How Did Religion Influence Western Civilization

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How Did Religion Influence Western Civilization



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The Reason Christianity is Dying in the West

In the second half of the 6th century, four structures contributed to the development of Anglo-Saxon society: the position and freedoms of the ceorl peasants , the smaller tribal areas coalescing into larger kingdoms, the elite developing from warriors to kings, and Irish monasticism developing under Finnian. In , Columba, a monk from Ireland who studied at the monastic school of Moville under Saint Finnian, reached Iona as a self-imposed exile.

By the political map of Lowland Britain had developed, with smaller territories coalescing into kingdoms; from this time larger kingdoms started dominating the smaller kingdoms. The establishment of kingdoms, with a particular king being recognized as an overlord, developed out of an early loose structure. Simon Keynes suggests that the 8th century—9th century was period of economic and social flourishing that created stability both below the Thames and above the Humber. However, between the Humber and Thames, one political entity, the kingdom of Mercia, grew in influence and power and attracted attention in the East. England, A political map of Britain c. The 9th century saw the rise of Wessex, from the foundations laid by King Egbert in the first quarter of the century to the achievements of King Alfred the Great in its closing decades.

Alfred successfully defended his kingdom against the Viking attempt at conquest and became the dominant ruler in England. During the course of the 10th century, the West Saxon kings extended their power first over Mercia, then over the southern Danelaw, and finally over Northumbria, thereby imposing a semblance of political unity on peoples who nonetheless would remain conscious of their respective customs and their separate pasts. The prestige and pretensions of the monarchy increased, the institutions of government strengthened, and kings and their agents sought in various ways to establish social order. This was the society that would see three invasions in the 11th century, the third of which was led successfully by William of Normandy in and transferred political rule to the Normans.

The visible Anglo-Saxon culture can be seen in the material culture of buildings, dress styles, illuminated texts, and grave goods. Behind the symbolic nature of these cultural emblems, there are strong elements of tribal and lordship ties. The elite declared themselves kings who developed burhs fortifications or fortified settlements , and identified their roles and peoples in Biblical terms. The ties of loyalty to a lord were to his person, not to his station; there was no real concept of patriotism or loyalty to a cause. The Architecture of the ancient Etruscans was derived from that of the Greeks, and went on to influence that of early Rome.

Rome is located on the edge of what was the Etruscan homeland. Certain institutions and customs came directly from the Etruscans to Rome. In fact, the name of Rome itself has of Etruscan origin, as are the names of its legendary founders, Romulus and Remus. There were strong Latin and Italic elements to Roman culture, and later Romans proudly celebrated these multiple origins. Before the Etruscan arrived undoubtedly as a ruling group , however, Rome was probably a collection of small farming settlements.

The Etruscan elite provided it with its early political arrangements monarchy, army and urban infrastructure walls, forum, drainage system ; in short, it was probably they who turned Rome into a full-blown city-state. The fasces symbolized magisterial power. Also, the word populus is of Etruscan derivation, and originally referred to the people assembled for war, as an army, rather than the general populace. In thus helping to shape Roman civilization, the Etruscans had an enduring influence on later Western culture. The Greeks in Italy. Greek civilization. Early Rome. Roman civilization. Subscribe for more great content — and remove ads. Upgrade to Premium to Remove Ads. Skip to content Home » Encyclopedia » The Etruscans.

Government The Etruscans adopted the city-state as their political unit from the Greeks, earlier than their neighbors in central Italy. Religion The Etruscan system of belief was, like those of the Greeks and Romans, polytheistic, based on the worship of many gods and goddesses: Tin or Tinia, the sky, Uni his wife, and Cel, the earth goddess. Military Like other ancient cultures, warfare was a major aspect of their political life. Art and Architecture The surviving Etruscan art which has come down to us is figurative sculpture in terracotta especially life-size tomb statues in temples and cast bronze, wall-painting and metalworking especially engraved bronze mirrors.

