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Major Events in Western History

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Western Civilization is a type of civilization which relates to cultures of the western European culture. According to historians Western Civilization emerged between fourth and third thousands BC, “when people in different parts of the world began to live in organized communities with distinct political, military, economic, and social structures” (Judith & Learner, 123-129). Basically, Western Civilization is rich and famous for its progressive development and constant changes in people`s lives. She appeared in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The first stage of its development, known as "ancient civilization", was marked by the emergence of the core values of Western-type society: the relations of private ownership, private production, market-oriented, the first “government by the people” – democracy, republican form of government. In the early times of Western Civilization the foundations of civil society to ensure individual rights and freedoms were established, as well as socio-cultural system of principles, the mobilization of creativity and development of the individuals (Judith & Learner, 130). There are many significant events that happened in Western Civilization and influenced today`s world, as some of them have significantly affected our modern lifestyle and undoubtedly changed our society. Nevertheless, I think the three major elements that happened in Western Civilization are: The Rise of Christianity, the appearance of Democracy, and the invention of the printing press.

To start with, I strongly believe the Rise of Christianity is one of the most significant events that have ever happened in our world. In today`s world Christianity is thought to be the biggest religion, as about 2, 1 billion people follow it. This religion is based on teachings of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be the Son of God (Engels, 46). Based on Jesus preaching and biography the New Testament, along with the Old Testament is made, constituting a sacred book of Christians - the Bible.

Christianity traces its roots back to the Roman Empire, when the empire was under the threat of a complete dissolution, when county`s borders were attacked by inhabitants, who were unvanquished by Rome and were not afraid neither of soldiers nor legions of Rome. In this period of time more and more contradictions and discords were appearing in the internal system of Rome (Gonzalez, 210-211). Ruthlessness and brutality of the situation generated by the general weakness led to the expectation and hope of salvation in religion. However, the old religion and pagan gods were unable to help inhabitants. Therefore, that period of time was the most reliable for the breakthrough of Christianity,

and has become a rescue for miserable people, who were directly affected by ruthlessness and cruelty of governors and life orders (Gonzalez, 215-218). Resentful, miserable and destitute people put their trust only in the new God, whom they have discovered for themselves. Jesus Christ as a founder of a new religion taught his disciples the religion of unselfishness, forgiveness of sins and a willingness to take a decision about self-sacrifice. He said that the kingdom of God is in the immediate vicinity of the land. Jesus chose 12 disciples and sent them to proclaim Evangelie for different nations. These disciples of Christ were called apostles. Apostles had a great respect among the first Christians, and became the founders of the first Christian communities, and then – Churches (Gonzalez, 235). Nevertheless, even despite the fact that the new religion was desired by many people, it was not easy to accept it, and all the more to preach Christianity among acerbated rulers and dignitaries of the Catholic Church. To the V century spread of Christianity took place mainly in the geographical limits of the Roman Empire, as well as within its sphere of cultural influence (Armenia, eastern Syria, Ethiopia), later (mainly in the second half of the first millennium) - among German and Slavic peoples, and later (in XIII-XIV centuries.) - also among the Baltic and Finnish people. In new and modern times, the spread of Christianity outside of Europe took place due to colonial expansion and the activities of missionaries (Gonzalez, 249-250).

