Ancient Civilizations in Greek Roman Hellenistic
civilizations we have studied thus far in this course, which do you believe has contributed the most to our present society and why? You must state you case by giving specific examples based on reading and research.
Each civilization of the world has grown and evolved on the contributions made by civilization preceding their own. It is beyond contesting that Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations (3000-12000 B.C.E.) laid the foundation of Greek society that is known to historians as one having most contribution in shaping present day world. Not taking away the jewels and contributions of Mesopotamia and Egyptian civilization, it can be stated that Greek civilization contributed the most in developing major disciplines of trade, gender, politics, philosophy, law, and religion. The Greeks put the earlier developed knowledge into a system and delved into an inquiry regarding each conceivable discipline. From ethics, morality, and sciences to the contribution in democracy that we know and practice today, all are rooted in a systematic and earnest inquiry made into by the Greeks.
Firstly, the development of that we see as ‘self-governing’ unitscan be traced back to the ancient Greek civilization (Cartledge 2011, 1-10).Upper and lower Mesopotamia did have ‘cities’ in the sense that we use this word today but these were not self-governing. It is not to state that Greek population lived in cities altogether as most of the population of major population centers of Greek civilization lived in or near rural areas. It is to state that cities as we see today, having respective blocks of administration and active participation of ‘people of the city’ are based on standards and systems laid by the Greeks. To assess the extent to which ‘civic’ participation was part and parcel of Greek civilization, the term ‘polis’ meaning a city state in Greek language was used more than the words that denoted gender, sex, or even God. The famous quote related to Aristotle that man is a ‘political’ animal indicates how politics in its is rooted in importance given to it by the Greeks. Despite thin population in ‘polis’ (city states), the people of these centers were active in politics. The manner in which politicking is currently used for making city states into geographical unisons (countries) is displayed in network of Greek states such as Sparta, Athens, Thebes, Miletus, etc. Politics that heavily shape our city states today is indebted to contributions, both intellectual (theoretical) and systems development, made by the Greek civilization.
In the development of earlier inherited knowledge, it was for Greeks to formalize and significantly improve the use of alphabetical writing system (Dalling 2006, 275-90). Although the use of alphabetic was initiated by Mesopotamians and then developed by Phoenicians, Greeks markedly formalized the system. In disciplines of logic, reasoning, and formal debate on origin and nature of essentially good and bad, Greeks civilization shadows their predecessors and followers. Inquiry into the real, non-real, moral, immoral, knowing and unknowing was formally launched by the Greeks. While not stripping Egyptian or Mesopotamian civilization of their contribution in the development of Greek thought, formal and conscious effort to develop civilization as a whole can be credited to the Greeks.
Formal inquiry into nature of things, Physics, Philosophy, literature, and politics, all are rooted in remarkable era from Solon to Socrates of Greece (Ehrenberg 2010, 1-16).The development in empirical science, one that dominates our present day society, was also initiated by Greek icon Aristotle. Though, much of his theoretical positions related to science were refuted later but he did play an important role in the development of scientific method based on observation and presentation of arguments. It was Eratosthenes, a Greek astronomer that first measured a of Earth by employing geometric calculations (Wilgenbus at al 2011, 1-15). Disciplines such as higher math and physics were also greatly influenced by work of Greek philosophers, astronomers, and mathematicians.
The development of machines to reduce manual labor was initiated by the Greeks. They developed several mechanical instruments that helped them perform daily tasks much easily as compared to earlier times. The history of modern development cannot be attributed to one or another civilization solely. Each civilization had developed what it inherited from their own ancestors and other civilizations. Commerce, trade, religions, politics, and science did not evolve in isolation but Greek civilization contributed overwhelmingly in the development of present day society. Their emphasis on legal, moral, and ethical self has developed present day theories of sociology. Rational inquiry into each and every scientific and social discipline can be attributed to the Greek method of inquiry as prior to that reference to Gods and deities were used to explain and construct theories. Thus, it can be stated that Greek civilization contributed the most to our present day society.
2. Analyze the role that Geography played in any three civilizations we have studied thus far. How did it harm/help/influence the culture of the civilizations in question?
