Both ancient cultures built sophisticated monuments to praise their gods. The Egyptians constructed a vast network of impressive temples to honor their many gods, each of which had an elite staff of priests whose job was to care for the temple and the gods. One of the most prominent temples was Abu Simbel, which was carved out of the side of a cliff and had four giant statues of Ramses, the Alexander the Great of Egypt, guarding the entrance.
Another notable example was the mortuary temple of King Khufu at Giza, which had polished limestone floors and ornately painted columns. The Mesopotamians built ziggurats to glorify their gods, which were considered stairways to heaven. One of the most famous ziggurats was the enormous, complex structure built at Ur which reached up to almost 100 feet. It was erected to honor the moon goddess Nanna, the divine patron of the city state. The gods were central to both cultures and, as a result, much time was devoted to constructing and maintaining their monuments.
The importance of the gods in their cultures was also reflected in their political structure. Both societies believed that their leaders were somehow related to their gods. The Egyptians believed that their pharaohs were the reincarnation of the sun god Re, the chief god who held the most power of all of the gods. This was believed because the pharaohs had immense power, governed huge areas of lands, and controlled vast resources such as gold and slaves. The pharaohs also elevated their status by building huge structures to the gods that seemed to transcend their earthly life, such as the pyramids and temples. The pharaohs used ordinary Egyptians to build the pyramids, not slaves, because the Egyptians wanted to please the god king so they would be guaranteed a place in the afterlife.
The pharaohs also conquered thousands of square miles of land through military victories which seemed almost impossible for mere mortals. Similarly, the Mesopotamian kings were believed to be the sons of gods. The god the kings were related to depended on the city states main god, which was usually Anu. The king was also the chief priest which continued the relationship, keeping them close to the gods. The kings took on massive public works projects as well as military conquests which further cemented this belief. Because of the importance of the gods to these societies, their leaders were raised to a godly status as a reflection of their significance and as a result of their many accomplishments, which also gave the people a more tangible connection to the gods.
While both societies honored their gods and saw their leaders related to the gods, the Mesopotamians had a pessimistic outlook on life because they believed that the actions of their gods were unforeseeable while the Egyptians had an optimistic outlook on life because they believed their gods were predictable. The Mesopotamians beliefs arose because their region had an unstable environment. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers often overflowed their banks in flash floods, ruining farmland and houses as well as killing people and livestock. The environment also varied when they had droughts that led to famines and then regular rainfall which gave them food surpluses.
In addition, the major factor that ended this civilization was the environmental decline because of over farming which led to an ecological disaster that still plagues this region to this day. The Egyptians, on the other hand, believed that their gods were predictable because their environment was very unsurprising. They could forecast the inundation of the Nile River by looking at the stars. As a result, they believed the gods were telling them things through the stars. Therefore, their priests often looked to the heavens for answers, blending science into their religion and resulting in a certain amount of control over their lives. But because everything that happened was attributed to the gods, the outlook on life for both societies was closely linked to the region they lived and the problems that were encountered.
The gods were central to both Egyptian and Mesopotamian societies. The architecture of both regions reflected the religious symbols that were instrumental to the faith of the people. The leaders in both societies were considered to be related to the gods because of the amazing structures they built and the accomplishments they achieved.
Finally, the perception of life was determined by environmental factors that shaped the peoples view of how their gods treated them. At the heart of their religions, the Egyptians and Mesopotamians were focused on pleasing their gods so that they would be rewarded and anything bad that happened was attributed to not satisfying the gods. Unaffected by outside influences, these civilizations shared many similarities in how their religions shaped their cultures but also had differences which arose from the impact of their geographical location.