As I have mentioned before, nowadays Christianity is one of the largest religions all over the world; moreover, it has influenced the era of chronology, as “in the western hemisphere, we split time by the birth of Jesus Christ” (Gonzalez, 211). In the sixth century Christian Church proposed to introduce a new era of chronology from the emergence of a new religion. In 525, the Roman monk Dionysius the Small calculated the date of Christ's birth and suggested to establish a counting of years "from birth of Christ." Also in our modern society variety of people celebrate different Christian holidays such as Easter, Christmas, Valentine`s Day, all Saints Day and many others (Gonzalez, 200). As far as I am concerned, it is a religion that gave humanity the basis of morality and legality. It is hard to believe that now in our world there would be no Christian religion- the religion that has shaped the aesthetic and moral ideals, was a source of inspiration for the vast majority of people. For me, as being Christian it is significant to follow the religion founded more than two thousand years ago. I believe that Christianity and Christian teachings help a person in spiritual quests, when people are lack of understanding, or are “lost“in their lives. Therefore, many people, as well as I am, are very proud, blessed, and happy of following an amazing religion called Christianity. The second important event of Western Civilization that, to my mind, that shaped and influenced our world is the emergence of democracy. This great contribution to the political world is a merit of the Ancient Greeks, who established democracy in the Roman kingdom more than 2, 500 years ago. The term democracy comes from the Greek word, which consists in turn of two words: “demos” – people and “kratos” rule, reign (Dunn, 122). Originating in antiquity, literally democracy means “power of people" or "democracy.” In the XX century the word democracy has become, perhaps, the most popular among the people and politicians around the world. Democratic theory had an enormous influence on a social life, have led to an expansion of rights and freedom of citizens. Nevertheless, in order to speak of democracy it is important to remember its history, its root (Dunn, 124).

Nationhood in ancient Greece emerged in the early first millennium BC in the form of separate and independent polises - individual city-states that also included adjacent rural areas along with the urban area. In ancient Greek polises the race for power was developing, which was concentrated on fight for the establishment of the one of forms of government: aristocracy (the power of the nobility), oligarchy (power of the rich) or democracy (power of people) (Dunn, 125). The fight for different layers of government is reflected in the struggle of various flows of philosophical, political and legal thoughts of Ancient Greece. Thus, Ancient Greece can be considered as the place of “birth” of democracy, and today in our modern world not every government and nation is able to achieve the level of development of democracy that Ancient Greece did (Dunn, 126).

Democracy in Ancient Greece in its many aspects is quite different from the democracy of our days. Initially, in Ancient Greece the democracy was a system of direct rule where the entire nation, or rather, a set of free citizens, was like a “collective legislator”, in which the system of embassy was not known. Such a situation was possible because of the limited size of the Greek state, which encompasses the city and the surrounding rural areas with a population, usually no more than 10 thousand citizens. So, political life of Greece citizens was characterized by significant activity of people who were very interested by all parties and aspects of the government (Keyssar, 203). Nevertheless, in today`s world the concept of democracy still remains significant for the variety of citizens all over the world.

To my mind, the democracy is the most humane form of political organization of the society, as it greater “takes into account” human`s rights and freedom, our individual demands and needs. Democracy makes our lives better; it gives people a chance to vote, to express their opinions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that, “in a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme” (Keyssar, 206). This idea is true and wise, nevertheless, in our world, I think, everything is vice versa, and despite the fact that there is more poor than rich people, the wealthy one have a huge power. Going back to the statement of Aristotle, I believe that people, despite being rich or poor, should have rights, freedom and a choice to decide. Moreover, if the nation is poor, it is government`s responsibility to protect its citizens and make their life better.

The final event that I consider to be also very important to the Western Civilization is the invention of the printing press. It is hard to imagine modernity without printing and printed materials. Today in order to share our information, ideas, knowledge and experience with other people almost everyone uses printing materials.

