Hellenism, also known as the Hellenistic period , was a period in history that represented the expansion of Greek culture, also called Hellenistic culture. Hellenism definition
During this period, Greece was under the rule of Macedonia, ruled by Emperor Alexander the Great, also known as Alexander the Great . This period of expansion took place between 338 BC and 146 BC
The Macedonian emperor managed to expand the domain of Macedonia to all the cities of ancient Greece and ended up creating an empire whose core was the Greek culture.
In this way, all the Greek cultural influence was absorbed by Alexander, who began to spread it beyond the Balkan Peninsula.
Territory dominated by Hellenism
The expansion of Greek culture took place from the Mediterranean Sea to Central Asia, thus encompassing North Africa, the Persian empire (in the Middle East), Eastern Europe and India.
Alexander the Great, who took over the Macedonian empire after the assassination of his father, Philip II, conquered the greatest empire that had existed until then. Hellenism definition
Despite the fact that the Greek language was adopted as a common language, there was a kind of cultural exchange between the nations and, with that, some institutions assumed the Greek standard and others maintained oriental elements.
Expansion of Hellenistic Culture
Alexandria, an Egyptian city named after the Macedonian emperor, was the great hub of Hellenistic culture, especially with regard to the arts and literature.
The city was home to a famous papyrus scroll library, which contained at least 200,000 copies of works by ancient sages.
Another place of great cultural prominence was the city of Antioch, capital of Syria.
Within the sphere of philosophy, four new currents emerged: Cynicism, Stoicism, Epicureanism and Neoplatonism.
End of Alexandria Library
The best-known story of the end of the Library of Alexandria argues that in 642 Amir ibn Alas (then governor of the province of Egypt) ordered that all works that were not in accordance with the Qur’an be burned.
Historians, however, defend another version of the famous library’s demise. Hellenism definition
According to them, the real end of the Library of Alexandria happened gradually and quite bureaucratically, and began with the cut in funds imposed by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
This cut entailed the suspension of scholarships for library members and the expulsion of foreign academics.
Regarding the physical structure of the place, it is believed that it was already quite damaged due to various military actions that frequently took place in the city that was often a battleground.
It is believed that when it was set on fire, the site consisted only of ruins in its structure and its collection.
According to historians, in fact practically all the existing material was burned, used as fuel in the ovens that fed Alexandria’s thermal baths.
The only works spared were those of Aristotle.
Importance of Hellenism in the arts and sciences
The Hellenistic period was of fundamental importance because the discoveries that took place during this period are still very useful today.
Check out how this period was essential for humanity. Hellenism definition
Hellenism and the arts
The arts were only available to the noble class.
The architecture had oriental features, which became explicit with the appearance of the vault and arch.
Painting practically ceased to exist during Hellenism.
The representation of racial differences, pain, old age, anger and childhood through art emerged during this period.
Hellenism and Literature
Unfortunately, the Hellenistic literature was not preserved and, therefore, what remains today are just a few fragments of works.
The two most prominent names in literature working in the field of poetry were Callimachus (who wrote hymns, epigrams and two epic poems) and Theocritus (responsible for creating the pastoral genre.)
It was also during this period that the so-called new comedy appeared in the theater , which represented the passions of common citizens and had Menander as its main representative. Hellenism definition
Hellenism and Philosophy
The Hellenistic period was also important for philosophy.
In this period, the Western way of thinking, until then predominant only in Greece, began to be expanded to other places.
It was also during Hellenism that new philosophical schools such as Stoicism , Epicureanism , Cynicism and Skepticism emerged.
Hellenism and science
The scientific discoveries that took place in the Hellenistic period are still useful today.
During this period, the great mathematician Archimedes de Siracusa stood out , who discovered integral calculus, the law of impulse and invented the planetarium and the aspirant bomb.
In the field of astronomy, Hipparchus of Nicaea attributed the duration of 365 days to the solar year, and Aristarchus of Samos showed that the Sun was a central part of the planetary system.
In the field of medicine, Herófilo was one of the most prominent names. Considered the founder of anatomy, he managed to distinguish, through his studies, the brain from the cerebellum, describe the duodenum, pancreas and prostate. Hellenism definition
He was also responsible for discovering the pulse rhythm, establishing systole and diastole through mathematics.
end of the hellenistic period
Alexander the Great had no children and due to the inexistence of heirs, after his death, the empire was divided among the generals who were under his command. Thus emerged three kingdoms: that of Ptolemy (Egypt, Phenicia and Palestine), that of Cassander (Macedonia and Greece) and that of Seleucus (Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor).
These generals, in turn, preserved the administrative and cultural heritage inherited from the emperor.
However, Rome began to expand its powers and with it, took over the territories that were previously part of the places conquered by the emperor, such as Syria, Egypt and Macedonia itself. Hellenism definition
Characteristics of Hellenism
Check below some of the main features of the Hellenistic period.
- Rise of Science
- Increased knowledge
- Physics growth
- math progress
- astronomy development
- evolution of medicine
- Improved grammar
- development of geography
Hellenism and Christianity
With the expansion of the Hellenistic culture, a vast territory began to incorporate aspects of Greek culture.
After the fall of Hellenism, the Romans took over the territories that previously belonged to the Empire of Alexander the Great, however, some cultural aspects, such as the Greek language, were preserved.
The influence of Hellenism on Christianity can be seen, for example, in the fact that the New Testament was written in Greek and not in Latin, which was the language of the new empire.
Taking into account the vastness of the ancient Hellenistic empire, the spread of the faith by Christianity was quite successful as the language used was common to many territories, which facilitated communication between peoples. Hellenism definition
In this way, we can say that Christianity developed in a Greco-Roman context.