The six major periods of Western Civilization

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Most of the occurrences in history have shaped the present society significantly. In fact, most of the advancements of current time are traceable to early periods of civilization. There are certain events that have a particular impact on what the present society celebrates today. The purpose of this essay is to investigate six major periods in the Western Civilization and how they have changed world history. These periods include Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, and Late Middle Ages periods. It is important to dig into the historical archives to retrieve valuable information about the origin of certain civilizations. The various significant achievements made in these periods transformed the history of Western civilization and the present times as identified and illustrated below.

To begin with, Mesopotamia, Hebrews, and Egypt period is recorded to have existed between 3000-500 BCE. A number of achievements are associated with this period. One of the most notable developments that transformed the economy of the world in this period is the development of agriculture. According to McMichael, Western Civilization and the present society owes a lot of appreciation to development of agriculture in the valley between the two rivers called Tigris and Euphrates (12). This development changed the world by ensuring a steady supply of food and promotion of a green environment that people enjoy to date. Closely linked to agriculture is the concept of selection of breeds of animals and plants for future genetics. In fact, the Western civilization built upon this invention and used it to advance genetical modifications. McMichael further notes that irrigation is a technology whose origin is traceable to Mesopotamia (10).  Early writing is a form of civilization that was invented in Mesopotamia region. Through Egyptian hieroglyphs, the whole world learned the art of communication through writing, a process that continues to shape present societies. This process later advanced to cuneiform which eased the art of communication among various kingdoms of the world. Another characteristic feature of development in this era is the development of architectural designs (McMichael 10).

The Ancient Greece Period is recorded to have impacted the world immensely through its developments. First, Blundell mentions that architecture is a major advancement witnessed between 1200 and 200 BCE (103). This period is special to the history of western civilization especially in the development of alphabetical letters. It is observed that letters of the English alphabet such as A, B, E, and others have been adapted from the Greek alphabets. Blundell also notes that the world and western civilization at large have been changed immensely due to the mathematical concepts that were devised by early mathematicians in Greece between 1200 and 200 BCE (178). Of specific attention is the idea of circumference calculation that influenced many constructors who had to calculate the area and circumferences using previously advanced theories. Significant achievements made in science also involved the revolution of the earth and the concept of seasons. In the western civilization, seasons were predictable owing to these developments by the Greeks. Even presently, meteorologists and geographers are able to explain their ideas borrowing from the initial contributions of the Greeks. It is noteworthy to equally mention that civilization in Greece introduced the concept of democracy that greatly influences the governance of several kingdoms. Present governments speak so much about democracy as the best tool to govern a nation. This shows how early civilization in the Greece has transformed the two worlds.

The third major period in the historical records is the Ancient Rome. This period is recorded to have existed between 753 BCE and 476 CE. The Roman period is notably celebrated for the achievements and contributions in infrastructural development. In a comparative research on ancient civilizations, Scheidel records that the period between 753 BCE and 476 CE saw significant expansions that have been emulated by the world in their economies (66). Although history records that the oldest known roads were constructed in Egypt, Romans were greatly influenced by this development and used it to advance their infrastructure. Closely connected to this is the concept of the aqueduct that is attributed to early Roman civilization. This structure was a channel of conveying water developed after the similitude of Egyptian irrigation system. The western world acquired this science and used it to develop their toilets, bathtubs, and baths which the present day civilization has modified (Scheidel 66). It is therefore apparent that each major period not only influenced the western world but also the present society.

The Early Middle Ages (476-1000 CE) is generally known as the late medieval period. During this era, a number of achievements made the Western nations grow a great deal. To begin with, the rise of Islam is a significant occurrence whose effects are still evident in historical records. Another development that also borders on religion is the translation of the Bible to Latin. This step was particularly important in spreading the gospel to the interior parts of the western world. It is equally important to mention that by Early Middle Ages, a culture of urban life had begun to manifest itself. According to Christie and Loseby, the initial development of industries and urban centers had started swaying hundreds of human resources to the town centers to offer labor in the factories (98). In the field of science, the study of nature was given more attention than any other discipline. The effect of this on Western Civilization is that it helped in the development of the study of heavenly bodies as an embodiment of science and geography. Although this period is characterized by limited libraries, educational curiosity and the quest for knowledge is traceable to this era. It initiated the curiosity in research thus advancing the western world through scholarly research and publications.

During the High Middle Ages (1000-1300 CE), the many developments made were improvements form the Early Ages. By way of example, trade and commerce developed after urban centers had concentrated people for business reasons. As Cronin et al. note, this period is further characterized by development such as the invention of the spinning wheel that improved transport industry in the Western world (24). It further helped in the development of agriculture especially in the processing of natural and synthetic fibers. Other related aspects include the magnet compass and Arabic numerals. These innovations have traversed the world and increased the literacy levels both in the western countries and other parts of the world. Cronin et al. stress that paper manufacture immensely developed education and research in the Western World (24). Perhaps this is the reason for great research skills in the region.

The late Middle Ages (1300-1500 CE) is the sixth period whose civilization cannot be overlooked. This period proceeded the early modern era otherwise known as Renaissance in Europe. Of particular attention is the development of world literature in the late Middle Ages (1300-1500 CE) due to advancement in education and paper manufacturing technology. This was a period that experienced transformed art through music and literature (Konishi 167). Expression of both secular and spiritual life was made possible through music and art. The effect this had on the civilization of western nations is the expansion of recreational facilities that the present economy has taken to advanced levels. Linked to this is the formation of theatre groups and acting in arenas. From this period, literature found its expressive nature through theatric performances. It is at this point that many writers began to write different forms of plays such as comedy, tragicomedy, farce, and melodrama that are crafted to be staged in theatres. As literature and theater improved, philosophy, science, and history also advanced. These impacted the curriculum of the Western nations as the quest for knowledge increased.

In conclusion, the essay has investigated the six major periods of Western Civilization. It is evident that each of these periods has directly influenced the advancements of these nations. Further, other parts of the world have also greatly benefited from what was initiated by these civilizations. The essay has identified certain areas such as agriculture, writing, science, mathematics, commerce and literature among other things. It is therefore important for historians to dig deep into the archives to trace the development of various technologies that have shaped the world. It also revealed that most of these contributions have been modified to meet the needs of every generation.

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  1. Blundell, Sue. Women in ancient Greece. Harvard University Press, 1995.
  2. Christie, Neil, and Simon T. Loseby, eds. Towns in transition: urban evolution in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Scolar Press, 1996.
  3. Cronin, Thomas M., et al. “Medieval warm period, little ice age and 20th century temperature variability from Chesapeake Bay.” Global and Planetary Change 36.1 (2003): 17-29.
  4. Konishi, Jin’ichi. A History of Japanese Literature, Volume 3: The High Middle Ages. Vol. 3. Princeton University Press, 2014.
  5. McMichael, Anthony J. “Global climate change and health: an old story writ large.” Climate change and human health: Risks and responses. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization (2003).
  6. Scheidel, Walter. Rome and China: comparative perspectives on ancient world empires. Oxford University Press, 2009.
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