The Classical Period: Directions, Diversities, and Declines by 500 C.E. 


One theme that chapter 5 has is the, “Development and Interaction of Cultures.”This chapter’s main point is belief systems, philosophies, ideologies. In this chapter, many different groups of people believed in different religions. Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, and Islam are the five different religions. 

The three religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, and Daoism were all very different religions from each other mostly within India’s borders. Hinduism retained its belief in reincarnation and its combination of spiritual interest in union with the divine essence and extensive rituals and ceremonies. Buddhism focused on the emphasis on ethics to become a more emotional cult stressing the possibility of popular salvation.  Daoism focuses on emphasizing practical benefits obtainable through magic. Christianity was a religion that played a big role in the future; it didn’t have any tolerance for other religions.  Islam would become the greatest rival in religions with Christianity, even to this day. 

Another theme chapter 5 consists of is, “The Interaction Between Humans and the Environment.” Roman Arts, sciences, and technologies were heavily influenced by the Greeks. The advanced in technology brought them to construct their first dome. The Romans built one of their most famous structures today, the Coliseum. The Roman Empire fell because of invasions, weak leadership, the Empires armies had too much land to defend against invasion, and the Eastern Roman Empire broke away. One of the biggest reasons why the Roman Empire fell was because of their vast size. The demography of the Romans grew too much that the population was too vast and that is one of the reasons why the Romans fell. 
There were a lot of slaves and servants in the bottom of the social hierarchy and these slaves didn’t have much food and they were very dirty and ragged so they caught diseases easily. And those diseases spread among themselves and the diseases also spread to the Roman soldiers and people from the slaves. The Romans developed an intensive and sophisticated agriculture, expanded upon existing iron working technology, created laws providing for individual ownership, advanced stone masonry technology, advanced road-building, military engineering, and building monuments. Another Roman technology could be glass blowing and concrete, and these two technological advances during the classical period were very helpful and still used today. 

Animism – is a religious outlook that sees gods in many aspects of nature and propitiates them to help control and explain nature. This is typical of Mesopotamian religions, and animism also refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle. 

Syncretism- combining of different beliefs. The term itself means combining.

Sahara – is a desert running across northern Africa, and this separates the Mediterranean coast from southern Africa. Farming took earliest root on the southern fringes of the Sahara, which was less arid than it is today. Agriculture happened in the Sahara where the land was good enough to plant crops or do agriculture. 

 Kush – an African state that developed along the upper reaches of the Nile during 1000 B.C. This African state conquered Egypt and ruled it for several centuries. The Kushites established a strong monarchy, with elaborating ceremonies illustrating a belief that the king was divine.

 Axum and Ethiopia – Axum, a rival kingdom of the Kushites, defeated the kingdom of Kush by about 300 B.C.E.  Axum was located in Ethiopia highlands and received strong influence from Arabian Peninsula and eventually converted to Christianity. Axum ultimately fell to another regional kingdom, Ethiopia. Ethiopia was a Christian kingdom that developed in the high lands of eastern Africa under the dynasty of King Lalaibela. At first the activities of Jewish merchants brought some conversions to Judaism in Ethiopia, but later Greek-speaking merchants brought Christianity. Ethiopia had the world’s oldest continuous monarchy that was abolished in late 20th century.

Islam – is a major world religion having its origins in 610 C.E. in the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. Islam means submission, and it is based on the prophecy of Muhammad. Islam was one of the religions that were a vital result of the changes in classical civilizations brought on by attack and decay. 

Below: A picture of the kaaba during the Hajj.  

 Allah-Arabic word for “God.” Supreme god in strictly monotheistic Islam. Allah was considered the creator of the world and the giver of rain.  According to Islamic belief, Allah is the proper name of God

Olmec – The Olmec had a cultural tradition that arose at San Lorenzo and La Venta in Mexico in 1200 B.C.E. The Olmec featured irrigated agriculture, urbanism, elaborate religion, accurate and impressive calendars, and writing system. The Olmec explored artistic forms in precious stones such as jade.

Above: An Olmec head made of one stone.  

Teotihuacan – The Olmecs disappeared without a clear trace around 400 B.C.E., but their successors soon developed a hieroglyphic alphabet and built the first great city, Teotihuacan, in the Americas, as a center for trade and worship. Teotihuacan was a sight of classic culture in central Mexico with urban centers with important religious functions. With a population of as much as 200,000 people, Teotihuacan, was supported by intensive agriculture in surrounding regions.

 Inca – The Incas were a group of clans centered at Cuzco, who were able to create an empire incorporating various Andean cultures. Inca was also a term used for leader of empire. A view created by the Spanish authors, Inca socialism, was used to describe Inca society as a type of utopia. The image of the Inca Empire was a carefully organized system in which every community collectively contributed to the whole.

