Chapter 4, Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean: Greece and Rome Summary

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Chapter 4, Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean: Greece and Rome

The civilizations of Greece and Rome rivaled those of India and China in cultural richness and their effect on world history. Their institutions and values reverberated in the later histories of the Middle East and Europe and Europe’s colonies around the world. The study of classical Mediterranean civilization is complicated because it includes Greek and then Roman political, social, and economic institutions, which were sometimes shared but often unique.

Key Concepts:
The Persian Tradition:

  • Founded by Cyrus the Great, the Persian Empire was tolerant of local customs, developed iron technology, organized an effective government and military, developed a new religion (Zoroastrianism), and supported a great artistic tradition.

Patterns of Greek and Roman History:

  • The rise of the dynamic city – states of classical Greece began around 800 B.C.E, reaching a high point in the 5th century B.C.E., when Pericles governed Athens.

  • Following the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta, decline set in, but a new pattern of expansion occurred under Alexander the Great. Greek values spread widely in the ensuing Hellenistic period.

  • As Hellenism declined, Rome was emerging as an expanding republic, defeating Carthage in the Punic Wars and later becoming the Roman Empire after the death of Julius Caesar. For roughly 200 years, the Empire enjoyed great power and prosperity.

  • Despite the efforts of emperors like Diocletian and Constantine, the ensuing 250 years brought a slow but decisive fall.

Greek and Roman Political Institutions:

  • Greece and Rome featured an important variety of political forms. Both tended to emphasize aristocratic rule, but there were significant democratic elements as well.

  • In the Greek polis, those who were citizens participated actively in political life. In Athens, the system of direct democracy allowed citizens to shape policy in general assemblies.

  • In the Roman republic, the Senate was the main legislative body, but under the autocratic empire, the Senate’s influence waned.

  • Later, Rome added emphasis on law and created the institutions necessary to run a vast and decentralized empire.

Religion and Culture:

  • Greek and Roman culture did not directly generate a lasting major religion, though Christianity arose in the classical Mediterranean context. Greco – Roman religion used epic poems and mythology to explore human foibles and passions.

  • An emphasis on rationality, especially in philosophy, science, and strong artistic and architectural tradition, permeated classical Mediterranean culture.

  • Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the most well – known Greek philosophers.

Economy and Society in the Mediterranean:

  • Greek and Roman societies mirrored many standard social features of an agricultural economy, including a large peasantry and a land – owning aristocracy and dependence on trade and commerce.

  • Differing versions of the patriarchal family structure existed in both Greek and Roman culture.

  • Distinctive features included slavery and a slightly less oppressive attitude towards women than was true in classical China.

Toward the Fall of Rome:

  • Rome began to decline after about 180 C.E. Symptoms were gradual, including loss of territory and economic reversals.

  • Ultimately, invaders periodically raided Rome until the empire finally collapsed.

Key Terms:

  • Cyrus the Great:

  • Pericles:

  • Alexander the Great:

  • Hellenistic period:

  • Punic Wars:

  • Julius Caesar:

  • Diocletian and Constantine:

  • Greek city – states:

  • Senate:

  • Consuls:

  • Cicero:

  • Socrates:

  • Plato:

  • Aristotle:

  • Stoics:

  • Sophocles:

  • Iliad:

  • Odyssey:

  • Doric, Ionic, Corinthian architecture:

  • Battle of Marathon:

  • King Xerxes:

  • Themistocles:

  • Battle of Thermopylae:

  • Zoroastrianism:

  • Olympic Games:

  • Peloponnesian Wars:

  • Philip II of Macedon:

  • Alexandria:

  • Roman Republic:

  • Carthage:

  • Augustus Caesar:

  • Polis:

  • Tyranny:

  • Direct democracy:

  • Aristocracy:

  • Twelve Tables:

  • “Mystery” Religions:

  • Herodotus:

  • Pythagoras:

  • Galen:

  • Euclid:

  • Ptolemy:

  • Sappho:

  • Vergil:

  • Persian wars:

  • Roman republic:

  • Hannibal:

  • Hellenistic age:

  • Aristocracy:

  • Athens:

  • Sparta:

  • Essay Questions:

  • Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean: Greece and Rome

  1. What were the main similarities and differences between Greek and Roman political structures?

  1. What is the significance of the Hellenistic period in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean history?

  1. Write an “intellectual biography” essay on one of the following: Socrates, Plato, Sophocles, Aristotle, Vergil, Cicero.

  1. Compare the main features of the social structure of the classical civilizations in the Mediterranean, China, and India.

  1. In which society-India, China, or the Mediterranean – would you have wanted to be a merchant in the classical period? Explain your choice.

  1. What were the main similarities and differences between the empires of Rome and Han China? Why did Rome’s empire prove less durable?

  1. Early in the classical period, both Greece and India exhibited religions with many gods and goddesses. Why and how did India go on to form a major, durable religion around such phenomenon while Greece did not?

  1. Compare the scientific achievements and approaches of classical India, China, and the Mediterranean.

  1. Compare Greek, Roman, and Confucian ideals.

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