Comparisons of Early Greek and Early Roman Cultures


Early Greek and Rome had high contribution to western civilization. The early Greek and Roman cultures were passed down and still influence the modern way of life. While Ancient Greek consisted of isolated city states (poleis), early city of Rome expanded to an empire. Agriculture was the main economic activity for both ancient Greek and ancient Rome.

Ancient Greek will be remembered for its contribution to philosophy, modern education and democracy. On the other hand, ancient Rome will be remembered for its contribution to rule of law and western civilization.

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Early Greek and Roman and Cultures

Element GreekRoman
Geography Ancient Greek started as city states (poleis) at around 800 BCE. The geography was characterized by mountainous terrain and irregular coastline. The city states were along the coastline and were separated from one another by hilly landscape. The poleis included Athens, Thebes, Delphi, Sicyon, Olympia, Argos, Corinth, and Mycenae (Burckhardt, 2002). Greek’s colonization of the Mediterranean region was in the form of extension of the isolated city states.Early Rome was situated in a plain. On the west, ancient Rome was bordered by the sea and mountain on the east. The city of Rome was prone to invasions and migrations from Sicily and Po River (Selincourt, Ogilvie & Oakley, 2002). This threat motivated early Rome to expand to the legendary Roman empire.
ArtEarly Greek had magnificent works of art. Ancient Greek art included architecture, sculpture, literature, music, and drama. Most of the works of art in ancient Greek were original (Goldhill & Osborne, 1994). Ancient Greek orders such as Doric and Ionic were not only functional but also elegant. In addition, Early Greek sculptors were good at showing human perfection. The art most associated with ancient Greek is the Venus de Milo.Early Roman art were mainly imitative. Roman artists aimed mainly at producing realistic portraits chiefly for decoration (Green, 1996). The Romans considered their business as that of managing governments rather than of producing works of art. The art most associated with ancient Greek is mosaic.
EconomyEarly Greek economy was based mainly on agriculture (Burckhardt, 2002). Wheat was the staple food and was produced in small farms. Big estates mainly for wine and olive oil also existed.Early Roman economy was also based chiefly on agriculture. Wine and olive oil were produced for export. Wheat, the staple food for early Roman was imported from neighboring nations. In addition to farming, the Romans engaged in trade and manufacturing.
Social Classes Social classes in early Greek changed over time. The main divisions however included citizens, freedmen, slaves, metics and women.Social classes in early Rome also changed over time. The unique divisions included patricians, plebeians, slaves and freedmen.
WomenWith exception of Sparta, women in early Greek had limited freedom. The women were valued for the way they managed their household, for producing legitimate children and for not gossiping (Goldhill & Osborne, 1994). Though women could not be citizens, they were allowed to own property but could not sell them. Even after marriage, women remained under their fathers’ authority.Women in early Rome were subject to male figure in their household: Paterfamilias. Roman women had much freedom as compared to early Greek women (Selincourt, Ogilvie & Oakley, 2002). They could own and sell property and could become roman citizens.
FathersFathers in ancient Greek were dominant in their families. The fathers could even decide whether to keep a newborn or not. Grown up sons however could challenges their fathers.Paterfamilias was the head of early Roman family. The paterfamilias had authority even on their married sons.
Government The city states in ancient Greek were mainly governed independently. The forms of governments changed from monarchy to oligarchy and then to democracy.Kings initially governed early Rome. The monarchy form of government gave way to republican government and later to emperors.
Literature and PhilosophyEarly Greek literature and philosophy has great influence to the modern western culture. Influential early Greek literature includes Odyssey, Iliad and the Humor (Burckhardt, 2002). Early Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle’s had great contribution to western thought.Early roman literature borrowed much from early Greek literature. The literature included epigram, drama and prose. Unlike early Greek literature, Roman literature tended to be satirical (Selincourt, Ogilvie & Oakley, 2002). In fact, satire is originally Roman. In philosophy, early Rome brought about Stoicism. Stoicism represented the world view of the early Roman.
ReligionEarly Greek was polytheist. The Greeks believed in gods and goddesses that included Zeus, Artemis, Poseidon, Dionysus, Hestia, Hermes and Ares. Greeks believed that worshipping the gods and goddesses would better their lives while offending the gods could bring misfortune.Ancient Rome was also polytheistic. Ancient Romans accepted many of Greek gods and gods from other nations that were part of the Roman empire (Green, 1996). Because of the many gods and ways of worship, the ancient Romans founded a college of pontiffs whose role was to regulate worship.


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