Roots of Western Civilization

Course Description

Explores social, material, cultural, and intellectual bases of European civilization and relates them to major Afro-Eurasian civilizations. Examines hunting-gathering and early agricultural societies; ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Judea; classical Greece and Rome; rise of Christianity; nomadic invasions of Europe; Byzantine and Islamic influences; and Europe’s medieval synthesis.

Learning Outcomes

  • Illustrate the variety of hunter-gatherer societies.
  • Identify the locations of human communities that populated the major regions of the world and describe how humans adapted to a variety of environments.
  • Outline the development of agricultural techniques that permitted the production of economic surplus and the emergence of cities as centers of culture and power.
  • Understand the relationship between religion and the social and political order in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
  • Depict the origins and significance of Judaism as the first monotheistic religion.
  • Trace changes in ancient Greek society and polity, including the significance of the invention of the idea of citizenship.
  • Evaluate the similarities and differences between the Hellenic and Hellenistic worlds.
  • Identify the location and describe the rise of the Roman Republic, it government and its significance, and its transformation into an empire.
  • Explain the circumstances that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other Roman territories.
  • Illustrate the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science, literature, language, and law.
  • Clarify the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire and its heritage in government, law, commerce, and religion.
  • Trace the origins of Islam and the life and teachings of Muhammad and explain the significance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs, practice, and law.
  • Explain the transformation of Europe with Germanic invasions and settlement.
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Carolingian period of European history.
  • Clarify feudalism in the early and high Middle Ages.
  • Illustrate the revival of cities, long-distance commerce, and state structures in Europe.
  • Evaluate the late Middle Ages as an era of social, political, and economic crisis and transformation.


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