History of ancient civilization




History of ancient civilization
History of ancient civilization

In the history of civilization, Ideally, the subject matter of History is a man and all that man has thought, said and done since the dawn of civilization.


For practical purpose, however, history cannot include every thought, every word, every action or event in which man has been involved, for all the thoughts, words, and actions of millions of men through countless generations only a minute fragment can be known today, and even that minute fragment can be known only imperfectly through such written records as survive and through the mute evidence of those things man has made which have withstood the ravages of time.

The history we can know, the history we can learn and study is, therefore, something much less comprehensive than history considered as the sum of all past events.

History then might be defined by analogy as the recorded memory of mankind


Teaching and learning are most effectively conjoined when an alert and informed teacher engages in an informal discussion with a small group of alert and informed students. If the subject is history, the students will on their own initiative and with mounting enthusiasm spend much time in the library, where they will be provided tables and the necessary books for an independent study of the subject.

One or twice the professor or teacher will meet with the students or his pupils. In so small group he may dispense with lectures- those exercises in which students assemble, and amiably and passively sit while the teacher with great advantage to himself clarifies his ideas by oral discourse.

the student also will have an opportunity to clarify their ideas by oral discourse. Teaching and learning will then be conjoined as they always must be to be any way effective: professor and pupils, each according to his talent, will be both teachers and learners.


Collins English Dic. Defines civilization as a human society that has highly developed material spiritual resources and a complex cultural, political and legal organization: an advanced state social development.

K.B.C Onwubiko in his book “History” defines civilization as the living happily and pleasantly together of people in large numbers, each man receiving good from his fellow men and owing duties towards them. It is the ability of people to live peacefully with their fellow creatures to organize a government, erect buildings and make advances in the arts and crafts.

The word civilization (Latin civilis pertaining to civis citizen) is comparatively young.

VOLTAGE-a French writer whose outspoke belief in religious, political and social liberty made him the embodiment of the 18th-century enlightenment said “I want to know what were the steps by which men passed from barbarism to civilization.

CIVILIZATION- A term coined in the eighteenth century and derived from all means cities, a human institution less than 10,000 years old. Cities mean literacy, organization and specialization of work. The History of civilization must thus seek to analyse the gradual increase of literacy, organization and specialization over the (cast three millennia ) a history of civilization must be a history of art, literature and ideas.

The earliest civilizations arose as early as 3,000 B.C in the great river valleys of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China.

The first recognized Western civilization only appeared after 1,000 B.C in the Greek city-states of Greece, Asia Minor, Southern Italy and Sicily.


The earth we live on is probably about five billion years old. Primitive plant and animal life first appeared between a billion and two billion years ago. But the first mammals developed only two or three hundred million years ago, and the earliest remains so far discovered of apelike beings whom we recognize as foreshadowing the future development of mankind are probably only between three and four million years old. Since the late 1900s, there have been many dramatic discoveries of such remains in equatorial east Africa, notable in Tanzania, and in Ethiopia.

These discoveries have pushed further back in time the first appearance of recognisably manlike beings. Extract dates are still controversial. So apes, those who lived in trees, and those who abandoned the trees and lived on the ground and began to walk erect, and slowly developed larger brains. Scientists whose speciality is early man-anthropologists-debate intensely the exact meaning of each new discovery. Science is changing fast.

We still cannot date precisely the moment when creatures transitional between apes and men, and therefore mankind (hominids), developed into species that were true men (homo, Latin for “Man”) homo habilis, “the skilful man, “was making crude stone tools more than a million and a half years ago. But his brain was less than half as big as ours. Remains of Homon Erectus, the man who stands up straight were discovered in the 1880s in java. He had a larger brain than Homo habilis, stood about five feet tall, and lived in Europe and Africa as well as Asia between a million and a half million years ago. He had a fire and made stone axes.

The earliest man that many of us heard of was Neanderthal man, named for the valley of the Neander River in Germany, where his remains were first discovered. He lived widespread in Europe and the neighbouring parts of Asia and Africa. Reconstructions of his skull made him look even more apelike than he probably was. He made better tools.

In one case at least, he showed himself almost human: in a Neandertal burial, the corpse was placed to rest on a heaping basket of flowers. Neanderthal man was not yet Homo sapiens, “the man who knows”, the species to which all present human beings belong. Probably around 70,000 years ago, the earliest specimens of Homosapies were already living in Europe along with Neanderthal man. For the last 40,000 years or so, Homo sapiens has dominated the earth. Our real business is with him.

Homo sapiens and their predecessors were living in what is called the old stone Age (palaeolithic). For hundreds of thousands of years, progress was immensely slow. Man’s first tools were stones he used to chip other stones into weapons and other tools. All these centuries upon centuries belong to prehistory, rather than to history. The palaeolithic man left remains scattered widely in Europe and Asia. He took refuge in Africa from the glaciers that periodically moved South over the Northern continents and made life impossible there.

Wherever he went, he hunted to eat and fought and killed his enemies. He learned how to cook his food, how to take shelter from the cold in caves, and eventually how to specialize his tools. He made bone needles with which animal sinews; he made hatches, spears arrowheads, awls.

One day in 1940, two boys in Southwest France were hunting rabbits when their dog suddenly disappeared down in a hole. Following the dog, the boys fell into an underground cave hidden fr thousands of years. The light of their torches revealed an extraordinary series of paintings on its limestone walls. They saw animals portrayed in brilliant colours with astonishing realism and artistry: deer, bison, horses, and others.

These were pained toward the end of the Paleolithic period by cro-magnon man, true Homo sapiens, often standing as tall as six feet for inches and with a large brain. Lascaux, where the paintings were found, became one of the great tourist centres of Europe. By 1960 the breath of so many thousands of visitors gazing in wonder began to damage the pictures, which had been sealed away from moisture for so many thousands of years; so the cave is now closed to the public.

At Altamira, in northern Spain, similar cave pictures, not quite so splendid, had long been known but had suffered from souvenir hunters. Long exposed to air and changing temperatures, they are immune to moisture. They are the most easily visible proof of the artistic skills of Paleolithic spectacular as those at Lascaux and Altamira.

