An Overview of CivilizationEdited By: Robert GuisepiCIVILIZATION is a triumph of mind over matter, of reason over instinct, and of thedistinctly human over mankinds animal nature. These are what have made possiblecivilization, as well as culture, its constant and necessary companion. A thoroughunderstanding of what civilization and culture are requires a knowledge of all the qualitiesthat make up human nature and a full understanding of all historical developments. Sincethis is not possible, it is necessary to explain these terms by the use of definitions anddescriptions.Some Basic MeaningsBoth civilization and culture are fairly modern words, having come into prominent useduring the 19th century by anthropologists, historians, and literary figures. There has beena strong tendency to use them interchangeably as though they mean the same thing, butthey are not the same.Although modern in their usage, the two words are derived from ancient Latin. The wordcivilization is based on the Latin civis, "inhabitant of a city." Thus civilization, in its mostessential meaning, is the ability of people to live together harmoniously in cities, in socialgroupings. From this definition it would seem that certain insects, such as ants or bees,are also civilized. They live and work together in social groups. So do somemicroorganisms. But there is more to civilization, and that is what culture brings to it. So,civilization is inseparable from culture.The word culture is derived from the Latin verb colere, "to till the soil" (its past participle iscultus, associated with cultivate). But colere also has a wider range of meanings. It may,like civis, mean inhabiting a town or village. But most of its definitions suggest a processof starting and promoting growth and development. One may cultivate a garden; one mayalso cultivate ones interests, mind, and abilities. In its modern use the word culture refersto all the positive aspects and achievements of humanity that make mankind different fromthe rest of the animal world. Culture has grown out of creativity, a characteristic thatseems to be unique to human beings.One of the basic and best-known features of civilization and culture is the presence oftools. But more important than their simple existence is that the tools are always beingimproved and enlarged upon, a result of creativity. It took thousands of years to get fromthe first wheel to the latest, most advanced model of automobile.It is the concept of humans as toolmakers and improvers that differentiates them fromother animals. A monkey may use a stick to knock a banana from a tree, but that stick willnever, through a monkeys ingenuity, be modified into a pruning hook or a ladder.
Monkeys have never devised a spoken language, written a book, composed a melody,built a house, paved a road, or painted a portrait. To say that birds build nests and beaverstheir dens is to miss the point. People once lived in caves, but their ingenuity, imagination,and creativity led them to progress beyond caves to buildings.Civilization, then, is the "city" of human beings, at any given stage of development, with allof its achievements: its arts, technology, sciences, religions, and politics. The word citymay seem strange, but it is used advisedly because the emergence of a civilization and itscultural growth have always originated in specific localities--in specific cities, in fact. Tospeak in broader terms--of modern Western civilization, for instance--is to gloss over thefact that before such a concept was possible there were first the civilizations of Jerusalem,ancient Alexandria, Athens, Rome, and Constantinople. These in turn were followed by thecivilizations of Florence, Milan, Venice, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Geneva,Munich, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, andmany more. If there is a Western civilization, it is made up of ingredients from all of theseoriginal city civilizations.Economics and CivilizationAlthough not generally recognized, the role played by an economy in the formation ofculture is crucial. Every human being has the need of food, clothing, and shelter.Providing for these needs is the function of an economy because these needs are satisfiedthrough systems of production and distribution. Beyond needs most people also havewants--things they desire to make their lives more comfortable and pleasant. Throughouthuman history needs have remained the same: in the ancient world people needed food,clothing, and shelter--and they still do today. In fact, throughout most of history mostpeople have had to be satisfied with meeting their needs, and desires for something morewere unmet. Only the very wealthy and powerful were able to afford the extras--finerhomes, better food, good medical care, enjoyment of the arts, and expensive clothing andjewelry.In the 20th century this has changed for large numbers of the worlds population. To besure, there are still many people for whom the basic needs are difficult or even impossibleto attain--especially in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and parts of Asia. But in theindustrialized societies of North America, Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong,and Singapore the needs are mostly met. And advances in technology have made possibleproduction of a vast number of goods that can only qualify as wants. No one, to survive,actually needs a television set, an automobile, a stereo, a box of candy, or even a bar ofsoap. But, because the modern economic system--largely the result of the IndustrialRevolution--has made such goods available, few are willing to be without them. Thesystem has contributed enormously to the way modern civilization has developed.The development was not planned. It was random and accidental. When Henry Ford beganbuilding automobiles, he was not intending to shape American culture; but he and theother automakers did so nevertheless. Without the automobile the United States would bea far different country. The same can be said about the founders of fast-food chains. Theywere businessmen who took advantage of certain opportunities, but they transformedmuch of the worlds eating habits.Economic systems, with their networks of production and distribution, have become themost potent forces for progress and development in modern civilization. This is as true insocialist and Communist nations as it is in capitalist societies. Where there are noadvanced economic systems--as in much of Africa--civilization has tended to stagnate.Where the basic needs of populations cannot be met, people have slight, if any,opportunity to enjoy other facets of culture.
OriginsThe 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes asserted that the life of primitivemankind was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." From what is known of primitivetribes that have survived into the 20th century, his statement seems to be correct. At sometime before recorded history, however, people began to group themselves into settlementsand, by cooperative endeavor, to make better lives for themselves (see AncientCivilization).These first settlements, so far as archaeologists have discovered, were in the river valleysof ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. These ancient peoples developed toolsby a slow and tortuous process of trial and error. But with these tools came a true culture.The people devised implements with which to farm, dig irrigation ditches, constructhousing, and make everyday utensils. To aid them in their endeavors, they must haveachieved the use of the tool called language, first spoken and later written. They also hadto learn rudimentary mathematics: how to measure land and to count objects such asanimals and possessions.At some very early period, too, people developed the tools to engage in the decorative,musical, and literary arts. The decorative arts probably appeared first, even before anysignificant advances in technology. It is known, for instance, that the remarkable cavepaintings of southern France and northern Spain are perhaps as much as 30,000 years old.Literary arts--poetry and song--could only come along once spoken language had evolved.It seems likely that before people wrote to each other they expressed themselves bydrawings or pictograms such as the hieroglyphics used by the ancient Egyptians.Popular CultureMany people, when they use the word culture, mean a degree of refinement. They think ofthose who are cultured as having an appreciation for the arts--for good literature, painting,sculpture, and music. This is not a mistaken use of the word, but it is a restricteddefinition. If culture and civilization are, for all practical purposes, inseparable, they signifythe totality of a societys achievements.Civilization, therefore, should be viewed as including all human activity and expressionwithin a given society. In the United States, for example, the economic system, politicalinstitutions, educational systems, religious bodies, legal systems, televisionprogramming, motion pictures, sports, popular literature, rock music, shopping malls, thepopularity of the automobile, the presence of a large middle class, the variety of ethnicbackgrounds, and many other factors all must be taken together as constituting present-day American civilization.The transfer of 20th-century culture is not a one-way street. Other societies have animpact on the way life is lived in the United States. An obvious influence is on eatinghabits. The large number of Italian, Chinese, French, Greek, and Japanese restaurantssuggests that Americans are extremely fond of ethnic foods. Another example is foreignautomobiles. Since World War II, many Americans have come to prefer driving cars madein Germany, Japan, England, Italy, and Sweden instead of those produced by Detroitautomakers. Part of this preference has to do with the prestige of owning an expensiveimported car, though much of it is a desire for better-made automobiles.Sports offer another instance of cross-cultural influence. Skiing, which originated inNorway, is extremely popular with many Americans and has come to support a major
tourist industry in Colorado, Vermont, Utah, and other states. Soccer, or associationfootball, long the most popular spectator sport in the world, has also finally caught on inthe United States to the extent that there is a professional soccer league and the game isplayed in high schools and colleges. Baseball, meanwhile, has gone the other way--fromthe United States to Japan, the West Indies, and much of Latin America.Unity and DiversityRegional differences in the United States developed long before the country was tiedtogether by mass communications and rapid transportation. They have persisted, thoughin a modified way, into the late 20th century. Regional dialects of English persist,especially in the Northeast and in the South. People live somewhat differently in southernCalifornia from the way they live in New York or the Midwest. But these differences do notrepresent different civilizations. They are, rather, all parts of the totality of Americancivilization. People in the United States, wherever they live, tend to share certain valuesand attitudes that are not quite the same as those found in Italy, Germany, China, Russia,or even such close neighbors as Canada and Mexico.The same point can be made about other countries. In France, for example, there aredefinite differences that distinguish Paris from Provence in the south or Normandy in thenorthwest. Yet, in spite of the differences, there is no doubt that there is a Frenchcivilization that is quite distinct from that found across the Rhine River in Germany--andmarkedly different from the civilizations of Egypt or India.There are attitudes to work, religion, politics, recreation, economics, and other mattersthat set countries apart from each other in addition to differences in values and attitudesthat may prevail within a society. Even these differences are components of a countryscivilization.Progress and ChangeThe words progress and change are often used interchangeably, but they are not alike. Allprogress represents change, but not all change is progress. A poor man may become rich;through misfortune he may become poor again. His circumstances have changed twice,but he has seen no progress. Real progress is the result of technology, a move forwardthat is not reversed. No army fights a war with bows and arrows when gunpowder, rifles,and artillery are available. Students no longer use slide rules with pocket calculators soinexpensive and easy to obtain.Technological advancements that bring progress are the result of human ingenuity. Butthere are aspects of human creativity that do not foster progress, though they mayinaugurate change--permanent or temporary. Among these are the arts, politics, andreligion. A political system, for instance, may change from an absolute monarchy to ademocracy; but it can also change back again.This difference between progress and change can be demonstrated by a visit to amuseum. At the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., for instance, onecan trace the technological development of flight from the earliest airplanes to spaceprobes. Conversely, one can visit a museum of Roman antiquities in Cologne, Germany,and view ancient jewelry that was beautifully crafted by goldsmiths and silversmiths longdead. The work of those ancient craftsmen is in no way inferior to that of moderncraftsmen, though styles and materials have changed.
