Civilizations developed in major river valleys are considered to be the oldest societies in the world. There were four major river valleys: Indus valley, Nile River valley, Mesopotamia, located between Tigris and Euphrates, and Yellow River valley, and each one of them became home to unique societies. Although river valley communities were divided by long distances, they had many similar specificities; however, their isolation made them unique in their own way. One of the essential similarities was that they exploited rivers for irrigation and were highly dependent on floods but had many differences in their governing structures.
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One of the essential similarities between these societies was their dependency on a major river, which defined the development of each civilization and thus led to some similar societal features. The first settlers of the banks of these rivers had a simple yet necessary need to feed and maintain a village; hence, they needed access to considerable amounts of water. The soil near the banks was very enriched because of annual floods, and the river’s water source was quite reliable. Be it Euphrates-Tigris, Indus, Yellow River, or the Nile; each community had no difficulties growing food near these inexhaustible water reserves.
Thus, the pattern of development of their settlements was practically identical. Due to extensive food supplies, some settlers could maintain activities, which were not connected with agriculture, for example, house building or smithing. This led to the formation of cities around small coastal settlements, which later became the vital points of river valley civilizations, for example, cities like Ur, Harappa, and Thebes. Each community used rivers for trade and traveling because it was a fast and effective way to transport goods or people. For each civilization, the flood was a constant threat, which is why it was one of the biggest concerns of local people. Therefore, the rivers near which all these societies settled became a water source and a defining factor of development for every river valley civilization.
Even though all river valley civilizations became somewhat centralized and strictly governed by a certain point, their government methods had some big differences at their early stages of development. For example, Shang China – the first Yellow River valley civilization, which existence is historically proven, had a centralized government, while the Mesopotamian civilization was a set of warring city-states. The Chinese emperor was a sole monarch, and each Sumerian city-state had its warrior-king (for example, Gilgamesh). At the same time, the Indus Valley civilization, although highly centralized, had no signs of any sole monarch at all and was ruled by local governors.
The political stability of all mentioned societies varies as well. For example, Sumerian competing independent cities were in a state of constant war, while Egypt and Indus valley civilizations were much more stable and safe. Each society had its own unique form of government and political situation, highly depending on its social hierarchy and beliefs.
Summing everything up, it is possible to say that the choice of a place to settle defined some key features of every mentioned civilization. Their way of life highly depended on floods and river trade. However, the independent development of every culture formed a melting pot for unique traditions and governing methods, and even if these societies and states may seem similar, each one of them had unique culture and history.