Greece and Rome

 

It is difficult to understand how a relatively small group of people could make so many contributions to the human heritage in such a short period of time, but this is what the Greeks accomplished between about 600 and 200 BCE. The Greeks were traders and travelers, and they gathered much from older civilizations, and some of their contributions were in the form of synthesis, but their original contributions were nevertheless outstanding.

 

Greece is a mountainous peninsula surrounded by many small islands. This environment, and their location in the Eastern Mediterranean were conducive to a trading economy, but they also encumbered the formation of a strong political unity. The result was a set of independent city-sate communities with some cultural and cooperative ties. Beyond the peninsula and islands, Greek settlements reached into parts of Italy and Asia Minor.

 

The threat of the Persian Empire motivated some degree of military cooperation among the Greek cities, which were able to defeat several Persian invasions. The city of Athens achieved some preeminence during the fifth century, but its leadership was continuously challenged by other cities, and most of the cities were involved in costly wars among themselves. Political unity was imposed by the Macedonians, their neighbor to the North. The Macedonian Alexander the Great (356 323 BCE) went on to conquer much of the known world around the Eastern Mediterranean during the fourth century. After his death, his generals divided his empire among themselves, forming local dynasties that spread and maintained Greek culture until the emergence of the Romans.

 

The Romans assimilated Greek culture and spread it further through their conquests. They also made some original contributions in Medicine, Law and Engineering.