The Social Dimension of Western Civilization
Western civilization has a long winding history which starts with great revolutions that have emerged with great changes in entirely every field. This civilization was brought about by agricultural revolutions, rising and falling of empires, wars and immigrations. This means that the western civilization went through many stages to have the present Europe that is developed and achieved political democracy. From the ancient Greece and her renowned philosophers to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire the present Europe has come a long way. This paper digs into the development of Europe for the reason that Europe is best known for its civilization. However, western may mean the developed countries which include the United States of America. But the main focus is the European part even though America emerged to its status due to the immigrations of Europeans to this part of the world.
For this paper, western civilization is tackled in four ways which are the classical Greece, Roman civilization, middle ages and the renaissance. These factors portray western civilization in a better way from its birth to the present times or the current Europe.
- How did civilization start?
- Who were the main players of this civilization by countries and by people?
- Is there any future or further development that is expected.
Western civilization involved great men that are philosophers and many other ambitious leaders. The main players were great thinkers like Aristotle, Socrates and ambitious leaders like Alexander the Great. Two nations at that time that were strong were Greece and Italy or the Roman Empire which most of time shaped the present Europe. The Romans conquered other kingdoms to the North, South, West and East to expand their rule and make other nations and people their subjects. They successfully conquered and captured many people because they had organized and ferocious armies with superior weapons of that time. Some kingdoms surrendered before they were subjected to captivity.
The classical Greece
Classical Greek history dates back to the fifth century when great thinkers or philosophers existed among them Socrates who is renowned for his brilliance which included political and social perspectives. This is the period in history that many discoveries and amazing achievements were born and this is the reason the period is known as classical. Historians like Herodotus and art masters like Sophocles existed during this period. At the same time, during this time, the region experienced conflicts and wars; Greece was under attack from other kingdoms. This is the time King Darius expanded his empire throughout Asia Minor which consisted of Greece but the king died before he captured more territories of which some were still under the Greek control.
Through the great philosophers, historians and dramatists’ discoveries were realized and the origins of all these were from Greeks among them Aristotle and Socrates. In the year 479 B.C. the Greeks conquered the Persian forces and established a strong economical and political government. From this time, they established democracy which is a reflection of today’s democracy in almost the entire Europe. Commerce and or trade began to grow throughout the Mediterranean region which later extended to other parts of Europe. Ideal political and economical norms started extending throughout the Asia Minor and Europe Greece being the epicenter of this extension. Education standards were measured by the Greeks because this is where the great philosophers were born and later these standards were being used by the entire kingdom which was under the Greek rule. This is a clear indication that even education was part and parcel of civilization and that is why the Greeks valued it.
One great leader called Pericles set the pace on how a ruler or a leader may manage the people and not the people to manage the ruler. Pericles was a great leader who managed to interlude democracy and soft form of tyranny. This form of leadership has been safely and peacefully used by modern European leaders. The nature of governance was as simple as providing people with jobs and other main basic needs and in turn they supported the ruler no matter how forceful he was. From the Greek context, wars shaped the western civilization because they enabled the government of Greece to know what they need to do to stop conflicts and more especially armed conflicts. There are many areas that the Greeks set pace and these areas have been very ideal for the present society. These areas included, science, democracy, philosophy history and in particular the government. Even though the Greeks for a time could not respect human rights at that time because the enslaved and killed many people, their system of government was of the highest order, respected and later emulated by many other later dynasties in the greater Europe. The Greeks had copied this form of government after Aristotle gave light about the nature of human beings in trying to organize themselves socially and establish their own governments. In agreement with the best philosophy of the Greeks, Perry, Chase, Jacob, et al (2006) concur that, “the Greeks created political freedom concept which was accepted that a state is a community of free citizens who made laws to bring order and govern them.” The Greeks believed in a form of democracy that man was able to govern himself which later extended to the entire Europe and in general the western civilization.
Roman history is very interesting and it started as early as 30 B.C. whereby this was the time many people believed that it was the beginning of Rome. Rome by this time had become a republic and it had started exhibiting its power within and abroad by establishing a very strong army and government that conquered other neighboring nations to expand its territories, and indeed the approach worked very well at the time. Golden (2003) notes that, “The period between the 31 B.C. and A.D. 476, the Roman Empire under Emperor Augustus Caesar captured and controlled all of the modern states of North Africa, the great Britain, France, Greece, minor Asia and Spain and furthermore this is the period many people are reminded of how grandeur Rome was”. This time the civilization that had been within Italy or Rome spread to almost the whole of Europe. Romans influenced the rest of Europe in form of religion, laws and government and many other influences more so art. These nations that had been captured had to comply with the laws and abide by the rules better known as decrees that were established by the emperor from Rome. This is the time religion gained ground too and it was more recognized for the reason that the government was also like a religious vehicle. Religious vehicle simple means, the government was controlled by Christians and Christians controlled the government. There was a very strong bond between leaders and the church or Christianity. As the Roman emperors conquered the whole Europe, thus religions spread too to all this nations that were now under the rulers of Rome.
