The Hellenistic Culture and Hellenism was the result of the merger of the Greek Hellenic culture elements with Western culture, especially with original and striking elements that characterized the regions conquered by the Empire of Alexander the Great.
Hellas, a region between central and northern Greece, whose inhabitants, the Hellenists, lent their name to the Hellenistic civilization, which spread across the East, not only through a common language ( koiné ) but also through the practices of education, handicrafts, commerce and sculpture.
For 13 years Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) conquered Egypt, Mesopotamia, Syria, Persia and reached India.
With Macedonia and Greece, these regions formed the largest empire ever known. Their achievements favored the emergence of a new culture inherited from the Greek, but different from it due to the enormous dosage of oriental elements – called “Hellenistic Culture” or “Hellenism”.
To learn more about other aspects of Hellenism besides culture, see: Hellenistic Period – Hellenism .
Art in Hellenistic Culture
Hellenism was characterized by presenting a more realistic art, expressing violence and pain, constant components of the new times of war.
Hellenistic culture replaced the classic conception that “man is the measure of all things” with monumentalism, pessimism, negativism and relativism.
The main centers for spreading the values of Hellenism and Hellenistic Culture were: Alexandria (Egypt), Pergamum (Asia Minor) and Rhodes Island, in the Aegean Sea.
Hellenism developed an architecture where luxury and grandeur predominated, due to the magnificence of the Macedonian Empire. Alexandria possessed numerous public and private constructions, marble palaces and temples, notably its monumental Library of Alexandria , with thousands of papyri.
The Alexandria Lighthouse , one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, located in front of the city, on the Island of Faros, and the Pergamum Altar dedicated to Zeus (reconstructed in the Royal Museum in Berlin).
The Hellenistic Culture stood out in the art of Sculpture, with its monumental works, among them, Laocoon and his sons (Vatican Museum, Rome), the Venus de Milo , sculpture of the goddess Aphrodite, found on the Island of Milo (Louvre Museum, Paris) and the Water Loader (Capitoline Museum, Rome).
Philosophy in Hellenistic Culture
In Philosophy , Helenism gave rise to new philosophical currents, such as:
- Stoicism: founded by Zênon de Cítion, it defended happiness as an inner balance, in which it offered man the possibility to accept, with serenity, pain and pleasure, fortune and misfortune.
- Epicurism: founded by Epicuro de Samos, who preached the attainment of pleasure, the basis of human happiness, and defended the neglect of the negative aspects of life.
- Skepticism: founded by Pirro, it was characterized by negativism and argued that happiness consists in not judging anything, it despised material things because it affirmed that all human knowledge is relative.
Sciences in Hellenistic Culture
In the Mathematics of Hellenism, Euclid and Archimedes stood out, who developed Geometry. Euclides used Geometry in his Physics studies. Physics (mechanics) also deserved special attention from Archimedes, making it possible to invent new weapons for attack and defense.
In Astronomy, Aristarchus and Hipparchus stood out in an attempt to measure the diameter of the Earth and the distances from our planet to the Sun and the Moon. Aristarchus launched the heliocentric hypothesis, that is, that the earth and planets revolved around the Sun , which was not accepted at the time.
The division of the Macedonian Empire that followed the death of Alexander and the successive internal struggles, resulted in the political weakening, which made possible the Roman conquest, realized during the 2nd and 1st centuries BC However, even conquering Greece, Rome had to bow to the splendor of Hellenistic Culture.