Old age

The Ancient Age is a period of history that extended from around 3500 BC, when cuneiform writing emerged, until 476 AD, when the Roman Empire disintegrated.

The Ancient Age is one of the periods of history stipulated by modern historians. This period extended from 3500 BC , when cuneiform writing emerged, until the year 476 AD , when the Western Roman Empire was disintegrated with the dethronement of the last emperor of Rome.

Understanding the Ancient Age

The Ancient Age or Antiquity is a period of history that, chronologically, began around 3500 BC . All periods have milestones that are used as markers for their beginning and end, but it is important to always point out that these milestones are approximate markers and take into account events that indicate significant changes in the long term.

In the case of the Ancient Age, the initial milestone was the emergence of cuneiform writing , humanity’s first form of writing, which was created by the Sumerians and was used throughout Mesopotamia, until around 100 BC. The translation of this writing was carried out in the 19th century and allowed us to considerably expand knowledge about Antiquity.

The Ancient Age lasted until the year 476 AD , when the Western Roman Empire disintegrated . This event marked the end of the Roman Empire in Western Europe and began the process of occupation of that continent by the Germanic kingdoms . This allowed the fusion between Latin culture and Germanic culture and shaped the Middle Ages.

When studying the Ancient Age, we can refer to any civilization that existed between 3500 BC and 476 AD, although the development of civilizations is not uniform and each has had different degrees of sophistication. In any case, the focus in the study of Antiquity tends to be Eastern civilizations and classical civilizations .

When we talk about eastern civilizations, we are considering the Mesopotamian , Phoenician , Hebrew , Persian , Egyptian , Hittite people and many others. In the case of classical civilizations, we are referring to the Greeks and the Romans . In the case of the Greeks, the Cretans and the Mycenaeans are usually included .

Of course, Antiquity goes beyond this and the ancient civilizations that existed in Asia can be studied , with emphasis on the Chinese and Indians . In the case of the American continent, pre-Columbian civilizations can be studied , such as the Olmecs , Zapotecs, Chavín , etc.

The African continent also has its ancient civilizations , such as the Cushites and the Carthaginians . Despite being included in Eastern civilizations, the Egyptians were also Africans, since, geographically, Egypt is located in Africa.

Also access : History of the Great Pyramid of Giza – one of the wonders of Antiquity

Main civilizations of Antiquity

We have already seen some examples of ancient civilizations and, in this part of the text, we will highlight some of them. We selected four civilizations of great relevance when studying this period: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.

The Egyptian civilization developed in the northeast of the African continent, on the banks of the River Nile , whose floods provided the region with very fertile soil. The existence of the Nile guaranteed the possibility of human survival in an extremely hostile place: the Sahara desert.

Along the banks of the Nile River, a series of communities , called nome, developed. Around 3500 BC, these communities formed two kingdoms known as:

  • Lower Egypt,
  • Upper Egypt.

It is believed that these kingdoms were unified sometime between 3200 BC and 3000 BC, and Menes placed himself as the first pharaoh .

Egypt had a theocratic monarchy and, therefore, religion had crucial importance in the execution of political power. The ruler, called pharaoh, was considered the manifestation of a god and had full powers over the Egyptian lands. This civilization became known:

  • by writing through hieroglyphics,
  • by the construction of great tombs – the pyramids,
  • for the practice of mummifying the dead.
  • Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia does not represent a civilization, but a region of the Middle East that was home to a series of ancient peoples . The term “Mesopotamia” has Greek origins and means “land between rivers”, a reference to the fact that Mesopotamian civilizations established themselves in this region located between two rivers: Tigris and Euphrates.

Among the main Mesopotamian civilizations, the following stand out:

  • Sumerians ,
  • Akkadians,
  • amorites,
  • Assyrians ,
  • Chaldeans.

Of these, the Sumerians were the first to gain notoriety , forming a more advanced civilization around 3200 BC. They developed the first cities, created cuneiform writing, established local governments, built large buildings, etc.

