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Ancient Rome Vs Ancient Greece

Ancient Rome Vs Ancient Greece
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
We're pitting two of history's greatest empires against each other in a battle royale! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're looking at which ancient culture was truly the most powerful: Greece, or Rome. Our Ancient Rome vs. Ancient Greece video includes categories like Economy, Leaders, Military, and more!

Ancient Rome vs. Ancient Greece


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at which ancient culture was truly the most powerful: Greece, or Rome.

Round 1: Economy


It’s highly likely that Rome had the most advanced economy of any culture in Ancient Eurasia, though, like many parts of ancient history, details on how Rome’s economy functioned day-to-day haven’t survived. Rome’s expansion during the long Republic period made important trade goods readily available to Roman citizens. Rome itself used its large, newly claimed territories to conduct agricultural work on a large scale. People were able to build vast amounts of wealth and construct extravagant villas while trading in commodities like wine. But, of course, Roman society also relied heavily on slavery, with many of the people Rome conquered becoming slaves and working the land.

The economy of Ancient Greece, on the other hand, is even more enigmatic than Rome, though it likely wasn’t as developed. It also traded heavily in wine and oil, but it’s worth noting that we know this because the pottery jars these goods were contained in are frequently found in archaeological sites. This means that there are probably many more commodities Greece AND Rome traded in that we don’t know about whatsoever because the archaeology isn’t as sturdy as pottery. Greece, too, used slaves, but its poor-quality soil meant that Greece itself couldn’t be the agricultural titan that Rome was. It relied heavily on small colonies to provide goods it could use to trade elsewhere.

We’re giving this victory to Rome, though, because the evidence we have suggests it was far more sophisticated.

WINNER: Rome 1 / Greece 0

Round 2: Ingenuity


Ancient Greece is still revered for its great thinkers in early areas of scientific study. It had astronomers, mathematicians, architects, and even ideas about atoms that are extremely close to modern particle physics. They developed cartography and hydraulics, and even had an early form of railroad known as the “Diolkos stone road”. The oldest-known analog computer, the Antikythera Mechanism, was also an Ancient Greek invention used to chart the movements of the stars and planets. There are even stories that the Greek genius Archimedes was able to use the sun as a “heat ray” to burn enemy ships – though modern scientists have been consistently unable to recreate this. And, finally, parts of Greece, including Athens, used aqueducts as early as the 6th century BC.

Where Rome is concerned, the clearest, lasting legacy of the Roman Empire in terms of what it physically left behind is its roads. Of course, roads have existed as long as humans have, but Rome planned and built large, complex, and interconnected road networks in order to supply the furthest reaches of its vast empire. And in fact, the way the Romans built roads was so good, that those networks are still used in Europe today. Rome also had its unique “Roman concrete”, the recipe for which remained a mystery until very recently, which has enabled its impressive buildings to stand the test of time.

However, you can’t get away from the fact that many pieces of Greek ingenuity and engineering are still used to this day.

WINNER: Rome 1 / Greece 1

Round 3: Leaders


Ancient Greece was never really an empire in the same way that Rome was. The Roman Empire existed in some form or another for two thousand years, from the beginning of the Republic era to the end of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 15th century. The closest it came was under the leadership of Alexander the Great, an immensely successful military leader whose empire stretched from northern Africa to India. Greece had other notable leaders, too, like Pericles, who led Athens during much of the Peloponnesian War, and another Athenian leader, Cleisthenes, often nicknamed the “Father of Democracy”.

But Rome during the long Republic era was also a democracy, though it interestingly used dictatorship as a political strategy during this period when Rome faced a particularly grave threat. Marcus Aurelius was emperor in the 2nd century, and he successfully defended Rome against many rival powers; he’s well-regarded to this day as one of the most prominent Stoic philosophers, and a true philosopher king. There was also one of the later Roman emperors, Constantine the Great, who converted to Christianity and made reforms that enabled the Eastern Roman Empire to survive for another millennia after the Fall of Ravenna.

Arguably, there are too many great Roman leaders to list them all here, which is why we have to give Rome this victory.

WINNER: Rome 2 / Greece 1

Round 4: Culture


For this category, we’re broadly looking at the way these societies contributed to the arts. Ancient Greek culture has influenced the rest of the world for thousands of years, through its mythology and distinctive architecture. Greek myth was SO influential, in fact, that Roman mythology significantly borrowed from it, with the two cultures sharing many of the same deities and stories. Ancient Greece was also the home of Western philosophy, with influential thinkers like Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, not to mention the “Father of History”, Herodotus. There’s the literature, too, oral storytellers like Homer and dramatists like Sophocles bringing those myths to life; and, finally, the Olympic games, which began in Greece.

Again, the Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks and clearly appreciated Greek culture. But Ancient Rome existed for such a tremendously long time that it had a huge diversity of its own art. One iconic remnant of Roman art is the mosaic, with many mosaics surviving in Roman ruins, as well as painted frescos. But the Romans also created something that modern audiences will be deeply familiar with: the Latin alphabet, which evolved in Rome over a long period of time and eventually spread across Europe. And, lastly, there’s Rome’s most famous form of entertainment: gladiator combat, performed in colosseums throughout the empire.

It’s a close call, but ultimately, without Greece, Roman culture wouldn’t have become what it was.

WINNER: Rome 2 / Greece 2

Round 5: Military


Rome’s military prowess is still celebrated and revered to this day. At its height, the Western Roman Empire controlled a territory the size of a continent and had countless successful military campaigns under its many leaders. Rome is well-known for its legionary system, where it was able to consistently win conflicts because of its well-trained legions and the large number of soldiers it had available to send. But it was also a naval power, ruling the Mediterranean with two vast fleets, and it was with Rome’s almighty navy that Augustus established the Roman Empire, in the first century BC.

Ancient Greece was also militarized, but spent most of its time not conquering other cities and countries, but having civil wars. Greece’s powerful city-states were often in conflict with each other, notably during the long Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. This war was fought on land and at sea, with the Greeks having powerful warships at their disposal. The Spartans were a warrior society almost as idealized today as the Romans and were a formidable force, even if they couldn’t defeat Xerxes. But even with Sparta, military might isn’t the thing Ancient Greece is usually known for today, and it couldn’t save it from losing to Rome during the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC.

For most of Roman history, Rome was impossible to defeat, and it eventually took control of the Greek world – which is why it wins this round.

WINNER: Rome 3 / Greece 2

It looks like it’s an overall victory for Rome, winning 3 rounds, which is fitting because Rome was victorious in history, too.

Let us know in the comments which Roman emperor you think was the most successful.
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