Part I The Ancient World
The ruins of the Athenian Acropolis today stand under a smog-laden sky and overlook the trees and buildings of a bustling modern city sprawled beneath. These ruins are striking symbols of a great civilization whose principal center was Athens.
In the fifth century B.C.E，the temples and statues of the Acropolis were new and gleaming, fresh from the hands of confident architects and sculptors. Five hundred years later, when Greece was a province of the Roman Empire, they still expressed the writer Plutarch:
The works…are wonderful; they were quickly created and they have lasted for ages. In beauty each one appeared venerable as soon as it was finished, but in freshness and vigor it looks even now new and lately built. They bloom with an eternal freshness that seems untouched by time, as though they had been inspired by an unfading spirit of youth.
Today the Acropolis no longer appears to be “untouched by time”; yet for us no less than for Plutarch, ancient Athens and the civilization that were centered there has retained an “eternal freshness.” Greece’s accomplishments were to prove enduring. Its magnificent intellectual and artistic legacy would provide much of the cultural heritage of Western civilization. And when we look at the Greek experience as a whole—political, economic, social, religious, and cultural—we can see the great impact of the ancient Greek on the development of civilization in the West.