The idea of civilization grew out of the Enlightenment bocoran hk, an 18th-century movement. It tied in with the now-discredited notion that human societies developed in a straight line, and those that deviated were “decadent.”
Civilizations develop when hunter-gatherers settle in a place permanently and grow enough food to support large numbers of people living together. They build towns and cities, develop complex institutions, including government and religion, and create a shared culture that reflects their common beliefs and practices. Civilizations also have a system of law, order and justice, and they are often highly centralized. They trade with other civilizations for needed materials and ideas.
Big historians carefully define what a civilization is, and they try to explain why some communities of people become civilized while others do not. They also wonder why civilizations seem to come and go, reemerging and disappearing in various places around the world at the same time.
Whether it was the agrarian civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and India, or the Maya and Olmec civilizations in Mexico and Peru, these early societies developed complex states. State civilizations were based on an upper class of rulers and officials (governmental), a middle group of farmers, craftspeople and artists, and at the bottom was a lower group of serfs and slaves. This system gave people of different skills the opportunity to buy and sell their products within a society, and this trading led to the development of organized, international trade.
All early civilizations developed religions to help them understand the forces that shape life and the world. They believed that gods and goddesses ruled the universe, and they performed rituals to please these supernatural beings. They were led by priests, who acted as mediators between the people and the gods. They also supervised rituals for the dead, and their ceremonies helped the people to get along. The kings and officials also believed that their power came from divine approval, so they tried to keep the gods happy by obeying their rules and following the advice of their prophets.
All of these facets make up the definition of civilization. The city was a key feature, since it allowed people to live in a densely settled area with many other people. This required a unified political system, and it also meant that shared institutions like religion and language helped to bring people together. In addition, as the population of a civilization grew to such high levels that it required regular importation of resources from distant areas, people developed complex bureaucracies to deal with these issues. This was what eventually made the Roman Empire, for example, a powerful civilization in Europe and beyond. Its size and scope were so great that the word “civilization” itself derives from Latin, a term that means citizenship. This was a reflection of the fact that all citizens of Rome were considered part of a citizenry called civis. This was a very important concept for future civilizations, as we will see in the next section of this lesson.