Early Greek and Roman Cultures

Elements of culture

Ancient Greece

Ancient Rome


Was not an empire. Country was formed of the city-states. Athens was the capital. The king ruled Athens. Next after the king were the oligarchies. Greek was a democratic state (votes were made by the citizens, exception – Sparta – limited monarchy).

Rome had republican governmental system. Early Rome was ruled by the king. Next after king went consuls who were annually elected. The main legislative organ was The Senate that consisted of fathers of the great patrician houses. Later the power was split between those three branches.

Geographical Terrain

Mediterranean country. Mountainous landscape resulted in the isolation of Greek cities all of which were near the water. Was located further south than Rome.

Mediterranean country. Roman cities were mostly located in plains and bordered on the east with mountains and on the west with the sea. Was more opened to the invasions and migrations.

Economics and Trade Practices

Agricultural country. Economy was based on small wheat-producing households and bigger producers of olive oil and wine. Had slaves. Trade was weaker than in Roman Empire and was held with the distant countries. Had own coinage as a currency. Mine work was used.

Agricultural country. Was supported by its provinces. Trade was more prosperous, held with local cities. Exported wine and olive oil. Was more dependent on slaves labour. Had own coinage as a currency. Mine work was used.

Art and Architecture

Greek art is considered to be older and superior to the Roman art. Greek art carried more idealistic and glorified beauty. Sculptors were seeking for the perfect forms.

All art and architectural works were created for religious purposes.  Marble and limestone was used as a building material. Temples were ornate inside and columns were very popular. Literature was very developed. The first theatres originated in ancient Greece. Such genres as tragedy and comedy were born in Greece.

Roman paintings imitated Greek art. It was simpler, focused on realistic representations of portraits or decorations. Romans invented wall painting – fresco and mosaic art. Roman architecture was much similar to the Greek, especially temples. The only difference was arches, vaults and domes that were more popular among Romans. Marble and limestone was also used. Except the religious buildings, there were also buildings for entertainment like amphitheatres and the Coliseum. Roman literature adopted many features of the Greek literature. Military stories and epic poetry were very popular.

Philosophical and Religious Beliefs

Polytheistic state. Each God had characteristic features and patronized certain sphere of life. Terrestrial life was of more importance that eternal. Greece had rich mythology. Philosophical thought was very developed. Most works were concerned with the study of nature itself and human place in it. Natural science was also developed, especially mathematics.

Polytheistic state. Romans adopted Greek Gods and named them after stars and planets. : Ares – Greek God of war; Mars – Roman God of war. Romans also adopted Greek mythology.

Roman philosophy adopted and developed two major Greek schools – Cynicism and Stoicism.

Social Structure

There were five social strata:
slaves, freemen, metics, citizens and women. Women were not considered as citizens. Father was the head of the household.

There were four social strata:
slaves, freemen, plebeians and patricians. Father was the head of the household and had more power than in Greek families.

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