Culture In Hellenistic Greece

Stanley M. Burstein is professor of history at California State University at Los Angeles. Trained in ancient history at the University of California at Los Angeles, he has researched and written in the field of Greek history with particular emphasis on the interaction of Greeks and non-Greeks during the Hellenistic period. He is the author of Outpost of Hellenism: The Emergence of Heraclea on the Black Sea (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976); The Hellenistic Period from the Battle of Ipsos to the Death of Kleopatra VII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985); and numerous articles on the history of the Hellenistic period. He has also edited and translated The Babyloniaca of Berossus (Malibu, Calif.: Undena Press, 1978) and the On the Erythraean Sea of Agatharchides of Cnidus (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1989). He is currently working on a study of Greek Egyptological literature.

This pamphlet summarizes the findings of contemporary scholarship concerning one of the most important periods of global history. The Hellenistic period was the first age of Western imperial expansion in Asia and one of the principal formative epochs in the history of ancient Eurasia. The interaction of Greek and non-Greek culture in the vast area from the Mediterranean to the borders of India laid the foundations for the Christian and Islamic civilizations of the Middle Ages.

Given the previously rather peripheral position of global and comparative history in the discipline, the growth of interest in these fields over the past three decades or so has been truly remarkable. The appearance of numerous works by prominent scholars on transcultural interaction and on variations in social systems and political economies, the great proliferation at both the college and secondary-school level of courses on world history and numerous textbooks with which to teach them, and the formation in recent years of the World History Association, an affiliate of the American Historical Association, all testify to the increasing importance of global and comparative scholarship and teaching within the historical profession. In some ways these developments represent a revival, for world or cross-cultural history is as ancient as Herodotus, and it enjoyed particular favor among Western intellectuals from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. But challenges to the grand designs or underlying "laws" that writers like Spengler or Toynbee discerned in human history, as well as an increasing emphasis on area specialization within the discipline as a whole, led to doubts about the feasibility or even the advisability of attempting to generalize across vast swaths of time and space. In scholarship, world history came to be seen as a pastime for dilettantes or popularists; in teaching, it was increasingly equated with unfocused social studies courses at the secondary-school level.

Though the current interest in global history reflects a continuing fascination with the broad patterns of human development across cultures that were the focus for earlier works on world history, the "new" global or world history differs in fundamental ways from its predecessors. Writers of the new global history are less concerned with comprehensiveness or with providing a total chronology of human events. Their works tend to be thematically focused on recurring processes like war and colonization or on cross-cultural patterns like the spread of disease, technology, and trading networks. Their works are often more consciously and systematically comparative than the studies of earlier world historians. Partly because the research of area specialists has provided today's scholars with a good deal more data than was available to earlier writers, the best recent works on global history also display a far greater sensitivity than the more comprehensive world surveys to cultural nuances and the intricacies of the internal histories of the societies they cover. In addition, few practitioners of the new global history see their task as one of establishing universal "laws" or of identifying an overall teleological meaning in human development. Their main concerns are the study of recurring processes and the dynamics and effects of cross-cultural interaction. Depending on their original area orientation, global and comparative historians adopt these approaches because they see them as the most effective way of bringing the experience of the "people without history" into the mainstream of teaching and scholarship, of relating the development of Europe to that of the rest of the world, or of challenging the misleading myth of exceptionalism that has dominated so much of the work on the history of the United States.

This series of essays is intended to provide an introduction to the new world history. Each pamphlet explores some of the interpretations and understandings that have resulted from crosscultural and comparative historical studies undertaken in the past three or four decades. The pamphlets are designed to assist both college and secondary-school teachers who are engaged in teaching courses on world history or courses with a comparative format. Each essay is authored by an expert on the time period or process in question. Though brief lists or works that teachers might consult for more detailed information on the topic covered are included in each of the pamphlets, the essays are not intended to be bibliographic surveys. Their central aim is to provide teachers facing the formidable task of preparing courses that are global or cross-cultural in scope with a sense of some of the issues that have been of interest to scholars working in these areas in recent decades. The essays deal with specific findings and the debates these have often generated, as well as broad patterns that cross-cultural study has revealed and their implications for the history of specific societies. Although all of the essays are thematically oriented, some are organized around particular historical eras like the age of Islamic expansion or the decades of industrialization, while others are focused on key topics like slavery or revolution. Because there are many approaches to global history, these essays vary in format and content, from ones that are argumentative and highly interpretive to others that concentrate on giving an overview of major patterns or processes in global development. Each essay, however, suggests some of the most effective ways of dealing with the topic or the era covered, given the current state of our knowledge. In recognition of the quincentenary of Columbus's "discovery" of the Americas, the series begins with an essay on the impact of the processes set in motion by his voyages. Subsequent pamphlets cover topics and time periods from the era of early European overseas expansion to the present and then from the era of expansion back to the time of the Neolithic Revolution.

