The first civilizations that developed in each part of the world are different, and they designed their own political and social systems. While in Europe the Greek and Roman are known, in America others such as the Mayan and the Inca stand out.
In this article, you can learn about the types of ancient civilizations and which were the most prominent in each area. You will find them divided by the countries that currently occupy the territory in which they began to form, although at that time, these States did not yet exist.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
Types of civilizations
There are different terms to define the first civilizations in history. In the first place, the hydraulic villages were those that developed along a river or sea. There were two types:
- They were the first to emerge and they did so on the banks of the rivers. They built works (eg canals) that allowed them to make better use of this resource. Two of them were the Egyptians, on the Nile, and the Mesopotamians, between the Tigris and the Euphrates. They are also known as agricultural civilizations, since this was the base activity of its economy.
- They grew up by the sea, which allowed them to trade with other cultures. Some of the most important appeared in the Mediterranean, such as the Greeks.
In the same way, there are other expressions related to ancient civilizations that are important to know:
- those cultures that, in addition to agriculture, also gave an important role to livestock.
- civilizations that created large settlements, which led to a greater diversification of work and a development of government and administration.
- cultures that took war as a part of life, so it was present in religion and language.
The current history of Europe cannot be understood without that of the great empires of the past, among which the Greek and the Roman stand out, which came to conquer many peoples and cultures.
The ancient Greek civilization developed from the 146th century BC to XNUMX BC It came to include the southern territories of the Balkan Peninsula, the islands of the Aegean and Ionian Sea, and the western coast of Asia Minor.
Due to the relief, it was not formed as a united empire, but was composed of independent city-states, between which there were different wars. Among the most important are Athens, Sparta and Thebes.
Its history can be divided into four different periods, which are the following:
- Dark times
- of the s. XII BC to VIII BC There are hardly any accounts of this time, so it is difficult to know what happened. It began with the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, which previously occupied this area.
- Archaic epoch
- of the s. VIII BC to VI BC At the beginning of this period, Homer wrote the two most famous Greek works: The Iliad y The odyssey. They were considered true historical accounts.
- Classic time
- of the s. V. BC to IV BC Age of maximum splendor, also known as Golden Age of Athens. There is a great cultural development, as important theater authors such as Sophocles and Aristophanes emerged. Great buildings like the Parthenon were built. In this century the Medical Wars also happened, in which the Greeks defeated the Persians.
- Hellenistic epoch
- of the s. IV BC to I BC Last period, which begins with the death of Governor Alexander the Great. It is in the year 146 BC when the Romans conquer Greece, which is annexed to their empire.
The language that was spoken in this civilization was Greek, which had different dialects depending on the area. This language was characterized by having three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), and three numbers (singular, dual and plural).
The Greeks built imposing buildings and monuments. Among all, the Parthenon stands out, on the Acropolis of Athens. It was built in the 17th century BC. It is made up of eight front columns and 10,93 side columns, each one measuring XNUMX meters high. It is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.
They had a polytheistic religion. The gods were believed to be anthropomorphic, that is, they had human form. In addition, they worshiped the phenomena of nature. According to the Greeks, the gods lived on top of Olympus, a mountain located between Thessaly and Macedonia that is 2.919 meters high.
Among all the deities, Zeus was the most important, as he was considered the father of all gods and people, as well as the god of the sky and thunder. His wife and sister were named Hera.
The greatest culture that developed in Italy was that of Ancient Rome. It came to encompass southern and western Europe (including Britain), western Asia, and northern Africa. According to legend, it was founded by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC
Until 509 BC, a monarchy remained. In it, the king was elected by the senate, a group of elders. The last monarch was Lucio Tarquinio the Proud.
After this the Roman Republic was established, which was governed by a system of consuls. During this time, Sicily, Iberia, Macedonia and the Seleucid Empire (Near East) were conquered. In the XNUMXst century BC, different revolts and civil wars began to occur.
