Why do we still call Mesopotamia the "cradle of civilization"?

Sep 2015
The Eastern Hinterlands
I noticed that some historians try to extend their concept of "western civilization" into Mesopotamia and Egypt. This would certainly conflict with "Islamic civilizations" in what is now Egypt and Mesopotamia, whose inhabitants descend from those old civilizations and were Arabized and Islamicized. Europeans on the other hand have no connection to these civilizations, other than old neolithic ancestry that makes a very small percentage in most Europeans, and the fact that they influenced and laid the foundations for Ancient Greece (the true root of Europe). Oh, and also Christianity (a Middle Eastern religion).
Good point.
Sep 2018
Why is Mesopotamia often still dubbed "the cradle of civilization", meaning the site where human civilization first emerged and developed? While it was the first region to establish agriculture and a complex society, there were many regions of the world where agriculture and the building of complex societies with advanced economics, politics and use of technology have occurred independently, including: China, MesoAmerica, Egypt and South Asia (all known as pristine civilizations).

My theory on why Mesopotamia is called the "cradle of civilization" has to do with western bias and lots of false theories generated by western scholarship many hundred years ago because they had superiority complexes. Not only was Mesopotamia is the earliest known site to be excavated along with ancient Egypt, it is also connected to European civilization, from the origins of European agriculture to the civilizations of Greece and Rome (the originators of Western civilization).
- One, early agriculture in Europe originated in the Mesopotamian region where it spread from the Near East to Anatolia to Southern Europe to all Europe.
- Two, the roots of Western civilization (which really refers to Western European countries or the former Western areas of the Roman empire) lay in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, but these two civilizations were not pristine civilizations as they largely build upon the foundation that Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt laid out.
- Three, the widespread European religion, Christianity, originated in the Middle East, and the very core of Christianity is still largely Semitic/Judaic.

This is just my opinion, since it's a widely accepted idea in the mainstream. What are you're opinions?
The western bias is influenced by the Bible. According to judeo-christian tradition, the garden of eden were somewhere in Mesopotamia. Hence the first civilization.


Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
I probably shouldn't have used the word 'advanced' with culture, as there is no such thing as an advanced culture. As for 'civilization', I'm just going by the widespread definition of civilization, and that is one with written language, written history, system of government and economics, urbanization, and use of high technology.

' High ' technology ?
Aug 2018
I noticed that some historians try to extend their concept of "western civilization" into Mesopotamia and Egypt. This would certainly conflict with "Islamic civilizations" in what is now Egypt and Mesopotamia
Leaving aside earlier periods, much of the Middle East and North Africa was under Greek and Roman rule for about 1000 years. At that time they were all effectively part of the same civilisation. That's why the New Testament was written in Greek. The Muslim conquests led to Europe and the Middle East/North Africa becoming separate civilisations.

Europeans on the other hand have no connection to these civilizations, other than old neolithic ancestry that makes a very small percentage in most Europeans
Neolithic farmers are one of the main ancestral groups of modern Europeans. I don't know why you insist on saying things which are demonstrably incorrect. Also there were migrations from Europe into the Middle East and North Africa - by hunter-gatherers, farmers, Indo-Europeans, etc.

laid the foundations for Ancient Greece
They had an influence on Greece but Greece also had its own foundations.

Christianity (a Middle Eastern religion)
It originated in the Middle East but that wasn't the only influence on its development. For example Zoroastrianism (an Aryan religion) is thought to have had a fundamental influence on Christianity. And Christianity emerged in a world dominated and influenced by Greco-Roman culture, with the New Testament being written in Greek. Various books in the New Testament are addressed to Greeks, Romans, and also Celts living in Anatolia. Early Christian theology was worked out or created by both Europeans and Middle Easterners/North Africans... it didn't emerge fully formed.
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Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
While there were several original civilizations , Mesopotamia was the most fecund in it's influence


Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
Initially yes

There is the famous anecdote of the tarentine greeks (Tarentum was then a greek colony) being so disdainful of the romans that one of them actually defecated (or urinated, accounts vary) on the toga of the roman diplomatic envoy

Lucius Megellus Postumius was sent to Tarentum (in southern Italy; cf. tau 112 and tau 113) in 282 BC to demand reparations over recent conflict; he was mocked for his imperfect Greek, and a Philonides is supposed to have grabbed Postumius' toga as he walked past, and defecated on it. (Valerius Maximus 2.2.5 reports the insult as involving urination, which Lateiner (2005:52) finds more plausible.) Postumius retorted by threatening war, and indeed Tarentum was captured by the Romans in 272. On the incident, see Lateiner (2005) and Barnes (2005).
Thank you for that informative early anecdote. However, it doesn't actually state that the Greeks regarded the Romans as barbarians, only that the Greeks in Tarentum, in the 3rd century BC, mocked a Roman commander for his imperfect Greek, and grossly insulted him. Anyway the Romans, though hated by the Greeks (according to Cicero) adopted many of the cultural mores of the Greeks.
Dec 2015
A decent history course starts off by telling you how civilisation is generally defined and then proceeds to demonstrate how and why those definitions are wrong and that the term is, in fact, impossible define.
And yet, on most history discussions, we tend to use the definition of civilization as one with a writing system (or some form of concrete communication) and written history, urbanization, government, and sophisticated architecture and technology. Why even come up with a word that some historians can't agree on a definition? Would it be better to measure societies based on complexity?

The legal definition of a "city" is an entity with an incorporated citizenry. A city has a structured government with delegated powers to create legislation. In a "town", the citizens are unincorporated and have no structured system of government. The distinction is irrelevant for this thread and for most other discussions.
Well there you go. There's a distinction between a town and city. The definition I originally stated still stands. Even if there are multiple definitions for a town and city, there's still a distinction. Otherwise why would we even come up with these words if they're essentially "the same".