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Humanities

Greek and Roman Integration

Evidently ahead of their time in all areas of the humanities, the Romans in particular saw the advancements in Greek culture in architecture, theology and art, and adopted their ideas.

First given the nickname as the eternal city, Rome is native to one of the seven wonders of the world, the invention of roads, arches, and aqueducts. But beyond any established civilization is a corrupt history. Beginning as a republic in respects of government, social economics, border expansion, and ruling authorities beginning in 509 B.C.E through 30B.C.E., 'til the ultimate fall in fifth century C.E..

Today, the Roman Empire is commonly compared and studied beside Greek culture. It can be argued that while Greek culture and the Roman Empire are distinctive in many respects, the genius behind the foundation and impact of Greek culture on Ancient Rome’s success as being the “longest-lasting and most complex empire in Western history” is overlooked (Fiero, 138).

First and foremost, one of the most recognized architectural advances in Ancient Greece and by today’s standards is the Parthenon. Located in Athens, the Parthenon “represents an aesthetic ideal in nature” as it holds the golden ratio of geometric and numerical proportions (Fiero, 124). Made of pentelic marble and decorated with doric columns in a post-and-lintel system, this miraculous building sat on the highest point in Ancient Greece and served as a temple. “Dedicated to the goddess of war, patron of the arts and crafts, and the personification of wisdom,” this was significant as there were many Greek gods and goddesses, but there were only a handful that held major significance to those who worshipped them (Fiero, 123).

Similarly, found in Rome is the Pantheon. Also serving as a temple, this was originally “dedicated to seven planetary deities”: Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn (Fiero, 155). Similar in design to the Parthenon in its exterior with eight supporting columns, the two are still distinctively different. Unlike the Parthenon, the Pantheon had what the Romans called, “a clear technical advance over the post-and-lintel construction” (Fiero, 152). They created a combination of corinthian columns in a post-and-lintel system and the creation of the arch in the style of a dome. This was not only exemplified in amphitheaters and temples, but within other civilizations as its practicality and innovation are integrated together.

Next, in most ancient civilizations, there was a “common belief system based in polytheism, the worship of many gods” (Fiero, 18).

Both Greek culture and the Roman Empire believed in twenty gods and goddesses who represented and held responsibility for different areas of life.

The Greek gods and goddesses were commonly represented as having human qualities and therefore were like-minded with those who worshipped them. Because of this, many believed that worshipping them released a sense of security of life, and protection for when they crossed over to the other side.

The Romans, however, worshipped in fear of their gods and goddesses as they served “to win the favor of the gods” (Fiero, 86). Their theology however, originated from the Greeks as all gods and goddesses were converted to Latin origin. While maintaining their same significance as gods and goddesses, the Romans were expected to participate in sacrifices to them. This was expected of everyone even if they freely chose to accept another religion. If not, they would suffer persecutions included being “tortured, burned, beheaded, or thrown to wild beasts” (Fiero, 192). This was especially frequent amongst Christians as “the message of Jesus was easy to understand, free of cumbersome regulations, and costly rituals” (Fiero, 192).

Finally as well, was the objective to be “fundamentally realistic, that is, faithful to nature; but it refines nature in a process of idealization, that is; the effort to achieve a perfection that surpasses nature” (Fiero, 116). This idealization was translated into the visual representation of statues that were created for the elite, to honor the gods and goddesses, funerals, and memorials. For this reason, statues were composed of marble and sometimes bronze, symmetrical, proportionate, and generally in the nude-pure and natural. And with a desire for zero imperfections, the ideal representation of the human body was created. A body whose “torso turns on the axis of the spine, and the weight of the body shifts from equal distribution on both legs to greater weight on the left leg-a kind of balanced opposition that is at once natural and graceful” (Fiero, 118).

In the same way, the Romans learned much of their art from the Greeks. Statues were also created to honor the elite—the deceased and any Roman rulers. For this reason, they were created out of marble and bronze, but apart from Greeks, they had a “lack of idealization and affection for literary detail” (Fiero, 163). This meant that statues, paintings, and mosaics were represented as they were in reality. With blemishes and imperfections, the Romans used their art as a mark of time for the subject.

All in all, just as iron sharpens iron, just through the glimpse of these three areas of humanities within Greek culture and the Roman Empire-theology, art, and architecture; to acknowledge the Roman Empire as one of the greatest civilizations is to overlook the influence of Greek culture on the foundation of Roman civilization. Greek culture was not stolen or forced, but adopted by Rome because it was valuable. Therefore, it is fair to say that Rome itself stands tall but not on its own. With undeniable parallels, Greece is not too far behind and serves as a reminder that there are no original ideas, just great ones that deserve to be remembered forever.

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