Which empire did the most to push civilization further?

Discussion in 'History' started by ylooshi, Dec 24, 2007.


Which empire did the most to push civilization further?

  1. The Mongols

    1 vote(s)
  2. The Persian

    2 vote(s)
  3. The Greek

    8 vote(s)
  4. The Roman

    8 vote(s)
  5. The Ottoman

    1 vote(s)
  6. The British

    10 vote(s)
  7. Other (explain in-thread)

    5 vote(s)
  1. Pandaemoni Valued Senior Member

    In terms of full-fledged "civilization" Sumer (as well as the Indus Valley, Egypt and a few others) is usually ranked as being older than China, by about 1300-2200 years in the case of Sumer. Obviously people were living in China during and before the rise of Sumer, and had a culture, but it didn't rise to the level of a civilization.

    See, for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization#African_and_Eurasian_civilizations_of_the_.22Old_World.22

    Evidence suggests that agriculture also began in the middle east and was the spur that sparked civilizations. Only once that made its way to China (stoen by the Chinese!

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    ), were they able to settle in fixed locations and start a true civilization.
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  3. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The whole of East Asia is populated by people that we group in the "mongoloid race." The Mongolic people themselves were quite prolific, adventurous and influential in prehistory. Based solely on language families, they include the Mongolians themselves, the Japanese, Manchurians and Koreans, the Ural-Altaic peoples and the Finno-Ugric peoples. That's a pretty wide swath of territory and a lot of widely spread seed--before we even get into their forays in historical times, such as the Huns, Magyars and Ottomans! The human-wolf voluntary multi-species community was first created in what is now western China and every dog on earth is a descendant of that pack. As I have expounded in great detail elsewhere, it's very likely that our ability to live in harmony and cooperation with another species gave us the idea that we might be able to try it with the tribe of humans in the next valley and made civilization possible. The three main migrations to the New World also are traced to that region, so it's just as likely that the ancestors of the Indians--as well as the people responsible for the development that made civilization possible--were the people who became the Mongols, not the people who became the Chinese.
    I don't think you'll find a single linguist who agrees with that hypothesis. Writing is an artifact of civilization. There is no evidence of the technology of writing being invented by pre-civilized people. It would be impossible-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt for the Mesolithic nomads, and quite a stretch of the imagination and not obviously an invention-as-the-daughter-of-necessity for the Neolithic farmers. In fact writing has never even been one of the earliest technologies invented by city folk. Ceramics, bronze... a lot of other sophisticated technology seems to always come a thousand years or more before writing. The Incas never even got around to it before they were obliterated by the Christian occupiers.
    The Moguls did not conquer India until the middle of the last millennium. The modern positional decimal numbering system was perfected in the first millennium CE. India gets the credit for the original development, but the Arabs added the zero that made it the practical technology that it is today. It was brought to Europe by Leonardo Fibonacci after traveling to Asia in the thirteenth century, which I believe still predates the Mogul Empire. I--and many real scholars--agree that the Indians and Arabs share the credit.

    Since China was the original civilization in that region of the world--one of the six original civilizations--there could be no one before them with a writing system to assimilate.

    BTW the Moguls were not Arabs. That's just a mangling of the name "Mongol." They came from the northeast after being converted by Islamic missionaries. An earlier branch of that same invasion came through central Asia and after intermarrying with everyone they met along the way became the Ottoman people. Turkish is a Mongolic language and the Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Kazahk and Turkmen are also Turkic people speaking related languages. (The Tajiks are an Indo-Iranian people if you're wondering why I left one of the Stans off that list.)
    Many if not all early writing systems were ideograms. It's likely that writing is just an evolution from symbols that are developed one at a time as needed: "Watering Hole," "Latrine," "Quicksand," "Really Mean Bear," "Tasty Berries," "Poison Toadstools," "Hot Chicks."

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    Ideograms have a tremendous advantage for primitive people, which is that literacy can be acquired gradually. Learn the symbols you need and leave the rest for later. There are people in China today who only know a few hundred han zi and that's all they need to conduct their business. That's not a difficult achievement, I learned that many without using them very often. Reading words phonetically takes years of dedicated practice, especially in an alphabet that is as damnably un-phonetic as English or French.

    I doubt very much that anyone sat down and said, "Let's devise a way of transcribing our entire language in phonetic symbols." They said, "Let's draw a stylized picture of a bear on the trail to the bear cave to warn people."
    Humans had lived in Eurasia for 70,000 years when they'd only been in the Americas for a little over ten thousand. They'd had a chance to settle down and think about developing technology. Just as importantly, they'd started to overcrowd the land and deplete its resources, and needed ways to survive that challenge. The Neolithic Era and the Age of Civilization started much later in the New World. So by the time the Christians came with their steel and gunpowder, it was still the Stone Age on most of both continents, and the Bronze age in two modest-sized regions.
    The Inuit and their kinfolk have the distinction of very nearly spanning the entire circumference of the globe, albeit at a very high latitude. From Greenland, across North America, then across Siberia, all the way to the border of Lappland; Scandinavia is the only discontinuity in what would be a complete circle.
    Polynesians colonized Easter Island. But the ability to build seafaring craft does not correlate with civilization and the Polynesians were a Neolithic people. They did not have the means to conquer and occupy the South American mainland, at a time when the forerunners of Inca civilization were already on the cusp of the Bronze Age.
    That's a remarkably Eurocentric opinion to voice on an international forum and I'm waiting for our Indian members to respond.

