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The Spread Of Hellenism History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The Hellenistic Period dates between Alexander the Great’s death, in 323 BC, to the Roman annexation of Egypt in 30 BC. At that time, Greek power and culture spread out to the world. Hellenism resulted from conquests by Alexander the Great. Between 334 BC and 323 BC, Alexander had managed to take over the entire Persian Empire and to bring down its ruler, King Darius III. Alexander’s empire covered parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. It included Egypt, Assyria, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Levant, Persia, Media and parts of present day Pakistan and Afghanistan (Heckel, 2008). While Hellenism was the result of Alexander’s conquests, it took off after his death in 323 BC. This paper discusses the beginnings and spread of Hellenism.

Alexander was a son to Phillip II of Macedon. When his father died, Alexander battled with Greek city States against Macedon. He inherited his father’s role as supreme commander. After he had managed to consolidate Grecian City States, he re-launched the war his father had begun against Persia. Alexander and his forces easily moved across whatever was left in western Persia. He conquered all areas towards the east of the Euphrates. Darius gathered his troops in a final attempt to reclaim his empire, and the two met at the Gaugamela plain (Stoneman, 2004).

Heckel (2008) narrates that after easily crossing both the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, Alexander came face to face with Darius’ troops. Their battle seemed to be almost a stalemate, but Darius had the advantage of numbers. When Alexander found a chance, they attacked Darius and he fled. Most Persians gave up and Darius was killed by his own men. Alexander then became the king of Macedonia, Persia and Greece. He was not satisfied and headed for India but his forces refused and he went back hoping to continue with his conquests later on, but he suffered from Malaria and died shortly thereafter. Alexander’s commanders competed for control of the empire and eventually divided it into three parts; Greece/ Macedonia, Pergamum/Asia Minor, West Asia and Egypt. This marked the end of Alexander’s Era and the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.

In the Hellenistic times, the Macedonians did not only control the territory. They also initiated an active exportation of Greek culture. Greek literature, politics, art literature and law found their way into Asia, Africa and Europe. The exportation of culture in such a scale was a new phenomenon at the time. It led to a strong influence of Greek culture on others that later emerged in these areas. Greek culture had a role in shaping Islam, Christian, Roman and Jewish cultures. Throughout the new empire, Hellenization occurred. Where Greek art and architecture was introduced, the Greek way of life and language were also adopted. The influence covered a very large territory that extended from Greece to India then Mongolia and further to states beyond the Oecumena’s frontiers (Spielvogel, 2007).

According to Stoneman (2004), Greek culture and language spread as Alexander’s armies progressed. The Romans on their part took up a considerable amount of Greek culture. They preserved and spread it to other areas of the world. When Rome fell, Greek culture was kept and revisited during the Byzantine Empire years. It was also spread into the Arab world and transmitted to the West during the Renaissance. Ancient Greece therefore impacted on a variety of subjects for instance scientific medicine, mathematics, literature, poetry, language and theater. Architecture, politics, history and philosophy in virtually every part of the world gained a Greek characteristic and names such as Hippocrates, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle had new meaning. The new testament of the Christian bible was translated to Greek. Herodotus came to be considered as being the father of history. The concepts of democracy and philosophy were related to scholars such as Plato and scientific theory was linked to Greek scholars.

After Alexander died, the Hellenism era started fully. During the time, the known parts of the world accepted and adopted Grecian ideals and culture. Cities that were established by Alexander became the centers of trade, government and culture. Greeks introduced their theatres, temples and schools, as a result of which Greek culture was easily exported. In a way, much of the world embraced Greek culture and the Greek language took up a new international status. Arts and education were founded on classical Greek ideals. They were therefore characterized by ideas of figures such as Aristotle. With Hellenization, there was also a spiritual revolution and change in religious viewpoints. With time, there was a reduction in the influence of Greek gods. This was replaced by a strong influence from Eastern religion which led to the development of the cult of Isis (Spielvogel, 2007).

Stoneman (2004) explains that while Alexander’s empire had expanded fast, its demise was even faster. His death was untimely, leaving no arrangements for his succession. He therefore left the kingdom in turmoil. Hellenism’s complete decline started as from 146 BC. In this year, Romans conquered a large part of mainland Greece. It took away the entire ancient Macedon and marked the beginning of the Roman Empire. By 30 BC, even the Egyptian side of the Hellenistic kingdom had been taken over by Rome. This marked the end of Hellenistic civilization.

In conclusion, the death of Alexander the great marked a turning point in world civilization. His ambition for power led to the creation of a large empire that passed through three continents. As the conquests occurred, Greek culture was transmitted to the areas. After his death, the Hellenistic period started in earnest. Practically every aspect of Greek culture was exported and gained prominence in terms of influence. Subsequent historical periods were characterized by Greek aspects of culture, both in artifacts and intellectual contributions.


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