In no particular order, a polite nod to the Mayans, Incas, Carthagians, Persians, Olmecs, Cholas, Mongols, Harappan, Arawak, Umayyads, Visigoths, Vikings and all the other ancient civilisations and cultures not mentioned, or even known of, that have contributed to the world, this is dedicated to you. A special mention goes to the Phoenicians (3000 B.C to 634 A.D) master sailors and global traders and The Indus Valley Civilisation (2600–1900 B.C.) who gave us, among many achievements, numeracy.
Approximately 4000 B.C. and located in Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, this is, arguably, the birth place of civilisation as we know it. The Sumerians reclaimed land for farming, invented the plough to till the soil and the wheel with which to transport their crops. They threw pots, weaved material, worked metal and are the source of the 24-hour day, arithmetic and the written word itself.
This truly remarkable civilisation disappeared around 1750 B.C. when Semitic Elamites and Amorites invaded, the Sumerians moved north and disappeared into history. Their legacy, however, sustains us right up to todays pub… Yep, in 3900 B.C. they invented beer.
Of all the ancient civilisations here, most people have a basic understanding of ancient Egypt in some form or another. For 3000 years (roughly 3500 B.C. to 600.A.D.) the people of Egypt lived in the most modern of societies. They’d independently developed written communication, had an excellent understanding of irrigation and farming and a system of laws that incorporate the earliest known peace treaty.
The Egyptians also had a primitive yet effective understanding of medicine and were skilled boat makers among many other achievements. But we know them best for their art and architecture, most notably, the awesome Pyramids of Giza built around 2600 B.C. Around 600 A.D. the civilisation was all but over, constant war with the Persians had depleted their supplies and they were unable to defend themselves against the mighty Arabian armies from the East.
For over 2000 years twelve dynasties and their respective emperors ruled the country, beginning with the Xia dynasty in 2100 B.C. and ending with the Qing in 1911. In 221 B.C. Emperor Qin unified China under one governing body kick-starting China’s golden Imperial age.
By now the Chinese were accomplished farmers, potters and weavers and had been making bronze for almost 2000 years. They are also responsible for mankind’s four great inventions; paper during the Han Dynasty circa 1 A.D; printing -the earliest known book is the Diamond Sutra from the Tang Dynasty 618-907 A.D; gunpowder, also invented during the Tang Dynasty, and the modern Compass which appeared during the Han Dynasty 202-220 B.C.
Among their hundreds of inventions and discoveries such as silk, tea, the Ancient Chinese are credited with the first recorded observations of solar eclipses and comets, time-keeping by means of sundials and the ruthlessly efficient crossbow developed during the Qin Dynasty. Of all the ancient empires, China is still the closest to its past.
One the largest and most powerful empires in history, yet it only lasted for a mere 500 years, the western half from 27 B.C to 476 A.D and the eastern half from 330 A.D. until 1453 A.D. At its most powerful, the Empire comprised of Italy, Spain, Greece, North Africa, Egypt and France, plus parts of Eurasia, Germany and, of course, Britain.
If the Sumerians got the ball rolling with the invention of the wheel, it was the Romans that created the modern world. We all know about the roads, aqueducts, and sewage systems but in order to govern efficiency they gave us the concept of infrastructure such as a unifying common language (Latin) and public and commercial buildings that helped to consolidate its populace. To the world they introduced a host of foodstuffs, carrots, peas, apples, pears, wine, and, of course, their art and architecture has showcased and inspired some of the world’s greatest artists.
Rome fell in 476 A.D when it was invaded by the Visigoths but it wasn’t until 1000 years later that the remaining part of the Roman Empire, presided over by Constantine X1, was finally crushed by the Turks, though in some respects you could argue that the Roman Empire never truly ended as we’ve all absorbed so many aspects of it. We all wear socks right? Romans.
People had been living in Greece for over 57,000 years but it wasn’t until 2000 B.C, following an invasion of central Asians and the subsequent introduction of the wheel and bronze that it began to evolve into a cohesive nation. In 900 B.C the Greece we know from history was born, now we have the epic poetry of Homer, painted pottery and stone temples, 300 years later and we enter the feted classical period where intellect finds its tongue.
Rich in the arts, literature, drama, and architecture, it’s time of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, it’s the birthplace of philosophical thought where Plato and Aristotle introduced mankind to rationale. But it’s also a time of war and change, the rise of the Macedonians saw the end of the classical period with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.
Greece was broken up, Athens was no longer a political epicentre (though remained vital as an epicentre of philosophy) and ancient Greece as we know lived on as the heart and soul of the Romans who, without the Greeks, may well have never had an Empire at all.