Comparison and Contrast of Greeks and Romans
World Civilization 1
There were many different cultures and civilizations in the ancient world. Each of the cultures had their own customs and ethnology that either set them apart from the rest of the world or rendered them similar. Two civilizations that have a multitude of similarities as well as differences are the Greeks and the Romans. In the eyes of some, the Greeks and Romans are synonymous. While they do have their share of similarities, they also have defining characteristics that make them extraordinarily different. The Greeks and the Romans are similar and different in many aspects including religion, social/political aspects, influence of geographical factors and the lasting effect they have had on later civilizations.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.” If only the Greeks and Romans thought of Religion with such simplicity. Both ancient Roman and Greek civilizations took their religion very seriously and built temples and shrines showing their appreciation to the gods. Religion was a very important aspect of Greek society and culture. They participated in sacrifices and regular worships of gods for the purpose of unifying the people in a common goal to please the Gods. The Greeks were a polytheistic civilization and believed that their gods would protect their city-states if they were kept appeased. The Greeks pleased their gods by frequently performing rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies. Greek religion was more than legendary tales and fictitious myths; it was a complex organization with each city-state containing its own divinities, which acted to cement the body of citizens into a true community [ (O'Connell, 1999) ]. In this concept, the Romans were similar. They also were polytheistic and very concerned about appeasing their gods. The Romans were great copiers. They borrowed many of their gods from the Greeks, but unlike Greek gods, they were more cold and formal and did not have as much of a personality. The Romans lived under the gods and constantly tried to please them with rituals and sacred rites. The Romans also performed human and animal sacrifices in addition to the ceremonies. Over the years, these rituals became very complex and needed special people to perform them. Unlike the Greeks, the Romans had priests who were usually distinguished statesmen or generals. Roman religion and politics were intermeshed, and it was not uncommon for the emperor (during the empire period) to be worshipped as a god himself [ (O'Connell, 1999) ].
Because the Greeks were divided into many different city-states, they had many different forms of government. Aristotle divided the Greek governments into monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies and democracies. In 510 B.C. the city-state of Athens created the first democratic government and shortly thereafter, the rest of the city-states followed suit [ (Carr, Ancient Greek Government, 2009) ]. They no longer had one single leader as the Romans did. Rome was originally ruled by kings, in a monarchal system. After this time period known as the Ancient Roman period, the Roman Republic was formed in 509 BC. The Roman Republic provided for a more representative government. Roman imperialism created a sizable gap in wealth and social classes within Rome. With such power and wealth, there was great economic as well as social conflict. The noblemen of Rome were constantly fighting for more wealth as small farm owners suffered when large plantations were being formed with slaves. The Roman nobles were fighting for greed and personal wealth creating extensive conflicts in Rome. Despite the conflict, the development of political institutions was one of Rome’s greatest accomplishments [ (Carr, 2009) ]. As the documentary source Histories: The Roman Constitution clearly...