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Civilization, or civilisation comes from the Latin word civis, meaning someone who lives in a town. When people are called civilised they have organised into large well-organized groups like towns, not in small tribes or family groups. Such a large well organized group is called a civilisation, and people in the same civilization not only work together in government, warfare and education, but also often share traditions such as language, arts, architecture.

As an example of a large civilization, the Roman Empire was governed from Rome. This empire once stretched from the Scottish borders to North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. They had their own language, Latin, which became the preferred method of communication among educated people until long after their civilization had vanished. Today lawyers and politicians, doctors and scientists, scholars and others still use Latin in the course of their everyday work, even though the Roman civilization died out more than 1,500 years ago. It is said that William Shakespeare excelled at Latin. Latin is still taught in some schools. We still admire and copy Roman architecture, use Roman numerals to count certain things, use the names of Roman gods to mark the days and months of our calendars, name the constellations in the sky by the same names that the Romans used and we model our Western political constitutions and structures on Roman models (Senate, Governor, election, tribunal, justice, vote, census, even the word Constitution, are all Latin words, their meaning unchanged in thousands of years).

The Roman civilization lasted almost 1000 years, but the Ancient Egyptian civilization was far older and lasted far longer. The Romans and Egyptians fought each other in battle and two of their mightiest leaders, the Roman Mark Antony and the Egyptian Cleopatra formed an alliance that might have united their two empires.

Dictionary Definitions[change | change source]

  1. An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, an advanced state of moral conduct, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.
  2. The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or region or in a particular epoch: Maya civilization; the civilization of ancient Rome.
  3. The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state.
  4. Cultural or intellectual refinement; good taste.
  5. Modern society with its conveniences: "We returned to civilization after camping in the mountains".