Death and Afterlife in Ancient Egyptian Society and the Mesopotamian Society

Death and Afterlife in Ancient Egyptian Society and the Mesopotamian Society

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Death and Afterlife in Ancient Egyptian Society and the Mesopotamian Society

There were many ways that the Ancient Egyptian society and the Mesopotamian society were similar yet at the same time they were very different. Egyptians and Sumerians agreed on religion in a sense that both cultures were polytheistic. However, the relationships between the gods and goddesses were different between the Sumerians and Egyptians. This essay will discuss those differences in culture, religion and the viewpoints on death and afterlife.
Mesopotamia’s climate consisted of temperatures rising from 110 to 120°F in the summer. This led to many dry days that eventually led to a severe drought. Basically, there was little to no rainfall from the months of May until October. This led to the devastation of agriculture. Not only did the Sumerians have to deal with the effects of the droughts, they had to deal with the consequences of flooding as well. The Tigris and the Euphrates surrounded Mesopotamia thus when it would overflow more devastation would occur such as the washouts of embankments. (Hause, 2001, pg. 7)
Sumerians praised their gods and goddesses by building temples for them known as Ziggurats. Sumerians were constantly trying to praise the gods due to the fact that their climate was erratic. They believed that the gods and goddesses were in full control therefore they must pay them homage for future wealth and good weather. Yet they could not comprehend why such disasters would happen after such praise. According to the Mesopotamian Prayer, one can view the attitudes of the Sumerians towards the gods and goddesses. This prayer is very grim and pessimistic. It portrays the gods as “hostile, demanding and inscrutable...

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...n’t view death as damnation so such as a continuation of life on Earth. (Hause, 2001, pg. 15)
In conclusion, there were some beliefs and customs that the Egyptians and the Sumerians shared. They were both polytheistic and they both relied on the surrounding rivers for agriculture/life support. Yet their attitudes and prayers towards the gods and goddesses differed as well as their views on the afterlife. As explained, these views differed due to their location, climate and yield in agriculture.


Sherman, D. (2000). Civilizations of the Ancient World. Western Civilizations: Sources, Images, and Interpretations (pp. 8-12). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hause, S., & Maltby, W. (2001). The Ancient Near East: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Phoenicia and Israel. Essentials of Western Civilization (pp.7-15). California: Wadsworth.

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