Why did the Paleolithic artist paint the pictures? Did he think that by putting animals on his walls he could improve his chances as a hunter? Would their pictures give him power over them, and so guarantee his supply of food? Were the different animal totems of different families or clans? Sometimes on the walls of the caves, we find paintings of human hands, often with a finger or fingers missing. Were these hands efforts to ward off evil spirits? Or were they prayers by hunters and warriors that they should not suffer mutilation of their hands? Palaeolithic men also produced small female statuettes, sometimes overemphasizing the breasts, buttocks and sexual organs. Modern archaeologists call the theme “venuses”. Were these fertility symbols? Or love charms?

Until about ten years ago, such unanswerable questions were the only ones that scholars had asked about the achievements of Paleolithic man. But an archaeologist named Alexander Marshack has now studied again the vast amount of Paleolithic material in European museums. Marshak found numerous objects- a mammoth tusk, bones of various animals, a pebble, several short staffs of Ivory, a pair of eagle bones- dating from perhaps 32,000 B.C to 12,000 B.C on which there were markings that he interpreted as the records of lunar months.

Late old stone Age man was most likely keeping a kind of calendar to help him predict regular seasonal changes from year to year. Such a calendar would allow him to plan his hunting life and other activities, such as the preparation of skins for clothing. These discoveries teach us how important time was to the late old stone age man. Suddenly his mind seems so advanced that the “mystery” of his artistic skills becomes far less mysterious.

Sometimes his time records accompany artistic representations of animals. On the same piece of ivory from Southwest France appear a budding flower, sprouting plants, grass snakes, a salmon and a seal. Marshack believes this was a symbolic representation of the earth’s reawakening after winter. When the symbols of springtime appear together with the lunar date marks, we are looking at something very like an illustrated calendar. Oher spring events celebrated in Old stone age art include the main season of stages and bison.

Perhaps, the “venuses” were not “sexual” in any simple sense. In a hunting culture, a female image with its suggestion of the female processes also suggests the procession of the seasons. Certain animals reindeer, bison, horses- appear associated with females; others- bears and lions- with males. The men of the late old stone age clearly told tales of the hunt, successful and unsuccessful. They had a ritual that involved killing and sacrifice. They studied the passing of time in the world around them and in the bodies of animals and of mankind.

They carved a nude figure of a woman holding a bison horn that looks exactly like a crescent moon and is marked with thirteen lines. The number of lunar months in a year. Probably she is mankind’s first true goddess. Though old stone age man still remains a dim and remote figure to us, marshark researches for the first time to make him recognizable as fully man.

History of ancient civilization
History of ancient civilization


By about 800 B.C- some ten thousand years ago-man in some places began to pass from the old stone age (Paleolithic) into the New Stone Age (Neolithic). The advances were marked by important changes in his way of life so great that they are sometimes called the “Neolithic Revolution”. They took place unevenly over a period of several thousand years, depending upon conditions. All the changes are found first in the Near East.

One was the domestication of animals for food. The man had long since tamed dogs and used them in the hunt. But when he kept goats, pigs and tender without having to hunt them down they were hardest to overtake. Another change was the fi of plants for food- a kind of wheat and barley. Finally- and this always seems to have been the last step-man who turned his shelter into a house and settled down to live in it. Once he had done all these things, he had made the transition to the new stone age.

Accompanying these fundamental steps went the practice of new art, the baking of clay vessels- pots and bowls and storage jars; than stone. It is chiefly by studying the surviving varieties of such clay vessels and their fragments, and the types of glazes and decoration the potters used, those modern scholars have been able to learn how to date the sites where men lived.

At Jericho in Palestine during the 1950s, archaeologists excavated a town radiocarbon-dated at about 7800 B.C. It extended over about eight acres and included perhaps with conical roof-the oldest permanent houses known. They had a large, columned building in which were found many mud-modelled figurines of animals and statues of a man, a woman, and a male child when people did not yet know how to make pots, which appear only at a larger stage.

In Catal Huyuk in southern Turkey, discovered only in 1961 and dating to 6500 B.C. it extended over about eight acres and included perhaps three thousand inhabitants. These people lived in round houses with conical roofs- the oldest permanent houses are known. They had a large, columned building in which were found many a male child. It was surely a temple of some kind. All these dates from a time when people did not yet know to make pots, which appear only at a later stage.

In Catal Huyuk in Southern Turkey, discovered only in 1961 and dating to 6500 B.C., the people had a wide variety of pottery, grew their own grain, kept sheep, and wove their wool into textiles. In their shrine were found a woman sculptured in relief in the posture of giving birth to a child, a bull’s head, and boars’ heads with women’s breasts running in rows along their lower jaws. The bull and a double axe painted on a wall seem to look forward to two main features of the better-known religion of ancient Crete, as we shall see.

Far to the east, in modern Iraq (Ancient Mesopotomiam “Between the rivers” Tigris and Euphrates) lay Jermo, dated about 4500 B.C a third Neolithic settlement.

A thousand years later Jarmo, about 3550 B.C., and far to the south at Uruk on the banks of Europates River, men were using the plough account to scratch the soil before sowing their seeds. They were keeping the accounts of their temple in simple picture-writing.

The writing was the great leap forward that took the man out of prehistory and into history. Similar advances are found in Egypt too, at roughly the same time. But Mesopotamia took the lead. Indeed, it was from Mesopotamia that the major culture advances, especially the all-important art of writing, came into Egypt and gave the Egyptians a great push into histology.

To the east of Mesopotamia, in northern Iraq, archaeologists during the 1960s found several early Neolithic sites, some of which may even proceed Jericho, although they are not so large or complex or advanced. In south-central Iraq, a brand-new site was discovered in 1967 at Tepe Yahya, a Neolithic Village of about 4500 B.C. Here archaeologists found pottery, small sharpened flints set in a bone handle to make a sickle, and an extraordinary small sculpture in dark greenstone, which is both a female figure and a phallus.