Progress in technology moves steadily forward; once a discovery is made, it need not bemade again. But in other areas of human endeavor there is always the possibility ofmaking a change and then undoing it. Or there may be no real change at all--just acontinuation of human creativity as in literature, music, painting, and the other arts.Theories of CivilizationMost modern theories of civilization and culture place great emphasis on progress. But inthe ancient world philosophers examined the events of history and compared them withthe processes of nature. In so doing they concluded that civilizations went in cycles.Aristotle noted in his Rhetoric that "In most respects, the future will be like what the pasthas been." The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius stated in his Meditations that"Constantly consider how all things such as they now are, in time past also were." Thiscyclic view was typical of the ancient world with a striking exception: St. Augustine ofHippo, one of the greatest of Christian theologians, was the first to enunciate a progresstheory but one quite different from modern ones. His notion of progress was nottechnological. Rather it was the idea of a journey, from the city of mankind to the end ofhistory and on to the city of God.With only the exception of French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who regardedcivilization as a decadence from the state of natural man, most modern theories of culturehave emphasized progress. Here again the emphasis was not necessarily technological.The 18th-century Enlightenment focused upon mankind as comprised of rational beingswho could control their own destiny and remake the world on their way to perfection. Inthe 19th century, especially after the publication of biologist Charles Darwins works onevolution, there was the theme of natural and inevitable progress through the means ofnatural selection. The great socialist writer Karl Marx worked out a theory of progress thatcalled for revolution growing out of class conflict.In the 20th century a reaction took place against evolutionary theories in the writings oftwo noted authors: Oswald Spengler, author of Decline of the West (2 vols., 1918, 1922),and Arnold Toynbee, author of the 12-volume Study of History, published between 1934and 1961. Both of these men rejected ideas of permanent progress in favor of cyclictheories. Spengler regarded civilizations as organisms that are born, mature, and decay. Itwas his belief that modern Western civilization had reached the stage of irreversible decayand would soon be replaced by another civilization. For Toynbee cultures arose throughmankinds response to the challenges offered by the environment, declining throughexhaustion because of decreasing ability to meet challenges. One of the more interestingviews of culture was put forward by the American archaeologist Henri Frankfort. Heargued that all comprehensive theories are probably futile because the forces thatmotivated the development of civilizations may never be known.
The Causes Of Civilization, The Middle East By 4000 B.C. As you have seen, one reason that civilization first appeared in theMiddle East was because agriculture had taken hold in this region. Over manycenturies agriculture became more common and productive in the Middle East; itbegan to create the conditions for further innovations - includingcivilization. But the first civilization also required an additional set ofstimuli, the new inventions and organizations that had taken shape around 4000B.C. Much time elapsed between the development of agriculture and the rise ofcivilization in the Middle East and many other places. The successfulagricultural communities that formed were based primarily on very localizedproduction, which normally sustained a population despite recurrent disasterscaused by bad weather or harvest problems. Localized agriculture did notconsistently yield the kind of surplus that would allow specializations amongthe population, and therefore it could not generate civtlization. Even the formation of small regional centers, such as Jericho or CatalHuyuk, did not assure a rapid pace of change. Their economic range remainedlocalized, with little trade or specialization. Most families who inhabitedthem produced for their own needs and nothing more. It was important that moreand more regions in the Middle East were pulled into the orbit of agricultureas the Neolithic revolution gained ground. By 4000 B.C. large nomadic groupsstill flourished only at the southern end of the region in the deserts of theArabian peninsula. Even the knowledge of agriculture spread slowly, so thegradual conversion of virtually the whole Middle East and some surroundingareas was no small achievement. But the shape of agricultural communitiesthemselves in 4000 B.C. differed little from that of pioneering agriculturalcenters 4000 years before. Based on the expansion of agriculture in the Middle East, a detachedobserver who lived a little before 4000 B.C. might have predicted the gradualspread or independent development of agriculture in many parts of the world.Portions of India, northern Africa, central Asia, and southern Europe werealready drawn in (though other nearby regions, such as Italy, remained immunefor another millennium and a half). A separate Neolithic revolution wasbeginning to take shape in Central America. All this was vital, but it did notassure the civilizational revolution within key agricultural regionsthemselves.Dynamic Implications Of Agriculture Several factors flowed together to create the unexpected development ofcivilization. While the establishment of agriculture did not guarantee furtherchange, it did ultimately contribute to change by encouraging new forms ofsocial organization. Settled agriculture, as opposed to slash-and-burnvarieties, usually implied some forms of property so that land could beidentified as belonging to a family, a village, or a landlord. Only withproperty was there incentive to introduce improvements, such as wells orirrigation measures, that could be monopolized by those who created them orleft to their heirs. But property meant the need for new kinds of laws andenforcement mechanisms, which in turn implied more extensive government. Hereagriculture could create some possibilities for trade and could spurinnovation - new kinds of regulations and some government figures who could
enforce them. Farming encouraged the formation of larger and more stable communitiesthan had existed before Neolithic times. Most hunting peoples moved in smallgroups containing no more than 60 individuals who could not settle in a singlespot lest the game run out. With settled agriculture the constraints changed.Communities developed around the cleared and improved fields. In many earlyagricultural areas including the Middle East, a key incentive to stability wasthe need for irrigation systems. Irrigated agriculture depended onarrangements that would allow farmers to cooperate in building and maintainingirrigation ditches and sluices. The needs of irrigation, plus protection frommarauders, help explain why most early agricultural peoples settled in villagecommunities, rather than isolated farms. Villages that grouped several hundredpeople constituted the characteristic pattern of residence in almost allagricultural societies from Neolithic days to our own times. Some big riversencouraged elaborate irrigation projects that could channel water in virtuallyassured quantities to vast stretches of land. To create larger irrigationprojects along major rivers such as Tigris-Euphrates or the Nile, large gangsof laborers had to be assembled. Further, regulations had to assure that usersalong the river and in the villages near the rivers source would have equalaccess to the water supply. This implied an increase in the scale of politicaland economic organization. A key link between the advantages of irrigation andthe gradual emergence of civilization was that irrigated land producedsurpluses with greater certainty and required new kinds of organization. It is no accident that the earliest civilizations arose along largerivers and amid irrigation projects. Civilization in Mesopotamia and thenEgypt involved not only the central fact of economic surplus but also theability to integrate tens, even hundreds of square miles along rivers.Regional coordination, based first on irrigation needs, could easily lead toother contacts: shared cultures, including artistic styles and religiousbeliefs; economic contacts, including trade; and common politicalinstitutions.Further Innovations: New Tools And Specializations In The 4th Millennium The first civilization also required the technological developments whoseimpact coalesced around 4000 B.C. These developments addressed problems facedby agricultural peoples who were encouraged by opportunities available inindividual villages to share ideas and encourage inventive colleagues. Most ofthe inventions thus occurred in regions where agriculture was best developed,which for a long time meant the Middle East. At the same time, the newinventions enhanced the productivity of Middle Eastern agriculture, creatingthe consistent surpluses that would ultimately shape civilization itself. Theresult was a recurrent series of technological changes. The first potterswheel was invented by about 6000 B.C. It encouraged faster and higher-qualityceramic pottery production, which facilitated food storage and improved thereliability of food supplies. Pottery production promoted the emergence of agroup of specialized manufacturing workers who made pots to exchange for foodproduced by others. Better tools allowed improvements in other products made out of wood orstone. Obsidian, a hard stone, began to be used for tools in the lateNeolithic centuries. The wheel was another Middle-Eastern innovation. Wheeledvehicles long remained slow but they were vital to many monumentalconstruction projects where large blocks of stone were moved to the
construction sites of temples. Ship building also gradually improved.Developments of this sort, enhancing production and possibilities for trade,set the framework for the outright emergence of civilization with the rise ofSumerian society along the Tigris-Euphrates. A key technological change, which occurred slightly after the emergenceof the first civilization, was the introduction of metal for use in tools andweapons. By about 3000 B.C., copper began to be mixed with tin to make bronze;this development occurred around the Black Sea and in the Middle East. Use ofmetal allowed manufacture of a greater variety of tools than could be made ofstone or bone, and the tools were lighter and more quickly made. The MiddleEast was the first region to move from the Neolithic (stone tool) Age to theBronze Age. Other parts of the eastern Mediterranean soon made the transition.Metal hoes, plows, and other implements proved extremely useful toagricultural societies and also to herding peoples in central Asia. Again newtechnology promoted further specialization as groups of artisans concentratedon metal production, exchanging their wares for food. Widespread use of bronzealso encouraged greater trade, because tin, in particular, was hard to find;by 2000 B.C. trade had become a motivation for extensive development of searoutes.Civilization: Drawbacks And LimitsThe Rise Of Civilization In The Middle East And Africa Because civilizations are by definition well organized compared to thesocieties that preceded them, it is not surprising that almost all history isabout what has happened to civilized societies. We know most about suchsocieties, and we are likely to be particularly impressed by their great artor powerful rulers. It is also true that civilizations tended to be far morepopulous than noncivilized societies. Because civilizations depend on sometrade, they allow greater specialization that increases productivity andsustenance of larger populations. Their political structure allows wholeregions or even a number of regions to be unified. But the history ofcivilization does not embrace everybody. In the days of the river-valleycivilizations, even long after Sumer, most inhabited parts of the world werenot in the civilization orbit. There is inevitable confusion between defining a society as acivilization and assuming that civilization produces a monopoly on highervalues and controlled behavior. In the first place, civilization brings lossesas well as gains. As the Middle East moved toward civilization, distinctionsbased on social class and wealth increased. This was clearly the case inSumer, where social structure ranged from slaves, who were treated asproperty, to powerful kings and priests. Civilizations typically have firmerclass or caste divisions and greater separations between ruler and ruled than"simpler" societies. Civilizations also often create greater inequalitybetween men and women than non civilized societies do. Many earlycivilizations, including those of the Middle East, went to considerable painsto organize the inferiority of women on a more structured basis than everbefore, treating women as the property of fathers or husbands. Finally, asSigmund Freud noted, civilizations impose a host of restraints on people inorder to keep them organized in a complex social unit. Such restraints cancreate a great deal of personal tension and even mental illness."Civilization," then, should not be taken as a synonym for "a `good or`progressive society."
