The Hellenistic World

The Age of Hellenism came in Anatolia with Alexander the Great’s conquest of the region. The youthful conqueror, twenty-four years old at his rise to power following the death of his father, Philip of Macedonia, was indeed an interesting personality. He was educated by Aristotle, who was responsible for Alexander’s fine understanding and appreciation of Greek civilization. His one aim was to Hellenize the known world, to spread the Greek or Hellenic way of being in the wake of his conquests. He established some seventy cities across the surface of the vast empire he accumulated and persuaded his soldiers to settle in them. The empire of Alexander extended from his homeland of Macedonia to the Indus River — all in a dozen years of campaigning. He was dead at the age of thirty-three.The native Anatolians, for the most part, maintained their identities in spite of Alexander’s effort to change them. They lived as they had always lived, observed the same customs and spoke the same languages as before. They worked their fields, caring little for what policy-makers were up to. These were the common people. The Greeks became the new class of ‘rulers, and Greek became the language of culture, business and government As time wore on and these two dissimilar peoples lived together, a little part of each became the whole— the cultures were combined. This was the Age of Hellenism.

Alexander had wanted to form a permanent political union of the different peoples across the lands he conquered. To reach this end he set himself up as a god-king much like the Egyptian Pharaohs and had ordered his subjects to worship him. His sudden death at such a young age, however, made this dream fall. There errupted a fierce rivalry for power among the army leaders. The empire eventually ended up being divided into three large kingdoms. These were Macedonia, western Asia ond Egypt. Each of these areas were ruled by a line of kings that were descended from his generals. During oil the infighting, Greece, Persia and India regained their independence. The city-states of Greece also started battling each other and started to decline in importance. The centers that emerged as trade and commercial markets were those that Alexander had founded in Egypt and in the western region of Asia. The most important one was Alexandria, which became the new Egyptian . capital city. This, too, had been built by the conqueror, at the mouth of the life-giving Nile River. The four-hundred foot high lighthouse built by the Hellenistic rulers in Alexandria was one of the wonders of the ancient world. A university was established, called the Museum, that brought to the shining Hellenistic city in Egypt students from all parts of the known world. Its library, the : largest of its kind in the ancient world contained more than half a million volumes. An observatory was built there where ancient astronomers studied the heavens and developed accurate theories. In Alexandria and in other Hellenistic cities, scholars made much progress in many branches of learning. Euclid, the ancient mathematician wrote a explaining his principles of geometry, that was used for more than two thousand years. The earth was proved round during this period, and one of the world’s first geographers estimated the circumference of the earth, correct to two hundred miles. Many advances were made in biology and medicine; doctors dissected the bodies of criminals, making swift progress in the areas of surgery and disease. A stationary steam engine was invented during this period, though it was put to no profitable use, and a catapult that was operated by compressed air was also devised. The famous Archimedes, who discovered the theory of specific gravity, made an ingenious device that was the early forerunner of the winch. Scientists and scholars easily surpassed their counterparts in Greece during this period of Hellenism. Architects surged a head in the field of city planning; cities were equipped with Street fighting, sewage arid water systems and were designed with broad avenues and public squares.

The arts and literature were nourished and prospered under the patronage of the Hellenistic kings. Stories of love and adventure were popular and regular play performances were given in the massive stone amphitheaters. Sculptors and painters made portraits and statues for the-wealthy. Architects enjoyed a prosperous profession designing ornate public and private buildings and mansions. The artists and writers of this period, though they were clever technicians at their respective crafts, seemed to lack the inspiration and beautiful simplicity of those of the Golden Age of Athens. The civilization of the Hellenistic Age in Anatolia and the rest of the Near East differed from the old Greek city-states in the process of government as well. Since Alexander’s successors had set themselves up as divine rulers, the peoples of these assorted nations had no choice but to obey their laws. People had no voice in how they were governed this is far different from the system of democratic government found in Greece at that time. Much like Greece, however, the Hellenistic kings were constantly at each others’ throats for power and to increase their territories and wealth, This is the prime reason for the Hellenistic kingdom’s eventual decline and final submission to the rising power coming from the west, that of the empire-building Romans. Before they could move across Europe and into the vast region of Anatolia, the Roman legions had to rid themselves of the threatening Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who led an army against Rome which included three hundred elephants. Another major force that had to be dealt a death-blow was that of the Seleucid kings that had spread out over Anatolia from their home in Syria. The Seleucid dynasty originated with one of Alexander’s generals and evolved into .one of the three main divisions which resulted after the split-up of the empire. Near the end of the 2 nd century B.C. the Seleucid King Antiochus III of Syria was preparing to do battle with the Roman forces that were following heavy on the heels of Hannibal’s defeated and fleeing army of Carthaginians. The Roman legions poured into Anatoiia for the first time, and it was this incursion that served to change the course of the history of the western world.

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