Contrasting Egyptian and Mesopotamian views of the afterlife

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The Egyptians placed more emphasis on artistic representations of their deities, while Mesopotamians concerned themselves more with literary records of their spiritual beliefs.  The Mesopotamians also did not prepare for the afterlife, while the Egyptians placed great emphasis on it, with elaborate preparations and pyramids and temples to house their prominent dead.  However, both societies had a powerful priest class which occupied the highest social position along with political and military leaders. 

Egypt was a much more stable civilization than Mesopotamia, but Mesopotamia’s use of science and mathematics was more advanced, which seems curious.  Generally the more stable societies are the more advanced and productive, while the besieged and disjointed ones devote their energies to warfare, but perhaps necessity is indeed the mother of invention.  It is possible that the Egyptians, living more stable lives, had more room to engage in artistry and monument-building, while the more military-oriented Mesopotamians were concerned with practical matters such as the sciences.  

Women were valued much more highly in Egypt than in Mesopotamia, where they were forced to veil their faces in public and be generally subservient.  Again, the stability of Egyptian life vs. the often harsh and chaotic Mesopotamian existence may have something to do with the difference in the strictness of their social codes.  Hard times breed hard people who write harsh rules.

It is interesting to note that, unlike the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians had no concept of hell.  It seems the Mesopotamians held a gloomy view of not only their own life but also their afterlife.  This goes against the general trend, in which people with hard lives hold out hope for a better afterlife.  More than anything else, this may indicate how little hope the Mesopotamians had.


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