Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



The Golden Age of Greece was confined to the relatively short period of two centuries. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B. C., the vast empire he had built fell apart, and his generals tried to pick up the pieces. By that time the Greek polis no longer possessed the vitality that was reflected in the funeral oration of Pericles. Something like cultural lethargy began to settle upon the descendants of Herodotus and Socrates. The center of learning switched from Athens to Alexandria, in Egypt. [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.