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(1) Give a brief account of the major achievements of Greek culture, such as those in religion, philosophy, literature and science.

Greek religion really took shape during the Homeric Age and featured polytheism with gods taking human form and feeling. Greek religion made a great contribution to Greek literature, philosophy and art. It is an important origin of Greek mythology which was fully developed by the religious tales of the Homeric epic and thus affected the later development of all kinds of Greek culture.

Greek philosophy started with Thales (640 BC–547 BC) who believed that the material world originated in water. His philosophy was materialism. He was followed by Pythagoras who assumed that the key to the understanding of the world is numbers, on the opposition of the spokesman for idealism.

The core Greek philosophers are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Socrates had scant regard for material wealth, but was keen on probing into the definition of some ethical and behavioral issues, such as “friendship” and “courage”.

Plato established the Academy -the first Greek institution of higher learning. His contributions included his theory of ideas and his arguments on “republic” which was supposed to embrace his ideals about a future state where humans could enjoy a happy life. Aristotle is also a learned man and his work covers wide-ranging areas. His reputation as a philosopher largely depends on his argument on metaphysics which he tried to achieve a compromise between matter and divinity.

Literary representation centred round the two epic poems of the Iliad and the Odyssey, lyrical poetry by Sappho and Pindar and drama by Aeschylus, Euripides and Aristophanes. Their works combined Greek myths and social life and won much appreciation and enthusiasm from the public.

In science the mathematician Euclid established plane geometry and Archimedes discovered the ratio of radius of a circle and the relationship between the volume and surface of a sphere. (2) What do you think of the influence Greek culture has exerted on Western civilization as a whole? Give examples.

Greek culture is often termed the cradle of the Western civilization and has had an enormous impact on Western culture. The specific contributions are found in the areas of philosophy, politics, literature, art, science and architecture.

Greek politics was one of the greatest influences on the Western civilization. The Greeks were the first to successfully create a government based on the consensus of the people and thus provided a foundation for Western democracy.

The second significant influence was that of philosophy. The Socratic idea about ethics and knowledge helped the Westerners care more for the effect of knowledge and value of morality, both of which give sound guidance to people in the later years to improve and change the world outside themselves, i.e., human society and the natural world.

Later generations of Westerners have benefited a lot from Greek culture, such as those in painting, sculpture, architecture, drama, poetry and historical works. Classicism had Greek culture as one of the crucial sources, and this has helped Westerners so much that they ascribed the origin of the Renaissance to it. This changed the intellectual conditions of the later medieval period and opened the way to the modern era in the West.

(1) Tell briefly the major characteristics and contributions of Roman culture, as are demonstrated

in religion, poetry, history and architecture.

In the early period, Roman culture often depended heavily on the introduction and imitation of other cultures, particularly, Greek culture. However, the Romans showed the eclectic aspect in their culture,i.e. Romans did not take in all that they collected from other cultures but modified and developed it according to their own need. Thus Romans created their own powerful culture, laying the foundation for subsequent Western culture in many fields.

Before Christianity appeared in Roma, ancient Romans were polytheists. They adopted many cults from other religions, fusing them into their own religion. According to Greek culture and others’ culture, they created their own gods and myth, such as Jupiter, Juno, and Venus, which become subject matter for the artist, writers, and architects in their creative production.

In poetry, ancient Rome made brilliant achievements, producing numerous distinguished poets and poems. The poet Virgil’s Aeneid is considered as a model epic in the European literary tradition. He is so famous in poetry that he was modeled for many pastoral writers. For example, Italian poet

Dante called him his teacher in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Horace was not only famous for his poems but his critic. In his Epistles, he advanced many influential principles for creative writing, exerting great influences on later generations. In the 17th century his work was translated into English. Another important poet was Ovid, whose Metamorphosis was translated into English and quoted frequently by many famous writers, such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Shirley and T.S. Eliot.

