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Greek and Roman Empire Influence on Western Civilization
Spawning Civilization: From Greece to Rome to Western Civilization
It is difficult to find an area of life in contemporary Western Civilization which has not been influenced by the ancient empires of Greek and Rome. These two cultures were similar to one another, and helped to propagate many of the values and customs that are still prevalent in Western Civilization today. Some of the many facets of life in which the influence of these aforementioned situations is considerable include religion, language, philosophy, aesthetics or arts, architecture, and others. That this influence is so strong is not surprising; the present, after all, is directly related to the history that preceded it. From a historical perspective, then, it is extremely noteworthy that first ancient Greece, and then ancient Rome, was always the dominant power in Western civilization. There were many aspects of Greek culture that were disseminated to Roman culture. Therefore, one can posit the idea that ancient Greece and ancient Rome actually spawned western civilization, which is little more than a product of the effect these two civilizations have had on this part of the world.
Perhaps the single most dominant way in which ancient Greek and Roman empires have affected Western civilization is in religion. The overall impact of religion should not be underestimated -- during some of the formative stages of Western civilization after the fall of the ancient Greek and ancient Roman empires, religion was largely the most civilizing aspect of all facets of life including government, law, social issues, morals, ethics, and others. It is no coincidence, then, that the religion that was selected as the state religion of the Roman empire -- both its Eastern and Western branches -- is the same religion that is practiced throughout the majority of the Western world today. That religion is Christianity, and was readily embraced by Rome in the fourth century when Constantine had a vision of the cross (upon which Christ was crucified) dominating the world 1. Although his vision was largely the means of winning a battle, he nonetheless adopted this religion which has spread all throughout the world, and continues to spread as such in contemporary times. Additionally, it would be a mistake to deny the influence of Greece in the propagation of Christianity. Greece was widely spoken in the eastern portion of the Holy Roman Empire -- even after the western portion of that empire fell. Additionally, some of the initial pages of the Bible were translated into Greece, especially passages in the New Testament. There is no denying the fact that the official state religion of Rome (which had an intrinsic connection to the Greek language) is the most ubiquitous religion in Western Civilization today, and that the former effectively spawned this occurrence in the latter.
Another aspect of contemporary Western civilization that is quite obviously an extension of the influence of ancient Rome is language. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire, and enjoyed a particular dominance in ancient Rome prior to the partitioning of Eastern and Western sections of the Roman Empire. Latin is known as the progenitor of the romance languages, which include French, English, Spanish, and others. It is important to realize that these aforementioned languages are frequently spoken in various parts of Western Civilization -- including in Europe and in North America. Moreover, these tongues are also embraced and spoken in areas in which Western countries were able to establish colonies. These areas include parts of Haiti, Central and South America, and certain countries in Africa, among others. Also, it is vital to realize that English is perhaps the most popular language spoken throughout the world, and largely functions as a neutral language which people from foreign countries can utilize to communicate with one another. The subsequent quotation readily emphasizes this fact. "Even though Latin is today considered a 'dead' language, it has influenced many Western languages. It is the origin of over 60% of the words spoken in the English language and, without Latin, the English we speak today would be dramatically different" (2). Latin, of course, was the language of Rome, and quite literally spawned a number of different languages widely spanning throughout Western Civilization today.
It is also difficult to dispute the degree of influence that ancient Greece and ancient Rome have asserted within the realm of government in modern times. Although there is by no means is a uniform system of government that is readily employed throughout Western civilization, virtually all of the forms of government that are practiced throughout it were initially conceived of, researched, and practiced in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. It is a well-known fact that scholars such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle considered varying forms of government; Plato and Aristotle, for their part, wrote about and discussed such ideas as a means of connecting government in accordance with virtuous behavior. Some of the types of government which are written about by thee two individuals include monarchies, aristocracies, democracies, and others. These conceptions of government were inherited by ancient Rome, which employed these various forms at different points in time. For a long time the Roman empire was ruled by a democracy in the form of a republic 3. This fact has not escaped the notice of those who were in charge of erecting nation states in contemporary times. Although there were some other points of government utilized at various stages of development in Western Civilization (feudalism being one of them), for the most part modern society has relied on the forms of government deconstructed by the aforementioned philosophers and practiced by Rome. The United States, for its part, is actively going around the world and implementing democracies in areas in which democracies do not exist (typically in non-Western parts of the world. These forms of government were inherited from the ancient Greeks and ancient Romans, who bequeathed them to contemporary society.
One of the chief criticisms to the argument that modern day Western Civilization was greatly spawned from various facets from the empires of ancient Greek and Rome is the fact that Western Civilization is not homogenous. Actually, it is spread out so much that it would be difficult for it to be so, with the vast majority of this civilization encompassing Europe, North America, and various localities in which countries in these parts of the world have established colonies. The sheer amount of geographic distance that makes up Western Civilization adds to the fact that even from a historic perspective, there never was any singular culture that was solely responsible for the development of Western Civilization. Still, if one examines this argument at length it becomes clear that despite the many different influences that resulted in Western Civilization, the influence of the ancient Greek and Roman empires was still the most prominent, especially when one considers the different sociological constructs that contemporary society has borrowed from these two civilizations. Yet the single most cogent piece of evidence that supersedes the typical counterargument that Western Culture is heterogeneous so therefore it could not have been spawned from the influence of Greek and Roman empires is the fact that there is a large degree of continuity between these two empires. The example of the fact that Greek philosophers discussed different forms of government that the Roman Empire later on practiced is an excellent model between the relationship between these two groups of people. Additionally, certain cultural manifestations -- such as homosexuality -- were evinced within both of these cultures 4. In this respect, much of Greece's influence was passed down to Rome, which in turn disseminated these cultural traits to contemporary society. So despite the fact that there were other influences than these two civilizations, the fact that the Roman empire…[continue]
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