Sample History Essay Paper on Egypt and Mesopotamia

Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia were two of the earliest yet most complex forms of human civilisation. Though they existed in a time when the agricultural, agrarian, and industrial revolutions were a facade, they managed to develop their societies into economic, social, and political power houses. Both were similar in terms of location since they were developed along river valleys. Egypt existed along the River Nile basin while Mesopotamia grew in the middle of the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates (Wengrow 487). Both civilizations had a developed form of governance and system of government. The Egyptians had their Pharaoh who was viewed as the gods’ representative on earth. The Pharaoh instituted a centralised form of government that consisted of the royal family and few nobles. The Mesopotamians, on the other hand, had a king who was assisted to govern by the nobles. The king adopted a decentralized form of government. Both countries were patriarchal with the Egyptians being less strict towards women compared to the Mesopotamians who required their women to practise hijab upon getting married. Aside from the aforementioned differences, these two former giants had several comparisons in terms of their art, religion, writing, and stable food supply. Understanding these elements would shed more light on the reasons behind their success as nations though in different countries and continents.

To begin with, both Egypt and Mesopotamia existed prior to modern civilization as we know it. They also developed along river valleys of huge rivers that periodically over flooded and reduced in water level during times of the year. Agriculture was, therefore, the undisputed source of stable food for these civilizations. A river valley is an area of flat land that has a river running through it. During flooding times, the rivers broke their banks and flooded over large chunks of land. This was, however, a blessing in disguise as the receding flood waters left behind fertile soils suitable for planting. The Nile River only flooded once during summer. The Egyptians were, hence, able to predict this event and prepare for it. Their calendar was even centralised along this event. The Mesopotamians, however, were most times caught unaware by the flooding of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers causing substantial damage.

The annual flooding of the Nile enabled the Egyptians to grow crops like pomegranates, vegetables like onions, garlic, lettuce, fruits like melons, dates, figs, and cereals like barley and wheat. Ancient Egyptians adored farming. Though most civilians were farmers, everyone helped with planting and harvesting during these times. The farmers also reared animals like pigs, donkeys, and cattle which they occasionally used for ploughing and trampling seeds into the soil. After planting irrigation was undertaken using the river Nile waters. The farmers often dug shadoofs to assist them water their crops during the dry seasons (Gills & William 107). Harvesting was facilitated using sickles. In addition to these crops, the Egyptians also ate fish caught from the river Nile and several wild animals like gazelles, herons, cranes, and antelopes. They supplemented their food choices with wine, beer, and honey. The Egyptians were technologically advanced especially in food processing. They squeezed their sesame seeds to make oil and developed clay ovens for cooking their food.

Similarly, the Mesopotamians largest method of creating food security was their complex irrigations systems. Their occasionally built reservoirs, dams, and canals to facilitate irrigation during the dry seasons when river levels were low. They grew vegetables, barley, and wheat. Any surplus crops were exchanged for money and goods. The Mesopotamians also developed the plough; an effective farm equipment they used to till the soil in preparation for planting new crops. Prior to the plough, they used animal horns and pointed sticks which were less effective and hence slowed down planting. Moreover, the Mesopotamians also reared animals namely cattle and donkeys that assisted in ploughing the land and providing animal food products.

The Egyptians and Mesopotamians practiced theocracy and were the earliest pioneers of organized religion. Theocracy blended both politics and spirituality in a form of governance that ruled via spiritual guidance. The deities in these governments were both gods and goddesses and civil leaders. Their desires were undertaken by a divine king or individuals in the priestly class. Mesopotamia practised a decentralized form of religion where the god’s desires were interpreted by a priestly clan. The Egyptian’s Pharaoh was likened to a living god and worshipped. He was a vital link between the people and the gods as per the people’s convictions. The religious beliefs of these two civilisations were based upon periodic occurrences which mirrored the character of the gods. Mesopotamia, for instance, regarded the gods as being unpredictable forces of great power who had to be pleased by keeping the priests content. This belief was based on the unpredictable flooding of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris which caused widespread damage.

The Mesopotamians believed that people were at the mercy of the gods and as such they had to make them happy and carry out their will. The relatively calm nature of the river Nile except on rare occasions when it flooded, signified that the Egyptian’s gods were generous, kind, and well-disposed towards the people. Their theocracies believed that the gods had created Egypt as a refuge of good and order in a chaotic and malfunctioning world. Both Egyptians and Mesopotamians were polytheistic with their gods having certain traditional similarities. One similarity being these gods personified the elements of nature. Secondly, the gods affected several facets of life in both Egypt and Mesopotamia. They affected farming, spirituality, rule of law, and medicine.

Both Mesopotamia and Egypt practised cultural art that defined their identity. The Egyptians’ artwork combined elements in nature with geometric shapes. They used materials such as bronze, sandstone, copper, bricks, and pottery. Their pottery revolved around several popular subjects such as agriculture, hunting, natures, their gods, and the Pharaohs. The Egyptians developed both miniature artworks and massive artworks such as the pyramids, the sphinx, intricate wall carvings, and gigantic detailed statures. The Mesopotamians practised art that was majorly based on mythological creatures and realism artwork. Their art revolved around the existence of these mythological creatures and hunting scenes. Similar to the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians created much of their artworks from clay, stones, and mud. They also did their artwork in large viewings that were well constructed and highly detailed. In summary, both Egypt and Mesopotamia practised similar art styles to craft similar artworks on similar materials. Most of their art is visible in the massive architectural buildings and large statues. The difference in their art is only seen in the craftsmanship and theme of the arts.

Writing was a vital exercise in both civilisations. Infect, the earliest traces of writings were discovered in Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was essential to ensure that certain significant events were not forgotten. Writing also ensured that future generations familiarised themselves with their past. Writing was a very imperative part of record keeping which ensure smooth governance for both the Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Planning was easy knowing certain documented population dynamics like birth rate, death rate and population changes. Both civilisations infused pictographs with their writings too give a vivid visual impression. The Egyptians adopted writing for easier communication especially across long distances. The nature of their writings was characterised by tons of symbols. This made the art of writing hard to learn. Both civilizations adopted writing as a show of knowledge and information.

Though both civilisations adopted writing at an early age, their words and symbols were different. Mesopotamians developed written words and letters eventually leaving the use of symbols to the Egyptians. They further developed the art of pressing signs onto clay tablets using reeds. This was after they invented the complicated art of making pictograms into wedge-shaped signs. The Egyptians, on the other hand, adopted the culture of writing in papyrus using indelible ink. Only the wealthy and noble class could write in Egypt.

In conclusion, the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians were the earliest form of human civilisation and they set the stage for the development of civilisation. Though they existed a long time ago, they shared certain attributes with modern humanity such as religion, art, writing, and having a stable supply of food. Their tenacity and indefatigable urge to succeed made them flourish more than several current nations.

References

Gills, Barry K., and William Thompson. Globalization and global history. Routledge, 2012.

Wengrow, David. What Makes Civilization? The Ancient near East and the Future of the West. Oxford University Press, 2018.