Furthermore, people in non civilized societies may be exceptionally wellregulated and possessed of interesting, important culture. They are not"merely" barbarians or uncouth wild men. Some societies that were most eagerto repress anger and aggression in human dealings, such as several Eskimogroups, were not part of a civilization until recently. In contrast, manycivilized societies produce a great deal of aggressive behavior and buildwarlike qualities into their list of virtues. While some noncivilizedsocieties treat old people cruelly, others display respect and veneration. Acivilized society does not invariably enhance the human capacity forrestrained, polite behavior or an interest in the higher values of life.Civilizations do not even clearly promote greater human happiness. The development of civilization continued the process of enhancing humancapacity for technological and political organization, and the production ofincreasingly elaborate and diverse artistic and intellectual forms. In thisquite restricted sense, the term has meaning and legitimately commands theattention of most historians. Because of the power and splendor civilizationscould provide, they did tend to spread as other societies came under theirinfluence or deliberately tried to imitate their achievements. Earlycivilizations, however, spread slowly because many peoples had no contact withthem and because their disadvantages, such as greater social inequality, mightbe repellent. Thus the initial advent of civilization, while an importanthistorical milestone, came in clearly circumscribed regions like theTigris-Euphrates valley. The history of early civilization focuses attentionon the generation of the first forms of civilized activity - writing and cityadministration - and on the construction of linkages in medium-sizedgeographical units.The Course Of Mesopotamian Civilization: A Series Of Conquests The general characteristics of civilization, from economic surplus towriting, cities, and social inequality, are vital, but must be combined withthe specific qualities of particular civilizations such as those ofMesopotamia, where writing was of a certain style; social organization wasdistinctive, for example, in the power of priests; and overall culture hadsome special qualities. A key ingredient of Mesopotamian civilization was frequent instability asone ruling people gave way to another invading force. The Sumerians,themselves invaders of the fertile river valleys, did not set up asufficiently strong and united political force to withstand pressures fromoutside, particularly when other peoples of the Middle East began to copy keyachievements, such as the formation of cities.Later Mesopotamian Empires Shortly after 2400 B.C. a king from a non-Sumerian city, Akkad, conqueredthe Sumerian city-states and inaugurated an Akkadian Empire. This empire soonsent troops as far as Egypt and Ethiopia. The initial Akkadian ruler, SargonI, the first clearly identified individual in world history, set up a unifiedempire integrating the city-states into a whole, and added to Sumerian art anew style marked by the theme of royal victory. Professional militaryorganization expanded since Sargon maintained a force of 5400 troops.Extensive tax revenues were needed to support his operations. The Akkadianswere the first people to use writing for more than commercial and templerecords, producing a number of literary works. The Akkadian empire, however,
lasted only about 200 years, and then it was overthrown by another invadingforce. Sumerian regional states reappeared, in what turned out to be the finalphase of this particular civilization. It was then that the Epic of Gilgameshwas written. By this time, around 2000 B.C., kingdoms were springing up invarious parts of the Middle East, while new invading groups, including Indo-European tribes that came from the Balkans in southeastern Europe, added tothe regions confusion. A civilization derived from Sumerian culture spreadmore widely in the Middle East, though political unity was rarely achieved inthe expanded setting. Another new empire arose around 1800 B.C., for the first time unifyingthe whole of Mesopotamia. This Babylonian Empire was headed by Hammurabi, oneof the great rulers of early civilized history. Hammurabi set up an extensivenetwork of officials and judges, while maintaining a separate priesthood. Healso codified the laws of the region, to deal with a number of criminal,property, and family issues. Large cities testified to the wealth and power ofthis new empire. At the same time, Sumerian cultural traditions weremaintained and elaborated. The famous Hammurabic code thus was built onearlier codifications by Sumerian kings. A Babylonian poem testified to the continued sobriety of the dominantculture: "I look about me and see only evil. My troubles grow and I cannotfind justice. I have prayed to the gods and sacrificed, but who can understandthe gods in heaven? Who knows what they plan for us? Who has ever been able tounderstand a gods conduct?" Finally, Babylonian scientists extended the Sumerian work in astronomyand mathematics. Scholars were able to predict lunar eclipses and trace thepaths of some of the planets. Babylonians also worked out mathematical tablesand an algebraic geometry of great practical utility. The modern 60-minutehour and 360-degree circle are heritages of the Babylonian system ofmeasurement. The study of astronogy is another Babylonian legacy. Indeed, of all the successors of the Sumerians, the Babyloniansconstructed the most elaborate culture, though their rule was not long-lived.The Babylonians expanded commerce and a common cultural zone, both based ongrowing use of cuneiform writing and a shared language. During the empireitself, new government strength showed both in the extensive legal system andin the opulent public buildings and royal palaces. The hanging gardens of oneking dazzled visitors from the entire region. The Babylonian empire fell by about 1600 B.C. An invading Hittite people,pressing in from central Asia, adapted the Sumerian cuneiform script to theirown Indo-European language and set up an empire of their own. The Hittitessoon yielded, and a series of smaller kingdoms disputed the region for severalcenturies, between about 1200 and 900 B.C. This period allowed a number ofregional cultures, such as the Hebrew and the Phoenician, to develop greaterautonomy, thus adding to the diversity and the achievements of the MiddleEast. Then, after about 900 B.C., another series of empires began in theMiddle East, including the Assyrian Empire and later the Persian Empire basedon invasions of new groups from central Asia. These new invaders had masteredthe production of iron weapons and also used horses and chariots in fighting,sketching a new framework for the development of empires and a new chapter inthe history of the Middle East and of civilization more generally.
