Greece and Rome Thesis

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Greece and Rome

The ancient Greek culture is hailed as providing the modern Western world with much of its philosophical wisdom. In many ways, the Greeks are seen as the very origin of civilization and thought as these are known today. It is therefore not difficult to overlook the fact that the ancient Greeks themselves were influence in many ways by the cultures and philosophies before them. In this, however, it is also important to recognize that Greek thought and philosophy used the influences around them to create something new and unique to themselves; something upon which the world as we know it today built its own traditions and thought forms.

Philosophical Development in Ancient Greece

Kelly L. Ross points out that the main difference between philosophy in ancient cultures and the thought governing the world before it is the element of myth. The latter for example concerns teaching truths via stories about persons, including gods, heroes, or people in general, usually involving a number of supernatural elements to explain the nature of the world. A further element inherent in the mythical tradition is the fact that supernatural and divine explanations can contradict each other without any difficulty.

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In Greek philosophy, particularly, the element of reasoning is of the greatest importance. The validity of thought in this way relies upon its inherent coherence and systematic nature. As opposed to the strong traditionalism behind the mythic tradition, Greek philosophy was also a testament to the potential of the human mind in its extreme and sudden creativity not only regarding the physical world, but also the mental and internal though process itself.

Thesis on Greece and Rome Assignment

One of the most important elements in this is the dichotomy in morality when viewed from the mythical and philosophical viewpoints. Mythic morality tended to be somewhat questionable, even for the gods. According to Ross, the philosophers Socrates and Plato were greatly responsible for the moralization of the Greek Gods. The effect of this moralization process is evident in Western religious philosophy. To be religious is seen as analogous to being moral. Indeed, religion teaches a certain set of morals according to which adherents are required to conduct their lives and affairs. Socrates and Plato elevate divinity to a level at which they cannot imagine the gods doing wrong or evil. This connected Greek thought to the morality of religions such as Judaism and Christianity, where a particular moral code is extremely important. In this way, the ancient world then also connects with the contemporary civilization that was to be its result, with its gods requiring holiness from their followers.

Religious moralization is not however what distinguishes Greek philosophy from other philosophies of the time, although it does act as an important catalyst for future Western philosophy. One of the distinguishing factors is the position of the Greek philosophical center in generating and maintaining its material wealth. According to Ross, this wealth mainly rests upon trade. This implicates that the philosophical hub of Greece at the time was particularly well-positioned to adopt a unique and lasting type of philosophy.

As traders, for example, Ross notes that cities such as Miletus and Athens had contact with a variety of different cultures and their philosophies. Thus they were able to incorporate a much wider and more universal viewpoint in their philosophies than was the case with other, more self-contained philosophical nations such as Egypt and Babylonia, for example.

As such, the Greek cities in question also functioned somewhat independently, to a greater degree than other nations, where travel and trade were generally only focused upon the existing agricultural or other productions within the respective countries. This independence was the result of a relative democracy that belonged to Greece far ahead of its time. These democratic Greeks, in their independence and wealth, therefore found themselves free to think not only about life and its issues, but also about thinking itself, and thus began the practice of philosophy.

2. Like the Greeks, the Roman Empire had a profound effect upon the development of Western civilization. This is exemplified not only in the way Western civilization constructs itself, but also in the various manifestations of Roman history in the media, via the many films, books, and fiction on the topic. In order to find the reasons for this, the ideology behind the Roman Empire can be considered.

According to Steven Muhlberger, the success of the Roman Empire lay not so much in the ability of its citizens to construct complicated intellectual ideas, but rather upon their practical abilities and loyalty towards their citizenship. Specifically, this exemplified itself in a combination of factors, including the fact that the Romans were excellent soldiers, the willingness of citizens to sacrifice themselves for the community, and sharing the benefits of citizenship with others. It was therefore a much more inclusive ideology than that of the Greeks, and at least partly responsible for both the longevity and success of the Roman Empire until its fall. Muhlberger notes how this was exemplified in the Roman treatment of slaves; slaves were often allowed to not only become free, but also to become citizens. In this way, the Romans created an opportunity not only for their best slaves to work towards freedom, but also for the Roman Empire itself to benefit. This created reciprocal benefits for both Rome and not only existing citizens, but also for potential ones. Freed slaves gained citizenship, while Rome gained new taxpayers and soldiers by methods other than birth.

The importance of Rome for modern study perhaps lies in the fact not only of its longevity and military success, but in the manner of its achievements. Roman citizens formed an absolute and unified whole, working together for the good of the many. This is a phenomenon that is alien to modern civilization. While Romans moved towards a single goal, contemporary society appears to be so divided on so many issues that there is no hope for unification. Perhaps it is in this that the greatest lessons lie for the contemporary world. The government of today also inspires no loyalty and wars are fought for many diverse reasons, with no true beneficiaries.

This also accounts for the contemporary fascination with the Roman Empire. In addition to it being more or less swallowed by the mists of time, Rome engenders in the modern citizen a time of luxury and success that can only be dreamed of today. Making films and writing books about this time is a way of fantasy to make the dream of luxury and success a reality, if even for a time. In these ways, Rome and Greece compliment each other by virtue of their respective practical and intellectual prowess. Indeed, both hold a certain fascination as the cradle of modern citizenship.

3. According to Hugh Elton, critics focus on different aspects when attempting to explicate the fall of the Roman Empire. Some hold that it was primarily the result of internal, structural problems, while others hold that external factors played the most significant role. In this, I believe that both camps make valid points, and that most likely it was a combination of the two: internal problems probably already existed when external ones exacerbated them. While internal factors may otherwise have been resolved, it was the presence of external pressures that brought about the final downfall of the Empire.

In terms of the former, Hugh suggests that theorists adhering to the long-term, inherent approach are the more traditional. These critics tend to Diocletian and his follower Constantine were mainly responsible for the beginning of the end. These emperors began the collapse by altering the army, which was split into border and mobile components. This, along with the entrance of barbarians into the army resulted in the rapid decline of its fighting efficiency and quality. Being the cornerstone of Rome's former success, the Empire could not last long on the basis of its declining fighting force.

External forces, according to the author, included a unification of various barbarian tribes into a large force. Although some doubt the true threat of these forces for the Roman army, it was certainly indicative of conflicts to come and of the much diminished power of Rome. The Huns followed by bringing an invasion of Goths into the Empire, which Rome found impossible to defeat. This in turn paved the way for the waiting barbarian groups beyond the border, and Rome began to fall, invaded by Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, and Saxons throughout its territory.

Another internal factor often mentioned is the fact of civil war. The Roman army was divided against itself in this, and in this way found itself drained of physical and human resources. These wars had both political and military effects in terms of the division of a once powerful and unified force. Rome was no longer the power that it was, because it was a power divided.

Although there is no conclusive evidence or consensus on the exact factors that led to the fall of Rome, or indeed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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