Culture and traditions

Ancient civilizations of the world: from Europe to America

The first civilizations that developed in each part of the world are different, which designed their own political and social systems. While the Greek and Roman are known in Europe, others such as the Maya and the Inca stand out in America.

In this article, you can know the types of ancient civilizations and which were the most prominent in each area. You will find them divided by the countries that currently occupy the territory in which they began to form, although at that time, these States did not yet exist.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Types of civilizations

There are different terms to define the first civilizations of history. First, the hydraulic villages were those that developed along a river or sea. There were two types:

They were the first to emerge and they did it on the banks of the rivers. They built works (eg channels) that allowed them to take better advantage of this resource. Two of them were the Egyptians, on the Nile, and the Mesopotamians, between the Tigris and the Euphrates. They are also known as agricultural civilizations, because this was the base activity of its economy.
They grew by the sea, which allowed them to trade with other cultures. Some of the most important appeared in the Mediterranean, such as the Greeks.

Similarly, there are other expressions related to ancient civilizations that are important to know:

those cultures that, in addition to agriculture, also gave an important role to livestock.
civilizations that created large settlements, which led to greater diversification of work and development of government and administration.
cultures that took war as a part of life, so it was present in religion and language.


The current history of Europe cannot be understood without that of the great empires of the past, among which the Greek and the Roman stand out, who came to conquer numerous peoples and cultures.


The ancient Greek civilization developed from the twelfth century B.C. until 146 B.C. He came to understand the southern territories of the Balkan Peninsula, the Aegean and Ionian Sea islands, and the western coast of Asia Minor.

Due to the relief, it was not formed as a united empire, but was composed of independent city-states, among which there were different wars. Among the most important are Athens, Sparta and Thebes.

Its history can be divided into four distinct periods, which are as follows:

Dark era
of s. XII BC to VIII BC There are hardly any stories about this era, so it is difficult to know what happened. It began with the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, which previously occupied this area.
Archaic era
of s. VIII BC to VI a.C. At the beginning of this period, Homer wrote the two most famous Greek works: The Iliad and The odyssey. They were considered true historical accounts.
Classic era
of s. V. a.C. to IV a.C. Time of maximum splendor, also known as Golden Age of Athens. There is a great cultural development, as important theater authors such as Sophocles and Aristophanes emerged. Large buildings such as the Parthenon were built. In this century the Medical Wars also happened, in which the Greeks defeated the Persians.
Hellenistic era
of s. IV BC to I a.C. Last period, which begins with the death of Governor Alexander the Great. It is in the year 146 B.C. when the Romans conquer Greece, it annexes its empire.

The language spoken in this civilization was Greek, which had different dialects depending on the area. This language was characterized by having three genders (masculine, feminine and neutral), and three numbers (singular, dual and plural).

The Greeks built imposing buildings and monuments. Among all, the Parthenon stands out, in the Acropolis of Athens. It was built in the 5th century BC. It consists of eight front and 17 side columns, and each has a height of 10.93 meters. It is a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.

They had a polytheistic religion. It was believed that the gods were anthropomorphic, that is, they had human form. In addition, they worshiped the phenomena of nature. According to the Greeks, the gods lived on top of Olympus, a mountain located between Thessaly and Macedonia that is 2,919 meters high.

Among all the deities, Zeus was the most important, as he was considered the father of all gods and people, as well as the god of heaven and thunder. His wife and sister was named Hera.


The greatest culture that developed in Italy was that of Ancient Rome. It came to cover southern and western Europe (including Britain), western Asia and northern Africa. According to legend, it was founded by Romulus and Rowing in the year 753 B.C.

Until 509 B.C., a monarchy remained. In it, the king was chosen by the Senate, a set of elders. The last monarch was Lucio Tarquinio the Superb.

After this, the Roman Republic was established, which was governed by a system of consuls. At this time, Sicily, Iberia, Macedonia and the Seleucid Empire (Near East) are conquered. In the first century B.C. different revolts and civil wars began to occur.

