Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia

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  • 7/29/2019 Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia


    Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia

    The word civilization is related to the Latin word, civitascity. The term is used in several ways, generallydenoting complex human cultural development. Somescholars restrict the use of the term to urbanizedsocieties, in other words, cultures that have achieved adevelopment that has allowed them to create large andpermanent settlements; in this sense, the word setsapart the civilized people from the nomadic people,those who lack a permanent settlement. There is also awider use of the term as a synonym for culture. Even in this case, the term civilization focuses on thosehuman societies that have attained a specific degree of advancement. Will Durantdefines the term associal order promoting cultural creation. This is in line with the wider use of the term. The following quotesummarizes the essence of civilization:It begins where chaos and insecurity end. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructivenessare free, and man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life.(Durant, 1)Civilization, at least in the first sense, implies the building of cities. The f

    irst cities were essentiallyagricultural villages which during time became bigger and more complex to the point where division oflabour was highly developed. At this point some citizens are set aside from themaking of material goods toproducing philosophy, science and art.Conditions of civilizationOne of the most important conditions for civilization is economic. Agriculture is key to civilization: without it,a society would base its economy on hunting and gathering. This, of course, would only allow temporarysettlements. Agriculture not only forces a group of people to settle (plots of land cannot be moved), but

    also provides a food supply much larger and reliable than the hunting gatheringeconomy. If a societyremains in the hunting stage, its entire existence is based on the precarious fortunes of the chase.A reliable supply of water and food teaches mankind to work with order and regularity and to plan in thelong term. It also requires less people directly involved in the food supply activities, thus allowing a portionof society to be relatively free from labour and to engage in other activities.There are also some otherchanges associated with the sedentary life. In the days of nomadism, one rovingband might meet anotherand there might be a display of force in order to gain the right to exploit a sp

    ecific area. These encounterswould rarely be deadly: the weaker band, foreseeing a defeat, would retreat andsearch for another area.There was no area worth the loss of life. Farmers, on the other hand, do not really have a choice, theyhave to defend their immovable farms. To stand and fight is their only alternative. By defending their farmsthey had a chance to survive, their only other option would be to die of starvation. This is the beginning oforganized warfare.

  • 7/29/2019 Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia


    Another condition for civilization is intellectual: many aspects could be included here, such as language unit,and the pursuit of knowledge (philosophy, science, art). There has to be some language unity to allow theexchanging of ideas. This could be either an homogeneous fully consistent language or a variety of dialectsclose enough to prevent language barriers. Mental exchange feeds into the developing of philosophy,science and arts, enriching the cultural development and it facilitates the transmission of morals andeducation. This might sound like an extremely basic point but it is often takenfor granted. However, alanguage complex which is homogeneous enough to allow these consequences seems to be a relativelylater achievement in human history.An intellectually complex civilization will appreciate and encourage art and crafts in its many manifestations:paintings, pottery, music, sculpture, architecture. It is not that these elements do not exist prior to the timeof cities, but it is in the cities that they flourish, multiply and get richer as the sense of beauty increases.It seems that originally objects are neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The beholder is not pleased becausean object is beautiful but rather the object is named beautiful because it pleas

    es him. The spirit of art is notin the objects but within ourselves. And there is a strong link between the complexity of human thoughtand language and the flourish of art. In the words of Oscar Wilde.The artist is the creator of beautiful things.To reveal art and conceal the artist is arts aim. [...]Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated one.For these there is hope.[...]Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.(Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray)A moral code is also essential for civilization. Without it, social order and co

    hesion would not be possible.Several means can serve for the transition of a moral code: family, school, religious institutions. Clear rules"EWFSUJTFNFOUWhy ads? / A dvertise Here5JNFMJOFVisual Timeline5000 BCE - 2000 BCESumerian civilization in the Tigris-Euphratesvalley.c. 5000 BCE - c. 1900 BCEThe Indus Valley (or Harappan) Civilization.2000 BCE - 1450 BCE

    Minoan civilization in Crete and the Aegean.1500 BCE - 1200 BCEMycenaean civilization in Greece and theAegean.c. 1200 BCE - c. 400 BCEThe Olmec civilization flourishes inMesoamerica.1000 BCE - 338 BCEAncient Greek civilization in Greece and theMediterranean.

  • 7/29/2019 Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia


    323 BCE - 31 BCEHellenistic civilization in Greece, theMediterranean and Asia.c. 900 CE - c. 1150 CEThe Toltec civilization flourishes inMesoamerica.c. 1345 CE - 1521 CEThe Aztec civilization flourishes inMesoamerica.$JWJMJ[BUJPOSelect Language .A dd Event

  • 7/29/2019 Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia


    9/18/13 Civilization -- Ancient History 2/512 Tweet 5 Share 0 6reduce the conflict among citizens. Those who violate the rules are punished andthose who live by themare rewarded: this basic dynamic offers some direction and stimulus to human conduct. A moral code is amessage that encourages or prevent specific behaviours.There must also be education. This includes any technique, however primitive, for the transmission ofculture. Here we can also see a number of institutions involved in handing downto the young what has tobe learned: relatives, lore, teachers, priests, etc. Language, knowledge, moralcode, arts, these are someof the things that should be transmitted through education.There is another condition for civilization: political order. Citizens must feela relative social stability.However, it seems that in the simplest societies there is hardly any government,at least in the form werecognise. Association and cooperation are for special situations like hunting or fishing. However, theseassociations are not permanent political orders, they seem to be purely ad-hoc.The earliest forms of

    political organizations were the clan (a group of related family members) governed by the same customs.Eventually a group of clans united under the same chief becoming a second stageon the way to apermanent state. It is important to point out that the simplest societies are relatively free from a state oreven a rigid set of laws partly because they tend to be ruled by customs which can be as rigid and sacredas any law and partly because crimes in general are seen as a private matter andtend to be left topersonal revenge.The state is a late development which arises before the time of written history.As societies become more

    complex, the need for an instrument to adjust the interests of the many conflicting groups is inevitable.Further, this is one of the main purposes of a state. Instruments of indoctrination are key to building thesoul of the citizen, their loyalty and patriotic pride; otherwise, in order to maintain order, a state wouldneed to rely upon force. A state which relies solely on force would soon fall and this is why indoctrination isso important and the state usually takes an active role in shaping education, religion and family amongothers institutions.Decay of civilizationsThe disappearance of some of the above conditions (sometimes of only one of them

    ) may result in thedestruction of a civilization. In addition, Geological or climatic changes, natural disasters, uncontrolledepidemics, failure of natural resources, decay of leadership, pathological concentrations of wealth: theseare all possible causes for a civilization to end.Civilization is not something inborn or natural: we have acquired it after a long history and it rests upon theshoulders of thousands of generations of men and women. It must literally be acquired anew by every

  • 7/29/2019 Civilization -- Ancient History Encyclopedia


    generation, by every single member. Any serious interruption in either its financing or its transmission maybring civilization to an end. It was the famous writter Herbert George Wells whosaid that, 'Civilization is arace between disaster and education'.