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Western Civilization: His 101. “The West”. What do we mean when we speak of “the West”? Defining it Culturally: free and participatory political institutions, capitalist economies, religious toleration, rational inquiry, and innovative spirit.

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The west l.jpg
“The West”

  • What do we mean when we speak of “the West”?

    • Defining it Culturally: free and participatory political institutions, capitalist economies, religious toleration, rational inquiry, and innovative spirit.

    • Defining it Geographically: a tradition that began around the Mediterranean Sea, spent centuries as a European preserve, then migrated to all the earth.


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“The West”

  • But definition brings controversy: The West has had freedom and slavery; women have historically enjoyed fewer rights and opportunities than men; some have enjoyed vast wealth while others endured severe poverty

  • Definitions also bring paradox: Western Civilization began in what is now Iraq; Today Japan, which is considered “Far East” is “Western”; and during the Cold War Turkey was Western while Libya far to the West of Turkey was Eastern.


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“Civilization”

  • The word itself comes from the Latin root civ-. We see this in such Latin words as civis (citizen) and civitas (city). Thus, cities appear crucial to our sense of what civilization is.

  • The Greek vocabulary is similarly revealing. Polis (city) gives us our words for politics and political.

  • Cities emerged as a result of what is called the Neolithic Revolution, which occurred about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

  • Essentially, this process involved the rise of agriculture and the domestication of animals. This process was Revolutionary, but it took a long time to produce cities and then, civilization


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“Civilization”

  • Extracting food from arid regions surrounding great rivers demanded a social cohesion and cooperation. Irrigation was a key motor process. Concentrated populations grew as more people could be fed more predictably.

  • This led to the specialization of labor, which in turn, resulted in social and political differentiation. Gradually, arts and crafts emerged and, finally, writing. With writing we cross into the historical period.

  • These key elements seem to mark all civilizations, but one may also speak of Western civilization of African civilization, or somewhat more narrowly, of Maya or Aztec civilization. The West is unique, but it is not uniquely civilized.


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“Civilization”

  • Civilization arose about 5,000 years ago. That seems like a long time?

    • The Earth is 4 billion years old

    • Homo sapiens sapiens are around 40,000 years old

    • Their ancestors are about 100,000 years old

    • Humans in general can be traced in Africa to about 1 million years ago.


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“Foundation”

  • We mean origins, of course, but not just origins because all things grow and change.

  • Durability is important but paradoxical: The oldest institution in the world today is the papacy, but Catholics are just under 20 percent of the world’s population

  • The Athenian polis lasted in its highest manifestation less than a century, but it’s ideals have fired the imagination for 2,500 years. Few places today live by Roman law, yet Rome’s law was the most influential ever conceived.


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“Foundation”

  • Foundations seem somehow related to revivals: Think of the Greek or Classical revival architecture. Think of the Renaissance. Think of the Protestant Reformers who thought they were reviving primitive Christianity, not creating something new.

  • Foundations seem to be related to traditions, but these can be both invented and discarded. Those famous and “ancient” Scottish tartans were mostly invented in the 18th century.


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  • This course is mostly about our story; Man’s story; from the beginning of walking, to fire, to wheels, to Agriculture and all the wonderful gifts we now enjoy.

  • Civilization and culture—difficult to define, but impossible to live without assuming we are teleological animals—continually evolving to a more perfect state of existence.

  • Have we traded our minds and souls for the Gifts by the so-called “Axemakers?”


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  • These “axemakers” the makers of tools, the innovators who have reshaped the world in which we live.

  • They shaped our hopes, dreams, expectations; they shaped what and how we love and how we hate by the gifts and innovations we hold dear and close to our existence; laws, history, religions and technology.

  • The Ancient Hominids reshaped stone into tools that would chop up the world; slowly, then at a rapid rate—each new invention forced the brain to adapt to order and proper sequencing; this agility allowed the brain to evolve and adapt generating language, logic and social rules.


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  • The world and indeed our lives have been altered by these innovators; domesticated animals, agriculture (more in a minute), breeding, horticulture, irrigation, architecture, and mining.

  • Not only did the gifts affect their world, but have transcended to our time—altering our lives and perceptions dramatically.

  • You are able to read this book thanks to the 15th century printing press; your breakfast food was delivered to the supermarket and then to you thanks to the 19th century combustible engine.


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  • The clothes you are wearing got their start on a prehistoric loom; you are probably alive today thanks to modern medicine developed in the 19th century;

  • Your notebooks thanks to 13th century paper originating 5000yrs ago in the form of Egyptian Papyrus; you keep track of assignments whether in written form or digitally because of the Egyptian calendar developed in 4241 BC;

  • You sit in desks modeled on 16th century lathed furniture, 19th century plastics—you find relief from the form of the 15th century toilets, with water delivered by a 16th century pumping system, you see clearly based on 17th century electricity, communicate with 19th century telephone technology and keep it altogether with early 20th century computer technology.


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  • Your social, political, and economic hierarchy or command structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Male –Female relationships and perceptions were first influenced and are still in some sense predicated on the ideals of the Paleolithic period.

  • As far as we have evolved the further we have in some sense digressed—the more civilized we have become the more barbaric we have become.

  • Today millions survive because of medicine, sanitation, and technology, while millions also starve. (Paradoxical)


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The First Humans structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Hominids

    • Australopithecines (3-4 million years ago; simple stone tools; limited to Africa)

    • Homo Erectus (1.5 million years ago; larger, more varied tools; moves into Europe and Asia)

    • Homo Sapiens (“wise human being”)

    • Neanderthals, (c. 100,000 – 30,000 years ago)

      • Neander Valley in Germany, other parts of Europe and Middle East

      • More advanced stone tools; burial of the dead

    • Homo Sapiens Sapiens, (c. 200,000 B.C. – Present)

      • “Wise, wise human being”

      • Replaced Neanderthals

      • Spread throughout the world


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The Spread of structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;Homo Sapiens Sapiens

©2003 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Thomson Learning™ is a trademark used herein under license.