The End Of The Early Civilization PeriodThe Rise Of Civilization In The Middle East And AfricaDate: 1992 The proliferation of spin-off civilizations brought important innovationswithin the framework set by the achievements of the great progenitors inMesopotamia and Egypt. The simplified alphabet, the major cultural shiftdescribed by the first great monotheistic system, and a number of quitepractical improvements - the introduction by another Mediterranean coastalpeoples, the Lydians, of coined money - considerably advanced the level ofcivilization itself. The spread of civilization into Kush and into someEuropean portions of the Mediterranean, fed by deliberate expansion andgrowing trade, also set the basis for the development of major civilizationcenters beyond the original core. By 1000 B.C. the civilization zone initiallyestablished by separate developments in Mesopotamia and Egypt had fanned outwidely, sketching the basis for later societies in the Middle East, Africa,and parts of Europe. No sharp line divides the long early phase of the development ofcivilization in the Middle East and North Africa from the next, classicalperiod; there was no total overturning by invasion, as would characterize thefirst civilization in India. Developments such as the spread of the Kushitekingdom, the survival of the Egyptian kingdom, or the elaboration of theJewish religion continued well into the final centuries B.C. Successiveempires in the Middle East would revive or preserve many features of theMesopotamian pattern. Around 1000 B.C., and for several centuries thereafter, there was asomewhat pervasive pause in the development of civilizations in this generalregion. The pause did not disrupt the Phoenician or Kushite expansion on thefringes, nor did it shatter all civilized forms. But Mesopotamia did undergoan unusual several-century span in which regional city-states and considerableinternal warfare brought political chaos. Egyptian politics were alsodeteriorating. Early civilizations in Greece were overwhelmed (almost ascompletely as their counterpart in India) by waves of invasions byIndo-Europeans from eastern Europe. These invasions for a time reducedpolitics to essentially tribal levels and virtually destroyed culturalactivities that depended on writing or elaborate workmanship. The waves of Indo-European invasion form the clearest breaking point.These invaders were hunters and herders initially from central Asia, whopressed into western Asia and Europe in successive waves. The Hittites were anIndo-European people capable of assimilating Mesopotamian values to the extent
of setting up a major empire. They also pushed back the Egyptian sphere ofinfluence, launching the decline of the New Kingdom and also freeing up thesoutheastern Mediterranean corner for the rise of smaller states such as theJewish kingdom. But by 1200 B.C. the Hittites were swept away by anotherinvading force of Indo-Europeans (the same group that interrupted civilizationin Greece). The Indo-Europeans, beginning with the Hittites, introduced iron usewhich gave rise to more powerful weaponry and the possibility ofgeographically more extensive empires based on military power. The first groupto exploit this new weaponry were the Assyrians, who began a pattern ofconquest from their base along the Tigris River. By 665 B.C. they hadconquered the whole of the civilized Middle East down to the Persian Gulf aswell as Egypt. This was a cruel people, eager to terrorize their enemies. TheAssyrians used iron, a strong and widely available metal, to arm more men morecheaply than societies relying on bronze were able to do. Their empire wasunprecedentedly large and also unusually systematic as they collected tribute,assimilated diverse cultural achievements, and even moved whole peoples (asthey did the Jews) in order to maintain control. The Assyrian state was notlong lived. By 612 B.C. it fell to a combination of pressures from invadingfrontier tribes and internal revolt. A number of smaller successor kingdomsfollowed, until another great eastern empire, the Persian, arose in 539 B.C. The key points are these: The characteristic boundaries of the earlycivilizations that had lasted so long amid a relatively slow pace of changewere beginning to yield. Invading peoples brought new ideas. TheIndo-Europeans, for example, ignored the Mesopotamian or Egyptian beliefsabout the divine attributes of kings. Rather, kings were selected by councilsformed by nobles and the army. Also, where Indo-European culture took deeproot, as in Greece, political patterns would begin to diverge from those setin the earlier civilizations of the region. Geographical boundaries wereshifting too. Egypt faded as a major independent actor, while the Middle Eastwas open to new empires with greater unifying potential than ever before; andnew centers of vitality were beginning to be sketched in Africa and along theEuropean coast of the Mediterranean. The stage was beginning to be shaped for the emergence of a new set ofcivilizations, such as in Persia and Greece, that would build on earlierprecedents in many ways but advance new cultural and political forms. Based onthe new military technology brought by iron and on steady improvements inshipping, these new civilizations would reach out to wider regions than theearly civilizations had usually managed. More extensive civilization zones andnew cultural and political principles, though both prepared by developments inthe early civilization period, would define the era of classical civilizationsin the Middle East and Mediterranean that began to emerge by about 800 B.C.with the recovery of civilization in Greece and, soon, the rise of the greatPersian empire
The Rise Of Civilization In The Middle East And AfricaEdited By: Robert GuisepiDate: 1998Introduction The first full civilization emerged by 3500 B.C. in the Tigris-Euphratesvalley in the Middle East. Relatively soon thereafter civilization developedalong the Nile in Egypt, and later spread to other parts of the Middle Eastand one region in Africa. The advent of civilization provided a framework formost of the developments in world history. Additionally, the specific earlycivilizations that arose in the Middle East and Africa had several distinctivefeatures, in political structure and cultural tone, for example. Thesefeatures secured the evolution of these societies until the partial eclipse ofthe river-valley civilizations after about 1000 B.C. The early civilizationsin the Middle East and North Africa served as generators of a number ofseparate and durable civilization traditions, which can still be found incivilizations around the Mediterranean, in parts of Europe, and even acrossthe Atlantic. Both of these early civilizations formed around major rivers - the Tigrisand Euphrates in Mesopotamia and the Nile in northeastern Africa. Explaininghow civilizations emerged in the Middle East and then Africa requires areminder of the conditions that contributed to change after 4000 B.C. and amore precise definition of civilization. Once that is done, we can turn to thecharacteristics of Mesopotamian civilization, from its origins around 3500B.C. until it experienced an important period of disunity around 1000 B.C.Next comes Egypt, the worlds second civilization in time, which again can betraced until about 1000 B.C. The two early civilizations had very differentcultures and political structures reflecting their very separate origins. By1000 B.C. both of these two early civilizations produced offshoots in easternAfrica, southern Europe, and additional centers in the Middle East. Thesesmaller centers of civilization made important contributions of their own, forexample, the monotheistic religion created among the Jewish people inPalestine.Early Civilization In Mesopotamia Even the technological innovations that shaped the context for the riseof civilization took many centuries to win full impact. Soon after 4000 B.C.however, conditions were ripe for a final set of changes that constituted thearrival of civilization. These changes were based on the use of economicsurplus and the growing needs of a coordinated regional network of villages.
The Sumerians The scene for the first civilization was the northeastern section of whatwe today call the Middle East, along the great rivers that led to the PersianGulf. The agents were a newly-arrived people called the Sumerians. The first civilization developed in a part of the Middle East slightlysouth of the hilly country in which the first agricultural villages hademerged several thousand years earlier. Between the northern hills and thedeserts of the Arabian peninsula, running from the eastern Mediterranean coastto the fall plain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, lies a large swath ofarable land called the Fertile Crescent. The rivers rise in the spring,depositing immensely fertile soil. Rainfall was scant in the region, so aspopulation pressure increased, farming communities began to find ways to tameand use the rivers through irrigation ditches. Construction of the ditchesrequired improved tools that were not available much before 4000 B.C., andfrom that point onward developments in the region were swift. Irrigation plusthe fertility of the Tigris-Euphrates region generated substantial foodsurpluses promoting population growth and village expansion, as well asincreasing trade and specialization. The region was vulnerable in one respect:It was so flat that it was open to frequent invasion. By 3500 B.C. farmers in Mesopotamia, as the Tigris-Euphrates region isalso called, were benefiting not only from rich agriculture, but also fromflourishing pottery and obsidian tool production. The wheel had beenintroduced, and community coordination was steadily improving to support theirrigation network. The final boost toward establishing civilization was provided by theSumerians, a people who had migrated into the area from the north around 4000B.C. They settled in an area of about 700 square miles where they mixed withother local races in a pattern of cultural mingling that has remainedcharacteristic of the region. Sumerian culture early developed importantreligious values with centers of pilgrimage and worship. Well before 3000 B.C.many of these centers were provided with elaborately decorated temples, builtwith mud brick. Sumerians were impressed with the power of grim gods whoultimately controlled human destiny.Sumerian Culture And Politics Into this rich economy and culture writing - the most important inventionbetween the advent of agriculture and the age of the steam engine - wasintroduced around 3500 B.C. The Sumerian invention of writing was probablyrather sudden, based on new needs for commercial, property, and politicalrecords including a celebration of the deeds of proud local kings. Writing was
