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What Is The Greatest Ancient Civilization?

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What is the greatest ancient civilization?  

370 members have voted

  1. 1. What is the greatest ancient civilization?

    • Greece
      178
    • Carthage
      3
    • Rome
      65
    • Mongol
      5
    • Babylon
      3
    • Egypt
      7
    • Asyria
      0
    • Persia
      5
    • Phoenicia
      3
    • Chinese
      14


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It seems like most of the Greeks were influenced by earlier Chinese thinkers in physics and philosophy (from what I've read), and then the Greeks surpassed them later on. This question depends on time periods and other factors, but I am voting Greece too.

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It seems like most of the Greeks were influenced by earlier Chinese thinkers in physics and philosophy (from what I've read

Uh, what? Do you have some concrete evidence for influence of China in Greece?

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In terms of societies which have contributed most to the advancement of mankind, the Greeks, hands down. They provided the engine that made the West and the United States possible.

Logic, science, and the rights of man all have their roots in ancient Greece. It was an egoistic, this wordly, man centered culture. Without the Greeks, we'd probably still be living in huts and dying at 25.

Thales was the first ever philosopher and mathematician. He was the first to explain things in purely natural terms. He was the one who came up with the concept of proof in mathematics, which gave mathematics rigor and precision.

Prior to the Greeks knowledge was obtained from an oracle, or some allegedly higher source. The concept of objective knowledge was unknown. In fact, the concept of concept formation was discovered by the Greeks. The one in the many.

Aristotle came up with the scientific method based on his view that we arrive at principles by observing multiple instances of things in reality. The idea of hypothesizing and rehypothesizing and banging out contradictions to conform to reality is Aristotle's idea. Syllogistic logic is the tool he came up with to bang out contradictions, to bring thought in harmony with reality. The idea that there is an essence which explains things, was his idea. The idea that man is the rational animals was also his idea.

Men were more apt to drift arbitrarily before the Greeks.

In addition, the contributions the Greeks made in math were great. Euclid's elements, sets out the foundation for geometry. Pythagoras gave us the pythagoreom theorem. Eudoxus' method of exhaustion was used to caculate areas and volumes of complicated geometries. And, of course, Archimedes, who invented the Archimedean screw for pumping water from a lower level to a higher level, who discovered the law of bouyancy and advanced optics, was an incomparable mathematician.

Those are some of the major contributions of the Greeks. And, thanks to Aristotle, I can can say that I consider his science and logic to be the essential reason for mankind having progressed as much as we have.

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It seems like most of the Greeks were influenced by earlier Chinese thinkers in physics and philosophy (from what I've read), and then the Greeks surpassed them later on. This question depends on time periods and other factors, but I am voting Greece too.

who said that? there are some afrocentrist historians that say that greece got a lot of their knoledge from AFRICA! even though there is proof that keeps contradicting them.

You got to be careful with all this damn cultural marxism influencing everything.

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THe only thing the mongols were good at was making war....so they rocked at warmaking

The Romans conquered all of western europe, a huge chunk of the middle east, and all of Northern Africa. They were the greatest force in Europe for well over 1000 years. If you want to talk about war making then the Romans are definately better then the Mongels.

The mongels looted, plundered, and murdered but they didn't really control the territories they conquered, they simply destroyed the enemies armies and then forced the defeated enemy to pay them.

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who said that? there are some afrocentrist historians that say that greece got a lot of their knoledge from AFRICA! even though there is  proof that keeps contradicting them.

Are you forgetting that Egypt is in Africa?

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The Romans conquered all of western europe, a huge chunk of the middle east, and all of Northern Africa. They were the greatest force in Europe for well over 1000 years. If you want to talk about war making then the Romans are definately better then the Mongels.

The mongels looted, plundered, and murdered but they didn't really control the territories they conquered, they simply destroyed the enemies armies and then forced the defeated enemy to pay them.

The Mongols conquered all of China, Central Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and all the other -stans), all of the Middle East, Egypt, parts of India, Russia, and defeated several European armies in Eastern Europe. And that was all within two generations. The extent of their empire was far vaster than Rome's.

The Romans, of course, never ran into the Mongols, who only emerged with Genghis Khan around 1200 AD.

There is no denying the Mongols were a great warfighting machine. I don't think al Kufr was saying they were good at anything else. Nor am I.

As to the question of which is the greatest civilization overall, there is no question that Greece is head and shoulders above all others.

Phoenicia deserves some recognition, as they were mainly a nation of shopkeepers, so to speak, a trading nation. One of their colonies later became more of a militaristic nation---Carthage. I believe Phoenicia also may have had the first non-pictographic alphabet, although I'm not sure on that.