Etruscan Heritage Rome is located on the edge of what was the Etruscan homeland. To sustain the state apparatus, Mesopotamian landowners had to pay the king a portion of the crops they grew. Also, the king owned large estates from which he could draw income. The individual cities were also responsible for the upkeep of their local irrigation systems, and could raise their own labor for this. To meet their local government needs, the subordinate cities could impose their own taxes and dues, as well as levy duties on local trade.

One of the major contributions of ancient Mesopotamia to government practice was the development of written law codes. However, this code drew on earlier codes going back to the Sumerian city-states of the 3rd millennium BCE. From them, we know a great deal about the Mesopotamian legal system. Cases were heard by judges appointed by the king; in important cases, a panel of judges was appointed. Appeals could be made to the king.

Indeed, it seems that one of the reasons for Hammurabi issuing his Code was to make it clear to all his subjects who would have been accustomed to different laws in different places on what basis decisions would be arrived at if appeals were made to the royal court. A person could not be convicted unless there was clear evidence of his or her guilt. By modern standards, punishments could be harsh — many crimes carried the death penalty with sentences ranging from hanging to burning. Flogging was used for various crimes, but fines were the most common punishment. As well as criminal law, there was a well-developed body of civil law. Contracts, deeds and agreements had to be written on a clay tablet, witnessed on oath and placed in the temple archives, so that in case of dispute they could be referred to later.

Warfare was endemic in early Mesopotamian society, as cities quarreled over land and water rights. The Sumerian city-states organized the first true armies as opposed to warrior bands in history. We know very little about how these armies were composed or organized. Their elite soldiers were armed with bronze armor and weapons, and less-well armed but more mobile troops were deployed slings and bows and arrows. In the 2nd millennium BCE, Mesopotamian armies adopted a new piece of military technology, the horse-drawn chariot. This was an innovation imported from the nomads of the steppes to the north. Mastering chariot warfare demanded considerable training and practice, and the adoption of this technology must have given further impetus to the use of trained, perhaps even professional, soldiers.

Click here for the Assyrian army , which brought Mesopotamian warfare to its peak. Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic; more than 2, gods and goddesses have been identified. The chief of the gods varied from period to period. For the Sumerians, it was Enlin, the Sky God. The Babylonians worshipped Marduk above all others, and Ashur was the supreme god of the Assyrians. Other notable gods and goddesses were Ishtar, goddess of love and fertility, Tiamat, god of the sea and chaos, and Sin, the moon god. Marduk, high god of the Babylonians the Louvre. The Mesopotamians conceived of the material world as being deeply bound up with the divine.

Every household, village and city had its own god. Everything that happened on Earth had a divine dimension to it — was at least as much the result of the wishes of gods as of men and women. The overriding purpose of man was to serve the gods. In early Mesopotamian times this meant that the entire economic life of a city-state was geared to the service of the temple. This gave religious justification for their complete authority over their subjects. Mesopotamian cosmology viewed the world as a flat disc, with a canopy of air above, and beyond that, surrounding water above and below.

The universe was held to have come out of this water. The Mesopotamians had a rich store of myths and legends. The early Mesopotamian city-state was, to a very large extent, a self-sufficient economic unit. It was viewed as being the household of the patron god — which meant, in practice, that the temple had an immense degree of control over economic activity. Craftsmen — metal-smiths, potters, spinners, weavers, carpenters — and laborers were what we would call employees of the temple. So too were traders. Long-distance trade caravans were organized and supplied by the temple, and the traders were temple servants. As time went by this situation was modified by the rising importance of the secular ruler, the king.

As he grew in power, little by little he arrogated more economic control to himself. This was achieved through taking land the primary economic asset from the temple, and diverting the work of scribes, overseers, craftsmen and workmen to his own purposes. As more time passed, the situation changed again as the king granted lands and wealth to his officials and supporters, and so created a private market for goods and services separate from either king or temple. Traders, craftsmen and laborers increasingly worked on their own account. Nevertheless, throughout ancient Mesopotamian times, temples and palaces retained huge economic influence.

