Western world

The Western world based-on Samuel P. Huntington's 1996 Clash of Civilizations.[1] Latin America, depicted in turquoise, is either a part of the West or a distinct civilization intimately related to the West and descended from it.[2]
Evolutionary flow chart of Eastern Hemisphere Civilizations, extracted from Samuel P. Huntington's 1996 Clash of Civilizations and based off Carroll Quigley's, The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis[3]. Huntington describes the Western, Orthodox and Islamic civilizations as tributaries of Classical Greco-Romans and Canaanite Abrahamics. More related to the former than the Islamic civilization,and to the latter than the Orthodox. Becoming a distinct and empirical entity by 800 d.C, it reached the rest of Europe throughout the following centuries, with Iberia in the s.XII and Northern Europe in the s.XIII. Quigley did not consider Latin America to be a distinct civilization from mainstream Occident.

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various nations depending on the context, most often including at least parts of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America disputed by some. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated.[4] The Western world is also known as the Occident (from the Latin word occidens, "sunset, West"), in contrast to the Orient (from the Latin word oriens, "rise, East"), or Eastern world.

Ancient Greece[a] and Ancient Rome[b] are generally considered to be the birthplaces of Western civilization (with Greece having influenced the development of Rome): the former due to its impact on philosophy, democracy, science and art, building designs and proportions, architecture; the latter due to its influence on law, warfare, governance, republicanism, engineering and religion. Western civilization is also founded upon Christianity, which is in turn shaped by Hellenistic philosophy, Judaism and Roman culture.[5] In the modern era, Western culture has been heavily influenced by the Renaissance, the Ages of Discovery and Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolutions.[6][7] Through extensive imperialism and Christianization by Western powers in the 15th to 20th centuries, much of the rest of the world has been influenced by Western culture.

The concept of the Western part of the earth has its roots in the theological, methodological and emphatical division between the Western Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.[8] West was originally literal, opposing Catholic Europe with the cultures and civilizations of Orthodox Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the remote Far East, which early-modern Europeans saw as the East.

By the mid-20th century, worldwide export of Western culture went through the new mass media: film, radio and television and recorded music, while the development and growth of international transport and telecommunication (such as transatlantic cable and the radiotelephone) played a decisive role in modern globalization. In modern usage, Western world sometimes[9] refers to Europe and to areas whose populations largely originate from Europe, through the Age of Discovery.[10][11]


Western culture was influenced by many older great civilizations of the ancient Near East,[12] such as Phoenicia, Ancient Israel,[13][14][5] Minoan Crete, Sumer, Babylonia, and also Ancient Egypt. It originated in the Mediterranean basin and its vicinity; Ancient Greece and Rome are often cited as its birthplaces.

Gold and garnet cloisonné (and mud), military fitting from the Staffordshire Hoard before cleaning

Over time, their associated empires grew first to the east and west to include the rest of Mediterranean and Black Sea coastal areas, conquering and absorbing. Later, they expanded to the north of the Mediterranean Sea to include Western, Central, and Southeastern Europe. Christianization of Ireland (5th century), Christianization of Bulgaria (9th century), Christianization of Kievan Rus' (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus; 10th century), Christianization of Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Sweden; 12th century) and Christianization of Lithuania (14th century) brought the rest of present-day European territory into Western civilization.

Historians, such as Carroll Quigley in "The Evolution of Civilizations",[15] contend that Western civilization was born around AD 500, after the total collapse of the Western Roman Empire, leaving a vacuum for new ideas to flourish that were impossible in Classical societies. In either view, between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Renaissance, the West (or those regions that would later become the heartland of the culturally "western sphere") experienced a period of first, considerable decline,[16] and then readaptation, reorientation and considerable renewed material, technological and political development. This whole period of roughly a millennium is known as the Middle Ages, its early part forming the "Dark Ages", designations that were created during the Renaissance and reflect the perspective on history, and the self-image, of the latter period.[citation needed]

The knowledge of the ancient Western world was partly preserved during this period due to the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire and the introduction of the Catholic Church; it was also greatly expanded by the Arab importation[17][18] of both the Ancient Greco-Roman and new technology through the Arabs from India and China to Europe.[19][20]

Since the Renaissance, the West evolved beyond the influence of the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Islamic world, due to the successful Second Agricultural, Commercial,[21] Scientific,[22] and Industrial[23] revolutions (propellers of modern banking concepts). The West rose further with the 18th century's Age of Enlightenment and through the Age of Exploration's expansion of peoples of Western and Central European empires, particularly the globe-spanning colonial empires of 18th and 19th centuries.[24] Numerous times, this expansion was accompanied by Catholic missionaries, who attempted to proselytize Christianity.

There is debate among some as to whether Latin America as a whole is in a category of its own.[25] Whether Russia should be categorized as "East" or "West" has been "an ongoing discussion" for centuries.[26]