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It is difficult to determine which individuals fit into which category and the East–West contrast is sometimes criticized as relativistic and arbitrary.Globalism has spread Western ideas so widely that almost all modern cultures are, to some extent, influenced by aspects of Western culture.Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization, Occidental culture, the Western world, Western society, and European civilization, is a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe.The term also applies beyond Europe to countries and cultures whose histories are strongly connected to Europe by immigration, colonization, or influence.The earliest civilizations which influenced the development of western culture were those of Mesopotamia; the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran: the cradle of civilization.The Greeks contrasted themselves to their Eastern neighbors, such as the Trojans in Iliad, setting an example for later contrasts between east and west.In the Middle Ages, the Near East provided a contrast to the West, though it had been Hellenized since the time of Alexander the Great.

They also developed a large amount of scientific knowledge themselves, as seen in their Coligny Calendar.

There is some disagreement about what nations should or should not be included in the category and at what times.

Many parts of the Eastern Roman Empire are considered Western today but were Eastern in the past.

In Homeric literature, and right up until the time of Alexander the Great, for example in the accounts of the Persian Wars of Greeks against Persians by Herodotus, we see the paradigm of a contrast between the West and East.

Nevertheless, the Greeks felt they were the most civilized and saw themselves (in the formulation of Aristotle) as something between the wild barbarians of most of Europe and the soft, slavish Middle-Easterners.

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Western culture, throughout most of its history, has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture, and a large portion of the population of the Western hemisphere can be described as cultural Christians.