The history of the rise of civilization is long and intricate. It started around six thousand years ago with the formation of cities in the valley of Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Middle East. Since then, the phenomenon of civilization evolved. However, its primary aspects remained unchanged. Taking a closer look at the development of the Ancient Near East cultures and Greece is beneficial for understanding the concept and the process of its emergence.
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Nowadays, there are numerous features in characterizing civilization. One of the central ones is the existence of government. It implies the ruling of a group of people. We can find it looking at the rise of Sumer, Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, the Hebrew Kingdom, and the Neo-Assyrian Empire. When speaking of Sumer, there were groups of aristocrats in every city located throughout the civilization. As for Mesopotamia, its key specificity was the operation of central structures carrying out administrative, economic, religious, and other functions (Cole and Symes 8, 10).
It is also paramount to recollect the origins of political power and the rule of Hammurabi in Babylonian Society as well as the reign of pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, King Solomon in the Hebrew Kingdom, and the centralized government of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Cole and Symes 17, 47). Each of these cultures was also characterized by powerful economic systems based on manufacturing and trade.
Except for the rule of the chosen and economic systems, civilization is distinguished by the social stratification. Some of the brightest examples of social pyramids are those of Ancient Egypt and Sumer determining the structure of the society and the functions of every member as well as the strict hierarchy (Cole and Symes 26).
Another aspect defining civilization is the development of writing. We can recall Sumerian peoples, who used pictograms for transmitting messages, clay tablets for storing information, and invented writing tools (Cole and Symes 9). Ancient Egyptians also recognized the power of writing generating the system of pictographic symbols known as hieroglyphs (Cole and Symes 23). Furthermore, there were the Hebrews and their scriptures, i.e. textual sources containing information regarding history, law, religion, etc. (Cole and Symes 44).
In addition to developing the systems of writing, arts play one of the most significant roles in understanding civilization. We can return to Sumer and recollect The Epic of Gilgamesh portraying the history of the rise of Sumerian culture and the basics of religion and the existence of numerous gods (“The Epic of Gilgamesh” 43).
When speaking of arts, we cannot but mention Greek philosophers and poets, who depicted the life of ancient people. It is closely interconnected with organized religion. Egyptian religious system can be traced in The Story of Isis and Osiris determining the rule of gods and goddesses such as Re, Nut, Osiris, Nephthys, and others (“The Story of Isis and Osiris” par. 1, 5). Each sphere of life was ruled by one god. Other examples include monotheism promoted by the Hebrews and Zoroastrian dualism of Assyrian Empires (Cole and Symes 57).
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To sum up, the cultures of the Ancient Near East and Greece help define the primary aspects of civilization. The most important ones are the centralized government, economy, and organized religion. The motivation for this standpoint is the necessity to arrange the society and rule people as well as provide them with the resources necessary for life both material and spiritual so that they are willing to give up some of their freedoms and follow the laws passed by the government.
Cole, Joshua, and Carol Symes. Western Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture. 4th ed. 2017. New York, New York: W. W. Norton & Company. W. W. Norton & Company Digital Library. Web.
The Epic of Gildamesh. n.d. Web.
The Story of Isis and Osiris. n.d. Web.