Civilization is one of the basic units of historical time, which represents the countries and peoples of the self-sufficient community. The era of ancient civilizations lasted thousands of years and covered the period of formation of cities and states around the world. Many scholars of the Middle Ages used the term to contrast the civilized society with the primitive one. The emergence of the ancient civilizations is a complex and lengthy process. The most ancient civilizations on earth were the city-states of Mesopotamia and the civilization of Ancient Egypt. In fact, the nationsof Egypt and Mesopotamia had many similar features as well as a large number of differences. The goal of this essay is to analyze the differences and similarities of the two states.
The civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt had many different and at the same time, similar elements of development and existence. The first important difference concerns the state system and religion. Ancient Egyptians created a bureaucratic rule that reflected their social system, but Mesopotamia had a diverse social structure that led to a decentralized political system. Next important feature concerns the belief in life after death. In fact, Egyptians imagined the afterlife as something bright and beautiful and tried to “receive award of eternal life” (Kleiner 53). In contrast, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia imagined death as a terrible event. Thus, Egyptians expected afterlife throughout their whole lives while the population of Mesopotamia feared death. Moreover, they respected temples because these structures made “profound impressions on the people” (Kleiner 34). “The Sumerians and their successors in Mesopotamia worshiped numerous deities, mostly nature gods” (Kleiner 34). Mesopotamian inhabitants believed that religion consisted in the service of the gods and played an important role in the higher structures. In addition, ancient Egyptians and residents of Mesopotamia had different languages. Egyptians used the Old Egyptian language, and the inhabitants of Mesopotamia used the “Akkadian language” (Kleiner 44).
The forms of government of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were also similar. Pharaohs, priests, and officials were the heads of the state in Egypt. In fact, Mesopotamia had the same authority’s structure. However, Mesopotamia had kings instead of pharaohs. Kleiner concludes that “Sumerian rulers were god’s representatives on earth” (Kleiner 32). Moreover, the role of the priests was very different in the states. For example, the priests had not played any important political role in Egypt. On the contrary, “the rulers and priests in Mesopotamia directed all communal activities (Kleiner 32)”. Officials in Egypt were chosen from the most respected, authoritative, and brightest people in the country. In contrast, the post of the official in Mesopotamia was inherited. Moreover, the original source of rule in Egypt was its customs and pharaohs. In fact, the purpose of punishment in Egypt and Mesopotamia was frightening. However, the laws in Egypt were more organized and assembled.
Furthermore, both Egypt and Mesopotamia had influential rulers that greatly contributed to the development of these civilizations. Kleiner states that “rulers of Mesopotamia call themselves kings of the world” (Kleiner 53). Mesopotamian states owe much to King Hammurabi who introduced an effective domestic and foreign policy and became the first king of Babylon. “In the early 18th century BC, the Babylonian king Hammurabi formulated a set of nearly 300 laws for his people” (Kleiner 44). These laws were engraved on the large black basalt columns, and the text was divided into three parts. In fact, Mesopotamian law did not contain general principles of law and their presentation system as the Egyptian rules. Moreover, Hammurabi’s laws, unlike the Egyptian law codifications did not contain the religious and moralizing element. “Hammurabi’s laws governed all aspects of Babylonian life, from commerce and property to murder and theft to martial fidelity, inheritances, and the treatment of slaves” (Kleiner 44).
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Similarly, among the great pharaohs of Egypt, there was a remarkable political figure Amenhotep III, the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. The reign of Amenhotep III was one of the greatest periods of the prosperity of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Massive temple complexes, monuments of excellent sculptures, and various other works of art were considered as the cultural heritage for the entire world. In fact, many great sculptures and monuments were built in both of civilizations and became another similar feature, the wonders of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Egyptian pyramids on the territory of the ancient cemetery of Giza represented the great ancient culture. However, only three pyramids are preserved today. Similarly, the Hanging Gardens represented a Mesopotamian wonder; however, they did not survive. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were a four-level building with many beautiful rooms that were decorated with plants. The existence of these structures is an important similar feature of these ancient civilizations because the Seven Wonders of the World are considered the main cultural heritage of humanity.
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To conclude, the civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian states had both distinctive and analogous features. They had different religious beliefs and languages but at the same time, similar elements of the type of rule and cultural contributions. While Mesopotamian states had decentralized political system, Egypt preferred a bureaucratic state system. Moreover, the civilization of Mesopotamia believed only in life on earth, and Egyptians expected life after death. The power in Mesopotamia was only inherited while the Egyptian authorities were chosen from the most respected people. However, both nations of Egypt and Mesopotamia became the creators of world’s wonders: the Great Pyramids and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. In general, all these features have a huge impact on the structure of the whole society, which subsequently could not match their success.