The World and Its People
Birthplace of Civilization
Egypt, in North Africa, and Mesopotamia, in Southwest Asia, were the earliest known human civilizations. Mesopotamia arose in the fertile crescent of land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians were peoples who lived in and around Mesopotamia. The Sumerians created a form of writing known as cuneiform. Akkad's King Sargon created the first empire. Hammurabi, Babylon's greatest king, developed a code of law that would serve as a basis for future laws. The Phoenicians were important traders who developed an alphabet.
Like Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt grew out of a river valley—the Nile. The two kingdoms of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt were united in 3100 B.C. under a great pharaoh called Narmer. The Egyptian religion was polytheistic, meaning that the Egyptians believed in many gods. They also believed in a form of life after death. The pharaohs were buried in elaborate tombs called pyramids. The ancient Egyptian system of writing is called hieroglyphics. Egypt conquered many lands during its long history, and its trade routes stretched far and wide. Eventually, however, the Egyptian empire grew weak and was conquered by even greater empires—the Greeks and Romans.
Three of the world's monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—developed in Southwest Asia. Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion. The Jews' belief in one God was later shared by Christianity and Islam.