The Neolithic people of the Near East were not necessary any more intelligent than those elsewhere. Indeed, Neolithic remains have also been found in many places in the Mediterranean region, and even far to the north. But in those places, the climate was far less favourable. So even when the Neolithic man eventually controlled his environment- as in the lake settlements of Switzerland, where he built frame houses on piles over the water- the triumph came later, about 2500 B.C

In Australia and New Guinea and in South America there are people today who still live in the Neolithic age. It was the inhabitants of the more favoured regions who got to the great discovered first. It was they who learned copper-smelting and altogether out of the stone age- and into the Bronze age. And it was who first lived in cities.

History of ancient civilization
History of ancient civilization


One may wish now to inquire briefly, as we try to understand how civilization in general arises and takes form, origins of our particular civilization by what steps man of the jungle or the cave became an Egyptian architect, a Babylonia astronomer, a Hebrew project, a Persian governor, a Greek poet, a roman engineer etc.

All over the world seekers are digging it’s the earth: some for gold, some for silver, some for iron, some for coal, many of them for knowledge, we must pass from anthropology through archaeology to history.

In 1839 Jacques Boucher de Perthes found the first stone age flints (a primitive fool) at Abbeville in France- for nine years the world laughed at him as a dupe person who is easily deceived.

In 1872, Schliemann with his own money, almost with his own hands unearthed the youngest of the many cities of Troy, but all the world smiled incredulously.

Every generation since has discovered a new civilization or shed farther and farther back the frontier of man’s knowledge of his development. There are not many things finer in our murderous species than this noble curiosity, this restless and reckless and reckless passion to understand.

Immune volumes have been written to expound man’s knowledge and conceal his ignorance of primitive man. Our concern here is to trace the contributions of these Paleolithic (period of stone Age people) and Neolithic (later part of stone age people) cultures to our contemporary life.

Through these cultures of the old stone Age, the prehistoric man laid the basis of those handicrafts which were to remain part of the European heritage until the industrial revolution.


The origin of use metals was not known, one believes that it came by accident, and one presumes that it began about 400 B.C The oldest known metal to be adapted to human use was copper.

We find it in a lake- Dwelling at Robenhausen Switzerland, C.A, 6000 B.C. In prehistoric Mesopotamia C.a, 4,500 B.C. in Badanan graves of Egypt towards 4000 B.C in the ruins of U.r. C.a, 3100 B.C. and in the relics of the North American Mound-Builders at an unknown age. The age of metals began not with discovery, but with their transformation to human purpose by fire and working.


Though nature suggested many and often gave man copper already mixed and hardened with tin or zinc- forming, therefore ready-made bronze or brass- he may have dallied for centuries before taking the next step. The discovery is at least five thousand years old; for bronze is found in certain remains of 3,000 B.C in Egyptian remains of 2,800 B.C.

Bronze: Bronze is strong and durable, but the copper and tin which were deaded to make it were not available in such convenient quantities and locations as to provide man with the best materials for industry and war.


Fragment of apparently the meteoric iron has been found in predynastic Egypt tombs, and Babylonian inscriptions mention the iron as a costly rarity in Hummurabi’s capital (21000 B.C) An iron foundry perhaps four thousand years old has been discovered in Northern Rhodesia, mining in South Africa is no modern invention, the oldest wrought the iron known is a group of knives found at Gerar, in Palestine and dated by Petrie about 1,350 B.C.


The most important step in the passage to civilization was writing which the ancient people may refer to as signs or graphic symbols in the broad sense. It began with arks impressed by nails or fingers upon the still soft clay to adorn or identify pottery.

Will Durant in his book-our oriental Heritage P.G 105, believes that the oldest graphic symbols known to us are those found by flinders price on shards, vases and stones discovered in the pre-historic tombs of Egypt, Spain and the near-East, to which his usual generosity he attributes an age of seven thousand years.

Certainly by 3,600 B.C. and probably long before that, Elam, Samaria and Egypt had developed a system of thought-pictures, called “retro graphics” and a similar system appeared in Grete c.a, 2,500 B.C.

History of ancient civilization
History of ancient civilization


Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation. Four elements constituted it;

1. Economic provisions

2. Political organization

3. Moral traditions

4. Pursuit of knowledge and the arts

It begins –where chaos and insecurity end. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructiveness are free, and man passes by a natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life.

The factors that encouraged the conditions of civilization.

Geological- (Origin-history, structure and compositions. Civilization is an interlude between ice ages at any time the current of location may arise again, cover with ice and stone the works of man, and reduce life to some narrow segment of the earth. Or the demon of the earthquake, by whose leave we build our cities.

Geographical conditions. The heart of the tropics and the innumerable parasites that infest them are hostile to civilization. Rain is necessary for water is the medium of life, more important even than the light of the sun.

Economic Conditions- are more important-A people may possess ordered institutions, a lofty moral code and even a flair for the minor forms of art, like the American/Indians.

The first form of culture is agriculture, but it comes to flowers only in the towns. There are no racial conditions to civilization.

Civilization is related to race only in the sense that it is often preceded by the slow intermarriage of different stocks and their gradual assimilation into a relatively homogenous (identical parts or of uniform nature people).

The disappearance of these conditions-some times of even one of them may destroy a civilization. Civilizations are the generations or the racial soul and fishing were not stages in economic development they were modes of activity destined to survive into the highest forms of civilized society. Meanwhile, women were making the greatest economic discovery of all-the bounty of the soil while the man hunted she grubbed about the tent or hut for whatever edible things lay ready to her hand on the ground.

We shall never discover when men first noted the function of the seed and turned to collect into sowing, such beginnings are the mysteries of history.

Finally, nature taught man the art of provision the virtue of prudence, the concept of time –e.r.c. the notion of laying up food for the future. He found ways of preserving meat by smoking it, salting it, freezing it, slowly it became apparent that agriculture could provide a better and steadier food supply than hunting. The uncertainty of the food supply made these nature peoples almost literally omnivorous (a habit of eating all kinds of food)- shellfish, sea urchins, frogs, toads, snails, mice rats, spiders, earthworms, scorpions, moths, centipedes, locusts, caterpillars, lizard, snakes, boas, dogs etc.

Some tribes are export hunters dry insects in the sun and then store them for a feat, others pick the lice out of another’s hair and eat.

