• Early River Civilizations
    Egypt: Ancient Egypt consisted of Upper Egypt in the south, and Lower Egypt in the north.  About 3100 BCE, Menes, King of Upper Egypt, united the two kingdoms.  Under Menes and his successors, the Nile river became a highway in the exchange of goods and ideas.  Merchants would take ships and barges up and down the river trading goods from inner Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. This helped to make Egypt a very powerful nation.

    During the New Kingdom, (1550 BCE - 1100 BCE) powerful pharaohs conquered an empire that stretched from Nubia in the south, to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia. For centuries, Nubia was a major rival and trading partner of Egypt's.  Nubia sent ivory, cattle, and slaves to Egypt, and left a cultural mark when Egypt conquered them during the New Kingdom Period.  Nubia conquered Egypt in the 8th century BCE, and ruled for about 100 years.  Nubian influence can be seen in Egyptian art, which portrays Nubian soldiers, musicians, and prisoners of war.

    Mesopotamia: The Sumerians in Mesopotamia established trade along the Tigris and EuphratesRivers, and across the desert.  They traded goods within theMiddle East, with Egypt, the Mediterranean, and as far away asIndia. Many other groups controlled this region at one time or another, adding to the diversity of culture.  By the early 600s BCE, the Assyrians had conquered the entire Fertile Crescent, but theirempire was short lived.  Later, around 500 BCE, the region was conquered and made part of the Persian Empire under the great leader Darius.  Under Darius, the Persian Empire covered the Middle East, Asia Minor, Egypt, and a small part of India.  Extensive trade occurred throughout the empire which resulted in vast cultural diffusion.

    Persian Empire  c. 493 BCE

    Indus River: About 2500 BCE, the first Indian civilization began on the Indus River.  Like other early civilizations, most people were farmers, with their main crop being cotton.  Merchants would travel as far as the city states of Sumeria to trade their cotton cloth.  About 1750 BCE, this civilization began to decline, and was replaced by nomadic warriors called Aryans.

    Early Systems

    Monarchy and the Divine Right to rule 
    In most of the oldest river valley civilizations, the strongest military man became king.  A political system in which government is controlled by a king or queen is called a monarchy.  Some kings were also the chief priest in their city.  This dual role was not uncommon, and served to place the king on a much higher social level than his subjects, thus making it easier for him to govern them

    Some kings took the religious affiliation even further, declaring they had the right to rule because God had chosen them to do so.  Claiming to rule by divine right made kings appear very powerful, and closely connected to the patron god of the city.  

    Examples of Early Monarchy
    In Sumer and Babylon, the king was often the monarch and the high priest.  The position of these so-called priest-kings was relatively unstable.  If the god(s) didn't provide for welfare of the citizens, the people often held the king responsible, and deposed him.

    In the land of the Nile, the all-powerful monarch was called pharaoh.  The people thought pharaoh was the physical incarnation of the god Horus here on earth.  Asboth a man and a god, pharaoh blended and used both politics and religion to govern his lands.


    Quick Comparison




    Political systemhereditary monarchydivine monarchy


    Social structuredistinct social classesmany social classes
    Women's rolesvery few rightscould own property and enter business

    Taken from Oswego Regents Prep.org