The Rise of Civilization in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

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Early civilization took place in several urban centers, which were abundant in trade and commerce. The essence of early civilization practices was associated with social stratification, urban development that was created by the cultural elite, and systems of communications. Further, the improvement of socio-politico-economic aspects such as the domestication and centralization of other animals, specialization of labor as well as the development of taxation and dependence of farming led to early civilization. There are several cities, which pioneered the development of early civilization such as the Mesopotamia, Greek, and Egypt. However, this paper will examine the process of civilization and early culture in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Civilization in Mesopotamia

The practice and development of urbanization in the ancient world was an exciting experience that led to the process of civilization. The most remarkable aspect was the development of urban centers in the ancient Mesopotamia “In your city I can live no longer”.[1] The quote reveals presence of cities in the ancient time in which there was organization of populations that were legally bound by the need to live closely in their city-states. Civilized people preferred living in cities while the uncivilized adopted lifestyles. As a result, urban people developed the city-states, which were then surrounded by many satellite villages with lower population.

The practice of religion depicted civilization in Mesopotamia, which illustrated the belief of gods of the city in the ancient world. Thus, the people of Mesopotamia were very religious and worshiped many gods where many of them were anthropomorphic “‘For sure the god Enlil feels for me hatred”.[2]

From the quote it is clear that several gods were worshiped in which one of them was called Enlil. Moreover, the temple of these gods was constructed atop in the massive ziggurats that were in the centers of most of the cities. Unlike the Egyptian, the temples in Mesopotamia acted as the primary distribution centers where they could receive, store, and disburse food as needed by the people in the city-states. Further, the development of governance, the emergence of kingship became the norm of the period where every city-state had their authority. In the epic of Gilgamesh, they also believed in their god to be with them in the intensity. Primarily this is depicted when Gilgamesh and Enkidu go to steal trees from the distant cedar forest, which was forbidden to mortals, and get assistance from Shamash the sun god to kill their enemies.

The development of economy and society was the epitome of experiences in the ancient world. from the Epic of Gilgamesh, there are several activities done by the people in this world. Gigalmesh says “For my workmen I butchered oxen, and lambs I slaughtered daily. Beer and ale, oil and wine”.[3]

The statement reveals presence of several economic activities in Mesopotamia. Further, it was evident that the activities of Enkidu consisted of suckling the breast of animals, grazing in the meadows with them. There was also hunting as an activity where the hunter recognized the existence of Enkidu in the wild. The early city-states in Mesopotamia were to some extent became a self-sufficient economic unit. The people turned to commercial practices and took significant control of the economic activities.

Civilization also involved making of tools where the craftsmen had an association with metal smiths, spinners, weavers, as well as the potters. In regards to all pre-civilization era, the economy of the ancient Egypt was also developed through agriculture. The majority of the people within the kingdom were peasant farmers due to the fertile nature of the Nile valley that could produce surplus food to sustain the lifestyle of Pharaoh and his court.

Civilization in Egypt

The the Egyptians became civilized and settled in cities and had one king ruling the entire kingdom. The Egyptian king was the absolute ruler who had the privilege to own all the land within the kingdom as evidence from the statement “in the presence of the lord of this land”.[4]

The king known as Pharaoh ruled the land with power and authority. As a result, the Egyptians settled in the Nile valley and Memphis town being the largest at that time. The Pharaoh owned the lands unlike today since the Egyptians believed in the king as both the sole ruler of the land. The essence of this was to understand the importance of the willingness for the Egyptians to build incredible temples because they had the belief that their king would be living with them forever in eternity. 

Believing in gods was common among the Egyptians in addition to respect for heir mighty king. Besides, religion was the center of Egyptian life since they believed in many gods “I know the names of the forty-two gods of those who are with you in this Hall of Justice”.[5] The quote reveals the importance of gods and their role in judgement. The development of strong religious practice influenced Egyptians to believe that their king was a living god. For instance, they believed that when a king died, he continued to be a king in another world, and if the dead was a priest, they would continue with their priestly work after the death.

The ancient Egyptians practiced religion consdered death as the beginning of another life and believed in the immortality where death was regarded as temporary to the people. Therefore, the continuity of life after death was made open through paying homage to the gods during and after the death on earth. For instance, in the Book of Death a person would say, “I have not taken away the food of the spirits”. [6] This implies that there was life after death n which people lived as spirits. Additionally, dead people were mummified for the soul to return to the body to give breath and life. This signifies that there is life after death for the people. Notably, food is also something, which was considered important for the people in the afterlife. Moreover, the afterlife had a different experience in the order of hierarchy within the society.


The beliefs such as life after death were significant for the people in early civilization period. For instance, the people of Mesopotamia believed that life after death was full of happiness. The physical death did not mean the end of life but a continuous spiritual existence in the underworld. In the epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu illustrates that there are things, which take place in the underworld. Civilization in Mesopotamia and Egypt seems to revolve around urbanization, religion, and kingship in the land. However, differences exist in the manner of organization, leadership style, as well as beliefs of afterlife.


Andrews, Carol, and Raymond O. Faulkner, eds. The ancient Egyptian book of the dead. MBI Publishing Company, 1990.

George, Andrew. "The Epic of Gilgamesh, a new translation, Allen Lane." (1999).

[1][1] George, Andrew. "The Epic of Gilgamesh, a new translation, (Allen Lane." 1999), 5.

[2]George, Andrew. "The Epic of Gilgamesh, a new translation, (Allen Lane." 1999), 5.

[3] George, Andrew. "The Epic of Gilgamesh, a new translation, (Allen Lane." 1999), 7.

[4] Andrews, Carol, and Raymond O. Faulkner, eds. The ancient Egyptian book of the dead. (MBI Publishing Company, 1990), 257

[5] Andrews, Carol, and Raymond O. Faulkner, eds. The ancient Egyptian book of the dead, 257

[6] Andrews, Carol, and Raymond O. Faulkner, eds. The ancient Egyptian book of the dead. (MBI Publishing Company, 1990), 257.

November 13, 2023




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