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I voted for Rome even after I considered the numerous contributions the Greeks made. The Romans had quite a bit as well but the reason I voted for them was because their civilization was truly impressive, the time span was enormous (over 1,000 years) and their civilization basically covered the entire world worth conquering. With all due respect to Greece they could not maintain the empire they created, and the golden age of Greece was only in the Greek peninsula, it would take Alexander to spread Greek culture to the world.

Rome however was able to build an empire and was also able to pass leadership succesfully. They were both great though, and thats why they both have a lasting influence today.

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I voted for Romans. The question of Greece vs Rome is a very difficult one, because the two were so good and complementary in their contributions to Western civilization that it is almost impossible to determine who was better.

I think it's not entirely accurate to say Greeks are better hands down, because although they were lacking progress in only a few things, those areas they were lacking in were major. While Plato philosophized about an ideal constitution, the Romans achieved it. While Greek (Athenian) Golden Age lasted for, oh, 60 years, extended to 150 if we're generous, Roman state flourished for 400 glorious years, succumbing only by the end of the Republic.

While philosophy and sculptures and all that are nice, and valuable, they are rendered nearly meaningless if the societies that produce them are unstable and times are not prosperous. Although Rome lacked the Greek refinement in its earlier stages, it was continuously guided by a kind of virtue the Greek philosophers only wished their citizens would adopt.

And I wouldn't say that Rome is unequivocally better than Greece either, that's just preposterous, for the reasons everyone cited here - Thales, Aristotle, Archimedes, Euclid, etc. It's also worthy to note that although ancient historians almost exclusively chose Rome and its men as paragons of excellence and virtue, these historians and philosophers were practically all Greeks.

So I voted for the Romans simply because I believe that the kind of civic virtue Romans practiced for most of their history has never met its equal, the kind of social stability and prosperity their constitution provided was only matched once since then, by its dutiful descendant United States, and the kind of lawful tranquility it spread across Europe, Mediterranean, North Africa, and Asia Minor, has been similarly without parallel for most of human history.

Thus I find the advantage to be with the Romans, although this advantage isn't huge, and barely edges out over the culture of Greece. But really, as I said before, both of these cultures are so noble and unique in human history, such towering examples of human achievement, that I feel a bit inadequate in choosing one over the other, being wholly content simply to view them both with admiration.

There's a chapter in a book on ancient history whose title perfectly sums up the proper relationship between the two:

Greek theory, Roman practice.

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The Mongols conquered all of China, Central Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and all the other -stans), all of the Middle East, Egypt, parts of India, Russia, and defeated several European armies in Eastern Europe.  And that was all within two generations.  The extent of their empire was far vaster than Rome's.

The Romans, of course, never ran into the Mongols, who only emerged with Genghis Khan around 1200 AD. 

There is no denying the Mongols were a great warfighting machine.  I don't think al Kufr was saying they were good at anything else.  Nor am I.

The Mongols did conquer a lot of territories, but for the most part I'm pretty sure that they did not have a great ammount of control over the territory they conquered. So sure they were great at annhilating armies, but they never really controled the territory they conquered in the same sense as the Romans.

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Heres a great review about a book thats about Alexander the Great and why he was such a great general at the end they compare him to Genghis Khan.

And askes the Question, who was the better general?.....its a great read.

"So how good was he? He took on all comers and never lost, and you don’t get a better record than that. Certainly he would not have defeated Genghis Khan using Macedonian tactics from the 4th Century B.C. But why would he have tried? Both were geniuses of time and maneuver, masters of deception and surprise, and cold-eyed students of the art of war. It would have been interesting"

http://www.d-n-i.net/dni_reviews/virtues_of_war.htm

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Not to get too technical in a general-purpose thread like this, but Alexander had repeatedly defeated numerous Scythian armies, and cowed haughty Scythian kings into submission. And what were Scythians if not an advanced equestrian culture specializing in rapid warfare along the steppes of Central Asia?

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I voted for Rome for pretty much the same reasons as Free Capitalist. It should be noted, however, that while the Mongols had savage customs, when it came to laws, they were very advanced for an Asian tribe.

For example, while even in the West you could still be executed for all sorts of ridiculous offenses, and it was even worse in the "civilized" parts of Asia (in China people were beheaded for not bowing properly to a nobleman), the Mongols only had two irrational uses of capital punishment: as punishment for adultery and cattle theft.

Still, quite clearly, the Romans and Greeks are far superior to the Mongols from an Objectivist perspective. Being great at war is not one of the primary traits of a great culture.

