History of Western civilization before AD 500
Western civilization describes the development of human civilization beginning in the Near East, and generally spreading westwards. In its broader sense, its roots may be traced back to 9000 BCE, when humans existing in hunter-gatherer societies began to settle into agricultural societies. Farming became prominent around the headwaters of the Euphrates, Tigris and Jordan Rivers, spreading outwards into and across Europe; in this sense, the West produced the world's first cities, states, and empires. However, Western civilization in its more strictly defined European sphere traces its roots back to European and Mediterranean classical antiquity. It can be strongly associated with nations linked to the former Western Roman Empire and with Medieval Western Christendom.The civilizations of Classical Greece (Hellenic) and Roman Empire (Latin) as well as Ancient Israel and early Christendom are considered seminal periods in Western history. From Ancient Greece sprang belief in democracy, and the pursuit of intellectual inquiry into such subjects as truth and beauty; from Rome came lessons in government administration, martial organization, engineering and law; and from Ancient Israel sprang Christianity with its ideals of the brotherhood of humanity. Strong cultural contributions also emerged from the pagan Germanic/Celtic/Slavic/Baltic and Nordic peoples of pre-Christian Europe. Following the 5th century Fall of Rome, Europe entered the Middle Ages, during which period the Catholic Church filled the power vacuum left in the West by the fallen Roman Empire, while the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) endured for centuries.