Mesopotamian culture was not entirely monolithic, as the geographic region included multiple linguistic and cultural groups. One striking feature of Mesopotamian cultures was the degree to which it was urbanized and centralized. The two inter-related institutions of place and temple were socially, culturally, religiously, and visually the centres of the early city states and later kingdoms. Their strikingly massive monumental architecture, which celebrated the power of monarchs and gods, reflected the centrality of these institutions within the society. Much of Mesopotamian literature is concerned with the institution of kingship and the nature of the gods. Unlike the squabbling nobles of Homer's Iliad, even the Mesopotamian elites were clearly subordinated to central authority.
The early Mesopotamian government was strikingly bureaucratic, with elaborate written law codes and systems of taxation. The orderliness of the society is reflected in the geometrical organization of the art, especially in the way figures in bas reliefs are symmetrically organized into ranks.