The differences and similarities between Egypt and Mesopotamia
There are some distinct similarities between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Both societies value reverence to the gods. In the Negative Confession, it lists “[doing] that which is an abomination unto the gods” with committing murder. The Egyptians valued respect towards the gods. The Egyptians felt that disrespecting the gods was just as bad as killing another man. The Mesopotamians, too, valued reverence to the gods, for example, when Gilgamesh prays to Shamash for help in defeating Humbaba, Shamash rewards Gilgamesh by sending the wind to help him defeat Humbaba. By showing piety to the gods, Gilgamesh is rewarded. The Mesopotamians believed that by respecting the gods, they would reward a man in need. Both the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians felt that reverence to the gods was important in daily life. Both the Egyptians and Mesopotamians valued words. In the Code of Hammurabi, “if a man has borne false witness in a trial or has not established the statement he has made, if that case be a capital trial, that man shall be put to death”. The Mesopotamians strongly valued what men had to say. If these men lied, they could be put to death. Merely by telling a fib, a man could lose his life. The Egyptians also valued words, and what men had to say. The Egyptian lord Ptah Hotep said to “be silent rather than scatter your words…to speak…is an art”. The Egyptians felt speech was important. What a man said was just as, if not more, important than his actions. Ptah Hotep also said, “Do not listen… to extravagant language.” The Egyptians felt that lies should not be listened to; lies should be ignored. Both the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians felt speech was extremely important to society.
There are also noticeable differences between Egyptian civilization and Mesopotamian civilization. The Mesopotamians felt that when something was stolen, reparations needed to be made to the victim of the theft. The Code of Hammurabi says, “the man that has been robbed shall state on oath what he has lost and the city or district governor… shall restore to him what he has lost”. However, neither Ptah Hotep nor the Negative Confession mention anything about making reparations to a victim of a crime. The Mesopotamians felt strongly in justice and helping the victims of crimes. The Negative Confession focuses on what crimes a person didn’t commit instead of on whether a person, having committed a crime, helped his victims. Ptah Hotep merely discourages a person of committing a crime, saying to ” keep yourself from every attack of bad humor”. Ptah Hotep focuses on discouraging someone from committing a crime, so he does not need to talk of how to give back to victims. If a man does not commit a crime, he has no victims, and that is why Ptah Hotep does not mention making reparations to other people. The Egyptians valued listening to others, while the Mesopotamians make to mention of listening to other humans in Gilgamesh and The Code of Hummurabi. Ptah Hotep advised that ” a man without experience who listens not effects nothing whatsoever. He sees knowledge in ignorance, profit in loss”. The Egyptians felt that a man who doesn’t listen is unwise. The Mesopotamians only talk of listening to the gods, not listening to other humans. There are definite differences in the values of the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians.
One thing that was very similar between both cultures was their view on spouses. The people of these civilizations did not view their spouses as very important. In Gilgamesh, Ishtar marries multiple men, and when she tires of them, she punishes them, ie turning one of them, a gardener, into a blind mole. Ishtar does not stay faithful to one man. Ptah Hotep advises a husband to not let his wife “… be more contented than any of her fellow citizens”. The Egyptians evidently did not value marriage that much if spouses were supposed to treat their loved ones merely as they treated other people. Both the Egyptians and the Mesopotamians did not respect marriage.