In order for us to adequately and concisely arrive at a proper analysis and comparison of the Greek and Roman civilization, it will be necessary to consider the civilization of each of the two according to the significant elements of the social, political, and economic organization that significantly influenced them.
The history of both ancient Romans and the Greeks originally began like states. Therefore, the cultural and ethnic influence on Rome at this time was heavily determined by its geographical location. By the time, the city of Rome emerged as an independent entity that was ready to spread influence; Greek civilization had already spread all over the Mediterranean1.
The factor that however led to the collapse of this influence was that due to the geographical location of the city-states of Greece, the colonization of the Mediterranean by Greece could be best described as the extension of city-states that were essential, isolated. The Greek polis prevented the formation of one powerful Greek empire. Also, the stringent barriers to the providence of citizenship to affiliate states served as an impediment to the transfer of citizenship from one state to another, and therefore, prevented the domination of one city-state over another. For example, the bid by the Athenians to build an empire through dominating the Delian league was effectively reversed through the Peloponnesian Wars.
However, the Romans were able to exert their control over other communities in the Italian peninsula. This was initially achieved through conquest, and later through extending citizenship to them. With time, therefore, the people who lived in the Italian peninsula came to identify with Rome and referred to themselves as Romans. This identity was borne out of the unremitting conflict that was inexperienced during the Punic Wars. Thus the success of the spread of Roman civilization depended on two factors. These were the military prowess of the Romans and the political, legal, and organizational skill that they employed in their colonies, which fostered their establishment and cemented their domination of the areas they conquered. It can, however, be said that if the Romans conquered the Greeks politically, the Greeks conquered the Romans culturally. This was because due to the fact that the Greek city-states were disunited their combined culture was sophisticated and their philosophy and learning more advanced, such that the Romans did not manage to exert their cultural influence on the Greeks when they conquered the city-states. The Romans eventually adopted the Greek culture, as it was seen in the absorption of the culture of the Hellenistic east. The empire that emerged after the fall of the Roman Empire was the Byzantine Empire, which was an amalgam of the Greek and Roman Empire. It had its center in Constantinople2.
Midway through this period, the Classical Greece period took shape. It was experienced between the 5th and 4th centuries. This period had a long-lasting impact on the empire of Rome, which was to later transfer much of the cultural practice borrowed from this period to various parts of the then Roman empire, such as Europe and the Mediterranean. For this reason, the Classical Greece period is normally accredited with setting the foundation for Western Civilization to take root.
William however states that the documented history of ancient Greece in terms of the periods of significance is divided into the Greek dark ages, Classical Antiquity, and then the Orientalizing period. The Greek Dark Ages are characterized by geometric and protogeometric pottery designs.
Raphael further expounds that the Archaic period took root during the 8th century BC when a strong orientalizing influence was exerted, which resulted in the bringing of the alphabetic script to Greece and also marked the advent of Greek literature. It was found along the Mediterranean Sea. It later grew to become one of the biggest empires of ancient times.
The empire dominated Europe and the Mediterranean as it grew, by employing the technique of conquest and assimilation. This region included Italy, Africa, Gaul, Hispania and Britannia. The eastern part of the empire however survived. It was governed by Constantinople, and it was formed by Egypt, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and the Balkans.
The ancient civilization in Rome is often classified with the Greek period of ‘classical antiquity’. This is because this period had much influence on ancient Rome. Great advancements in terms of art, technology, law, war, and architecture were made during this period. The history of this period still has a strong influence on the present world.
Michael, Kerrigan. Ancient Rome and The Roman Empire. London. Dorling Kindersley, 2001.
Sarah, Porneroy. Ancient Greece: A political, Social and Cultural History. Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Sarah, Porneroy, Ancient Greece: A political, Social and Cultural History. (Oxford. Oxford University Press, 1999), 60.
- Michael, Kerrigan, Ancient Rome and The Roman Empire. London. (Dorling Kindersley, 2001), 45.