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Persian Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Persian Civilisation

In the Iron Age, Persia (Modern Iran) was inhabited by the Aryan communities. One branch of them, known as the Medes, settled in the western part of the country. Another branch occupied the southern and eastern parts and was called the Persians. The Medes built up a powerful kingdom covering a vast area of Iran. At first, the Persians also had to acknowledge the supremacy of the Medes. One of the Persian kings, Cyrus, united the Persians in 550 BC. He built a powerful army and successfully conquered Babylon, Assyria and Asia Minor. Darius I was the greatest emperor of Persia. He belonged to the Achaemenian dynasty. His empire stretched from River Indus to the Eastern shores of Mediterranean Sea. He made Persepolis his capital in 518 BC. During his reign, Persian art, architecture and sculpture flourished. He also built a powerful navy.

The Persian emperors were able administrators. They divided their empire into provinces, each governed by a Satrap or Governor. The Persians were good soldiers with strong cavalry, navy and had iron weapons. Though the Persians were defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, their civilisation did not come to an end. Their culture and civilisation continued to flourish under the Parthian and Sassanian emperors. But ultimately they were conquered by the Arabs in 7th century AD.

Like the Indo-Aryans, the early Persians worshipped the forces of nature. They believed in the sun god, sky god and other gods. They considered fire to be a symbol of holiness. They also performed fire rites and practised animal sacrifices. Later, a religious preacher Zoroaster found the religion called Zoroastrianism. He taught them about Ahura-Mazda, the Lord of Heaven and Light, who gives men strength and energy. According to Zoroaster, life was a constant struggle between good (light) and evil (darkness). The holy scripture of the Persians is called Zend – Avesta.

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Roman Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Roman Civilisation

In 510 BC, the Romans set up a Republic on the city of Rome which is on river Tiber in Central Italy. The Roman Republic was ruled by the senate, which consisted of a group of elders called senators. They elected two Consuls each year to lead them. By 200 BC, Rome became the leading power of Italy. It was able to defeat rivals like Carthage for the control of the Mediterranean world.

In the early Roman society, there were three classes of people – the atricians
(aristocrats), the plebeians (commoners) and the slaves. Roman economy was based on slave labor. Rich Romans owned slaves. These slaves were often trained for the gladiators’ fight, which was a fight between the slaves and wild animals. There were also frequent slave revolts in Rome. One such revolt was led by Spartacus in 74 BC.
Although Rome was a Republic, strong and influential leaders fought for power. Julius Caesar was one such leader who got enormous power and became a dictator. In 44 BC, Caesar was murdered and a civil war broke out. After the war, Augustus Caesar became the first emperor of Rome. The Roman Empire spread to three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Do you know that it was during the rule of Augustus, the great prophet, Jesus Christ appeared? He was the founder of Christianity. He was born in Bethlehem. According to him, all men and women are the children of God. He taught people to love each other. After his death, the followers of Christ spread his teachings among the people. At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Mesopotamia in the east to Gaul and Britain in the west. People throughout the Empire adopted Roman way of living. Towns with baths, temples, palaces and theatres were built. In the countryside, the Romans built huge, comfortable farmhouses called villas. Roman rulers used to preside over victory parades, religious ceremonies and games in the arenas and amphitheatres. Gladiator’s fight, chariot racing, and theatre were some of the common amusements.

The Roman Empire was divided into several provinces, each ruled by a governor. He had a number of officers under him who looked after different affairs of administration. The main fighting forces of the Roman army were the legions. Each legion had 5000 soldiers headed by a commander. The Roman Empire was governed by the personal will of the emperor. But his power depended on the army. Weak emperors were often overthrown by the army generals.

By 395 AD, the huge Roman Empire was divided into two halves for better governance. The Eastern part with capital at Byzantium survived even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the face of barbarian invasion in 476 AD. Emperor Constance gave Byzantium a new name – Constantinople. It became the home of Eastern Orthodox Christian faith and the capital city of the Byzantine emperors.

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Greek Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Greek Civilisation

Greek Civilisation flourished in Greece more than 2000 years ago. There arose many independent city-states, which developed a remarkable system of government. The development of city-state was a unique feature of Greek civilisation. Each city was enclosed by a wall for protection. Inside the city, there was a fort called Acropolis which was situated on a hill top.

Among the Greek city-states, the most famous were Athens and Sparta. Athens was rich and cultured. Athenian citizens included writers, philosophers, artists and thinkers. The society was based on slave labor, but the citizens enjoyed a democratic form of government. You will read about Democracy in detail the later lessons. Sparta was almost like an army camp, where everyone was expected to obey the superiors. Sparta had the best army in Greece. Training in warfare was considered to be the most important thing here.

