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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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Rome brought us the republican form of government and Greece brought us systematic philosophy, science, and man glorifying art. Do you honestly think calculating pi to the eighth decimal point, discovering the Pythagorean theorem prior to Pythagoras, or building natural gas pipelines from bamboo are at all important compared to these?

I do. One keeps the lights lit up and the other makes for rounder wheels. Both are necessary for a technological civilization.

Technology is what makes us better than the beasts.

Given a choice between ethical and aesthetic proficiency on the one hand and aquaducts which bring in fresh disease free water on the other, I vote for the latter without hesitation. Beauty and Goodness does not do any good for anyone dying of typhoid fever or cholera. Fortunately the choice is not either-or. One can have both. In post classical Europe the method for having both was developed around the time of the Renaissance.

By the way Rome also brought forth Caligula, Nero and Commidus. While the Romans did have the straightest roads and fine clean water for their baths and drinking and an army that could and did Kick Ass, they also failed to produce a politically stable system.

You emphasize the theory. while I look at the historical facts which, in the case of Rome, are not pretty. The Republican Form you are praising was not for protecting rights. It was a power compromise for suppressing civil war and it did not work very well. After one civil war after another (Pompei Magnus, Julius Caesar, Marcus Antonius etc) Augustus finally brought some kind of stability but it meant the end of the Republic.

What can one say of the Romans? They make a Desolation and they call it Peace.

We should thank the Greek philosophers, particularly the Ionian pre-Socratics for naturalizing Nature. These worthy thinkers get rid of the gods, spooks, spirits and demons and introduced laws and principles (somewhat imperfectly). All Beginnings are Hard.

Bob Kolker

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The Romans DID produce a relatively stable system, particularly during the days of the Republic. This fact explains why they were able to conquer so much: people preferred living in a system with stable laws not subject to majority whim (as in Greece). Things fell apart due to the "bread and circuses" of Nero and his ilk.

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The Romans DID produce a relatively stable system, particularly during the days of the Republic. This fact explains why they were able to conquer so much: people preferred living in a system with stable laws not subject to majority whim (as in Greece). Things fell apart due to the "bread and circuses" of Nero and his ilk.

I think the phalanx and metallurgy had more to do with how they conquered than their political system.

Heck the Mongols conquered the greatest land empire on Earth running a one man dictatorship that was the opposite of a stable system.

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Thousands of years later, what are the legacies of ancient Greece and China?

Ancient China's was just another empire which at one point enjoyed a golden age. Many empires did just that, including the Roman and Muslim empires. But these golden ages were ephemeral because although they were based implicitly on a few good ideas, the bad ideas which they explicitly adhered to won out every time. The good ideas were never named or systematized, and so they could not take hold.

We, today, are the continuation of ancient Greece. We have taken the ideas of the ancient Greeks and put those ideas into practice, achieving the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and every comfort we take for granted today, including the plentiful nature of food, the fact that we no longer build our homes out of mud, and our ability to communicate instantaneously all the way around the world. The ancient Greeks named and systematized their ideas, and so their ideas could, and did, take hold. And we today are the result.

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Thousands of years later, what are the legacies of ancient Greece and China?

x

We, today, are the continuation of ancient Greece. We have taken the ideas of the ancient Greeks and put those ideas into practice, achieving the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and every comfort we take for granted today, including the plentiful nature of food, the fact that we no longer build our homes out of mud, and our ability to communicate instantaneously all the way around the world. The ancient Greeks named and systematized their ideas, and so their ideas could, and did, take hold. And we today are the result.

Quite so. The efforts of the pre-Socratic Ionians who tried to figure out what the Basic Stuff of Nature was has been brilliantly continued in our time. The works of these pre-Socratics (such as Democritus and Leucippus) have been brilliantly continued in our time.

Bob Kolker

Edited by Robert J. Kolker

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In what respects?

Quantum Electrodynamics for example. In fact the modern atomic theory is proof that Democritus and Leucippus had the right idea. Clearly these two could not have gone much further than speculation, since the technology for examining the small in nature had not yet been invented.

The idea that everything is made of simpler more basic Stuff is pre-Socratic. It was the first attempt to naturalize Nature and explain What Is in terms of a few basic substances and transformations. That is the real genius of Greek thinking. Substituting principles and laws for the whims of demons, spirits and gods. Some say that Thales was the first of this kind of thinker and he is very pre-Socratic and pre-Aristotelean.