The Fuegians ranked women above dogs because, they said, dogs tastes of water taste”. In Tahiti, an old Polynesian chief explained his diet to pierrot, the white man, when well roasted, tastes like a recipe banana.

No shame was felt in preferring human flesh, the primitive man seems to have recognized no destruction in morals between eating men and eating other animals. “when I have slain an enemy, explain of a Brazilian philosopher-chief it is surely better to eat him than to let him waste.


If a man began with speech, civilization with Agricultural industry began with the figure. Durant argued that man did not invent it, but probably nature produced the level for him by the friction of leaves or wigs, stroke of lightning or a chance union of chemicals.

Onwubiko in his book “History believe that it is known or when primitive man first discovered fibre, perhaps his first experience of fire was from the volcanic outburst, lightning or forest fibre

Man, said franklin, is a tool-using animal. Only three further development were needed for primitive man to create all the essentials of economic civilization (1) the mechanisms of transport, (2) the process of trade and (3) the medium of exchange.


Primitive communism:

Trade was the great disturber of the primitive world, for until it came, bringing money and profit in its wake, there was no property.

In the early stages of economic development, the property was limited for the most part to things personally used. Almost everywhere, among primitive peoples, the land was owned by the community. The North American Indians, natives of Peru, the Chittagong Hill tribes of India, the Bornean and South sea Islanders seem to have owned and tilled the soil in common and to have shared the fruits together.

The land said, the Omaha Indians, like water and wood she was expected to call could for someone to come and share it with him, before he might just eat alone.

Communism could survive more easily in societies where men were always on the move and danger and want wherever present Hunters and herders had no need of private property in land, but when agriculture became the settled life of men it soon appeared that the land was most fruitfully tilled when rewards of careful husbandry accrued to the family that had provided it consequently- since there’s a natural selection of institution and ideas as well as of organisms and the groups-the passage from hunting to agriculture brought a change from the tribal property, the most economical unit of production became the unit of ownership. As the family took on more of a patriarchal form, with authority centralized, personal property arose.

Agriculture, while generating civilization led not only to private property but to slavery. In purely hunting communities slavery had been unknown, the hunter’s wives and children suffered to do the mental work.

Men devoted themselves to fighting and protecting their families.


(1) The origins of Government

Man is not willingly a political animal. The human male associates with his fellow less by desire than by habit, imitation and the compulsion of circumstance. He does not love society so much as he fears solitude.

If the average man had his way there would probably never have any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government which governs least.

Primitive hunters tend to accept regulation only when they join the hunting pack and prepare for action. The earliest form of continuous social organization was the clan- a group of related families occupying a common tract of land, having the same totem ad governed by the same customs or laws. When a group of clans united under the same chief the tribe was formed and became the second step on the way to the state. But this was a slow development, many more seem to have tolerated them only in times of war.

It is a war that makes the chief, the king and the state, just as it is these that make war. In the intervals of peace, it was the priest or head magician who had most authority and influence and when at last a permanent kingship developed as derived from the offices of a warrior, father and priest.

Societies are ruled by two powers: in peace by the word, in crisis by the sword; force is used only when indoctrination fails. Law and myth have gone hand throughout the centuries, co-operating or taking turns in the management of mankind, until our own day no state dared separate them, and perhaps tomorrow they will be united again.


The state says Gumplowicz, is the result of conquest, the establishment of the victors as a ruling caste over the vanquished. Summer in his own words described the state as the product of force and exists by force. This violent subjection is usually of a settled agricultural group by a tribe of hunters and herders.

K.B.C Onwubiko in his book “History”, says that the store Age man had no rest and sleep in caves or in the branches of trees. When he became a herdsman, he still lived a nomadic life but passed his hours of keep in skin tents which were easily fixed and dismantled for quick movement. The need for mutual help and protection led him to seek the society of others, and this desire gave rise to the beginning of village or community life. Without authority rule, as spencer said, the evolution of society could not have commenced.


Law comes with property, marriage and government, the lowest societies managed to get along without it. Alfred Russel Wallace said, “I have lived with communities of savages of South America, who have no law or law courts but public opinion of the village freely expressed.

The old Russian Government established courts of law in the Aleutian Islands, but in fifty years those courts found no employment. Custom-Durrant argues in his book- our oriental Heritage-rises cut of the people, whereas law is forced upon them from above, the law is usually a decree of the master, but custom is the natural selection of those modes of action that have been found most convenient in the experience of the group.

Law partly replaces custom when the state replaces the natural order of the family, the clan, the tribe, the village community it more fully replaces custom when writing appears and laws graduate from a code carried down in the memory of elders and priests into a system of legislation proclaimed in written tables.

But the replacement is never complete, in the determination and judgement of human conduct custom remains to the end the force behind the law, the power behind the throne, the last magistrate of men slives.

The first stage in the evolution of law is personal revenge. Vengeance is mine, says the primitive man. “I will repay”. This principle of revenge, persists throughout the history of Lex Talion is or the law of relation-embodied in Roman laws it plays a large role in the code of Hammurabi and in the Mosaic demand of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

In general, the individual has never rights in natural society than under civilization. Everywhere man is born in chairs. Liberty is a luxury of security. Free individuals a product and a mark of civilization.

K.C.B Onwubiko believes that the need for mutual help and protection led the primitive man to seek the society of others and this desire gave rise to the beginning of village community life. As laws are necessary to govern human relations in community life. They have to obey laws and submit to the chief, headman or elders to whom was entrusted the enforcement of the laws.


Until the state –towns the down of the historic civilizations, the family becomes the central and permanent source of social order, the clan undertakes the delicate task of regulating the relations between the sexes and between the generations and even after the state has been established, the essential government of mankind remains in that deepest institution –the family.

Genesis Chap. 2, reveals that the first institution established by God –the family was the first social structure that God produced. It is generally believed that the first human beings lived in isolated families, even in the hunting state.

K.B.C Onwubiko- believes that in the earliest state of life-the stone age man perhaps a naked being or he covered his nudity with leaves and barks of wood. Later he learnt to cloth himself with skins of animals he killed, when he became a farmer he learnt to grow cotton and to weave the flax into cloth. As gatherers and hunters that they had no home but move from one place to another, spending their hours of rest and sleep in caves or under branches of trees- they later fixed skin tents which were easily dismantled for quick movement.


