Civilization of the Greeks
Chapter 2

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If we think of the civilization of the Greeks, we have no difficulty in fixing on its chief characteristics. High perfection of the intellect and imagination, displaying itself in all the various forms of art, poetry, literature, and philosophy - restless activity of mind and body, finding its exercise in athletic games or in subtle disputations - love of the beautiful - quick perception - indefatigable inquiry - all these enter into the very idea of the Greek race. This is not the place to inquire how far these qualities were due to an innate peculiarity, or how far they grew up, by gradual development, amidst the natural influences of their native country, - the variety of their hills and plains, the clear lights and warm shadows of their climate, the mingled land and water of their coasts. We have only to do with this national character so far as, under divine Providence, it was made subservient to the spread of the Gospel.

We shall see how remarkably it served this purpose, if we consider the tendency of the Greeks to trade and colonization. Their mental activity was accompanied with a great physical restlessness. This clever people always exhibited a disposition to spread themselves. Without aiming at universal conquest, they displayed (if we may use the word) a remarkable catholicity of character, and a singular power of adaptation to those whom they called Barbarians. In this respect they were strongly contrasted with the Egyptians, whose immemorial civilization was confined to the long valley which extends from the cataracts to the mouths of the Nile. The Hellenic tribes, on the other hand, though they despised foreigners, were never unwilling to visit them and to cultivate their acquaintance. At the earliest period at which history enables us to discover them, we see them moving about in their ships on the shores and among the islands of their native seas; and, three or four centuries before the Christian era, Asia Minor, beyond which the Persians had not been permitted to advance, was bordered by a fringe of Greek colonies; and Lower Italy, when the Roman republic was just beginning to be conscious of its strength, had received the name of Greece itself. To all these places they carried their arts and literature, their philosophy, their mythology, and their amusements. They carried also their arms and their trade. The heroic age had passed away, and fabulous voyages had given place to real expeditions against Sicily and constant traffic with the Black Sea. They were gradually taking the place of the Phoenicians in the empire of the Mediterranean.

With this view of the Hellenic character before us, we are prepared to appreciate the vast results of Alexander’s conquests. He took up the meshes of the net of Greek civilization, which were lying in disorder on the edges of the Asiatic shore, and spread them over all the countries which he traversed in his wonderful campaigns. The East and the West were suddenly brought together. Separated tribes were united under a common government. New cities were built, as the centers of political life. New lines of communication were opened, as the channels of commercial activity. The new culture penetrated the mountain ranges of Pisidia and Lycaonia. The Tigris and Euphrates became Greek rivers. The language of Athens was heard among the Jewish colonies of Babylonia; and a Grecian Babylon was built by the conqueror in Egypt, and called by his name.

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The empire of Alexander was divided, but the effects of his campaigns and policy did not cease. The influence of the fresh elements of social life was rather increased by being brought into independent action within the spheres of distinct kingdoms. Our attention is particularly called to two of the monarchical lines, which descended from Alexander’s generals, - the Ptolemies, or the Greek kings of Egypt, - and the Seleucids, or the Greek kings of Syria. Their respective capitals, Alexandria and Antioch, became the metropolitan centers of commercial and civilized life in the East. They rose suddenly; and their very appearance marked them as the cities of a new epoch. Like Berlin and Petersburg, they were modern cities built by great kings at a definite time and for a definite purpose. Their histories are no unimportant chapters in the history of the world.

Of all the Greek elements which the cities of Antioch and Alexandria were the means of circulating, the spread of the language is the most important. Its connection with the whole system of Christian doctrine - with many of the controversies and divisions of the Church - is very momentous. That language, which is the richest and most delicate that the world has seen, became the language of theology. The Greek tongue became to the Christian more than it had been to the Roman or the Jew. The mother-tongue of Ignatius at Antioch, was that in which Philo composed his treaties at Alexandria, and which Cicero spoke at Athens. It is difficult to state in a few words the important relation which Alexandria more especially was destined to bear to the whole Christian Church. In that city, the representative of the Greeks of the East, where the most remarkable fusion took place of the peculiarities of Greek, Jewish, and Oriental life, and at the time when all these had been brought in contact with the mind of educated Romans, - a theological language was formed, rich in the phrases of various schools, and suited to convey Christian ideas to all the world. It was not an accident that the New Testament was written in Greek, the language which can best express the highest thoughts and worthiest feelings of the intellect and heart, and which is adapted to be the instrument of education for all nations: nor was it an accident that the composition of these books and the promulgation of the Gospel were delayed, till the instruction of our Lord, and the writings of His Apostles, could be expressed in the dialect of Alexandria. This, also, must be ascribed to the foreknowledge of Him, who "winked at the times of ignorance," but who

"made of one blood all the nations of men to dwell upon all the face of the earth, having determined beforehand their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwelling;" (Acts 17:26, HBFV)

Maps of Paul's Missionary Journeys
All Cities Visited
Travels just after conversion
First Missionary Journey
Second Journey
Third Journey
Fourth Journey
Final Journey

The Life and Epistles of Apostle Paul

by Conybeare and Howson
(adapted and edited by


Religious Life
of the Jews
AntiochThird Missionary

Civilization of
the Greeks

First Missionary

A short visit
to Corinth

The Roman
in Pisidia
At Ephesus,
revisit churches

Dispersion of
the Jews

Lystra, Derbe

Warning to
Church Elders

Cilicia and
Last Journey
to Jerusalem

Sects of
the Jews

Background of
Asia Minor

Arrest in

Paul's birth
and early life
Second Missionary
A Prisoner
of Rome




The death
of Stephen
Thessalonica, Berea
to Rome

Paul's conversion

In Athens

Trial delay

Arabia, Jerusalem
CorinthAcquittal, Last
Journey, Death

Serving new

Spiritual Gifts
and Heresies

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