The Ancient World Essay Sample
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The Ancient World Essay Sample
“Millions of years ago, a new species, the homo sapien, appeared on earth. ” From the first few sentences of this first paragraph, we learn of mankind’s origins. The first couple of pages outline the evolution of not just man itself, but also mankind’s culture, including tools and art. We learn that written language did not appear until the end of the Neolithic, or the “New Stone”, Age, and to this day there are some languages that still cannot be translated to this day. We learn what we know through “the study of past cultures through examination and interpretation of surviving material artifacts”, or archaeology.
The first document used to illustrate the use of archaeology is actually two different pictures representing ancient artifacts and the conclusions we can draw from them. From these ancient artifacts we learn that by roughly 2000 B. C. E homo sapiens had spread throughout the inhabitable portions of the world. The first picture shows the around 5 million year footprints of an adult and child hominid preserved near Laetoli, Tanzania. These and many other artifacts develop the evidence needed to create the second picture, depicting the predicted evolution of the changing human form.
The forces of the surrounding environment are believed to have caused the evolution of homo sapiens into modern man. The evolution of man brought a “need to remember and record the world around them in great detail. ” The text demonstrates this through Figures 1. 2a and 1. 2b, which shows ancient cave paintings that indicate that the preliterate man was very aware and interested in the natural cycles of life. These cave paintings raise the question of what the handprint signified. These handprints might have been signatures, or maybe they represented “the importance of the hand to the survival of the artist’s people.
This endurance of prehistoric art is very valuable for discovering and making hypotheses on how this ancient culture survived and lived. Between 8000 B. C. E. and 5000 B. C. E society became more complex as people in what is now known as the Middle East began to establish villages and small towns. The period around 2500 B. C. E. is known as “one of the great periods of urbanization in the West. ” By 3100 B. C. E. , a heavenly monarchy and a distinctive religion characterized Egypt. In Asia Minor the Hittite Empire was a prevailing military force, as well as Egypt’s greatest rival.
Two early Near Eastern peoples were the Babylonians and the Hebrews. Although these people’s religions were very different, the basic human concerns were the same. The first document is an excerpt from the “Poem of the Righteous Sufferer”. This poem concentrates on the world’s condition and human suffering. The second selection is the Old Testament story of Job, which also focuses on human suffering in terms of Job’s misery. The ancient Egyptians did not leave behind heroic tales as other Mesopotamian peoples did. The Egyptians instead left behind treaties, deeds, and other legal documents.
One very useful form of text that still survives is the “instruction”. These were documents of advice “written by an elder to his son or successor, by priests to future priests, by government officials to lesser administrators, and by pharaohs to their heirs. ” The first document shown was written during Egypt’s First Intermediate Period (2250 B. C. E. – 2052 B. C. E. ). The author is believed to be Wahkare, a pharaoh and father of Merikare, who became the next ruler. This document contains advice for Wahkare’s son, knowledge that will help his son be a successful, if not always liked, ruler.
Wahkare warns against those who talk too much, saying that he is a traitor and an exciter of the city. His advice to handle this situation is just to kill the man. He also tells him to be skilled in speaking, “for the tongue is a sword to a man, and speech is more valorous than any fighting. ” Wahkare greatly believes in the wisdom of his ancestors, and tells his son to “copy thy fathers and thy ancestors. ” Wahkare also does not seem to be a prejudiced man towards poor people, but says to his son to hire a man for his hard work, not his societal birth.
The second instruction was written about 2450 B. C. E. by the chief advisor Ptahhotep, who wrote it for his son. In this text, he is advising his son on how to efficiently be a vizier. He tells him of patience, and warns him against intellectual snobbery. Ptahhotep’s advice for dealing with superiors is just to do whatever they want you to do, and you will be rewarded. On the other hand “wretched is he who opposes his superior, for one lives only so long as he is gracious. ” The Hittite Empire, which first appeared around 2000 B. C. E. and reached its peak between 1370 B. C. E. and 1180 B. C. E. , was a very successful military empire.
The next two documents may evidence that the Hittites’ law codes may have been influenced by the law code of Eshnunna. These law codes, though not as complete as Hammurabi’s, predate Hammurabi’s by several hundred years. The first law code shown, which belonged to the Hittites, greatly illustrates the lack of value slaves had in their society. The punishment for causing a slave girl to miscarriage is the same as if you broke a man’s foot or killed a dog. There is also a big emphasis on social classes.