Since no society can exist without order, and no other without regulation. Some rules are necessary for the game of life, they may differ in different groups but within the group, they must be essentially the same. These rules may be conventions customs, morals or laws.

Conventions are forms of behaviour found fit by a people. Customs are conventions accepted by successive generations after natural selection through trial and error and elimination. Morals are such customs as the group considers vital to its welfare and development.


The first task of those customers that constitute the moral code of a group is to regulate the reactions of the sexes for these are perennial sources of discord, violence and possible degeneration, and the basic form of this sexual regulation is marriage, which may be defined as the association of mates for the care of offspring. There is a society without marriage but among some primitive Russians, “the men utilized the women without distinction so that no woman had her appointed husband. Children were economic assets, and men invested in wives in order to draw children from them like interest. In the patriarchal of the man, the more had of them, the richer he was. The unmarried male had no standing in the community or was considered only half-man.


The greatest task of morals is always sexual regulations. God hates immoral sins and from the beginning of the history of mankind punish the world of Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, two Israelites in the wilderness, sons of Eli, destroyed Nineveh etc.


Part of the function of parentage is the transmission of a moral code. Greed, acquisitiveness, dishonestly, cruelty and violence were for many generations prevailed over man’s original state before the fall. Durrant believes that education makes men clever when properly develops among primitive men, crying and stealing came in its train.


Will Durant, defines religion as the worship of supernatural forces. Yet there are tribes and peoples that do not believe in any gods or religion.

The Sources of Religion: Lucretius said” that fear is the mother of the gods. The stone age man and men were beset with a thousand dangers, and seldom ended with natural decay, long before old age could come violence or some strange disease carried off the great majority of men.

Hence early man did not believe that death was ever natural, he attributed it to the operation of supernatural agencies. In the mythology of the natives of New, Britain death came to men by an error of the gods.

Such experiences and others convinced the primitive man that every living thing has a soul or secret life, within it, which could be separated from the body in illness, sleep or death.

The Objects of Religion:

Since all things have souls or contain hidden gods, the objects of religious worship are numberless.

They fall into six classes: (1) celestial (2) Terrestrial (3) sexual (4) Animal (5) Human (6) Divine.

The first objects in the universe that the primitive worship was probably “Moon”, “man in the moon” –so primitive legend conceived the moon as a bold male who caused women to menstruate by seducing them. He was a favourite god with women, who worshipped him as their protecting deity.


Language- its animal background, its human origin, its development, its results, education, institution, writing poetry.

In the beginning was the word, for with it man became man. The beginning of humanity came when some freak i.e a person, half animal and half man squatted in a cave or in a tree, cracking his brain to invent the first common noun, the first sound-sign that would signify a group of like objects: a house that would mean all houses, man that would mean all men, light that would mean every light that ever shone on land or sea from that moment the mental development of the race opened upon a new and endless road.

Since all origins are guesses and the imagination has free play in picturing the beginning of the speech. Perhaps the first form of language- which may be defined as communication through signs was the love call of one animal to another. In this sense, the jungle, the woods, treeless grassy plain are alive with speech.

Next to the enlargement of thought, the greatest of these gifts of speech was education. Civilization is an accumulation, a treasure house of arts and wisdom, manners and morals, from which the individual enrichment for his mental life, without that periodical reacquisition of the racial heritage by each generation, civilization would die a sudden death. It owes its life to education.

Little of no use was made of writing in primitive education. Nothing surprises the natural man so much as the ability of Europeans to communicate with one another, over great distances, by making black scratches upon a piece of raper. Many tribes have learned to write by limiting their civilized exploiters, but some as in Northern Africa have remained letterless despite five thousand years of intermitted contact with literate nations.


In the opinion of Herbert Spencer, the supreme expert in the collection of evidence science like letters began with priests originated in astronomic observations. Governing religious festivals, and was preserved in the temples and transmitted across the generations as part of the clerical heritage.

Navigation advanced astronomy, trade developed mathematics, and the industrial arts laid the bases of physics and chemistry.


After fifty thousand years of art men still, dispute its sources in instinct and in history. What is beauty? –why do men admire it?

Art is the creation of beauty, it is the expression of thought or feeling in a form that seems beautiful or sublime, and therefore arouses in us some reverberation of that primordial delight which woman gives to man or man gives to the woman.

The first source of art then is akin to the desire to adorn and beautify the body.

A sculpture-like painting, probably owed its origin to pottery, the potter found that he could mould not articles of use but imitative figures that might serve as magic amulets etc. how did architecture begin? It began when for the first time a man of a woman thought of a dwelling in terms of appearance as well as use. Probably this effort to give beauty or sublimity to the structure was directed first to graves rather than to homes, while the commemorative pillar developed into statuary the tomb grew into a temple. For the primitive thought the dead were more powerful and important than the living, and besides the dead could remain settled in one place, while the living wandered too often to warrant their raising permanent homes.


Written history is at least six thousand years old. During half of this period the centre of human affairs so far as they are now known to us was in the Near East. By this definition- we shall mean here all South Western Asia, South of Rusia and the Black-sea, and west of India and Afghanistan-also included was Egypt as anciently bound up with the near East that had the earliest traces of oriental civilization. In these countries, peoples and conflicting cultures were developed the Agriculture and commerce, the horse and wagon, the coinage and letters of credit, the crafts and industries, the law and government, the mathematics and medicine, the enemies and drainage systems, the geometry and astronomy, the calendar and clock and zodiac, the alphabet and writing, the paper and ink, the books and libraries and schools, the literature and music, the sculpture and architecture, the glazed pottery and fine furniture, the monotheism and monogamy, the cosmetics and jewellery, the checkers and dice, the tenpins and income-tax, the wet-nurses and beer, from which the European and American culture derive by a continuous succession through the meditation of Crete, Greece and Rome.

The “Aryans” did not establish civilization-they took it from Babylonian and Egypt. Greece did not begin civilization-it inherited far more civilized than it began.

