Societies in the Classical Period Essay

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Societies in the Classical Period

Thought and Faith: Moving from One Culture to the Next

No matter our distances based on linguistics or locality, all men are the same. We breathe the same air, walk the same earth, and feel the same emotions. It would not be a leap of faith then, to understand prominent philosophies and religious traditions as related to one another in some internal way. Through thorough analysis of Classical societies, it can be seen that philosophies are developed, spread, and the morphed to fit the needs of proceeding generations. As seen in the case of the development of Greco-Roman culture as we see it today from its earliest roots in Minoan and Mycenaean thought. As a culture continues to spread and maintain its philosophies and religious traditions, other budding cultures will draw upon its success and borrow elements of those philosophies. Just as was the case for Ancient Greece and Rome, the Classical Indian and Chinese Hindu and Buddhist traditions follow a similar path. One such move was that of Zoroastrianism emerging out of the Classical Persian Empire which eventually helped influence the powerful philosophies of modern religions such as Christianity and Islam.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Societies in the Classical Period Assignment

Several major traditions prove the concept that cultures draw upon earlier set traditions and philosophies as they morph trains of thought to fit the current need. The most prominent example of this social practice conducted by prominent Classical cultures is through examination of the Greco-Roman world. In fact, Ancient Greek traditions stem out of an even earlier Classical society, that of the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures, who controlled the Aegean Sea before the birth of the great Greek civilization. The Minoan society emerged off the coasts of Crete and branched off of even earlier Egyptian traditions and practices for architecture and art (Butler 2007). The Minoans later influenced Greek society and myth as the generations passed from one reigning empire to the next. Later, the Mycenaean society on the Greek mainland passed through dominance in the era before what we commonly associate with Ancient Greece. Although different from the earlier Minoans, Mycenaean culture still branched upon early Minoan religious thought and practices. Their reign, however, was brief; and most of what was influential to later Greek culture and theology was in the form of mysterious tales and myths within Greek mythology.

From the beginnings of these earlier Aegean societies, true Classical Greek culture in both practice and philosophy as we conceive it today was born. Greek philosophy was based out of the loose and fluid religious practices which epitomized Greek culture. Greek citizens were allowed to follow their own chosen deities out of a long list of available gods which were structured in the Olympic hierarchy. Different gods ruled over a wide variety of every day elements, and Greek citizens believed that they would end up in an afterlife which depended on their actions while alive. Religious belief stemmed from the colorful Greek myths that still remain an influence on popular and literary culture even today. Early philosophy coming of great Greek thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle was concerned mainly with discovering as much of the unknown as humanly possible, through thorough analysis and interrogation of available sources. The nature of the soul and its place within the universe was of major concern to many Greek thinkers. Many believed that the soul was connected to an eternal universe, and man perfected the soul through his quest for true happiness. Greek thought was so popular, that it remains a strong influence on Western culture today. However, it had its strongest influence on Classical Roman culture and society. Roman society borrowed much from its Greek predecessor, including government styles and religious beliefs. The Greek gods were given Roman surnames and images. Rome completely nationalized Greek culture, and furthered the inquiry into Classical western philosophical thought.

In fact, the next Classical religion which spread across the ancient world was actually coined by Roman and Greek traders in ancient India to cover a number of smaller traditions in isolated areas -- Hinduism. Classical India rested on both Hindu and Buddhist principles. Hinduism marked much of the ancient state of India, which began during the Iron Age in India and quickly generated to spread over the nation, (Wenner 2001). It slowly developed from its ancient roots within the Vedic tradition into its own polytheistic-based religious practice still practiced today. The religious tradition spread through individual communities and villages, which later accounts for its vast fluidity in representation and practice. As it moved from smaller isolated groups into a more widely dominating practice, major beliefs began to then represent Classical Indian society. Its beliefs posit an eternal nature to the universe, which the soul also being an eternal being, constantly regenerated through reincarnation, with the nature of the soul unchanging due to its eternal principles. As these philosophies spread into future generations, many of a Hindu tradition began to morph the religious practices to fit a similar, yet different generation of worshippers.

It was from the Hindu tradition that Buddhism was born. The Indian Hindu prince Siddhartha Guatama stems from his Classical Indian Hindu traditions into an entire new branch of religious thought and practice (Boeree 2000). In disagreement with the way Hindu traditions had been molded through Classical Indian society, Guatama turned to found his own religious tradition -- Buddhism. As Guatama slowly transformed into the Buddha, the basic principles of the religious tradition also began to take shape. The budding tradition kept ideas of rebirth however uses it in a frame where each new life provides new valuable lessons to the soul as it changes and reaches further towards perfection (Boeree 2000). Along with continuing the tradition of rebirth, Buddhism introduced the concept of karma, or the idea that every action receives its own rewards or punishments later on throughout life. As this new religious philosophy and others associated with Buddhism spread all over India, their influence began to reach further into the corners of the Asian continent.

Centuries after the Buddha's passing, his religion entered into Classical Chinese society. At the time, Chinese society was predominately under the traditions of Taoism and Confucianism. Buddhism found some similar features within the dominate tradition of Taoism, and so began its slow progression into Classical Chinese culture and life (Jayaram 2008). As Classical Chinese society was run into the ground by dynasty collapses and Mongolian invasions, Buddhism began to represent a replacement of older values and thus promoted by the future generation of Chinese leaders. With sacred Buddhist texts becoming more widely available through their translation into Chinese, the religion continued to spread throughout the massive nation. The following dynasties proved to help promote the spread and success of Buddhism in China.

Just as the Greek and Hindu religions transpired into new manifestations of older religious traditions, Classical Persian philosophies also morphed into new schools of thought as well. As the Persian Empire reached its height around 600 BC, a new religion was taking hold of Classical Persian society. Zoroastrianism was born out of Mesopotamia based on the philosophies of Zarathustra. It represented a dualistic conception of religion, rather than the polytheist views which were prominent in other areas of the world (Hooker 1996). The battle of one single good god against one evil came to make up the theology of this budding religion as it spread all across the Persian Empire. Both gods are of equal strength and according to the religion's traditions, are locked in an eternal battle to win control of the world. Thus, all aspects of life, both natural and human, are part of his epic battle. As the generations progressed, this monotheistic thought diverged into two of the most popular religious philosophies in the modern era, that of Christianity and Islam. The epic… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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