A number of important historians came forth in the ancient Roman period. Polybius created his tremendous works consisting of 40 books, History, which spanned about 500 years. Livy was responsible for the great History of Rome in 142 volumes. His works has always been cited by later statesmen, writers and scholars such as Niccolo Machiavelli and Shakespeare.

The architecture of ancient Rome adopted the Greek style for its own purposes, but the Romans also developed a new kind. They were more utilitarian and showed an interest in grandeur and scale. They constructed many public edifices which still existed today and became the famous key point of interest for the world. Romans used the arch, the vault and the dome, and discovered how to make concrete.

The Roman culture introduced the Roman realism and realistic style in Western culture in painting and sculpture through modern times. Roman culture nourished emerging Western culture, and even the world culture. Such a splendid culture has greatly enriched cultural heritage of human kind.

(2) In what sense do you think Roman culture owed its accomplishments to the benefits obtained from Greek culture? Give examples.

It is universally acknowledged that Roman culture learned and inherited a lot from Greek culture. This could be seen in what Roman culture adopted from Greek culture as is demonstrated in religion, philosophy and literature.

In religion, we know most of the gods in Roman myths came from Greek legends in terms of function and contribution to their myths. Nevertheless, Rome had its own system of beliefs which had been simple and could hardly compare with the plurality of Greek religion. The parallel arrangement of gods provides accurate evidence to show the similarity of the two religions and Roman wisdom in borrowing fine elements from an external culture is obvious.

The same is true of Roman philosophy where we could find examples to demonstrate Greek

influence on their Roman counterpart. The best example is perhaps Stoicism and Epicureanism, both of which originated from Greece and were further developed and modified in Rome.

In literature, Roman men of letters also borrowed a great deal from Greek culture. For example, one could find lots of traces of Greek tragedy in Roman drama. Even in Virgil’s b est known epic Aeneid, we could read of similar story of the hero in his voyage from Troy to Rome, compared to Odysseus, who overcomes many difficulties on his way home though they are certainly set against different backgrounds.

All in all, the two cultures are closely linked partly because Greek culture is so illustrious that no one could leave it out without picking up something from it. The Roman people were sufficiently intelligent that they could not refuse to take such an opportunity to learn something when the opportunity was available.

(1)How was the Jewish Civilization developed after a tortuous history of split and unification? The major explanation for the development of the Jewish Civilization is its strong cohesiveness and vitality, which supports its unsubmissive and persistent advance by putting up its three spiritual and physical pillars as one of the scholars suggests: “the national identity based on the Jewish cultural tradition, the common belief and values enshrined in Judaism, and the community network centered on the synagogue”.

Much of the Jewish culture was safeguarded and well preserved by exiled Jews. Under the guidance of rabbis, they put into effect their Judaist beliefs and what they read of Judaist scriptures. They collected and systematically recomposed the scattered legends and manuscripts into the Torah and the Mishna before they compiled finally the Talmud.

The Jewish Civilization had thus progressed with each passing day until the Haskalah Movement came forward in the 18th century,which brought about spiritual awakening and a drastic change of their cultural and social conditions.

From then on Jews have begun to become aware of the necessity to liberate themselves from the restrictive laws and acquire new knowledge and modern ideas from the Europeans, which enabled them to secure a position for themselves as a race by keeping pace with the advanced levels of social, economic and cultural developments. Most of the Jews thus received a good education, fully armed with cultural and scientific knowledge and did well in their own position whatever it was though they had not yet established or recovered their own land. Thus they have prepared personnel of various kinds for the revival of their civilization and once that country was founded, they could quickly turn it into a well-developed nation in spite of its small size and small population just as what has happened in Israel in recent decades.

(2) Say something about Judaism and the Old Testament?

Judaism is one of the earliest monotheistic religions practised today. In the beginning,Judaism was composed of a series of beliefs and practices originating in the Tanakh. It was later further explored and explained in the Talmud and other Judaist scripts. Judaism presents itself as the covenantal relationship between the Children of Israel (later, the Jewish nation) and God. The principles and ethics of Judaism had influenced Christianity and Islam, as well as some non-Abrahamic religions. Many of its texts and traditions are central to other Abrahamic religions and provided the foundation for Western Christianity. Its influence is seen in both secular and ecclesiastical affairs in the Western society, just as the frequent occurrences of classical and Christian cultures via conversations or discussions on different occasions, either public or private, formal or informal.