According to Onwubiko, “History” reveals that Sumerians were the earliest inhabitants of Mesopotamia and by 4000 B.C they were already highly civilized, and by 2500 B.C they were conquered and ruled by the Babylonians who absorbed them and developed the old civilization.

Durant in his contribution argued that when the Sumerian civilization was 2300 B.C. the poets and scholars in the land tried to reconstruct its paradise and a terrible flood that engulfed and destroyed it because of the sin of an ancient king.


At the basis of this culture was a soil made fertile by the annual overflow of rivers swollen with winter rains. The overflow was perilous as well as useful. The Sumerians learned to channel it safety through irrigating canals that ribbed and crossed their land, and they commemorated those early dangers by legends that told of a flood, and how at last the land had been separated from waters and mankind had been saved.

This irrigation system, dating from 4,000 B.C was one of the great achievements of Sumerian civilization, and certainly its foundation.


Indeed each city, as long as it maintains jealous independence and indulged itself in a private king. It called him patesi, or priest-king, indicated by the very word that government was bound up with religion.

The king went to battle in a chariot, leading a motley host armed with bows, king Manshtusu of Akkad announced frankly that he was invading Elam to get control of its silver mines etc. the defeated were sold into slavery or were slaughtered on the battlefield.


King ur-ensure proclaimed his code of laws in the name of the great god-Shammah for the government had so soon discovered the political utility of heaven. Having been found useful. The gods became innumerable in every city and state, every human activity had some inspiring and disciplinary divinity. Sun worship was already old when Sumeria began. Ningirsu was the god of irrigation, lord of floods, Abu or Tammuz was the god of vegetation.

Most of the gods lived in the temples, where they were provided by the faithful with revenue, food and wives. Originally, it seems the gods preferred human flesh, but as human morality improved they had to be content with animals.

A liturgical tablet found in the Sumerian ruins says with strange theological premonitions, the lamb is the substitute for humanity, he had given a lamb for his life” Enriched by such beneficence, the priests became the wealthiest and most powerful class in the Sumerian cities.

The priests transmitted education as well as mythology and doubtless sought to teach, as well as to rule, by their myths. Most of the temples were attached schools wherein the clergy instructed boys and girls in writing and arithmetic, formed their habit into patriotism and piety and prepared some of them for the high profession of the scribe.


Durrant in his book “History of civilization claimed that no one knows whence these early Egyptians came, however, some believes that they were a cross between Nubian, Ethiopian and Libyan natives on one side and Semitic or Armenoid immigrants on the other. By 4000 B.C. These peoples of the form of government, Sostratus built his great lighthouse of white marble, five hundred feet high, as a beacon to all ancient mariners of the Mediterranian and as one of seven wonders of the world. The land is half-covered with water and crossed everywhere with irrigation canals. The river has had one of its growth which began at the summer and lasts for one hundred days through that overflowing of the desert became fertile, and Egypt blossomed, “in Herodotus phrase as the gift of the Nile. It is clear why civilization found here of its earliest homes.


Civilization, like life, is a perpetual struggle with death. And as life maintains itself only by abandoning old and recasting itself in younger and fresher, forms, so civilization achieves a precarious survival by changing its habitat or its blood.

It moved from Ur to Babylon and Judea, from Babylon to Nineveh (all in Mesopotamia, Sumeria-Elam) from these to Persepolis, Sardis and Miletus, and from these to Egypt and Crete- to Greece and finally Rome.

Their contribution

Long before their decline, Egypt had laid the foundations of a civilization on which that of the western world was afterwards built. Egyptian civilization began with the discovery and development of agriculture in the Nile valley. The early Egyptians practised this important and primary occupation and learnt to irrigate their crops and to use ploughs for filling the soil. They have in this way left a great legacy of their agricultural knowledge to mankind.

The Egyptians were among the first peoples of the earth to develop a high standard of social and political organization. They organized themselves into cities, kingdoms and later into empires, they also learnt the use of metals in making tools and weapons. Modern man is greatly indebted to the Egyptians for all the all-important discoveries of metals so indispensable in modern industry.

They not only practised industries but also devoted their time to learning. Their greatest contributions to western civilization in the sphere of learning are writing and writing materials, medicine, mathematics, practical mensuration and astronomy. The first calendar was used in Egypt about 2,5000 B.C with just a little modification by the Romans, and this is one we use today.

In religion: for beneath above everything in Egypt was religion. Sky and Nile remain the chief divinities of every Egyptian man and woman.


ORIGIN: Historically and ethnically, Babylonia was a product of the union of the Akkadians (the northern region of Mesopotamia who took their name from the town of Agadez, which some scholars believe is the city called septarian in the Bible-2Ki. 17:27) and the Sumerians the earliest known inhabitants of Mesopotamia lived in the southern part of what is now known as Iraq. The Elamites dominated the area –a strong city of the south- in about 2,300 B.C king Sargon of Agade is Akhad rebelled against the Elamites and united the Akkadians under his rule –he called himself king of the four zones –namely Kish, cutha, Agade and Babylon. Sargon dynasty lasted for only three generations. Akhad then came under the influence of Ur- the great commercial centre of Summerian –this city was the home of Terah and Abram ancestors of the Hebrew nation, the region gradually drifted back to the centre of Elam. At about 2000 B.C Semitic invaders from Cannan and the Arabian desert wrested Mesopotamia from Islamic control and the named, Hammurabi emerged as the new ruler of the land between the two rivers- Tiris & Euphrates and probably made Susa the capital where Nehemiah was a cup-bearer.

primaeval seals and inscriptions transmit him to us as partially a youth full fire and genius, a very whirlwind in battle m who crunches all rebels and never loses an engagement.

No one looking at the site of ancient Babylon today would suspect that these hot and dreary wastes along the Euphrates were once rich and powerful capital of a civilization that almost created astronomy, added richly to the progress of medicine, established the science of language, prepared the first great codes of law, taught the Greeks the rudiments of mathematics, physics and philosophy, gave the jews the mythology which they gave to the world.

Two thousand years before Christ, Babylon was already one of the richest cities that history had yet known.


GREEK: “Athens”

There were many other important Greek cities, but Athens was the chief centre of Greek civilization and it is in the cultural achievements of the Athenians that the main ideals underlying Greek civilization are apparent. These ideas may be summed up as “love of the intellect” and “beauty”.


