Ancient Middle EastMesopotamia: Sumer, Assyria, Babylon Ancient Egypt
My ArgumentAncient Egypt is known for its elaborate religious rituals andpractices. The act of mummification, and the way they preparetheir dead for the afterlife with the riches of this world is unlike anyother civilization.The technology contained in the Mesopotamian city-states allowedthe people to more efficiently grow and store crops, leading to lesstime spent in the fields and more time developing advancedconcepts, like cuneiform.The first written language of the world, as well as a complex beliefsystem, did not appear out of nowhere. They, like every singleaspect of ancient Middle Eastern civilizations, from technology togender relations, were dependent on the environment in whichthe people inhabited.
EnvironmentAncient Egypt: Fertile Nile river valley, regular flooding of Nile, little rainfall Mesopotamia: Fertile Tigris and Euphrates river valley, irregular, volatile flooding of Tigris & Euphrates rivers, little rainfall
Religion Religion (like EVERYTHING) was affected by the environment Ancient civilizations were at the mercy of their environment, chiefly rivers, andthey viewed this as at the mercy of their GODS. They were dependent on food crops and animals, therefore many of their gods were based of of nature,animistic gods. In times of where the fields yielded a bad crop, they would pray to these gods. In Ancient Egypt, the calm, regular-flooding Nile was translated to kinder,predictable gods and goddesses. They revered these beings, and celebrated death as a “coming home” to the afterlife where the gods were. Gods temperaments were stable and consistent. The universe was viewed as an orderly place.There were also many gods of the river, sun, etc. ANIMISTIC entities. In Mesopotamia, the volatile, sporadic-flooding Euphrates and Tigris rivers frequently caused destruction in Sumerian, Assyrian, and Babylonian societies. They believed this was due to their unpredictable, angry gods.Because of this, they feared the gods and did not anticipate the afterlife to be the joyous thing other religions did. Gods temperaments were passionate,either very angry or very happy. Rarely the latter. There were also many gods of the river, sun, etc. ANIMISTIC entities.
Political Structure Most political structures of the Ancient Middle East were directly tied into their religions. Since religion was created in the Ancient Middle East as a response to the environment, government was an indirect product of their environment In Hammurabis Code, the king Hammurabi of Babylon stated that thegod Marduk had given him instruction to rule and direct the people. Thepharaohs of Egypt were believed to be gods on the journey back to the afterlife. This divinity establishes authority over the people that is absolute, and makes rulings the rulings of the gods, encouraging the ancient Middle Easterners to adhere them. Since rulers were as godsin Mesopotamia, they acted like them. In Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria the gods were unpredictable, and very harsh, so their kings followed suit. The calmer gods of Egypt yielded predicable, wise, and just Pharoahs.
Technology The technology created in the Ancient Middle East wasnt made without influence of environment. Complex irrigation systems were used in Mesopotamia due to the volatile rivers. Crops needed to be planted further away in order to prevent the irregular floodings from destroying a societysfood source. In Ancient Egypt, the rivers were much calmer, and flooded regularly. Because of this, they were able to plant closer to the rivers, allowing them to use the rich soil provided. Some basin irrigation was needed, but it wasmuch simpler than that of Mesopotamia. Civilizations across the board in the Ancient Middle East used early forms of plows to more efficiently use the land for agriculture.
Expansion: Trade & ConquestThe natural resources of a civilization influenced its relations with otherpeoples. In Mesopotamia, there were no significant stone, wood, ormetal resources, which lead to fighting between city-states. TheAkkadian State conquered surrounding city-states for control of thesevital resources, but long-distance trade was also imperative to get gold,metal, and copper from Egyptian and Nubian civilizations. Ancient Egypt was less about expanding territory.It focused on gainingvaluable resources such as cedar from Lebanon and gold from Nubia,which its land did not provide. When it did expand its territory however,it had a huge social effect. Nubia, a civilization to the south, was attimes largely controlled by Egyptian rule. This shaped their culture toemulate Ancient Egypts almost exactly. This spread religious beliefs, akey component in maintaining control of society. In the end, however, itlead to Nubian control of Egypt during the 8th century B.C.E.Trade was aided by the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers.
Culture: Traditions, Gender Relations, and the ArtsWith the Agricultural revolution, the egalitarian society of hunter gatherers wasdone away with. There was now an emphasis on material possessions, and to contribute to society, a person had to work in the fields, growing crops. Since women are physically inferior in muscle mass to their male counterparts, theybegan contributing less and less to growing crops. This lead to a decline in the public social status, and created more concrete gender roles. Men were to deal with the state and economy, that which affected the public, while women ran the private home lives. The traditions of Ancient Egypt were also affected by the environment. It was no mistake that we find mummies buried on the outskirts of the desert. The people knew that it was important to preserve as much usable land as possible, so they buried their dead away from rivers and rich soil. Mesopotamians art was greatly influenced by the animals they hunted. Wildgoats, deer, and birds, as well as more exotic animals, likely imported, such as lions were depicted.
Conclusion In conclusion, the civilizations of Ancient Middle East, as every early civilization, was entirely dependent on their environment. The Assyrians didnt have the calmgods based off the Nile. Ancient Egyptians used gold inalmost every important artifact they made, and viewed it as divine and indestructible due to its numerous deposits of the metal.The resources provided by the environment, and thosenot provided, shaped the way a civilization developed inevery aspect, because what they had is what they had,and being one of the first civilizations, they had to make do the best they could, without examples of the past to influence them.