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I would also like to add two things:

I wish that Praxus was more specific about Rome in his poll, because I'd like to clarify that I only voted for the Republican Rome, not the Imperial one. The Imperial era was essentially a combined Greco-Roman civilization, not a distinctly Roman one, and with time the inconsistent political system and the effete moral fiber of the Greco-Romans gave way to the more vigorous and brutal cultures of Europe; the vigorous Republican Romans would never go out with such a whimper, as affirmed by their struggle with Hannibal. My evaluation of the Imperial era is that it became less and less admirable as the Empire gathered age, and its civilization was only of a somewhat-kinda-sorta-decent caliber and quality. The Empire was not the same as the the Republic that sired it, and I want to point out that it is to the latter that I wish to address the greatest share of my admiration, not the former.

Secondly, someone made a point earlier that the Greek civilization was the one to contribute most to mankind, and that's why it's the greatest. Well I won't dispute the former claim, but I will dispute the latter. Should an ancient culture's contribution to us be the primary standard of evaluation? An important part of evaluating a culture (not just its government) is how well it secures the well being and rational prosperity of its people. Another part is how the populace at large approaches the subject of rational prosperity. No one here would admire the Greek culture if it meant admiring few isolated intellectuals struggling amidst a hostile and primitive peoples. We assume, and rightly so, that the intellectual and moral quality of the Greek intellectuals was an indication of the broader culture that produced them, and this assumption allows us to transfer the praise toward the intellectuals to that of the ancient Greeks at large. Sometimes we today may forget that the Greeks were flesh-and-blood people just like us, interested in gossip, sex, adventure, entertainment, hero-worship. They weren't some abstracted Vulcans locked up in ivory towers, calculating arcane formulas which we would then appropriate for our own application. Aeschylus, the father of Greek (Western) drama, didn't even mention any of his great plays and poems on his epitaph, simply stating that he fought with the Athenians at Marathon, and proudly adding that the "long haired Persians" remember him well. Socrates, far from being an effete philosopher, took part in two Athenian wars, on the front line, acquiring a distinguished reputation as a notable soldier.

In short, these were real people, and we should evaluate their accomplishments by the standard of how well they lived their own lives; and no one would deny that the lives the Greeks led were, by and large, worthy of tremendous admiration and capable of providing us with much needed inspiration. That's why I originally said that I feel a bit inadequate in deciding between the Greeks or the Romans on who is better, because that's like trying to compare the heights of two columns while standing on the ground. They both tower so highly up above everything else that, from my vantage point, it is almost impossible to determine any difference in their heights.

Still, pressed to make a choice, I picked the Republican Romans because they were just a little better equipped in securing rational prosperity and happiness; the Greeks had their great accomplishments and their great detriment - societies that did not have political stability and long term promises of lawful prosperity. It was only after the Roman Republic got involved in Greek affairs and the Romans imposed peace by force on all the various factions of the Greek peninsula, that the latter were able to fully enjoy the fruits of their labors. Plutarch, a Greek himself, had this to say in his biography of Titius Quinctus Flamininus, a Roman consul that forced the Greeks to finally live in peace:

It was now the time of the celebration of the Isthmian games [second only to Greek Olympics in popularity]; and the seats around the racecourse were crowded with an unusual multitude of spectators; Greece, after long wars, having regained not only peace, but hopes of liberty, and being able once more to keep holiday in safety. A trumpet sounded to command silence; and the crier, stepping forth amidst the spectators, made proclamation, that the Roman senate and Titus Quintius, the proconsular general, having vanquished King Philip and the Macedonians, restored the [Greeks] to their own lands, laws, and liberties; remitting all impositions upon them, and withdrawing all garrisons from their cities. [...] A shout of joy followed it, so loud that it was heard as far as the sea. The whole assembly rose and stood up; there was no further thought of the entertainment; all were only eager to leap up and salute and address their thanks to the deliverer and champion of Greece. [...]