The Athenians loved knowledge and did everything to develop the mind to acquire knowledge-believing that a healthy mind exists only in a healthy body. They took pains to keep the body fit. To do this, bodily exercise featured prominently in Athenian school life. Children were sent to school to be fit as well as to acquire knowledge.

There arose in Athens great teachers called philosophers or lovers of knowledge who went about educating the people. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were the most famous of them. It even appears that the Athenians evolved the democratic form of Government in order not to hamper the independence and freedom of the individual mind in its quest for knowledge and expression of thought.

The Greeks and Athenians in particular had a higher idea of beauty than any other at that time. As a result, they made great progress in all branches of art-architecture, sculpture and literature. Their great ideal of beauty promoted Pericles to make Athens the most attractive city in the world.

They invited famous architects, sculpture, painted poets, dramatists, historians, scientists and skilled craftsmen to make Athens not only a centre of beauty but also the intellectual mistress of Greece and the world. The famous Parthenon and the statues of Athens and Zeus are works of art that have never been surpassed.

Through the Greek world, with the possible exception of Sparta, there was that quest for knowledge and the desire to please the eyes by THINGS OF BEAUTY and these two ideals were underlying factors in all Greek civilization.

Although the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians and Assyrians had achieved a high degree of material civilization, they have made no appreciable headway in the intellectual sphere. Philosophy, science unknown to them. It was not until the time of the Greeks that progress in intellectual culture really began. It is the intellectual rather than material advancement that is the real basis of man’s progress- and that is a true saying that “true civilization does not appear until the time of the Greeks.

As the Greeks made great progress and developed the mind, their greatest legacy is philosophy. Its founders were men like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle rationalized the nature of the universe, logic, ethics, metaphysics and the practice and theory of government.

The Greeks excelled at all ancient peoples not only in philosophy and art but also in science.

Thales of Miletus advanced in the science of geometry-(analysis of measurement concerned with properties, relationships, lines, curves and surfaces).

Eratosthenes 276-194 B.C, a Greek mathematician and astronomer, who calculated the earth by observing the angle of the suns rays at different places) made the first map of the world.

Hippocrates- (a Greek physician commonly regarded as the father of medicine) laid the foundations of medical science.

In political science-the Athenians evolved the most popular system of government called Democracy.

Marathon and Olympic are words that remind the world- of Greek love for games and athletic, which gave rise to all forms of recreation and enjoyment or entertainment we have today in the world

K.B.C Onwubiko in his book (History) argued that Greek civilization had its shortcomings, men alone partook of its benefits for women received no education and took no part in government.


According to tradition, the city of Rome was founded in 752 B.C by Romulus who became its first king. He was succeeded by six other kings- the last of whom was overthrown in 509 B.C. This period of Roman history is called the monarchial period.

The king held supreme authority in the constitution and was advised by a council of old men called the senate. There was a peoples assembly that was consulted in legislative and military matters. After the abolition of monarchy in 509 B.C., the Roman state became a republic and thus entered the second stage of its administrative development which came to an end in 31 B.C.

The next phase of Roman administrative development began with the emergence of Augustus Octavius as the sole rule of the Roman state and empire in 31 B.C. the empire period began with him because he was the first ruler or emperor. He held important offices in the empire- he took control of the army, chief council, finance officer, censor, governor etc.

His age 31 B.C. -14 A.D is popularly known as the Golden age of roman culture. The state enjoyed peace called “pax Romana” Roman peace.


The Romans realized the importance towns played as agents for the spread of Roman civilization development and peace. So they had a policy of planting towns or colonies of Roman citizens in the countries of the conquered peoples. These colonies or towns served as agents for the maintenance of peace as well as for the spread of Roman culture among the nations. Towns, villages are connected with good net-work roads leads to Rome” an old adage. the roman legions could move quickly from one part of the empire to another for the maintenance of peace. Traders, travellers and officials could travel safely in the security of Roman peace.

It is evident therefore that in their method of governance, their laws, towns and buildings and their good roads. The Roman has given to the world a legacy of civilization more practical and useful to man than that of the Greeks.

The Roman were the most practical people. Hey approached their problems in a practical way and found practical solutions to them.

Again the Romans realized the importance of law and good order to the continuity and peace of the empire. They enacted a large body of laws that were enforced by Roman officials throughout the empire. The laws were so wise and practical that centuries after the fall of the empire.

Roman laws were adopted into the legal systems of the different countries of Europe. They gave mankind a legacy of good laws and become the greatest lawgiver of the world

The Roman were also great soldiers. The empire’s military skill. Roman soldiers were courageous and bold and never give in even in defeat. At first, they fought in self-defence but after the war with Carthage, the Romans fought more for military glory and imperial expansion than in self-defence. Great generals like Pompey and Julius –Caeser extended Roman conquest to gain military glory and fame.

The Romans were noted for their noble and up-right-spiritedness and patriotism. These traits of character were responsible for their success in world conquest.


The Greeks, it has been said were great-idealists. They had a higher idea of beauty and philosophy than the Romans, in fact in all branches of arts and philosophy, the Greeks have remained unsurpassed throughout the ages.

There are three main elements in Democracy.

1. Supreme control of public affairs was vested in the Assembly of citizens to which all men above the age of twenty were eligible members in this way, all the citizens took part by discussion and voting in the government of their own city.

They made laws, elected military, naval diplomatic and civil officials, made decisions for or against war and peace and passed judgement on criminals.

2. Freedom of speech was ensured in order that all sides of matters could be heard before a decision was taken.

3. All political officers were open to all citizens who were chosen for their positions by lot. An elaborate system of checks and controls were erected to prevent the acquisition of excessive power by any individual or body who might thus endanger the democratic system. There was no permanent civil service. “the council of five hundred” which was the administrative body was made up of a different staff every year to prevent the growth of cooperating feeling, and all the officials were subject to strict accountability for their actions while in office to the assembly at the end of heir term in office. Another important issue in Greek democracy is that they excluded slaves, women and resident aliens from taking part in Government. They depended upon slave labour and thereby used them, which made it possible for the free citizens to devote their time to political affairs. in conclusion: the Greek Democracy and philosophy will not be written and concluded without mentioning the three cornerstones of Greek civilization and Democracy.

