Hellenistic civilization refers to the ancient Greek people and their culture after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE.
In sharp contrast to today’s Greece, struggling to fight off social and economic collapse, ancient Greece was a highly respected cultural powerhouse whose influence spread throughout the ancient world.
In those days, cultivated people spoke both Latin and Greek. And the Hellenistic age was, for all intents and purposes, a highpoint in Greek civilization, in terms of both its creative output and its general influence.
Hellenistic civilization was preceded by the Classical Hellenic period, and followed by Roman rule over the areas Greece had earlier dominated – even though much of Greek culture, religion, art and literature still permeated Rome’s rule, whose elite spoke and read Greek as well as Latin.¹
The Hellenistic Age extends from Alexander’s death to the beginning of the Roman Empire in 31 BCE.
A series of dynasties, including the Ptolemies and Seleucids, dominated the region between Greece and Northern India.
Hellenistic philosophy was based in Athens from approximately 300 BCE to 200 CE. Among the many subjects explored, its chief concerns were to outline the ideal life and to develop empiricism. Hellenistic philosophy’s most prominent branches are Stoicism, Epicureanism and Skepticism.
But Hellenistic culture was diverse. It wasn’t just about hard-headed thinking. Some believe that the roots of astrology can be traced to Hellenistic Egypt.
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He taught for 20 years at Plato’s Academy in Athens, leaving after Plato died in 347 BCE.
In 342 BCE he became tutor for Philip of Macedon’s son Alexander, who was later to become ‘Alexander the Great.’
At Athens he founded the Lyceum in 335 BCE, a school whose members came to be called peripatetics.
After the death of Alexander, hostilities towards Macedonians in Athens compelled Aristotle to retreat to Calchis in 322 BCE. He remained there until his death.
Aristotle knew the earth was round – in 350 BCE – by noting how the position of the stars changed according to one’s location on the globe.
His views on natural science, although often flawed, make for interesting reading by showing how logic can go astray when based on false premises.
His work relating to politics, poetics, rhetoric, ethics, causality, power and God (i.e. metaphysics), on the other hand, are still taken seriously today.
The medieval Catholic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas respectfully called Aristotle “The Philosopher” and adapted many of his arguments to support Christian belief.
The contemporary writer Umberto Eco likened St. Thomas to a “medieval computer.” Perhaps, then, we could say that Aristotle’s stunning and far-reaching thoughts resemble those of an ancient computer. » Causality, Scholastics
- Resized from original, “Capturing the Philosopher” by Xin Li 88 http://www.flickr.com/photos/70109407@N00/2249868299/, Creative Commons License
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