preceded by the invention of clay cylinder seals, on which little pictures ofobjects could be recorded. The earliest Sumerian writing simply evolved fromthese pictures baked on clay tablets, which were turned into symbols andgradually transformed into phonetic elements. The early Sumerian alphabet -set of symbols representing sounds - may have had as many as 2000 symbolsderived from the early pictures. Before long writers began to use moreabstract symbols to represent sounds which allowed Sumerians and theirsuccessors to reduce the alphabet to about 300 symbols. Sumerian writers useda wedge-shaped stick to impress the symbols on clay tablets. The resultingwriting is called cuneiform, meaning "wedge shaped," and it was used forseveral thousand years in the Middle East for many different languages.Cuneiform writing was difficult to learn, so specialized scribes monopolizedmost of it, but the Sumerians in fact believed that every object in natureshould have a separate name to assure its place in the universe; knowing thename gave a person some power over the object. Writing, in other words,quickly took on essentially religious purposes, allowing people to impose anabstract order over nature and the social world. Sumerian civilization lasted intact until about 2000 B.C. Its politicalorganization was based on tightly organized city-states, where theagricultural hinterland was ruled by an urban-based king who claimed greatauthority. In some cases local councils advised the king. One of the functionsof Sumerian states was to define boundaries, unlike the less formalterritories of precivilized villages in the region. The government helpedregulate religion and enforce its duties. It also provided a system of courtsfor justice. Kings were originally war leaders whose leadership of a trainedarmy in defense and war remained vital in Sumerian politics where fightingloomed large. Kings, the noble class, and the priesthood controlledconsiderable land. Slaves, conquered in wars with nearby tribes, were used towork this land. Sumerian political and social organization set up traditions that wouldlong endure in this region. City-state government established a tradition ofregional rule, that would often be overlaid by larger empires but wouldfrequently return as the principal organizational form. The reliance on slaveswas maintained in the economy of many successor civilizations. Use of slavesalong with the lack of natural barriers to invasion help explain recurrentwarfare, for war was often needed to supply labor. At the same time, slaveryin the Middle Eastern tradition was a variable condition, and many slaves wereable to earn their own keep and even buy their freedom. The Sumerians, aided by regional political stability and the use ofwriting, added to their regions economic prosperity. Agriculture gained asfarmers learned how to cultivate date trees, onions, and garlic. Oxen wereused to pull plows, donkeys to carry goods. Wheeled carts helped transportgoods as well. The Sumerians introduced the use of fertilizer and adopted
silver as a means of exchange for buying and selling. Major cities expanded -one city reached a population of over 70,000 - with substantial housing unitsin rows of flat-roofed, mud-brick shops and apartments. More commonly, citiescontained as many as 10,000 people. The Sumerians improved the potters wheel,which expanded the production of pottery. Because of the skill level andcommercial importance involved, men began to take the trade away from women.The Sumerians also invented glass. Trade expanded to the lower Persian Gulfand to the western portion of the Middle East along the Mediterranean. By 2000B.C. the Sumerians had trading contacts with India. The Sumerians also steadily elaborated their culture, again using writingto advance earlier forms. By about 2000 B.C. they managed to write down theworlds oldest story, the Gilgamesh epic, which went back at least to the 7thmillennium B.C. in oral form. Gilgamesh, a real person who had ruled acity-state, became the first hero in world literature. The epic describes agreat flood that obliterated humankind except for a favored family whosurvived by building an ark and producing descendants who formed a new race ofpeople. The overall tone of the epic and of Sumerian culture (perhapsreflecting the frequently disastrous floods of the region) was somber.Gilgamesh does great deeds but constantly bumps up against the iron laws ofthe gods, ensuring human failure as the gods triumph in the end. Along with early literature, Sumerian art developed steadily. Statues andpainted frescoes adorned the temples of the gods, and statues of the godsdecorated individual homes. Sumerian science aided a complex agriculturalsociety, as people sought to learn more about the movement of the sun andstars - thus founding the science of astronomy - and to improve theirmathematical knowledge. The Sumerians employed a system of numbers based onunits of 12, 60, and 360, which we still use in calculations involving circlesand hours. They also introduced specific systems, such as charts of majorconstellations, that have been used for 5000 years in the Middle East andthrough later imitation in India and Europe. In other words, Sumerians andtheir successors in Mesopotamia created patterns of observation and abstractthought about nature on which a number of later societies, including our own,still rely. Religion played a vital role in Sumerian culture and politics. Gods wereassociated with various forces of nature. At the same time gods were seen ashaving a human form and many of humanitys more disagreeable characteristics.Thus the gods often quarreled and used their power in selfish and childishways - which made for interesting stories but also created a fear that thegods might make life difficult and hard to control. The gloomy cast ofSumerian religious ideas also included an afterlife of suffering - an originalversion of the concept of hell. Because gods were believed to regulate naturalforces such as flooding in a region where nature was often harsh andunpredictable, they were more feared than loved. Priests played a central role
because of their responsibility for placating the gods through proper prayers,sacrifices, and magic. Priests became full-time specialists, running thetemples and also performing the astronomical calculations necessary to run theirrigation systems. Each city had a patron god, and erected impressive shrinesto please and honor this god and other deities. Massive towers, calledziggurats, formed the monumental architecture for this civilization. Prayersand offerings to prevent floods as well as to protect good health were a vitalpart of Sumerian life. Sumerian ideas about the divine force behind and withinnatural objects - in rivers, trees, and mountains - were common amongagricultural peoples. A religion of this sort is known as animism. Morespecifically, Sumerian religious notions, notably their ideas about thecreation of the earth by the gods from a chaos of water and about divinepunishment of humans through floods, continue to have force in Jewish,Christian, and Muslim cultures, all of which were born much later in theMiddle East. Sumerian activities in trade and war spread beyond the regional limits ofthe civilization in the Middle East. The adoption of portions of the Gilgameshtale in later literature such as the Jewish Bible developed well to the westof Sumer. Even after Sumer itself collapsed, the Sumerian language was stillused in religious schools and temples, showing the power of this early cultureand its decidedly religious emphasis.What Civilization Meant The emergence of the worlds first civilization in Sumer brought tofruition the key features of this form of organization. Sumerian societycertainly met the basic criterion of civilization in that it built on fairlyregular economic surpluses. Sumerian farmers produced enough that they couldbe taxed in order to support a small but crucial number of priests andgovernment officials. They produced enough to allow some trade andspecialization, thus encouraging groups of artisans and merchants who did notfarm. The Sumerian economy also stretched out along the great irrigationsystems of the Tigris-Euphrates. One of the tasks of regional government wasto elaborate and maintain these systems: regional coordination was thus avital feature. The advent of civilization in Sumer also involved additional innovationsbuilding on the key features of surplus and coordination: the creation ofcities beyond the scope of individual centers, such as Jericho, where at leastseveral thousand people lived and considerable specialization developed; andthe invention of writing. While these innovations were not found in allcivilizations, they were vital in Sumer and other early centers such as Egyptand the Indus River.
The Importance Of Cities In Middle-Eastern agricultural civilization (all civilizations werefundamentally agricultural until about 200 years ago), most people did notlive in cities. The cities that existed were crucial, however, because theyamassed wealth and power; allowed relatively easy exchange of ideas,encouraging intellectual and artistic changes; and promoted furtherspecialization in manufacture and trade. Early Middle-Eastern cities radiatedconsiderable influence and power into surrounding countrysides. Cities alsorelied on broader attributes of civilization, the most notable beingrelatively extensive trade and political organization. Cities could not befounded until the Middle East produced a significant agricultural surplusabove what farmer families needed to live on and had groups - merchants - toorganize trade that brought food to the city and carried urban-made goods tothe countryside and other cities. Cities could not be founded until there wasa sufficiently solid political organization - a government, with somerecognized legitimacy, and some full-time officials - that could run essentialurban services, such as a court system for disputes, and help regulate therelationship between cities and the countryside. Saying that early Middle-Eastern civilizations were based on cities,then, even when most people remained in the countryside as agriculturalproducers, is partly saying that civirizations had generated more elaboratetrade and political structures than initial agricultural societies hadmanaged. This helps explain, also, why civilizations generally covered afairly wide area, breaking out of the localism that described the economicsand political activities of the initial agricultural communities.The Importance Of Writing The second key ingredient that emerged in the Middle East after 4000 B.C.was the invention of writing. Some historians and anthropologists urge againstfocusing too much on the development of writing, because concentrating only onthis aspect, albeit important, can leave out some civilizations, such as thecivilization of the Incas in the Andes region of South America, that producedsignificant political forms without this intellectual tool. We now appreciatethe sophistication societies can attain without writing, and rate the divisionof early human activities between hunting and gathering and agriculture asmore fundamental than the invention of writing. Writing was a genuinely important development even so. Societies withwriting can organize more elaborate records including the lists essential foreffective taxation. Writing is a precondition for most formal bureaucracieswhich depend on standardized communication and the ability to maintain somedocumentation. Societies with writing can also organize a more elaborateintellectual life because of their ability to record data and build on past,
written wisdom. For example, it is no accident that with writing many earlycivilizations began to generate more formal scientific knowledge. Societiesbefore the development of writing typically depended on poetic sagas to conveytheir value systems, with the poetry designed to aid in memorization. Withwriting, the importance of sagas such as Gilgamesh might at first havecontinued but usually the diversity of cultural expressions soon increasedwith other kinds of literature supplementing the long, rhymed epics. Someexperts argue that the very fact of becoming literate changes the way peoplethink - encouraging a greater sense that the world can be understood byorganized human inquiry as opposed to a belief in whimsical magical spirits.Writing, in other words, can produce more abstract religious thinking and alsosecular thinking that seeks to describe nature and human affairs innonreligious terms. Writing, like the existence of cities, certainly helps explain howcivilizations could develop more extensive trading and political systems thanthose of most earlier agricultural societies. As a basis for even smallbureaucracies - and as a basis of record-keeping for merchant dealings beyondpurely personal contacts - writing played a considerable role in extending thegeographical range of key civilizations and in developing new forms ofeconomic and political organization. It is vital to recognize, however, thatthe advent of writing in the early history of civilizations also created newdivisions within the population, for only a small minority of people - mainlypriests, scribes, and a few merchants - had time to master writing skills.Kush And The Eastern Mediterranean Toward the end of the early civilization period, a number of partiallyseparate civilization centers sprang up on the fringes of the civilized worldin Africa and the Middle East, extending also into parts of southern Europe.These centers built heavily on the achievements of the great early centers.They resulted from the expansion efforts of these centers, as in the Egyptianpush southward during the New Kingdom period and from new organizationalproblems within the chief centers themselves; in the Middle East, separatesocieties emerged during the chaotic centuries following the collapse of theHittite empire.Kush And Axum: Civilization Spreads In Africa The kingdom of Kush sprang up along the upper (southern) reaches of theNile. Kush was the first African state other than Egypt of which there isrecord. This was a state on the frontiers of Egyptian activity, where Egyptiangarrisons had been stationed from time to time. By 1000 B.C. it emerged as anindependent political unit, though strongly influenced by Egyptian forms. By730 B.C., as Egypt declined, Kush was strong enough to conquer its northernneighbor and rule it for several centuries, though this conquest was soon