There was considerable rivalry between Athens and Sparta. But they fought side by side to drive off the mighty Persian army of Darius I and Xerxes, who tried to conquer Greece. Under Pericles, Athens enjoyed a ‘Golden Age’. But a long war between Athens and Sparta, called the Peloponnesian War, which lasted for 27 years resulted in the defeat of Athens.

Do you know that Ancient Greece had the distinction of being called the birth place of Western Civilisation? They were pioneers in art and learning, science, literature and sculpture. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were great philosophers whose works are studied even today. Herodotus and Thucydides were famous historians. Archimedes, Aristarchus and Democritus were great scientists. Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes were great dramatists. Homer was the author of the famous epics – Iliad and Odyssey.

The Greeks also had great knowledge of architecture. They built many beautiful temples and palaces. The Greeks believed in many gods. Each city had its own protector god or goddess. The gods were believed to live on Mount Olympus. The Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC was held every four years at a place called Olympia. Sports and athletic events were held to honor Zeus, the king of gods.

The Greek towns were the centers of administration as well as cultural and economic activities. The farmers mainly grew grapes, olives and grain. Wine and olive oil were important products. The Greeks, at one time, also established vast empires. Alexander of Macedonia, better known to history as Alexander the Great, led his army out of Europe and conquered Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Afghanistan and even parts of Central Asia and North-Western India. This led to the spread of Greek ideas and learning. Alexander died at an age of thirty-three only. After his death, his empire broke up into smaller kingdoms. Later, Greece was conquered by the Romans.

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Ancient Chinese Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Chinese Civilisation

The Chinese civilisation grew up in the Hwang Ho valley in North China. The first rulers known were the Shangs (1523 BC to 1122 BC), who built China’s first cities. They also contributed to art and culture. The Chinese writing system was developed during this period. Craftspersons of this period, especially the bronze workers were great experts in their fields.

The Shang dynasty was overthrown by the Zhous, who built strong forts and walled towns to defend themselves from invaders. It was during the later phase of the Zhou rule that iron was introduced, thus ending the Bronze Age in China.

In 221 BC, the Chin rulers came to power in China. They ordered the use of common language, common laws and common weights and measures throughout their empire. Do you know that they were the rulers who built the famous Great Wall of China?

After the Chins, the Han dynasty came to power, who ruled till AD 220. It was during this period that Chinese traders had contact with the West through the famous Silk Route, crossing Central Asia and Persia.

The people of China worshipped a number of deities. Worship of ancestors, nature and spirits were very common. In China a famous religious preacher named Confucius advocated a system of right behavior, which greatly influenced Chinese society and government. He laid emphasis on good moral character, respect to elders and loyalty to the family and obedience to the laws of the State.

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Egyptian Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Egyptian Civilisation

Another civilisation arose in Egypt, along the River Nile, which made the land very fertile. The Egyptian kings were called Pharaohs. They had ministers and officers in their service that administered the land and collected taxes for them. The priests enjoyed a very high and honorable position in society. Temples were dedicated to a particular god in each town or city. The ancient Egyptian script was called Hieroglyphics. Traders and merchants carried on their business both on land and water. There were skilled workers like stone-cutters and carpenters. Egyptians had considerable knowledge of weights and measures.

The Pharaohs built the great monuments of the ancient world – the Pyramids. Since the Egyptians believed in afterlife, they preserved the dead bodies. These were called mummies. The pyramids were built as tombs to keep the mummified bodies of the dead kings.

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Mesopotamian Civilisation

updated on March 12th, 2019

Mesopotamian Civilisation
Mesopotamia was the land lying between two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates, which lie in modern day Iraq. These rivers were often in flood and in this process they deposited a lot of silt which made the land around them very fertile. This resulted in increased food production. The abundant agricultural produce enabled the growth of a number of crafts persons like smiths, potters masons, weavers and carpenters. They sold their products and got their necessities from others in exchange. They carried on trade with far-off places like India. Carts, wagons, boats and ships were used for transport and communication. They also developed the art of writing. Their script was a collection of symbols and pictures. They drew wedge-like lines and so this script came to be known as Cuneiform script.

The earliest cities of Mesopotamia were like small states, each with its own administration. The ruling class consisted of priests, kings, and aristocrats. Besides them, there were merchants, ordinary people, and slaves. The people of Mesopotamia worshipped many gods and goddesses like the sky, sun, moon, fertility, etc. Each city had its own patron god or goddess.

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