Western civilization is different than the East, or any other sort of civilization. The foundations of it were not originally upon the power of empires, and great and powerful states. It became that, but, what was the seed that took root was the Polis, the Equality of the citizens, the need for all to defend the Polis, and the hard fought values that arose from that. When Persia came to dominate the Greeks, although they were but small city states, who often fought amongst themselves, they gathered to fight. Persia, a vast and powerful, monolithic and fascinating empire, was not prone to elections and listening to the will of the people. It was led by Kings or Emperors, and they were autocrats. The cause that was Greece, in the face of invading empires or terror from the seas, is that they were perhaps not friendly with each other state, but within their world, they were Greek, and that meant they fought, were educated, believed in certain things about their fellow Greeks that could not be extinguished by an enemy outside of themselves. That remained true until one who saw himself as Greek finally became the leader who would allow them their laurels but only if they called him a Greek, as much as they. Macedonians under Philip aspired to be seen as Greek, but while they were related, his son and successor Alexander did think himself the blood relative of Heracles, Macedonia was little more than a dictatorship of the strong.
Today Greece is seen as the weak sister of Europe, but it remains the doorway of Europe through which comes much of the rest of the world. How fitting that those who seek shelter come in first through the first truly European country.