Early Civilizations Essay

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Early Civilizations

Many early civilizations have shaped the world that we live in today. Their technological innovations and cultural traditions have been improved through the years and handed down from one generation to another. It is therefore vital to study these civilizations to fully understand the world that we have now. The Minoan/Mycenaean Civilizations The Minoan civilization is an ancient Cretan culture that represents a stage in the development of the Aegean civilization. It is said to be named after the legendary King Minos of Crete.

Its culture was divided into three periods that include the whole of the Bronze Age. , and Late Minoan. Early Minoan (c. 3000 B. C. –2200 B. C. ) saw the slow rise of the culture from a Neolithic state with the importation of metals, the exploratory use of bronze, and the appearance of a hieroglyphic writing (wikipedia. org). In the Middle Minoan period (c. 2200 B. C. –1500 B. C. ) the great palaces appeared at Knossos and Phaestus (wikipedia. org). A pictographic script was used. Ceramics, ivory carving, and metalworking reached their peak.

Moreover, Minoan maritime power extended across the Mediterranean. At one point toward the end of the period an earthquake — and possibly an invasion — ruined Knossos, Fortunately, the palace was rebuilt. During this period there is evidence of a new script at Knossos, which argues the presence of Mycenaean Greeks (wikipedia. org). Knossos was again damaged c. 1500 B. C. , probably as a result of another earthquake and subsequent invasion from the Mycenaean mainland (French, 1996). The palace at Knossos was finally destroyed c. 1400 B. C. The Late Minoan period (c.

1500 B. C. –1000 B. C. ) faded out in poverty and obscurity. After the final destruction of Knossos, the cultural center of the Aegean passed to the Greek mainland (Columbia Encyclopedia). On the other hand, Mycenaean civilization – another ancient Aegean civilization — is known from the excavations at Mycenae and other sites (Feur, 1983). Divided into Early Helladic (c. 2800–2000 B. C. ), Middle Helladic (c. 2000–1500 B. C. ), and Late Helladic (c. 1500–1100 B. C. ) periods, the chronology approximately matches that of the contemporary Minoan civilization.

The Mycenaeans entered Greece from the north or northeast c. 2000 B. C. They subsequently displaced the older Neolithic culture (Columbia Encyclopedia). These Indo-European Greek-speaking conquerors brought with them superior system in pottery, metallurgy, and architecture. Mycenae had then become a major center of the ancient world by 1600 B. C. The exact relationship of Mycenaean Greece to Crete between 1600 and 1400 B. C. is, however, particularly complex (wikipedia. org). After all, they were evidently competing for maritime control of the Mediterranean.

When Mycenae achieved dominance, much of the Minoan cultural tradition was handed over to the mainland. It must be noted that even though the Mycenaeans had certain innovations of their own, they still drew much of their cultural inspiration from the Minoans (Columbia Encyclopedia). Many great Mycenaean cities were noted for their heavy, complex fortifications and the massive, cyclopean quality of their masonry, however, which Minoan cities did not have. Mycenaeans’ written language appears to be a form of archaic Greek.

This was later thought to be linguistically related to ancient Cypriot (Columbia Encyclopedia). The presence of this script conclusively indicates that Mycenaean Greeks had occupied and conquered Crete during the late Minoan period before the ultimate disintegration around 1400 B. C. The Classical Greek When we talk about ancient Greece and the ancient Greeks, the era that usually commands our undivided attention falls around the 5th Century. After all, this is the age of the Greeks that changed the face of the earth.

It was the time of great historians Herodotus and Thucydides, great dramatists like Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, and the brilliant philosopher Socrates. Moreover, the 5th century is regarded as the age when the Greeks adopted their brilliant experiment in direct democracy. In fact, amazing monuments to human achievements were constructed in Athens and other Hellenic city-states. It is an age of human discovery and achievement. In other words, it is an age which has been proudly called “classical. ” Indeed, the period from 500-323 B. C.

is the Classical or Hellenic age of Greek civilization. It was the time when the brilliance of the Classical Greek world rested on a merging of the old and the new. From the past came a philosophical religious belief in the honorable action of the gods and the attainment of virtue in the polis. That helped develop a specific Greek mind in which the importance of the individual and a rationalistic spirit were exulted. The Classical Greek world was, essentially, a competent amalgamation of these characters. Greek influence on Roman dominance in the Mediterranean

Historical records points out that the Romans first came in contact with Greek civilization through the Greek city-states in southern Italy and in Sicily. These colonies had been established as a result of Greek expansion that took place during the classical age of Greece, which began approximately around 479 B. C. The Greeks even influenced Roman architecture (Bentley, 2005). There are also documents confirming the political and military contacts that the Greek city-states of Sicily had with Sparta and Athens during the Peloponnesian War.

