Although the cultures of the ancient Near East provided the world with civilization, the Greeks instituted structure and definitions that place them as the founders of Western Civilization. The Greeks innovation and thought processes went in a multitude of directions. Nearly all the foundations of our modern arts, sciences and math stem from Greek efforts. Then are theories of religion and politics that are derived directly from Greek thought. Then there is the philosophy of Greeks such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle whose ideas are still so important and relate to modern civilization.
In addition to art, the Greeks also supplied the basis for our architecture, plays, literature and poetry. Think of the impact the Illiad and the Odyssey still have and the fact they are still taught in our schools. There is also the very institution that makes American unique: democracy. The Greeks are also responsible for our views of citizenship, toleration of dissent, individual liberty and institutions to affect change. Even the people that don’t respect, understand or criticize Western Civilization must admit the Greeks were the models and impetus for it.
So how did the Greeks come by some genius and industry? That was dependent on Greece’s natural landscape. The nation is very hilly and situated on mountainous plots of land. This set the stage for Greece to develop into and consist of hundreds of independent city-states. These principalities quarreled continuously with each other instead of coming together as one large nation. Due to its location by the sea, Greece was blessed with many natural harbors. This circumstance and because the country had very infertile soil, as well as a dearth of minerals made the Greeks become traders, fishermen and sailors. They had the Phoenicians as their model for industry, but eventually their civilization far outweighed that of their predecessors.
As a result of the geographic challenges, once the Greeks began to prosper and use farming in a meaningful way they sought to expand. Hence the rise of Greek colonization throughout the Mediterranean and even in North Africa. They even populated areas of Spain and France. It was at this time, the Greeks not only picked up new ideas from other cultures but were allowed to transmit their own institutions and ideas through trade. This colonization also introduced a new invention in the form of coins to pay for items and the Western Civilization’s concept of war. It was at this time, the Greeks developed the phalanx and also implemented the use of heavy armor in hand-to-hand combat. The ideas the Greeks instituted for warfare actually held firm and were not often strayed from until the 19th century.
Long considered by most scholars and academics as the cornerstone of Western Civilization, the Greeks instituted many of the ideas, concepts, institutions and examples that remain so prevalent in our society today. What is fascinating is how much the Greeks are responsible for, how their ideas survived for centuries and the sheer impact of their society. They certainly are the society that was the main reason for Western Civilization. We even owe the concept of the Olympics to them. It’s an incredible achievement that is duly noted and has been throughout history.