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    One of the things that Mespotamian civilization (including its Greco-Roman, Persian, Ottoman and Arabic offshoots) developed was monotheism. For reasons I've hypothesized in other threads, monotheism has deadlocked our cultural development at the tribal level, leaving our civilization under the constant threat of obliteration by incessant wars between tribes increasingly well-armed by compulsive progress in technology which outpaces our social progress. The world's two other surviving civilizations have given us polytheism and religions that do not even emphasize supreme beings such as Buddhism and the Dao. Despite their own level of intolerance and warfare, one of those civilizations boasts a single gigantic nation, China, with a continuous uninterrupted existence measured in millennia. I would not brag about the achievements of the Indo-Europeans just yet.

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    The Chinese developed gunpowder for ritual entertainment and didn't adapt it to weaponry. We developed nuclear fission for the specific purpose of using it in warfare. Which is the more mature civilization?
    Definitely. Agriculture both permitted and required people to build permanent settlements. Without that they could never develop the technologies that made civilization possible, or even contemplate the possibility.
    No. Agriculture, like writing, bows-and-arrows, and many other technologies including civilization itself, was invented independently by more than one people at different times. Agriculture was invented in South America around 7000BCE, for example, and there's clearly no connection to the Old World. The first cultivated plants were fruits: figs in Mesopotamia, peppers in Peru. Animal husbandry came later, although some people claim there's evidence of experimentation with the domestication of horses as early as 15000BCE, but apparently it didn't work out. The first animals domesticated themselves. Dogs came because hunting in cooperative packs provided more food for everybody. Pigs and goats came to eat our garbage. (Some argue that that's actually what brought the dogs too.) Cats came to eat the rodents that were wreaking havoc in our granaries.
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  5. kmguru Staff Member

    Last edited: Dec 30, 2007
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  7. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    it's hard to pick because they all played a role in their respective ways. i picked mongols because they opened up the trade routes and silk road. Without that, history would have unfolded totally differently.
  8. Frud11 Banned Banned

    Hate to sound so patrician, but without Roman civilisation, and military technology, we wouldn't have the legal system, medicine or physicians, universities, or libraries. Or military academies. With a democratic state as patron (for all the above).

    Of course, what the Romans developed was borrowed. Like everything else is.
  9. Norsefire Salam Shalom Salom Registered Senior Member

    Ah, and the Assyrians, what did they do?
  10. Chatha big brown was screwed up Registered Senior Member

    You've got to be kidding, that route would have been opened sooner or later. They opened up the route but they are some of the most barbaric people ever, their techniques and vandalism is some of the most notorious.

    The romans borrowd a lot of their culture from previous civilization, especially the greeks, you can see this in their architecture and politics. Of importance to the empire was military superemacy, which can hardly be classified as contributing to civility or civility itself; leveling whole societies with a two thousand pound nuclear weapon while sitting on a comfy chair doesn't make you civil.
  11. Frud11 Banned Banned

    Sure, their military advantage (well trained, regular formations, big shields, advanced ballistic weapons) was what gave them access to lots more territory.

    But, they didn't tend to "level whole societies"; rather the idea was to illustrate the lesson of "new leadership and authority". Often this was nailed home, so to speak, with acts of deliberate barbarity and cruelty. Decimation was used to demonstrate that the Romans were unconcerned with individual lives, but wished to rule over a submissive bunch. Tiberius is said to have crucified (I think) 30,000, following the conquest of Syria, along some road (to Damascus?).

    It was a show of strength and will, and to hopefully erase any notions of rebellion, though certainly their methods probably instituted some resentment. But the idea was of a civilising influence (the same colonial ideas that Europe adopted during the various empire building adventures it went, and is still going, through). Regardless of whether they "wanted" it or not. Rome's purpose (to conquer and civilise) was a divine right, made so by the (capricious) gods themselves.

    Jerusalem, and the Jewish nation, were destroyed after yet another uprising, and simply wore Rome's patience too thin.

    The Romans were selfish, but not usually petty. They understood the benefits of education, and so institutionalised it. We have them to thank for all of the public institutions we have today, at least historically, they're the guys who brought things like education, medicine, and conscription and other military developments; and they cemented the ideas of a republic (though they were a dictatorship), a senate or house of representatives, and so on.
    Sure these ideas all came from Greek civilisation, however the influence of Greco-Roman philosophy on the West, is pretty much carved in stone. And Rome gave the Greeks plenty, too.
  12. vscythian Registered Member

    Actually, according to Herodotus, I think it was first Lydia that started using coined money.
  13. tim840 Registered Senior Member

    I recently saw - but did not read - a book which alleged that Chinese diplomats on a mission to Italy triggered the Renaissance by demonstrating the sophistication of their society and sciences to the Europeans. It was called 1434, by Gavin Menzies.
  14. superstring01 Moderator

    I should have voted for Rome, but I clicked British first.

    I'm a pretty big fan of Persia as well.

  15. Mr.Spock Back from the dead Valued Senior Member

    im stuck between romans and Greek.
  16. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    The Indian [Indus] civilisation of course. Harappa and Moenjo daro were the point from where civilisation spread outward. The Vedas are thousands of years old and form the core of all social and religious principles in society from mono and poly theism to agnosticism and atheism. This is far far before anyone elsewhere was even out of their caves.
  17. Pinwheel Banned Banned

    What year was this happening?
  18. Scaramouche Registered Member


    Roman was just following on from the Greek example. Some of the Middle Eastern empires were earlier, but they fizzled out and did not lead to successors as the Greek did. The Greeks gave us the Romans Empire, which gave us the Holy Roman Empire, which lead through twists and turns to Renaissance Europe and the modern world. To me, there's a direct line from ancient Athens to our civilisation.
  19. Scaramouche Registered Member

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke-Ornamented_Pottery_Culture (These guys had observatories 3,000 years before the first Egyptian pyramid.)

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