lesson image

Thus far, from the top of our high tower we have been looking eastward. But from this time on, the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia is going to grow less interesting and I must take you to study the western landscape.

Before we do this, let us stop a moment and make clear to ourselves what we have seen.

First of all I showed you prehistoric humanity—creatures very simple in their habits and very unattractive in their manners. I told you how they were the most defenseless of the many animals that roamed through the early wilderness of the five continents, but being possessed of a larger and better brain, they managed to hold their own.

Then came the glaciers and the many centuries of cold weather, and life on this planet became so difficult that people were obliged to think three times as hard as ever before if they wished to survive. Since, however, that "wish to survive" was (and is) the mainspring which keeps every living being going full tilt to the last gasp of its breath, the brain of glacial humanity was set to work in all earnestness. Not only did these hardy people manage to exist through the long cold spells which killed many ferocious animals, but when the earth became warm and comfortable once more, prehistoric people had learned a number of things which gave them such great advantages over their less intelligent neighbors that the danger of extinction (a very serious one during the first half million years of man's residence upon this planet) became a very remote one.

I told you how these earliest ancestors of ours were slowly plodding along when suddenly (and for reasons that are not well understood) the people who lived in the valley of the Nile rushed ahead and almost overnight, created the first center of civilization.

Then I showed you Mesopotamia, "the land between the rivers," which was the second great school of the human race. And I made you a map of the little island bridges of the Aegean Sea, which carried the knowledge and the science of the old east to the young west, where lived the Greeks.

Next, I told you of an Indo-European tribe, called the Hellenes, who thousands of years before had left the heart of Asia and who had in the eleventh century before our era pushed their way into the rocky peninsula of Greece and who, since then, have been known to us as the Greeks. And I told you the story of the little Greek cities that were really states, where the civilization of old Egypt and Asia was transfigured (that is a big word, but you can "figure out" what it means) into something quite new, something that was much nobler and finer than anything that had gone before.

When you look at the map you will see how by this time civilization has described a semicircle. It begins in Egypt, and by way of Mesopotamia and the Aegean Islands it moves westward until it reaches the European continent. The first four thousand years, Egyptians and Babylonians and Phoenicians and a large number of Semitic tribes (please remember that the Jews were but one of a large number of Semitic peoples) have carried the torch that was to illuminate the world. They now hand it over to the Indo-European Greeks, who become the teachers of another Indo-European tribe, called the Romans. But meanwhile the Semites have pushed westward along the northern coast of Africa and have made themselves the rulers of the western half of the Mediterranean just when the eastern half has become a Greek (or Indo-European) possession.

This, as you shall see in a moment, leads to a terrible conflict between the two rival races, and out of their struggle arises the victorious Roman Empire, which is to take this Egyptian-Mesopotamian-Greek civilization to the furthermost corners of the European continent, where it serves as the foundation upon which our modern society is based.

I know all this sounds very complicated, but if you get hold of these few principles, the rest of our history will become a great deal simpler. The maps will make clear what the words fail to tell. And after this short intermission, we go back to our story and give you an account of the famous war between Carthage and Rome.


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read and/or listen to the story.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary terms.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Answer the review questions.


In the first twenty chapters, we've read about primitive man fleeing glaciers, the early civilizations of the Nile and Mesopotamia, and the great cities and culture of the Greeks. Our gaze turns from the east to the west, where a new clash brews. This conflict results in the formation of the Roman Empire, upon which our modern society is based.


Transfigure: To transform or to convert into a different form, state, or substance.
Civilization: An organized culture encompassing many communities, often on the scale of a nation or a people.
Conflict: A clash or disagreement, often violent, between two or more opposing groups or individuals.
Society: A long-standing group of people sharing cultural aspects such as language, dress, norms of behavior and artistic forms.
Intermission: A break between two performances or sessions, such as at a concert, play, seminar, or religious assembly.


Activity 1: Narrate the Lesson

  • After you read or listen to the lesson, narrate the events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Study the Story Picture

  • Study the story picture and describe how it relates to the story.

Activity 3: Complete Copywork, Narration, Dictation, and Art   

Click the crayon above. Complete pages 47-48 of 'World History Copywork, Narration, Dictation, and Art for Third Grade.'