Modern science has worked this theme and brought it to a very advanced state. Aside from the ideas, the practical consequences have completely transformed the lives of men.

Bob Kolker

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Substituting principles and laws for the whims of demons, spirits and gods.

I agree with the part I quoted, but I think you are being too charitable to the Greek atomists. They didn't have much, if any, evidence for their views. Note that the atomic theory did not play a role in science until it was demonstrated experimentally by scientists such as Dalton.

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I agree with the part I quoted, but I think you are being too charitable to the Greek atomists. They didn't have much, if any, evidence for their views. Note that the atomic theory did not play a role in science until it was demonstrated experimentally by scientists such as Dalton.

Copernicus did not have much evidence for his heliocentric theory either. The first hard evidence was provided by Kepler (because he had Tycho's fine observations to work with) and Galileo who used telescopes to see the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus. It was Galileo who really put the wooden stake into the Ptolemaic theory based on sufficient empirical evidence. Galileo advocated Copernicus' view initially because he too thought the Ptolemaic theory was too contrived and absurd to be the case.

Copernicus' main argument against the Ptolemaic system went like this: nothing so contrived and ugly can be the case. Copernicus had no underlying physical hypothesis or theory to account for the planets moving about the sun. Neither did Galileo, but he did see moons going around Jupiter. He reasoned that if moons could go around Jupiter then planets could be going around the sun. His observation of the phases of Venus (possible only by telescope) put the finishing touches on his proof that Copernicus was right. The real break came with Newton who provided the underlying physics that could explain how planets went around the Sun.

There was no hard evidence of atomic structure until the time of Dalton. And there were scientists who believed atoms were merely hypothetical constructs to account for the data as late as 1905. Einstein succeeded in convincing Ernst Mach that atoms were real. All physical theories of the very small were hypothetical and speculative even as late as Newton. Newton was an atomist but he had no hard evidence to support his belief.

Bob Kolker

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I specifically mentioned the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution as being the legacy of ancient Greece. In particular, these eras in history descend from the Aristotelian worldview, on the Aristotelian approach to understanding the world around us. The Enlightenment was, in principle, a pro-reality, pro-man, anti-religion worldview, very much consonant with Aristotle. The Industrial Revolution is the Enlightenment's influence in the field of practical application, business, and the betterment of human life.

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I specifically mentioned the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution as being the legacy of ancient Greece. In particular, these eras in history descend from the Aristotelian worldview, on the Aristotelian approach to understanding the world around us. The Enlightenment was, in principle, a pro-reality, pro-man, anti-religion worldview, very much consonant with Aristotle. The Industrial Revolution is the Enlightenment's influence in the field of practical application, business, and the betterment of human life.

I agree that ideas that came out during the Enlightenment period was probably the most influential ideas in the modern world. And it definitely --albeit indirectly-- influenced the Industrial Revolution (which I think had more to do with technology than philosophy). And yes, Greek culture influenced Roman culture, which in turn influenced the Renaissance, which in turn influenced the Industrial Revolution.

However to say that ancient Greece is the Greatest civilization based on the influence it had several millennia later is over-stretching it a bit. It would be akin to saying that Dr. J is the greatest basketball player because a couple of decades down the line he influenced Michael Jordan.

This is discussed earlier in the thread, but I want to restate it. The greatness of a civilization I think should be judged by its totality, with particular emphasis on its cultural dominance during the time period of its existence. The influence of Greece is relevant only because of its absorption by other cultures, after the original Greeks were conquered and destroyed.

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The point I am trying to make is that Rome, the Renaissance, or the Industrial Revolution should not be equated with Greek culture. Despite being influenced by the Greeks, they are distinct cultural identities. The Japanese culture for example was thoroughly influenced by the Chinese culture over a period of several thousand years, and yet their accomplishments should be considered distinctly Japanese. So the central question here should be, how "great" was each civilization during its existence in terms of its regional influence culturally, militarily, politically, and economically.

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Perhaps it would make more sense then to split the poll into specific parts; i.e. which ancient civilization was the greatest economically? politically? culturally? scientifically?

