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.

Egypt’s 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 pharaoh’s 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

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