, sometimes equated with Western civilization
, Occidental culture
, the Western world
, Western society
, and is the heritage
of social norms
, ethical values
customs, belief systems
, political systems
of the Western world
. The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories
are strongly connected to Western Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence. For example, Western culture includes determinated countries in the Americas
. Western culture is most strongly influenced by the Greco-Roman
Ancient Greece is considered the birthplace of many elements of Western culture, including the development of a democratic
system of government and major advances in philosophy, science and mathematics. The expansion of Greek culture into the Hellenistic
world of the eastern Mediterranean
led to a synthesis between Greek and Near-Eastern
and major advances in literature, engineering, and science, and provided the culture for the expansion of early Christianity and the Greek New Testament
This period overlapped with and was followed by Rome
, which made key contributions in law, government, engineering and political organization.
The concept of a "West" dates back to the Roman Empire
, where there was a cultural divide between the Greek East and Latin West
, a divide that later continued in Medieval Europe between the Catholic Latin Church
west and the "Greek" Eastern Orthodox east.
Western culture is characterized by a host of artistic, philosophic, literary and legal
themes and traditions. Christianity
, including the Roman Catholic Church
the Eastern Orthodox Church
, and Oriental Orthodoxy
has played a prominent role
in the shaping of Western civilization
since at least the 4th century,
as did Judaism
A cornerstone of Western thought, beginning in ancient Greece
and continuing through the Middle Ages
, is the idea of rationalism
in various spheres of life developed by Hellenistic philosophy
later gave rise to the scientific method
, the scientific revolution
, and the Age of Enlightenment
Western culture continued to develop with the Christianisation of European society
during the Middle Ages, the reforms triggered by the Renaissance of the 12th century
and 13th century under the influence of the Islamic world
(including the transfer of technology from the East, and Latin translations
of Arabic texts on science
and the Italian Renaissance
as Greek scholars
fleeing the fall of the Byzantine Empire
after the Muslim conquest of Constantinople
brought classical traditions and philosophy. Medieval Christianity
is credited with creating the modern university
the modern hospital
and natural law
(which would later influence the creation of international law
Christianity played a role in ending practices common among pagan
societies, such as human sacrifice, slavery,
infanticide and polygamy.
The globalization by successive European colonial empires
spread European ways of life and European educational methods around the world between the 16th and 20th centuries.
European culture developed with a complex range of philosophy, medieval scholasticism, mysticism and Christian and secular humanism.[page needed]
Rational thinking developed through a long age of change and formation, with the experiments
of the Enlightenment and breakthroughs in the sciences
. Tendencies that have come to define modern Western societies
include the concept of political pluralism
, prominent subcultures
(such as New Age
movements) and increasing cultural syncretism
resulting from globalization
and human migration
Post-1990 Huntington's major civilizations (Western is colored dark blue).[a]
The West as a geographical area is unclear and undefined. More often the ideology of a state's inhabitants is what will be used to categorize it as a Western society. There is some disagreement about what nations should or should not be included in the category and at what times. Many parts of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
are considered Western today but were considered Eastern in the past. However, in the past it was also the Eastern Roman Empire that had many features now seen as "Western," preserving Roman law, which was first codified by Justinian
in the east,
as well as the traditions of scholarship around Plato
, and Euclid
that were later introduced to Italy during the Renaissance by Greek scholars
fleeing the fall of Constantinople
Thus, the culture identified with East and West itself interchanges with time and place (from the ancient world to the modern). Geographically, the "West
" of today would include Europe (especially the states that collectively form the European Union
, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Switzerland) together with extra-European territories belonging to the English-speaking world
, the Hispanidad
, the Lusosphere
; and the Francophonie
in the wider context. Since the context is highly biased and context-dependent, there is no agreed definition of what the "West" is.
It is difficult to determine which individuals fit into which category and the East–West contrast is sometimes criticized as relativistic
and arbitrary.[page needed]
Globalism has spread Western ideas so widely that almost all modern cultures are, to some extent, influenced by aspects of Western culture. Stereotypical views of "the West" have been labeled Occidentalism
, paralleling Orientalism
—the term for the 19th-century stereotyped views of "the East".
It has been disputed by some philosophers
whether Western culture can be considered a historically sound, unified body of thought.
For example, Kwame Anthony Appiah
points out that many of the fundamental influences on Western culture, such as those of Greek philosophy
are also shared by the Islamic world
to a certain extent.