Moreover, it should be noted that the Romans during this time oppressed their subjects to accept their form of religion and laws and those who opposed were persecuted. This period demonstrated they tyrannical form of rule which will be copied later by other dictators, the like of Cyrus the Great and more recent tyrants like Mussolini and Hitler. Unfortunately, in the year 476 A.D. the Roman Empire crumbled to the happiness of many nations that had been under her authoritarian rule. There were many reasons why the Roman Empire collapsed and reasons which constitute the true formation and birth of civilization that changed Europe to this time. Reasons included, the gap between the rich and the poor was widening thus increasing dissenting voices and Mckay, Hill and Buckler (2009) note that, “The ultimate failure was due to the non existence of a strong middle class”. Even today many European leaders believe that a stable nation economically, socially and politically must have a stable middle class. There were numerous killings of opposition figures and wise people who could rule or govern were wiped out and lastly another reason was that there was shortage of manpower.
The Romans were only stable enough to maintain their tyrannical rule over a vast territory for more than one thousand years. Golden (2003) reminisces that, “The Roman empire and her powerful influence show examples and warnings of things to take as role models to avoid the similar fate that befell the Great Roman Empire”.
During the renaissance period which had the climax in the eleventh century, Europe particularly the western part had advanced in many important areas. These areas are education, politics, technology and others. The advances continued into the next century which had set pace for today’s advancement in Europe in terms of social, cultural, economical and political advancements. This is the time great leaders emerged and persuaded their people to accept change and technology and even inspired them. This is the time Christianity was more pronounced in Europe than any time before. McKay, Hill and Buckler (2009) note that, “the twelfth century in western Europe characterized a flowering of civilization, indeed a renaissance”. It is remarkable that Christianity played a very crucial and or important role in civilization by enlightening the minds of people and teaching the value of humanity and acceptance of their diversity in social and political ideas. Sometimes this period has been referred as the era of faith.
In return for the reason of Christian values, justice started prevailing as people had embraced Christian virtue and they were guided by the divine laws that were based on Christianity virtues. These values were a guide to a good way to govern people in Europe. It is noticed that Christianity played an important role in western civilization. Moreover, people were ready for new developments and true change which they believed will impact in their lives and indeed it did and the results are seen today. At time also, the judicial systems of many western European countries. People Thousands of people in Western Europe during the renaissance period yearned for education and this is the time many discoveries were realized. The church or Christians were not left behind because they also dug for the true beliefs of Christianity and its roots. The enthusiasm for knowledge during the renaissance spread its tentacles to the present time. This is the reason for an advanced western civilization with great thinkers and scientists. The knowledge people of Europe yearned for during this period covered all fields thus from agriculture to arts. Arts included drama, poems and songs, drawing and paintings. However, the Greeks had the greatest collection of knowledge and people of Western Europe travelled to their country to acquire this knowledge. The search for knowledge let to translation of manuscripts from the Greek language to the other languages and more especially to the English language. It is evident that language was a tool that played a very important role in western civilization.
The Middle Ages
The middle ages period is sometimes better known as the medieval period of the European history. This period and its activities affected many or almost all countries of the present Europe. The middle ages period covers a whole century and during this time religious reformation was imminent, agricultural revolution was in the offing and industrial revolution was forthcoming. All this featured the development of Europe from that time the present times. The current civilization was shaped by all these activities during the middle ages period. This point of what Europe is today has been shaped by the events in the middle ages period has been shared by Lewis (1994) who also notes that, “many modern European countries owe their origins to the events and trends that occurred in the middle ages, more especially the boundaries are in many resulted from the military and dynasty confrontations of that time”.
During the industrial revolution, the majority of the European citizenry migrated to towns and that is how urban areas started and this event gave room for mechanized agriculture which is practiced and more advanced in these modern times. At the same time it should be remembered that the dark ages is part of the middle ages. The dark ages bring into mind the persecution that the roman rulers subjected their dissenting subjects who changed the face of Europe as many people died and many migrated to the west and the discovered lands in the Americas. Mazower (2000) states that, “for about four centuries there was low level of economic activity, and incursions by pagans which accelerated misunderstanding and conflict ending up in such persecutions and betrayals”. However, Christianity flourished during this period and many people attributed this to the fall of Roman Empire.
Great philosophers like Socrates who believed in self life improvement rather than wealth, ambitious leaders like Alexander the great who conquered other kingdoms and dynasties and ruled with power and unprecedented authority and Aristotle with his sense of logic and being a great teacher all contributed to the western civilization. Warring dynasties, education, science discoveries and agricultural revolutions were the major factors that contributed to the great civilization of Europe. Today, European countries are trying as much as they can to avoid vices that may result to political revolutions. Many leaders have drawn their experience from the early civilization. Least but not least, leaders are forming alliances like the European Union to strength the European countries’ unity.
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