The Old Testament is the Judaist Bible which was a complete document and collection of ancient Hebrew adopted by Christianity as part of the Bible. It was written in Hebrew, including the three parts: Pentateuch,Prophets and Hagiographa and Apocrypha. After the Old Testament was translated into Greek by Jewish scholars,many westerners began to understand Judaism by reading this book. It is not only of religious value but also of literatry value in terms of both subject matter and thematic concerns for the writers to refer to or draw on.

(1) Why could Christianity be accepted as the official religion first by the Roman Empire and then by the following kingdoms or empires in Europe?

a. For the common people in the empire who were fed up with wars and social turmoil, they needed something to fill up their spiritual vacuum. Christianity could play such a role to pacify and comfort them with love and care more effectively than other organizations or religions.

b. It could work together with any secular regimes to offer necessary assistance to control ideologically and intellectually the ordinary people, which was thus welcomed by the kings, emperors or aristocrats.

c. The name and influence of Christianity would be a symbol of sacredness and justification, which would help the majority of people to accept the reign of a newly emerging ruler and his followers.

d. Christianity is also a kind of culture, which to many people suggests social stability and recovery of an old life style they are accustomed to. Though conservative as well, it could be tolerated because their life and property could thus be secured in the changed circumstances. (2) What are the basic differences between Christianity and Judaism?

In spite of the fact that the two religions both derived from Jewish culture, there are some basic differences between them.

First are the different images of God. For Judaism, its God Jehovah was representation of Nature as an almighty, omnipotent and omniscient supernatural being. He is expected to provide protection for the Jews who suffered so much in history and help the Jews recover their homeland. In contrast, the Christian God Jesus is both human and divine with the origin of humanity and hence shares with humans various kinds of suffering.

Second are the different views of God. Jehovah is viewed with a sort of fear and solemnity since He is like fire or wind which would bring force and harm to the human race while the Christian God is kinder and more helpful, since He personally suffers as a human.

Third is the different position each religion holds and hence different contribution each makes. For the early period of Judaism, Jehovah enjoyed every respect and worship from the Jews since Israel was a country of integrity and built up the grand temple for its God. But with the fall of the country, all were destroyed including the temple. They could do nothing about worship but keep their respect secretly in mind for their God. Comparatively Christian worship of Jesus was not allowed in the early days since the religion was illegal and only with the improvement of the situation could the Christian disciples openly demonstrate their worship of Jesus in public. Fourth is that Jehovah was important to Jews only in theory and affected them in spirit occasionally while Christianity became an inseparable part of the secular life of the Westerners. Pope and churches became so powerful that they even tried to seize more political power from the emperors or kings who had to depend sometimes on the Christian church for both spiritual and political support since Christianity could easily exert its influence on the church people and non-church people.

(1) What are the major features and achievements of the Renaissance? Give examples.

The Renaissance is characterized by seeking ideological emancipation, intellectual freedom and political awareness, based on cultural production and religious reformation. All these were undertaken or unfolded gradually but widely, extending its influences to every corner of Europe, with more and more people getting involved.

The achievements were seen principally in six areas, namely, painting, sculpture, poetry, fiction, drama and religious reformation as well as the change in the cultural and intellectual climate. Instances could be located in these areas, such as the huge change of subjects and styles in painting. The medieval painting used to centre on depicting Jesus Christ and other Christian subjects, not only effecting similar and the limited subject matter, but also depicting stylistically facial expressions and manners. The great artists in the Renaissance started to focus on the images with individualistic temperament, highlighting humanity instead of divinity, thus breaking away from the medieval frozen models and linking classicalism with human nature as the centre of their representational work.