Religion was the most powerful force animating Egyptian society. The Egyptian was ready to accept overlapping divinities and to add new ones whenever it seemed appropriate; if a new area was incorporated into the Egyptian state, its gods would be added to those already worshiped.
The First Civilizations
As each Egyptian king died, a great sepulchral monument, often in the form of a pyramid, told his subjects that he had gone to join his predecessors in the community of gods. The largest of the pyramids took several generations to build and involved the continual labor of thousands of men. A highly centralized bureaucracy carried out the commands of the king. A stratified society worked for him. His forces advanced at times westward into the Libyan desert, and at other times eastward and northward into Palestine.
What the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers did for Mesopotamia, the Nile River did for Egypt. Over thousands of years the people along the Nile had slowly learned to take advantage of the annual summer flood by tilling their fields to receive the silt-laden river waters, and by regulating its flow. About 3000 B.C., at approximately the time that the Sumerian civilization emerged in Mesopotamia, the Egyptians had reached a comparable stage of development.
The successors of the Sumerians as rulers of Mesopotamia were the Babylonians and their successors, the Assyrians, both originally descended from nomads of the Arabian desert. Power first passed to them with Sargon the Great (2300 B.C.) and returned to them after an interlude (about 2000 B.C.) with the invasion from the west of a people called the Amorites.
Recent discoveries have led some scholars to believe that the inventors of writing may have been a people called Subarians who were apparently subjugated about 3100 B.C. by the Sumerians, in the fertile lower valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. Here the Sumerians were already well established by the year 3000. They had
The advance from the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) to the New (Neolithic) was marked by certain major changes, found first in the Near East. One of these was the domestication of animals for food. Humans had tamed dogs and used them in the hunt long before. But when they kept goats, pigs, sheep, and the ancestors of our cows in pens, they could eat them when their meat was young and tender. without having to hunt them down when they were fully grown. Parallel with this went the first domestication of plants for food—a kind of wheat and barley.