The Hellenistic period is conventionally said to extend from the accession of Alexander the Great to the throne of Macedon in 336 B.C. to the death of Cleopatra VII of Egypt in 30 B.C. Its beginning is marked by Alexander's successful invasion of the Persian Empire and its end by the redivision of the Near and Middle East between Rome and the new Iranian-ruled kingdom of Parthia. For much of the intervening three hundred years the territory of the former Persian Empire was dominated by a series of Macedonian-ruled kingdoms in which Greeks and Greek culture enjoyed unprecedented preeminence. Art and literature flourished, the foundations of Western literary scholarship were laid, and Greek scientists formulated ideas of theories that would remain fundamental to work in a variety of fields until the Renaissance.

There was also a dark side to the Hellenistic period. It was the first great age of Western imperial expansion in Asia, ushering in the beginning of the end of the great civilizations of the ancient Near East that had dominated the Near and Middle East for almost three thousand years. These two aspects of the Hellenistic period, the emergence of Greek culture as a significant factor in the culture of the old world and the decline of Greece's Near Eastern rivals, were intertwined, since it was Macedonian imperial domination in the east that facilitated the cultural hegemony of Greece.

This view of the Hellenistic period as one of the major creative periods of Greek history and a fundamental turning point in the history of ancient Eurasia is, however, comparatively recent. Prior to the nineteenth century the Hellenistic period attracted little scholarly interest. To scholars who identified the concept of Hellenism with the Greek republican tradition of the polis , or city-state, and with the restraint and balance of fifth-and fourth-century art, the "baroque" art and "oriental" monarchies of the Hellenistic period seemed decadent. Three factors were responsible for a more positive reassessment of the importance of these three centuries.

The first was the publication between 1833 and 1843 of J. G. Droysen's great three-volume Geschichte des Hellenismus (History of Hellenism), with its revolutionary interpretation of the Hellenistic period as the time in which Greek and Near Eastern cultures mingled in the lands conquered by Alexander the Great to form the cultural matrix from which Christianity emerged.2 The second was the archaeological revolution. Excavation of Hellenistic period sites in Europe and Asia provided--and continues to provide--extensive information concerning the physical setting and material culture of the inhabitants of the new Macedonian kingdoms and their neighbors. Archaeology has also furnished scholars with a wealth of new written evidence in the form of inscriptions on stone and especially papyri, both literary and nonliterary,3 which has made the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the most important period for the recovery of classical literature since the Renaissance. Equally important, the texts also provided scholars with a detailed view of the government and society of a major kingdom, Ptolemaic Egypt, through documentation unrivaled for its comprehensiveness before the late Middle Ages. The third factor that contributed to the reassessment of the Hellenistic period was the creation of new European empires during approximately the same period in the areas once dominated by the Hellenistic kingdoms. The opening of these regions to Western exploration encouraged scholars to see Alexander, his Macedonian successors, and their Greek collaborators as forerunners of their own people and imperial endeavors. The result was almost a century of creative scholarship in which three generations of the most talented European and American historians assimilated the new data and fleshed out Droysen's view of Hellenistic civilization as a mixed culture, Greek in its essential character but enriched by the admixture of elements derived from the ancient cultures of the Near East.

The "heroic age" of Hellenistic scholarship ended in the 1940s. Thereafter, for almost two decades the views of the founders of Hellenistic studies reigned almost unchallenged, becoming enshrined in textbooks and encyclopedias that are still in common use today. During the last three decades--but especially during the 1980s--a new generation of Hellenistic historians, building on the foundations laid by their predecessors but reflecting the changed perspectives of a different time, have re-examined the bases of the interpretation of Hellenistic history and civilization first proposed by Droysen over a century ago. The result has been disconcerting.