The History of the printing press release contains inscriptions on stone, clay, wood, bark, parchment, papyrus, cloth, on a wax layer plates. 4000 years ago, the Egyptians cut historical narratives and legends on the rock of their pyramids. On the bricks of the ruins of ancient Babylon were written symbols (Matter, 103). Public books depositories and the ancient nobilities kept numerous clay tablets with the different types of records on them. Later, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans carved on stone and bronze plates the official documents and the various narratives. With the invention of paper came scrolls and books. Rewriting has become a profession. The history of printing holds many approaches to the craft. Ever since the ancient times people in different ways tried to reach the goal - to create a printing press (Mattern, 109). In the history of printing press there are different scientists and historians who believe themselves to be the inventors of the printing press. In 1568 the Dutch historian Adrian Yuniem wrote a legend about the invention of printing, and in 1588 appeared in print in the history of Holland. He realized that it is possible to print books with wood planks, and then casting a letter from the lead, and then from the tin. The history of printing in the XV century also remembers the name of the German scientist Gutenberg (Mattern, 120). The first Guternberg`s results were in the form of small booklets, as the scientist could not afford larger publications, because they cost too much. The first printing press machine was founded in England in 1875 (Moran, 25-29).It was designed to be printed on metal. Offset cylinder was covered with cardboard, which carried over the printed image from stone to the metal surface. Cardboard covering was soon replaced by rubber, which soon became the most used material. The first person who realized the idea of printing on paper was an American Ayra Rubel. She with her assistants constructed a three-cylinder printing machine - the first printing press offset machine in the history. “When the art of printing was unknown, only a few people were able to read and write, and all book knowledge was confined to church officials and to those who were teachers in the universities of those days” (“The Importance of Printing”, 1930). When the printing was invented the books became more accessible for people, and, therefore the desire for studying was spreading all over the Europe. The invention of printing has become significant event, as more and more people learned to read and write, and, accordingly, people`s level of education became higher. The development of printing gave people great possibilities to read books, magazines, newspaper, and other print media on different subjects. “The development of public libraries, where books may be drawn out free of charge, is also the result of the invention of printing which has made possible the rapid production of many copies of single books” (The Importance of Printing”, 1930). Another important moment which the development of printing has influenced was the spread of news. Since the invention of press the means of communication were not lacking anymore. Thus people from different parts of the world were “brought closer together and were able to make use of all the things which are devised, invented, and thought of in all parts of the world”( The Importance of Printing”, 1930).

Nowadays printing machines and printing press are very developed. Daily the technologies become better, more profound, and advanced. Probably, for almost every person in our modern world it would be especially difficult to imagine one`s life without printing press- if there would be no books, magazines, articles etc. Sure, there would be some of them as it was many years ago, but the amount of books would be significantly limited, and, therefore books would be appropriate only for exclusive people, who can afford themselves to buy hand written press. Therefore, I strongly believe that the invention of printing press is a very important event that happened in Western Civilization and definitely influenced our world.

To sum up, Western Civilization is an amazing and great civilization that is rich of beautiful, significant, influential, and powerful events. Every event somehow influenced our world, affected the way we live today. Nevertheless, having a great opportunity to find the most important events that influenced our modern world, I decided to emphasize the Rise of Christianity, the contribution of Ancient Greeks into politics (democracy), and the invention of printing press. These events are quite different, and it is difficult to find the common ground between them. Nevertheless, if in today`s world there would not be one of them, the majority of people would struggle to live without it. The Christianity has become a religion that unites a great amount of people, which gives people strength and faith. The democracy is one of the most humane and suitable forms of government to the majority of people. Finally, printing press is necessary and irreplaceable invention nowadays, which renders significant service to our society. All in all, I believe that without these inventions and events our world would be extremely different, and different in the negative side. Therefore, I am very thankful that out world makes for us great contributions.

Works cited:

Dunn, John. (2005). Democracy: a history. Great Britain Atlantic books, New York. 122-36.

Engels, F. (1990). On the original Christianity. Moscow: ed. polit. lit.46-48

GonzÁlez, Justo L. (2010) The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation / Edition 2. Harper Collings Publishers. 210-50.

Judith G. Coffin, Robert E. Lerner. (2001).Western Civilizations. Norton. 123-130

Keyssar, Alexander. (2000). The right vote: the contested history of democracy in the united states.2000 Basic Books. 200-206.

Leighton, Pullan. (1898). The history of early Christianity. London. 56-60.

Macculloch, Diarmaid. (2010) Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. Penguin Group (USA).

Mattern, Joanne. (2003). The printing press. 2003 The Rosen Publishing Group. 102-140.

Moran, James. (1973) Printing press. USA: University of California. 25-51

Rogers, Harold E. (2006). The history of democracy from the middle east to western civilizations. Author House. 109-140.

The Importance of Printing. (1930) Retrieved from: http://www.oldandsold.com/articles10/trades-2.shtml. April 5, 2011

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