Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hellenistic Period Essay

Hellenistic Period Essay

Hellenistic Period in Ancient Greece and Egypt
According to the dictionary definition Hellenism is “the emanation outward of culture and ideas from classical Greece to the rest of the world, with classical Greek culture and ideas either replacing local culture and ideas, or amending local customs”. The Greek culture had always domineered within its neighbors, though, what brought such a strong tendency for spread of Hellenism over the Middle East and far into Asia were the conquests of Alexander the Great. The Hellenistic era is known to be the period from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE, till the death of Cleopatra and occupation of Egypt by the Romans in 30 BCE (Burstein, 1990). In my short essay I would like to briefly compare and contrast the civilizations of Egypt and Greece during the Hellenic era.

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As I have already mentioned, Greece has constantly been a powerful and influential country. Moreover, it can be said that it was one of the mostly advanced preindustrial economies. Greece had been always famous for its scholars and philosophers who have contributed greatly to the modern philosophy. Some even consider that the western literature is simply a footnote for the Greek literature. Of course, having read this one may wonder, how and why Greece achieved such a raise. The answer is really simple. Greece, as a country, has a very favorable geographical position. To understand the raise of Ancient Greece, one has to understand its regional perspective. In the east Greece is surrounded by Egypt, Syria, Palestine, the lands of Asia Minor, and the Mesopotamia valley. Also Greece has such neighboring islands as Aegean Sea, the western coast of Turkey, and southern Italy and Sicily. Of course, all these areas had a distinct impact on Greece and its development. Thus, the Greeks came into contact with the neighbors on all sides and absorbed many features of those cultures, implementing them in their land.

What is also important to say is that during the Hellenistic era the Greeks have also benefited from the knowledge and accomplishments of other countries in the fields of astronomy, chronology, and mathematics (Burstein, 1990). Though, they were skillful and talented enough to use the acquired knowledge and to become the founders of European philosophy, architecture, representative, science. Remarkably, the Greeks in the Hellenistic era, having taken all the best features of surrounding cultures, influenced them to adopt the Greek prototype (Burstein, 1990).

In Egypt the situation was completely different. Throughout the late fourth and early third centuries the Greeks had populated Alexandria, Antioch, and the other new cities, founded by Alexander the Great. This was done in order to better control the new realms. Of course, these cities prospered. Particularly, Alexandria and Antioch grew to enormous size with populations of hundreds of thousands people. These two big cities were also famous for beautiful buildings built by the Greeks that were much more beautiful than the buildings of Greek cities (Fraser, 1972).

The culture of Hellenistic Egypt was a colonial culture. It was simply a simplified and incomplete version of Greek culture. The Greek population in Egypt was not that big, though, it came without saying that all the important position could be assigned only to them. For an Egyptian it was almost impossible to reach higher positions. Moreover, while the Greek scientists, writers and philosophers rested on their laurels, the ideas of the Egyptian scholars were taken with skepticism (Brown, 1965).

In conclusion it must be said that even though the Hellenic era was beneficial for the development of many fields it had also raised Greece up to the mark, forcing the surrounding countries to adapt the new culture. Of course, as it always is in history, the rise does not last forever. The Hellenic era was the age of many Kings, who constantly fought with each other for territory, wealth and glory. These constant wars weakened Greece and other Hellenistic kingdoms, and in the long run brought it to the crash (Bowman, 1996).
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