Maya (300 – 900 C.E.) – was the classic culture emerging in southern Mexico and Central America contemporary with Teotihuacan. They extended over a broad region and they featured monumental architecture, written language, calendrical and mathematical systems, highly developed religion.

 Polynesian people – These people were a case of isolated development of agricultural people who migrated to new island territories in the Pacific. The Polynesian people had reached islands such as Fiji and Samoa by 1000 B.C.E. Further explorations in giant outrigger canoes led to the first settlement of island complexes such as Hawaii by 400 B.C.E., where the new settlers adapted to local plants, and brought in new animals, and imported a highly stratified caste system under powerful local king.

Below: Two ancient canoes that had been used by the Polynesian people for travel and trade.  

 Sui and Tang – The Sui Dynasty was the dynasty that succeeded the Han Dynasty in China. The Sui Dynasty emerged from strong rulers in northern China and united all of northern China and re-conquered southern China. The Tang Dynasty succeeded that Sui in 618 C.E. and was more stable than the previous dynasty. Confucianism and the bureaucratic system were revived, and indeed the bureaucratic tradition became more elaborate.

 Yellow Turbans – were Chinese Daoist and Daoist leaders, who launched a revolt in 184 C.E. in China in promise of a golden age that was to be brought by divine magic.

 Mahayana – is a Chinese version of Buddhism, and this placed a considerable emphasis on Buddha as god or savior. Mahayana is also considered the East Asian form of Buddhism, and it retained basic Buddhist beliefs. The emphasis on Buddha as the divine savior increased in the Mahayana version compared to the Buddhist version. This is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism.

Translated text from Rig Veda Book 1


1. FOR Jātavedas let us press the Soma: may he consume the wealth of the malignant.
May Agni carry us through all our troubles, through grief as in a boat across the river.

Buddhism – is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as Buddha. He created this religion and he is recognized by Buddhists as an awaked or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient begins end ignorance of dependent origination, therefore escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth. Buddhism is one of the major world religions. 

 Bodhisattvasin Buddhism it either means enlightened existence or and enlightenment being. It has also been translated as wisdom-being. Traditionally, anyone that is a Bodhisattvas is motivated by great compassion for a wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient being.

 Rajput – were the regional princes in western India who emphasized military control of their region.

Devi- or called Devanagari. Sanskrit word for Goddess. Mostly used in Hinduism. Female aspect of the divine. Goddess worship is an important part in Hinduism. Encouraged new emotionalism in religious ritual.

Constantinople- Europe’s largest and wealthiest city. I was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I on the site of an already existing city, Byzantium.

Byzantine Empire- Eastern half of Roman Empire that existed in the Middle Ages. Known as the Roman Empire or Romania, the empire was centered at the capital of Constantinople. It retained Mediterranean culture, mostly Greek.

Augustine-Influential church father and theologian. 354-430 CE. Champion of Christian doctrine against various heresies and very important in the long-term development of Christian thought on such issues as predestination. His writings were influential in the development of Western Christianity. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom and he framed the concepts of original sin and war.

Below: A painting of St. Augustine by Carlo Crivelli.  

Above: The Coptic Church of St. Mark in Cairo. AKA Heliopolis.

Coptic Christianityofficial name for the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middle East. The church belongs to the Oriental Orthodox family of churches. The church was established by Saint Mark the apostle in the middle of the 1st century.

 Pope – is the Bishop of Rome and is the head of the Christian Church in Western Europe. A centralized church organization under the leadership of the bishop of Rome, called the pope, gave the Western church unusual strength and independence.

Benedict – Also called Benedict of Nursia, was the founder of monasticism in what had been the western half of the Roman Empire, and he also established Benedictine Rule in the 6th century. He started a monastery among Italian peasants whom he lured away from the worship of the sun god Apollo. He had a rule called the Benedict Rule, which soon spread to many other monasteries and convents, urged a disciplined life, with prayer and spiritual fulfillment alternating with hard work in agriculture and study. 

Jesus of Nazareth – was a prophet and teacher among the Jews. He was believed to be the Messiah and son of God by the Christians, and he was executed on c. 30 C.E. The Christians believed he was sent to earth to redeem human sin, and he was a popular figure throughout Israel. 

 Paul – is one of the first Christian missionaries, and he moved away from insistence that adherents of the new religion follow Jewish law. He used Greek as the language of the Church. Under the guidance of Paul, Christians began to see themselves as part of a new religion, rather than part of a Jewish reform movement. He was not one of the twelve disciples Jesus chose, but he was an early convert that truly believed that Jesus was the Messiah and son of God.

Shintoism – Japan’s religion, Shintoism, provided for the worship of political rulers and the spirits of natural including the all important god of rice. Shinto, religion of early Japanese culture, had devotees that worshiped numerous gods and spirits associated with the natural world. Offerings of food and prayers were made to gods and nature spirits.

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