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Western Civilization. Chapter 4. At the end of the last chapter we saw that the Peloponnesian War had changed the social and political lives of the Greek people Some distrusted the elite Some distrusted democracy Some distrusted oligarchies Athens and Sparta were exhausted

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At the end of the last chapter we saw that the Peloponnesian War had changed the social and political lives of the Greek people

    • Some distrusted the elite
    • Some distrusted democracy
    • Some distrusted oligarchies
    • Athens and Sparta were exhausted
    • Mercenaries replaced hoplite phalanxes & hoplite importance decreased

Wars were more professional & brutal

  • One city-state would fight another city-state
  • By 330 B.C.E. Greek city-states had proven they could not create a stable Greek nation
  • They barely held their polis together

Enter Macedonia:

  • Northeast of Greece
  • Had king chosen by the army from within the royal family
  • Spoke a Greek dialect
  • Shared Greek culture & traditions
  • King Philip II moved in on Greece during their time of chaos after Peloponnesian War
  • Took over each polis because they couldn’t unite to resist Philip

Philip formed Hellenic League, later called the League of Corinth

  • It was comprised of all the Greek city-states
  • He formed a common army & navy
  • He placed restrictions on members’ freedoms
  • Philip then used Greek soldiers to take over Persia
  • Philip II, however, was assassinated before he could begin his campaign
alexander the great
Alexander the Great
  • Philip’s son Alexander carried out his campaign

Alexander III of Macedonia became known as Alexander the Great

  • He ruled from 336-323 B.C.
  • He was:
    • a warrior
    • a battlefield commander of the cavalry at the age of 18
    • charismatic, handsome, and intelligent

Alexander had been a student of Aristotle

  • He was Macedonian by birth but Greek in spirit
  • He was successful in the war against Persia
  • He then took over Syria-Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia
  • When Alexander moved in on India, his troops refused to go on; they had never seen elephants used in battle

They went back through Persia to Babylon (Mesopotamia) where Alexander fell ill and died at the age of 32 in 323 B.C.; they think he may have died from malaria

  • His career was short and full of battles
  • He never ruled the territory he took over
  • Alexander did help to spread Greek culture through conquest
  • He is seen as the greatest conqueror

After his death, fighting broke out as to who would lead the empire

  • The result was the empire being divided into parts
    • Ptolemy ruled over Egypt
    • Antigonus ruled in Macedonia and the Aegean world
    • Seleucus ruled from Asia Minor to India

Greek culture spread to all these kingdoms

  • The blending of Greek culture with the local cultures was called Hellenistic culture ( a name coined by Isocrates, an Athenian teacher
    • Greek language was the common language along with Aramaic

Agriculture, trade, industry, and military service gave opportunity to most

  • Upper ranks of government were in the hands of the Greeks and Macedonians
  • Native elites held lower ranking jobs
  • Priests demanded and got major roles in Ptolemy’s Egypt and in the Seleucid Kingdom
  • Seleucids started colonies for retired military

Greek-style buildings were built

  • The Gymnasia was also important for schooling the young elites; they were taught literature, philosophy, oratory, and athletics
  • Hellenistic cities with good harbors, banks, roads on a trade route prospered
  • Coins replaced barter
  • Slavery was present; war and piracy were the main sources of slaves
  • Held power in Macedonia
  • He was a Stoic; stoicism emphasized duty
  • Wished to dominate all Greek city-states
  • Was unable to
  • Greeks resisted
    • Athens won periods of freedom but was taken over by the Antigonids more than once
    • Sparta was crushed by Antigonids in 222 B.C.
ptolemy in egypt
Ptolemy in Egypt
  • This kingdom was the most stable, the wealthiest, the most sophisticated
  • Had a homogeneous population
  • Had rich soil for farming
  • Had an autocratic government
  • Took part in foreign affairs
  • In 200 B.C. Ptolemy’s power began to decline
  • In 31 B.C. Rome annexed Ptolemaic Egypt
  • Had little stability and shifting borders
  • Had mixed population
  • Antioch was its greatest, wealthiest, and most luxurious city
  • Had a tenuous hold on Asia Minor
  • Seleucid Kingdom was seized by Persia (Parthia) in the east and Rome in west becoming a Roman Province
  • Seleucids fell by 64 B.C.
greco indian interaction
Greco-Indian Interaction
  • Parthia was Persian and spread empire west to Mesopotamia
  • Bactria was to the east and remained Greek from mid-3rd century B.C. (today’s northern Afghanistan)and prospered
  • Today one can see the remains of a Greek gymnasia, a theatre, and a library
  • They spread into the Indus River Valley
    • Coins have been found with Greek and Indian languages on them

Asoka was an Indian King who governed most of India and was fascinated by Hellenistic culture

    • He was a religious reformer
    • He converted to Buddhism

Hellenistic Kingdoms in India and Pakistan survived until the time of Christ. Some survived until the 5th century A.D.. Greek influence can be seen in Indian art

overview of hellenistic culture
Overview of Hellenistic Culture
  • The 3 centuries following Alexander’s death were important culturally
  • First, there was an enrichment of cultural accomplishments by the Greeks
  • Second, many Greek traditions were altered when they came in contact with other civilizations
  • Greeks felt compelled to take their culture with them (hard to leave it behind) to other areas of Alexander’s empire

As a result, Greek literary, artistic, philosophical, and scientific concepts were implanted in the dominant culture

  • Most of the conquered people accepted the Greek ways as a way of civilized life
  • Cities remained the focal point of cultural life
  • In Ptolemy’s Egypt large sums of money were spent on architecture, libraries, and a research center called a museum
literature and art
Literature and Art
  • Much writing went on
  • Demand for literature because literacy increased
  • Alexandria in Egypt tried to satisfy its people’s thirst for knowledge
  • It was the capital city
  • Half a million lived there by the 1st century B.C. mixed population: Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Italians, and Celts

There were educational opportunities for boys and girls

  • Knowing Greek culture put one ahead
  • Ptolemy I asked Demetrius of Athens to put together a house of culture
  • It was called a museum with a library
  • It held the largest collection of Greek writings in the world


    • Contained 700,000 papyrus rolls equal to 50,000 modern books
    • Created educational programs in literature and philosophy for 18 and 19 year old men in place of military service
    • Many read and many wrote as well; they weren’t especially original
    • They imitated others, mainly; some did write about powerful women like Cleopatra


    • architecture was important: cities were built containing gymnasiums, temples, theatres, and places for business
    • Vase painting showing love-making as tender and as part of married life
    • Sculpture reflected fascination with human form; showed idealized human form
    • Realistic relief carvings decorated temples


    • Geography: Eratosthenes (275-200 B.C.) figured out the circumference of the earth, studied the tides, and created maps

Astronomy: Hipparchus (185-120 B.C.) said sun, moon, and stars revolve around earth

Aristarchus (310-230 B.C.) said earth revolved sun

Public believed Hipparchus for many centuries.


Mathematics: Euclid (323-285) developed geometry

Archimedes ( 287-212 B.C.) calculated pi

Hipparchus (310-230) developed trigonometry



    • Advances were made in anatomy and physiology
    • Discovery of nerves
    • Discovery of the function of arteries
    • Advancements in surgery and the use of medicine
  • People were concerned with the problems of human conduct, ethical principles, the human soul, and individual destiny
  • Many felt the need for self-knowledge to gain peace of mind
  • New philosophies and new religions arose to help allay these new concerns
  • People were searching for the best way to live

Skeptics doubted everything and thought people should not be concerned with truth or values since neither existed. They advocated simplicity. Diogenes was the first skeptic

  • Cynics advocated a return to nature and the giving up of wealth and the conventions of the day
  • Stoicism stressed doing your duty, and then order will follow. Bear misfortunes with patience. Zeno was the founder.
hellenistic religion
Hellenistic Religion
  • Native religious systems were well-defined cults called mystery religions
  • Mystery religions offered ethical guidance, comfort, release from worries, reassurance about death, and a sense of belonging
    • Overpowered Greek religions and attracted many Greeks
    • Centered around the worship of a savior whose death and resurrection provided eternal salvation

Had elaborate, emotional rituals

  • Ultimate salvation depended on moral conduct
  • Appealed to all levels of people
  • Seedbed for 2 new religions to follow: Christianity and Islam
hellenistic judaism
Hellenistic Judaism
  • Before Alexander’s conquests, Jews and Greeks occasionally came in contact with one another
  • That changed in 332 B.C. when Alexander took Judea from the Persians
  • Greeks governed Jews for a time and lost control as a result of a Jewish revolt and independence movement

As a result of exposure to Hellenistic culture, Jews placed an even greater emphasis on salvation, martyrdom, and individual study and prayer

  • Reaction to Hellenistic culture varied:
    • Admiration
    • Resistance
    • A desire to convert Greeks to Judaism

Writings changed

    • Developed a literature of resistance to foreigners
    • Wrote of a future cataclysm and of a Messiah who would kick out the foreigners and establish a new kingdom of Israel

There was a breakdown in Judaism:

    • Sadducees: (righteous ones) had belief in the importance of ritual in the temple of Jerusalem; wealthy elite
    • Pharisees: (those who separated themselves)
      • Insisted on the validity of oral traditions, written law, and rituals
      • Wished to democratize Judaism
      • Emphasized study and prayer in small groups


    • Associated with Qumran in Judean desert
    • Dead Sea Scrolls found there

Others wished to blend their monotheism with Hellenistic culture, so they could bring their Jewish teachings to others

Jews living outside of Judea became known as the Diaspora, the scattered


In these places, Jews were soldiers, generals, bureaucrats, tax collectors, and business owners and workers.

  • They spoke Greek
  • The Hebrew Bible was even translated into Greek
  • These were the effects of one man -- Alexander