Table of Contents
- Hammurabi and his Code of Laws (1792-1750 B.C.)
- Ancient Greece (700-323 B.C.)
- Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)
- Expansion and Long-Lasting Impact of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. - 1453 A.D.)
- Islam in the World (600-700 A.D.)
- The Vikings (793 A.D.- 12th Century)
- The Renaissance and its effect on the World (1300-1600 A.D.)
- The Black Death (1347- 1350 A.D.)
- Exploration of People into the World (1401-1500 A.D.)
- Protestant Reformation and the Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church (1517-1648 A.D.)
Hammurabi and his Code of Laws (1792-1750 B.C.)
Hammurabi, the ruler of Babylon, is best known for creating a system of laws and was able to unite his people to worship a common god. Prior to Hammurabi’s rule, no list of laws or codes existing to guide a ruler’s actions; Hammurabi was the first person to create a “Code of Laws” that established the baseline rules regarding how a ruler should act. Under his Code of Laws, Hammurabi created a system of government controlled by men and divided society into different classes (wealthy people, common people, and slaves). Hammurabi was also able to unite his people, who were constantly fighting with each other, by convincing them to agree that his god was the best and it would be in their best interest to unite under that common god.
Ancient Greece (700-323 B.C.)
Ancient Greece is very important to our class due to the numerous ideas that originated from Greek society. Many of those ideas are still used today, thereby rightfully earning ancient Greece the right to be called the “Cradle of Western Civilization.” For example, the concept of “democracy” emerged from the ancient Greek society whereby people would no longer be subjected to an authoritarian dictator, but instead would have the ability to govern themselves. Other contributions from ancient Greece include marine warfare, the creation of city-states, advancement of education, theatrical performances, and the creation of the alphabet. The Greeks also attempted to explain the world via laws of nature and made several important scientific discoveries. They were also very skilled in geography and created an initial map of the world.
Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)
Alexander the Great was a charismatic and power-hungry ruler who is credited with building the Greek empire into a powerhouse. He inspired tremendous loyalty among his men such that they would sacrifice their lives to help him achieve his vision. Alexander pledged to grow and protect the Greek empire, and in doing so, created the largest land-based empire up to that time. Alexander was a brilliant military commander, was undefeated in battle, and his tactics are still taught today. Through his conquests, the Greek culture was spread throughout the world, resulting in the Hellenistic Period.
Expansion and Long-Lasting Impact of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. – 1453 A.D.)
Like Ancient Greece, the Ancient Roman civilization had a wide-ranging impact on Western Civilization. Some of the most significant contributions of the Roman Empire center on language, government, jurisprudence, and engineering. For example, several languages, including French, Spanish, and Italian, have evolved from Latin and are known as the “Romance languages.” The three branches of the United States government are similar to the Roman model, while concepts in practice today such as veto rights, the balance of powers, and democratic representation were developed by the Romans. From a jurisprudence perspective, concepts such as jury trials, civil rights, and wills all owe their origins to the Roman legal system. The engineering skills of the Romans are still on display today in the neoclassical architecture that influenced many of the building one sees today in Washington DC today. The Romans also developed a network of roads that allowed armies to move quickly and increased trade. The Romans also built aqueducts to transport water to cities. Finally, Rome was (is) home to the Catholic Church, which exerted great influence over Europe for many years.
Islam in the World (600-700 A.D.)
The rise of Islam in the world can be traced to the emergence of Muhammad and his preaching in Mecca, a city that served as an important connection point on trade routes. Previously, much of Arabia was polytheist, but Muhammad preached a monotheistic view with Allah as the sole deity. He was eventually able to convert much of Arabia to his vision, and Mecca emerged as a very important location in the Muslin faith. After Muhammad died, the Islamic community unraveled until a new leader (Caliph) emerged, who in turn embarked on an expansionist path via Islamic armies that pushed the Muslim faith into new territories. The Islamic civilization had notable impacts on Europe, such as the retention and study of Aristotle’s works and preservation of Greek philosophy and scientific know-how.
The Vikings (793 A.D.- 12th Century)
The Vikings are an important and integral part of our class because they were probably the first people who originally found the New World in Newfoundland, as well as conquering islands such as Greenland and Iceland. The Vikings were forced to the seas due to overpopulation and poor conditions for growing food in Scandinavia. Therefore, the Vikings hopped in boats and raided the food supplies of other people and would pillage those lands for their own purposes. These seafaring skills allowed the Vikings to cross the Atlantic and discover North America.
The Renaissance and its effect on the World (1300-1600 A.D.)
The Renaissance originated in Italy during the 1300’s and then sprung to other locations such as France, England, and the Netherlands. During this period, history witnessed the reemergence of European interest in technology, exploration, and art. The Renaissance created the foundation for the age of European exploration and global domination. It also produced several great artists and other intellects. The Renaissance also set the stage for several notable movements, such as the Protestant Revolution, the Age of Exploration, the development of the printing press, and the beginning of the Age of Reason. Furthermore, the foundations of the Industrial Revolution and modern Capitalism can be traced back to the Renaissance.
The Black Death (1347- 1350 A.D.)
The Black Death is significant in Western Civilization due to the devastating impact it had on the European population. The term “Black Death” is used to describe the spread of the Bubonic plague. It is estimated that Europe’s population declined by 50% as a result of the plague. In fact, nearly 20 million Europeans lost their lives to the plague in the first wave. Historians believe that the plague originated in Asia and was spread via fleas on rodents who traveled on the trade routes between Asia and Europe. As a result, the Black Death is an important lesson in how infectious diseases can spread. The death toll also had a significant impact on the economic losses that accompanied the population drop.
Exploration of People into the World (1401-1500 A.D.)
This period of time is often referred to as the “Age of Exploration” or the “Age of Discovery.” It is important in the history of Western Civilization because European explorers traveled the world seeking new trade routes and coincided with the rise of absolute monarchies in Europe, which funded much of this exploration. During this time, Europeans also made advances in shipbuilding technology and navigation skills that allowed these explorers to travel farther and hold more cargo. Portugal is thought to have started the Age of Exploration, followed by Spain, France, and England. The Renaissance period ushered in a new curiosity, which led to the European interest in exploring foreign cultures. The Age of Exploration also led to the development of new settlements in areas such as North America.
Protestant Reformation and the Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church (1517-1648 A.D.)
The Protestant Reformation is an important development in Western Civilization because it was a period of significant change in political, religious, and cultural norms that created a chasm in Catholic Europe. The authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church’s authority to set the parameters for the Christian faith was questioned by the likes of Henry VIII and Martin Luther. The Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther’s publication of “95 Theses.” The main idea behind the Reformation was that the Bible should be the source of spiritual authority and not some tradition that was created by the Catholic Church. Martin Luther used the printing press as a tool to spread the word of the Reformation, thus ushering in the age of mass communication. The Reformation reshaped Europe; it is estimated that Germany lost 40% of its population during the Thirty Years’ War. Nonetheless, the Reformation increased the profiles of European universities and led to the creation of the Lutheran church.