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For our purpose, the importance of the Romans lies in the fact that it was most directly from the ruins of their civilization that our own developed. Therefore, before completing the account of the decline and fall of their empire, we will consider the cultural contributions made by the Romans.

The Romans were not great cultural innovators. During the early republic, they were a simple agricultural people who were isolated from the civilizations upon whom the Greeks had drawn as well as from the Greeks themselves. As they began to expand, they came into contact with the Greeks -- first in southern Italy and then in the Balkans -- and began appropriating from them. But this was not properly Greek (or Hellenic) Civilization from which they were borrowing. It was what is known as Hellenistic, and that requires some explanation. [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.