Trading and the daily interaction between peoples of distinct cultures, provided for the Romans an exposure to Greek culture, literature, architecture, politics and philosophical ideas, traditions and religious beliefs. Indeed, there was a great sharing of ideas and culture among the peoples of the Mediterranean Sea even as Rome was developing into the dominant power in the area. Moreover, the Latin alphabet was definitely influenced by the Greek alphabet (wikipedia. org). Even the Latin language itself has many words of Greek origin. Latin literature was also influenced by the Greeks.

Early Latin plays were sometimes mere translations of Greek plays, and various types of poetry were often modeled after their counterpart. One prime example of this is the Aeneid, written by Virgil, which is an offshoot of Homer’s The Iliad. Another proof of the Greeks’ influence over Roman people is that it was not uncommon for wealthy Romans to send their sons to Greece – Athens, in particular — to study. Indeed, the Roman passion of Hellenic culture only increased over time. Eventually, Greek and Latin became the lingua franca of the eastern half of the Mediterranean area. The Eastern Mediterranean

Toward the end of the early civilization period, a number of partially separate civilization centers sprang up on the fringes of the civilized world in Africa and the Middle East, extending also into parts of southern Europe. These centers built heavily on the achievements of the great early centers (Bentley). They resulted from the expansion efforts of these centers, as in the Egyptian push southward during the New Kingdom period and from new organizational problems within the chief centers themselves; in the Middle East, separate societies emerged during the chaotic centuries following the collapse of the Hittite empire.

Smaller centers in the Middle East began to spring up after about 1500 B. C. Though dependent on the larger Mesopotamian culture for many features, these centers added important new ingredients and in some cases also extended the hold of civilization westward to the Asian coast of the Mediterranean. The smaller cultures also added to the diversity of the Middle East, creating a varied array of identities that would continue to mark the region even under the impetus of later empires, such as Rome, or the sweeping religion of Islam (wikipedia.

org). Several of these smaller cultures proved immensely durable and would influence other parts of the world as well. The Indus Valley The Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization thriving along the Indus River and the Ghaggar-Hakra River in what is now Pakistan and north-western India (Sanders, 2005). The Indus Civilization was predated by the first farming cultures in South Asia, which emerged in the hills of what is now called Balochistan, to the west of the Indus Valley.

The earliest evidence of sedentary lifestyle in South Asia was discovered at Mehrgarh in the foothills of the Brahui Hills. These early farmers domesticated wheat and a variety of animals, including cattle. It has been surmised that the inhabitants of Mehrgarh migrated to the fertile Indus river valley as Balochistan became arid due to climatic changes. The Indus Civilization grew out of this culture’s technological base (wikipedia. org). A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture is evident in the Indus Valley Civilization.

The quality of municipal town planning suggests knowledge of urban planning and efficient municipal governments which placed a high priority on hygiene. The streets of major cities were laid out in perfect grid patterns. The houses were protected from noise, odors, and thieves. The world’s first urban sanitation systems were also evident. Within the city, individual homes or groups of homes obtained water from wells. From a room that appears to have been set aside for bathing, waste water was directed to covered drains, which lined the major streets. Houses opened only to inner courtyards and smaller lanes.

Most city dwellers appear to have been traders or artisans, who lived with others pursuing the same occupation in well-defined neighborhoods. Although some houses were larger than others, Indus Civilization cities were remarkable for their apparent egalitarianism (Sanders). All the houses had access to water and drainage facilities. This gives the impression of a vast middle-class society. Indus civilization agriculture must have been highly productive; after all, it was capable of generating surpluses sufficient to support tens of thousands of urban residents who were not primarily engaged in agriculture.

Some of them undoubtedly made use of the fertile alluvial soil left by rivers after the flood season, but this simple method of agriculture is not thought to be productive enough to support cities. There is no evidence of irrigation, but such evidence could have been obliterated by repeated, catastrophic floods. References Bentley, Jerry H. and Herbert Ziegler. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Volume I: From the Beginnings to 1500. 3rd edition. McGraw Hill Publishers, January 2005. Feuer, Bryan. The Northern Mycenaean Border in Thessaly. Oxford Press, 1983.

French, E. B. “Evidence for an Earthquake at Mycenae” in S. Stiros and R. E. Jones (eds. ), Archaeoseismology [Fitch Laboratory Occasional Paper 7] (Exeter 1996): 51-54. Kreis, Steven. Greek Culture in the Classical Age, 2000. http://www. historyguide. org/ancient/lecture7b. html Minoan Civilization. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press, 2006. http://www. encyclopedia. com/html/M/Minoanci. asp Sanders, Thomas, et al. Encounters in World History: Sources and Themes from the Global Past. Volume I. McGraw-Hill College: 1st Edition: 2005.

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