ended by Assyrian invasion from the Middle East. After this point the Kushitesbegan to push their frontiers farther south, gaining a more diverse Africanpopulation and weakening the Egyptian influence. It was at this point that thenew capital was established at Meroe. Kushites became skilled in iron use andhad access to substantial African ore and fuel. The use of iron tools extendedthe area that could be brought into agriculture. Kush formed a key center ofmetal technology in the ancient world, as a basis of both military andeconomic strength. Kushites developed a form of writing derived from Egyptian hieroglyphics(and which has not yet been fully deciphered). They established a number ofsignificant cities. Their political organization, also derived from Egypt,emphasized a strong monarchy with elaborate ceremonies based on the beliefthat the king was a god. Kushite economic influence extended widely insub-Saharan Africa. Extensive trade was conducted with people to the west, andthis trade may have brought knowledge of iron making to much of the rest ofAfrica. The greatest period of the kingdom at Meroe, where activities centeredfrom the early 6th century onward, lasted from about 250 B.C. to A.D. 50. Bythis time the kingdom served as a channel for African goods - animal skins,ebony and ivory, gold and slaves - into the commerce of the Middle East andthe Mediterranean. Many monuments were built during these centuries, includinghuge royal pyramids and an elaborate palace in Meroe. Much fine pottery andjewelry were produced. Meroe began to decline from about A.D. 100 onward andwas defeated by a kingdom to the south, Axum, around A.D. 300. Prosperity andextensive political and economic activity did not end in this region, butextended into the formation of a kingdom in present-day Ethiopia. The outreach of Kush is not entirely clear beyond its trading network setup with neighboring regions. Whether African peoples outside the Upper Nileregion learned much from Kush about political forms is unknown. Certainlythere was little imitation of its writing, and the region of Kush and Ethiopiawould long remain somewhat isolated from the wider stream of African history.Nevertheless, the formation of a separate society stretching below the easternSahara was an important step in setting the bases for technological andeconomic change throughout much of upper Africa. Though its achievements flowless fully into later African development, Kush holds for Africa what Sumerachieved for the Middle East - it set a wider process of civilization inmotion.The Mediterranean Region Smaller centers in the Middle East began to spring up after about 1500B.C. Though dependent on the larger Mesopotamian culture for many features,these centers added important new ingredients and in some cases also extendedthe hold of civilization westward to the Asian coast of the Mediterranean. The
smaller cultures also added to the diversity of the Middle East, creating avaried array of identities that would continue to mark the region even underthe impetus of later empires, such as Rome, or the sweeping religion of Islam.Several of these smaller cultures proved immensely durable and would influenceother parts of the world as well.The Jews The most important of the smaller Middle Eastern groups were the Jews,who gave the world one of its most influential religions. The Jews were aSemitic people (a population group that also includes the Arabs). They wereinfluenced by Babylonian civilization but also marked by a period ofenslavement in Egypt. They settled in the southeast corner of theMediterranean around 1600 B.C., probably migrating from Mesopotamia. Somemoved into Egypt where they were treated as a subject people. In the 13thcentury B.C., Moses led these Jews to Palestine, in search of a homelandpromised by the Jewish God, Yahweh. This was later held to be the centraldevelopment in Jewish history. The Jews began at this point to emerge as apeople with a self-conscious culture and some political identity. At mostpoints, however, the Jewish state was small and relatively weak, retainingindependence only while other parts of the Middle East were disorganized. Afew Jewish kings were able to unify their people, but at many points the Jewswere divided into separate regional states. Most of Palestine came underforeign (initially Assyrian) domination from 722 B.C. onward, but the Jewswere able to maintain their cultural identity and key religious traditions.Monotheism The distinctive achievement of the Jews was the development of a strongmonotheistic religion. Early Jewish leaders probably emphasized a particularlystrong, creator god as the most powerful of many divinities - a hierarchy notuncommon in animism - but this encouraged a focus on the father God for prayerand loyalty. By the time of Moses, Jews were urged increasingly to abandonworship of all other gods and to receive from Yahweh the Torah (a holy Law),the keeping of which would assure divine protection and guidance. From thispoint onward Jews regarded themselves as a chosen people under Gods specialguidance. As Jewish politics deteriorated due to increasing foreign pressure,prophets sprang up to call Jews back to faithful observance of Gods laws. Bythe 9th century B.C. some religious ideas and the history of the Jews began tobe written down in what would become the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament ofthe Christian Bible). Besides the emphasis on a single God, Jewish religion had two importantfeatures. First was the idea of an overall divine plan. God guided Jewishhistory, and when disasters came they constituted punishment for failures tolive up to divine laws. Second was the concept of a divinely organized
morality. The Jewish God demanded not empty sacrifices or selfish prayers, butrighteous behavior. God, though severe, was ultimately merciful and would helpthe Jews to regain morality. This system was not only monotheistic but alsointensely ethical; God was actively concerned with the doings of people and soenjoined good behavior. By the 2d century B.C., these concepts were clearlyspelled out in the Torah and the other writings that were formed into the OldTestament of the Bible. By their emphasis on a written religion the Jews wereable to retain their identity under foreign rule and even under outrightdispersion from their Mediterranean homeland. The impact of Jewish religion beyond the Jewish people was complex. TheJews saw Gods guidance in all of human history, and not simply their own.Ultimately all peoples would be led to God. But Gods special pact was withthe Jews, and there was little premium placed on missionary activity orconverting others to the faith. This limitation helps explain the intensityand durability of the Jewish faith; it also kept the Jewish people a minoritywithin the Middle East though at various points substantial conversions toJudaism did spread the religion somewhat more widely. Jewish monotheism,though a landmark in world religious history, is noteworthy for sustaining adistinctive Jewish culture to our own day, not for immediately altering awider religious map. Yet the elaboration of monotheism had a wide significance. In Jewishhands the concept of God became less humanlike, more abstract - a basic changenot only in religion but in overall outlook. Yahweh had a power and a planningquality far different from the attributes of the traditional gods of theMiddle East or Egypt. The gods, particularly in Mesopotamia, were whimsicaland capricious; Yahweh was orderly and just, and individuals could know whatto expect if they adhered to Gods rules. The link to ethical conduct andmoral behavior was also central. Religion for the Jews was a system of life,not merely a set of rituals and ceremonies. The full impact of this religioustransformation on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean civilization would comeonly later, when Jewish ideas were taken up by the proselytizing faiths ofChristianity and Islam. But the basic concept formed one of the legacies ofthe twilight period from the first great civilizations to the new culturesthat would soon arise in their place.The Minoans The Jews were not alone among the distinct societies popping up in theeastern Mediterranean. Around 1600 B.C. a civilized society developed on theisland of Crete. This Minoan society traded widely with both Mesopotamia andEgypt, and probably acquired many of its civilized characteristics from thisexchange. Minoan society, for example, copied Egyptian architectural forms andmathematics, though it developed important new artistic styles in the colossalpalace built in the capital city, Knossos. The alphabet, too, was adapted from
Egypt. Political structures similar to those of Egypt or the Mesopotamianempires emphasized elaborate bureaucratic con- trols, complete with massiverecord keeping, under a powerful monarch. Minoan navies at various pointsconquered parts of the mainland of Greece, eventually leading to theestablishment of the first civilization there. Centered particularly in thekingdom of Mycenae, this early Greek civilization developed considerablecapacity for monumental building, and also conducted important wars withcity-states in the Middle East, including the famous conflict with Troy. Civilizations in Crete and in Greece were overturned by a wave ofIndo-European invasions, culminating around 1000 B.C., that temporarilyreduced the capacities of these societies to maintain elaborate art orwriting, or extensive political or economic organizations. While thecivilization that would arise later, to form classical Greece, had somewhatseparate origins, it would build extensively on the memories of this firstcivilized society and on its roots in Egyptian and Mesopotamian achievements.The Phoenicians Another distinct society grew up in the Middle East itself, in what isnow the nation of Lebanon. Around 2000 B.C. a people called the Phoenicianssettled on the Mediterranean coast. Like the Minoans, they quickly turned toseafaring because their agricultural hinterland was not extensive. ThePhoenicians used their elaborate trading contacts to gain knowledge from themajor civilization centers, and then in several key cases improved upon whatthey learned. Around 1300 B.C. they devised a much simplified alphabet basedon the Mesopotamian cuneiform. The Phoenician alphabet had only 22 letters,and so was learned relatively easily. It served as ancestor to the Greek andLatin lettering systems. The Phoenicians also upgraded the Egyptian numberingsystem. The Phoenicians were, however, a merchant people, not vested in extensivecultural achievements. They advanced manufacturing techniques in severalareas, particularly the production of dyes for cloth. Above all, forcommercial purposes, they dispersed and set up colonies at a number of pointsalong the Mediterranean. They benefited from the growing weakness of Egypt andthe earlier collapse of Minoan society and its Greek successor, for there werefew competitors for influence in the Mediterranean by 1000 B.C. Phoeniciansailors moved steadily westward, setting up a major trading city on the coastof North Africa at Carthage, and lesser centers in Italy, Spain, and southernFrance. The Phoenicians even traded along the Atlantic coast of Europe,reaching Britain where they sought a supply of tin. Ultimately Phoeniciacollapsed in the wake of the Assyrian invasions of the Middle East, thoughseveral of the colonial cities long survived.