It is in the year 29 B.C. when does the Roman empire. The first emperor was César Augusto, who lived the time of maximum glory. Other prominent emperors were Trajan, Adriano and Marco Aurelio.

Emperor Theodosius divided the territory in two in 395 A.D. The Empire of the East ended in 476, while that of the West lasted until the year 1453, when the Fall of Constantinople occurs.

Roman society was hierarchized. At the top were the patricians and, behind them, the knights. The commoners were the width of the population, the poor part. Slaves, who used to be prisoners of war, had no rights.

The language spoken was Latin, from which some languages ​​such as Spanish, French or Italian come. As for religion, they adopted that of Ancient Greece, but changed the name to the gods. For example, Zeus became Jupiter.

The rest of religions were persecuted until, in the year 313, Emperor Constantine I established Christianity as the official religion of the empire.


Until the arrival of the Celts in the ninth century B.C., in Spain there were different towns, the so-called Iberians. The Celts have their origin in the Alps and settled in the north and center of the country, as well as in France.

They mixed with the Iberians, giving rise to the celtiberians. On the other hand, the Basque people did not suffer any invasion, so it remained unmixed.

In the year 1104 B.C. The Phoenicians arrived, who founded some cities that remain today, such as Huelva, Cádiz and Málaga. These were succeeded by the Greeks, who settled mostly in the area of ​​Catalonia.

It is in the third century B.C. when the Carthaginians founded Cartagena. Little later the wars with Rome begin. Finally, the Romans defeated them and conquered the entire territory, which was renamed Hispania.

Hispania underwent a romanization process in which they adopted all the culture of this town: Latin replaced the other languages, agriculture and livestock were modernized, an important urban network was woven, etc.

After these, they arrived in 406 A.D. the Visigoths, who remained until 711, when the Muslim era begins and consolidate al-Andalus. In 1492, this empire vanished after the Christian Reconquest.


Most of the important civilizations of America took place before the conquest by the Spanish of the territory, after the discovery of Columbus in 1492.


The Maya were one of the great pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. They lived in southern Mexico and some countries in Central America such as Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. Its history had a continuity of about 3,000 years and can be divided into three parts:

Preclassic Period
from 1800 BC until 250 B.C. Also known as the Agricultural Period, since its main activity was the cultivation of foods such as corn, beans and squash.
Classical period
from 250 B.C. A.D. 900 The life of the Maya revolved around religion. A total of 40 cities were developed, including Tikal, which reached 40,000 inhabitants, and Copán, in which astronomy was studied and the 365-day calendar was formed.
Postclassic Period
from 950 to 1524. Cities and religious centers were abandoned and there was an intense time of migration. There were different clashes. The remaining settlements ended after the conquest of the settlers.

According to the Mayan religion, the world had been created five times and destroyed four. They believed that paradise was reserved for people slaughtered, killed or killed during childhood. The others went to hell, known as Xibalba.

Numerous pyramid-shaped temples were built in honor of the gods. These were run by the priests, components of the upper class of society. Offerings were made to the gods that included human sacrifices.

Another Mesoamerican culture was that of the Aztecs, who settled in central Mexico between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. It was a polytheistic society and divided into three levels: slaves, commoners and nobles.

Peru and Bolivia

The ancient Andean civilizations are those pre-Columbian societies that inhabited this area since 4000 BC. The last of all was the inca, which was from the 15th century A.D. to the XVI and occupied territories of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.

This empire had a total of twelve million inhabitants. The Inca was his ruler, a kind of king. The entire territory was known as Tahuantinsuyo, what does it mean four states. The capital was Cuzco.

In 1540 this society came to an end due to the conquest of Peru by the Spanish. However, there were some areas that resisted until 1572.

Its economy was based on agriculture, which had numerous advances such as cultivation terraces. In addition, they carried out a cattle ranch of llamas and alpacas.

The most famous rest of the Incas is Macchu Picchu, a population with two hypotheses: that it was a religious sanctuary or the resting residence of one of the governors.


