The Age of Alexander

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The Age of Alexander

The conquests of Alexander the Great spread Hellenism immediately over the Middle East and far into Asia. After his death in 323 B.C., the influence of Greek civilization continued to expand over the Mediterranean world and W Asia. The wars of the Diadochi marked, it is true, the breakup of Alexander's brief empire, but the establishment of Macedonian dynasties in Egypt, Syria, and Persia (the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae) helped to mold the world of that day into a wider unity of trade and learning.

The Hellenistic period was an international, cosmopolitan age. Commercial contacts were widespread and peoples of many ethnic and religious backgrounds merged in populous urban centers. Advances were made in various fields of scientific inquiry, including engineering, physics, astronomy and mathematics. Great libraries were founded in Alexandria, Athens and the independent kingdom of Pergamum. The old beliefs in Olympian gods were infused with foreign elements, especially from the east; "Oriental" ecstatic cults, such as those of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras, become popular in the Hellenized world.

The 3rd century BC saw the rise of ancient Rome. After securing most of the Italic peninsula, Rome entered into a protracted conflict with the Carthaginians for control of Sicily, Spain and the other regions of Punic domination in the Punic Wars. The former empire of Alexander was taken steadily and methodically into Roman hands. The great city of Corinth was destroyed (146 BC), Athens captured (86 BC), and Cleopatra and Mark Antony defeated at the Battle of Actium (31 BC). Their defeat marks the end of the Hellenistic Age.


While the city-states of Greece itself tended to stagnate, elsewhere cities an...

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The power and leadership of the Greco-Macedonian ruling groups would gradually be undermined by the diffusion of knowledge and professional expertise to non-Greeks. The fact that the Greeks were a minority, meant that eventually, the larger numbers of people of Asiatic or near-Eastern background would increase their influence. Thus, in a very gradual manner, without distinct historical events to mark the way, the unique hellenistic culture would fade away. Greek practices would, however, make a permanent mark upon the composite culture of the civilized world.

The process of expansion of civilization and diffusion of culture would go on. The Romans built their empire upon the Mediterranean basin, exploited the advances of the Hellenistic era, and expanded the civilized center into western Europe. The Hellenistic period blended imperceptibly into the Roman era.
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