriers that provided protection from invaders and the annual flooding of the Nile River gave them a stable sense of agriculture, where as Mesopotamia was subject to invasions and had unpredictable flooding which caused numerous challenges throughout its times.
Mesopotamia and Egypt were both located along the east. Mesopotamia is located in the Middle East and its landforms can be described as plains. Mesopotamia was called Sumer, which is now the present country of Iraq. Mesopotamia is located among the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which has became known to the Greeks as Mesopotamia, meaning “between two rivers”. Mesopotamia was characterized by turmoil and tension. The Mesopotamian climate was harsh and since the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flooded irregular, nature was not viewed as life enhancing but rather considered to be a threat. Mesopotamia was located on an open plain without protection from foreign intrusions; therefore they were continually on alert. Egypt, on the other hand, is located in the northeast corner of Africa and its landforms can be described as desert. Egypt is formed along the Nile River. The Greeks named it “the gift of the Nile River”. The Nile is the longest river in the world that stretches for 4,100 miles. Its last valley that extends 750 miles from the First Cataract to the Nile Delta was the heartland of Egyptian civilization. Egypt was centered on the dependable Nile. The rich and fertile soil of the Nile Valley provided agricultural wealth. Even though the river was known to flood yearly the Egyptians had no reason to fear it, it helped them predict nature and they begun to use this knowledge to the best of their ability.
Mesopotamia had city-states while Egypt was a centralized state. In Mesopotamia, priests ruled the cities, but the abuse of the priests led to the rise of kings. The king had many important jobs. He built temples, settled disputes between his people, and maintained the complicated system of canals that irrigated the farmlands. The most important job of the king was to lead his people to victory in war. Ur was not the only famous city in Sumeria. Babylon, located North-west of Ur on the Euphrates River, also rose in power. One of its greatest rulers was named Hammurabi. When Hammurabi took control, of Babylon in 1792 B.C. Hammurabi’s goal was to conquer all of Mesopotamia and unite the city-states into one country. He united all the city-states into Babylonia after the demise of Sumer. He spent the first thirty-one years of his reign building his military power and making allies. In 1761 B.C. (World History International). He began a military campaign to conquer the surrounding city-states and within five years he controlled all of Mesopotamia. Once he had brought peace to the region, Hammurabi turned his attention to law and order. He collected all existing codes of law and set down a detailed document known as the “Code of Hammurabi” written in 1750 B.C. The main message throughout the code was that the strong should not hurt the weak. However, an all-powerful pharaoh ruled the cities of Egypt and Egyptians did not even live in the cities; they lived on estates along the Nile River. Egyptian government was a theocracy. The government used the power of religion as a control in ruling the country. The pharaoh was the head of the state and also the divine representative of the gods. During the old kingdom, the pharaohs considered themselves to be living gods ruling with absolute power. By the middle kingdom, they were representatives of the gods on earth. To reinforce their images as the representatives of the gods they were often depicted as warriors who single-handedly defeated their enemies. The different pharaohs and the eras in which they ruled, are classified into dynasties. There are thirty-one dynasties in all. However, the thirty-first dynasty was not under the control of Egyptian rulers and for the rest of Egypt’s existence the country was ruled by other powers. Also, not all pharaohs were men. There were several female rulers the most famous of which is Queen Hatshepsut. Of course, pharaohs did not single-handedly rule Egypt. One of the earliest forms of bureaucracy was started in ancient Egypt. The pharaoh or king was the supreme head of state. Right below him was the vizier, who was the prime minister, head priest and the executive head of the bureaucracy. The vizier was also the supreme judge of the state and ruled on all petitions and grievances brought to the court. All royal commands were dispersed through the vizier before being given to the lower officials and administrators in his office. Then these lower officials dispatched these orders to governors in charge of specific areas of Egypt.
Mesopotamians and Egyptians both had calendars that they needed for their daily lives and farming. Their calendars were based on the stars, which are similar to our calendars today. The similarities of the two are that they both had seven day weeks and 12 months. They both were round, having a pointer pointing to whichever hieroglyph. On the circle is hieroglyphics: meaning different things. There are also differences between the two. The Egyptian calendar was more based upon the annual floods of the Nile River. The Mesopotamian calendar is based on a more accurate study of astrology by the Mesopotamians. The Nile River of Egypt was like the center point of astrological sciences studied by the Egyptians. Mesopotamia calendars had alternating months of 29 and 30 days. Sirius, the main star in the Egyptian belief system, was part in it too. They used Sirius as a guide to tell when the New Year is present. The first time Sirius was replaced by the new star, they declared that it the New Year. These are some of the many differences and similarities of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian calendars. Both the Mesopotamians and Egyptians were very creative and smart. I think that the calendar played a very big role in both these great civilizations. The knowledge acquired to perform these great achievements had to require a civilization that has very advanced.
The Mesopotamians and Egyptians societies were very similar in many ways, but still different at the same time. Mesopotamia and Egypt developed their culture and expanded their influence through a complex combination of connections and conflicts. Sometimes these civilizations conquered their neighbors, as in expansion of Egypt’s New Kingdom, imposing on the vanquished the culture of the victors (Judge and Langdon). These societies were themselves overrun, by warlike people who then went on to adopt and spread the cultures of those they had conquered. By the first millennium B.C.E., both Mesopotamia and Egypt had lost their independence and come under foreign rule. These misfortunes also enhanced their influence, which was dispersed far and wide by their successors and conquerors
1. Encyclopedia Briatannica. 2009. 13 November 2009 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/172631/dualism>.
2. Judge, Edward H. and John W. Langdon. Connections A World History. Upper Saddle River: Pesrson Education, 2009.
3. World History International. 11 November 2009 <http://www.history-world.org>.
 (Judge and Langdon)