1. Socrates (470-399) who is popularly known in history as “the wisest of men” was the author of Greek philosophy. Socrates held that a voice in him commanded him always to inquire about the meaning of life, about such things as truth, justice, virtue, happiness and morality. He tried to pass on the inquisitive trait of mind to his fellow citizens by teaching them to ask questions about things and not to take anything for granted. His method of teaching and learning was the simple one of asking and answering questions. By this means, he led the people to discover the truth about things around them or about what they believed. It was Socrates who said that the beginning of wisdom is to “know thy self”. After a profound and patient search after knowledge, Socrates said. “I know only one thing, and that is that I know nothing”.

Indeed the Age of Socrates was the sunrise Greek of Greek philosophy. He wrote no books but his disciples, notably Plato, perpetuated his ideas. Socrates thought of himself as a “gadfly” challenging everything anybody said to him and urging people not to take their preconceptions and prejudices as truths. He irritated and alarmed those who were worried about the youth of the day, and who thought of him as just another Sophist and one of the most vocal and dangerous.

When he was about seventy years old, he was brought to trial on charges of disrespect to the gods and corrupting the youth of Athens. He argued that they had followed the religious observation required by law, and he defended his gadfly tactics as necessary to stir a sluggish citizenry into life. But a court of 501 jurors voted the death penalty by a narrow margin. He ironically asked to be fined or charged. The court chose the latter and he was consequently killed.

2. Plato – (427-347) was a devoted pupil and admirer of Socrates and his wisdom. He once said, “I thank God that I was born in the age of Socrates”. He lived to become one of the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece and indeed of all time. Plato was a voluminous writer and unlike most but also a literary artist of the first rank. He used the dialogue in his writings and made Socrates the Chief character, thereby propagating the ideas of his great master.

Plato was an idealist who insisted on the reality of abstract ideas- justice, goodness, and the like which he said existed in the mind of God from eternity and are only pale imperfect reflections in the world of sense.

Plato’s idealistic theories on what should constitute the perfect government of a perfect society are contained in the famous book “the republic”.

3. ARISTOTLE (384-322)

Aristotle, Plato’s most famous pupil, son of a physician at the court of Philip of Macedon and tutor to Alexander the Great. Aristotle wrote on biology, logic, literary criticism, political theory, ethics. His work survives largely in the form of notes on his lectures taken by his students. Despite their lack of polish, these writings have had an astounding later influence. He wrote 158 studies of the constitutions of Greek cities. Only the study of Athens survived.

Aristotle concerns himself chiefly with things as they are. He classified living beings into groups much as modern biologists do and extend the system to other fields- government, e.g Governments were of three types (a) by one man (b) by a few men (c) or by many men. They were good and bad types of each.

The 1st is monarchy ad tenancy, 2nd aristocracy and oligarchy, 3rd, is polity and democracy.

Aristotle laid the foundation for later inquiry. Though he believes that men should strive and aspire, he did not push them on to Socrates’ goal of self-knowledge or to Plato’s lofty ascent to the idea of God. He urged instead the cultivation of golden mean, the avoidance of excess courage, not hardiness or cowardice, temperance, not overindulgence or abstinence, liberality is given, not lavishness or madness.

Later, in the period after Alexander, two new scholars of philosophy developed, (1) the Epicurean founded by Epicurus (341-270). (2) the Stoic. This stoic was founded by Zeno, who took the name from the columned porch(stoa) in Athens where he first taught.

The Epicureans counselled temperance and common sense, carrying further the principle of the golden mean. He defined pleasure as happiness, but he ranked spiritual joys above those of the body, which he recommended should be satisfied in moderation.

The stoics preferred to repress the physical desires altogether since only the inward man counted they preached total disregard for social, physical or economic differences among men. The stoics became the champions of slaves and other social outcasts, anticipating to some degree one of the moral teachings of Christianity.


In the brief account and survey of Greek civilization and democracy, one believes that they were not supreme living in a paradise of physical and cultural triumphs.

It is a known fact only a few could understand or follow the ideas of Plato or Aristotle or could afford to spend their time at the games at the theatre with Socrates.

Most Greeks worked hard, and their standard of living would seem extremely low today. In all of Athens at its height, we know of only one establishment that employed over a hundred workmen. Even wealthy Athenians resided in small, plain houses of stucco or sun-dried brick; nobody until the Hellenistic period lived pretentiously. Athens was little or no drainage, lighting was by inadequate, ill-smelling oil lamps.

On the other hand, the Greeks discovered or invented democracy, drama, philosophy. But on the other, they cling to their old fashioned religious rituals and could not make themselves give up civil war between their city-states. The freedom-loving Athenians executed Socrates. Though they formulated the wisdom of “Know thyself ” and the golden mean created a beautifully balanced and proportioned architecture and organized an education that trained the whole man, intellectual and physical, they often exhibited hubris, the unbreaded arrogance that they felt to be the most dangerous of mortal vices and as it did in their tragedies on the stage, so in heir history, their hubris brought nemesis upon the. Their achievements, however, have lived after them, inspiring most of the values that Western civilization holds dearest.



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4 thoughts on “History of ancient civilization”

  1. This article went very deep it was almost hard to come out of it once I was done reading! It was very insightful and I learned a lot about history, more specifically biblical history. 

    I never knew or read on some of the things you have here, like a lot on different areas and how or why they would teach the way they did. It was very knowledgeable. 

    • Great to hear from you again Alyssa. You see, it is said that before you know the future, you should study the past because today and tomorrow should be a correction of the mistakes of yesterday. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. You know I am always impressed with the way that people lived way before our time and modem technology. It is amazing even though they may not have been as advanced as us yet they did so much that still baffles the minds of many in this fay and time. It may have been the stone age but they really did a lot of interms of what they use to accomplish what they wanted.

    • I agree with you Norman. those men that lived before us made sure they make way and a better route that led to what we see as an advanced time of ours. life becomes so interesting when you make a good study of the past. thanks for this wonderful comment.


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