First the great rivers, the Nile and the Euphrates, later the great inland sea that stretched westward to the Atlantic, were the avenues of commerce, of luxury, of civilization. Tyre, Phocæa, Carthage, and Marseilles were the early traders, who brought to the more military Aryans not only all the wares of east and west but language itself, the alphabet. Never was a greater gift bestowed on a greater race. With it the Greeks developed a wonderful literature that was to leave a deep impress on all Western civilization. They wove their early legends into the chaste and elegant verse of the Homeric epics, into the gloomy and poignant drama of Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. They then turned to history and philosophy. In the former they produced a masterpiece of composition with Thucydides and one of the most delightful of narratives with Herodotus. In the later they achieved their most important results.

Greek philosophy was to prove the greatest intellectual asset of humanity. No other civilization or language before the Greek had invented the abstract ideas: time, will, space, beauty, truth, and the others. And from these wonderful, though imperfect, word ideas the vigorous and subtle Greek intellect rapidly raised a structure which found its supreme expression in Plato, Aristotle, and Zeno. But from the close of the Fourth Century before Christ, the time of Aristotle and his pupil Alexander the Great, Greek began to lose its vitality and to decay.

This decadence coincided with events of immense political importance. Alexander created a great Greek Empire, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Indus. After his death this empire was split into a number of monarchies, the Greek kingdoms of the East, of which the last to survive was that of the Ptolemies in Egypt. This perished when Augustus defeated Cleopatra and Antony at Actium in B. C. 31, exactly three hundred years after Alexander’s final victory over Darius at Arbela.

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