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The Beginnings of Western Civilization

In: Historical Events

Submitted By gshilton
Words 3078
Pages 13
Genieva Subic
E Journal #1

Chapter one of our text covers a broad range of history beginning with the legend of Babel. (1) The story tells us how spoken communication has been lost over the years and it also creates a foundation for spoken history. (1) The text then moves on to the city of Çatalhöyük, which was established around nine thousand years ago in south central Turkey. (2) This city had eight thousand occupants living in two thousand homes, which is an average of four occupants per home, that’s not so different from how we live today. The people of Çatalhöyük were an organized and technologically sophisticated society that practiced religion, and had domesticated plants and animals. (2) This is just another example of how even though these people lived nine thousand years ago people today are still living in the same ways. I think that has been the most interesting part of the beginning of chapter one; our society still has many of the same values and practices of our ancient ancestors. The next section of chapter one focuses on the Old Stone Age or Paleolithic era. (3) The people of this era lived before written history existed, around 3000 B.C.E. However, they were tool-makers and artists. The cave paintings at Lascaux act as a type of history as do the finely made tools and jewelry that historians have discovered. (3) The Paleolithic people were known to be hunters and gatherers, they did not have domesticated animals, they had few material possessions, and disparities in wealth were unlikely. (3) They lived in a very egalitarian society which leads me to believe perhaps simple is better. Today’s people do not live equally and have many possessions; did the Paleolithic era people know something we don’t?

After climate changes occurred the people of the Old Stone Age transitioned to the New Stone Age, or Neolithic era. (4) The warmer weather enabled the people to domesticate plants and animals, develop permanent settlements, and specialize in various trades. These people made their homes in what is known as the Fertile Crescent, where the countries of the Middle East are today. (4) The ability to manage food production led to population increases as people were now able to store food and acquire possessions. One town that emerged in the Neolithic era was Jericho. (4) Jericho was a grain-producing settlement that supported three thousand inhabitants. There were many construction projects and the town boasted walls and a tower. This is amazing considering they had to all of their building without the technologies that we have today and it is interesting that just like today, civic projects are a priority of any successful town. The citizens of Jericho were also known for the pottery skills. (4) The production of pottery was used to store food and drinks, like wine, which is another way the people of the New Stone Age were able to accumulate material goods. (5) The accumulation of goods lead to class differences as some people acquired many possessions while others did not. The wealthy soon became powerful and this led them to be the dominant class. The development of towns and the accumulation of goods also led to the beneficial byproduct of trade. (5) People were now able to transport goods to other towns and trade for products they didn’t have in their towns. Another interesting part of the Neolithic era was that the desire to understand weather patterns led to the development of religion through superstition. (6)

The development of urban development in Mesopotamia is the next section of our text. (5) In this section we learn that Mesopotamia was located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern day Iraq. (5) The rivers allowed the citizens to irrigate farm lands which increased agriculture production which led to accumulation of wealth. The people of Mesopotamia used this wealth to build temples used for religious purposes. The temple building projects also helped to develop a priestly class. (5) The members of the priestly class were the ones to develop writing. The priests and their scribes replaced the old way of using balls filled with tokens with flat tablets that they would draw on. (5) This was much more practical because the tablets could be used for records, receipts, or requests for various goods. The creation of the tablet also led to the development of Cuneiform, a type of wedge-shaped writing. Cuneiform writing was still being used as late as the first century of the common era. (7)

After the development of Mesopotamia our text focuses on the culture of Sumer. (6) In this section we learn about the Sumerian cities of Uruk, Ur, Lagash, Eridu, and Kish as well as the Akkadians. The Sumerian people were known as the first historical society, they had patron gods for each of their city-states, and they were known for economic, political, and religious competition and owned slaves. (6) One of the more interesting parts of our text for me was the epic of Gilgamesh and it’s comparison to the book of Genesis. (6) I think it is amazing how the stories can be so similar coming from different cultures. I think it can be compared to the legend of Babel and how that became a form of spoken history that was passed down from generation to generation. After the Sumerian culture our text introduces us to the Old Babylonian Empire where Hammurabi ascended to the throne in 1792 B.C.E. (7) Hammurabi used writing as a weapon, which makes me wonder; is that when people first discovered that the pen is mightier than the sword? Or, that knowledge is power? I just think it is amazing that in a time of supposed barbarism things like intellect were so valued. Another fascinating fact about Old Babylonia is the creation of the Code of Hammurabi, which is well known, but the actual creation of the code was revolutionary. This was the interweaving of politics and religion and the world has continued this practice since its creation. (8) Hammurabi left the world with his legacy of the creation of a durable state, the conception of kingship, and the importance of religion, all things that are still seen in today’s society.

