The civilizations who best learned to grow and maintain their food sources were able to sustain themselves and did not need to seek help or go "warring." I know it's not ancient and other things factor in later on, but look at the early colonies here in America. The Native Americans knew how to grow and hunt food to provide for themselves; when the new settlers arrived, they were ill equipped to do the same. If it had not been for the graciousness and education of the natives, it's unlikely the earliest settlers would have survived. Food was also at the root of most of the altercations and violent incidents between these groups.
Food is necessary for a society to form, and as the society grows, so does the need for food, and the system to sustain its production, and then, the population growth continues. It is an upwards cycle that has come to define civilizations in history. Conversely, the lack of food due to famine or wars or environmental disasters has led to the downfall of civilizations. They are directly dependent on a food source for their continued survival.
Food is a necessity and without it a civilization cannot be established. This has always been the case. People generally did not choose to settle in places that did not have a sufficient supply of food and water. They would simply not flourish.
I agree with the above posts - that the "no food no civilization" basically refers to the fact that as long as food is on the go - so are people. Civilization requires stability - otherwise a group is merely a "wandering group" whose sole purpose is keeping up with the food. When food and water can be obtained in one spot (and replenished) - a culture can settle down and develop beyond a group simply meeting it's basic needs.
Water and food sources are where people gather and settle. The earliest settlements in civilized countries have always been ports because the sea or lake provides transportation of goods as well as fish and, sometimes, crustacea that can be eaten. With a water source such as a river, even, people can live nearby because they will have water and they can irrigate the land and grow crops. Of course, once there is a settlement of a certain number of people, the need to organize these people and establish rules of behavior arises and governing bodies are, then, formed.
Food is of course basic to human life. No food, no human life. No human life, no civilization. But I think this is not what you are asking.
What I would say is "no agriculture, no civilization." I would say that there are two reasons for this (at least).
- As agriculture develops and becomes more efficient, fewer people are needed for growing the food. One farmer can feed more than just himself and his dependents. When this happens, the "excess" people can go and become blacksmiths and merchants and bureaucrats and all the other things you need in order to have a civilization.
- As you get agriculture, you can have higher population densities. You can have towns and cities. This leads to the need for organized governments and organized governments are a major part of civilization.
Ooops, At first, I only read the thread title. Since posting, I've just read your quantifying statement in Post No. 1.
I believe in today's lingo my efforts would be called, 'epic fail'.
Civilisation is never more than three meals away from revolution. - Anon
This quote's source is uncertain, but I think it is what you need. While it may be a little exaggerated, the quote suggests that if a civilised society does not have access to adequate food supplies, it will quickly resort to anti-social behaviour. And you'd better believe it. While not everyone will descend into animalistic survival behaviour, there are more than enough who will, and, like it or not, we would all be dragged down into violent chaos. Think of how quickly New Orleans fell apart after Hurricane Katrina, and they didn't really have any long-term danger. Help was on its way, but they still went crazy.
Now imagine no food in any shop in America and you are getting very very hungry.... but imagine this... your neighbor's probably got food in his fridge!