The phrase "Western Culture", though it designates a tradition of literature, philosophy and political traditions several thousands of years old, is of relatively recent origin. "Western Culture" today generally refers to the cultural traditions of the United States and Western Europe, and regards both the Roman Empire and the flourishing of Attic Greece, as its essential foundation—an idea first conceived of in the Renaissance, no more than six centuries ago. Prior to this time, Greek culture was more closely associated with the Eastern Mediterranean area, and the heyday of the Roman Empire was regarded as a decadent, anti-Christian epoch.
The Romans, however, were in many ways the first to append the culture of those who came before them to their own; after their subjection of Greece, they took up Greek religious, poetic, and social models and regarded themselves as their perfection. This idea was underpinned by writers such as Virgil, who Aeneid gave a dramatic link from the royal line of ancient Troy, personified by Aeneas, to that of Rome. When the British sought out a way to authorize their own cultural dominance, a similar myth emerged about Brutus, who was regarded as carrying the torch of Roman society to England. Most recently, through a variety of narratives involving the story of the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and the concept of Manifest Destiny, the United States has come to regard itself as the natural inheritor of these retroactive cultural laurels.