Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The sun was setting, the wind was blowing aggressively past my face, and I could feel the dust as my tongue grazed my lips. Blood was dripping from my knees down to my sneakers, I was robbed, jumped, and had an overwhelming sensation of crying. I raised my arms to the sky shouting to God, why, to make sense of what just happened. When reflecting on ancient times, everyone had the same burning question “why”? Why was there drought or famine? How were mountains formed? Who named the birds of the sky and the creeping things below? Ancient cities didn’t have a response except for Gods or Deities they believed in who formed the earth. To make sense of life, different areas had their narratives or interpretations of how things came to be. Everything came down to religion. Religion in ancient times would play a role in the development of cities, it provided the divine right for ruling and changing learning in civilization.
Although some areas held religion in high importance, other areas did not. For example, Pastoral Nomadic communities had religion, they worshipped their God or Deities differently but not as aggressively as Egypt and Mesopotamia. Nomadic communities often lived in the countryside, tended livestock, and exchanged goods. They focused more on farming and fed themselves by relying on irrigation. With farming and agriculture, their population grew, and technological innovations formed societies. The new rise in innovations gave social roles and different types of occupation. This is an example of a society that didn’t have religion heavily dictate social roles.
In contrast to the Pastoral Nomadic community, Egypt and Mesopotamia were completely different. In Mesopotamia, temples were made which grew towards the sky and made them visible from afar. Their temples were located right in the middle as villages expanded outward. With their Gods, worshipping or even sacrificing at temples, religion helped with the development of what later became cities. Mesopotamians (Sumerians) believed that humans existed to serve the Gods which is why their temples were located at the center. Goods and services were meant to flow as justice and protection would flow outward. Therefore, cities reflected the “servitude” humans provided to the Gods. Over time, the population would increase which caused great density inside the cities. Religion also shaped politics (as these so-called Gods) controlled everything (i.e. weather, harvest, rain, etc.). Religion also played a role in forming society; for Mesopotamia, only the elite was allowed in temples, and others were not; it was a social pyramid. It was also said that Mesopotamia was one of the first to record events as they had scribes. These scribes held high status as reading and writing were essential. It eventually held with economic growth in terms of trading goods etc.
In like manner, Egypt was another area that was almost the same yet had differences. Egypt had many immigrants who had different practices and technologies. Unlike Mesopotamia which had the temple at the center while the cities expanded outward, Egypt was different. Egypt built large monumental architecture which demonstrated supreme authority. Pyramids, for example, became stages for rituals but also emphasized the Pharaoh’s divine right (to rule). The Kings held themselves in the same regard as Gods, except they believed they were active and Gods were inactive. They dressed in luxuries to present this “divine right”. Moreover, Pharaohs believed it was their duty to protect the people from chaos or any misfortune. These are examples of how religion helped the development of Egypt. Additionally, in Egypt people could worship the same. If a temple was farther away, they would still find a way to pay their respects and offerings.
Given these points, in both Mesopotamia and Egypt, religion ultimately played a role in everything from development, to social status, and politics. The cities were built to represent the “divine right” for ruling or even resemble their belief such as “humans existed to serve the gods”. In the architecture, it’s easy to see how their layouts resemble their belief. Religion also provided status, in some areas only the elites and priests were allowed in the temples. Others with lower status were not and paid the offerings by nearby temples or other ways. Religion as mentioned gave kings “divine right” to ruling and even forming politics. Religion shaped everything overall as it was the only way to make sense of the world, chaos, fortunes, or misfortunes. Finally, religion helped with learning as it was teaching people (which would form later to culture) to be the best servants possible.