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The decline of the Roman Empire is a theme which has captured the imagination of countless men . The Roman achievement, both in its material and cultural aspects, was of such magnitude that its passing invites consideration on that account alone. There are those who have sought to find in the decline of Rome some clue which might help lead to an understanding of why civilizations seem to develop, prosper, and then wither away. Our immediate interest in this complicated subject arises from the assumption that Western Civilization is one of the direct heirs and successors of Roman Civilization, and would not have come into existence when it did without the Roman collapse. [excerpt]


This is a part of Section I: Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem: Background of Western Civilization. The Contemporary Civilization page lists all additional sections of Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, as well as the Table of Contents for both volumes.

More About Contemporary Civilization:

From 1947 through 1969, all first-year Gettysburg College students took a two-semester course called Contemporary Civilization. The course was developed at President Henry W.A. Hanson’s request with the goal of “introducing the student to the backgrounds of contemporary social problems through the major concepts, ideals, hopes and motivations of western culture since the Middle Ages.”

Gettysburg College professors from the history, philosophy, and religion departments developed a textbook for the course. The first edition, published in 1955, was called An Introduction to Contemporary Civilization and Its Problems. A second edition, retitled Ideas and Institutions of Western Man, was published in 1958 and 1960. It is this second edition that we include here. The copy we digitized is from the Gary T. Hawbaker ’66 Collection and the marginalia are his.