The rise of civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia occurred about the same time and both civilizations grew along mighty rivers. There were many similarities but many differences as well. In each case, it was the river valley and geography that dictated outcomes affecting agricultural prosperity, religious formation, and government structures.
Both Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations existed on the banks of major rivers. Mesopotamia resided on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers while Egypt resided on the Nile River. Although they share this characteristic, the difference lies in how each civilization viewed these rivers. In both places, they believed that the forces of nature reflected the decisions and actions of their deities.
Irrigation helped tremendously. Like the Egyptians depended on the Nile River, Mesopotamians depended on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The silt left over from the flooding of these rivers made the soil fertile. Irrigation produced an extra supply of food. Farmers would trade would trade grain for lumber and stone. Farmers didn’t have money so they used their crops. The climate of the Mesopotamia was dry. There was very little rainfall.
Although Egypt and Mesopotamia both have similar economies which center on agriculture and include heavy trading, they differ in their religions and social structures because the geographical features in each region altered the people’s beliefs and views. The two civilizations views on religion were also affected by the geography of the area, more specifically the flooding of the two rivers.
One aspect that was very different in both Egypt and Mesopotamia was the government. In Egypt, most of the time they had just one leader–the pharaoh. Egypt would have needed this strong central government for projects such as organizing and overseeing of the pyramid buildings. The early Mesopotamians used a city-state type government. Each area was controlled by its own political and economical center. Each area was a separate political unit.
Mesopotamians built temples called Ziggurats. People carried amulets to protect themselves from evil and there was a widespread belief in magic. Following their belief that time moved in a circular pattern, through a cycle of birth, growth, maturity, and death, they hoped through this ritual to persuade the gods to grant a renewal of time and life at winter’s end.
Egyptians also believed in amulets and in magic. Religion was state organized there also. A primary difference in Egyptian belief is that the Egyptians believed in the afterlife. They prepared for a safe passage and a comfortable existence once they arrived. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, present in many excavated tombs, contains rituals and spells to protect them.
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Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt Comparison- Similarities and differences