Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt: The First Western Civilizations Deborah Smiroldo
What aspects of life in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt made them the first western civilizations? To what extent does civilization depend on urban life? What are the general characteristics of urban life? These are the questions that are being asked. First, I believe, one must understand what the primary reasons for the development might be. Most historians seem to believe the primary reasons were food- a more stable food source and permanent housing. Civilizations grew along rivers, and agriculture led directly to the availability of food surpluses. Mesopotamia, an ancient Greek term meaning "the land between rivers," or "the land between the two rivers" was the world's first civilization, and the two rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates. The climate was very arid and rainfall was scarce, thus making farming almost impossible. The first civilization rose on in an area called the Fertile Crescent, where the rivers rose in the spring and deposited immensely fertile soil. Because of this, an ancient hunter-gatherer people settled the land, domesticated animals and then turned their attention to agriculture. These early farmers had to learn ways to tame and use the rivers, so they created sophisticated irrigation systems, which in turn allowed agriculture to flourish. Agricultural populations advanced beyond village life, and many people no longer had to practice farming at all. The surplus food grown in this fertile landscape enabled the farming societies to feed a class of people who did not need to devote their lives to agriculture. These were the craftsmen, priests, scribes, administrators, rulers and soldiers who made civilization possible. This was the very early beginnings of an urban center. The geography of Egypt was different. Unlike the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians didn’t have to fight to survive and tame an arid and dry environment. The Egyptians started as...
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