Students of world history face a great deal of problem with the term ancient world partly because it traces its origin from western historical thought. The narrow perspective with which this term has been treated to has confined ancient history to the period from the rise of civilization in South West Asia and Egypt to the collapse of Roman Civilization (Andrea and Overfield, 2009).
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This research paper will make a comparison between ancient Societies in Mesopotamia and ancient societies in Africa like the Ancient Egypt. Much emphasis will be laid on politics, economy, and religion.
Comparison of Politics, Economy, and Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
Civilization in Egypt began by around 3000 B.C. when Egypt was enjoying the trade and civilization influence from Mesopotamia. However, civilization in Egypt was quite different from that in Mesopotamia. This was because Egypt had a tightly knit political organization and values. This has made Egypt to be better known than Mesopotamia despite the fact that Mesopotamia was richer in subsequent heritage than Egypt.
In Mesopotamia, civilization sprung from the River-Valley and spread throughout the entire Middle East where as in Egypt, the origin and decline of civilization focused on the River Nile and the surrounding deserts.
This improved the Egyptian culture since River Nile was regarded as a source of blessings rather than plight occasioned by raging floods. In fact, civilization in Egypt got inspired by the Sumerians where a distinctive pattern soon characterized the religious practices and the politics.
The Egyptians started farming by about 5000 B.C and this sped up the pace of economic development in this region such that by the year, 3200 BC, it was an established civilization. The rise in economic growth was because of the trade that Egypt was doing with other regions like Mesopotamia.
After regional kingdoms had been formed, the curtain came down on pre-civilization and large government units were established which never passed through the city-state phase despite the fact that Pharaoh Narmer had to conquer myriad petty locals kings around 3100 B.C. Compared to Mesopotamia, Egypt had fewer political upheavals because of the unity that arose from the course of the Nile River.
Egyptian politics was relatively authoritarian and centralized with respect to the politics of Mesopotamia. The Akkhadian Empire in the Mesopotamia was led by one Sargon who became its ruler in 2270 BC. The kingdom crumbled in 2083 BC due to invasion by the Gutians.
After this, there was the resurgence of the Sumerian Kingdom around 2050 BC. It lasted up to 2004 BC when Sumer fell to invasion by Elamites. The third dynasty of Ur lasted for 50 years. The first Babylonian Empire came to rule and only lasted for 300 years. The Assyrian Empire followed, then Chaldean dynasty, Hittites, Lydia and finally Phrygia (Trigger, 2003).
Mesopotamia had city states that were ruled by kings who allowed for the in put of the councils and other participatory institutions. When Narmer the king in 3100BC, He captured the northern kingdom and created a unified kingdom out of this and other conquests, this kingdom lasted three millennia (Trigger, 2003).
Despite the fact that there were some internal wrangles, this was a long period for a state to stay stable back in those days bearing that the greatest vitality of the civilization was exhausted by about 1000 B.C. In the period that Egypt was characterized with greatest vigor, three major periods of monarchy that were divided from its successor by a century or two of confusion were witnessed.
These were the old, intermediate, and the new kingdoms. The strength of the Pharaoh impacted the major phases of Egyptian civilization. Pharaoh was believed to have descended from the gods (Andrea and Overfield, 2009). The Pharaoh presided over almost all ceremonies in the ancient Egyptian civilization. In the latter years, Pharaoh himself became god.
Many Egyptians recognized the power wielded by the Pharaoh as evidenced in various forms of art. The King was a symbol of deep-seated bureaucracy. Under the Pharaoh were governors who received instructions from the king. They oversaw irrigation activities and sometimes chaired public gatherings in different regions. Irrigations and public works became so entrenched in almost every section of the kingdom.
On the other hand, Mesopotamian art had less enormous constructions that had a marked literal component. This was evident in Egyptian art. This was because Egypt had a large pool of labor and they could also import stones. Egyptian peasant farmers were regulated by their rulers and subjected to severe taxation.
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The state heavily depended on labor requisition to construct great pyramids and enormous public buildings because the Egyptians were not advanced technologically like the Mesopotamians who had developed pulleys. Earlier on, the Pharaohs conquered present day Khartoum and the Mediterranean Coast. Pyramids were built to commemorate different Pharaohs greatness.
In these great pyramids, kings and their retinues after death were to be housed. The nature of politics in Egypt has some link with fascination with orderly death. The rituals that were performed after the king had died can be attributed to extending organization in the afterlife. In fact, with politics death and life can be controlled.
In contrast, Mesopotamians did not make elaborate plans for the afterlife as practiced in Egypt. In Mesopotamia, life and human fortune was so precarious. These issues therefore became subject of various myths. The epic of Gilgamesh wraps every belief the Mesopotamians had regarding death and life. Gilgamesh is questioned regarding where he is heading to and assured that he would not find the life he is searching for.
He is told that when gods created man, he was allotted death. Gods however retained life to themselves. He is asked to fill his stomach day and night and night and day for this is the lot of man. Gilgamesh refuses to bow to any form of distraction and after a harrowing experience reaches Utnapishtim, the one who had been placed in eternal paradise and addresses him. Gilgamesh is told that the life he is living has no permanence.
At this point of conversation, our attention is brought to the impending judgment and existence of destinies. The judges and mothers of destinies decree the fate of men in after life. The date of death is never disclosed to man. Among the Mesopotamians, there is a belief in eternal life. Mesopotamians had the god of firmament called Anu, god of the warriors, Enlil their counselor, Ninurta their helper, and Ennugi the watcher over canals.
Another god Ea also existed. Mesopotamian religion was more complex than Neolithic religion. The Kings and priests interceded on behalf of the whole empire to the gods especially Marduk who guarded imperial enterprise. The gods were cosmic, universal and thus represented the universal power of the universe. Common people observed Neolithic fertility religions (Andrea and Overfield, 2009).
Mesopotamia and Egypt engaged in cross border trade regardless of the diverging economic tone. Mesopotamians were technologically superior to Egyptians because the environment they inhabited. Sumerians cast copper into molds to make tools and art objects that they probably traded with Egypt.
There existed social stratification in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Noble and the owners of land were on top while the peasants and the slaves made part of the lowest class. Powerful priestly group also existed. Specific achievements in science in Egypt and Mesopotamia were different. However, both Egypt and Mesopotamia emphasized Astronomy and related Mathematics (Jones, 2008).
The ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia had some features they shared in common in terms of politics, religion, and economy. However, there are aspects of their religion, politics, and economy that diverged. Politically, the existence of close-knit political systems that were somewhat authoritarian in Egypt contributed to the fewer cases of political upheavals.
Mesopotamians practiced Neolithic religion where locals prayed to gods to guarantee fertility of their farmlands. On a larger scale, kings in Mesopotamia interceded on behalf of their subjects to gods. In Egypt, Pharaohs were themselves believed to be gods.
Egyptians believed in afterlife hence the burial of kings with their property. In Mesopotamians believed in eternity. Egypt traded with Mesopotamia on many aspects because they never had any technological advancement and therefore depended on Mesopotamia for a variety of agricultural tools, various machines, and implements.
Andrea, A.J. and Overfield, J. (2009). The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Vol. 1. Boston: Wordsworth.
Jones, C.D. (2008). The origin of civilization: the case of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Ann Arbor: UMI.
Trigger, B.G. (2003). Understanding early civilizations: a comparative study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.