Appiah argues that the origin of the Western and European identity can be traced back to the Muslim invasion of Iberia where Christians would form a common Christian or European identity.
Contemporary Latin chronicles from Spain described the victors in the Frankish
victory over the Umayyads
at the Battle of Tours
as Europeans according to Appiah, denoting a shared sense of identity.
While the concept of a "West" did not exist until the emergence of the Roman Republic
, the roots of the concept can be traced back to Ancient Greece
. Since Homeric
literature (the Trojan Wars
), through the accounts of the Persian Wars
, and right up until the time of Alexander the Great
, there was a paradigm
of a contrast between Greeks and other civilizations.
Greeks felt they were the most civilized and saw themselves (in the formulation of Aristotle
) as something between the advanced civilizations of the Near East
(who they viewed as soft and slavish) and the wild barbarians
of most of Europe to the west. During this period writers like Herodotus and Xenophon
would highlight the importance of freedom in the Ancient Greek world, as opposed to the perceived slavery of the so-called barbaric world.
Alexander's conquests led to the emergence of a Hellenistic civilization
, representing a synthesis of Greek and Near-Eastern
cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean
The Near-Eastern civilizations of Ancient Egypt
and the Levant
, which came under Greek rule, became part of the Hellenistic world. The most important Hellenistic centre of learning was Ptolemaic Egypt
, which attracted Greek, Egyptian
and even Indian
later provided a foundation embraced and built upon by the Roman Empire
as it swept up Europe and the Mediterranean world
, including the Hellenistic world in its conquests in the 1st century BCE.
For about five hundred years, the Roman Empire maintained the Greek East
and consolidated a Latin West, but an east–west division remained, reflected in many cultural norms of the two areas, including language. Eventually, the empire became increasingly split into a Western and Eastern part, reviving old ideas of a contrast between an advanced East, and a rugged West.
From the time of Alexander the Great (the Hellenistic period
), Greek civilization came in contact with Jewish civilization. Christianity
would eventually emerge from the syncretism
of Hellenic culture
, Roman culture
, and Second Temple Judaism
, gradually spreading across the Roman Empire
and eclipsing its antecedents and influences.
The rise of Christianity reshaped much of the Greco-Roman tradition and culture
; the Christianised culture would be the basis for the development of Western civilization after the fall of Rome (which resulted from increasing pressure from barbarians outside Roman culture). Roman culture also mixed with Celtic
, and Slavic
cultures, which slowly became integrated into Western culture: starting mainly with their acceptance of Christianity.
The Medieval West referred specifically to the Catholic "Latin" West, also called "Frankish" during Charlemagne
's reign, in contrast to the Orthodox East, where Greek remained the language of the Byzantine Empire
After the fall of Rome
, much of Greco-Roman art, literature, science and even technology were all but lost in the western part of the old empire. However, this would become the center of a new West. Europe fell into political anarchy, with many warring kingdoms and principalities. Under the Frankish kings, it eventually, and partially, reunified, and the anarchy evolved into feudalism
Much of the basis of the post-Roman cultural world had been set before the fall of the Empire
, mainly through the integration and reshaping of Roman ideas through Christian thought. The Greek and Roman paganism
had been completely replaced by Christianity
around the 4th and 5th centuries, since it became the official State religion following the baptism of the emperor Constantine I
. Orthodox Christian
Christianity and the Nicene Creed
served as a unifying force in Christian parts of Europe, and in some respects replaced or competed with the secular authorities. The Jewish Christian
tradition out of which it had emerged was all but extinguished, and antisemitism
became increasingly entrenched or even integral to Christendom.
Much of art and literature, law, education, and politics were preserved in the teachings of the Church. The Church
founded many cathedrals
, some of which continue to exist today.
is credited with creating the first modern universities.
The Catholic Church established a hospital system in Medieval Europe that vastly improved upon the Roman valetudinaria
and Greek healing temples.
These hospitals were established to cater to "particular social groups marginalized by poverty, sickness, and age," according to the historian of hospitals, Guenter Risse.
