This essay touches upon a few of the significant achievements made by those whom lived, during the conception of western culture, in ancient Greece and Rome. Some of these influences are quite extraordinary and relevant to our current society and culture here in the west. I would like to point to the most significant Greek ideal influencing our world today: democracy. An ideal that, I might add, which seems to be ever increasingly pushed aside by the elite few whom are controlling the world through corporate finance and regime sponsorship.


  Grecian and Roman influence on the west as we know it is very profound and has endured longer than any other prior culture. The West owes the refinement of drama, literature, poetry, satire, historic narrative, philosophy, scientific inquiry, civil and judicial law to the early Greeks and Romans. Some of the more enlightened rulers of Greece, like Solon (638-558 B.C.E. Pages: 78-79) , helped to direct a formerly oligarchic government towards an enterprise in which the average citizens could actively participate. The Athenian statesman and legislator Solon abolished debt slavery and encouraged the lower class to serve in public office. This example helps to demonstrate Greek consideration of the quality of human life and the revolutionary measures they achieved to enhance that quality. These early Greeks achieved a level of egalitarianism that is, unfortunately, unthinkable today. Athenian society was committed to the legal equality of its participants and promoted civic duty and responsibility towards the society itself. An innovative statesman and proponent of democracy named Pericles (495-429 B.C.E Pages: 79-81) helped to encourage democracy; he did this by initiating a system public audit of the finances of outgoing magistrates thus making abuses of public funds less likely. This man was, for me, one of the most inspiring people in this material. In Pericles' funeral speech, excerpted from Thucydides' Peloponnesian Wars, I found this sentence crucial to the spirit of a great democracy: "For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet with economy, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness. Wealth we employ, not for talk and ostentation, but when there is a real use for it. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it." This line I believe to be significant in showing that the wealthy held a duty toward society and that education was of paramount import. Pericles' speech helped show that capitalism or benefiting from hard work was predictable and that war, although important when necessary, were not first and foremost on the mind of this leader. This form of Grecian philosophy on duty can be seen, to have been passed on to the great Roman thinker Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.E. Pages: 138-140) whom opposed the dictatorships that were current to Rome in this period, in a line he wrote: "War, however, should be undertaken in such a way as to make it evident that it has no other object than to secure peace." Some of this brilliant philosophy should be examined by those whom have the power to do great harm or great good in the world today.

  The Greeks contributed to the world of art, architecture and jewelry in very significant ways with the classical style of order and symmetry. The Roman engineer and architect Vitruvius Pollio (?-26 B.C.E. Pages108-109) recorded many of the principles and techniques, such as proportion, used by the ancient Greeks from sculpture to building structures. This system of proportions known as the Golden Ratio represents an aesthetic ideal found both in nature and the human anatomy. Greek architecture, unlike Egypt's, was created for the living and the sculptural program seen on the Parthenon is a celebration of intellect over barbarism. This concept can be seen all over the world and is still utilized by many to this day in art as well as in architecture. Washington DC is but one of the many cities where ancient Greco-Roman architecture is predominantly displayed by many of our government buildings and monuments.

  The Roman influence to architecture can be seen in the form of the arch (Knowledge of which they gained from the Etruscans. 145). Roman engineers innovatively used this design as the basis to form barrel vaults, groined vaults, and domes. Another Roman contribution to the world was Rome's original and very influential system of law which codified law in all European countries with the exception of England. The early Romans also contributed the world's first encyclopedias, geographies, biographies, histories, and manuals of instruction. Although I believe the Roman culture to be somewhat less civilized than that of the ancient Greeks due to their propensity toward imperialism and blood sport; I found that Roman adherence to the Greek philosophy of civic duty and responsibility very significant. Rome, with a population of over one million citizens, utilized what can be termed as a welfare system with the distribution of free wheat and free entertainment to the genuine impoverished. (Hence the term bread and circuses. 147) This is but one of the various qualities of Greco-Roman influence that probably has enabled the survival of western civilization to this day. One need only look to the North Korean, Tanzanian, and Iraqi government's inhumane treatment of their less fortunate to realize that, eventually, governments with flagrant disregard of suffering and civil rights must ultimately fail.


  Of all the contributions of Greco Roman culture, I believe Grecian democratic ideals accurately held a realistic and modern outlook of what civilization should be when the members worked toward benefiting society through a civic responsibility toward themselves and each other. The lack of walls surrounding Hellene cities, the optimistic artwork, and the Olympic Games appear extremely positive in the development of a secure and bright environment in which all can work towards prosperity, enlightenment, and brotherhood. In a world quickly becoming overcrowded and increasingly prone to exploitation by the powerful, we should all take example of these ideals and implement democracy more fervently by weeding out the self-serving leadership in favor of public servants that resemble heroes like Pericles, Solon, Socrates, and even Plato whom was less than an advocate of democracy but more utilitarian on his ideas of leadership. These and other brilliant minds are key to the foundations of Western culture and critical thought and should be considered by those whom seek public office in a democratic society.