Which Is Older Ancient Greece Or Ancient Rome

The debate as to which of the two civilizations, Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece, is oldest is one that has been fiercely contested for centuries. Both of these civilizations have left an indelible mark on our world today; from the very structure of our government systems, to our language, to the very ideals we consider fundamental to our behaviour. It is an important question to answer from an architectural, literary and historical standpoint.

In terms of reasons to consider which is the elder of the two civilizations, a solid starting point for analysis is the time frame in which these two societies developed. Ancient Rome was founded in 753 BC, shortly before the rule of their first king – Romulus. Ancient Greece, on the other hand, is believed to have been founded during the Mycenaean era. This period began around the 16th century BC, making the emergence of its civilization some thousand years earlier than Rome.

Experts have agreed that although Ancient Greece was founded first, Ancient Rome was able to establish more lasting political structures than those that existed in Greece at the time. This can be seen as a by-product of Rome’s later foundation as its rulers had access to cultural knowledge from across landscapes and centuries. In his article on the heritage of Ancient Rome, archeologist Dr. Steven Walz notes that “Roman leaders gained insight into imperial administration systems, such as those of the Etruscans and Trians” that were not available to those who established Ancient Greece.

Many experts assert that Rome achieved a significant ascendancy over Greece through the skillful implementation of legal and governmental structures, which were then spread throughout its empire. According to Dr. Jens Teckentrup, Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Cairo, “The Roman military, bureaucracy and legal system were far more developed and sophisticated than those of Greek society, helping Rome to become the preeminent power of its moment.”

Furthermore, it is argued that the impact of Ancient Rome was more influential. Historian John Marvin states that “the spiritual, intellectual, and political legacy of Greece was realized in more fully developed form in Rome.” A powerful argument made by many historians, Marvin believes that “Right from the moment of Roman ascendancy in the Mediterranean, the culture of Greece was infused with Roman rule and customs.”

Comparison of Art and Philosophy

The discourse on the impact of these two civilizations must also examine their shared interests in art and philosophy. Classical Athenians were the first to experiment with the concept of democracy while, at the same time, laying down the philosophical foundations of Western civil society. At the same time, Roman artists and philosophers began to build upon the ideas of their predecessors. Historian Dan Gordon states that “Roman art was largely an adaptation of and reaction to Greek art and architecture,” which was to have a lasting effect on all forms of art during the Classical period.

Though Rome failed to develop a philosophical concept of democracy, its legal framework was filled with innovative ideas that still form the basis for our laws today. Furthermore, Rome’s more authoritative society was more easily capable of preserving philosophical achievements than their Greek counterparts who consistently faced political turmoil and instability. The result of this is a lasting cultural influence in many areas throughout the world. Like their peers in ancient Greece, Roman philosophers such as Cicero and Lucretius left a deep imprint on western civilization and many of our concepts regarding civil society.

Comparison of Military and Economic Strength

The legacy of military and economic strength also largely lies in favour of Ancient Rome. Rome’s military was renowned for its discipline and for its ability to adapt tactics and strategy on the battlefield. With the support of Rome’s robust economy, which was heavily based on trade and transportation, the strength of Rome’s military was unmatched. The economy was also reliant upon its system of taxation, a concept which was largely pioneered by Rome.

When it comes to economy and military prowess, past and modern archaeologists alike have noted that Rome experienced a more structurally stable and prosperous era than Greece. This is due to the fact that Rome was able to establish a far more deeply rooted and integrated empire, something which Greece failed to achieve due to its dependence upon alliances with neighbouring powers. This allowed Rome to better construct and protect its assets.

The success of the Roman Empire was to some extent also because of its advanced road networks. Of importance were the construction of the Appian Way and the Via Egnatia. This allowed Rome to expand its complex network of roads throughout Europe and eventually the entire Classical World. It was essential to the success of the empire’s economy and to the protection of its borders by allowing them to rapidly move armies and goods.


As evidenced by the observations of experts to this day, it is clear that, although founded much earlier, Ancient Rome has left behind a much deeper and more influential legacy than its elder counterpart Ancient Greece. Rome’s military and economic strength, coupled with its complex infrastructure, enabled the civilization to spread its influence far and wide and maintained order for an extended period of time.

Impact of Religion and Mythology

In understanding the significance of Rome and Greece’s legacies it is important to examine their respective mythologies, as this is a considerable factor in the rich history of each civilization. For instance, it is often asserted that Ancient Greece was better able to explain natural phenomena than many other civilizations of the time. In this regard, many believe its civilization was more advanced. However, it should be noted that Rome was also capable of producing complex and scientifically accurate myths, such as their religious explanation of the sun’s movement.

It is also contended that the religion of the Ancient Greeks was more advanced than the religion of the Ancient Romans. Greek religion was founded on a moral code of living, rather than superstitious beliefs which were largely accepted in Rome. This moral code attracted a large number of adherents, including some of the most influential figures of the ancient world.

It is generally believed that Ancient Rome’s mixed system of Greek and native religions coupled with a structured political system led to more stability and connected more people than Greek religion ever did. This was due to the fact that the religion of Rome was more easily accepted by those living beyond its physical boundaries. In contrast, the religion of Ancient Greece was more localized.

Influence of Education

In contrast to Ancient Greece, Rome’s educational system was far more advanced and largely focused on cultivating knowledge and teaching by example. Rome’s educational system was also more widespread. This was due in part to the fact that Roman education was geared to benefit those in power, while Greek education was more egalitarian in its approach. This meant that knowledge and learning were more easily accessible to Roman citizens, thus furthering Rome’s cultural and political developments.

Rome was additionally better able to establish an organized and well rounded educational system, which allowed for the creation of schools and learning institutions to be built for all levels of education. This enabled more students to learn and to become what educators call “learners for life.”

Furthermore, it is argued that Rome was abler to better interweave the fields of education and politics, leading to an organized system where those in power could identify the most educated citizens and appoint them to official positions. This was an area of strength for the Roman Empire, as it allowed for an effective and more productive administrative system.

Influence of Literature and Language

No discussion of Rome and Greece’s legacies is complete without examining the respective influences they had on our current language and literature. Although Latin was the main language of Ancient Rome, Greek was also widely spoken and heavily influencing Roman culture. Both languages have left a lasting mark on Western society.

In terms of literature, it can be argued that that of Ancient Rome was a better preserved and better documented in comparison to the literature of Ancient Greece. This was largely due to the Roman Empire’s prolific book production industry which enabled its literature to spread further. It is argued that the literature of Ancient Rome is still seen to have a greater cultural impact on our contemporary society.

Furthermore, one area where the authors of Rome demonstrated their superiority was in the field of historical writing. Ancient Rome was capable of recording and preserving its past in far greater detail than Ancient Greece ever was. This had a large hand in ensuring the legacy of Rome was better remembered and respected.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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