When Samuel Huntington, professor of Political Science at Harvard University, published an article entitled Clash of Civilisations in 1993, it created a debate on whether the theory was correct or not. Throughout history, civilisations have shared inventions and innovation and created a world of homogeneity rather than differences.
When the Egyptians learnt from the Mesopotamians and the Greeks from the Egyptians, new ideas spread from one corner of the world to another and the process of cultural diffusion continued to enrich civilisations.
Another aspect of cultural influence is when a military power conquers or occupies a country and adapts the culture of the vanquished. With the Roman occupation of the Greek city of Athens, which was famous for its learning, the Roman aristocrats went to Athens for higher studies. Stoic philosophers like Cicero, Seneca and the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius emerged while Greek philosophical movements such as Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Cynicism became popular in the Roman Empire.
The Romans also learned history writing from Greek historians like Herodotus and Thucydides. Their impact can be seen in Greek historiography where Roman historians followed the Greek pattern of documenting history.
Polybius, who wrote Roman history, was originally a Greek historian. In his monumental work which was a series of biographies called Parallel Lives, famous Greeks and Romans were paired together to discuss their common virtues and vices. Greek language became the language of the ruling classes and Homer’s poetry was recited by the educated classes. Greek theatre was emulated by Roman dramatists while Greek art, architecture and sculpture were adapted throughout the Roman Empire.
The Byzantine Empire was just another name for the Eastern Roman Empire. The Byzantine Greeks not only called themselves Roman but also considered their empire Roman.
When the Arabs conquered Syria, they adopted the Byzantine administrative set up and Greek remained the official language.
During the Abbasid period, Greek philosophy was translated into Arabic. which introduced Greek philosophy to Medieval Europe, creating an eagerness for Greek knowledge in the European society.
On the other hand, the Roman Empire left a rich legacy including political institutions, the legal system, art and architecture for Europe.
The Carolingian dynasty under Charlemagne revived some of its institutions. He adopted the title of the Holy Roman emperor and made Latin the official language of his court which remained the language of the educated classes throughout the middle ages. The Renaissance scholars also imbibed the Roman heritage to get rid of the church and its authority.
Persia, being in a state of decay, easily succumbed to the Arab invasion but as their civilisation was rich and advanced, the Persians in turn made a cultural conquest. They brought the Abbasids to power after a revolution that deposed the Umayyid dynasty. The Persians excelled in the art of administration and took over the bureaucracy, transformed the Abbasid Caliph as the Persian monarch and introduced Persian court etiquette, rituals and festivals.
This model was followed by the Muslim dynasties such as the Ziyads, Safavids, Samanids and Ghaznavids in Central Asia. In India, Balban claimed his ancestry to the legendry king Afrasiyab to legitimise his rule. The Persian culture overpowered other cultures in Central Asia and India while Persian became the court language.
United under the leadership of Genghis Khan, the Mongols defeated the empire of the Khorezm. The Il-Khans became the rulers of Persia, converted to Islam and adopted the fascinating Persian culture. The other Mongolian group invaded China and culturally became Chinese.
In history, there are military clashes and wars for political domination, but sometimes the impact of rich and deep-rooted civilisations has been so strong that the victors and the vanquished became integrated in a single bond.