The disappearance of the nineteenth-century European empires has left late twentieth-century scholars skeptical of their predecessors' optimistic picture of Graeco-Macedonian invaders and their Near Eastern subjects harmoniously living together and cooperating in the creation of a brilliant new mixed civilization. Contemporary scholars have emphasized instead the colonial character of the Hellenistic kingdoms, the tendency of the Greeks and Macedonians to hold themselves aloof from their non-Greek neighbors, and the essentially Greek character of most manifestations of Hellenistic culture. Aided by the recent publication of new editions and translations of Hellenistic Egyptian and Babylonian literary and documentary texts, scholars have also begun to remedy the neglect of the cultures of the subject peoples of the Hellenistic kingdoms that characterized so much of nineteenth-and twentieth-century scholarship. A new and more complex Hellenistic history is beginning to emerge, one that recognizes both the achievements of Hellenistic civilization and the price paid for them.4 The purpose of this essay is to give a preliminary outline of this new history of the Hellenistic period.

The Hellenistic Age (336-30 B.C.)

Rarely has an epoch-making reign begun with such poor prospects as that of Alexander the Great. Prior to the early fourth century B.C., Macedon was hardly more than a geographical expression, designating the loosely organized kingdom that occupied a region in northern Greece extending along the southern foothills of the Balkan Mountains from the Chalcidic Peninsula westward to the borders of modern Albania. The kings of Macedon sat on uneasy thrones, their hold on power and the unity of the kingdom itself repeatedly threatened by Thracian and Illyrian invasions and the intervention of various Greek states on behalf of rival Macedonian dynasts. Almost three decades of unrelenting effort at home and abroad by Alexander's father, Philip II (359-336 B.C.), had been required to transform the once-weak kingdom of Macedon into the strongest military power in the eastern Mediterranean and the mistress of the Balkans. But Philip's assassination in 336 B.C. threatened all of his achievements with sudden collapse just when he was about to launch his most ambitious undertaking, a full-scale invasion of Persian-occupied Asia Minor. Alexander, barely twenty years old and virtually unknown outside Macedonia, succeeded to a kingdom threatened with civil war at home and rebellion by its Greek and non-Greek subjects in the Balkans. Not only did he survive against all expectations, but in the thirteen years of his reign he transformed the ancient Western world, carrying Macedonian arms all the way to western India and destroying the Persian Empire, which had ruled western Asia for over two centuries.

Alexander's unexpected death at Babylon in the summer of 323 B.C. prevented him from establishing a permanent political organization for his vast conquests. It also encouraged speculation concerning his character and ultimate goals that continues unabated even today. In antiquity, opinions on Alexander varied widely. To his Greek contemporaries he was a brutal tyrant and conqueror. Their feelings are well summed up by the Athenian orator Demades, who bitterly observed on hearing rumors of Alexander's death that they couldn't be true "because the world would stink from the stench of his corpse." Later authors, such as the Greek moralist Plutarch and the Greco-Roman politician Arrian, writing during the early centuries of the Christian Era and reflecting the sense of Greek cultural superiority characteristic of intellectuals in the Roman Empire, took a more positive view of his reign, emphasizing the heroic scale of his conquests and his role in facilitating the spread of Hellenism to the east.

The same dichotomy has marked modern Alexander scholarship. Until recently, most historians, following the lead of the Roman imperial writers, whose works dominate the surviving sources, propounded a similarly benign view of Alexander's reign. The Macedonian king's opponents, such as the Athenian orator and statesman Demosthenes, were dismissed as provincial reactionaries who failed to see that the time had come for Greek unification even if it had to be imposed by force. The brutalities of Alexander's campaigns were ignored or glossed over. Actions viewed in antiquity as typical of a tyrant--such as Alexander's drunken rages or his demand late in his reign that he be deified--were explained away or given a positive interpretation. The climax of this scholarly trend came in W. W. Tarn's famous 1948 biography of Alexander with its romantic conception of the king as a chivalrous philosopher in arms who sought to use his conquests to realize the Cynic and Stoic dream of the brotherhood of man.5

In no other area of Hellenistic history has the revisionism of post-World War II historiography had more dramatic results. The idealistic interpretations of scholars such as Tarn have been subjected to a rigorously skeptical critique and discredited. In an important series of articles published in the late 1950s and the 1960s, historian E. Badian clearly established the apologetic character of the "official" tradition represented by sources such as Arrian's Anabasis Alexandri , and painstakingly reconstructed the fierce personal rivalries that dominated the political life of Alexander's court.6 The result has been the emergence of a deliberately "tough-minded" view of Alexander as a ruler who brooked no opposition in his drive to achieve personal autocracy and glory through conquest, a view neatly summed up by the title of the most recent major history of Alexander's reign, A. B. Bosworth's Conquest and Empire , published in 1988.7 Students of Alexander's reign are also increasingly doubtful that the king ever had a plan for his empire beyond its indefinite expansion. Perhaps most important of all has been the recognition that the ultimate significance of his spectacular reign was negative: the destruction of the existing state system in western Asia.
The Hellenistic Political World