The development of civilization in Egypt is the next part of chapter one. (9) The text begins with the Pre-dynastic Egyptians (10,000 – 3100 B.C.E.) and moves all the way to the Middle Kingdom (2055 –c. – 1650 B.C.E.) There are many points of interest along this portion of text. (9) Some of which are the settlement of Merimde Beni Slama in 4750 B.C.E., the sophisticated fortifications and elaborate temples. This portion of text also covers the creation of the Pharaoh, the hieroglyphs as a form of writing, and the Rosetta Stone. (9) The Egyptians created their empire on the development of a unified society. This society lead to the creation of pharaoh’s, amazing buildings like the pyramids, the cycle of life, and the solar calendar. (9) There is so much information packed into this section of our text that I think the Egyptians should have been given their own chapter. They were such an amazing culture with so many innovations that it is difficult to articulate just how significant their impact on our world was.
While our first chapter covered history from the time before time all the way to the Mesopotamians and Egyptian societies, our next chapter focuses on the time between 1700 – 500 B.C.E.

Having been assimilated by Sargon and the Akkadians the Sumerians ceased to exist by the second millennium B.C.E. (10) However, their legacy was passed on to other areas in Anatolia and the Levant. Around the same time the Egyptians suffered from political weakness and invasions from the Hyksos and Nubians. (10) These events lead to the transformation of the ancient Near East. The Greek poet Hesiod divided human history into five ages; the golden age, the silver age, the bronze age, the heroic age, and the iron age. (11) Chapter two of our text begins with the Iron and Bronze ages. Early in the Iron Age the Phoenician, Philistine, Assyrian, Persian, and Hebrew states materialized. (10) They were located in the area of the eastern Mediterranean known as the Levant. Some of these territories were aggressive like the Assyrians, and others were religious like the Hebrews. (10) Though the states had different values they all played a part in the development of society as we know it today.

The discovery of the common links between modern language and ancient language was made by Sir William Jones in 1786. (12) He was able to make a connection between Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek thereby proving that part of the legend of Babel was true; ancient peoples did have a shared language and similarities of that language still exist. (12) I think this was an incredible find and just one more way that the ancient people are still with us. Moving from language discovery our text explains the rise of Anatolia. This was a region where copper and arsenic were found, the key ingredients of bronze. There were two outstanding cultures that were established in Anatolia, the Hittites and the Kassites. (13) The Hittites established themselves in central Anatolia and were a militaristic culture. They were conquerors and colonists, eventually they moved from Anatolia to Mesopotamia where they captured the city of Babylon. In contrast when the Kassites moved into Babylon they took control and brought peace for the next 500 years. (13) The Hittites didn’t stop their colonizing and violent ways though, they continued to destabilize the region until the arrival of the Mitannians around 1550 B.C.E. This new group of people had a distinct advantage over the Hittites, horses. The Mitannians used horse-drawn chariots on the battlefield. Eventually the Hittites adopted the same battle techniques and regained the military advantage. (13)

Meanwhile in Egypt, under the Eighteenth Dynasty this civilization reached the height of their power. (14) This period of time between 1550 – 1075 B.C.E. is known as the New Kingdom. During this time there was rise of a new aristocracy of military commanders. (15) These aristocrats acquired their wealth through warfare. “The Eighteenth Dynasty itself was forged in battle,” I think this is a great way to summarize this period of time. (15) The leader Thutmose drove the Nubians out of Egypt and secured gold mines which lead to great wealth in the country. This new found wealth was used to finance further advancement into the Near East. This time of military strength would last in Egypt for the next 400 years. (15) Another point of interest in the Eighteenth Dynasty was the advancement of women as rulers. Our text introduces us to the warrior queen Ahhotep, Queen Hatshepsut who declared herself a pharaoh in her own right, and Queen Nefertiti. (16) This is particularly interesting to me because it seems that women didn’t play much of a role in history until the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and after that we start to see an emergence of women in powerful positions. The reign of Akhenaten introduced us to changes in Egyptian religion. (16) This was revolutionary as Egyptians had always worshiped many different gods and now their ruler was assigning a singular god, Aten. He even went so far as to change his own name from Amenhotep to Akhenaten, which means “He Who Is Profitable to the Aten.” (16) This was not popular amongst his people and later after he was disposed his son Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun in order to show his rejection of Akhenaten’s beliefs. (16) Later in history we learn of another king who decides to change his country’s religion, so maybe Akhenaten was revolutionary in the ways of theology or maybe he was just the first leader of a cult? Either way his “tampering” with religion did not end with him and the changes in religion have always been interesting to me. Chapter two ends its Egyptian section with the ending of the Eighteenth Dynasty and transitions into the networks of the Late Bronze Age.

The Late Bronze Age was also known to be a time of superpowers and international diplomacy and trade. (17) Diplomacy took place through long distance correspondence and strategic marriages. Trade increased because of these international relations. Some of the byproducts of diplomacy were art, ideas, and technology. (17) As people began to trade they began to admire the products of other regions, this led to an international economy which we still use today. (17) Who doesn’t love Egyptian cotton and Italian leather?

