Essay On Comparing And Contrasting Greek And Roman Cultures
The Greek and Roman culture are undoubtedly two of the most well-known cultures whose foundations and history continue to be the subject of many researches and studies aimed at understanding the formation of civilization and development of societies. Usually, Greek and Roman cultures are perceived to be interchangeable and inseparable due to their great resemblance with one another. However, Greek and Roman cultures are two distinct civilizations with different system of governance, religious views, and other societal elements. Understanding these two civilizations, it is necessary to take into consideration the various elements that make them distinct from one another and the ways by which such elements differ from one another.
One aspect of society that often brings distinction to a civilization is the system of government. In both Greek and Roman cultures, such essential element of society is presented in different manner. Greece, known as one of the most systematic ancient civilizations, was the first to establish the system of democracy. Greece, particularly its ancient city-state Athens, is considered as the “cradle of democracy in the Western civilization” after a series of significant political changes taking place in 5th century BC gave birth to the concept of democracy or the participation of people in decisions that shape governance and political system. A civilization originally adhering to a system of aristocracy, Greece’s establishment of democracy was a great reform in its political system as well as a highly significant political contribution to the world. Rome, on the other hand, had the same system of government as that of Greece’s. Having been influenced largely by the Greek civilization, Roman government was also democratic but termed as Republican. Despite being deeply influenced by the Greece’s concept of democracy, the republican government of Rome did not completely adhere with the true guidelines of democratic government as laid out by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. Roman civilization highly patronized what was called as the client system. The client system is characterized by the loyalty of a clan to a noble and high-standing Roman family. The support of clients to noble families of Rome was usually passed on from generation to generation, granted that the noble family being supported remained in the same high status over time. Such support enjoyed by the Roman nobilities was the very same element that often put them into power and kept them in holding offices and important governmental positions. In return, clients who lent patronage and support to nobilities were provided protection, especially in legal aspects as their supported noblemen who held important positions in the government were also their lawyers in court in case they needed to be represented and defended. Also, nobilities elected by clients represent their supporters’ political interests in decision-making processes. Undoubtedly, the client system in Rome promoted unity between noble families and non-noble families as they were tightly bonded with loyalty and support for one another. However, such client system in Roman civilization is also the very reason why the Roman republican government became loosely parallel with the Greeks’ concept of democracy. The dispersed support given by various families to various noble families created a pre-meditated decision during election, thus losing the essence of freewill of free men as suggested by the concept of democracy created by Greece.
Aside from the system of government, religious view is another critical factor that distinguishes Roman and Greek cultures from one another. Universally, Roman religion and mythology are conceived to be highly influenced by the Greek culture whose art, literature, beliefs and traditions are world-renowned for their richness and long-lasting class and beauty. Greeks are believed to be highly religious and consequently, their traditions and customs were deeply influenced by their religious beliefs. In that context, the Greek author Homer played an important role in shaping and directing the course of Greek religious beliefs as well as their impact on Greek culture and the lives of Greek people. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are two of the most important literary piece that did so much in shaping Greek religion and culture. The belief in the afterlife and the presence of reward and punishment for dead people apparent in Homer’s literature was the basis for the Greeks’ tributary practices for the dead as well as other religious practices. Generally, Greeks’ believed that dead people need proper burial in order to successfully enter the Underworld which they believed was governed by the god Hades. Failure to do so, results in souls getting lost and trapped in the human world causing vexation to the living. To avoid such consequences, Greeks took all the measures necessary to provide proper burial rites for their dead. Such is just one example of how literature influenced religion and how religion determined Greek customs and traditions therefore shaping the Greek culture. Romans, on the other hand, started mimicking Greek culture’s religious beliefs and traditions in an aim to emulate its excellence in arts, sciences, philosophy, and literature. One example of such imitations is the literary piece Aeneid, written by the Roman author Virgil. Virgil, fascinated by the excellence showed by Homer’s works, tried to incorporate Greek customs and religious beliefs to his work. Furthermore, Virgil also believed that incorporating Homer’s ideas in his own work would win him the favor and admiration of Augustus Caesar and would also render Roman literature as rich and successful as Greek literature. Indeed, Romans admired Virgil’s Aeneid but they did not patronize it the way Greeks let Homer’s masterpieces redefine the course of their culture. For example, despite Virgil’s attempts to incorporate Greeks’ view of afterlife, Romans did not imbibe the idea of punishment and reward for dead people in the Underworld—instead, they believed that dead people are interacting with the living and that the living need to pay proper respects to their dead in fear of vexation or in hope of being able to feel them again.
Greek and Roman cultures are undoubtedly distinct from one another. However, Rome, being once the vastest empire and most successful civilization, owed inspiration and respect to the Greek culture whose philosophy, art, sciences, literature, religion, and architecture have helped them successfully shape theirs—making their civilization and culture eternally remarkable and classical, like Greek culture. Government and religion are just two aspects that give us light as to how Greek and Roman culture were different from one another.
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