Civilizations are societies that growth and development in diversified aspects, like technology, science, territory expansion, government and culture. Thanks to the extensive work, research and study of historians, archeologists, researchers and scientists, today we can go back in time and take a glimpse of the age of the ancient civilizations.

We are able to uncover, at least some level, the mysteries of the past, that for a long time seemed a lost part of our history. Here are some of the greatest ancient civilizations and some of their contributions for the making of the modern world.

#5 China (1766 BC – 220 AD)

Although living in isolation most of the time, China was the cradle of some great inventions, include the gunpowder and paper. In religion, roles inside a community was more prominent in a collectivistic aspect of social life as a whole, and less related to deities and the divine. For a very long time, they were far more advanced in science and technology than the whole West. Probably the most notable construction is the Great Wall, built to protect them from any invasion. Starting with small villages, it eventually changed its division into dynasties for most of their time, and eventually change to an imperial model.

Dynasties were represented by kings and emperors from noble families, and in many occasions the whole country would be ruled by a single emperor. Practices of Buddhism in China for enlightenment and meditation were a direct influence from India, and soon it became part of their doctrine and way of life. China is one of the great ancient civilizations, and one of the few that preserved well their customs and traditions.

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#4 Maya (1800 BC – 1697 AD)

The Mayans were the most advanced Mesoamerican civilization in ancient times. They presented a very mature and advanced development in several areas, like astronomy, mathematics and art. They also developed an advanced written system for language, leaving a rich historical record of paintings and symbols. Even three of their books, the called codices, survived through the time and were later discovered and now properly preserved. It is also worth mentioning their distinguished and elaborate calendar system with a 365 days cycle.

This civilization had a deep relationship with religion, and worshiped different representations of gods, usually related to weather and elements of nature. They had a hierarchical and highly structured government with different rules. Each one of them responsible for a separate state entities and urban areas. Sacrifices existed at their time, but it was not a common practice, reserved for very special events and occasions. There is no definite reason of why this civilization disappeared, but some recent studies have shown and reinforced the evidences that a severe drought was the most probable cause.

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#3 Egypt (3100 BC – 332 BC)

Starting their development in agriculture and irrigation, the Egyptians had the Nile river as their main provider and source for prosperity. Thanks to that, they were able to grow fertile lands and accomplish on several aspects of agricultural production techniques. The fascinating pyramids also reveal their well-developed architecture and mathematics. There is also the Great Sphinx, this intriguing structure that still has much to know about. It might as well represent someone of great influence from its time, like one of the Pharaohs and their connection with the divine. They were also advanced regarding medicine and anatomy, dealing with practical treatments for wounds and infections.

Their society was hierarchical, but also open and advanced in different aspects, like gender equality. Pharaohs were practically a divine representation on earth. They worshiped several gods like Anubis, Horus and Osiris to name a few. Egyptians developed the hieroglyphics, a writing system based on pictures and symbols, sometimes to represent concepts from their culture and communication. Thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, historians were able to translate the ancient hieroglyphs and learn more about their history.

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#2 Rome (753 BC – 476 AD)

Born from the myth of Romulus and Remus, Rome would become the foundation of one of the most influential ancient societies. Soon it expanded from small states to a huge empire, classified by senators, equites and ordinary citizens. It was mostly presented with a good quality of life and high cultural and political standards. They presented a very rich architecture, including monuments like the Pantheon and the Colosseum, which thanks to their advancements with cement and concrete, were able to survive and preserve most of their original shape. Another great contribution came with the alphabet, with its variants as part of many languages used today, like Portuguese, French and Italian, also sharing some influences in English and German.

The Romans were very efficient in conquering large territories. Among the many famous figures of Rome, we should mention Nero, which is seem as the worst from the history of Rome. Julius Caesar, as an Emperor and Dictator, brought a lot of prosperity, but would eventually be assassinated in a conspiracy by many of the senators during his government. Constantine is another influential emperor, that introduced the Christianity to the empire, which would eventually become a huge influence in the western culture. The end of Roman civilization was caused mostly by the gradual disintegration of the empire, and along with the successive invasions of barbarians would lead to its collapse.

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#1 Greece (750 BC – 600 AD)

Well known for its contributions in philosophy, the Ancient Greek was also influential in science, government and arts as well. It gave birth to some of the most famous scientists, mathematicians and philosophers of all time. Some of them we can mention are Thales of Miletus, Pythagoras, Euclid and Archimedes for achievements in science, mathematics and geometry. In the group of great thinkers we have Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, whose work would lead us to better understand the world in a more rational and critical way. They supported the precept that human beings should strive to reach excellence with the seek for knowledge in different aspects of their lives.

Greeks also presented diverse forms of art, expressed in works of architecture, pottery and sculpture. Their creative and cultural influences would eventually spread and mature in the western. The Olympic Games were events associated not only to religion and the cult of the gods, but also to encourage good relations between the different cities and regions of Greece. Athens was the place where the Democracy was born as a government model with popular participation. The great character, Alexander the Great, would inherited the throne from his father and become the best Greek leader. With his death, the empire was divided between the generals, and the history of Greece ended when the Romans took over.

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Before civilizations emerged, our ancestors belonged to nomad tribes, were barbarians and part of primitive cultures. Everything they left allowed us to learn more about ourselves, how we lived, evolved and developed. Our human nature and the need to advance and thrive brought us to where we are today.

As we continue to progress through the years, what we might leave for future civilizations and what will be our legacy for future generations that might as well look back and imagine how we lived?

photo credit: Ancient Writing via photopin (license)