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Greek & Roman Cultural Influence in The Mediterranean
By Myranda Grecinger
The Greek and Roman influence in the Mediterranean is a perfect example of the cultural growth and transferences that take place all over the world. The Mediterranean society under the Greeks and Romans was a constantly evolving civilization. Both cultures heavily influenced the entire Mediterranean area in many ways. A great many things were accomplished under both Greek and Roman rule. Although very similar in many aspects, their cultures each had some very unique elements. Both civilizations evolved and grew their empires and remained in power for extensive periods of time, but their real legacy remains even today as cultures around the globe continue to be effected by the Greco-Roman influences that continue to spread as a result of these two famous, ancient civilizations.
In the early ages of Greek society, Greeks lived in independent city states. That changed, however, after the third century B.C.E. when they began to play larger roles in the empire of their neighbors, the Romans. The Greek civilization thrived on interaction with people from various cultures in many different areas. Travel became central to this thriving society and so the Mediterranean took on the role of maritime highway, which allowed for the facilitation of outside trade. (Ziegler, 2008) Trading with other cultures and societies also meant learning about their traditions, beliefs and ideals and sharing some of the Greek ones with them. Thus cultural influences began. (Thinkquest, 2010)
Traveling Greek merchants brought back knowledge of astronomy, geometry, medicine, sciences, math and more. Artistic styles and architecture was also share among cultures along trade routes. This was considered highly important as Greek society placed high value on education, knowledge and philosophy. Europeans considered the Greeks to be leading authorities on education and intellect. Some of the most brilliant philosophical minds that are still studied today were products of this society, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. (Ziegler, 2008)
While Greek politics were often riddled with confrontation and conflict the Greek communities were eventually able to establish a sort of collective identity and even adopted a single formal written language. They also competed in contests and held regular games together for entertainment. Civil issues such as slavery were present, but slaves could often earn their freedom and even become citizens. (Ziegler, 2008)
Greek tradition held that a patriarch should be the head of the family, some might say to the extreme in some instances. Most Greek communities allowed for the man of the household to make all decisions, even whether or not a mother could keep her child or if it should be left to die. While women were able to run businesses, they could not own land or work in public service, save the instance of a religious priestess. Spartan women were a bit of an exception to all of this; they bore arms in battle, could compete in games, and go about town on their own without depending on a man, (Ziegler, 2008) but in most Greek societies this was not the case. As Greek society expanded its reach so did many of its cultural traditions.
Roman society was originally ruled by a single king, but this tradition was over thrown by roman aristocracy around 500 B.C.E. in favor of a republic. It was not long before the Roman Republican Constitution became the dominant power in the Mediterranean. Two councils held civil and military power and officials were elected by the wealthy class citizens. (Thinkquest, 2010) This soon caused conflict and civil war due to the lower class citizen’s differential treatment. Soon changes took place to allow even lower class citizens elect officials and have a voice and not long after they were even given the right to hold office. (Thinkquest, 2010) These rights would not be enough to satisfy the masses when wealthy roman citizens began building large production farms that operated more cheaply and pushing out the small farmers. It was not long before this yet again caused unrest among roman citizens.
Though war and conquering were important to the Romans it usually ended well for them as the citizens of conquered nations were treated well and integrated into Roman society. However, the vastness of the republic became too much of a strain on the constitutional form of government and soon it was disbanded and replaced with an imperial government. (Thinkquest, 2010) The integration of Romans among other cultures and other cultures among Romans often led to the trading of ideas, traditions and beliefs systems among various cultures and civilizations.
Like the Greeks, Knowledge and trade were highly valued in Roman society, so roads were built for faster, more efficient travel. These roads lead to an even greater economic boom simply due to the ease of trade. It was not long before the empire began building vast cities with swimming pools, theaters, temples, sewer systems and aqueducts that brought in fresh water. The people of Rome thrived in a luxurious existence.
Similarly to the Greeks, Romans observed slavery and it was common for slaves to be freed at some point. Fathers held the head of the household in Roman society just as they did in Greek society. Women were dominated by men and had little choice in the future of their children just as with Greek tradition. Religious beliefs were spread far and wide due to outside trading just as they had with the Greeks, the largest example of which is Christianity, which had become the official Church of Rome.
While these two cultures shared many things with each other, the more important thing is how they spread these things around the world. We still observe and study the teachings of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates just as Christianity is still a very dominant religion. The positive empowering notion of a republic society in which everyone had a voice sis not die with Rome, we are still trying to perfect it today in the U.S. Even down to the smaller things like the tradition of a father run household, though it is no longer required, the average person still sees it as the traditional family. Roads and plumbing are all ideas kept alive and passed down to us from these revolutionary cultures. Their legacy will continue to live on in the civilizations of tomorrow as well.
An Important Note From The Author
Recently I have had the awful experience of dealing with a situation where I had to show that one of my articles did in fact belong to me and that I did in fact write it quite a while ago, for that purpose I have decided to add this little bit of information to all of my articles. Some of my articles are based on things that I have studied in school, I post them because I find the topics extremely interesting and figure others will as well and hope they they will inspire some discussion or deeper research or simply offer the information to those who may not otherwise learn about it. I realize that many people will see my articles which is why I post them here, I do not post them here for people to copy. Plagiarism is serious, I put a great deal of hard work into my writing and research and expect others to give me the common courtesy of not taking credit for accomplishments that are not their own. If you intend to use any part of any of my work please respectfully request to do so and I will answer in a timely manner and please give me proper credit by citing my work as a source. For many, you should check with your school before citing articles from Hub pages as it may not be considered to be an acceptable academic resource. For the few articles that I have that are not academically based, I would still like the same respect before any part of my work is used for any purpose and please do not copy my articles and post them elsewhere, if you appreciate some piece of information that you gathered from my work please feel free to request my permission to post it or link back to my page.
Thank you for your cooperation. Myranda Grecinger
Bentley, Ziegler, Streets (2008) Traditions and Encounters, a Brief Global History
Thinkquest (2010) History of Ancient Greece
Thinkquest (2010) History of the Roman Government