Christianity played a role in ending practices common among pagan societies, such as human sacrifice, slavery,
infanticide and polygamy. Francisco de Vitoria
, a disciple of Thomas Aquinas
and a Catholic thinker who studied the issue regarding the human rights of colonized natives, is recognized by the United Nations as a father of international law, and now also by historians of economics and democracy as a leading light for the West's democracy and rapid economic development.Joseph Schumpeter
, an economist of the twentieth century, referring to the Scholastics
, wrote, "it is they who come nearer than does any other group to having been the 'founders' of scientific economics."
In a broader sense, the Middle Ages
, with its fertile encounter between Greek philosophical reasoning
and Levantine monotheism
was not confined to the West but also stretched into the old East. The philosophy and science of Classical Greece were largely forgotten in Europe after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, other than in isolated monastic enclaves (notably in Ireland, which had become Christian but was never conquered by Rome).
The learning of Classical Antiquity
was better preserved in the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire
. Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis
Roman civil law code was created in the East in his capital of Constantinople,
and that city maintained trade and intermittent political control over outposts such as Venice
in the West for centuries. Classical Greek learning was also subsumed, preserved, and elaborated in the rising Eastern world, which gradually supplanted Roman-Byzantine control as a dominant cultural-political force. Thus, much of the learning of classical antiquity was slowly reintroduced to European civilization in the centuries following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.
The rediscovery of the Justinian Code
in Western Europe early in the 10th century rekindled a passion for the discipline of law, which crossed many of the re-forming boundaries between East and West. In the Catholic
west, Roman law
became the foundation on which all legal concepts and systems were based. Its influence is found in all Western legal systems, although in different manners and to different extents. The study of canon law
, the legal system of the Catholic Church, fused with that of Roman law to form the basis of the refounding of Western legal scholarship. During the Reformation and Enlightenment, the ideas of civil rights
before the law
, procedural justice
, and democracy
as the ideal form of society
began to be institutionalized as principles forming the basis of modern Western culture, particularly in Protestant regions.
In the 14th century, starting from Italy and then spreading throughout Europe,
there was a massive artistic, architectural, scientific and philosophical revival, as a result of the Christian revival of Greek philosophy, and the long Christian medieval tradition that established the use of reason as one of the most important of human activities.
This period is commonly referred to as the Renaissance
. In the following century, this process was further enhanced by an exodus of Greek Christian priests and scholars
to Italian cities such as Venice
after the end of the Byzantine Empire
with the fall of Constantinople
From Late Antiquity
, through the Middle Ages
, and onwards, while Eastern Europe was shaped by the Orthodox Church
, Southern and Central Europe were increasingly stabilized by the Catholic Church
which, as Roman imperial governance faded from view, was the only consistent force in Western Europe.
In 1054 came the Great Schism
that, following the Greek East and Latin West
divide, separated Europe into religious and cultural regions present to this day. Until the Age of Enlightenment, Christian culture
took over as the predominant force in Western civilization, guiding the course of philosophy, art, and science for many years.
Movements in art
, such as the Humanist
movement of the Renaissance
and the Scholastic
movement of the High Middle Ages
, were motivated by a drive to connect Catholicism
with Greek and Arab thought imported by Christian
However, due to the division in Western Christianity
caused by the Protestant Reformation
and the Enlightenment, religious influence—especially the temporal power of the Pope
—began to wane.
From the late 15th century to the 17th century, Western culture began to spread to other parts of the world through explorers and missionaries during the Age of Discovery
, and by imperialists
from the 17th century to the early 20th century. During the Great Divergence
, a term coined by Samuel Huntington
the Western world overcame pre-modern growth constraints and emerged during the 19th century as the most powerful and wealthy world civilization
of the time, eclipsing Qing China
, Mughal India
, Tokugawa Japan
, and the Ottoman Empire
. The process was accompanied and reinforced by the Age of Discovery and continued into the modern period. Scholars have proposed a wide variety of theories to explain why the Great Divergence happened, including lack of government intervention, geography, colonialism, and customary traditions.
