Comparing Civilizations

by Jeff Stats - Date: 2007-04-20 - Word Count: 1651 Share This!

Mesopotamian, Ancient Egyptian, Hellenistic Greek, and Roman were great civilizations that enormously influenced the following development of the world. Each civilization contributed a large amount of it's achievements to the overall progress of the world. However, I think that Hellenistic Greek was the most important out of the chosen civilizations to impact the world. Hellenistic Greek was the culmination of the advancement of the ancient world. By using the following comparison of these civilizations I will try to prove my point of view of Hellenistic Greek being the greatest.

Mesopotamian is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is very interesting that Mesopotamians had a started some sort of democracy. They solved all the rising questions and problems by public assemblies and voting. They used debates to have pros and cons presented and then decided about the following actions or solutions. However, their class structure was sharply divided. At the top were kings and noble classes. There were also slaves who could engage in business, own property, and even testify in court.

The daily life of Mesopotamians was very boring. They only worked and worshiped their gods. The main industry that people were engaged in was agriculture. The tools used to work in the field were made out of stone. This shows not much of the progress in innovations that would make the very day life much easier.
The main reminding of Mesopotamian art are the frescoes that were found as decorations of sanctuary rooms. Bull and bear heads were also used as decorations. Scholars also found drawings that probably were the musical notes for Mesopotamians. Mesopotamian did not achieve much in architecture. Their houses were plain without any decorations which is probably the result of people being busy working and not having time to decorate their houses.

Mesopotamian philosophy is revealed in their myths that were the combination of Babylonian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Sumerian myths. Each of these regions had their own myths but due to the closeness all of them were related and had a lot of similarities. Myths were mostly about the religious events and importance of worshiping their ancestors. Most of the writing, though, that survived from Mesopotamian times consist of laws, accounting records, list of kings and enemies.
Ancient Egypt had a different concept of political structure comparing to Mesopotamia. In Egypt it was all up to the pharaoh and there were no debates and public discussions. The social structure was similar to the Mesopotamian. On the very top was the pharaoh, then vizier, then high priests and nobles, then priests, engineers and doctors, then scribes and craftsmen. On the very bottom of the social pyramid were soldiers, farmers and tomb builders.

Agriculture was the main occupation for Egyptians just like for Mesopotamians. The Egyptians were one of the first groups on earth to begin farming, probably around 10,000 BC. They were also great at building. The Egyptian pyramids were built throughout ages and still remain one of the wonders of the world.
Most of what we know about Egyptian art comes from the paintings the Egyptians created in the tombs of rich people when they died. It is very similar to Mesopotamians. These pictures were supposed to help the dead person when he or she reached the next world, where the Egyptians thought a person lived after the death in this world. So the paintings showed all sorts of things that people did in their regular lives.

Egyptian homes were made of dried mud bricks. Towns had small narrow streets. Throughout the Egyptian history the styles in architecture were changing. In the beginning, they built mainly mastabas, a kind of tomb with a flat roof like a house. Then during most of the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built the pyramid tombs which are now so famous. In the Middle Kingdom, the mastaba tomb came back again, although in a more elaborate form for the Pharaohs. No more pyramids were built. Finally in the New Kingdom there was a lot of building that was not tombs: temples for the gods especially, but also palaces for the Pharaohs.

The main philosophy of the Egyptians was to be afraid of nature gods. They believed in Gods, sacrificed, and were afraid of them. Each natural thing had its own God. What we have left of Egyptian writing, like Egyptian art, mostly comes out of tombs. Because of this, most of what we have left is prayers. Other writing like laws and lists of who gave their fair share to the temple mostly has rotted away over the years. We do not know whether the Egyptians wrote novels or stories, but if they did then these stories have also rotted away.

The civilization that I believe is the greatest is Hellenistic Greek. During the Hellenic era Macedon was the most popular, important, and interesting city-state of Greece. Hellenistic Greece was more similar to Mesopotamia than to Egypt in its political structure. Huge Greece was divided into city-states that has own governing bodies. Macedon was also kind of buffer to protect the rest of the Greek empire from the aggressive neighbors. However, Macedonians were always unappreciated by their fellow Greeks. Hellenistic era was also called "the age of the Greeks" because Greeks' culture was spread all over the world.

