The term "civilization" is a tricky and often contentious term, because it is usually associated with its derivatives "civil" and "civilized." Calling one society a "civilization" implies that others are not "civilized," or barbaric and savage. For the purposes of this class, we will use a more neutral and academic definition of civilization. Once a society grows large enough and hierarchical, and comes under the sway of a single government, we can say that it is a "civilization." That is why historians of the ancient world often times refer to Mesopotamia (see map above) as the original "cradle of civilization," since it was the first place in the world to achieve these milestones around 3000 BCE, followed by Egypt (see map below) about 500 years later. Another common definition of civilization revolves around the development of cities. Indeed, the term "civilization" is derived from civis, Latin for city. But applying the criteria of urbanity to define civilization is not entirely accurate. While fhe first civilization in Mesopotamia, that of Sumer, was essentially a city-state, Ancient Egypt, by all reasonable measures a "civilization," had very few urban centers.
Imagine This: River Valleys and the First States
Mesopotamia and Egypt: 3000-1000 BCE