Early modern era
Coming into the modern era
, the historical understanding of the East–West contrast—as the opposition of Christendom
to its geographical neighbors—began to weaken. As religion became less important, and Europeans came into increasing contact with far-away peoples, the old concept of Western culture began a slow evolution towards what it is today. The Age of Discovery
faded into the Age of Enlightenment
of the 18th century, during which cultural and intellectual forces in European society emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority. It challenged the authority of institutions that were deeply rooted in society, such as the Catholic Church
; there was much talk of ways to reform society with toleration, science and skepticism
Philosophers of the Enlightenment included Francis Bacon
, René Descartes
, John Locke
, Baruch Spinoza
(1694–1778), David Hume
, and Immanuel Kant
influenced society by publishing widely read works. Upon learning about enlightened views, some rulers met with intellectuals and tried to apply their reforms, such as allowing for toleration, or accepting multiple religions, in what became known as enlightened absolutism
. New ideas and beliefs spread around Europe and were fostered by an increase in literacy due to a departure from solely religious texts. Publications include Encyclopédie
(1751–72) that was edited by Denis Diderot
and Jean le Rond d'Alembert
. The Dictionnaire philosophique
(Philosophical Dictionary, 1764) and Letters on the English
(1733) written by Voltaire
spread the ideals of the Enlightenment.
The Industrial Revolution
was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power
, the increasing use of steam power
, and the development of machine tools
These transitions began in Great Britain, and spread to Western Europe and North America within a few decades.
The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living
for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries.
The precise start and end of the Industrial Revolution is still debated among historians, as is the pace of economic and social changes. GDP
per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist
while the Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth
in capitalist economies.
Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals, plants
The First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution
in the transition years between 1840 and 1870, when technological and economic progress continued with the increasing adoption of steam transport (steam-powered railways, boats, and ships), the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the increasing use of machinery in steam-powered factories.
After the Industrial Revolution
In the 20th century, Christianity declined
in influence in many Western countries, mostly in the European Union where some member states have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years,
and also elsewhere. Secularism
(separating religion from politics and science) increased. Christianity remains the dominant religion in the Western world, where 70% are Christians.
The West went through a series of great cultural and social changes between 1945 and 1980. The emergent mass media
(film, radio, television and recorded music) created a global culture that could ignore national frontiers. Literacy became almost universal, encouraging the growth of books, magazines and newspapers. The influence of cinema and radio remained, while televisions became near essentials in every home.
By the mid-20th century
, Western culture was exported worldwide, and the development and growth of international transport
(such as transatlantic cable
and the radiotelephone
) played a decisive role in modern globalization
. The West has contributed a great many technological, political, philosophical, artistic and religious aspects to modern international culture: having been a crucible of Catholicism
, democracy, industrialisation; the first major civilisation to seek to abolish slavery
during the 19th century, the first to enfranchise women
(beginning in Australasia
at the end of the 19th century) and the first to put to use such technologies as steam
and nuclear power
. The West invented cinema
, the personal computer
and the Internet
; produced artists such as Michelangelo
, and Mozart
; developed sports such as soccer
, and volleyball
; and transported humans to an astronomical object
for the first time with the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon Landing
Arts and humanities
What is distinctive of European art
is that it comments on so many levels-religious, humanistic, satirical, metaphysical, and the purely physical.
Some cultural and artistic modalities are characteristically Western in origin and form. While dance, music, visual art, story-telling, and architecture are human universals, they are expressed in the West in certain characteristic ways. European art pays deep tribute to human suffering.
In Western dance, music, plays and other arts, the performers are only very infrequently masked. There are essentially no taboos against depicting a god, or other religious figures, in a representational fashion.
In music, Catholic monks developed the first forms of modern Western musical notation in order to standardize liturgy throughout the worldwide Church,
and an enormous body of religious music has been composed for it through the ages. This led directly to the emergence and development of European classical music and its many derivatives. The Baroque
style, which encompassed music, art, and architecture, was particularly encouraged by the post-Reformation Catholic Church as such forms offered a means of religious expression that was stirring and emotional, intended to stimulate religious fervor.
, and oratorio
have their origins in Italy. Many musical instruments
developed in the West have come to see widespread use all over the world; among them are the violin
, pipe organ
, and the theremin
. In turn, most European instruments have roots in earlier Eastern instruments that were adopted from the medieval Islamic world
The solo piano
, symphony orchestra
, and the string quartet
are also significant musical innovations of the West.
Painting and photography
Photography and the motion picture
as both a technology and basis for entirely new art forms were also developed in the West.