Egyptian civilization was heavily influenced by the geography it was being presented with. Such deep is the influence of geography that Egyptian civilization is referred as a ‘gift of Nile’, a historic river that surrounds Egyptian civilization. The river Nile played an important role in development of an agrarian society and contemporary developments in agricultural science are owed to developments made by the Egyptians. Nile was the single largest source of water for the Egyptians and natural flows of the river heavily impacted the lives of these people. The result was development of a civilization that learned and evolved itself to master the water channels and formulate their architecture accordingly. Geography is one such elements that civilizations adapt to as time passes rather than mastering it. Archaeological and geological (Hoffman et al. 1987, 1-13) significantly made the Egyptians to evolve their civilization by overcoming the natural barriers to life.
The Egyptian culture and habits were determined by the natural environment that had to deal with, the periodic floods that they faced, and the accompanying difficulties of life. The mutually beneficial role of opposite genders to each other was determined by the Nile’s disturbing characteristics. Being an agrarian society, the inhabitants of the Nile-knit civilization were positive towards the women as collective efforts were required to survive. Majority of the tasks in daily and collective life required that more people join hands. The development of measurements of water and sea level was only a necessity to the Egyptians to predict and anticipate floods. The Nile supplies 93% of Egypt’s water (Hassan et al. 2010, 25-37).
This indicates the importance that Egyptian civilization would have placed to water in determine its relations with neighbors and other countries. Like Mesopotamia, Egypt was a river valley civilizationand not many rivers in the world can support such large number of cities and town as Nile. The rich rural aspect of Egyptian civilization is due to the geography of being situated in a place ‘surrounded’ by river. The richness of culture, economic prosperity, and security of Egyptians is also based on their relatively secure geographical location as it bounded from North by the Mediterranean Sea, Red sea to the East, and Libyan Desert to the west. Being secure from invaders, the civilization immensely progresses without external intervention (Tintero et al2002, 39-57).
Approximately the size of Louisiana State, despite its smaller size the Greek civilization influenced the world history more than any other civilization. Surrounded by mountains and Sea, the Greek civilization was protected by mountains that enabled the civilization to develop their own culture and civic life. The people that formed the civilization were independent minded and did not accept tyranny or slavery of others, specifically other states. Fierce urge of independence led to war against each other’s for many years. Sea also influenced the collective life of Greeks as they sought livelihood by surfing seas and trading goods with outer world.
The important Greek states were vital in Greek civilization and each had either agricultural production or trade as livelihood sources. Sparta excelled in military and defense due to its geographic disposition of being in a hilly terrain. Athens also impacted by the geography was surrounded by seas and mountains. The culture and civilization of Greece came into contact with the rest of the world through sea routes. Stability and prospering of Greek civilization is due to the geographic isolation of the regions and development of democracy is attributed to Solon who challenged the rule of wealthy.
The Roman Empire was geographically being provided with both sea routes and mountains. The Mediterranean Sea and Italian mountainous regions formed a natural barrier for the defense of Roman Empire. The trade relationships of the empire were dependent on vast sea routes natural to the Mediterranean Sea. The rich and prosperous civic life and culture of Constantinople, Rome, and Alexandria was dependent on the sea trade via the Mediterranean Sea routes. When Roman Empire got extending, it developed road routes as well. This was to provide effective transportation and communication channels to link the conquered states with Rome, the capital of Roman Empire. The political and military dominance that Roman Empire achieved over conquered states was dependent on the geographical advantages it had in attacking other states while defending itself through improvisation in natural barriers. The Roman Empire was established on the foundations laid by Greeks and thus it was Greek use of symbols and things that influenced the Roman more than any other factor. Vast expansion of the Empire was due to the but this also caused the fall of empire as the geographical stretch spread too far (Adams et al. 2012, 5-50).
3. What was the function of religion in these ancient civilizations? How did it help to shape them, or how was it shaped by them? Compare and contrast the religions of two civilizations in your response.
The role of religion in the Egyptian civilization was immense. Both religion and civilization had impacted each other. The Egyptians were polytheistic and worshipped many gods. The gods and deities were associated with many good and bad phase of life of people of the civilization. The gods being worshipped were related to natural and heavenly ecclesial bodies. Being surrounded by river and fertile soil, and having plenty of sunlight that provided life to the vegetation, Sun was the main god. As compared to the Greek civilization that evolved later, the Egyptians were more religious in the sense that they performed sacrificial ceremonies in Egypt as a sign of following to their gods.
