Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The importance of the Greeks lies in the fact that they sketched out many, although of course not all, of the broad foundations upon which Western Civilization rests. This may seem a bit strange in view of the fact that each city-state was independent and often jealous of the others, but the Greeks were bound together by a common language, by common gods, by belief in their descent from a common ancestor and in their superiority to non-Greeks, and by many common customs. Although the name of Athens has been chosen in the title of this chapter to represent the vigorous cultural life of the Golden Age, it must be remembered that other city-states made important contributions as well. [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.