After the beginning of history, world cultures have changed. The earliest forms of society were rather complex. These eventually gave way to more classical societies that later paved the way for the current modern societies. Several factors, which included in most cases, political and economic, contributed to the transition inherent in these societies. The complete change of government structures from the complex to the classical societies could not go unnoticed. This change had a rather significant transformation to human society as a whole.
This paper will analyze two ancient societies, Mesopotamia, a complex society, and the Roman Empire, a classical society. It is imperative first to understand what these two different societies entailed. Complex societies entailed social formation that was complex in all its forms (Charvat, 2002). A complex society had members of the society specialized in specific activities. There was a high form of division of labor that had people depend entirely on each other. Chiefdoms, mostly kingship based societies, characterized complex societies. They kept on revising and re-revising their legislations to maintain their supremacy and rule of the people. Thus, they became very complex due to the existence of very many laws, political leaders, and legislations. No one was above the other as every member depended on the other (Charvat, 2002). This complexity was made even more complex as the population grew bigger. Complexity was also inherent in these societies’ political sphere. There was a complicated form of a hierarchy of the ruling elite. This complexity was what led to the collapse of most of the complex societies, including Mesopotamia. This is because there existed several rulers who all wanted to gain power, thus leading to brutal wars that accelerated the collapse of these societies (Postgate, 1994). The structure of a complex society collapses entirely when one part of this structure is interfered with. The collapse is inherent in the political structure of the complex society and the economic sector. As the population increases, the sources of livelihood are depleted as competition for the diminishing resources increases. This means that the members of such a society might result in armed struggle as they compete for scarce resources.
Mesopotamia is considered not only one of the complex ancient societies, but also the cradle of civilization. Bronze Age is accredited to have had its origins in this ancient empire (Postgate, 1994). This age includes Assyrian, Akkadian, and the Sumer empires and later the Iron Age, which was under the control of Neo Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian empires. These economic activities have had a great significance to the modern world. Many developments emerged from the Mesopotamian economic activities and have continued to have a significant contribution to the modern world.
In terms of the legal system, Mesopotamia was a highly complex society. Basing our argument on Hammurabi’s code, it is evident that this ancient society was dominated by too many laws that were conflicting in themselves (Horne, 1915). This code, for instance, had 282 laws that helped govern the people of Mesopotamia. Some of these laws were very brutal as the major punishment for breaking them was death. Law number six in this code states that “if a man has stolen goods from a temple or house, he shall be put to death; and he has received the property robbed from him is put to death “(Horne, 1915). This law was rather brutal to the person receiving the stolen goods since he would have no idea whether the goods were legitimate. Another law in contention in this code is law number nine 11 “if, on the other hand, the claimant of the lost property has not brought the witnesses that Know his lost wealth, he was accused of libel, he stirred up quarrels, he was put to death “(Horne, 1915). It was not easy to get a person who had full knowledge of your property.
Further still, the person with the stolen goods could also bring his witnesses to the claimed property. It would be difficult, therefore, to determine the actual ownership of the goods. This could, in most cases, lead to the innocent person being killed to rush conclusions. Eight out of the first ten laws of this code hade the guilty person being punished by death. The brutality of this judicial system probably was one of the causes of aggression that led to the collapse of this society. These laws have had a great significance in the development of the modern judicial system and the classical period. The laws though have been revised, putting more consideration to the respect of human life.
The religious sphere of Mesopotamia has also contributed a lot to the practices of the modern world. This society was rather polytheistic. It is acclaimed that the Mesopotamian worshipped over 2000 gods. Since the origin of the writing system, the Mesopotamian religion is believed to be the oldest religion in written history (Postgate, 1994). Religion has had a great impact on the modern world religion, especially the myths inherent in modern religion. It is, for instance, associated with Christianity as most of the myths that were identified in the ancient religion share some similarities with the Old Testament part of the Christian Bible.
The Mesopotamian religion was mostly ascribed to the forces of nature. Inanna, for instance, was the goddess of the storehouses. She was also considered as the queen of heaven and was highly revered. A lot of hymns were written to praise her. For instance, in the ‘incarnation to Ishtar, as she was later known, she is described as “o heroic one, Ishtar, the immaculate one of the goddesses” (Postgate, 1994). She was considered to be the giver of life as she was associated with life’s whole aspects. This can be compared to the modern world, where most religions ascribe the quality and sustenance of life to supernatural beings or being dependent on religion. The Mesopotamian religion can thus be said to be the mother of all other religions.
