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The Hellenistic era is an important part of the Greek history. It is the period from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to the middle of the first century BC. Thus, the three centuries of Greek history from the death of kind Alexander the great to the rise of Augustus in Rome in 31 BC has been referred to as the Hellenistic era. Several events unfolded during the Hellenistic era. This essay will look into the cultural, political and other developments during the period.
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The period following the death of Alexander was a period of chaos as Alexander left behind his extensive empire without any appropriate successor to rule over it. Alexander’s general divided the empire into several kingdoms. The new era of independent government along with the spread of Greek culture resulted in many dramatic changes. Politically, the Hellenistic Period saw continuous battles between the Diadochi and their successors. With the weakening of the Hellenistic kingdom, other competing kingdoms like the Pontus or Bactria got the opportunity to establish their kingdom in the region. During this period, the Roman power was expanding rapidly and controlling the political presence of others in Italy. By the end of the Hellenistic period, the Roman empire reached its ultimate point of expansion and their empire ranged from modern Portugal to Syria and from South-Britain to Egypt. In addition, immediate successors of Alexander were only male and mentally impaired son of Philip, namely Philip III Arrhidaeus. In Babylon, the power was taken over by two senior officers called Perdiccas and Craterus. All Alexander’s ongoing plan was abandoned during this period.
Many general of Alexanders could contemplate from the beginning only that the empire would not sustain for a longer period. One of those general was Ptolemy. He retained the governorship of Egypt and aimed to set up his own independent kingdom. It was a period of great conflict. During this period, the uprising by Greek mercenaries was crushed. There was a trouble going on in Greece and it was difficult to control them. At this time, many generals like Sparta refused to participate. Some of the formidable challenge to Antipater’s authority was the coalition of Athens with rulers like Sicyon, Argos, Messenia and Elis. Eventually, Antipater won and Athens capitulated. Demosthenes committed suicide during the period. Antipater was the one who re-established Macedonian authority autocratically and there was no issue for him in achieving this.
The story of the struggling and annexation for power continued during the next two decades. This period saw various annexations. Firstly, Perdiccas governing in the name of two kings was charged with personal and eventually assassinated. The second-in-command commanded was Antipater’s son Cassander and he was placed in charge of the armies in Asia. Meanwhile, during this period of annexation, Ptolemy was secured in Egypt. Seleucus, the governor of Babylon and Lysimachus continued to watch and monitor how the situation will change. In this period, Eumenes claimed to represent the king and came against the ambitions of generals and governors. This period of chaos was followed by the death of Antipater in 319. After his death, the maladroit politician called Polyperchon succeeded and tried to take over the rules of the Greek Mainland. He tried to conquer territories through the new proclamation of the liberties. The impact of such step was that Athenians used their freedom to prosecite the pro-Mecedonians. The events led-up to the flare of wars. In this period, various parties allied with one another. For example, Eumenes allied with Polyperchon and revolted against Antigonus. He secured Babylon during the process, but he was killed in 316. Meanwhile Seleucus escaped to Egypt during their period.
The Hellenistic period saw the development of Greek art and life which was influenced by many culture. This was possible because of various mutual cultural exchanges. The exchange was associated with new cosmopolitan trend in the Greek history and it resulted in the desire to understand and appreciate the diversity of different religion. The process of territorial expansion also encouraged exchange of social and cultural ideas. Philosophy and intellectual pursuits were also practiced during this period. Various social and cultural exchanged drastically changed the Greek religious practices. One new fascination seen during this period was the practice of mystery cults. It resulted in promised rewards in the after-life. New dieties were also welcomed in Greece from countries like Egypt and Syria. In some areas of Egypt, people believed in worshiping their rulers.
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In the Hellenistic periods, the arts flourished and artists explored innovative ways to represent their emotional feelings. In addition, architecture was one of the resources to represent daram in building. Some prominent architecture of those times was the Sanctuary of Athena and Sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma. These architectural pieces gave visitors physical and emotional experience. The sculpture of those times represented many things such as the swirling drapery which was exemplified in the form of the Nike of Samothrace. These sculptures underwent transformation and provoked minds of people. Even minor arts such as pottery prospered during this time. Drastic change in artistic sensibilities was found. For example, the Hellenistic Greek pottery became more colourful. The potteries made of clay only imitated luxurious tableware such as bronze and silver tableware.
To conclude, the essay gave a summary about the political, cultural and artistic development during this Hellenistic era. The period starting from the death of Alexander the great, great division of the empire was seen. There was no clear successor and different general took over the empire. The period saw the growth and development of artistic art and architecture. The art is richly diverse in content and stylistic development. The Hellenistic kingship remained the dominant form till three centuries even after the death of Alexander the Great. The sculptures gave innovative experience to viewers and it represented stylised influence too. The significance of the Hellenistic era was that despite the defeat of the leaders, the arts of ancient Greece continued to flourish during this time.
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