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Greece’s Effect on Western Civilization

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The ancient Greek civilization began at around 2000 B.C. It was a very progressive civilization that developed new ideas in fields of science, geometry, philosophy, sports, and government. Greek civilization set a basis for Western civilization and influenced it greatly. Although the Greeks had contributed many ideas to Western civilization such as democratic form of government and advances in math and sciences, the ultimate contribution of the Greek civilization was the idea that through human reason and learning from mistakes, anything can be achieved by a human being, given the opportunity.

Today most western countries have democratic governments based on the same government structure that the Greeks introduced to the world. Pericles, a Greek statesman that contributed to the development of a direct democracy in Greece, stated the following in one of his speeches: “our plan of government favors the many instead of the few: that is why it is called a democracy.”(Doc. 3) He goes on further to say that “every citizen has an equal opportunity to serve the public… no matter how low his position on the social scale” (Doc. 3). Similar to the democracies of today, the Greek democracy gave opportunities to serve the public to any citizen who wanted to, regardless of their social status. These Greek ideas define modern democracy in Western civilization.

Many ideas used by modern science were originated by the great Greek thinkers such as Euclid, Hippocrates and Archimedes. “If two straight lines cut one another, the vertical, or opposite, angles shall be equal“ (Doc. 5), is Euclid’s proposition 15, which is taught in all American high schools today (including University High School), as part of Euclidian geometry. Every doctor in the western civilization takes the Hippocratic oath to do no harm (Doc.4). Columns, similar to those in the Parthenon (Doc. 7), are a part of many modern structures. These and many other Greek concepts form the basis and are a part of modern science, architecture, medicine and mathematics.

Most countries in the Western civilization provide equal rights and opportunities to their citizens based on the idea that humans have the capacity to think, learn from their mistakes and achieve their dreams, which was pioneered by Greek philosophers. A great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said that “Human reason is the most godlike part of human nature”(Doc.2). While another Greek philosopher, Socrates, said that” the unexamined life is not worth living” (Doc. 1). What these two great men are saying is through their ability to reason, human beings are able to learn from their mistakes and find opportunities to improve themselves. It is this idea that propels the western civilization to reach new heights in every aspect of life. Overall, the three main ideas that the Greeks contributed to Western civilization were the democratic form of government, advances in math and sciences, and the philosophical ideas about human ability to improve through reason and self-examination. It is hard to imagine what Western civilization would look like without these ideas. Without a doubt many modern achievements in sciences, form of government and quality of life, would not be possible without these significant contributions.

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