The study of ancient civilization reveals many fascinating tales about the past and the present too. After all, the events of the past have been instrumental in shaping the current state of the world. These civilizations have made an indelible mark on our technology, religious practices and geography too. In fact, the study of civilizations is the study of man itself.
Here are some of the world’s most influential civilizations:
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Perhaps the greatest civilization on earth, the Roman Civilization that began with Emperor Augustus Caesar, was a technologically and aesthetically advanced civilization that contributed a lot to the present world too. Adept at conquering and warfare, at its peak, one in every four people lived and died under Roman law. The civilization flourished from the 8th century and at its highest point ruled from England to Africa and Syria to Spain. Countries like Portugal, Spain, UK, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt were all under the Roman rule once upon a time. The civilization had free market economics and low taxation which contributed to its prosperity. The Romans were quite modern even for that age and were already living with Public Baths, advanced sewage systems, public restrooms and the ingenious Aqueducts system. In fact, the Alphabet system that is in use today was invented by the Romans. The Roman civilization borrowed aesthetically from the Greek art & culture but even then it managed to inspire many fantastic artistes and craftsmen to create unique masterpieces.
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The Greek civilization, which flourished from 1200 BCE to 323 BCE, is probably the most influential civilizations in the world. It stretched from today’s Greece to Egypt and also the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. In terms of colonization and development in arts and science, the Greeks were quite ahead of their times and other civilizations. There were Greek colonies as far north as Ukraine and Russia and as far south as Egypt and Syria too. Their indelible contribution in the fields like language, typography, philosophy, architecture, history, science, astronomy and art made this civilization not just influential but also respected. The civilization can also be credited for the current system of music notations and for inventing the first Alphabet with vowels. The Greeks gave democracy to the world and also used theatre as an art and communication medium. The Greek civilization nurtured philosophers and thinkers and also promoted arts and humanities. This made it one of the most inclusive civilizations that ever existed.
Indus Valley Civilization
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One of the earliest and the largest civilizations of the world, the Indus Valley Civilization flourished in the Bronze Age. It covered an area of 126,0000 square kilometers at its peak. It was concentrated to the Northwestern region of the Indian Subcontinent consisting of modern day Pakistan and North West India. This civilization was a developed one and already had drainage systems and planned cities. Quite developed in metallurgy and handicrafts, evidence also suggests that these people were already using standardized weights. In fact, it has been found that Dentistry was already practiced in the Indus Valley civilization. The mature phase of this civilization was called Harappa.
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The Egyptian Civilization was culturally the richest civilization that ever existed. It started in 3150 BC. It covered the area of northeastern Africa, mainly the countries near the Nile river valley. The civilization made great strides in quarrying, surveying and architecture resulting in one of the most amazing masterpieces that man has ever seen the pyramids. They also promoted scribes and thinkers which goes to show that it was an intellectually evolved civilization. They also practiced organized agriculture.
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The Incas civilization started from 1438 to 1533 CE. It was mainly concentrated around modern day Ecuador, Chile and Peru. The Incas were followers of the sun god and made many temples and monuments in its honor. The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre Colombian America. Architecture was by far one of the most important arts of the Incas and this is evident in the monuments that still live on today like the Machu Pichu. They mastered the technique of building stone temples without mortar. Archaeological finds point that they were growing close to 70 crop species. They also performed successful skull surgery. In arts, there was an emphasis on abstract geometric shapes and animal representation.
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The Mayan Civilization was spread from Guatemala, Honduras, Norther El Salvador to as far as Central Mexico. It flourished in the era of 2000BC to 900 AD. In fact, interestingly the Mayans never disappeared and are still found living in tribal areas today. Many Mayan cities had the highest state of development compared to any other place in the world during 250 to 900 AD. In its time, the Mayan civilization was the most sophisticated civilization with a population of 9 million people. The Mayans followed the solar calendar and had their own writing system. The Mayan civilization dissipated as fast as it peaked and the reason for this remains a mystery till date.
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The Vikings were actually a tribe of seafarers that carried with them a civilization that was often more developed than that of the lands they visited. They were highly proficient in ship building and this helped them reach faraway lands. The Vikings lived from 800 to 1100 CE. They were mainly from Scandinavia but travelled to Finland, Russia, Byzantium, France, England, Iceland, Greenland and Netherlands. Since the Scandinavian region was rich in iron it enabled the Vikings to make sophisticated equipment. They were known to have the most technical expertise in their times. Their kings were buried in ships with a large amount of gold and silver.
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The Aztec civilization flourished in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. It was concentrated in the valley of present day Mexico. Although it was a short lived one, this civilization is an important one nonetheless. Aztec People were those who came from the mythical land ‘ Aztlan’. Their temples rivaled the Egyptian pyramids and their palaces were as sophisticated as the ones in the European region. Aztec people were spread across three rival cities : Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlacopan. These later formed a triple alliance called the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs had a complex and advanced system of agriculture. They were also noted for their art and architecture. Interestingly, they also believed in human sacrifices. At its peak, the Aztec civilization covered the entire Mesoamerican region. Their early disappearance is still quite mysterious and perhaps can be attributed to a series of events like the attack of Spanish forces and Hernan Cortes, the epidemic of small pox and internal strife.
These civilizations have made huge contributions to their countries and much of it is evident even today. From the way we live to the way we dress, a lot of it has been inspired by these civilizations that live on through these fascinating tales.