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Despite the existence of many cultures in the ancient world, the Greeks and the Romans had the most influence on American and European civilization. Quite often the living of these two people is lumped together in our minds to an extend that you might think they are exactly the same or as if the Greek culture just suddenly became the Roman culture without changing (Galignani and 1840 2008). This is however not the case. The Greek and the Roman culture were so different in many ways.
Alexander the Great created the Greek empire in 336 B.C. In 13 years, he succeeded to subjugate the whole earlier kingdom of the Medes and Persians and even acquired more territory. In the long run, his empire reached from grease in the West and India in the East. His kingdom was later divided among the four generals after he died. These were Greece, Syria, Egypt and the present day turkey part of Asia Minor. Despite the division, the Greek culture continued to dominate the world for in a substantial way for the 300 years that followed. The Bible represents the Greek empire by a leopard with four heads and four wings (Fine 124).
The Roman Empire which later ruled the whole of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East began as a farming community in Italy. It developed a civilization that became powerful in the whole world. Romans adapted many elements of Greek and Etruscan. For instance the chariot racing was an Etruscan origin. Despite the persistence, Romans resented this dominance in 509 BC (Galignani and 1840 12-76).
The Greek were very democratic. They did not have a single but instead the people chose a group of men that governed them. On the other hand the Romans were semi democratic. Yes they were governed by the senate but this senate composed of only the rich upper class and a single emperor possessed all the political power (Fine 189).
It should be noted that both cultures were great builders. Today many tourists admire the ruins in Athens and Rome and flock in thousands to visit unearthed towns from the primordial world like Pergamum and Ephesus. These are located in Turkey but are both Greek ruins. The remnants of old Paphos on Cyprus are also a major attraction of tourists. However, the construction interests of these two cultures were so different. According to Munk (2009), the Greek were more realistic. It could be argued that their buildings were constructed well and have lasted for long just like the Romans but they had special interest in temples, decorative facades and columns (Munk 156). They were very practical yes, but they were more interested in beauty and pleasing form. On the other hand, the Romans were more of engineers than artists. They focused more on urban planning, solid public forums ad buildings, good functioning water supply and the best roads ever constructed until then (Cumount 143). Their statues mostly celebrated civic heroes than the gods and the goddesses they had.
According Radin (2008), People were levied taxes by the governments in both cultures to pay for the roads and buildings constructed. In the Roman Empire, the local governments were allowed to levy taxes too but not in the Greek city-states empire (Radin 203).
Literary arts flourished I both cultures but in different ways. Both cultures liked poetry especially the long ones dealing with gods, wars, and heroes but the Greek heroism was build over along period of time. The oral traditions were handed down from one generation to the next. A good example is the case of Homer’s “Iliad” which was about the Trojan War. For the Romans, the glory was made on the spot by the living heroic writers like Virgil’s “The Aeneid” which was about the founding of Rome (Cumount 45).
In the eating and cooking habits, these two were really similar. They both ate healthy meals comprising of fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and toped up with sipping excellent wines while holding long time discussions. They both also loved theater but the Greeks favoured high misfortune which could illustrate great men and women falling on a grand scale. According Radin (2008), they had vulgar comedy that was so physical and spicy that it could be censored in modern time. The Romans on the contrary liked satire which is more of an intellectual comedy that could make fun public figures and problems of the moment (Radin 259).
Even though the Romans borrowed some divinities from the Greeks and added others onto the existing Italic deities, they did not change their particular beliefs including those that dealt with things to do with the house hold gods and the family fireplace. There was a vague protective deities of the hearth by every household. Each family had its own gods for protection and these gods were worshipped in the households and never in the temple. Foods of each meal were offered to them (Hansen 28-56).
When the Greece Empire reached its economic height, it was the most advanced in the world at that time. In fact it is said by some historians that it was the most advanced preindustrial economies. This is substantiated by the daily wage of workers which was 12 kg of wheat. This was more than three times the wage of workers in the Roman period who earned about 3.75kg of wheat (Harris 210). On the other hand, the economy of the Roman Empire was very poor. Imperial government was interested in the control of the circulating currency just like any government would and did not do much to boost the economy. It was therefore a political act to mint coins; the image of the ruling emperor appeared on most issues and coins were used to show the images throughout the empire. The successors, predecessors and empresses also appeared on the coins. The future succession image could be put on the coins by the current government and this was guarantee enough that he would rule the following regime. (Harris 187-206).
In the Roman form of government they held many events that so many people being murdered and this was seen as some sort of entertainment by the people of the Roman Empire. According to Hansen (2005), they could watch gladiators fight in the collosseum while seated in these colloseums two people who were either slaves condemned criminals or Christians could fight until one of them dies (Hansen 146). They could also fight wild animals or starving beasts. The Greek on the other hand did not like such barbaric fighting.
According to Harris (2008), the Greek government was led by military power where two royal families produced two kings. The assembly elected the executive and the judicial Branch which was made up of five Ephors (Harris 312). Old men over the age of sixty introduced new laws in the legislature while the popular assembly which was made up of Spartans of more than thirty years approved or disapproved the laws.
The Roman Empire on the other hand had two forms of government which run them for a thousand years. The republic lasted from 510-27 BCE while the empire ran from 27 BCE-476 CE. The republican was composed of four major parts, the magistrate, the Assembly, the Dictator and the Senate. The empire on the other hand had five major parts, the magistrate, the people in the Roman provinces, the provincial administration, the senate and the emperor (Munk 109).
These two empires were alike in some ways. The Greek and the Roman empires enjoyed and cherished recreation. This is one of the most important things in human life of which without it can cause melancholy that ca cause death. Both of them watched chariots to entertain them although the Romans had the biggest arena called the Circus Maximus in the Mediterranean (Kahane and Cavender 119-157).
The Greeks held festivals that honored and praised the gods while the Romans held festivals that represented something for the ruler on the chair. This was a huge difference between the social life of the Romans and the Greek.
Even though the Greek and the Romans had similarities and differences in their ways of life, the differences over whelm the similarities and this is acceptable because they were two different cultures.
Cumount, Franz. Astrology and the religion Among the Greek and the Roman. New York: Forgotten Books, 2008
Fine, John V. The ancient Greeks: a critical history. New York: Harvard University Press, 1985
Galignani, A.W and 1840. The history of the decline and the fall of the Roman Empire, volume 5. Geneva: University of Lausanne, 2008.
Hansen, William. Classical mythology; a guide to the mythical world of the Greeks and the Romans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005
Harris, William V. The monetary systems of the Greeks and the Romans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008
Kahane, Howard and Cavender, Nancy. Logic and contemporary rhetoric: the use of the reason in everyday life. New Jersey: Cengage Learning, 2006
Munk, Eduard. The Metres of the Greek and Romans: a manual for Schools and private study. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009
Radin, Max. The Jews among the Greeks and Romans, 1915. Cheshire; Biblo & Tennen Publishers, 1998
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