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The Emergence of Civilization structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Six Characteristics of Civilization

    • Urban Focus – Cities become very important

    • Distinct Religious Structure (gods; priests)

    • Political and Military Structures (bureaucracy; armies)

    • Social Structure based on Economic Power

    • Writing – Record Keeping

    • Artistic and Intellectual Activity


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The Ancient Near East structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;


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History Begins at Sumer structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;


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Civilization in Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • The City State of Ancient Mesopotamia

    • Begins at Sumer (c. 3000 B.C.)

    • City States (Eridu, Ur, Uruk, Umma, Lagash)

    • Temples to the gods / Ziggurats

    • Theocracy (gods rule the cities through priests)

    • Kingship (divine in Origin)

    • Economy Primarily Agricultural

    • Some Trade

    • Three Major Social Groups

      • Nobles, Commoners and Slaves


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Empires in Ancient Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Early Dynastic Age (c. 3000 – 2340 B.C.)

    • Instability; warfare between city states

  • Akkadian Empire (c. 2340 – c. 2100 B.C.)

    • Sargon

  • Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2112 – 2000 B.C.)

    • Amorites

    • Hammurabi (1792 – 1750 B.C.)


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Rise of civilization in Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Although Mesopotamia is all the land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, the earliest traces of civilization appeared in Sumer, in what is now Southern Iraq, and possibly, at Tell Hamoukar, in what is now Northeastern Syria.

    • The Uruk period (3800-3200 B.C.) was creative, with the invention of the wheel and plow; the planting of the first orchards and the development of metal casting

    • Perhaps the most significant was writing: cuneiform

    • People built cities with walls, and buildings of mud brick


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Rise of civilization in Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Most impressive early buildings were the temples: Ziggurats.

  • “Dynastic Period” (2800-2350 B.C.) fierce competition inside and out of cities led to the rise of local strongmen- lugals- who became kings

  • Kings claimed to be the representatives of the gods and to rule by favor of the gods. This process introduced theocratic kingship.

  • As warfare became more important, large landowners formed military aristocracy.


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Rise of civilization in Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Mesopotamia is a broad open plain, surrounded by deserts and mountains even further out.

    • The region has no natural frontiers to ward off migrants or conquerors

    • Areas beyond Mesopotamia were inhabited by people of lower cultural development who coveted the comparative riches and security of Mesopotamia


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Rise of civilization in Mesopotamia structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • After about 2350 B.C., Sumer was several times overrun by outsiders.

    • Sargon (2371-2316) conquered Sumer from Akkad to the north, then expanded it’s holdings, as did his son after him, to the east and west

    • This first imperial state demanded little of its subjects and, ironically, was itself conquered by Sumerian culture

    • After Akkadian rule eventually weakened, there was a period of relative independence for Sumerian cities, followed by Babylonian conquest

    • Hammurabi (1792-1750 was the most famous and powerful of the Babylonian (or Amorites). His law code was influential for centuries. Like the Akkadians before, the Babylonians adopted Sumerian culture


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Code of Hammurabi structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • 282 Laws

  • Strict Justice / Severe Penalties

  • Principle of Retaliation

  • Responsibility of Public Officials

  • Consumer Protections

  • Agriculture and Trade

  • Family / Marriage / Domestic Affairs


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Features of Sumerian/Mesopotamian culture structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Law: issued by councils of notables in conjunction with priests and kings

    • Law was not abstract and philosophical

    • Publishing laws in public places established the important principles that all are subject to the law; that the law belongs to all; that the law rules, not men


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Features of Sumerian/Mesopotamian culture structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Religion: people were polytheists and syncretistic

    • Sky gods were generally though of as male and related to power, while earth gods were thought of as female and related to fertility.

    • Individual forces of nature were also invested with divine power: Animism is a habit of mind that sees nothing as wholly lifeless

    • Gods and goddesses differed from humans in supernatural powers and immortality. They were capricious. Religion sought to propitiate them.

    • Religion was pessimistic and fatalistic; it had no ethical dimension at all. This outlook was perhaps related to the geography and politics of the region.

    • Religion served as an impressive attempt to begin to systematize knowledge about the natural world


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Features of Sumerian/Mesopotamian culture structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh was a remarkable achievement

    • The Epic is a Sumerian work dating to around 2500 B.C. that survives in later versions dating to around 800 B.C.

    • An “epic” is a work on a grand scale dealing with gods and heroes; it is serious in tone, elevated in language, and universalizing in outlook.

    • Gilgamesh is a tale of the adventures and friendship of King Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu. It contains a mythical account of the civilizing process and a poignant reflection on mortality as the irreducible element in the human condition

    • There were other works, too, for example, short poems by Enkheduana, Sargon’s daughter and the worlds first known female writer


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Features of Sumerian/Mesopotamian culture structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Sciences probably derived from watching the heavens, measuring the fields, and regulations irrigation hydraulics

    • Sumerians developed the decimal and sexadecimal systems ( hence why we have 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minuets in an hour)

    • Sumerians understood place value in numbers, that is the difference between 35 and 53

    • They anticipated Greek developments in mathematics.


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Mesopotamia’s legacy structure runs on a top down model developed almost 10 thousand years ago;

  • Sumerian culture gradually spread over much of western Asia and directly or indirectly influenced all the peoples who emerged within or who conquered those lands, including the later empire building Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Turks

  • Specific Sumerian practices and beliefs were adopted and adapted for millennia


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