Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/What is a Civilization?

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A civilization is a large group of people who live and work co-operatively, a society that share a single culture. The word civilization comes from the Latin civilis, meaning civil, related to the Latin civis, meaning citizen, and civitas, meaning city or city-state, and that also somehow defines the size of the society. City-states are the precursors of nations.

A civilizational culture also implies the passing on of knowledge across generations. A civilization is defined by its culture. All of a civilization usually shares not only a culture but other common characteristics. A specific region of the world shares a stable food supply and a form of government, and creates distinct social structures that implement a range of common techniques for stabilizing their way of life.

Civilized people generally practice agriculture and obey rules this allows them to settle and live in towns and cities in an organized way. Compared with barbarian cultures, members of a civilization are commonly structured according to specific skills such as farming, trading, or defending their settlements, rules, and beliefs.

Civilizations are usually also characterized by an intricate social hierarchy. Older civilizations were usually headed by a powerful leader, a king, queen, emperor, or empress at the top, supported by tributes (taxes) and allegiance (obedience due to honor, family ties, duty and self interest) by a noble or ruling class who maintained and controlled a military forces and the land. These nobles often could, in the name of the leader, discipline the ordinary people on the land administered by they: artisans who made things, peasants who worked their land, merchants who traded things, and so on.

Source: Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster, 1996. Some minor or cleft civilizations have been added by the author

Civilizations are not only found in the past. Today we can say that we are heading toward a global civilization. That means we are starting to share the same culture — that includes the acceptance of differences — all over the world. If we look into the last century, we can clearly identify some distinctions.