To the Greeks we owe nearly all our ideas
as to the fundamentals of art, literature, and philosophy, in fact, of
almost the whole of our intellectual life. These Greeks, however, our
histories promptly teach us, did not form a single unified nation. They
lived in many "city-states" of more or less importance, and some of the
largest of these contributed very little directly to our civilization.
Sparta, for example, has left us some noble lessons in simple living and
devoted patriotism, but hardly a single great poet, and certainly never a
philosopher or sculptor. When we examine closely, we see that the civilized
life of Greece, during the centuries when she was accomplishing the most,
was peculiarly centered at Athens. Without Athens, Greek history would lose
three quarters of its significance, and modern life and thought would become
infinitely the poorer.