It is in the year 29 BC when the Roman empire. The first emperor was Caesar Augustus, who lived the time of greatest glory. Other prominent emperors were Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius.
Emperor Theodosius divided the territory in two in 395 AD. The Eastern Empire ended in 476, while that of the West lasted until 1453, when the Fall of Constantinople occurred.
Roman society was hierarchical. At the top were the patricians and, behind them, the knights. The commoners were the width of the population, the poor part. Slaves, who used to be prisoners of war, had no rights.
The language that was spoken was Latin, from which some languages such as Spanish, French or Italian come. As for religion, they adopted that of Ancient Greece, but renamed the gods. For example, Zeus became Jupiter.
The rest of the religions were persecuted until, in the year 313, the emperor Constantine I established Christianity as the official religion of the empire.
Until the arrival of the Celts in the XNUMXth century BC, different peoples, the so-called Iberians, spread in Spain. The Celts have their origin in the Alps and settled in the north and center of the country, as well as in France.
They mixed with the Iberians, giving rise to the Celtiberians. On the other hand, the Basque people did not suffer any invasion, so they remained unmixed.
In the year 1104 BC the Phoenicians arrived, who founded some cities that remain today, such as Huelva, Cádiz and Málaga. They were succeeded by the Greeks, who settled mainly in the area of Catalonia.
It is in the XNUMXrd century BC when the Carthaginians founded Cartagena. A little later the wars begin with Rome. Eventually the Romans defeated them and conquered the entire territory, which was renamed Hispania.
Hispania underwent a process of Romanization in which they adopted the entire culture of this town: Latin replaced the other languages, agriculture and livestock were modernized, an important urban network was woven, etc.
After these, the Visigoths arrived in 406 AD, who remained until 711, when the Muslim era began and they consolidated al-Andalus. In 1492, this empire vanished after the Christian Reconquest.
Most of the important civilizations of America took place before the conquest by the Spanish of the territory, after the discovery of Columbus in 1492.
The Mayans were one of the great pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. They lived in southern Mexico and some Central American countries such as Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Its history had a continuity of about 3.000 years and can be divided into three parts:
- Preclassic Period
- from 1800 BC to 250 BC Also known as the Agricultural Period, since its main activity was the cultivation of foods such as corn, beans and squash.
- Classical period
- 250 BC to 900 AD The life of the Mayans revolved around religion. A total of 40 cities were developed, among which are Tikal, which reached 40.000 inhabitants, and Copán, in which astronomy was studied and the 365-day calendar was formed.
- Postclassic Period
- from 950 to 1524. The cities and religious centers were abandoned and there was an intense period of migration. Different confrontations took place. The remaining settlements ended after the colonists' conquest.
According to the Mayan religion, the world had been created five times and destroyed four. They believed that paradise was reserved for people who were sacrificed, murdered, or killed in childhood. The others were going to hell, known as Xibalba.
Numerous pyramid-shaped temples were built in honor of the gods. These were run by priests, components of the upper class of society. Offerings to the gods were made in them that included human sacrifices.
Another Mesoamerican culture was that of the Aztecs, who settled in central Mexico between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. It was a polytheistic society and divided into three levels: slaves, commoners and nobles.
Peru and Bolivia
The ancient Andean civilizations are those pre-Columbian societies that inhabited this area since 4000 BC The last of all was the inca, which was from the XNUMXth century AD to the XNUMXth century and occupied the territories of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.
This empire had a total of twelve million inhabitants. The Inca was its ruler, a kind of king. The entire territory was known as Tahuantinsuyo, Meaning four states. The capital was Cuzco.
In 1540 this society came to an end due to the conquest of Peru by the Spanish. However, there were some areas that resisted until 1572.
Its economy was based on agriculture, which had numerous advances such as cultivation terraces. In addition, they carried out a herding of llamas and alpacas.
The most famous rest of the Incas is Machu Picchu, a population of which there are two hypotheses: that it was a religious sanctuary or the resting residence of one of the governors.
