The ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient India, China, and Classical Greece have been shaped largely due to their location and physical geography.
The interaction of the people in these different societies greatly varies, from subjects like religion to something as simple as exploration. These ancient societies span from the Pacific ocean to the Mediterranean sea so the way that they were created is very diverse.
Mesopotamia is the first real civilization to inhabit the area of the fertile crescent.
Since the agricultural revolution had already began, farmers began spreading into the fertile crescent. The early inhabitants of this area first had to tame the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, to reach the agricultural potential. Also in Mesopotamia metal workers could produce bronze with the copper and tin they had. This technology would later spread to Egypt, Europe, and Asia. The Mesopotamians had no stone, and no timber so these materials had to be imported from Syria and Asia. As more and more people flooded into the southern part of the fertile crescent the major city of Sumer formed and here are the first signs of clear cut civilization. Wheel traffic, boats, advanced tools, and bureaucracy were seen here. Cuneiform writing was also developed here. It was written on the soft clays from the two rivers. Cuneiform was later adopted by the Hittites who later conquered Mesopotamians. One of the rivers that brought so much life to this region also brought its downfall. The Hittites made a quick raid down the Euphrates, using chariots and brought the end of an era.
Like we saw in Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt was also sustained by a river.
The Nile river valley was named Kemet(“the black land) because of the rich black soil that was deposited yearly by the Nile floodwaters. Over time the Nile floods were able to predicted and this knowledge of the yearly floods allowed the Egyptians to become very good farmers. Also large communities began to form to build dikes and canals to be able to cushion themselves from the blow of the floods. The Egyptians were also skilled in geometry which was important in measuring out the dimensions of property after the floods had destroyed old property lines. Since the Egyptians attributed everything to the annual floods they believed that they were acts of the gods and goddesses. Religion was a major role in Egyptian society, so people made sacrifices to the gods in order to protect their families from the river. This Egyptian society is a great example of how the geography of the land can help shape almost every aspect of a society.
The Ancient Chinese are another society that began to evolve around the areas of rivers and river basins. Ancient China consisted of two main rivers the Huang Ho and the Yangtze. Since the Chinese empire was so large, the different climates of each region dictated which crops could be grown where. For instance, rice was grown in the low lying wet grasslands of southern China. Since China’s territory was so large they were always vulnerable to attacks, and as we have seen China has been taken over by many different dynasties. The Chinese needed protection and there were several different things they did to protect themselves from invasion. One was a system like the feudal system in which the ruler gave out land and in return he was given protection. The northern Chinese were the first people to use walls to protect their cities from nomadic invasions. When Chinese people really started to emerge as a cultural and political unit, the geographical environment of easily taken land led to a long history of political turmoil and disunity. Religion is Ancient China is based on the gods in nature. They had a god for everything, such as a god for the mountains or a god for the rivers. Confucianism is another type of religion or set of beliefs that was developed in this region. Confucius was raised in cultural and political turmoil and his major concern was the improvement of society and the maintenance of order. Lastly, the Chinese were fortunate enough to discover silk in their territory. Silk received a large demand all the across the ancient world, some of the Chinese silk traders even made it all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ancient India was also a society that was formed along a river and river basin. The Indus civilization was formed around the Indus river which is located in the northwest region. India is encompassed by the Himalayan mountains and the Indian ocean. The Indian ocean bring on the wet monsoons of the summer, which were essential for the farmers. The Himalayas bring on the cold dry monsoons of the winter. As we saw in the Egyptian and Mesopotamia civilizations, the Ancient Indians were also irrigation farmers. These farmers main crop was wheat and barley. The Indus civilization was also a first for a lot of things. Chickens were being domesticated, and cotton was grown and made into textiles. Since the Indus civilization was located in the northwest, trade was sufficiently organized to obtain tin, silver, gold, and timber from the mountains to the west. The monsoons were such a big part of the Indians life and the monsoons were so cyclical that the Indians religious beliefs stemmed from them. The whole idea of birth and rebirth was seen in the cycle of the monsoons.
The last ancient civilization that we talked about were the people of Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was located on and surrounding the Mediterranean sea. This enabled the Greeks to become excellent mariners that specialized in the trade industry.
Their proximity to the sea allowed them to reach places such as Syria, Africa, and Asia Minor to trade their goods. Although Ancient Greece was located on the water, they did still have mountains. These mountains divided the Greek peninsula and made communication difficult. This led to very independent city-states. Since there were limited resources on the mountainous landscape of Greece, the people were forced to establish other colonies abroad. Greek trade even helped to influenced many people including the Jews to adopt Greek language, art, and clothes.
There seems to be a reoccurring theme in these five ancient civilizations. These people began to band together in areas where they would flourish due to abundance of resources. These people also came together in search of protection from outside invaders.
Trade has spread so many ideas and good, it has helped expand these ancient society’s view of the world.