Rome and the Roots of Western Civilization

The Greco-Roman world, Greco-Roman culture, or the term Greco-Roman (spelled Graeco-Roman in the UK and Commonwealth countries), when used as an adjective, as understood by modern scholars and writers, refers to those geographical regions and countries who culturally (and so historically) were directly, protractedly and intimately influenced by the language, culture, government and religion of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In exact terms the area refers to the "Mediterranean world", the extensive tracts of land centered on the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, the "swimming-pool and spa" of the Greeks and Romans, i.e. one wherein their cultural perceptions, ideas and sensitivities were dominant.

Greco-Roman Culture

In the schools of art, philosophy and rhetoric, the foundations of education were transmitted throughout the lands of Greek and Roman rule. Within its educated class, spanning all of the "Greco-Roman" era, the testimony of literary borrowings and influences is overwhelming proof of a mantle of mutual knowledge. For example, several hundred papyrus volumes found in a Roman villa at Herculaneum are in Greek. From the lives of Cicero and Julius Caesar, it is known that Romans frequented the schools in Greece. The installation both in Greek and Latin of Augustus' monumental eulogy, the Res Gestae, is a proof of official recognition for the dual vehicles of the common culture. The familiarity of figures from Roman legend and history in the "Parallel Lives" composed by Plutarch is one example of the extent to which "universal history" was then synonymous with the accomplishments of famous Latins and Hellenes. Most educated Romans were likely bilingual in Greek and Latin.

Legacies of Rome

The Roman Catholic Church and Medieval society in general were very much the children of the Roman Empire. Medieval society was a hodgepodge of customs, language, laws and attitudes taken from the late, great, Roman empire, with some Germanic admixture. Both the Medieval world, and our own world, are very much descended from Rome.

The Romans had created the greatest empire ever known. Moreover, they had done it largely with relatively democratic forms of government. While 753 BC was the founding date of the city of Rome, and a line of kings, in the fifth century BC the kings were thrown out and a republic established. In the first century BC, this republic was transformed to accommodate an emperor (sort-of a "president for life" in modern parlance), but many of the quasi-democratic forms and practices continued for another three centuries. Around 300 AD, just before Christianity was recognized as an official religion, the Roman government was reorganized as an absolute monarchy. This system used two emperors, one in the west, based in Italy, the other in the east, based in Greece and Anatolia (modern Turkey). Both emperors were to supposed to cooperate with each other in matters that concerned the empire as a whole, but each was supreme in his half of the empire. By the late fifth century, the empire in the west was overrun by numerous German tribes. The eastern part of the empire, with it's capital in Constantinople (formerly called the city of Byzantium), survived until 1453.

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