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The Golden Ages: Greece, Rome, And China Essay, Research Paper

The Golden Ages : Greece, Rome, and China

The Golden Ages of Greece, Rome, and China were periods when certain cultures reached many achievements in certain fields. These fields could include drama, poetry, sculpture, philosophy, architecture, math or science. Their achievements in education, technology, and government have greatly influenced modern society. The artistic and literal legacies of these periods continue to instruct and inspire people today (Beck 120).

In Ancient Greece, the great heights that were reached in education, technology, and government led them to their Golden Age. Included in the vast education of Greece were philosophy and literature. Socrates was one of the most famous philosophers of that time. He was a very powerful thinker and developed a question and answer method of teaching known as the “Socratic Method” (Watson 63). Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and neglecting the city’s gods. For this he was put on trial and the jury sentenced him to death. He chose to die slowly by drinking the poison hemlock. Another noted philosopher was Plato. He had studied with Socrates. Plato opened a school known as “The Academy”, which lasted for about 900 years (Watson 63). One of Plato’s students was the famous Aristotle, who followed in Plato’s footsteps and opened a school of his own, called “The Lyceum” (Watson 63). In the field of literature, Homer was known for composing his epic adventures. These were the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”(Clapham 53). His epics were narrative poems that celebrated heroic deeds (Clapham 53). Greece’s technological advances consist of architecture and sculpture. One of the most important pieces of architecture was the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built to honor the goddess of war, Athena. It is located on the acropolis, and shows classical Greek ideals of balance and proportion in art (Watson 63). Its 46 support columns and decorative relief panels add character and add to its beauty (Watson 63). The Theater at Delphi is built into the natural setting of its surroundings. It held public theater performances during the fifth century B.C. along with hundreds of other theaters built in central Greece (Watson 63). In the art of sculpting, sculptors aimed to create figures that were strong, graceful, and perfectly formed and their faces showed only serenity (Beck 121). Their values of order, balance, and proportion became the standard of what is called classical art (Beck 121). One example of classical art is the statue of the goddess Athena, by Phidias, which stood 38 feet tall (Watson 63). Greece’s strong government was made up of a direct democracy. In a direct democracy, citizens rule directly without any representatives (Clapham 59). There were three branches of government : legislative, executive, and judicial (Falls 161). The legislative passed laws, the executive carried out the laws, and the judicial held trials (Falls 161). Only males, ages 18 or older were allowed to be citizens (Clapham 59). Administrators were not appointed by election or nomination, but by lot (Clapham 59). Male citizens met several times a month in a general assembly where each citizen had a vote (Clapham 59). Any man could propose a motion and if it received a majority of votes, it normally became a law (Clapham 59). Only another assembly or the Athenian courts could overrule it (Clapham 60). Its members changed every year by rotation and no one could serve more then two years (Clapham 60).

As in Greece, Ancient Rome reached great heights in the fields of education, technology, and government that led them to their Golden Age. Astronomy, along with mathematics and physics made up the bulk of Rome’s much noted educational contributions. Aristarchus was an educated astronomer who disproved the belief that the sun was smaller then Greece (Watson 67). He proposed that the planets revolved around the sun (Watson 67). Another highly regarded astronomer was Eratosthenes. He used geometry to calculate the circumference of the earth at 24,4662 miles (Beck 133). His estimate was within one percent of our calculation at 24,860 miles (Beck 133). Not only was he an astronomer, but also a poet, historian, and a mathematician. In the fields of mathematics and physics, Euclid and Archimedes made many accomplishments. Euclid was a highly regarded mathematician who opened a geometry school in Alexandria. He is best known for his textbook, “The Elements” (Watson 68) . It contains 465 geometry propositions and proofs (Watson 68). It was used by Muslim and European universities into the 1900’s (Watson 69). Archimedes was a scientist who studied at Alexandria (Clapham 68). He accurately estimated the value of pi, which is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (Watson 73). Rome’s technological advances included many inventions and types of architecture. Archimedes explained the law of the lever and invented the compound pulley to lift heavy objects (Clapham 82). He also invented Archimedes screw, a device that raises water from the ground, and a catapult or missile throwing machine (Clapham 82). Other scientists invented the force pump, pneumatic machines, and a steam engine from Archimedes’ ideas (Watson 89). Ancient Rome used many different types of architecture in building. Arches, domes and concrete were used to help make many buildings during this time (Falls 206). Also, they used aqueducts, or pipes that brought water to cities and towns (Falls 207). Rome’s strong government was made up of a republican government. In this type of government, the power rests with the citizens who have the right to vote to select their leaders. Citizenship with voting rights was only granted to free-born males, ages 18 or older (Watson 83). There were three branches of government : executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive was composed of two consuls, elected by the assembly for one year (Watson 83). The legislative was composed of the senate, centuriate assembly and the tribal assembly (Watson 83). The senate was made up of 300 members, chosen for life who control foreign/financial policies, and advise consuls (Watson 83). The centuriate assembly was made up of citizens and soldiers who were chosen for life (Watson 83). They selected consuls and made laws. The tribal assembly was made up of citizens who were members for life and they elected tribunes and made laws (Watson 84). The judicial were composed of praetors: eight judges chosen for one year by the centuriate assembly (Watson 84). Two oversee civil and criminal courts while the others govern provinces (Watson 84). Also, Rome was famous for their legal code. This was known as the Twelve Tables, which was a list of rules that were the basis of the Roman legal system (Watson 84).