The Mesopotamians grew a variety of crops, including barley, wheat, onions, turnips, grapes, apples and dates. They kept cattle, sheep and goats; they made beer and wine. Fish were also plentiful in the rivers and canals. The rivers Tigris and Euphrates, and their numerous branches, made farming possible in Mesopotamia. However, they could be wild rivers, and floods were frequent. At the same time, the hot, dry climate meant that year-round irrigation was needed to grow crops. The Euphrates river runs through a hot and dry landscape in Mesopotamia. Irrigation is needed to bring the arid Mesopotamian landscape to life photo: jamesdale The Mesopotamians were the first people to attempt to control water on a large scale by the use of an integrated system of dykes, reservoirs, canals, drainage channels and aqueducts.

Maintaining, repairing and extending this system was seen as one of the prime duties of a king. The water control system was built up generation by generation, covering an ever wider area and involving an ever denser network of waterways. As a result of the large and concentrated population which grew up in Mesopotamia, farming was carried out by peasants rather than by slaves mass slavery tends to be a response to a shortage of labor. In early times these were bound to the land as temple or royal serfs; later, some became free farmers, owning their land outright, but many farmed estates owned by kings, temples, high officials and other wealthy members of the ruling classes.

All remained liable to forced labor on irrigation projects, or on the construction and maintenance of temples, palaces and city walls. Until the spread of the use of iron, in the first millennium BCE, farming implements were made of stone and bone — as they had been during the Stone Age. Metals such as bronze were far too expensive to use in this way, while copper was too soft for most uses. Wood was also quite rare, as there is little tree cover in the region. However, the soil of Mesopotamia, once watered, is easy to work, and agriculture was highly productive. The plain of Mesopotamia was created in comparatively recent times from an geological point of view by the mud brought down by the rivers.

This means that the region is very short of useful minerals such as stone for building, precious metals and timber. This had the effect of stimulating trade with neighboring regions, and beyond. Later, Mesopotamian merchants ventured further afield, with trading contacts being developed with peoples in Syria and Asia Minor in the west, and in Iran and the Indus civilization , in the east. With the coming of the Bronze Age, in about BCE, an added incentive to trade was the desire to acquire the copper and tin needed to make this valuable metal. Once Mesopotamian states started to equip their soldiers with bronze armor and weapons, this hunger intensified. However, these minerals are only found in widely scattered locations, so the search for them involved developing long distance trade routes.

Trade caravans of donkeys — camels were only domesticated after BCE were organized by specialist agents, to whom merchants entrusted their goods. Overland transport was by oxen. Most bulk goods such as the timbers brought from as far away as Lebanon was transported by river. Sea-going ships were also used, with trading voyages being made to the ports of northern India. Metal coinage would not come into use until much later, but trade was based on a regulated system of exchange — a given amount of seed would be worth so many ounces of silver, for example.

These relative values were enshrined in the law codes. Temples acted as banks, with merchants and landowners acting as lenders. Temples also made loans on their own account. If the debt was repaid before the due date, no interest was levied. The ancient Mesopotamians lived in cities, which formed the core of the city-states. These cities were surrounded by numerous satellite villages, and in the case of the larger cities, smaller towns were also under their authority. Estimates for the size of Mesopotamian cities vary wildly. However, a typical city may have housed 20, people, and a larger one 50, Once it became the chief city of southern Mesopotamia, Babylon could have had a population of as much as , The typical Mesopotamian city was built around the temple, a monumental structure sitting at the center of a complex of granaries, storehouses and other administrative buildings.

From the mid-second millennium onwards, a monumental royal palace would also stand nearby, sometimes rivaling the temple in magnificence. One or more wide streets connected the central area to the city gates. Away from these public spaces, the large homes of the elite and the squat mud dwellings of the common people crowded together, interspersed by narrow passages down which even pack animals could not pass. The stench must have been appalling, as most people had no means of disposing of their waste apart from into the street.

No wonder the better-off houses had all their windows facing inwards, onto their courtyards! The larger cities followed the above pattern except that they were composed of several districts, each one centered on its own temple whose god was subordinate to the patron god of the city. The city proper would be enclosed by a stout mud or baked brick wall, pierced by guarded gates. Just outside these gates were probably reed huts of those unable to afford to live inside the walls. The remains of such structures have long since perished, but carvings depict them, and many people in modern Iraq live in similar houses.