Egypt and Mesopotamia ComparedThe Origins Of CivilizationsEdited By: Robert GuisepiAncient Egypt Besides Mesopotamia, a second civilization grew up in northeastern Africa, along theNileRiver. Egyptian civilization, formed by 3000 B.C., benefited from trade andtechnological influence from Mesopotamia, but it produced a quite differentsociety and culture. Because its values and its tightly knit politicalorganization encouraged monumental building, we know more about Egypt thanabout Mesopotamia, even though the latter was in most respects more importantand richer in subsequent heritage.Basic Patterns Of Egyptian Society Unlike Mesopotamia and the Middle East, where an original river-valleybasis to civilization ultimately gave way to the spread of civilizationthroughout an entire region, Egyptian civilization from its origins to itsdecline was focused on the Nile River and the deserts around it. The Nilefocus also gave a more optimistic cast to Egyptian culture, for it could beseen as a source of never- failing bounty to be thankfully received, ratherthan a menacing cause of floods. Egyptian civilization may at the outset havereceived some inspiration from Sumer, but a distinctive pattern soon developedin both religion and politics. Farming had been developed along the Nile by about 5000 B.C., but sometime before 3200 B.C. economic development accelerated, in part because ofgrowing trade wi,h other regions including Mesopotamia. This economicacceleration provided the basis for the formation of regional kingdoms. UnlikeSumer, Egypt moved fairly directly from precivilization to large governmentunits, 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. IndeedEgypt always had fewer problems with political unity than Mesopotamia did, inpart because of the unifying influence of the course of the Nile River. By thesame token, however, Egyptian politics tended to be more authoritarian as wellas centralized, for city-states in the Mesopotamian style, though often ruledby kings, also provided the opportunity for councils and other participatoryinstitutions. By 3100 B.C. Narmer, king of southern Egypt, conquered the northernregional kingdom and created a unified state 600 miles long. This state was tolast 3000 years. Despite some important disruptions, this was an amazingrecord of stability even though the greatest vitality of the civilization wasexhausted by about 1000 B.C. During the 2000-year span in which Egypt
displayed its greatest vigor, the society went through three major periods ofmonarchy (the Old, the Intermediate, and the New Kingdoms), each divided fromits successor by a century or two of confusion. In all its phases, Egyptian civilization was characterized by thestrength of the pharaoh. The pharaoh was held to be descended from gods, withthe power to assure prosperity and control the rituals that assured the flowof the Nile and the fertility derived from irrigation. Soon, the pharaoh wasregarded as a god. Much Egyptian art was devoted to demonstrating the powerand sanctity of the king. From the kings authority also flowed an extensivebureaucracy, recruited from the landed nobles but specially trained in writingand law. Governors were appointed for key regions and were responsible forsupervising irrigation and arranging for the great public works that became ahallmark of Egyptian culture. Most Egyptians were peasant farmers, closelyregulated and heavily taxed. Labor requisition by the states allowedconstruction of the great pyramids and other huge public buildings. Thesemonuments were triumphs of human coordination, for the Egyptians were notparticularly advanced technologically. They even lacked pulleys or otherdevices to hoist the huge slabs of stone that formed the pyramids. Given the importance of royal rule and the belief that pharaohs weregods, it is not surprising that each of the main periods of Egyptian historywas marked by some striking kings. Early in each dynastic period leadingpharaohs conquered new territories, sometimes pressing up the Nile River intopresent-day Sudan, once even moving up the Mediterranean coast of the MiddleEast. One pharaoh, Akhenaton, late in Egyptian history, tried to use his powerto install a new, one-god religion, replacing the Egyptian pantheon. Manypharaohs commemorated their greatness by building huge pyramids to housethemselves and their retinues after death, commanding work crews of up to100,000 men to haul and lift the stone. The first great pyramid was builtaround 2600 B.C.; the largest pyramid followed about a century later, taking20 years to complete and containing 2 million blocks of stone, each weighing 51/2 tons. Some scholars have seen even larger links between Egypts stable,centralized politics and its fascination with an orderly death, includingmassive funeral monuments and preservation through mummification. Deathrituals suggested a concern with extending organization to the afterlife,based on a belief that, through politics, death as well as life could becarefully controlled. A similar connection between strong political structuresand careful funeral arrangements developed in Chinese civilization, thoughwith quite different specific religious beliefs.Ideas And Art Despite some initial inspiration, Egyptian culture separated itself fromMesopotamia in a number of ways beyond politics and monument building. TheEgyptians did not take to the Sumerian cuneiform alphabet and developed ahieroglyphic alphabet instead. Hieroglyphics, though more pictorial thanSumerian cuneiform, were based on simplified pictures of objects abstracted torepresent concepts or sounds. As in Mesopotamia the writing system wascomplex, and its use was, for the most part, monopolized by the powerfulpriestly caste. Egyptians ultimately developed a new material to write on,papyrus, which was cheaper to manufacture and use than clay tablets or animalskins and allowed the proliferation of elaborate record keeping. On the otherhand, Egypt did not generate an epic literary tradition.
Egyptian science focused on mathematics and astronomy, but itsachievements were far less advanced than those of Mesopotamia. The Egyptianswere, however, the first people to establish the length of the solar year,which they divided into 12 months each with three weeks of ten days. The weekwas the only division of time not based on any natural cycles. The achievementof this calendar suggests Egyptian concern about predicting the flooding ofthe Nile and their abilities in astronomical observation. The Egyptians alsomade important advances in medicine, including knowledge of the workings of avariety of medicinal drugs and some contraceptive devices. Elements ofEgyptian medical knowledge were gained by the Greeks, and so passed into laterMiddle Eastern and European civilizations. The pillar of Egyptian culture was not science, however, but religion,which was firmly established as the basis of a whole world view. The religionpromoted the worship of many gods. It mixed magical ceremonies and beliefswith worship, in a fashion common to early religions almost everywhere. A moredistinctive focus involved the concern with death and preparation for life inanother world, where in contrast to the Mesopotamians the Egyptians held thata happy, changeless well-being could be achieved. The care shown in preparingtombs and mummifying bodies, along with elaborate funeral rituals particularlyfor the rulers and bureaucrats, was designed to assure a satisfactoryafterlife, though Egyptians also believed that favorable judgment by a keygod, Osiris, was essential as well. Other Egyptian deities included a creationgoddess, similar to other Middle Eastern religious figures later adapted intoChristian worship of the Virgin Mary; and a host of gods represented bypartial animal figures. Egyptian art focused heavily on the gods, thoughearthly, human scenes were portrayed as well in a characteristic, stylizedform that lasted without great change for many centuries. Stability was a hallmark of Egyptian culture. Given the duration ofEgyptian civilization, there were surprisingly few basic changes in styles andbeliefs. Egyptian emphasis on stability was reflected in their view of achangeless afterlife, suggesting a conscious attempt to argue that persistencewas a virtue. Change did, however, occur in some key areas. Egypt was longfairly isolated, which helped preserve continuity. The invasions of Egypt byPalestine toward the end of the Old Kingdom period (about 2200 B.C.) weredistinct exceptions to Egypts usual self-containment. They were followed byattacks from the Middle East by tribes of Asian origin, which brought a periodof division and chaos, including rival royal dynasties. But the unifiedmonarchy was reestablished during the Middle Kingdom period, during whichEgyptian settlements spread southward into what is now the Sudan, settingorigins for the later African kingdom of Kush. Then followed another period of social unrest and invasion, ending in thefinal great kingdom period, the New Kingdom, around 1570 B.C. During thisperiod trade and other contacts with the Middle East and the easternMediterranean, including the island of Crete, gained ground. These contactsspread certain Egyptian influences, notably in monumental architecture, toother areas. It was during the New Kingdom that Egyptians first installedformal slavery, subjecting people such as the Jews. It was also in this periodthat the pharaoh Akhenaton tried to impose a new monotheistic religion,reflecting some foreign influence, but his effort was renounced by hissuccessor Tutankhamen, who restored the old capital city and built a lavishtomb to celebrate the return to the traditional gods. After about 1150 B.C.,new waves of invasion and internal conspiracies and disorganization, including
strikes and social protest, brought fairly steady decline. It was around thisperiod that one people, the Hebrews, followed their leader Moses out of Egyptand into the deserts of Palestine.Egypt And Mesopotamia Compared The development of two great early civilizations in the Middle East andNorth Africa encourages a first effort at comparative analysis. Because ofdifferent geography, different degrees of exposure to outside invasion andinfluence, and different prior beliefs, Egypt and Mesopotamia were in contrastto one another in many ways. Egypt emphasized strong central authority, whileMesopotamian politics shifted more frequently over a substructure of regionalcity-states. Mesopotamian art focused on less monumental structures, whileembracing a pronounced literary element that Egyptian art lacked. These cultural differences can be explained partly by geography:Mesopotamians lacked access to the great stones that Egyptians could importfor their monuments. The differences also owed something to differentpolitics, for Egyptian ability to organize masses of laborers followed fromits centralized government structures and strong bureaucracy. The differencesowed something, finally, to different beliefs, for the Mesopotamians lackedthe Egyptian concern for preparations for the afterlife, which so motivatedthe great tombs and pyramids that have made Egypt and some of the pharaohslive on in human memory. Both societies traded extensively, but there was a difference in economictone. Mesopotamia was more productive of technological improvements, becausetheir environment was more difficult to manage than the Nile valley. Tradecontacts were more extensive, and the Mesopotamians gave attention to amerchant class and commercial law. Social differences were less obvious because it is difficult to obtaininformation on daily life for early civilizations. It is probable, though,that the status of women was greater in Egypt than in Mesopotamia (wherewomens position seems to have deteriorated after Sumer). Egyptians paid greatrespect to women at least in the upper classes, in part because marriagealliances were vital to the preservation and stability of the monarchy. Also,Egyptian religion included more pronounced deference to goddesses as sourcesof creativity. Comparisons in politics, culture, economics, and society suggestcivilizations that varied substantially because of largely separate originsand environments. The distinction in overall tone was striking, with Egyptbeing more stable and cheerful than Mesopotamia not only in beliefs about godsand the afterlife but in the colorful and lively pictures the Egyptiansemphasized in their decorative art. Also striking was the distinction ininternal history, with Egyptian civilization far less marked by disruptionthan its Mesopotamian counterpart. Comparison must also note important similarities, some of themcharacteristic of early civilizations. Both Egypt and Mesopotamia emphasizedsocial stratification, with a noble, landowning class on top and masses of