The Aegean civilization is the next section of chapter two. In this section we learn about the discoveries of Heinrich Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans, whose conclusions have been discounted, but were important finds nonetheless. We learn that the Minoan’s lived in a thalassocracy, meaning empire at sea, which would explain why they had a powerful navy. (18) They also lived in a redistributive economy and demonstrated sophisticated architecture. The Mycenaean’s were close neighbors of the Minoans, yet they were not as advanced as the Minoans. They were a warrior class of people that participated in trade and piracy. (19) The Mycenaean culture collapsed around the end of the thirteenth century B.C.E. and some speculate that the Sea Peoples may have had something to do with it. (20) The Sea Peoples were known for paving paths of destruction and disrupting trade routes. It is believed that these people were the Philistines who later settled in Palestine. (20) Egypt survived the terror of the Sea Peoples but many cultures did not, like the Mycenaean’s and the Hittite’s. (20)

The Phoenicians emerged from the destruction of the Sea Peoples and were known for their textiles and were famous as merchants and seafarers. (21) They had access to a rare purple dye and the Greeks referred to them as the “purple people.” (21) The Phoenicians were also colonists, they owned land stretching from Tarshish (modern day Spain) to Phoenicia (modern day Lebanon), these far reaching peoples had significant impact on cultural influences in the region. (21)

Chapter two of our text moves on to the Philistines and the Hebrews. (22)These two peoples were known to be great enemies. The Philistines were the descendents of the Sea Peoples and lived in the Levant. (22) The maintained a separate identity for several generations, but little is known about them with the exception of what the Hebrews have said, which wasn’t anything nice. What we do know is that they seem to have had a close relationship with Mycenaean Greece that was displayed in their buildings, agriculture, and politics. The Hebrews, however, displayed influences of the regions in Near East. (22) This is their place of origin. The Hebrews are also known as the Jews, and they lived as herdsmen who were just establishing settlements when the Philistines arrived. The Jews lived in a world that worshiped many gods, even though their god Yahweh had been proclaimed the supreme God. Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were responsible for changing the Hebrew belief of many gods into a strict monotheism. (23) The influence of Hebrew monotheism and ethics on Near East culture and religion is undeniable. It is also hard to deny that that the people of Israel are still at odds with the people of Palestine. (23)

Little is known about our next section, the Persians. What we do know is that they lived in the western half of Asia Minor and spoke Indo-European language. (24) They also aspired to create a large empire. They assimilated the Assyrians with Cyrus taking Mesopotamia and his son, Cambyses conquering Egypt. The Persians tried to conquer Greece but failed. (24) They were successful in the creation of the religion called Zoroastrianism, which was a belief with close affinities to the ideas of the Hebrews. (24)

It seems as though there is a common theme in the two chapters we have read, not just the history of civilization but that we as a people have changed little. The values our ancestors had are still with us today. We still believe in respect for the dead, many believe in a higher power, we have strong national identity, and understand the importance of intellectual aspirations. In reading these two chapters, that is what I have found to be the most interesting, of course I could have said “That is so interesting” to every section I read. I find it refreshing that today’s humans haven’t lost touch with what ancient humans created.

1. Coffin, Judith, et al. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011a. p. 3.
2. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011b. pp. 4 - 5 .
3. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011c. pp. 5 - 7.
4. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011d. pp. 6 - 7.
5. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011e. pp. 8 - 9.
6. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011f. pp. 8 - 12 .
7. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011g. p. 18.
8. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011h. pp. 18 - 21.
9. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011i. pp. 23 - 34.
10. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011j. pp. 40 - 45.
11. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011k. p. 37.
12. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011l. 39.
13. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011m. pp. 39 - 40.
14. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011n. pp. 40 - 41.
15. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011o. p. 41.
16. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011p. p. 45.
17. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011q. p. 46.
18. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011r. p. 47.
19. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011s. pp. 48 - 49.
20. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011t. pp. 50 - 51.
21. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011u. 52 - 53 .
22. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011v. pp. 54 - 55.
23. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011w. pp. 67 - 69.
24. —. Western Civilizations. New York : W.W. Norton, 2011x. pp. 62 - 66.

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...Markysha Martin Instructor Heather Taylor Humanities 2113 11 March 2014 Greek Theatre Greek theatre was the epitome of theatre. It brought many different aspects to western civilization and our theatre system. The things you see in most of the American theatrical styles came straight from Greek style of theatre from long ago. Although our times are different from the rise of Greek theatre, the modern day theatre in western civilization it has somehow managed to tame the style of Greek theatre and cause a resurgence. Greek theatre has strongly influenced western civilizations style of the theatre throughout the years, and is causing it to resurge. This is a great thing, most people would think leave the past in the past, but this part of the past is very complex. The history of the Greeks style of theatre has paved the way for our modern day theatre and has enhanced the performance style by combining both styles. Modern theatre has created their own way of how theatre should be conducted, but in the end it was greatly influenced by Greek theatre. The resurgence of Greek theatre has begun to take place within our school systems. Most public or private school is requiring every student to at least take one level of theatre history, or performance theatre courses. This is a solution people can take so that the Greek styles of theatre will never die. We must continue to teach our generation and many more after us...

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Greek Influence on the Western World

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