If compared to the later Greek civilization, the Egyptian civilization was deeply rooted in religiosity and arts as well as culture of the civilization were formed as a consequence of religious collectivism displayed by the members of the civilization. The arts and sculptures of Egyptian civilization were basically religious in nature. Specifically that of early years of civilization represents gods and dead people. The sculptures had a value in religious aspect more than that of arts. People engaged in worshipping gods by making their physical bodies in form of sculptures and then decorating them. Cult and magic were based in the literature, art, and drama of the civilization. The religious urge or desire of the Egyptians compelled them to offer gratitude and sacrifice in one form or another for the bounties that they enjoyed in form of abundance of natural resources such as water, sunlight, and agricultural produce. It was for this reason, arguably, that Egyptians associated the sources of abundance as being gods or gods’ representatives. The science and medicine fields were also impacted by the religious beliefs and leanings of the Egyptians (Morenz1973, 1-35). The civilization, in its early era called death a message from a deity rather than any physical cause. Priesthood and medical practice were also interdependent. Gods and goddesses significantly shaped the behaviors and attitudes of inhabitants of the civilization.
The Greek civilization also got impacted from the religious fervor that kept Egyptian civilization intact. The Greeks however did open up the study of rational science and they altered the course of history more than the former civilization. The real challenge to Egyptian knowledge came from the Greeks who wanted to know the reality of this world and questions about mortality, truth, nature and its connection to human beings. Nonetheless, as is representative of early civilizations, religion played an important role in shaping the social life of city states and early Greek civilization was deeply religious. Gods and goddesses were common place in the Greek society as well. Since Greek civilization was less dependent on the agricultural way of life, the cohesiveness and collectivism of society specifically with respect to women role was considerably different from the Egyptians. Egyptians largely acknowledged the role of women and their participation in civic life. Unlike Egypt, Greek states were more patriarchic societies. Only adult and male citizens of ‘polis’took part in the public politics. The participation of women was welcomed in religious ceremonies and proceedings only. Thus, religious leanings played an important role limiting the role of women in active participation in matters of civic life. City states were built with temples and high places for the gods and goddesses. Each aspect of personal and social life was directly or indirectly connected to some religious notion (Sansone2011, 1-39).
The architecture of Mycenaean tombs and other architectural structures of Greece and Egypt alike depict that religion and respect of deceased that originates from religious teachingshas had significant impact on both the civilizations. From pyramids of Egypt to great tombs of Greece dedicated to deceased and deities were and remain important monumental structures. The national and civilizational pride that both Greeks and Egyptians hold has been shaped by hero worship. The impact of religion on Greek cities and rural areas was not alike and some authors such argue that Greek rural areas have little significance in the development of Greek political life and civilization (Nilsson et al. 1971, 1-20). Religion was more professed, practiced, and preserved in rural areas. Cities that later became to be known as states such as Sparta, Athens, Thebes, and Miletus that shaped modern Greek civilization accepted lesser religious practices. In fact it is here in these cities that Greek religion got impacted by the rational and objective approach of city folks. Rationalism, as propagated by Socrates significantly reduced the ‘persona’ of religion in minds of common people.
Adams, Collins, and Ray Laurance.Travel and geography in the Roman Empire. London: Routledge, 2012.
Cartledge, Paul. Ancient Greece: A Very Short Introduction . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Dalling, Robert .The Story of Us Humans, From Atoms to Today’s Civilization. NE: iUniverse, 2006.
Ehrenberg, Victor. From Solon to Socrates: Greek History and Civilization during the 6th and 5th Centuries BC. Oxon: Taylor and Francis, 2010.
Hassan, Hamdi and Rasheedy Ahmed A. “The Nile River and Egyptian Foreign Policy Interest.”African Sociological Review 11(1) (2010): 25-37.
Hoffman, Michael A., Hany, A. Hamroush, & Ralph, O Allen.”The environment and evolution of an early Egyptian urban center: Archaeological and geochemical investigations at hierakonpolis.”Geoarchaeology, 2(1) (1987): 1-13.
Morenz, Siegfried.Egyptian religion. New York: Cornell University Press, 1973.
Nilsson, Martin P. Greek folk religion (Vol. 34). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,1961.
Sansone, David. Ancient Greek Civilization. West-Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Tintero, Felipa L. & Felicitas R. Manacsa.World Geography Affected by World Upheavals. Quezon City: Katha Publishing, 2012.
Wilgenbus, David., & Pierre, L. Early science education and astronomy. Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union, 5(629) (2011): 1-15. Accessed 27 Feb 2013.[http://d.wilgenbus.free.fr/cv/images/ama_unesco.pdf]
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