peasants and slaves at the bottom. A powerful priestly group also figured inthe elite. While specific achievements in science differed, there was a commonemphasis on astronomy and related mathematics, which produced durable findingsabout units of time and measurement. Both Mesopotamia and Egypt changed onlyslowly by the standards of more modern societies. Details of change have notbeen preserved, but it is true that having developed successful political andeconomic systems there was a strong tendency toward conservation. Change, whenit came, was usually brought by outside forces - natural disasters orinvasions. Both civilizations demonstrated extraordinary durability in thebasics. Egyptian civilization and a fundamental Mesopotamian culture lastedfar longer than the civilizations that came later, in part because of relativeisolation within each respective region and because of the deliberate effortto maintain what had been achieved, rather than experiment widely. Both civilizations, finally, left an important heritage in their regionand adjacent territories. A number of smaller civilization centers werelaunched under the impetus of Mesopotamia and Egypt, and some would produceimportant innovations of their own by about 1000 B.C. Paleolithic EgyptIn the Paleolithic Era, the Sahara and the Nile River valleys were far different then weknow it today. The Sahara did not consist of sand but rolling grass lands that sprang forthwith abundant vegetation and food. This period of ample vegetation and rainfall lasteduntil about 30,000 BC. Then the climate began to dry up and the rolling grass landsstarted to recede and the food supply began to vanish. The people then made their trek tothe Nile Valley with its readily available water, game, and arable land. The periodmarked the change from hunting and gathering to the time of farming. Additionally, thisperiod is believed to have been much more temperate and rainy than the Nile Valley oftoday.The earliest evidence for humans in Egypt dates from around 500,000 - 700,000 yearsago. These hominid finds are those of Homo erectus. Early Paleolithic sites are mostoften found near now dried-up springs or lakes or in areas where materials to make stonetools are plentiful.One of these sites is Arkin 8, discovered by Polish archaeologist Waldemar Chmielewskinear Wadi Halfa. These are some of the oldest buildings in the world ever found. Theremains of the structures are oval depressions about 30 cm deep and 2 x 1 meters across. Many are lined with flat sandstone slabs. They are called tent rings, because the rockssupport a dome-like shelter of skins or brush. This type of dwelling provides a permanentplace to live, but if necessary, can be taken down easily and moved. It is a type of
structure favored by nomadic tribes making the transition from hunter-gatherer to semi-permanent settlement all over the world.By the Middle Paleolithic, Homo erectus had been replaced by Homo neanderthalensis. Itwas about this time that more efficient stone tools were being made by making severalstone tools from one core, resulting in numerous thin, sharp flakes that required minimalreshaping to make what was desired. The standardization of stone toolmaking led to thedevelopment of several new tools. They developed the lancelet spear point, a betterpiercing point which easily fit into a wooden shaft.The next advancement in tool making came during the Aterian Industry which datesaround 40,000 BC. The Aterian Industry improved spear and projectile points by addinga notch on the bottom of the stone point, so it could be more securely fastened to thewooden shaft. The other breakthrough in this period is the invention of the spear-thrower,which allowed for more striking power and better accuracy. The spear-thrower consistedof a wooden shaft with a notch on one end where the spear rested. The development ofthe spear-thrower allowed for increased efficiency in hunting large animals. They hunteda wide variety of animals such as the white rhinoceros, camel, gazelles, warthogs,ostriches, and various types of antelopes.The Khormusan Industry, which overlapped the Aterian Industry, started some timebetween 40,000 and 30,000 BC. The Khormusan Industry pushed advancement evenfarther by making tools from animal bones and ground hematite, but they also used awide variety of stone tools. The main feature that marks the Khormusan Industry is theirsmall arrow heads that resemble those of Native Americans. The use of bows by theAterian and Khormusan industries is still questioned; to date there is no set proof thatthey used bow technology.During the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic around 30,000 BC, the pluvial conditionsended and desertification overtook the Sahara region. People were forced to migratecloser to the Nile River valley. Near the Nile, new cultures and industries started todevelop. These new industries had many new trends in their production of stone tools,especially that of the miniaturization and specialization.The Sebilian Industry that followed the Khotmusan Industry added little advancement totool making, and some aspects even went backwards in tool making. The SebilianIndustry is known for their development of burins, small stubby points. They started bymaking tools from diorite, a hard igneous rock which was widely found in theirenvironment. Later on they switched over to flint which was easier to work.The Sebilian Industry did coexist with another culture called the Silsillian Industry whichdid make significant advancements in tool technology. The Silsillians used such blades astruncated blades and microliths. The truncated blades are made for one specific task andare of irregular shape. The microliths are small blades used in such tools as arrows,sickles, and harpoons. The micro blade technology was most likely used because of thesmall supply of good toolmaking stone, such as diorite and flint.
The Qadan Industry was the first to show major signs of intensive seed collection andother agriculturally similar techniques. They used such tools as sickles and grindingstones. These tools show that by this time people had developed the skills for plant-dependent activities. The use of these tools astonishingly vanished around 10,000 BC fora small period of time, perhaps as a result of climatic change. This resulted in huntingand gathering returning as the adaptive strategy.Beginning after 13,000 BC, cemeteries and evidence of ritual burial are found. Skeletonswere often decorated with necklaces, pendants, breast ornaments and headdresses of shelland bone.The Epipaleolithic Period dates between 10,000 - 5,500 BC and is the transition betweenthe Paleolithic and the Predynastic periods in ancient Egypt. During this time, the hunter-gatherers began a transition to the village-dwelling farming cultures.The Nile Valley of the Paleolithic was much larger then it is today, its annual floodingmade permanent habitation of its floodplain impossible. As the climate became drier andthe extent of the flooding was reduced, people were able to settle on the Nile floodplain.After 7000 BC, permanent settlements were located on the floodplain of the Nile. Thesebegan as seasonal camps but become more permanent as people began to develop trueagriculture.Geography and AgricultureThe geography of Egypt is deeply important inunderstanding why the Egyptians centered their livesaround the Nile. Both before and during the use of canalirrigation in Egypt, the Nile Valley could be separatedinto two parts, the River Basin or the flat alluvial (orblack land soil), and the Red Land or red desert land. TheRiver basin of the Nile was in sharp contrast to the rest ofthe land of Egypt and was rich with wild life and waterfowl, depending on the waxing and waning cycles of theNile. In contrast, the red desert was a flat dry area whichwas devoid of most life and water, regardless of anyseasonal cycle.The Nile in its natural state goes through periods ofinundation and relinquishment. The inundation of theNile-a slightly unpredictable event- was the time of greatest fertility for Egypt. As thebanks rose, the water would fill the man-made canals and canal basins and would waterthe crops for the coming year. However, if the inundation was even twenty inches aboveor below normal, it could have massive consequences upon the Egyptian agriculturaleconomy. Even with this variability, the Egyptians were able to easily grow tree crops
and vegetable gardens in the lower part of the Nile Valley, while at higher elevations,usually near levees, the Nile Valley was sparsely planted.Agricultural crops were not the mainstay of the ancient Egyptian diet. Rather, the Nilesupplied a constant influx of fish which were cultivated year around. In addition to fish,water fowl and cattle were also kept by the Egyptians. Flocks of geese were raised fromthe earliest times and supplied eggs, meat and fat. However, the domestic fowl didntmake its appearance until Ramesside times, and then in only very isolated places. TheEgyptian farmers, in their early experimental phase, also tried to domesticate otheranimals such as hyenas, gazelles and cranes but gave up after the Old Kingdom. Cattlewere also part of the staple diet of the Egyptians, suggesting that grazing land wasavailable for the Egyptians during the times when the Nile receded. However, during theinundation, cattle were brought to the higher levels of the flood plain area and were oftenfed the grains harvested from the previous year.The Egyptian diet was by no means limited to tree crops and vegetables, nor was itlimited to an animal or fish diet. The Egyptians cultivated barley, emmer wheat, beans,chickpeas, flax, and other types of vegetables. In addition, the cultivation of grains wasnot entirely for consumption. One of the most prized products of the Nile and of Egyptianagriculture was oil. Oil was customarily used as a payment to workmen employed by thestate, and depending on the type, was highly prized. The most common oil (kiki) wasobtained from the castor oil plant. Sesame oil from the New Kingdom was also cultivatedand was highly prized during the later Hellenistic Period.Ancient Egyptian Farming and ToolsAncient Egyptians believed that after death a judge would ask them three questionsbefore admitting them to eternal life. They would have to swear that they had notmurdered, robbed, or built a dam during their time on earth. This does not mean that theEgyptians were opposed to irrigation. On the contrary, they did everything they could totake advantage of Egypts limited water supply. Thats why no individual was allowed tobuild a dam; the government strictly regulated every drop of water.The very first Egyptian farmers waited for the natural overflow of the Nile to water theircrops. However, as early as 5000 BCE they had begun to figure out ways to control thegreat river. In doing this, they invented the world’s first irrigation systems. They beganby digging canals to direct the Nile flood water to distant fields. (One of the first officialpositions in the Egyptian government was that of “Canal Digger”.) Later, theyconstructed reservoirs to contain and save the water for use during the dry season. The