This code at least shows a little rights for women, although they are still unfair. The second law code, the one of the Eshnunna people, is very similar in that women are seen mostly as property, and not given many fair rights. There are major double standards going on in these codes, especially with divorce rights. The man is the only person who has the right to file for divorce. According to Hittite law, slaves are not really protected from abuse at all. The only punishment for hurting a slave is that the abuser has to pay the owner a small amount of money.
These laws are great evidence of the tremendous prejudice against lower classes. King Darius the Great, who ruled Persia from 522 to 486 B. C. E. , ruled with absolute authority. The inscription described in this section was created to assure the Persian people that their king was both authoritative and honorable. King Darius held himself responsible to the god Ahuramazda, which required him to rule in an ethical and responsible way. In this inscription, King Darius makes it clear that he is “a friend to what is right, I am no friend to what is wrong. ”
He also says that he is not hot-tempered. What a man says against a man, that does not convince me, until I have heard testimony from both parties. ” This statement gives me the impression that he was not biased when handing out punishment, and gave everyone their fair chance at defending themselves. Darius, at the end of the inscription, praises the god Ahuramazda for all the gifts the god has given him, which shows his dedication and gratitude towards this god. The Indian subcontinent greatly supported civilization, what with its being protected on two sides by the sea and on its third side by mountainous terrain.
The Harappan civilization flourished in India from 2500 to around 1700 B. C. E. Around 1500 B. C. E. , however, a semi barbaric people, who called themselves Aryans (the noble people), began a violent migration onto the area. Although they obliterated the Harappans, the Aryans established and extended their own civilization throughout most of contemporary India. Religion was central to their culture, and worshipped many gods with sacrifices and hymns of praise. These hymns were later collected into the Rig Veda (Veda meaning “knowledge”).
The period known as the Vedic Age (1500-1600 B. C. E. ) led to Hinduism, the first major Indian religion. In 326 B. C. E. Alexander the Great invaded northwestern India, although he died shortly after, causing the collapse of his empire. This invasion by Alexander fueled the rise of Chandragupta Maurya. During his rule he established an empire as well as the Mauryan Dynasty. Those who ruled after him added all but the southern tip of the subcontinent to the empire before a revolt led by Hindu priests caused its collapse in 185 B. C. E.
After this collapse, the empire divided into several small states that were often at war with each other. The Aryan religion, over the next thousand years, most likely grew to incorporate some elements of Harappan theology and definitely established a strict social structure. This five-tiered social structure came to be known as “the caste system”. Indians began to record their Vedic literature around 500 B. C. E. The whole of the Vedic literature consisted of four Vedas, quite a few commentaries on the Vedas, and numerous philosophical explorations collected in the Upanishads.
During the sixth century B. C. E. , two new religious movements occurred in India, Buddhism and Jainism. Jainism remained for the most part within the subcontinent. In Jainism the belief is that all things are alive and have a soul. These souls included rocks, trees, water, and even air. To destroy life, whether intentional or accidentally, results in bad karma. The higher the life form one destroys the more bad karma you accumulate. The transmigration of the soul involves avoiding this karma, and the soul can never escape the cycle of life and death until it rids itself of karma.
Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Gautama Buddha (from the Indian word bodhi, or wisdom) was born to the kshatriya caste in the mid-sixth century B. C. E. As his life went on, he began to question Hinduism and the answers that it offered to society as a whole. Gautama discovered enlightenment through his travels and gained followers along the way, thus establishing and spreading Buddhism. Buddhism borrowed key elements from Hinduism but also rejected some key aspects of Hinduism.
Buddhism denied the individuality of the soul, and it viewed the material world as an illusion that the soul must rise above to achieve nirvana. But most importantly, Buddhism rejected the caste system and the Hindu gods. Also, Buddha refused to have his followers worship him as a god. Buddha came up with the Four Noble Truths, one of which was the noble truth of misery, as shown in an excerpt from Buddha’s sermon at Benares. While Classical China was believed to have existed between 2100 and 220 B. C. E. , vital historical evidence suggests Chinese civilization thrived two millennia earlier.
