The main difference between Mesopotamia and Egypt is that Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Fertile Crescent, while Egypt is located on the banks of the river Nile.
Mesopotamia and Egypt are two of the earliest ancient civilizations based on rivers. Both emerged as great civilizations roughly between 3500 and 3000 BCE. Due to their relative proximity, they share many similarities. Although they shared similarities, they maintained their unique identities through certain elements.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Mesopotamia
– Definition, Facts, Developments
2. What is Egypt
– Definition, Facts, Developments
3. Similarities Between Mesopotamia and Egypt
– Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Mesopotamia and Egypt
– Comparison of Key Differences
What is Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia was located in the region we now know as the Middle East, particularly modern-day Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. The term ‘Mesopotamia’ comes from the two ancient words ‘meso’ (which means in the middle of) and ‘potamos’ (which means river). As this name suggests, Mesopotamia was on the fertile valleys between the two rivers: Tigris and Euphrates. This region gave birth to some of the earliest human civilizations in the world, including Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Akkadian civilizations. Mesopotamia is also known as the “Cradle of Civilization.”
The first human settlements in Mesopotamia occurred in the Paleolithic era. By 14,000 B.C., Mesopotamian people lived in small settlements with circular houses. Some thousand years later, following the development of agriculture and domestication of animals, these houses became part of a farming community. Its location, especially its proximity to Tigris and Euphrates, also resulted in irrigation techniques that contributed to the development of agriculture. In fact, Mesopotamia was one of the first places to develop agriculture. Since it was at the crossroads of the Indus Valley and Egyptian civilizations, it saw a mixture of cultures and languages, which also had a long-lasting impact on trade, writing, religion, technology, and law. Some of the major developments in human history, including the planting of the first cereal crops, the invention of the wheel, and the development of the cursive script, mathematics, and astronomy, are considered to have occurred in Mesopotamia.
What is Egypt
The country we know as Egypt today was the home of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile River. This was mainly due to the Nile river’s annual flooding, which ensured rich soil for growing crops.
Historians have divided the history of the civilization into three “kingdom” periods: Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and New Kingdom. There are shorter intermediate periods separating these kingdoms, and these intermediates are periods during the powerful kingdom when there was no unified political power. But it’s important to notice that the foundations of Egyptian civilization were laid even before the Old Kingdom.
Old Kingdom of Egypt (2686-2181 BCE) – During this time, Egypt was a single unified political entity. Rulers built the first pyramids as tombs and monuments for their predecessors, for example, the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx in Giza. Builders of the pyramids were not slaves but farmers working during the off-season. During this era, Egyptians also began to build ships.
Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2000-1700 BCE) – After the government collapsed at the end of the Old Kingdom, there were political disputes, famines, and small-scale civil wars. Kings of the middle kingdom restored Egypt’s stability, resulting in a resurgence of art, literature, and monumental building projects. From this period onwards, kings kept a stable, well-trained army.
New Kingdom of Egypt (1550-1077 BCE) – This period marks the most prosperous era of Egyptian civilization and is the peak of its power. It was during this era that rulers of Egypt adopted the title of pharaoh. Pharaohs expanded their regions and began large-scale building projects.
Similarities Between Mesopotamia and Egypt
- Mesopotamia and Egypt are two of the earliest ancient civilizations based on rivers.
- Both Mesopotamians and Egyptians believed in polytheism (multiple gods).
- They had similar social structures and saw many developments in fields like irrigation, agriculture, architecture, etc.
Difference Between Mesopotamia and Egypt
Mesopotamia was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Fertile Crescent, while Egypt is situated on the banks of the river Nile.
Mesopotamia can be described as a loose collection of separate states, whereas Egypt was a single political unit.
Egyptian civilization is known for monumental architectural feats such as pyramids. Although Mesopotamians were the first to develop the world’s first known arches, columns and roofed buildings, they mainly used mud bricks as construction materials.
Mesopotamians invented a writing system called Cuneiform and had a tradition of epic literature that produced important works like “Epic of Gilgamesh,” which is the world’s earliest known written story. Egyptians, on the other hand, invented their own system of hieroglyphics, which are based on pictures.
Major developments in Mesopotamian civilization include the planting of the first cereal crops, the invention of the wheel and sail, and the development of the cursive script, mathematics, and astronomy. Major developments in Egyptian civilization include the creation of the solar calendar, and the invention of papyrus sheets and ink, clocks, cosmetic makeups. Egyptians also achieved great advancements in medicine, including the invention of surgical tools and mummification.
Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Fertile Crescent, while Egypt is located on the banks of the river Nile. Major developments in Mesopotamian civilization include the planting of the first cereal crops, the invention of the wheel and sail, and the development of the cursive script, mathematics, and astronomy. On the other hand, the major developments in Egyptian civilization include the creation of the solar calendar, and the invention of papyrus sheets and ink, clocks, cosmetic makeups, surgical tools, and mummification. Thus, this is the summary of the difference between Mesopotamia and Egypt.
1. “N-Mesopotamia and Syria english” By Goran tek-en (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Egypt, cairo, the pyramids of giza, giza pyramids, cair, egyptian pyramids, wonders of the world, dessert” (CC0) via Piqsels