Mesopotamia’s intellectual capabilities are inherent in the modern world, not only in agriculture but also in education. It is widely believed that the earliest forms of writing were discovered in areas around Mesopotamia (Charvat, 2002). This shows that this society was also highly complex in terms of education. This has been passed down from generation to the next and has contributed to the development of the modern world.
Most of the complex societies later collapsed, paving the way to simpler and modern societies. Classical societies emerged after the collapse of complex societies. These societies simplified the concepts they acquired from the complex societies in a bid to maintain the political as well as the social and economic structures that had collapsed under the complex societies. Among the most successful classical societies was the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire was established after the collapse of ancient roman civilization. This was after a streak of civil wars that eventually weakened the preceding empire. It was largely an autocratic government system and controlled a very large area well over 6.5 million square kilometres (Mackay, 2004). This kingdom was more stable than the earlier complex system of government as it had a central ruling authority. No wonder it lasted for several centuries capturing more kingdoms and expanding its territory as well as its doctrines and values. The Roman Empire’s authority was secured by a well-standing army that paid allegiance to the emperor.
Therefore, this army enabled the spread of education, religion, and other roman practices to the conquered lands and territories (Mackay, 2004). A key point to note here is that the emperor, who was the overall leader, tolerated people to practice their religions as long as they did not threaten the empire’s security. There were some persecutions, though notably among the Christians, as they tried to spread Christianity’s doctrines. The empire on the whole, though, was a polytheist society. The world’s religions today have been mostly influenced by the religions in the Roman Empire. Christianity, especially, was later to be adopted as the most dominant religion in the empire (Dubois, 2011). Considering its stability, religion was spread in the whole region, gaining popularity with time. The center of Christianity is even established to date in Rome, the capital of the empire.
The dominant language in this empire was Latin. It was to be the official language in this empire and spread to other regions that were under the Roman Empire. Latin was used in the empire’s law courts, education, business, and religion (Dubois, 2011). As the language evolved, it developed into two registers; the high classical Latin, which was the language of the elite in this society, and the low Vulgar Latin that developed as the lingua franca among the majority non-elites. This low Vulgar Latin would later have a significant influence on Western Europe’s language system. The low Vulgar Latin later emerged into the Romance languages, including Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, French, and Italian, which are now the modern and dominant languages. Since the Roman Empire never intended to erode its religions vernacular or cultural languages, the east of the empire retained their languages with Greek emerging as the dominant language. Greek is still spoken in its modern form to date, but Latin become extinct with time.
Due to empires’ relative peace and stability for an extended period, the Roman Empire was able to instigate a lot of industrial and economic endeavours, significantly improving the empire’s economic situation. Its military, which was well trained and very disciplined, ensured that there was no uprising in any of the empire’s regions. Here, a point to note is that at the very core of the ruling elite were well-trained soldiers who possessed unique fighting abilities. It was rather an empire made up of soldiers in different hierarchies. The army was divided into legions of 480 men and was deployed to the various regions far and wide to maintain allegiance to the emperor and maintain peace and stability (Mackay, 2004). There was a promise of a piece of land for any soldier after serving for the time set, usually 20 years. This Roman Empire’s organization has been largely borrowed by the modern armies who also instil the same discipline inherent in the Roman Empire’s soldiers. The training and fighting mechanisms have also been borrowed though modern armies now use sophisticated weapons.
As a whole, modern society has had a lot to borrow from classical and complex societies. The modern society has galvanized what has been borrowed from the two ancient societies to come up with what is evident today in most governments around the world. It is not only in government but in modern society as a whole; the social structures of modern societies have a lot in common with the ancient societies. A lot of industrial and agricultural and educational developments have a lot in common with the ancient societies.
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- Dubois, L. M. (2011. Ancient Rome: A Mighty Empire. Minnesota: Capstone Press.
- Horne, F. C. (1915). The code of Hammurabi.USA: Forgotten Books.
- Mackay, S. C. (2004). Ancient Rome: A military and political history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Postgate, J.N. (1994). Early Mesopotamia: Society and economy at the dawn of history. London: Rout ledge publishers.