History of Western Civilization
Almost all the scholars and historians unanimously agree that the most significant epoch in the evolution of modern western civilization lies in the antiquity earliest European civilization of which the modern civilization is a direct descendent. In the comparative evolutionary process, the entire Western civilization matures through a series of interconnected events from ancient civilization to medieval Christian Civilization and thereafter to modern western civilization (Dawson, 51). The early civilization is divided in two major phases 1) Hellenism and (2) the Roman world.
Essentially this constitutes the pre-Christian and even pre-European age as it originated in the Aegean and retained a predominantly Mediterranean culture (Columbia University, 61). However, it was distinctly Western Civilization in every sense and without exception, every later European Culture, has looked back to it this as the source of their cultural inspiration, and intellectual and social tradition (Dawson, 51). The beginning of Western civilization can be traced around the time of Persian Wars, when Greece took a conscious decision to recognize its cultural, ideological and spiritual separation from Asiatic culture and civilization.
The lifestyle, social values and standards of Greece were much modern and stood in sharp contrast to the comparative ancient and great archaic civilizations of the ancient East (Dawson, 51). Although ancient from today’s view point, at its time Greece presented radically new ways of life and thought that had been completely manifested through the great achievements of Hellenic culture from seventh and sixth centuries B. C. Modern student of history appreciate the Greek civilization for the technological and philosophical heights attained during the time.
The ancient Greek and Roman civilization saw the beginning of the age that saw the first recorded development of independent city-state and its political institutions, the great colonial expansion of the Greeks across the shores of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and the beginning of the great age of scientific and philosophical achievements by ancient Greek Stalwarts (Columbia University, 61). The Persian War marked a great watershed event in this period that ended the cultural hegemony and supremacy of Persian-Asian civilization and put the Hellenic Culture, led by Greece at the core of subsequent emergence of Western Civilization.
The War united the entire western world under Greek cultural and military flags, uniting against the oriental culture (Dawson, 51). The two pillars of ancient Western civilization were the free city and the common culture. The era was marked by the institution of freedom, where as members of a self-governing civilization, Greeks and Romans perceived themselves different and elevated from rest of the world (Columbia University, 61).
They had a strong sense of belongingness to a wider society of Hellenism that encompassed more than a hundred cities stretched over the entire Mediterranean world developed their conscious system of rational enquiry that is the source of Western philosophy and science(Dawson, 51). In short, it was the Greeks who created the Western idea of Man and that conception of humanist culture which has become one of the formative elements in the European tradition. Medieval Civilization
Although Greece was the real creators of the Western tradition, it had little influence on continental Europe. Continental Europe directed the Hellenic expansion and colonization starting in the fourth century, towards East, resulting in a period of Hellenistic Civilization where the region from the Mediterranean to the Oxus and the Indus, was covered by a cities that had distinct imprint and flavor of Greek civilization, making Hellenism the first real world-wide civilization which influenced the culture of all the peoples of the known world (Dawson, 51).
This Eastern expansion constitutes the second phase in the history of Western civilization that broadly covers a period of seven centuries–three hundred years from the conquest of Alexander to Augustus and then four hundred years from the death of Augustus to the conversion of Constantine to Christianity (Dawson, 51).
These seven centuries saw transformation of a peasant state in the mighty Roman Empire that became synonymous with Western world empire embracing the whole Mediterranean world and extending from the Gaul to the Euphrates, and from the Rhine and the Danube to the Sahara and the Arabian desert (Dawson, 51). This for the first and last time in the history of Western culture when the whole civilized world, except Persia and India, was united in a single nation -state ruled by a single ruler and following a single uniform law.
The efforts of Roman organizers, planners, engineers and politicians laid the foundation of new cities and created the ground framework that encased the next evolutionary paradigm of the western culture and civilization (Dawson, 51). The third major phase of Western civilization was impact of Christianity that organized western kingdoms in nation states, leading to medieval western civilization. The process was slow due to hindrance from barbarian attacks from North and Muslim challenge from East. It took more than 6 centuries to accomplish and settle(Dawson, 51).
But during these five or six centuries the foundations of a new Christian society were firmly laid by the co-operation between the Catholic Church and the barbarian kingdoms, by the missionary activity of the Irish and Anglo-Saxon monks, and by emergence of strong nation states of France and Britain that formed the core of Western thought, philosophy and culture.
Christopher Dawson. 1952. Understanding Europe. Sheed & Ward,. 514 pgs. Columbia University (orgname). 1961. Chapters in Western Civilization. Volume: 2. : Columbia University Press. Place of Publication:Sample Essay of Masterpapers.com