Restoration of a fresco from an Ancient Roman villa bedroom, circa 50-40 BC, dimensions of the room: 265.4 x 334 x 583.9 cm, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
(New York City)
Photo of the interior of the apartment of Eugène Atget
, taken in 1910 in Paris
Dance and performing arts
While epic literary works in verse such as the Mahabharata
and Homer's Iliad
are ancient and occurred worldwide, the prose novel
as a distinct form of storytelling, with developed, consistent human characters and, typically, some connected overall plot (although both of these characteristics have sometimes been modified and played with in later times), was popularized by the West
in the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course, extended prose fiction had existed much earlier; both novels of adventure and romance in the Hellenistic
world and in Heian
Japan. Both Petronius
(c. 60 CE) and the Tale of Genji
by Murasaki Shikibu
(c. 1000 CE) have been cited as the world's first major novel but they had a very limited long-term impact on literary writing beyond their own day until much more recent times.
The novel, which made its appearance in the 18th century, is an essentially European creation. Chinese and Japanese literature contain some works that may be thought of as novels, but only the European novel is couched in terms of a personal analysis of personal dilemmas.
As in its artistic tradition, European literature pays deep tribute to human suffering. Tragedy
, from its ritually and mythologically inspired Greek origins to modern forms where struggle and downfall are often rooted in psychological or social, rather than mythical, motives, is also widely considered a specifically European creation and can be seen as a forerunner of some aspects of both the novel and of classical opera
The validity of reason was postulated in both Christian philosophy
and the Greco-Roman classics.
Christianity laid a stress on the inward aspects of actions and on motives, notions that were foreign to the ancient world. This subjectivity, which grew out of the Christian belief that man could achieve a personal union with God
, resisted all challenges and made itself the fulcrum on which all literary exposition turned, including the 20th-21st century novels.
Important Western architectural motifs include the Doric
, and Ionic
columns, and the Romanesque
, and Victorian
styles are still widely recognised, and used even today, in the West. Much of Western architecture emphasizes repetition of simple motifs, straight lines and expansive, undecorated planes. A modern ubiquitous architectural form that emphasizes this characteristic is the skyscraper
, their modern equivalent first developed in New York and Chicago. The predecessor of the skyscraper can be found in the medieval towers erected in Bologna
under restoration in 2008, the most iconic Classical
building, built from 447 BC to 432 BC, located in Athens
Stained glass windows of the Sainte-Chapelle
in Paris, completed in 1248, mostly constructed between 1194 and 1220
Scientific and technological inventions and discoveries
Medieval Christians believed that to seek the geometric, physical and mathematical principles that govern the world was to seek and worship God. Detail of a scene in the bowl of the letter 'P' with a woman with a set-square and dividers; using a compass to measure distances on a diagram. In her left hand she holds a square, an implement for testing or drawing right angles. She is watched by a group of students. In the Middle Ages, it is unusual to see women represented as teachers, in particular when the students appear to be monks. She is most likely the personification of Geometry, based on Martianus Capella's famous book De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii [5th c.], a standard source for allegorical imagery of the seven liberal arts. Illustration at the beginning of Euclid's Elementa, in the translation attributed to Adelard of Bath.
A doctor of philosophy
of the University of Oxford
, in full academic dress. The typical dress for graduation are gowns and hoods or hats adapted from the daily dress of university staff in the Middle Ages, which was in turn based on the attire worn by medieval clergy.
A notable feature of Western culture is its strong emphasis and focus on innovation and invention through science and technology, and its ability to generate new processes, materials and material artifacts with its roots dating back to the Ancient Greeks. The scientific method
as "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses" was fashioned by the 17th-century Italian Galileo Galilei
with roots in the work of medieval scholars such as the 11th-century Iraqi physicist Ibn al-Haytham
and the 13th-century English friar Roger Bacon
Communication devices and systems including the telegraph
, the telephone
and navigation satellites
, mobile phone
, and the Internet
were all invented by Westerners.
, ballpoint pen
, Cathode ray tube
, liquid-crystal display
, light-emitting diode
, laser printer
, ink jet printer
, plasma display
screen and world wide web
were also invented in the West.
, integrated circuit
, memory chip, and computer
were all first seen in the West. The ship's chronometer
, the screw propeller
, the locomotive
, and airplane
were all invented in the West. Eyeglasses
, the telescope
, the microscope
and electron microscope
, all the varieties of chromatography
and DNA sequencing
, computerised tomography
, nuclear magnetic resonance
, and light, ultraviolet and infrared spectroscopy
, were all first developed and applied in Western laboratories, hospitals and factories.
