The source of the many differences between Mesopotamia and Egypt can be found in the geographic locations of these civilizations. Egypt, protected by natural barriers on all sides, remained uninfluenced for many years. Not many other civilizations came in contact with the Egyptian people. Thus, they developed much differently politically and socially compared to Mesopotamia.
Mesopotamia was constantly invaded by foreigners who would incorporate their culture into their newly conquered society and form a new one by force. It is no surprise then that the two civilizations would end up with completely different ideas about the world.Egypts social structure consisted of the pharaoh, priests, farmers, merchants, and craftsmen. The pharaoh was the “God-King”.
Not only did he govern Egypt, but he was an immortal (or a god). Pharaohs were believed to be gods who had chosen to live on earth for a time. These immortal men were highly respected by Egyptian people because of their godly powers.”The pharaohs will was law, and his wisdom all-knowing” (Adler,1996,26). Because the gods spoke through the pharaoh, his regulations and laws were to be carried out without question.
Otherwise the gods would “cease to smile upon Egypt”. Priests were important to Egyptians but were not terribly powerful (like they were in Mesopotamia). They merely enforced religious beliefs and helped the king when he was unpopular. The Free tenant farmers, who worked on estates owned by a landowner or government official, constituted the majority of the population.
These farmers worked on this granted land in order to provide service to the crown (the pharaoh).Their life, like the Egyptians of higher and lower classes, was extremely stable and predictable. They usually resided in crowded villages that stretched across the Nile River. In these villages, the merchants and craftsmen could also be found, but Egypt had no real cities. The capital cities in Egypt served as royal palaces for the wealthy or for social entertainment. The majority of the population had nothing to do with these cities, except to act as a labor force. Unlike many other civilizations, the cities of Egypt were not used as major trade or control centers among villages.
Trade and commerce were of little importance to Egyptians.On the other hand, Mesopotamia was a huge collection of many cultures. Numerous amounts of foreigners invaded and forced their beliefs and ideas upon the Mesopotamians. All of this cultural influence produced many rapid changes and caused extreme instability. Rulers were not gods, were not as well respected, and had to fight for their control. Mesopotamians did not experience the security that Egyptians had.
The economy way under constant stress because of the taxes needed to support an army. Armies were of extreme importance in order to prevent further invasions and to squelch frequent rebellions that occurred. The isolated Egyptians never had to raise an army or set any heavy taxes. Mesopotamians though, because of the number of invaders, had many cities and trade centers. The variety of people within the cities produced many cultural achievements and advances.They had well developed road systems to improve communication and enforce government control in surrounding villages. They, under the Phoenicians, developed a water-based trade system that reached as far as Great Britain. By sea, they traded information, dyes, and metals such as copper and iron.
Because of their exposure to many different ideas, Mesopotamians were very influential in the ancient world and are still today. As for the Egyptians, their ideas vanished with the disappearance of their civilizations. Their natural barriers separated them from the harsh realities around them.They were stable and were not subjected to invasions by foreigners for many centuries. This provided a false sense of security. They took very little measures to prevent a disastrous invasion from occurring.
Egypt was not prepared militarily; they had little trained soldiers and very few advanced weapons. Egyptians trusted that the gods were responsible for their long reign without any outside threats. They believed that “the Gods smiled on Egypt”, and they also took this to mean that they were superior to any other cultures. The only “real” people were Egyptian people and anyone else was considered inferior.
This egotistical view resulted in a limited trade of knowledge because foreigners had little to offer the superior Egyptians.Thus, they did not advance scientifically, mathematically, or militarily like the Mesopotamians had. This feeling of superiority eventually resulted in their defeat when invaders finally did come. The experiences of the Mesopotamians and Egyptians were very different because of their location.
Egyptians viewed the world as perfect and safe because they had never experienced the traumatic invasions that the Mesopotamians did. Egyptian life was comfortable and unchanging with very few threatening situations.Mesopotamians experience much change and instability.
They had no true identity because of the many new influences. They were constantly worried about their security and the world, to them, was not a peaceful place. However, their experiences prepared them for the them for survival in the future, while Egypts failure to adjust to a new situation lead to their demise. Mesopotamian views can still be found today and Egyptian views disappeared along with their “superiority” in Egypt.