Death And Afterlife In Ancient Egyptian Society And The Mesopotamian Society

990 words - 4 pages

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”. (Hause, 2001, pg. 11)
If there was one thing the Sumerians feared, it was death. The Sumerians feared of natural disasters and invasions, which probably contributed to the gloomy outlook on life. They believed that the gods punished them with floods and or famine. Their pessimistic outlook on life made them have bad premonitions towards their afterlife. They believed that at death that they were going to descend forever into a dark underworld, a huge cave filled with nothing but dust and silence. They tried to enjoy life as much as they could but did not look forward to the afterlife. Death was not the paradise that the Egyptians believed in. It was considered eternal hell. (Hause, 2001, pg. 10)

An example of the Sumerians fearing the afterlife is portrayed in “The Epic of Gilgamesh” Gilgamesh asks Unthapashtim (a biblical version of Noah; Genesis), if there is anyway he can attain immortality. Gilgamesh realized that he was mortal after the death of his friend. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that there is no such thing as permanence. Gilgamesh must come to terms that one day he will die and that scared him greatly. (Sherman, 2000, pg. 8)
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