Other great civilizations, such as the Amorites , were marked by a great king called Hammurabi. This king ruled a small empire from Babylon and became known for the Code of Hammurabi , a set of written laws that had great influence in Mesopotamia. The Assyrians were known for their great violence, and the Chaldeans had the last great Mesopotamian empire. In 539 BC, the region was conquered by the Persians .

The Greeks were one of the great people of Antiquity and left great contributions in politics, philosophy, mathematics, history and many other areas. This civilization began to develop through the migration of some people to the south of the Balkan Peninsula, starting in 2000 BC.

The Greeks emerged from the fusion of peoples , such as:

  • Cretans,
  • Mycenaeans,
  • Aeolians,
  • dorians,
  • Ionians.

Greek history was divided into a series of periods. The first of them – the Pre-Homeric – is marked by the existence of two great civilizations developed by Cretans and Mycenaeans.

The Greeks, during their Classical Period , were known for having developed the polis , a model of city-state, with Athens and Sparta being the most striking examples. These were the largest and most powerful polis in Ancient Greece, possessing vast lands and rivaling each other, as they had different models of polis and different interests.

The Athenians had a democratic model , which allowed the participation of all citizens of society (men, born in Athens and children of Athenians), while the Spartans adopted the aristocratic model , which allowed the participation of a small minority of privileged, well-known like fragments.

Greek history was marked by two major conflicts:

  • Medical Wars: against the Persians;
  • Peloponnesian War : civil war between Athenians and Spartans.

The two wars weakened the poleis and allowed foreigners, such as the Macedonians , to conquer the region.

  • Ancient Rome

Roman civilization arose from a small Latin city that developed on the Italian Peninsula, in the 8th century BC . Rome was one of the great civilizations of Antiquity and had a large territory that extended from Mesopotamia to Western Europe and from Britain to North Africa.

Roman history was divided into three major periods:

  • the monarchist,
  • the republican,
  • the imperial .

From a small village in the Latium region, Rome became a gigantic civilization that expanded through war. The marks of the Roman presence, in the places they conquered, resisted for a long time and many exist to this day.

Roman society was divided between patricians and plebeians and, throughout history, social inequalities led these classes to clash several times. One of the greatest demonstrations of the clashes between plebeians and patricians can be found in the reforms proposed by the Gracchus brothers .

Roman decadence began in the 3rd century AD and was directly related to the weakening of the Roman economy . Firstly, Rome’s power over its provinces weakened, and the Roman economy crumbled, mainly due to the crisis in the slave system, which supported Roman production.

Furthermore, Roman control over its borders began to decline , and Germanic peoples and other barbarians from the limes began to penetrate Roman territory. Many were added to the Roman army and, in return, received land in the territory. The Germanic invasions were the event that sealed the end of the Roman Empire in Western Europe.

In 476 AD, Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed by the Heruli, and the territories of the Western Roman Empire were occupied by different Germanic peoples. The Middle Ages were established by this fusion between Latin culture and Germanic culture.

Periods of history

Whenever we study history, we realize that the entire extent of human history was divided by historians into periods , and this division was structured during the 19th century. The creation of periods for historical time is an ancient practice in humanity, and historian Jacques Le Goff already demonstrates that in the Bible there is a periodization proposed in the book of Daniel |1 .

Other periodization proposals followed over time until history became an area of ​​professional knowledge and a teaching subject. The transformation of history into a teaching subject took place in Western Europe, at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, and, in this process, periodization became a very useful tool .

This happened, firstly, because periodization is a very productive teaching tool to facilitate the teaching and understanding of historical events. Furthermore, this tool was designed to handle historical time as a succession of events, which made it possible to visualize the evolution of humanity over time.

This idea does not make much sense today, since historians understand that the passage from one period to another does not necessarily indicate evolution or progress. Therefore, we understand that, even with the change from one period to the next, delays or moments of recession can happen.

The periodization that is currently used has taken shape over time. During the Renaissance period , the idea that saw European history as marked by three major periods began to take shape: Ancient (Greece and Rome), Middle and Modern (beginning with Renaissance culture).

We can see that this idea, in parts, was consolidated, and the periodization of history that we use divides history into five major periods: