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Hellenistic Civilization (323-146 BCE). (323 BCE = Death of Alexander) (146 BCE = Conquest by the Romans). Alexander the Great. Hellenistic Civilization.

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Hellenistic Civilization (323-146 BCE)

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Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce

Hellenistic Civilization(323-146 BCE)

(323 BCE = Death of Alexander)

(146 BCE = Conquest by the Romans)

Alexander the great

Alexander the Great

Hellenistic civilization

Hellenistic Civilization

  • Hellenistic because of, on the one hand, the predominant role of Greece and, on the other hand, not completely Greek, being more multiethnic, multiracial, and multicultural.

Hellenistic civilization general principles

Hellenistic Civilization:General Principles

  • The fragmentation of Alexander’s empire into three kingdoms: Kingdom of Macedonia, Kingdom of the Ptolemies (Egypt), and Kingdom of the Seleucids (Syria).

  • In some ways, a continuation of basic Hellenic philosophies and aesthetics, but with significant new features.

Hellenistic civilization general principles1

Hellenistic Civilization:General Principles

  • The flourishing of large metropolitan centers: Alexandria and Pergamum

  • Diverse ethnic groups (Greeks, Macedonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Persians, Africans) linked by trade.

  • A form of colloquial Greek called Koine was spoken throughout the Hellenistic world.

  • Hellenistic rulers had no interest in democracy.

Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce




  • The best example of a large Hellenistic metropolis.

  • Population of about 1,000,000

  • Cultural diversity

  • A center of learning and culture, featuring a theatre, library, museum, lighthouse, etc.

  • The world’s first university (a museum dedicated to the Muses) was built in Alexandria.

  • The library contained 700,000 volumes of books.

Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce

Library of


Exercise 1

Exercise # 1

  • Find some information online about the cities of Alexandria and Pergamum during the Hellenistic Age.

Hellenistic literature

Hellenistic literature

  • The seriousness of Hellenism began to give way to a Hellenistic love of playfulness as well as an interest in the ordinary, everyday subjects.

  • “New Comedy” – In contrast to the pointed, satiricial comedies of Hellenic Greece, the return to monarchy seems to have made playwrights more conservative in their willingness to criticize.

  • Menander, the leading figure of the New Comedy

Hellenistic literature1

Hellenistic literature

  • Pastoral poetry – City life and its hassles seems to bring with it a kind of nostalgia for country life.

  • At the same time, the poetry was a fantasy of country life, written by and for the upper class.

  • Theocritus created the new poetic forms of pastoral poetry as well as idyll.

Hellenistic philosophy

Hellenistic Philosophy

  • Cynicism

  • Skepticism

  • Epicureanism

  • Stoicism

Hellenistic philosophy cynicism

Hellenistic Philosophy: Cynicism

  • True freedom arises from realizing that if one wants nothing, then one will never lack anything.

  • Isolation from the society

  • Denial of physical comfort

  • Autarky, or self-sufficiency, as the goal of life

  • Diogenes, the most prominent Cynic

  • Alexander: if I were not Alexander, I would prefer to be Diogenes.

Diogenes of sinope

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes and alexander

Diogenes and Alexander

Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes of sinope1

Diogenes of Sinope

  • Banished from his country, Diogenes spent most of his life in Athens, though he died in Corinth. He called himself the “Dog,” and held up the life of animals as a model for mankind. His task was the “recoining of values,” and to the civilization of Hellenic and Hellenistic world he opposed the life of animals and of the barbaric people.

Hellenistic philosophy skepticism

Hellenistic Philosophy: Skepticism

  • Nothing could be known for certain

  • All ideas and values must be questioned.

  • Truth is unknowable

  • Autarky as the goal of life.

  • Pyrrho of Elis was the founder of Skepticism.

Hellenistic philosophy epicureanism

Hellenistic Philosophy: Epicureanism

  • How to achieve happiness:

  • The best way to keep one’s wants simple, and thus to achieve happiness, was to abstain from sex and focus instead on friendship.

  • Also not to indulge in excessive desires

  • Resist fame, power and wealth

  • Freedom from fear: fear of the gods, of death, and of the hereafter.

  • Pleasure is the absence of pain

  • Ataraxia, the desireless state, the goal of life

  • Epicurus was the founder of Epicureanism



Hellenistic philosophy stoicism

Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoicism

  • The world is governed by the divine logos, or reason, or nature.

  • Freedom and happiness consist of living in harmony with logos

  • A resigned and deterministic outlook, but never apathetic.

  • Emphasis on dedication to work and duty

  • Worldwide brotherhood

  • Autarky (self-sufficiency) as the goal of life

Hellenistic religion mystery cults

Hellenistic Religion: Mystery Cults

  • The mystery cult of Orpheus

  • The mystery cult of Dionysus

  • The mystery cult of Isis (and her brother/husband Osiris). Isis was the most honored goddess of the ancient world.

  • The mystery cult of Mithraism

Mithra touroctonous

Mithra Touroctonous



Anahita mithra s mother

Anahita, Mithra’s mother

Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce


Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce




  • ORPHEUS was the son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. He was presented by his father with a lyre and taught to play upon it, which he did to such perfection that nothing could withstand the charm of his music. Not only his fellow-mortals, but wild beasts were softened by his music

Exercise 2

Exercise # 2

  • Find information about the mystery cults of the Hellenistic age.

Hellenistic architecture

Hellenistic Architecture

  • The Corinthian column

  • Taller, more slender and more ornamented than either the Doric or Ionic columns.

Hellenistic visual arts

Hellenistic visual arts

  • Dramatic advances in sculpture

  • Continuation of some Hellenic ideals and subjects (e.g., portraits of gods and goddesses).

  • New interests related to extremes of emotion: violence, eroticism.

  • Some occasional interest in realism, in the portrayal of an individual.

Hellenistic sculpture

Hellenistic sculpture

  • A new interest in capturing action and the excitement of a figure in motion, resulting in works that are less restrained than the Hellenic models. Figures are sometimes twisted or contorted in an effort to communicate the sense of action.

  • Boy Struggling with a Goose (101)

Hellenistic sculpture1

Dying Gaul:

Shows a mortally wounded barbarian warrior. By treating a foreign enemy with such nobility, the anonymous sculptor expresses a deep moral sense that was central to Hellenistic art.

Made in Pergamene Style

Aphrodite of Melos

(c. 160-150 BCE)

Shows more of the Classical (Hellenic) influence (idealized face and contrapposto).

Relatively new interest in the nude female form.


Hellenistic sculpture

The dying gaul

The Dying Gaul

The dying gaul1

The Dying Gaul

Hellenistic sculpture2

The Laocoon Group

(date unknown)

Interest in emotional extremes: terror and despair.

A moment of action.

The “rhythm” and “action” of the work draws the viewer’s eye to many different parts.

Old Market Woman

(c. 200 BCE?)

An ultra-realistic portrait of a commonly seen character.

Still shows the virtuosity of the sculptor.

Social commentary or bad joke?

Hellenistic sculpture

Hellenistic civilization 323 146 bce

The Laocoon


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