Barbarism And Civilization

During the IV millennium BC. e. in the life of some peoples of the Earth there were deep changes that determined the subsequent history of mankind. After long centuries of primitiveness, the most developed tribes of Eurasia, Africa and America have finally crossed the line separating barbarism from civilization.

What is civilization
Bird with the head of a lioness. Marie. III millennium BC. e.
The word “civilization” comes from the Latin adjective civilis – “civil, state”. Approximately it can be translated as “fencing”, “raising to the level of a citizen.” The term means “ascent to urban culture”, because civilis is associated with the word civitas – “city”, “city-state”. It is precisely this meaning that the word “civilization” was understood in the XVI – XVIII centuries. Then Western thinkers designated the level of culture corresponding to European urban education. Civilization was contrasted with ignorance, savagery. Until now, in everyday life, this meaning of the word is preserved. “Civilization, civilization” is understood as a synonym for “culture”. When they say “civilized man”, they often mean “cultural”, “educated.”

In the XIII century. A new, scientific meaning of the term “civilization” begins to take shape. The “civilized” man of the urban culture of Europe or even Asia is contrasted with primitive “savages.” In the XIX century, the American historian Lewis Henry Morgan (1818 – 1881) included the concept of “civilization” in his own outline of the history of mankind.

Morgan was a supporter of the theory of universal progress, according to which all nations go through the same steps in their development. At the same time, some nations may lag behind, while others may forge ahead. Exploring the life of American Indians and the archaeological material already known in his time, Morgan identified three stages in the history of the world. The basis of periodization, he put exactly the archaeological signs – as the most material and obvious. The first stage, wildness, begins with the history of man and ends with the advent of pottery. The latter, according to Morgan (and this was confirmed by later research), relates to the transition of people from hunting and gathering to farming and herding.

The second stage – barbarism covers the period from the appearance of pottery to the appearance of writing. Morgan himself investigated barbarism on the example of the Indians of the United States and Canada, especially the tribal association of the Iroquois.

The second stage – barbarism covers the period from the appearance of pottery to the appearance of writing. Morgan himself investigated barbarism on the example of the Indians of the United States and Canada, especially the tribal association of the Iroquois.

At the time of Morgan, the presence of writing could be considered a sufficient sign of the emergence of civilization. However, the further development of historical science has shown that the appearance of writing is far from always accompanied by profound cultural and social changes. Moreover, writing does not necessarily occur in the framework of urban culture.

A city can be considered, according to the generally accepted definition, only such a settlement, where residents are mainly engaged in labor outside agriculture. So, over the past century and a half, scientists have become aware of a whole series of written cultures without any signs of urban life. For example, Aborigines from Easter Island in Oceania had a written language, but they didn’t have a semblance of urban settlements. It is hardly possible in the full sense of the word to consider even the largest and fortified settlements of the ancient Germans of the 1st – 5th centuries to be cities. And they already had a letter.

So, it became clear that a single sign for the selection of civilization is not enough. In fact, Morgan did not see civilization outside of urban culture. So the existence of cities, along with the written language, is now the second generally recognized evidence of the presence of civilization among the people.

Nevertheless, neither the city, nor even the written language does not belong to indisputable evidence. The letter went through many stages in its development, and its most primitive forms are sometimes difficult to distinguish from the visual arts. Disputes about whether to consider this or that settlement a city often seethe in science for decades. As a third, quite material and indisputable, sign of the existence of civilization, modern archaeologists have proposed monumental art.

Detail pictograms from the so-called “Cave hands”
Detail of the pictogram from the so-called “Cave of the hands.” Argentina. VIII millennium BC. e.
Indeed, the emergence of monumental architecture and sculpture is a visible sign of change in society and culture. Buildings like the Egyptian pyramids, ancient Chinese palaces, ancient temples were erected with the application of mental and physical forces unthinkable in a primitive society. They did not have a purely applied purpose. For people to live for centuries, there were enough primitive dugouts and huts. A residential palace is much more than what a man really needs. Giant sculptures of gods and heroes perpetuated them for thousands of years. It should be noted that in one form or another monumentality is characteristic of any civilization up to our days. True, today it is often caused by inevitability – for example, the accumulation of the population in large cities makes it necessary to build apartment buildings – “towers”.

Thus, modern science identifies three main features of civilization: writing, cities, monumental art. Scientists approach these signs with varying degrees of rigor. Many believe that a combination of at least two of these signs is enough for recognition of civilization. Thus, the Aboriginal people mentioned above from Easter Island, Rapanuyans, have written language and monumental sculptures of revered ancestors – but there are no cities. The ancient Incas from Peru, who subordinated almost the entire west of South America, had urban settlements, developed monumental construction — but there was no written language. And yet they often speak of the “Incan civilization”, the “civilization of Easter Island”. Other scientists are more strict on the problem. In their opinion, the level of civilization is achieved only by combining all three signs.

The term “civilization” denotes not only a certain stage in the development of humanity and culture, but also individual cultures that have reached this stage. A local civilization is a civilization of any region, nation, country, completely independent, self-sufficient. Historians introduce various divisions of local civilizations: by level of development (agrarian, industrial, etc.), by characteristic features of the economy (for example, trade), by geographical position (river, sea, etc.).

The concept of local civilization plays an important role in the so-called civilizational approach to world history. According to this approach, there is no worldwide historical progress.

Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser

The pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser. Saqqara Egypt. XXVIII century. BC e.
Separate cultures or civilizations go through different stages in their development independently of each other, according to their own laws. In this case, both the flowering and decay of cultures are natural. The main core of the overwhelming majority of local civilizations, their “over-value”, is made up of religious systems.For  the German historian and philosopher Osvald Spengler (1880-1936). The latter, by the way, defined civilization in its own way. For Spengler, civilization is a culture in decline, when its main forces are concentrated in cities and it begins to decompose. But such a definition of civilization has not taken root in science, even among supporters of Spengler.