1) I have chosen to discuss the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Both have many significant similarities and differences. I would like to compare some important points in four common categories. I will compare and contrast the geography and its impact, the political structure of each society, the importance of their existing class structures and finally the role of women in these dynamic civilizations.
Mesopotamia and Egypt were both in flood basins of major rivers. Mesopotamia was characterized by turmoil and tension and in contrast Egypt was characterized by stability and serenity. The Mesopotamian climate was harsh and since the Tigris and the Euphrates flooded irregularly, nature was not viewed as life enhancing but rather considered to be a threat. Mesopotamia was located on an open plain without protection from foreign intrusions; therefore they were continually on alert. Egypt, on the other hand, was centered on the dependable Nile. The rich and fertile soil of the Nile Valley provided agricultural wealth. Even though the river was known to flood yearly the Egyptians had no reason to fear it. It helped them predict nature and they began to use this knowledge to their benefit. Since the Nile Valley was surrounded by deserts and the Red Sea, Egypt was free relatively free from foreign invasions. The Nile was also used for travel in their civilization.
The political structure in Mesopotamia during the Sumarian era had no unified government. Instead it had numerous independent city states. In the Babylonian Empire Hammurabi enforced his laws described in the “Code of Hammurabi.” In this Code, the lower class had fewer rites than the higher class and is known for strict punishments. In the beginning Egypt was divided into two parts governed by different rulers. The Unification of the lower and upper kingdoms of Egypt marked the beginning of the Archaic period. The unification of Egypt was significant in the longevity of this civilization to ensure the free flow of traffic on the Nile. The Kingdom of Egypt was ruled by one ruler called the Pharaoh that ruled the land as the chief priest. In this civilization there was no separation of religion and politics in their lives. Both Mesopotamia and Egypt were at one time ruled by kings that derived their power from the gods and were viewed as divine.
The Class structure in Mesopotamia had three major social groups. They were known as the nobles, commoners, and slaves. Commoners that included farmers, merchants, fishermen, scribes, and craftspeople made up ninety percent of the Sumerian population. In Egypt the class structure was similar in that there were three major class groups called nobles or upper class, middle class, and lower class. The enormous difference between the classes is best shown in the lower classes. The Mesopotamian lower classes were slaves commanded by their owners. In Egypt the lower class citizens lived freely but with certain requirements to their country.They were to pay taxes on their crops and dedicated much time towards the countries building projects. They also provided a strong military when needed. The lower classes in Egypt had a sense of contribution towards building places to respect their Gods.
In Mesopotamia women in general had the role of keeping the household duties. These duties included household chores, bearing children and educating them. Also, anything a man decided he wanted she must do. Although, not all women stayed at home. Some of them worked for other people. In Egypt the same was true. Wives were very respected in the household and engaged in keeping the household running and educating the children. However women were allowed to hold much more power in Egypt. They were allowed to inherit property, engage in business and even succeed to the throne. These things were not attainable to women in Mesopotamia.
2.) It is said that the major achievements of Indo-Aryans were intangible rather than material, primarily in verbal skill and poetic imagination. Over a long time a body of hymns, prayers, and incantations known as the Four Vedas were passed down from each generation orally. The Vedas compiled the books of the Indo-Aryan and later the Hindu religions. All of these things written and spoken aided in the formation of what is known as Hinduism.
Although there was no specific event, the origin of Hinduism started with the separation from common Indo-European pastoral tradition and immersed in speculation about the nature of the cosmic order. From this was a growing belief in the existence of a single force in the universe called Brahman. Hinduism in its early form is still sometimes referred to as Brahmanism. The individual’s duty was to achieve understanding of the ultimate reality so that after death one would merge in spiritual form with Brahman. This was recorded in the Upinshads, a set of commentaries on the Vedas.
The main ideas are referred to as the main concepts of Hinduism. One of the concepts was that one’s duty was to achieve understanding of the ultimate reality so that one would merge with the Brahman after death. Another main concept was reincarnation, which is the idea that one’s soul is reborn in a different form after death. One goes through many existence’s until the final destination where a union is formed with the Brahman. A key element in reincarnation is Karma, which is also another main concept, and is translated to ones’ actions in this life. Karma is the status of an individual soul that is determined by the result of actions that a soul committed in the past. The ultimate goal was to achieve good Karma to escape a life cycle that was viewed as harsh, painful and short.
The average Indian citizen craved a more concrete form of heavenly salvation, and enjoyed the value of material items in their lives. Hinduism was against both and so there was controversy about this religion in the Indian culture. In contrast to the caste system in ancient India, Hinduism ranked people not by wealth and power but by their spiritual progress. Many pondered the basis of this religion. Siddhartha Gautama accepted many Hindu beliefs but altered the practices. He was eventually credited as the founder of Buddhism.
Hinduism would undergo many changes from its origins in Aryan society and became the religion of the majority of Indian people. Although it has been argued that Hinduism is not a religion. I view Hinduism as a legitimate religion in the Indian culture today. I have a great deal of respect for this religion in that it can supply the spiritual needs we as human-beings crave.