In Asia we find an important confluence of civilizations and dynasties that fought among themselves to dominate the territory. Some of these existed for thousands of years:

Syria and Iraq

A part of the territory occupied by Syria and Iraq is known as Mesopotamia, which is the geographical area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

One of the first civilizations in this area was the Babylonian, which is later than that of the Sumerians. It began around 1800 B.C. and set his capital in Babylon.

The most important king was Hammurabi, who ruled between 1790 and 1750 BC. At this time, the Babylonian empire went from being a small kingdom to occupy all of Mesopotamia.

Another of this king's advances was that of the Hammurabi code, the first code of written laws in history. After his death, the kingdom was in decline.

In 1500 BC The empire was destroyed by the Hittites. However, a century later, Babylon returned to resurface, as the little houses took over the city. Other dynasties that were happening were the Assyrian and the Chaldea. Babylon ended up conquered by the Persians in 539 B.C.


In the history of China we find numerous dynasties. The first was the Xia, between 2070 BC. and 1600 B.C. After these came others like the Shang or the Zhou. This era is known as the Ancient Era.

The Imperial Era begins in 221 B.C. with the Qin Dynasty, in which the figure of the emperor began. Of the name of Qin derive the current word to name the country, China.

During this time, the country was unified for the first time. The practice he highlighted was known as legalism. With it, the aristocracy was given less power and more freedom to the peasants.

However, schooling and books were banned, and an important burning of them was carried out. In this way, the people were kept at bay and an important military force was achieved. During these years, parts of the Great Wall of China that were separated joined.

After a rebellion, in the year 206 a.C. The Han Dynasty was implanted, with which schooling and books were promulgated again.


One of the most important parts of the chronology of ancient India was that of the Gupta Empire. It lasted between 320 and 550 A.D., a time that is also known as Golden age.

In the previous 500 years, the territory had been formed by small independent kingdoms. With the beginning of this empire, under Chandragupta, an important territorial expansion took place.

These years are characterized by the development of art, architecture, science, religion and philosophy. In addition, there was hardly any crime and crimes, and large monuments and new cities were built.

Society used to follow a vegetarian diet and rejected alcoholic beverages. The Buddhist and Hindu religions coexisted without problems. In addition, an important Commerce both inside and outside.

After the death of Governor Skandagupta in 467, domestic conflicts began. Finally, due to the attacks of the Huns, the empire declined.


One of the best-known ancient civilizations in history occurred in Africa: the egyptian. It was developed for about 3,000 years, from 3000 BC. until 30 BC It occupied the southeast of the continent, specifically the surroundings of the Nile.

This river was quite important for the Egyptians, since it depended on them that they could produce food every year: the floods of the Nile allowed the land to be fertile and, therefore, there was agriculture.

They had a polytheistic religion and large temples were erected in honor of the gods. It was thought that the pharaoh was chosen by the divinities, so he was considered a kind of god on earth.

The society was pyramidal and there were three basic levels:

Upper class
formed by the royal family, priests, scribes and other public office.
Middle class
there were merchants, doctors and craftsmen.
Lower class
on the one hand were the peasants, who worked in exchange for food and clothing; and on the other, slaves, prisoners of war without freedom.

If you are interested in the history of this civilization, you can know it in depth by visiting the following article: The Egyptian civilization: location, organization and characteristics.


One of Oceania's most prominent empires was that of Tu’i Tonga, which began in 950 A.D. and was present until the 19th century. Its center was the island of Tongatapu, in Tonga.

Its first emperor was ‘Aho’eitu, who managed to rid Tonga, an archipelago with 36 inhabited islands, of the power of the island of Fiji. After this, the empire expanded until it conquered Western and Central Polynesia, and part of Melanesia and Micronesia.

In total, they came to control three million of square kilometers. In addition, all subordinate territories had to pay a tribute. This success was due to the power of his naval army, which was sailing in canoes with square sails.

The power began to fall by wars and internal conflicts, as well as by the uprising of some of the dominated peoples.

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