In the year 338 BC, in the War of the Queroneia, Greece was defeated by Macedonia. There was a loss of Greece’s political-territorial autonomy. The Hellenism refers to the philosophical knowledge produced between the death of Alexander the Great and the beginning of medieval philosophy.
Main characteristic of Hellenism: fusion between Greek tradition and Eastern culture. Dissemination of Greek thought through the region of Syria, Egypt, Babylon, etc. Main thinkers: Plotinus, Cicero, Zeno and Epicurus.
The knowledge produced by the science of Hellenism has developed in different directions: mathematics, geometry, astronomy and geography. The Hellenistic philosophers were concerned with ethics (rules of the conduct of life), search for individual happiness, imperturbability.
Main Perspectives of the Hellenistic Period:
1 – NEOPITAGORISM: retake of the thought of Pythagoras, especially his spiritualist conception (immortality of the soul, reincarnation, spiritual harmony with the cosmos). Opposition to materialism.
2- NEOPLATONISM: Plotinus (205-270) we know the life and thought of Plotinus from the work “Life of Plotinus” written by his disciple Porphyry. Central feature of Neoplatonism: conciliation between Plato’s thought and Pythagoreanism with some traces of Eastern culture.
3- ESTOICISM : He had Zeno of Citio like its founder, in 300 BC. For Stoicism philosophy would be composed of three parts: physics, logic and ethics. They believed in a close relationship between the individual (microcosm) and the universe (macrocosm).
4- EPICURISM : philosophical perspective founded by Epicurus. Like Stoicism, they sought individual happiness, but they disagreed as to the way to that.
Hellenism marked the transition from Greek to Roman civilization , in which it inoculated its cultural force. The literary and philosophical splendor of the golden age of Greece is not found in it, but there is a great outbreak of science and erudition.
It is called Hellenistic civilization that developed outside Greece, under the influence of the Greek spirit. This historical period was between 323 BC, the date of the death of Alexander the Great, whose military conquests led to Greek civilization as far as Anatolia and Egypt, and 30 BC, when the Romans conquered Egypt. Much of the ancient East was then Hellenized and there was a fusion of Greek culture , revitalized in the conquered areas, with the political and artistic traditions of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia.
After Alexander’s death, the transmission of Greek culture persisted in the great urban centers, although it was influenced by Eastern customs. The attempt by Antigone, one of Alexander’s earliest generals, to keep intact the empire conquered by the Macedonian warrior, failed after the Battle of Ipso in Phrygia (302 BC). The empire was divided between three generals: Seleucos I Nicator, Ptolemy I and Lysimachus.
The struggles, however, continued, and twenty years later the empire was divided into three independent states: the kingdom of Egypt was with the Lágidas, descendants of Ptolemy; Syria, with the Seleucids, descendants of Seleucus; and that of Macedonia belonged to the antigones, descendants of Antigonos.
Alexandria , Egypt, with 500,000 inhabitants, became the metropolis of Hellenistic civilization. It was an important center of arts and letters, and Greek literature itself has a phase called “Alexandrine.”
There existed the most important cultural institutions of Hellenism: the Museum, a kind of university of sages, endowed with Botanical Garden, Zoo and Astronomical Observatory; and the Library, with 200,000 volumes, copy rooms and workshops to prepare the Papyrus. The Egyptian Kingdom only ended with the conquest of Otavius, in the reign of Cleopatra.
The kingdom of Syria encompassed almost the entire ancient Persian empire as far as the Indus River. The capital was Antioch, another great center of Hellenistic culture, near the mouth of the Orontes in the Mediterranean. The Seleucids, however, could not maintain the unity of their vast empire, which was conquered by the Romans in the first century BC
Already the kingdom of Macedonia had to face the fight of the Greek cities, ciosas of the defense of its autonomy, and ended up incorporated to the Roman Empire. From a cultural point of view, the period between 280 and 160 BC was exceptional.
They had great development in history , with Polibius; the mathematics and physics with Euclid, Eratosthenes and Archimedes; the astronomy with Aristarcus, Hiparcus, and Seleucus Heraclides; the geography , with Posidonius; the medicine with Herofilus and Erasistratus; and grammar , with Dionisius Tracius.
In literature , an extraordinary poet appeared, Theocritus, whose idyllic and bucolic poetry exerted great influence.
The philosophical thought evolved into the moral individualism of Epicureans and Stoics, and the arts bequeathed to posterity some of the masterpieces of antiquity, such as the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace and the Laocoon group.
As Christianity advanced, Hellenism came to represent the pagan spirit that resisted the new religion. The Greek spirit did not disappear with the victory of Christian values; would be, twelve centuries later, one of the lines of strength of the Renaissance.