Ancient Greece was part of the larger Mediterranean world. The eastern Mediterranean in particular may be likened to a great lake that facilitated trade, communication, and cultural borrowing.

Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and many others shared a similar diet as well as some ideas and institutions, but each synthesized their borrowings in different ways. The Greeks, for example, took their alphabet from the Phoenicians and some of their scientific and philosophical ideas from Egypt, while their social organization resembled that of the Phoenician city-states.

Greek civilization nevertheless remained unique. Its aesthetic ideals and its commitment to human self-development, competition, and linear thought transformed everything it touched and laid the foundations of a characteristically Western culture.

From Hause – Maltby, Western Civilization: A History of European Society (with CD-ROM); excerpts, edited by Athina