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Civilization (or civilisation) comes from the Latin word civis meaning someone who lives in a town. When people are civilised, they live in large well-organized groups like towns, not in small tribes or isolated family groups.

However, a civilisation is something more than a town. It is an advanced stage of organisation. That means it has laws, culture, a regular way of getting food and protecting the people. Most civlisations have agriculture, and a system of government like monarchs or elections. They speak a common language, and usually have a religion of some kind. They teach their young the knowledge they need. All civilisations since the Sumerians and the Egyptians have some kind of writing. Writing lets people store and build up knowledge.

The Roman Empire is an example of a large civilization. It was governed from Rome. This empire once stretched from the Scottish borders to North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. They had their own language, Latin.

Latin became the preferred method of communication among educated people until long after their civilization had vanished. Today lawyers and politicians, doctors and scientists, scholars and others still use Latin in the course of their everyday work, even though the Roman civilization died out more than 1,500 years ago. It is said that William Shakespeare excelled at Latin. Latin is still taught in some schools. We still admire and copy Roman architecture, use Roman numerals to count certain things, use the names of Roman gods to mark the days and months of our calendars, name the constellations in the sky by the same names that the Romans used and we model our Western political constitutions and structures on Roman models (Senate, Governor, election, tribunal, justice, vote, census, even the word Constitution, are all Latin words, their meaning unchanged in thousands of years).

The Roman civilization lasted almost 1000 years, but the Ancient Egyptian civilization was older and lasted longer. The Romans and Egyptians fought each other in the Battle of Actium. Rome won, and Egypt became part of the Roman Empire.

Dictionary definitions

  1. An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, an advanced state of moral conduct, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.
  2. The type of culture and society developed by a particular nation or region or in a particular epoch: Maya civilization; the civilization of ancient Rome.
  3. The act or process of civilizing or reaching a civilized state.
  4. Cultural or intellectual refinement; good taste.
  5. Modern society with its conveniences: "We returned to civilization after camping in the mountains".