Hellenistic culture is the hybrid Greek culture that comprises of cultural aspects like Diadochi, Ptolemy one Soter, Cassander, and Lysimachus kingdoms that symbolize the Zenith of Greek influence in the ancient times between 323 and 146 BC. The move from classical Greek to Hellenistic culture was a result of a cross-cultural exchange with the East and Asian cultures among others. This culture succeeded the classical Greek rule and was later replaced by Roman rule over the areas of domination of the then Greek empire. This culture can be traced to after the death of Alexander (Green, 2008).
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The term Hellenistic was derived from the Greek traditional word for themselves and was designed by Johann Gustav concerning the spreading of the Greek culture to cover non-Greek areas that were conquered by Alexander the Great. As a major difference between the two cultures, Hellenistic culture was a result of the fusion of the Ancient Greek culture with that of the Near East, Middle East, and southwest Asia cultures while the Greek culture was an independent culture on its own. This culture was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization that brought about Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa which was not the case with the Greek culture. The Greek colonists dominating these cities came from diverse parts of the Greek world and not from a specific mother city like was the case with the Greek culture (Austin & Michel, 1981).
It can also be argued that the cultural centers expanded from mainland Greece to other cities and colonies like Pergamon and Rhodes in the Hellenistic culture. The prevailing social conditions can be argued to be the major components that brought about this culture and further kept it alive until it was overthrown. Among other major components of the Hellenistic culture is the mixture of the diverse Greek speakers that gave birth to the common Attic-based dialect that became Lingua Franca that was not existent in the Greek culture. The Hellenistic culture is also characteristic with the opposite spread of Asian cultures to Europe, and it can be argued to be a cultural decline from the cultural vividness of classical Greece concerning the nature of government and the formation of the Athenian democracy as a result of permeation of other cultures into the Greek culture (Durant, 1939).
With the decline of the Greek polis, there was the establishment of monarchial states and also the development of settlements such as Ai-Khanoum situated on trade routes that brought about further cultural exchange and forms a major difference between the two cultures. The identification of local gods of Greek origin brought about the building of Greek-style temples, architecture, statues, and inscriptions. It can be argued that the major components of the Hellenistic culture include the split of the empire into three parts that include Macedonia, the near east, and Egypt which was not the case before. The other major components of this include the wealth gained after conquering the Persians, religious buildings, and cultural phenomena like Zoroastrianism and Mithraism. The language formed from the cultural exchange lingua Franca also forms a major component of the Hellenistic culture (Austin & Michel, 1981).
Other components of this culture include the scientific innovations like computation of the circumference of the earth, pi calculation, and geometry text that were developed in the Hellenist era. The moral philosophies of stoicism and Epicureanism also form a major component of the Hellenist culture and not the Greek culture. The cities that had been founded were used as centers for trade and the craft industry and also sheltered the professional class that included the rulers, soldiers, and merchants who acted as the bonding agents within this culture. Another major component of this culture was the use of the cities within the empire at this time the center for commerce and learning that included the recording of literary among other scientific achievements. From this, it can be argued that the major components of the Hellenistic culture make it different from Greek culture despite the great hereditary influence being the mother culture (Durant, 1939).
It can be argued that Hellenistic culture was great development from the Greek culture in terms of philosophy, science, and art. However, Hellenist culture is more diverse and far-reaching as seen from the differences it has with the Greek culture that gave way for its development. It can further be argued that the development was a result of an exchange with other cultures.
- Austin, Michel M.The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest: a selection of ancient sources in translation. Cambridge University Press.1981. ISBN 0521228298
- Durant. The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization, Part II) (New York: Simon & Shuster) 1939: Introduction, pp vii and viii.
- Green, Peter. Alexander The Great and the Hellenistic Age. Orion Publishing Group, Limited. 2008. ISBN 0753824132.