The City and the Individual
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The primary civilisations of Egypt and Mesopotamia grew slowly and in virtual isolation from each other or any outside influence until the second millennium BC. Then internal developments and continued expansion brought them into contact along the ‘Fertile Crescent’ from the Tigris-Euphrates through Palestine to the Nile, and from contact stemmed trade, rivalry, and conflict. The second millennium BC was thus a time of increasing activity between the major civilisations and of subsidary groupings which eventually emerged as distinct secondary civilisations. In Persia to the east, Anatolia (Asia Minor) to the north, and along the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean to the west, vigorous new societies arose with strong roots in the-primary civilisations but with a will for independence which helped them to develop their own cultural identity and so to emerge as secondary civilisations. The eastern Mediterranean had considerable advantages for this sort of development. The sea provided both a challenge to enterprising merchants who knew that there were rich mercantile prizes awaiting those who could master it, and a barrier against too much oversight from the parent civilisations, amongst which sea-faring did not figure as an outstanding accomplishment. So the new civilisations, thriving on the basis of rich trading relationships, were left to fend for themselves, which some of them did with great success. Around the coast and on the islands of the Aegean Sea, in particular, new cultural patterns were established towards the end of the millennium, with the Minoan culture of Crete and the Mycenean culture of mainland Greece and Homeric legend prominent amongst them.
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- 1.K. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, 2 vols (Routledge, 1945).Google Scholar
- 2.For a recent account of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, see chapters 1 and 2 by Aurelio Bernari and M. I. Finley in C. M. Cipolla (ed.), The Economic Decline of Empires (Methuen, 1970).Google Scholar
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