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During the last three or four centuries of the pre-Christian era, the world of the Mediterranean and the Ancient Near East underwent a tremendous religious upheaval, While the later prophets and the scribes were reinterpreting Judaism in the light of world developments, the polytheism of Athens, Sparta, and Rome, which made religion part of the total life of the community and identified it closely with patriotism, gave way before pressures that were exceedingly complex and that we can identify only partially. These pressures were well under way in Athens before the conquests of Philip and Alexander. They can be seen in Rome soon after she made her first firm contacts with the Hellenistic world. [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.