Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece
By Vaneza M
When you think of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, what comes to mind? Their government? Their economy? Or perhaps their art (such as architecture and sculptures)? No matter which aspect of those ancient civilizations you are considering, they have many similarities and many differences from each other. Let’s start by first comparing their governments.
Rome and Greece both started out with different forms of governments than what they have today. Greece started with oligarchy. Oligarchies were usually headed by a council of leaders who belonged to the aristocracy. They then set up a tyranny. In the year 594 BCE, the aristocrats of Athens chose Solon to lead the polis. Solon gave some non-aristocratic men the right to vote for officials. He also put a stop to the practice of selling into slavery poor people who could not pay their debts. What Solon did put Athens on the path to a democratic government. On the other hand, Rome began their search for a government by trying out a monarchy. Over time, Roman aristocrats grew tired of royal rule. Tarquin the Proud, the 7th king of Rome, mistreated his people. In 509 BCE, the following Romans overthrew the king and then formed a republic. A republic is a government in which citizens have the right to vote and elect officials.
Greece and Rome both have had highs and lows in their economies. Both Rome and Greece relied heavily on trade and conquest to prosper. Rome exported grain, wine, olive oil, and pottery. Most of the time, they traded by sea, so a navy was important for reducing piracy. They imported medicine and jewels from India, silk from China, and frankincense and animals from Africa. Since these products were so expensive, only wealthy people could purchase these items of luxury. Craft industries were also part of the economy. Trained workers produced cloth, glass, pottery, metalwork, and ships. The construction industry supplied building projects with marble, terracotta tiles, and lead plumbing pipes. These items helped Rome develop their provinces, new and old. Similarly, Greece exported pottery, jewelry, silver, and other trade goods. These products, along with olive oil and wine, were also shipped to other lands. Greece imported timber, minerals, grain, and luxury goods such as ivory, glass, and perfume. Imported grain was essential to Greece because they had a lack of rich, fertile land for farming.
Rome and Greece both made significant contributions to today’s art. Greeks had a keen appreciation of beauty. They expressed this in their paintings, sculptures, and architecture. Even ordinary objects such as vases and jugs were carefully decorated. From descriptions of ancient writers, we now know that their paintings were incredibly realistic. Painters created an impression of depth and perspective in their work. Greeks were very advanced for art in their time. The proportions of the human body inspired Greek architecture. Architects also tried to achieve perfection in their work. They created buildings that gave a sense of balance and harmony of parts. We can see this in a well-known Greek building called the Parthenon, built to honor Athena, a Greek goddess. If you look at the Lincoln Memorial in the United States, you can see the Parthenon inspired the builders of the Lincoln Memorial. People today think of Greek buildings and statues as dazzling white marble. In ancient Greek times, however, these works would have been painted. Statues would have had colored eyes, skin, and hair, making them appear startlingly real. Though over time, the colors have faded, making them show their original marble. Throughout the Roman empire, art filled public buildings and the homes of the wealthy. Colorful mosaics brightened up floors. A mosaic is a design formed with small tiles of glass, stone, or pottery. Public buildings and the homes of the wealthy were covered from top to bottom in colorful painted murals. They showed beautiful landscapes, events from mythology and history, and even scenes from daily life. Roman artisans used various materials to make beautiful objects. They crafted vases and jars of blue glass and mirrors of polished silver. Romans also built statues of their gods, great heroes, and famous people. They stood in markets, temples, and other public places, making them a sight for everyday people.
When you think about ancient Rome and ancient Greece now, what comes to mind? How different they are? Or, how similar they are? Either way, the ancient Greeks and Romans were very influential to today’s society in their own beautiful ways.