Unlike the previous civilizations Greeks were not afraid of finding something new about the Earth. Greeks were the first to find out that the earth was round. Greeks wanted to know more about the universe, heavens, and themselves. They studied the sky, moon, connection to other planets.

The main fact that reminds us about the Hellenic architecture is Hellenic Pyramids. Greeks borrowed the idea from the Egyptians. Greeks also got a lot assembled in their culture from different cultures. By doing this they created the best known culture at that time. By the 300's BC, in the Hellenistic period, there are some new architectural types. Less time is spent on temples. The new form is the theater, and many theaters are built all over the Greek world. Also, there is new interest in town planning at this time: streets begin to be laid out in straight lines, instead of just developing naturally. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, architecture becomes an important way to spread Greek culture and show who is in
charge in the conquered countries.
The main trend in philosophy at that time was unique that was never practiced before. It was called autarkeia which meant self-sufficiency. It was introduced by cynics who were headed by Diogenes. Behind his rejection of traditional allegiances lay a profound concern with moral values. What matters to human beings, he taught, was not social status or nationality but individual well-being.
The Hellenic language is the most perfect human achievement in the linguistic field. And this, of course, is not incidental. This language, therefore, is the creation of people with superior thought and mental consistency. The qualities characterizing the language of the Hellenes, also characterize their being. Proof is that the same qualities (clarity, providence, power, expressional wealth etc) are found in their mental and artistic creations.

Roman civilization was basically a copy of Greek. That is the main reason why I think it is not as great as Greek. The conduct of political affairs was heavily dominated by the senatorial class, particularly by a small number of noble families. The upper classes generally followed one of two informal political factions: Populares ("the party of the people") Optimates ("the party of the best men" or of the aristocrats).

The main occupation of Romans was agriculture. Latium which was the area around Rome was an agricultural region. That is very similar to all civilizations that I wrote before. Romans also had a new industry - pottery. Pottery was introduced from Campania and the art of bronze-casting from Etruria. A Roman would usually get up early and work a six hour day.

One distinct difference between the civilized Roman world and others was their housing. Whereas others lived in primitive huts, Rome took to housing its people in sophisticated brick-built houses, not so different from what people live in today. The Romans brought a lot of new ideas to architecture, of which the three most important are the arch, the baked brick, and the use of cement and concrete.
Roman art grows out of Etruscan art and at first it is a lot like Etruscan art. Because of this, it has a close relationship to Greek art as well. Roman art as a type of its own really gets going around 500 BC. The Romans were particularly interested in portraiture: in making statues that really looked like one particular person, especially a famous person. As was the habit of Roman society, the Romans did not invent their music. The music of Rome has its origins in Greek traditions. Our term for music itself is derived from the Greek term Mousike, which means "the art of the muses." Early Greek music was purely melodic, or homophonic, utilizing only one melody without chordal accompaniment. The Greek musical system used Pythagorean mathematics to organize the chief concodant intervals according to simple numerical ratios.

Roman philosophy is thoroughly grounded in the traditions of Greek philosophy. Interest in the subject was first excited at Rome in 155 BC by an Athenian embassy, consisting of the Academic Carneades, the Stoic Diogenes, and the Peripatetic Critolaus. Of more permanent influence was the work of the Stoic Panaetius, the friend of the younger Scipio and of Laelius; but a thorough study of Greek philosophy was first introduced in the time of Cicero and Varro. In a number of works they tried to make it accessible even to those of their countrymen who were outside the learned circles.

Roman authors turned primarily to Greek sources, when composing the cultural heritage that became known as Roman ancient culture. For example Virgil, when describing the mythical origins of Rome in his Aeneid, turned to Homer's tales about Troy.

Related Tags: egyptian, ancient greek, history essay, ancient civilizations, cultural development, mesopotamian

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