1.3.3- First Wave Civs Rule

New Systems of Rule in Early CivilizationsAnuj Thaker


Development of Early Civilizations

From 3500 B.C.E to around 1000 B.C.E, the earliest civilizations in history emerged. Before this time period, social classes and systems of government were not yet built. The cultivation of agriculture enabled people to focus on jobs and tasks that did not involve farming. There were six civilizations scattered across the globe were said to be the first to emerge. Each civilization was unique in culture and geography as well as political structure. The six earliest civilizations included; the Olmec civilization, Nile Valley civilization, Norte Chico civilization, Chinese civilization, Indus Valley civilization, and the Mesopotamian civilization. The civilizations were ruled by a centralized government. The government and hierarchy came about because of the inequalities presented. Gender, wealth, and power determined social classes. These inequalities were multiplied over and over again subsequently creating hierarchies and establishing a system of government. All of these events led to a major turning point in human history.

external image map_of_ancient_civilizations.gif

Legal System of Early Civilizations

  • Civilizations during early history were theocratic.
  • The centralized governments of the various civilizations were all based around a central religion.
  • The elite chosen to rule the state was generally a divine official.
  • They believed that the king or queen had descended from the city of Gods.
  • As civilizations grew, Kings had to hand over power of cities to governors to manage.
  • This often influenced warfare over land and canals between neighboring states.
  • Legal laws were mostly based on common sense.
  • Conflicts were resolved by viewing an act as either right or wrong.
  • Serious cases were resolved with the help of the supreme ruler of the land.
  • Punishments also included execution, decapitation, or drowning.
  • Laws also permitted both the accused and the accuser to provide evidence.
  • Power was also handed down from
  • Rulers also taxed the population, generally in the form of crops
  • The power of the ruler was conveyed by temples and structures built

King of Egypt, also known as the Pharaoh
King of Egypt, also known as the Pharaoh
Sargon of Akkad
Sargon of Akkad

Rulers from the Indus Valley Civilization would often be priests or high ranking officials in the religious society
Rulers from the Indus Valley Civilization would often be priests or high ranking officials in the religious society

Case Study

Ancient Egypt is one of the earliest, most powerful civilizations in the world. From the time it emerged in 3150 B.C.E, it has come a long way. A major factor in keeping the civilization structured and strong was the type of leadership it had. The leader or King of Egypt was called the Pharaoh. As Ancient Egypt was a theocracy, the Pharaoh was a divine figure who also called himself the "living God." In this early civilization, like others of its time, intertwined religion, government, and God. Those that were priests or holy men who would carry out the Pharaoh's decrees were given better treatment. Viziers, military officials, and tax collectors all directly answered to the Pharaoh. As the civilization grew, the Pharaoh had to appoint Governors to take care of smaller land. Taxation on the population was a major source of income for the Pharaoh to pay for expenses. Tax was payed in the form of crops. The Pharaoh also controlled most of the resources of the kingdom and only gave them to high ranking officials who were loyal to him.

Laws in such a religious civilization were clearly defined as a good thing or a wrong thing. If a person did wrong, the burden shall not only be on them, but also their families must share the shame. Punishments in Ancient Egypt were strict. If one committed a minor crime, then the usual punishment would be torture and the matter would be taken care of by one of the Pharaoh's men. However, if a murder were committed, then the punishment would often be death or drowning. More serious matters were handled by the Pharaoh himself.

Ancient Egypt had two main eras. The first was the old kingdom and the second was the new kingdom. There were several intermediate stages in both kingdoms. The new kingdom led Egypt to a period of unprecedented prosperity. They strengthened relationships with neighbors, secured borders, and expanded their military. Around the year of 1279 B.C.E, Ramses the Great took the throne. He erected several statues and Obelisks around the empire. Corruption, weak rulers, and conquest by other civilizations led to the downfall of Ancient Egypt.

Social structure of Ancient Egypt
Social structure of Ancient Egypt

Final Conclusion


A-Government contributed to this because of the fact that the ruler had unheralded power and the centralized government was intertwined with religion, it allowed for the King to create structures such as pyramids and Obelisks

G-The geography plays an important role because it gives the ruler a variety of options that would help sustain a civilization. An example of this would be a location near a river as the river could be used for multiple purposes, adding to the arsenal of the king

M-There were several rulers who were strong military leaders and were the ones who led the army to the battlefield. The ruler at that time was always loo

S-Societies were generally made up of a noble class and a slave class which did most of the heavy labor. Men who were high ranking in the religious or political structure were given far better treatment

P-The ruler was an elite official, often "descended from God." Men close to the ruler would help rule the land but ultimate power was given to the King

R-Religion played a major role in the political structure as well as everyday lives of people. People were forced to believe in the religion and the civilization would be a reflection of the religion they worshiped

I-Very few people could read and write in ancient history as several civilizations hadn't even developed one yet.

T-Technological advances such as statues and tools for certain jobs were used every day.

E-The economy was primarily controlled by the king who would restrict or allow trade with neighboring states.


  • Strayer: Ways of the World, p. 85-114

  • Scheffler, Thomas; 2003. “ 'Fertile crescent', 'Orient', 'Middle East': the changing mental maps of Southeast Asia