In medicine, the pure antibiotics
were created in the West. The method of preventing Rh disease
, the treatment of diabetes
, and the germ theory
of disease were discovered by Westerners. The eradication of smallpox
, was led by a Westerner, Donald Henderson
, computed tomography
, positron emission tomography
and medical ultrasonography
are important diagnostic tools developed in the West. Other important diagnostic tools of clinical chemistry
, including the methods of spectrophotometry
, were first devised by Westerners. So were the stethoscope
, the electrocardiograph
, and the endoscope
, hormonal contraception
, beta blockers
and ACE inhibitors
, along with a host of other medically proven drugs, were first utilized to treat disease in the West. The double-blind
study and evidence-based medicine
are critical scientific techniques widely used in the West for medical purposes.
In mathematics, calculus
and complex analysis
, group theory
were developed by Westerners.
In biology, evolution
and the methods of molecular biology
are creations of the West. In physics, the science of mechanics
and quantum mechanics
, and statistical mechanics
were all developed by Westerners. The discoveries and inventions by Westerners in electromagnetism
include Coulomb's law
(1785), the first battery
(1800), the unity of electricity and magnetism
(1820), Biot–Savart law
(1820), Ohm's Law
(1827), and Maxwell's equations
(1871). The atom
were all unveiled by Westerners.
The roots of modern-day Western mass media can be traced back to the late 15th century, when printing presses
began to operate throughout wealthy European cities. The emergence of news media
in the 17th century has to be seen in close connection with the spread of the printing press
, from which the publishing press
derives its name.
In the 16th century, a decrease in the preeminence of Latin
in its literary use, along with the impact of economic change, the discoveries arising from trade and travel, navigation to the new world
, science and arts and the development of increasingly rapid communications through print led to a rising corpus of vernacular media content in European society.
After the launch of the satellite Sputnik 1
by the Soviet Union in 1957, satellite transmission technology was dramatically realised, with the United States launching Telstar
in 1962 linking live media broadcasts from the UK to the US. The first digital broadcast satellite (DBS) system began transmitting in US in 1975.
Beginning in the 1990s, the Internet
has contributed to a tremendous increase in the accessibility of Western media content. Departing from media offered in bundled content packages (magazines
, television and radio slots
), the Internet has primarily offered unbundled content items (articles
, audio and video files).
Western culture is most strongly influenced by the Judeo-Christian
These cultures had a number of similarities, such as a common emphasis on the individual, but they also embody fundamentally conflicting worldviews. For example, in Judaism and Christianity, God
is the ultimate authority, while Greco-Roman tradition considers the ultimate authority to be reason
. Christian attempts to reconcile these frameworks were responsible for the preservation of Greek philosophy
As in other areas, the Jewish diaspora
exist in the Western world. Non-European groups, and Jews in particular, have been subjected to intense racism
, ethnic andreligious hatred
, and persecution
in the West.
This has included pogroms
, forced conversion
, ethnic cleansing
, and other forms of violence and prejudice.
Throughout the Western world there are increasing numbers of people who seek to revive the indigenous religions of their European ancestors; such groups
, and polytheistic reconstructionist movements. Likewise, Wicca
, New Age
spirituality and other neo-pagan
belief systems enjoy notable minority support in Western states.
Since classical antiquity
, sport has been an important facet of Western cultural expression. A wide range of sports was already established by the time of Ancient Greece
and the military culture and the development of sports in Greece influenced one another considerably. Sports became such a prominent part of their culture that the Greeks created the Olympic Games
, which in ancient times were held every four years in a small village in the Peloponnesus
. Baron Pierre de Coubertin
, a Frenchman, instigated the modern revival of the Olympic movement. The first modern Olympic games were held at Athens in 1896
The Romans built immense structures such as the amphitheatres
to house their festivals of sport. The Romans exhibited a passion for blood sports
, such as the infamous Gladiatorial
battles that pitted contestants against one another in a fight to the death. The Olympic Games revived many of the sports of Classical Antiquity
—such as Greco-Roman wrestling
. The sport of bullfighting
is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France, and some Latin American countries. It traces its roots to prehistoric bull worship
and is often linked to Rome
, where many human-versus-animal events were held. Bullfighting spread from Spain to its American colonies, and in the 19th century to France, where it developed into a distinctive form in its own right.
