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Civilization: Past & Present (5)

 

Part I The Ancient World

                                                                       

The origin and age of the universe may never be known precisely, but modern scientists believe that our world has been circling the sun for 5 billion years. During that incredibly long time, the earth changed from a gaseous to a liquid and finally to a solid state, waters formed on the earth's shell, and in their depths life took form. Remains of early humanlike creatures unearthed in Africa may be 3 to 4 million years old. The time span from those remote days to about 3500 B.C.E. is usually referee to as prehistoric or preliterate times. By far the greatest part of that time span was taken up by the human struggle for survival --a struggle in which human beings learned to shape crude tools from stone, make fire, and domesticate plants and animals.

    

第一部分 古代世界

 

我们可能永远无法精确知道宇宙的起源和年龄,但是近代科学家相信我们的世界已一直环绕太阳运行达50亿年之久。在这段漫长得难以置信的时间里,地球从气态转变为液态,最终变成固态,地壳上形成水,水的深处又形成生命。在非洲出土的早期类人生物遗存可能距今三到四百万年。从这遥远的日子至公元前3500年这一时段,通常称为史前或无文字记录时期。这段时期的绝大部分,人类都是在为生存而斗争,在这个斗争中人类学会用石头制造粗糙工具,制造火,种植作物和饲养动物。

 

The stage was now set for a progressively rapid extension of human control over the environment. We find the first civilizations widely scattered along the banks of rivers. Mesopotamia straddled the Tigris and the Euphrates; Egypt and Nubia stretched along the Nile; China expanded eastward from the region of the Wei and the Huang Ho; India arose around the Indus and the Ganges. Prolific in their gifts to the human race and so dynamic that two of them--China and India--have retained unbroken continuity to our own daythese civilizations possessed similarities at least as arresting as their differences. In all fourpolitical system developed, crafts flourished and commerce expanded, calendars and systems of writing were invented, art and literature of extraordinary beauty were created, and religions and philosophies came into being to satisfy people's inner yearnings.

 

这一阶段开启了人类对不断进步的急遽拓展的环境控制。我们发现最初的文明沿河流沿岸广阔地散布。美索布达米亚跨越底格里斯河和幼发拉底河;埃及和努比亚沿尼罗河伸展;中国从渭水地区和黄河向东扩展;印度围绕着印度河和恒河崛起。这些大河赋予人类的礼物是如此丰厚、如此强劲,以至于它们之中的两个--中国和印度--没有中断地延续至今。这些文明保持的相似之处至少与他们的差异同样引人注目。在这所有四个文明中,政治制度发展起来,手工业繁荣、商业扩展;发明了历法和书写系统,创造出极美的艺术和文学,宗教和哲学形成了,以满足人类的内心渴望。

 

 

Indebted to the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, Minoan and Mycenaean Greece fashioned awealthy, sophisticated commercial culture. Much of this Aegean civilization--the first advanced to appear in Europe--was destroyed by the end of the second millennium B.C.E., but enough remained to serve as the foundation for Greek civilization. Insatiably curious about the world, the Creeks enjoyed a freedom of thought and expression unknown in earlier societies. Their fierce passion to remain independent, however, was too often unrestrained. The failure of the Greek city-states to find a workable basis for cooperation doomed them to political disaster. Although the conquest of the city-states by King Philip of Macedonia ended the Hellenic Age, the influence of the Creeks was destined to increase. The establishment of a vast empire in the Near East by Philip's son, Alexander the Great, ushered in the Hellenistic Age and the widespread diffusion of Greek culture.

 

受惠于埃及人和美索布达米亚人,米诺斯和麦锡尼时期的希腊创造出一种富庶的、复杂的商业文化。最先出现在欧洲爱琴文明中的很多东西在公元前第二个千年末期遭到摧毁,但是仍足以作为希腊文明的基础。对世界充满永不满足的好奇,希腊人享受着早期社会还鲜为人知的思想和表达自由。但是,他们保持独立的强烈热情总是狂放不羁。希腊城邦为合作寻找可行基础的失败,使它们的政治灾祸在劫难逃。虽然马其顿国王菲利普对城邦的征服结束了希腊时代,希腊人的影响还是注定要增长。菲利普之子亚历山大大帝在近东建立的巨大帝国,引领了希腊化时代和希腊文化的广泛融合。

 

    
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