Why and how parts of the world came to be known (and in some cases reviled) as Western is an interesting thread to follow. I’ll begin by saying the Western designation has nothing really to do with cowboys. That’s a different form of Western. I’ll also say that in a thousand word article I can’t but touch a few high spots of a long and involved story. But, in a quick review form it may interest readers to look back at the long land and sea trails that came to be called Western or The West.  

The recorded start of what is usually thought of as The West begins with Greek city states and the rise of popular rule by the people (demos) as democracy. This, of course, had up and downs with tyrannies and oligarchies, etc. coming and going. The biggest threat to the Greek city states came from Persia, an autocratic monarchy to the East of Greece. On the world map of the time Greece was in the West. In 356 BC (BC is considered pejorative, biased, and insulting by some I’m waiting to make a similar case for Thor’s Day.) Alexander was born in Macedonian Greece. By age 30 he removed the Persian threat and expanded Greek influence to India. On Alexander’s death his empire was divided in three. The West was more-or-less classical Greece held by Antipater who’d been custodian for Alexander. Egypt and Africa went to Alexander’s able half-brother Ptolemy, a dynasty lasting to the time of Kleoptra and the Romans. The East went to the control of the Seleucids who’d served under Alexander and ran a quite a long-lived empire into Roman times.  

Think in these terms. The West began with Greek influence. This expanded South to what we now call the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa. It then went East across the Hellespont (legendary Troy, now in Turkey, and the Persian Empire now in Iran) to what was then considered to be Asia. When Alexander was removed the West went back to being Greece, but with Greek influence lingering in ways including the establishment of Western or Greek style cities and the building of temples and libraries which sometimes shared civic and religious duties.   That West, to be sure, was not the same sort of Western Democracy we think of and know in this day. More often than not the democratic side of things was ignored. Strong rulers and dynasties were the order of the time, but popular consent was not forgot even if it could not be exercised.  

The rise of Rome moved The West slightly further west and gave it a different twist. After some very rough patches with despotic rulers the Roman Republic tried to avoid the establishment of a kingly line. Rule was by consent but was limited to the upper class alone having a voice. Neither democracy nor republicanism was a success as we’d see things. But, the Western notion of governance by consent of the people (demos) and representative government in a republic were ideas that did not go away. Rome’s time of “glory” came with empire ruled over by emperors who by their own terms could be called “dictator for life.” Regardless of how far from ideal they were, we remember two prominent Roman emperors with the months July and August for Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus respectively. In their day neither Greek Democracy nor the Roman Republic lived up to their potential of popular or representative rule. But the seed of popular and representative government had to wait a long time.  

Rome, Europe, and eventually the Americas would be considered as Western due to the way the Roman Empire was eventually divided. For the sake of simplicity it is safe enough to say the Roman split was much the same as happened to Alexander’s empire. The Western Empire was Greece, Rome, and Europe (sometimes including Egypt, etc.) while the Eastern Empire lay beyond the Hellespont and had its own capital city Constantinople to rival Rome. You can equate the Byzantine Empire with the Eastern Empire and be close enough. You can also chart the schism between Roman Rite Christianity and Orthodox Christianity in the same way. The West lay west of Constantinople. The East laid east of Constantinople. Both East and West contested over the fertility of Egypt. There was much competition and warfare between East and West, but keep in mind that at the time the Eastern Empire was essentially Western in tradition and style.  

An essentially East West division remained in what was left of the former Roman Empire, but the difference between East and West would be more pointed as Ottoman control took over in the East. Whereas Roman style Republicanism was lousy at Democracy the Ottoman tradition rejected all of that entirely. The Ottomans followed a type of theocracy where a Caliph ruled on an Islamic model. The Ottomans were efficient and successful weakening both the East and West parts of the old Roman Empire by raids and piracy that cut off supplies and led to economic stagnation. These disruptions led to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 after which the Caliph gave his troops three days of pillage during which around 30,000 non-Muslims were taken as slaves. Feelings were SO bad between East and West after Constantinople became Istanbul that in 1492 Isabella of Spain ordered all Muslims out. It was not a graceful or kindly eviction.  

For some centuries the East to West divide focused on what Roman Gods were favored. It then went to Roman Rite in the West and Orthodox in the East. If you want a mental picture see steeples with crosses for the West and onion domes with crosses for the East which later becomes minarets as a signal for which side of the divide prevails. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive review and does not take into proper account how the New World became the ground for Representative Democracy. The Founders chose civil government with separation of church and state. People with an agenda will tell you otherwise.