We explain what the Ancient Age is and what characterized its beginning. In addition, its general characteristics and stages into which it is divided. How is the Ancient Age classified and what are the main characteristics of the Ancient Ages?
The Ancient Age ended with the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
What was the Ancient Age?
The Ancient Age is the historiographic period that begins approximately between 4,000 and 3,000 BC, with the appearance of writing, and ends with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.
Antiquity is the first period for which relatively accurate historiography can be carried out, thanks to the fact that writing makes it possible to obtain documents on historical facts, customs and beliefs.
It is the longest age in history as the following are:
1. Middle Ages. It extends from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the discovery of America in 1492. It is characterized by the fragmentation of political power in Europe, the development of culture associated with religious values, and a strong division of social classes.
2. Modern Age. It lasted until the French Revolution in 1789. It is characterized by the apogee of monarchies, the reappearance of great empires and cities, the accelerated development of sciences and arts, and the social and economic mobility of a new social class: the bourgeoisie.
3. Contemporary Age. It is the one that reaches the present day. It is characterized by an accelerated advance of technology and its profound influence on daily life, by the development of capitalism as a socio-economic system, and by the establishment of global centers and peripheries.
Characteristics of the Ancient Age:
This civilization settled in Asia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, changing its political organization between the unification and division between Upper Mesopotamia and Lower Mesopotamia. Together with the Egyptians, they were the first to develop writing, around 4,000 BC.
It is considered the cradle of civilization since the first settlements were established here, which led to organized social and political forms.
2. Ancient Egypt
Diverse populations are grouped in Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt around 4,000 BC. It was unified under Pharaoh Menes in 3,100 B.C. This civilization was organized on the banks of the Nile River.
Its political organization was monarchical, with an important priestly class. Its importance is due to being one of the first civilizations to develop writing, as well as to its monumental works of architecture, such as the pyramids.
3. Ancient Greece
It is considered the cradle of Western culture, as its philosophy, political organization, and art continue to influence Western culture to this day.
The first signs of an organized civilization began in 1200 BC and continued as an independent people until 145 BC when they were invaded by Rome. In Greece, the political system of democracy was born, although at that time it had a different meaning since it did not include women or slaves.
4. Roman Empire
The Roman civilization began to develop approximately in the 8th century B.C. and became an empire, reaching its greatest splendor under the Julio-Claudian dynasty during the 1st century. The empire came to extend along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea and even reached the part of the current territory of the United Kingdom to the North and Mesopotamia to the East.
Different cultures develop particular forms of writing:
Egyptian writing. It begins approximately in 3300 with a hieroglyphic form, that is to say, that the symbols represented objects. Subsequently, it evolved into simpler and more abbreviated forms: hieratic and demotic writing.
Mesopotamian writing. It begins approximately 4,000 B.C. and develops at the same time as Egyptian writing, parallel. It begins as ideographic writing, that is to say, that objects are represented to symbolize objects, and then it represents sounds. It`s called cuneiform writing because it was shaped like wedges or nails used to write on clay.
Greek script. The ancestor of our alphabet, with twenty-four signs. The first sign system to include vowels.
6. Great empires and cities
In earlier times, that is, in prehistoric times, human groups were organized in small villages, some of them nomadic. In contrast, in the Ancient Ages, populations settled in one place permanently, so cities began to replace camps. To defend themselves against possible attackers, walled cities were created.
Some of these cities expanded into empires, centralizing power in one man or a parliament. Empires resulted in the spread of the language, religion, customs, and architecture of the empire.
Most ancient religions were polytheistic, meaning that different gods were worshipped, generally representing the forces of nature. These religions were not usually dogmatic, i.e. the gods did not expect certain behavior from their followers, but rather certain offerings at certain times of the year.
The exceptions are Judaism and Islam, which are monotheistic and dogmatic religions. Later, also Christianity.
8. Social classes
Social classes were immovable and were inherited from parents. The class was associated with the occupation. They were divided into:
Monarchs. Kings and pharaohs could only accede to power by being descendants of a previous king or by defeating him in battle.
Aristocracy. Relatives and ministers of the kings.
Religious and intellectual class. Monarchies had divine legitimacy, so the religious class was always close to the king.
Artisans, merchants, and peasants. They were in charge of providing the population with objects of daily use.
Slaves. They came from conquered peoples.
9. First laws
The administration of large populations required regulations to facilitate coexistence. That is why the first written codes and laws are found in Antiquity. The first comes from Babylon (Mesopotamia) and is called the Code of Hammurabi. In it, penalties are applied for different illegal acts ranging from the payment of money to mutilation or death.
10. Fall of the Western Roman Empire
After a period of decline, which began at the beginning of the 5th century, the last emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by Odoacer on September 4, 476. This occurred after the centralized power had lost effectiveness for decades, losing territories that no longer responded to it.
This is considered to be the end of the Ancient Age because from this moment on Europe, instead of being organized by imperial governments, will be filled with small economic-political administrations called fiefdoms. A type of organization that will characterize the Middle Ages.
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