The Golden Age of China took place during the Tang and Song Dynasties. At this time, education, government, and technological advances flourished the most. In the educational fields, China was talented in poetry and art. Li Bo was a poet who wrote about life’s pleasures (Cotterell 184). Also, Du Fo was another poet who praised orderliness and confucious virtues (Cotterell 184). He wrote about war and the hardship of soldiers because he was once captured and taken to Chang’on, the capital city (Cotterell 185). In Chinese art, beauty and expression were important areas to focus on. There was an obvious Daoist influence on the art because artists emphasized the beauty of natural landscapes (Beck 290). The artists usually focused on loft mountains, rippling brooks, or even single branches or flowers. The artists did not like bright colors, and black was their favorite paint (Beck 290). The Song Dynasty had many technological advances because of the many inventions that occurred during this time. Porcelain was a valuable export. It is a bone-hard white ceramic that is made of a special clay and minerals found only in China (Beck 289). The Mechanical Clock was machinery that was driven by running water, which regulated its movements (Beck 289). There were two different types of printing that were invented. These were block printing and movable type. Block printing is when one block on a whole page is cut (Beck 289). Movable type is when individual characters are arranged in frames, used over and over (Beck 289). Printing technology spread to Korea and Japan, and also developed later in Europe (Beck 289). Gunpowder is an explosive powder made from a mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal (Cotterell 188). It was first used for fireworks, then weapons. The technology spread west within 300 years (Cotterell 188). Paper money developed when paper currency was issued by the Song government to replace strings of metal cash that were used by merchants (Beck 289). It added to the development of large-scale commercial economy in China (Cotterell 188). The magnetic compass is a floating magnetized needle that always points north-south (Cotterell 189). It had existed in China centuries before it was adapted by sailors for use at sea. It helped China to become a sea power and its technology quickly spread west (Cotterell 189). China’s strong government was a centralized bureaucracy. In this type of government, there is a group of non-elective government officials (Cotterell 181). The bureaucratic government of the Song Dynasty was staffed with civilian scholar officials (Cotterell 181). The civilian scholar officials replaced military governors and their supporters (Cotterell 181). This system of civilian rule led to a greater concentration of power in the emperor, Sung Taizu, and his palace bureaucracy then had been achieved in the previous dynasties (Cotterell 181).

In conclusion, the Golden Ages of Greece, Rome, and China have produced many achievements that helped to guide people such as inventors, scientists, and mathematicians. Some of the accomplishments reached during theses periods have provided the basis for political and other systems used today. My essay helps us to recognize the great achievements of the Golden Ages of Greece, Rome, and China. I question wether or not we would have excelled as far in our fields of education today if many of the foundations had not been set for us in these Classical Periods.

Capham, F. Ancient Civilizations New York: Warwick Press, 1978

Cotterell, A. and Yong Yap. The Early Civilizations of China

New York: Yong Yap and Cotterell, 1975

Falls, C.B. The First 3000 Years: Ancient Civilizations of the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile River Valleys and the Mediterranean Sea New York: The Viking Press, 1960

Watson, Jane Werner. Greece: Land of Gold Light Illinois: Garrard Publishing Company, 1967

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