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Question: Choose TWO of the areas below and analyze the developments of major
religious & philosophical ideas between 2000 BCE & 600 CE. Be sure to discuss
continuities as well as changes.
South Asia
Middle East
The major developments in religion and philosophy in the period 2000 BCE to 600 CE
were that religions moved from concrete, polytheistic and localized to abstract,
monotheistic and universal. In both the Middle East and Europe, especially after about
500 BCE, there was an increase in the use of logic, reason, and science to explain some
of lifes most basic questions. Throughout the period, people in both regions remained
religious and continued to seek answers to questions such as their existence, afterlife
and natural phenomena, but the more complex the societies became and the more
dissatisfied they became with the polytheistic religions, the more they moved toward
monotheism and rationalism.
Religions at the beginning of the period were concrete, local to the culture and
polytheistic . Most societies explained natural phenomena and answered lifes most basic
questions through their religion. The development of religion is older in the Middle East
than in Europe. The first societies such as the Sumerians believed in many gods and
goddesses that were super humans , but had the same characteristics as man. Not
having the scientific knowledge to explain natural occurrences, these early civilizations
explained them through the actions of their gods. Because priests had knowledge of and
access to the gods they were powerful religious and political figures. In Europe, the
Greeks and early Romans also worshiped a plethora of gods and goddesses, who were
thought to control the heavens, the earth and the underworld. These Gods married, had
children, and fought just as humans did . But these early religions did not set out
principles for right conduct. These religions became inadequate as the societies
became more complex and there was greater interaction between them.
By 500 BCE changes in religion began to occur in both Europe and the Middle East as the
first monotheistic religion appeared in the Middle East, and in Europe the Greeks began
to develop a philosophy based on rationalism. The Hebrews returned from the
Babylonian captivity with a strong belief in a single monotheistic god who was not only
the god of the Hebrews, but a single universal god. The Hebrews also were the first to

have are religion that set out laws for living ones life, as in the 10 Commandments. The
Persians who were a much larger and more complex empire than the Hebrews, also
moved toward a religion-Zoroastrianism, which preached about judgment day, free will,
and the forces of good and evil. As trade and travel between civilizations increased there
was interaction between different religious groups. Nestorian Christians traveled west
across the silk roads attempting to convert those of central Asia. The development of
Manichaeism, a syncretic blend of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, in Persia
revealed an increasing interaction between religious ideas from different societies. In
Greece, Athens was experiencing its golden age. To the educated, the polytheistic
religion of the past was no longer satisfactory for explaining natural phenomena.
Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle encourage the use of logic and reason in the search for
truth. Early Greek philosophers and Aristotle sought answers to the nature of things such
as the elements of the universe. The developments in science continued as Alexander
the Greek brought the ideas of the Greeks of Europe together with the ideas of those in
the Middle East. This interaction caused major developments in physics, math and
medicine. As the societies became increasingly more complex and there was continued
interaction between different cultures further changes in religious ideas and philosophy
Although changes in religion and philosophy continued into the Classical Era, the people
continued through out the time period to seek answers to their own existence, proper
conduct, and the nature of the universe. Religious institutions continue to be closely tied
to the state. In the period between the first century and sixth century, both regions are
brought together by the Roman Empire. Ethical monotheism continued its growth in the
region with the development of Christianity. It first developed in the Middle East and then
spread into Europe. The spread of Christianity was helped by the extensive roads,
general peace and later, imperial support of the Roman Empire. The Greek tradition of
humanismto glorify and honor mans accomplishments continued to be popular with
the Romans. Philosophy also continued to develop with the Romans adoption of Stoicism
and the work of people like the physician, Galen. Even after the collapse of the Roman
Empire, the Byzantines continued the legacy of Christianity and Greco-Roman traditions .
By the end of the Classical era, two monotheistic religions and a philosophy of humanism
and rationalism had developed in the regions.

From the earliest of civilizations until 600 CE, religion played an important role in the
lives of those in Europe and the Middle East. Religion became more complex as the
societies developed and grew. All the major world religions and philosophies except Islam
had developed by the end of the period in question. Judaism and Christianity provided
their believers with a guide for living life on earth and explanations for the afterlife.

Philosophies such as that of the Socratic philosophers pushed men to use reason as well
as faith as a path to the truth.