Reconstruction of the avenue leading to the Ishtar Gate, Babylon Pergamum museum, Berlin; photo: gryffindor. Either joined to the main town, or a little distance from it, were the quays of the river or sea port. Around the harbor were the homes of foreign traders, who would not have been allowed to live in the city itself. Surrounding this built up area was the territory ruled from the city.

Nearest the city were the irrigated farms and meadows. Dense villages of closely-packed mud huts dotted this countryside, and every now and then the large courtyard-style house of a wealthy landowner. Beyond the fertile farmland would be the grassland where shepherds and nomads grazed their sheep and goat; and beyond this, the desert. Most of the population in ancient Mesopotamia were farmers, working small plots of land. Above them stood a very small elite group made up of the ruling classes — kings, courtiers, officials, priests and soldiers. Merchants and craftsmen also held a high position in society.

The elite was greatly restricted in size by the difficulty, length of time and expense it took to acquire literacy and numeracy. The cuneiform script had hundreds of symbols to master, which took long years of hard schooling — and one can be sure that access to such schooling was available only to the children of elite families. In any case, the vast majority of ordinary folk needed their children to be contributing to the family income as soon as they were able, and not spending time in education.

All this would have given the members of the literati a huge amount of authority over the rest of the population. Only through exercising the skills of literacy and numeracy could the large bodies of people be organized. Very probably literacy was seen as a mysterious and sacred skill, conferring high status on those who possessed it. In early Mesopotamia, members of this elite group would have been supported by temple revenues. Later still, as kings gave away landed estates, or as wealthy individuals were able to purchase them, the topmost levels of Mesopotamian society would have come to form an hereditary landed aristocracy. Near the bottom of society was an underclass of landless laborers and beggars. These had only restricted rights as citizens; and right at the bottom was a class of slaves, who had very few rights.

They could be bought and sold like other property. They had either been war captives, or had fallen into slavery through debt, or had been born into slavery. They worked as household servants, as workers in workshops, and in other menial roles. However, they could acquire property, and even own other slaves. They also had the right to buy their freedom, if they were able.

Most marriages were monogamous, though concubines were fairly frequent, especially in wealthy families, and more especially where the wife was unable to have children. They had rights and duties as citizens, they could act as witnesses in court, and they could own property. A father could will his inheritance to any of his children, but generally daughters received an equal share with their brothers. Numerous technological advances can be attributed to the Mesopotamians: irrigation, the plough, the sail, clay bricks, the potters wheel, metal-working including metal armor and weaponry , writing, accounting, filing, glass and lamp making, weaving and much more.

They also developed an impressive body of scientific knowledge through close observation of the natural world. Exhaustive lists of animals, plants and minerals have come down to us, as well as lists of Geographical features — rivers, mountains, cities and peoples. Plans of cities have been discovered, the most complete one being of Nippur, which matches the maps made by archaeologists. The Mesopotamians also showed a practical grasp of chemical processes in many fields, for example in the preparation of recipes and pigments, and the manufacture of colored glass.

Mesopotamian science was particularly fruitful in three areas, mathematics, astronomy and medicine. The Mesopotamians developed mathematics to a more advanced level than any contemporary people, and in so doing laid many of the foundations for modern mathematics. Mesopotamian scribes produced detailed mathematical tables, as well as texts posing advanced mathematical problems. From these we know that they developed a number system based on base 60, which has given us the minute hour, the hour day, and the degree circle.

The Sumerian calendar was based on the seven-day week. Their number system, alone in the ancient world, had a place-marker to denote values, as in modern mathematics as in 3, when the number 3 represents 3,, , 30 and 3 respectively. They developed theorems on how to measure the area of several shapes and solids, and came close to an accurate measure of the circumference of circles. They fully understood square roots and cube roots. This knowledge was not just theoretical. It was applied to the design and construction of large buildings, long aqueducts and other ambitious engineering projects. A major branch of Mesopotamian science was astronomy.

Mesopotamian priests produced astronomical tables, and could predict eclipses and solstices. They worked out a month calendar based on the cycles of the moon. Mesopotamian astronomical knowledge was later to have a major influence on Greek astronomy.

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