This evidence is known as oracle bones. The oracles bones are either tortoise shells or ox shoulder blades with scripted texts. These inscriptions on the bones represent the earliest form of the Chinese written language. China underwent a chain of important changes that brought it centralized government and sophisticated philosophy from the Xia Dynasty to the Han Dynasty. China’s government changed from a kingship to emperorship. During the Warring States period three major philosophies, Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism, emerged, all looking for ways to deal with the chaos.
Confucianism stressed human relationships for creating orderly society, while Daoism looked to natural harmony. Legalism however accentuated strong government control and force to keep social order. Greece, sometime around 800 B. C. E. , emerged from a period known as the “Greek Dark Ages”. This period was filled with warfare and lack of literacy. However, it was also the period of the author Homer, who wrote such epics as the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Greeks are often given credit for “creating” Western culture.
However this civilization had serious problems, such as an inability to build a lasting government among the Greek city-states or solve the problem of the conflict between Athens and Sparta. The conflict between these two city-states, also known as the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 B. C. E. ), led to the end of the Athenian Age, as well as a shift of political power to the north in Macedonia. The Hellenic Age led to Hellenistic Age following Alexander’s conquest of the Middle East. The city of Alexandria, Egypt, became the center for Hellenistic culture.
We can learn much about ancient Greece by comparing the lives and cities of the Athenians and the Spartans. Thucydides, a general in the Peloponnesian Wars, wrote an accurate first-person account of the early years of the war called the History of the Peloponnesian War. Pericles, an influential general in the wars, delivered a funeral speech to commemorate soldiers killed in the fighting in the winter of 431-430 B. C. E. In this speech, he praises Athens, saying that it “does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a model for others than imitators ourselves.
He goes on to boast about Athens greatness. The city of Sparta was Athens’ greatest enemy in Greece during the fifth century B. C. E. Between 800 and 600 B. C. E. Lycurgus is credited with establishing what amounted to a military state in Sparta. Plutarch, a Greek historian, was a very creative and philosophical writer. In the text shown, Plutarch claims that “among the many innovations which Lycurgus made, the first and most important was his institution of a senate, or Council of Elders. ” From there, he goes on to say that the second measure of Lycurgus was his redistribution of the land.
Apparently Lycurgus divvied out the land as equally as he could to bring equality as best he could. Lycurgus withdrew gold and silver money from currency and ordained the use of iron money only. Even more interesting is how Lycurgus addressed education, which was by regulating marriages and births. The Romans began as a small group of villages in central Italy, but by the first century C. E. , Roman power had spread from the British Isles down to the Sahara and even to the Iranian Plateau. Most of classical Greek culture was sustained and passed on to European culture through the Romans.
Marcus Antonius, Julius Caesar’s lieutenant, committed suicide which left Octavian as the sole ruler of Rome in 30 B. C. E. Roman society became focused on the emperor, as did history writing. Suetonius, who served as a private secretary and imperial librarian to the emperor Hadrian, wrote a very important work of historical writing called Lives of the Twelve Caesars. In this document, Suetonius not only includes the great deeds of the emperors, but also the scandalous private behaviors. His goal in doing this was to not glorify the individual emperor, but the Roman power and genius in general.
Also, just like the tabloids of today, Suetonius was writing to an audience that enjoyed “the juicy details of the private lives of public figures. ” In the ancient Mediterranean, slavery was an abundant and accepted custom which was practiced by virtually everyone. Because of this prevalence of slaves, there were typically various laws governing the treatment, institution, rights of the slaves, and rights of the slave holders. The document shown is from a scholar named Gaius who wrote the Institutes, a legal textbook that became standard law book for law students.
This document distinguishes a distinction of law that all human beings are either free men or slaves. It also notes the difference between men that are free-born and freedmen. A free-born man was obviously a man who was free when he was born, while freedmen are those who have been released from a state of slavery. It talks about ‘subject foreigners’, which the document defines as “the name given to those who had once fought a regular war against the Roman people, were defeated, and gave themselves up. ” No slaves who are subject foreigners can ever become Roman citizens or Latins.
The laws state that “a save becomes a Roman citizen if he fulfills three conditions. He must be over thirty years of age; his master must own him under specific conditions; and he must be set free by a just and legitimate manumission. ” Not everyone who wants to manumit is legally permitted to do so. Finally, persons who do not fulfill the conditions for full citizenship are called “Junian Latins”. These laws for the citizen rights of slaves are very just in my eyes, although I do not condone slavery at all. This document, nevertheless, is very interesting.