In Asia we find an important confluence of civilizations and dynasties that fought among themselves to dominate the territory. Some of these existed for thousands of years:
Syria and Iraq
A part of the territory occupied by Syria and Iraq is known as Mesopotamia, which is the geographical area that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
One of the first civilizations in this area was the Babylonian, which is later than that of the Sumerians. It began around 1800 BC and established its capital at Babylon.
The most important king was Hammurabi, who ruled between 1790 and 1750 BC. At this time, the Babylonian empire went from being a small kingdom to occupying all of Mesopotamia.
Another of the advances of this king was the code of Hammurabi, the first written code of laws in history. After his death, the kingdom was in decline.
In 1500 BC the empire was destroyed by the Hittites. However, a century later, Babylon re-emerged, as the Casitas took the city. Other dynasties that were succeeding were the Assyrian and Chaldean. Babylon was conquered by the Persians in 539 BC
In the history of China we find numerous dynasties. The first was the Xia, between 2070 BC and 1600 BC After these came others such as the Shang or the Zhou. At this time it is known as the Ancient Era.
The Imperial Age begins in 221 BC with the Qin dynasty, in which the figure of the emperor began. From the name of qin derive the current word to name the country, China.
During this time, the country was unified for the first time. The practice that stood out was known as legalism. With it, less power was given to the aristocracy and more freedom to the peasants.
However, schooling and books were banned, and a major burning of these took place. In this way, the people were kept at bay and a significant military force was achieved. During these years, the parts of the Great Wall of China that were separated were united.
After a rebellion, in 206 BC the Han Dynasty was established, with which schooling and books were re-enacted.
One of the most important parts of the chronology of ancient India was that of the Gupta Empire. It lasted between 320 and 550 AD, a time which is also known as Golden age.
In the previous 500 years, the territory had been made up of small independent kingdoms. With the beginning of this empire, under the command of Chandragupta, an important territorial expansion took place.
These years are characterized by the development of art, architecture, science, religion and philosophy. Furthermore, there was hardly any crime and crime, and great monuments and new cities were built.
The society used to follow a vegetarian diet and rejected alcoholic beverages. The Buddhist and Hindu religions coexisted without problems. In addition, an important trade both interior and exterior.
After the death of Governor Skandagupta in 467, domestic conflicts began. Finally, due to the attacks of the Huns, the empire declined.
One of the best known ancient civilizations in history occurred in Africa: the egyptian. It developed for around 3.000 years, from 3000 BC to 30 BC It occupied the southeast of the continent, specifically around the Nile.
This river was quite important for the Egyptians, since it depended on it that they could produce food every year: the floods of the Nile allowed the land to be fertile and, therefore, to have agriculture.
They had a polytheistic religion and great temples were erected in honor of the gods. It was thought that the Pharaoh He was chosen by the divinities, so he was considered a kind of god on earth.
The society was pyramidal and there were three basic levels:
- Upper class
- formed by the royal family, the priests, the scribes and the rest of public offices.
- Middle class
- it was home to merchants, doctors and craftsmen.
- Lower class
- on one side were the peasants, who worked in exchange for food and clothing; and on the other, slaves, prisoners of war without freedom.
If you are interested in the history of this civilization, you can learn about it in depth by visiting the following article: Egyptian civilization: location, organization and characteristics.
One of the most prominent empires in Oceania was that of Tu'i Tonga, which began in 950 AD and was present until the XNUMXth century. Its center was the island of Tongatapu, in Tonga.
Its first emperor was' Aho'eitu, who managed to rid Tonga, an archipelago with 36 inhabited islands, from the power of the island of Fiji. After this, the empire expanded until it conquered Western and Central Polynesia, and part of Melanesia and Micronesia.
In total, they came to control three million square kilometers. Furthermore, all subordinate territories had to pay a tribute. This success was due to the power of his naval army, which sailed in canoes with square sails.
The power began to fall due to internal wars and conflicts, as well as the uprising of some of the dominated peoples.
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