Ancient Civilization of Greece and Rome

Table of Content


            The term ‘ancient civilization’ refers to a society that existed long ago. It is often used to describe societies that developed around the Mediterranean Sea starting around 3000 B.C. and ending in A.D. 476 with the fall of the Roman Empire.

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            Ancient Greek civilization can be traced back to the Minoan (muh-noh-uhn) civilization that developed about 3000 B.C. on the island of Crete. Crete is located south of modern-day Greece in Aegean Sea. The civilization is named for king Minos, the legendry ruler of Greece. By about 1600 B.C. small villages were established on the Greek mainland by the people from the north. By about 1450 B.C. these villages had grown into larger towns built around palaces. [O’Donnell 9; 1-22]

            The civilizations of Greece and Rome were 2 of many civilizations that flourished around Mediterranean Sea region during this period. Ancient Greece reached its peak about 2,500 years ago and is often called the ‘birth place of Western civilization’. Many of our modern ideas about science, philosophy, government and art are based on the work of ancient Greek. Ancient Rome reached its peak over 1,900 years ago. Rome borrowed its culture heavily from ancient Greek culture. Because the Roman Empire grew so large and lasted for many centuries, it also had a great influence on Western Civilization. Greek Roman Philosophical traditions and their Characteristics

            The Hellenistic philosophy is hard to study partly on account of its success. The teachings of the major schools, beginning in the late fourth century B.C.E. at Athens, had a continuous history of dissemination and elaboration until the early centuries C.E. at Rome, Where some of the most valuable writings in these traditions are produced and where philosophy exerts an enormous influence on the literary and the political culture. The major works of Greek Hellenistic philosophers such as Epicurus, Zeno, and Chrysippus survived; one might decide to limit such a study to the Greek beginnings of the Schools, thus to a single culture and period. But the evidence does not permit this. From the vast output if these enormously prolific philosophers, only fragments and reports survive for the Stoics and, for Epicurus, only fragments and reports plus three brief letters summarizing his major teachings, and to collections of maxims. There is, of course, ample latter evidence about the Greek source; there are also whole original works of Epicurean and Stoic and Skeptic thought from a latter period (above all from Rome). The lack of coincidence between early date and textual wholeness makes the task of selection difficult.

            But when one turns to later sources, especially to Roman sources, it does not seem sufficient simply to raid them for evidence toward the reconstruction of the Greek sources, as is frequently done. One must face the fact that these Roman philosophical works- such as the De Rerum Natura of Lucretius and dialogues, letters and tragedies of Seneca- are themselves complex philosophical and literary wholes, whose practice of “therapeutic argument” cannot be well understood without attending to their overall literary and rhetorical structure, their pattern of language, their allusion to other literary and philosophical texts. Roma literary, political, and social history, of the nuances of the Latin language, as it both translates Greek philosophical terms and alludes to its own literary traditions, and, finally, of specifically Roman attitude to ethical and social questions.

            Philosophical scholars frequently neglect this contextual material, producing a picture of Hellenistic ethics. Typically such approaches will use the Latin texts only as source material for the Greek Hellenistic thinkers, disregarding their specifically Roman literary and social features and the shape of the literary wholes in which the philosophical material is embedded. [Nussbaum9, 10, 11; 15-110]

Social and political organization of Greece and Rome

            Ancient Greece was divided into many small States. Athens was the biggest State in Ancient Greece. Within the cities Greeks have similar Traditions and the same Gods. Every one was stubborn and believed their State to be better than other State and often fought with each other. States were separated with each other. Each State has its own Government. When these States were formed they were ruled by the wealthy men. However, they moved towards Democracy, means now they are ruled by the people. People vote to whom they want to be their leader. People were divided into three classes Upper, Middle, and Lower. Only men who were born in Athens were allowed to vote. They did this in public assemblies where upper class citizens discussed laws. Romans felt that only one man must act as their leader. Roman did not want one man to make all laws, they wanted to balance of the power of the government between three branches: Executive, Legislative and judicial Branch. [Freeman 277; 31-88]

            Greeks were proud of their States and being Greek. Ancient Greeks were thinkers and loved to talk with each other. They loved Beauty, Music, Art, Drama and literature. Their civilization is around 4000 years old yet their culture Impacts our life. Greeks gave many Gifts to us like Greek myth, Tragedy, comedy, Democracy and Theatre.  Ancient Greek spoke the same language and believed in the same God. They shared common heritage. Rome was a dusty, dirty and crowded city with beautiful temples and huge buildings. Ancient Romans were different from the Greeks; they were very realistic Romans made real life status. The statue of Roman Emperor is an example of that, they made huge nose. They always did something like theatre and state festivals. These were the free spectacle which they always enjoyed. Man was the senior member of the family in both Greek and Rome. Senior member of the family earned and women had work to take care of children. [Freeman 289; 12-68]

Religion in Greece and Rome

            Greeks gave importance to religion in their lives. They considered that practicing religion would make their life better. They thought that God would take care of them after death. Greeks believed in many Gods and Goddess. Greeks believed that God was almighty and able to do every thing impossible, even waves in oceans or changing their fate. Greeks sacrificed animals and considered the sacrifice as the gift and honor to the God. They built beautiful Temples. Greeks believed that God lived on the top of Mount Olympus. They believed that Zeus was the head of the all the Gods, Hermes was the messenger, Poseidon was the God of the sea. Greeks used to go other place to worship that were called the Oracles. Greeks believed that God gave answers to their questions by the use of natural sources.

            Romans also believed in same Gods but they gave them different names. Romans also believed that god gave them life and controlled the earth. They believed that god was responsible for all their deeds like killing animals for food, love and all the emotions. They worshiped God at home to protect their house from evil and protect the family. Romans also built temples of their Gods like Greeks. They gave animals to God as gift and thought that this would please the God. Romans thought that God would give them good luck in return of the gift. If something went wrong with them, they thought that God was annoyed with them. [O’Donnell 8, 10]

Decline of these civilizations

            By about 1250 B.C., Mycenaean civilization had begun to break apart. A period known as a dark age- a time of wars and invasions- began on the Greek mainland and lasted until about 800 B.C. [O’Donnell;12].Any civilization rises or falls because of the homogeneity of the society. The nature of the society changes with the loss of its homogeneity. The civilization of Greece and Rome was destroyed in the West by hostile invasions during the fifth century. Invaders, whom the Romans called quite simple ‘the barbarians’ and whom modern scholars have termed more sympathetically ‘the Germanic peoples’, crossed into the empire over the Rhine and Danube frontiers, beginning a process that lead to the dissolution not the Roman political structure, but also of the Roman way of life.[Bryan 63 21-48]

            Athens Empire was made up of Greek city-states, which was based on Delos Alliance to handle the economic situation. Athens was defeated the war from Sparta because of economic condition and then Sparta became a temporary leader of Greece. After that allied forces of Tebe-Athens defeated Sparta, Tebe became strongest. The trade was transferred to Alexandria and with that the Greek civilization came to its end. [O’Donnell; 12]

Works cited

O’Donnell, Kerri. “The Ancient civilization of Greece and Rome: solving Algebraic Equations” The Rosen Publishing Group (2005). [8, 9, 10, 12]

Nussbaum, Craven, Martha. “The Therapy of Desire: theory and practice in Hellenistic ethics” Princeton University Press (1994) Princeton, New Jersey [9, 10, 11]

Freeman, Charles. “Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean” Oxford University Press (2004) New York [277,289]

Perkins-Ward, Bryan. “The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization” Oxford University Press (2005) New York [63]

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