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Perhaps it would make more sense then to split the poll into specific parts; i.e. which ancient civilization was the greatest economically? politically? culturally? scientifically?

Why? It's hard as it is to quantify civilizations holistically, let alone breaking it down into different parts.

To be honest on the only civilizations on this poll that I would consider truly great (by the criteria I stated) would be Rome, Egypt, and Chinese. Mongols for instance gets a 10 out of 10 militarily, but probably like a 1 or 2 culturally. Some of the civilization are also so old that it's hard for us to actually know what they were like.

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(...I think [the industrial revolution] had more to do with technology than philosophy)

I think this well sums up your position. It certainly explains why you don't agree that Greece was the greatest ancient civilization. It is, of course, a complete rejection of the Objectivist theory of history. I disagree with you, and agree with the Objectivist theory of history. But I'm just stating that for the record; I'm not interested in going over this ground with you again.

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I think this well sums up your position. It certainly explains why you don't agree that Greece was the greatest ancient civilization. It is, of course, a complete rejection of the Objectivist theory of history. I disagree with you, and agree with the Objectivist theory of history. But I'm just stating that for the record; I'm not interested in going over this ground with you again.

Huh? So you can snip a random line from my post, assume an entire position, disagree with it, but won't defend it?

Very intellectual.

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Huh? So you can snip a random line from my post, assume an entire position, disagree with it, but won't defend it?

Very intellectual.

I could give an equally unkind answer, but instead... here: You're against a position of Objectivism, so if we were to discuss it, it would have to be in the debate section. And I don't want to have that debate with you until you've had the chance to learn more of Objectivism and accept or reject it. I think it'd be more than a little pointless and futile to debate the matter until I know we have a number of shared premises. Whether you ever reach that point is entirely up to you, but those are the conditions that I'm willing to debate the matter under. I've had many a debate with people on highly derivative points like this, and I've found that without a great number of shared premises, it's like pulling teeth. This is a life lesson that I've had to learn the hard way, and I'd be a fool to ignore it. I'm not going to go through that kind of process because some random newbie who isn't greatly familiar with Objectivism starts running his mouth off on an internet board. No matter how much he taunts me. (bribes, however, are welcomed; if I am paid for my time, I am more than willing to indulge the demands of Objecti-noobs)

Luckily for me, the rules of the board specify that nobody is allowed to use this board to advocate anti-Objectivist positions. So that's one opinion of yours that you had better keep confined to the debate forums, Moebius.

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By the way Rome also brought forth Caligula, Nero and Commidus. While the Romans did have the straightest roads and fine clean water for their baths and drinking and an army that could and did Kick Ass, they also failed to produce a politically stable system.

From 509 BC until the time of the Social War in the first century BC there were no civil wars. This is a period of 400 years!

What I am praising is not so much the Roman system in particular, but the idea of republicanism in general, which was founded by Rome. The idea of balancing three types of government against one another resulted in a system which endured for four and a half centuries and through the founding fathers who read Cicero and Polybius greatly inspired our own constitution.

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What I am praising is not so much the Roman system in particular, but the idea of republicanism in general, which was founded by Rome.

But really, that would be like saying that the Chinese should take credit for landing on the moon because they were the ones who first discovered gun powder.

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I have trouble following the opinion that particular concrete inventions have the power to move history, while broad ideas pertaining to every aspect of man's life do not have that power.

In the end it is ideas and choices that move history. Every invention is the product of ideas and the choice to follow through and implement the ideas. Every choice is preceded by thought in some way (otherwise it would not be a choice). Which is not to say that every choice is rational.

Bob Kolker

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I have trouble following the opinion that particular concrete inventions have the power to move history, while broad ideas pertaining to every aspect of man's life do not have that power.

Both do.

Fire, wheel, language, metallurgy, guns, atomic bombs. Religion, philosophy, political systems, or the scientific method. Obviously they all have the power to move history.

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I believe ancient Indian civilization is superior to the aforementioned. The Indians invented the base-10 numeral system which is now used de facto worldwide. One of the earliest instances of civilizations with democracy, or sometimes disputed as oligarchy, was found in the republics of ancient India, which were established sometime before the 6th century BC, and prior to the birth of Gautama Buddha. Please share your thoughts about ancient India.

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