and hunting were popular sports in the European Middle Ages
, and the aristocratic classes developed passions for leisure activities. A great number of popular global sports were first developed or codified in Europe. The modern game of golf
originated in Scotland, where the first written record of golf is James II
's banning of the game in 1457, as an unwelcome distraction to learning archery
. The Industrial Revolution
that began in Britain in the 18th Century brought increased leisure time, leading to more time for citizens to attend and follow spectator sports, greater participation in athletic activities, and increased accessibility. These trends continued with the advent of mass media and global communication. The bat and ball sport of cricket
was first played in England during the 16th century and was exported around the globe via the British Empire
. A number of popular modern sports were devised or codified in Britain during the 19th Century and obtained global prominence—these include ping pong
, modern tennis
, association football
(also known as soccer) remains hugely popular in Europe, but has grown from its origins to be known as the world game
. Similarly, sports such as cricket, rugby, and netball were exported around the world, particularly among countries in the Commonwealth of Nations
, thus India and Australia are among the strongest cricketing states, while victory in the Rugby World Cup
has been shared among New Zealand, Australia, England, and South Africa.
Australian Rules Football
, an Australian variation of football with similarities to Gaelic football
, evolved in the British colony of Victoria
in the mid-19th century. The United States also developed unique variations of English sports. English migrants took antecedents of baseball
to America during the colonial period. The history of American football
can be traced to early versions of rugby football and association football
. Many games are known as "football" were being played at colleges and universities in the United States in the first half of the 19th century. American football resulted from several major divergences from rugby, most notably the rule changes instituted by Walter Camp
, the "Father of American Football". Basketball
was invented in 1891 by James Naismith
, a Canadian physical education instructor working in Springfield, Massachusetts
, in the United States. Volleyball
was created in Holyoke, Massachusetts
, a city directly north of Springfield, in 1895.
Themes and traditions
A Madonna and Child
painting by an anonymous Italian from the first half of the 19th century, oil on canvas.
Western culture has developed many themes and traditions, the most significant of which are:
- Greco-Roman classic letters, arts, architecture, philosophical and cultural tradition, which include the influence of preeminent authors and philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, and Cicero, as well as a long mythologic tradition.
- Christian ethical, philosophical, and mythological tradition, stemming largely from the Christian Bible, particularly the New Testament Gospels.
- Monasteries, schools, libraries, books, book making, universities, teaching, education, and lecture halls.
- A tradition of the importance of the rule of law.
- Secular humanism, rationalism and Enlightenment thought. This set the basis for a new critical attitude and open questioning of religion, favouring freethinking and questioning of the church as an authority, which resulted in open-minded and reformist ideals inside, such as liberation theology, which partly adopted these currents, and secular and political tendencies such as laicism, agnosticism and atheism.
- Generalized usage of some form of the Latin or Greek alphabet, and derived forms, such as Cyrillic, used by those southern and eastern Slavic countries of Christian Orthodox tradition, historically under the Byzantine Empire and later within the Russian czarist or the Soviet area of influence. Other variants of the Latin or Greek alphabets are found in the Gothic and Coptic alphabets, which historically superseded older scripts, such as runes, and the Egyptian Demotic and Hieroglyphic systems.
- Natural law, human rights, constitutionalism, parliamentarism (or presidentialism) and formal liberal democracy in recent times—prior to the 19th century, most Western governments were still monarchies.
- A large influence, in modern times, of many of the ideals and values developed and inherited from Romanticism.
- An emphasis on, and use of, science as a means of understanding the natural world and humanity's place in it.
- More pronounced use and application of innovation and scientific developments, as well as a more rational approach to scientific progress (what has been known as the scientific method), as opposed to more empiric discoveries in the Eastern world.
- ^ Latin America, is either considered a part of the West or a distinct civilization intimately related to the West and descended from it.
- ^ British archaeologist D.G. Hogarth published The Nearer East in 1902, which helped to define the term and its extent, including Albania, Montenegro, southern Serbia and Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, all Ottoman lands, the entire Arabian Peninsula, and Western parts of Iran.
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- ^ Roman Catholicism, "Roman Catholicism, Christian church that has been the decisive spiritual force in the history of Western civilization". Encyclopædia Britannica
- ^ Caltron J.H Hayas, Christianity and Western Civilization (1953), Stanford University Press, p. 2: That certain distinctive features of our Western civilization—the civilization of western Europe and of America—have been shaped chiefly by Judaeo–Graeco–Christianity, Catholic and Protestant.
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