Social Hierarchy in India and Greece

Since Mesopotamian times, social hierarchy has influenced the role of individuals in society. In different civilizations throughout history, social groups were used to create a division of labor with hopes of increasing productivity. In Ancient India, the community was divided using a social caste system. This social caste system was very rigid and provided little room for movement. In Ancient Greece, however, a less rigid class system was used to divide the community. In both systems, position was determined by who your parents were; however, the class system did allow some upward mobility. Although they were from different time periods and geographic locations, the social structures of Ancient India and Ancient Greece were similar because they established a system of ranking people.

The earliest mention of the Indian caste system is found in the Vedic hymns, which are believed to be from around 6000 B.C.E.  In Ancient India, people were divided into four groups, or varnas: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and the Sudras.[1] The highest caste in the Indian society was the Brahmins, who were teachers and priests. After the Brahmins came the Kshatriyas, they were the warriors and rulers in Ancient India. While the Brahmins were technically the highest group in the hierarchy, the Kshatriyas were closer in status to the Brahmins than the Vaisyas. The Vaisyas, who were the middle class, were skilled traders, merchants, and farmers. Next in the hierarchy came  the Sudras, who were the unskilled workers. They were mostly laborers and craft workers. The formation of these groups was considered decreed by Brahma, the Creator of the universe. The civilization of Ancient India believed that if one did his duty (dharma) within the caste he was born in, he would be rewarded in subsequent lives by moving to a higher caste. These beliefs led the Indians to accept their role in society without questioning or wanting to change it. [2]  Later  as time went on, a fifth group emerged who were referred to as the Untouchables, or the Outcasts. These individuals usually were responsible for jobs others didn’t want to do; they were the closest to slaves.[3]

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