Early civilizations have been developing due to a range of different conditions. Geography is one of the main factors that shaped the ancient cultures. The climate allowed the people to gain big harvests and to increase population. Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization, and Ancient Egypt are three ancient civilization that have been influenced greatly by the geographical conditions and largely depended on the rivers they were located at.
All ancient civilizations were based on the sources of water, such as rivers which allowed to cultivate land. For example, Mesopotamia was located between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The fertility of soil played an important role in the development of the civilization, since food security was the basis of the stability in the society (Altaweel & Palmisano, 946). This stability allowed the people to shift towards art, inventions, literature, and overall expansion. Food volume influenced the hierarchy within the society and social structures in the region. All over the Mesopotamia there were city-states that were fighting each other in order to get control over the water and fertile land. Thus, despite the fact that Mesopotamian land was fertile, there was still a lack in some resources, for example, in valuable minerals.
Each city-state had a centralized worship system based on temples. This system was aimed to control the harvest since the irrigation systems sometimes could not hold enough water to prevent harvest overflow. Later, each city-state developed its own religious practices, and the cultures became more variable. The same system of worship can be found in Ancient Egypt, where the annual inundation defined the whole culture and philosophy of people.
Along with Mesopotamia civilization, there was also the Indus Valley Civilization that occurred before 3000 BCE. Indus River was the main flow that provided this civilization with harvest and fertile land. The Indus Valley was isolated due to a chain of mountains, which made it unique (Jamison, 243). The agriculture of this civilization was highly dependent on monsoons, as part of its territory was situated in the Indus Valley desert, one of the driest places on the planet. It led to a number of features that differed these civilizations from Mesopotamia. For example, in a Mesopotamian city-state, there usually was a large building or temple, around which other houses were located. In the Indus Valley civilization, on the contrary, there were no large palaces, temples, or buildings. There were only houses of a standard size that had a well and a toilet connected to a highly developed sewage system. The Indus Valley collapsed due to the drying of the Saraswati river, which led to a climate change. It is also said that due to a huge flood all the agriculture was destroyed that made the people of the Indus Valley migrate.
The same dependance on the rivers can be seen in the Ancient Egyptian civilization. It was located in the delta of the River Nile and branched out in the north of Africa. The conditions in which the Ancient Egypt existed would be extremely difficult to survive without the proximity of the Nile. Thus, the state was isolated by the desert and rather small which made it easy to gain control all over it. It led to the strong leadership which was presented by the pharaoh dynasties. Nile was the only source of water in Egypt, and this isolation provided Pharaoh with immense power. Thus, the Nile was the cornerstone of Ancient Egyptian civilization. Its annual inundations also influenced the whole philosophy and religion of Ancient Egyptians (Anthony, 3). They believed that their environment and their life was the blessing of gods. The weather conditions also defined the attitude to the hygiene and the style of clothes that would make it more comfortable to live in hot weather. Thus, the influence of the geography on the culture of Egypt was immense.
Thus, the development of ancient civilizations largely depended on their environment. Ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization, and Mesopotamia were isolated due to natural reasons and were developing in a unique way. All these civilizations were centered around the water source which made it possible to cultivate land. Stable harvests allowed the people to focus more on arts, religion, and culture. Thus, geography was an extremely important factor defining the development of ancient civilizations.
Trade and conquest have always been the key forms of cultural exchange between the countries. They were especially important in ancient times, when the ideas of intercultural communication and diplomacy were not developed yet. Pikiravi (2017) describes trade as an instrument of pre-globalization that served as a medium for the inventions, values and even social institutions. Conquest, in its turn, was a more radical and profound way of cultural interaction.
China can serve as an example of the country with a highly developed concept of trade. It has created the Silk Route that was stretching from the Shaanxi province to the Mediterranean countries. This road consolidated the Indian subcontinent and the Western world. There was also a maritime route called the porcelain route. The route can serve as an example of spreading of civilization across the globe, as the Chinese civilization was more complex than the one of the peoples that lived alongside the Silk Route. New technologies and materials were adopted by the peoples involved in the trade.
The maritime route between Ancient Egypt and Rome can also demonstrate how does the trade influence the cultures involved in it. The trade intensified in 30BC, after the Roman conquest of Egypt. The political powers of that time, China and Rome, established “political and cultural integration” due to the trade (Pikiravi, 881). This integration was transformative for the cultures that were on the edge of their development. The dominant powers forged states “as they subjugated rich cities” and started to use their fertile lands (Pikiravi, 881). Besides, trading diasporas occurred in the foreign states, for example, there were Phoenician diasporas within Greco-Roman republic. They interacted with local public institutions and ideologies (Vlassoupoulos, 271). Thus, the ideas of kinship, religions, ethnicity maintained networking due to the trade.
However, the trade seems not to have such an impact on the spread of civilization as conquest. The conquests led to the full acquisition of a defeated people and to a more profound integration of cultures. Usually, the subjugated cultures were less technologically developed, due to which they were defeated. The spread of Gupta Empire and the conquests of Alexander of Macedonia can serve as examples of conquests that aimed to expand the empire (Urban, 56). The physical expansion of the empires coincided with their physical growth. In later times, the conquests led to the foundation of American states and other colonies of European countries. The local cultures were almost devastated and replaced with the European ones that brought new technologies, religion, and values.
In conclusion, both conquests and trade served as an important mechanism of progress. They motivated the peoples to invent new technologies and to learn more about other cultures. This was an inevitable step in the development of the humanity. Nowadays, conquests are mostly replaced with diplomacy, but trade is still an important part of intercultural interaction
Altaweel, M., & Palmisano, A. (2019). Urban and Transport Scaling: Northern Mesopotamia in the Late Chalcolithic and Bronze Age. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 26(3), 943.
Anthony, F.B. (2017). Foreigners in Ancient Egypt: Theban Tomb Paintings from the Early Eighteenth Dynasty. Bloomsbury Academic.Web.
Jamison, S. W. (2020). The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization. The Journal of the American Oriental Society, 140(1), 241.
Pikirayi, I. (2017). Trade, Globalisation and the Archaic State in Southern Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies, 43(5), 879–893. Web.
Urban, W. L. (2019). Trade and civilisation: economic networks and cultural ties, from prehistory to the early modern era. CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, 56(5), 652.
Vlassopoulos, K. (2020). Trade in the Ancient Mediterranean: Private Order and Public Institutions. Business History Review, 94(1).