[After the competitions had ended], so beset was he on every side, and by such multitudes, that had he not, foreseeing the probable throng and concourse of the people, timely withdrawn, he would scarce, it is thought, have ever got clear of them. When they had tired themselves with acclamations all about his pavilion, and night was now come, wherever friends or fellow-citizens met, they joyfully saluted and embraced each other, and went home to feast and carouse together. And there, no doubt, redoubling their joy, they began to recollect and talk of the state of Greece, what wars she had incurred in defence of her liberty, and yet was never perhaps mistress of a more settled or grateful one than this which other men's labours had won for her; almost without one drop of blood, or one citizen's loss to be mourned for, she had this day had put into her hands the most glorious of rewards, and best worth the contending for. Courage and wisdom are, indeed, rarities amongst men, but of all that is good, a just man it would seem is the most scarce. Such as Agesilaus, Lysander, Nicias, and Alcibiades [great Greek leaders of previous times], knew how to play the general's part, how to manage a war, how to bring off their men victorious by land and sea; but how to employ that success to generous and honest purposes they had not known. For should a man except the achievement at Marathon, the sea-fight at Salamis, the engagements at Plataea and Thermopylae, Cimon's exploits at Eurymedon, and on the coasts of Cyprus, Greece fought all her battles against, and to enslave, herself; she erected all her trophies to her own shame and misery, and was brought to ruin and desolation almost wholly by the guilt and ambition of her great men. A foreign people, appearing just to retain some embers, as it were, some faint remainders of a common character derived to them from their ancient sires, a nation from whom it was a mere wonder that Greece should reap any benefit by word or thought, these are they who have retrieved Greece from her severest dangers and distresses, have rescued her out of the hands of insulting lords and tyrants, and reinstated her in her former liberties. (emphasis mine)

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I agree with everything Free Capitalist said. We tend to idealize the Greeks even though they were normal people. Greek civilization was amazing considering when it had its golden age and all that came out of it. But that is not all that should be considered as Roman civilization was truly grand spanning many generations and eventually conquering the Greeks.

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Damn, I wish I could edit my last post a little bit; it's too wordy and clunky. The gist of it is still good, though.

People value Greeks solely for the latter's contributions to posterity, or because of their intellectual achievements. This analysis, however, ignores the context and the history of Greece in ancient times. To repeat my earlier point, if the Greeks had achieved what they did, but yet were famous for, say, mindless brutality and senseless lawlessness, no one would admire them despite the fact that they still had all the same achievements and provided all the same inheritance for the future generations.

Of course, I'd be the last one to say that they were famous for the bad things in my hypothetical situation; the truth is quite the contrary. But that extreme example of imaginary Greece is appropriate, because if the Greeks really were that bad in their social and personal lives, no one would admire them for their intellectual contributions. We are thankful to the Phoenicians for the alphabet, for example, but don't admire them and their xenophobic, mystical, man-sacrificing civilization (even though they were great traders and explorers).

So my extreme example was used to make a point: there is an ongoing assumption here that the Greek intellectual ingenuity was matched by a similarly high level of peace and lawfulness in their societies, and by the an equally high level personal excellence and happiness in their general populace. While it's true that the Greeks surpassed the rest of the world in these categories, they were not on par with the Roman Republic in some exceptions, but crucially vital ones. The Roman law was superior in its execution of justice, and the Roman constitution was superior to all the Greek ones, even those of Athens and Sparta. America could not have been built solely on the examples of the Greek city-states, nor could it have inherited Aristote's philosophy because the Greeks were near self-implosion at that point in history, and would inevitably be overrun and destroyed by their own kind of barbarians. It was the Romans who secured peace and tranquilty which the Greeks were unable to secure for themselves (as Plutarch explains), and it was they who laboriously copied, translated, and secured the survival of the Greek culture into the future. There are other examples of where Romans filled in what the Greeks lacked. We rarely find authentically Greek art; most of the time we find Roman copies, because they were more durable and permanent. That's a great metaphor, giving credit where credit is due to both cultures for their respective accomplishments.

And finally, let's not forget that, unlike the ideal constitutions described in the Greek political treatises, the Roman Republic serves as the prime working example of what an ideal constitution could be like, for the American Founding Fathers to copy and improve upon. Plutarch somewhere says that the philosophers, and the ideal constitutions they imagine, are worthy of consideration and respect, but they pale in importance when compared with men who actually have implemented theirs and had them work in practice.

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Here is the actual quote:

To the other Greeks, Sparta was a holy shrine of justice and wisdom, called on to suppress despotism and arbitrate disputes. Often it was not necessary to resort to force. The Spartans would merely send a single ambassador, to whose direction everyone immediately submitted, like bees swarming to their queen. When the other cities of the Greek world needed help from Sparta, they would not send for money or for armies, but only for a Spartan commander.

Lycurgus did not intend for Sparta to conquer and rule other cities. His opinion was that the happiness of a nation, like the happiness of a man, consists in the exercise of virtue, and not in power or wealth. His laws were for the purpose of making the Spartans free-minded, self-reliant, and sober. Many philosophers have left behind plans for perfect governments, but Lycurgus was the author -- not merely in writing but in reality -- of a complete philosophical state, which others could not even copy.

Although we may quibble about Sparta, it's important to observe the respect given to men who actually implement their "plans for perfect governments" in reality, and prove the worth of such governments by having them actually work, endure, and ensure the prosperity of their citizens.

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