Historians have determined that there are 5 characteristics that are required for a civilization to be considered as such. The first trait a civilization needs is a system of specialized workers. The second is advanced cities. The third characteristic necessary is a system of complex institutions. Next, the need for and development of record-keeping or writing is important. Finally, a group of people can be considered a civilization if they have developed some form of advanced technology. The Greeks were known for their ‘Aret?’ or individual excellence, which made them a self-described “great” people.
The development of the Greek civilization was as a result of many different actions, including the 5 characteristics that made it a civilization. The first characteristic, the development of specialized workers, provided work considered as specialty. Many people call specialization of work “division of labor.” The people of Athens relied heavily on trade, so their people had to be skilled and specialized workers in order to produce the products being traded. Some examples of specific jobs are merchants, artisans, craftsmen, soldiers, and historians. One of my favorite things about Greece is the beautiful marble sculptures. The marble sculptures are still standing and virtually unharmed for centuries, while many bronze sculptures were melted down for their metal shortly after they were erected.
The second aspect of the greeks that made them a civilization were the advanced cities, or city-states the land possessed. In ancient times, cities were used as an organized platform for buying or selling. Greek cities had Agoras, or markets for buying/selling and meeting places. Cities usually had large populations and grew around a centralized point. In ancient Greece, polis’, or city-states, and acropolis’, or raised points in the city with fortified soil, were the norm of living. Cities were also the center of religion and politics. Two of the largest and most recognized city-states in Greece were Athens and Sparta.
While Athens and Sparta came together along with others to form the Greek civilization, they couldn’t have been more different. Athens had a democratic government, while Sparta was ruled by kings. Sparta was considered to have a conservative government, and Athens had a more liberal government. Sparta’s economy was based on agriculture and Athens’ economy was based on trade. Sparta had an army to protect them, while Athens had a navy on their front. Institutions are groups of people that work together for some specific purpose. Schools provided an education. The army and navy provided security. Their Gods provided spiritual comfort or explanations.
The Greeks developed their system of writing from the Phoenicians. What started as linear B transitioned into the Greek alphabet, a 24-letter system of vowels and consonants, and were used to the advantage of the people. A census was taken, tax collections were recorded, and many forms of literature were produced. Epics, myths, comedies, and tragedies were all forms of Greek literature. Tragedies like Oedipus Rex and Antigone are still admired and read today. Greek historians such as Herodotus, considered the ‘Father of History’, and Thucydides, who wrote the history of the Peloponnesian War are to thank for many written history records.
Finally, the development of advanced technology is a major characteristic of a civilization. The Greeks were advanced in so many different ways. They invented a crane system, which did the work of many men when lifting. The crane is still used today when lifting heavy objects, though our version looks a bit sturdier. Extensive plumbing systems, including lavatories and water fountains along walkways were an ordinary scene to the Greeks, while other civilizations had not mastered running water.
The Greeks have all the characteristics necessary to be considered a civilization. We can look back upon the legacy they left and admire their ways. While many things have changed since the rise of the Greek civilization, nothing has changed about the way we characterize them.
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