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Three Ancient Civilizations

Civilization is an advanced stage of human development marked by a high level of art, religion, science and social and political organization. (The Dictionary of English Language and Culture”)

The ancient Near East has been called the cradlle of Western civilization. To its people we owe the invention of agriculture, the wheel, writing and the alphabet and the first cities. The region known as the Near East includes the countries to the east of the Меditerranean with modern Turkey, Iran (ancient Percia), Egypt and Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia).

Ancient Egypt deserves a special mention. “There is no other country that has so many wonders,” wrote the Greek writer Herodotus in the 5th century BC. Egypt’s ancient civilization has continued to interest and fascinate. Geographically isolated by deserts and sea, it developed a unique and self-contained culture that lasted three thousand years. Because of country’s dry climate a lot of its ancient monuments have been preserved: ancient cities, pyramids, temples and various artefacts that are a source of wonder today as they were in antiquity.

Ancient Egypt consisted of the Nile valley – a long and narrow stripe of land. The Nile united the country and was its main source of life. In Egypt rainfall is very small but every year between July and October the Nile’s water covered most of the land in the valley and in the delta making the soil very rich with silt. The Egyptians made a complicated system of basins and channels. The main crops were cereals, vegetables and fruit. They used the cotton plant to make clothing, sails and ropes and the papyrus plant to produce a type of paper. The Egyptians also kept cows, pigs, goats and sheep. Hunting and fishing allowed them to make their diet more varied.

In Ancient Greece the typical unit of political and social organization was the “polis” or independent city-state. City-states appeared in many parts of the Greek-speaking world during the 8th century BC at the beginning of the so-called Archaic period (c.800-500 BC). The Archaic period was followed by the Classical period, during which the Greeks made radical experiments with political, artistic and philosophical ideas, all of which have had a lasting influence on Western civilization. One of the most fascinating things that the Greeks have left us is their legends. We remember them as they have become part of our culture too. For example, if a person has some way in which he can be hurt, he is said to have an Achilles heel. This expression goes back to the story of Achilles, one of the greatest heroes of Greek legends. The legend says that when he was born, the Fates, the goddesses that controlled man’s life and future, told his mother that he would die young. So Achilles’ mother, Thetis, wanted to protect her baby and dipped him in the water of the River Styx. This was supposed to protect him from deadly wounds. Every part of Achilles’ body was thus made safe against injuri, except one part – the heel by which his mother held him. Later, during the Trojan War Achilles, a handsome young man, became famous as the greatest of the Greek warriors but was killed by a poisonous arrow that entered his heel, the one part of his body that had not been dipped in the Styx.

Ancient Romans were great lawmakers and keen politicians. Initially the power was in the hands of two annually elected “consuls”, who ruled the city and commanded the army. They were advised by a council of elders (the Senate). Only when there was а danger threatening, a single “dictator” was appointed, for a maximum of six months.

Gradually Romans expanded their power and conquered a number of neighbouring peoples and took pert in overseas wars. The wars successful and increased the power and wealth of the upper classes. The gulf between the rich and the poorgave rise to social conflicts and political crisis. The Roman Empire shaken by civil wars got info the hands of Julius Caesar. He took the title of “Dictator for Life” and allowed himself to behave like a monarch or a kind of god. That went against the political tradition and led to his murder by a group of senators. The Empire was divided between Antony, оne of the senators, and Octavian, the future Augustus.

Augustus became a powerful ruler, he made the Senate an effective branch of administration and took the Army out of politics. Victories abroad and реасе at home characterized Augustus’ long reign which is often called Rome’s “Golden Age”.


Read the text again and say which of the three civilizations:

- was cut olf from other countres

- saw the time of instability in the society

- gave the world interesting schools of thought

- depended on a river for its well-being

- created a complicated mythology

- could boast of advanced agriculturai techniques

- saw a case of assassination for political reasons

- worked out an extended set of rules that people had to obey

- priduced a lot of objects which still give us a great surprise

Find in the text English equivalents for the following:

1) колыбель цивилизации

2) заслуживает особого упоминания

3) уникальная и самодостаточная культура

4) древние памятники сохранились (до наших дней)

5) предметы, сделанные руками человека часто имеющие историческую ценность)

6) повод для удивления

7) плодородная почва

8) ил

9) паруса и канаты

10) позволяло им разнообразит свое питание

11) имели долговременное влияние

12) пятка, пята

13) окунула его в воду

14) защитить от смертельных ран

15) воины

16) увлеченные, азартные политики

17) старейшины

18) расширили сферу своего влияния

19) пропасть между богатыми и бедными

20) послужить началом

21) гражданские войны

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