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Mesopotamia And Egypt Essay

1759 words - 8 pages

In contrast with Mesopotamia, a second civilization grew up in northeastern Africa along the Nile River. The Egyptian civilization, which formed by 3000 B.C., benefited from trade and technological influences from Mesopotamia. However, it produced a quite different society and culture. With its values and tightly knit political organization Egyptian civilization encouraged monumental building (Temples of Ancient Egypt, Introduction). With all the monuments we know more about Egypt than about Mesopotamia, even though the latter was in most respects more important and richer in subsequent heritage.

In Mesopotamian society they had the river-valley societies based around the Tigris and ...view middle of the document...

Other than agriculture was the specialization of trade. Both societies had people who had branched out from such things and moved to other professions. One of the biggest professions that were in both of these civilizations was metallurgy. Metallurgy helped advance weapons and tools for both of them back and us now.

Unlike Sumer, Egypt moved fairly directly from pre-civilization to large government units. They did this without passing through a city-state phase, though the first pharaoh, Narmer, had to conquer a number of petty local kings around 3100 B.C. (Ancient Encyclopedia, Egypt). Indeed Egypt always had fewer problems with political unity than Mesopotamia did, in part because of the unifying influence of the course of the Nile River. By the same token, however, Egyptian politics tended to be more authoritarian as well as centralized. As for city-states in the Mesopotamian style, though often ruled by kings, they also provided the opportunity for councils and other participatory institutions.

By 3100 B.C. Narmer, king of southern Egypt, conquered the northern regional kingdom and created a unified state six hundred miles long. This would help with keeping Egypt stable. Where in Mesopotamia keeping stable was a troublesome task to take on. However, this state in Egypt was to last three thousand years. Despite disruptions, this was an amazing record of stability even though the greatest vitality of the civilization was exhausted by about 1000 B.C. During the 2000-year span in which Egypt displayed its greatest vigor, the society went through three major periods of monarchy (the Old, the Intermediate, and the New Kingdoms), each divided from its successor.

Despite some initial inspiration, Egyptian culture separated itself from Mesopotamia in a number of ways beyond politics and monument building. The Egyptians did not take to the Sumerian cuneiform alphabet and developed a hieroglyphic alphabet instead. Hieroglyphics, though more pictorial than Sumerian cuneiform, were based on simplified pictures of objects abstracted to represent concepts or sounds. As in Mesopotamia the writing system was complex, and its use was, for the most part, monopolized by the powerful priestly caste (Mesopotamia, The Worlds Earliest Civilization pg. 21). Egyptians ultimately developed a new material to write on, papyrus, which was cheaper to manufacture and use than clay tablets or animal skins and allowed the proliferation of elaborate record keeping. On the other hand, Egypt did not generate an epic literary tradition.

Both of these societies had similarities and differences dealing with their social standings. Mesopotamia and Egypt were both based on a patriarchal society. However in Mesopotamia, women had a more prominent role. They could be educated as scribes, and there were even women who were advisors in government. There is one account of a woman as being pharaoh, this woman being Queen Hatshepsut, but ultimately I believe women had a...

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