Western civilization is a concept which suggests a continuing and ongoing civilization with roots in ancient civilizations in Egypt and Persia but which is thought of as beginning in Ancient Greece, with its development of art, sculpture, religion, music, literature, philosophy, poetry and drama beginning around 500 BCE. Western civilization flourished in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. The civilization included Ancient Rome which adopted many of the customs, values, architecture, literature, and culture of their Greek forebears, and had writers such as Virgil adopting Greek poems such as the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer into the Latin. When the Roman Empire fell, it continued in Europe, primarily in Western Europe, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In the past 500 years, with the growth of Europe, and a tendency by many European powers to colonize distant regions, Western civilization has spread to many nations worldwide including the United States and Canada, Australia and many others. It is marked by a belief in the efficacy of institutions such as democracy, individual rights, popular sovereignty, republican government, free press, jury trials, and which emphasize commerce, free trade, freedom, and education. It is sometimes associated with the religions of the West, including Christianity, Judaism, but not always.
Western civilization is sometimes contrasted with Eastern civilization which have emphasized differing religious beliefs, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shintoism, and others, and is sometimes contrasted with Islam. But the term Western civilization is a broad, nondescript category, without a precise meaning. From early years, the west-east dichotomy was hard to define precisely, although some early Greek historians such as Thucydides and Herodotus often thought of Persia as the east and Greece as the west. But there has been considerable intermingling between civilizations, particularly when conquerors brought new ideas and thinking to new regions.