It would require almost four decades after Alexander's death for a new state system to emerge in the Near and Middle East. During those four decades the hope of maintaining intact Alexander's empire proved to be a seductive will-o'-the-wisp. Efforts to hold the empire together were frustrated by alliances of Alexander's surviving generals. First Perdiccas, whom Alexander had designated to administer the empire after his death, tried to maintain the empire intact in his capacity as regent for Alexander's mentally retarded half-brother, Philip III (323-316 B.C.) and his infant son Alexander IV (316-312 B.C.). After Perdiccas's death in 321 B.C., Antigonus the One Eyed (306-301 B.C.), Alexander's Satrap (i.e., governor) of Phrygia, also attempted to defend the unity of the empire. Both, however, failed. The result was that by the end of the wars of Alexander's successors in 280 B.C., his empire had broken up into three major kingdoms ruled by Macedonian dynasties: the Ptolemies, whose realm included Egypt, Palestine, Libya, and Cyprus; the Seleucids, whose territories extended from the Mediterranean to the borders of India; and the Antigonids, in Macedon and northern Greece.

The kingdoms that constituted the Hellenistic political world had hardly come into existence when their survival was threatened by severe internal and external stresses. Particularly hard hit were the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms. The former, centered in Syria but having to guard against threats on fronts as distant as western Turkey and the borders of India, proved especially vulnerable to separatist tendencies. Even before the end of the fourth century B.C., Seleucus I (311-281 B.C.) had ceded his dynasty's claims to Alexander's conquests in India to Chandra Gupta (ca. 324-300 B.C.) , the conqueror of Northern India and founder of the Maurya dynasty. Seleucus I traded his Indian claims for a military alliance and peace on his far eastern frontier. By the mid-third century B.C. the bulk of Seleucid territory in Anatolia had been usurped by a series of small kingdoms of which the most important was that of the Attalids of Pergamum in the northwestern corner of the peninsula. At almost the same time, the migration into central Iran of the Parni (or Parthians), a nomadic people of Iranian stock from Central Asia, temporarily severed communications between the western heart of the Seleucid kingdom and its eastern marches. As a result, a strong Greek-ruled kingdom emerged with its capital at Bactra, modern Balkh, in Afghanistan. One of the Greek rulers of Bactria, Menander (ca. 155-130 B.C.), even conquered much of northern India and under the name Milinda became one of the most revered figures of Buddhism.8 Still, the Syrian and Mesopotamian core of the kingdom remained intact and provided a sufficiently strong base for Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.), a Seleucid, to launch a counteroffensive at the end of the third century B.C. that restored his dynasty's authority over most of its former territory.

The Ptolemies faced less severe problems in their Egyptian fortress, but even so, a combination of native revolts, military defeats by the Seleucids, and crises over the succession to the throne brought the kingdom to the verge of dissolution late in the third century B.C. The threatened collapse was averted, however, by the vigorous action of Ptolemy V (204-180 B.C.) in the early second century B.C., and the dynasty managed to retain its hold on its Egyptian heartland until the end of the Hellenistic period. Thus, for the better part of two centuries the political life of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean took place within the framework provided by the three major Macedonian kingdoms. It was the advance of Rome in the west and Parthia in the east that finally put an end to the world created by Alexander's conquests.

Historiography Of The Hellenistic Period

If the outlines of the political history of the Hellenistic period are clear, its details are not. Indeed, compared to the history of fifth and fourth century B.C. Greece or the history of the Roman Republic, it has a disconcertingly kaleidoscopic character. The narrative of events shifts abruptly from one geographical locale to another, its chronology is vague and insecure, and the personalities and policies of even the most important rulers are frustratingly unclear. The cause of these problems is not in doubt. No comprehensive ancient narrative history survives to serve as a guide for modern historians. By a cruel stroke of luck, the last manuscript of such an account, a copy of books twenty-one to forty of the vast Library of History of Diodorus of Agyrium, the first century B.C. universal historian, perished in the Ottoman Turkish sack of Constantinople in A.D. 1453. Diodorus's history is the only significant ancient literary work known to have been lost in that tragic event.9 As a result of its loss, modern historians are forced to cobble together their accounts from disparate, fragmentary, and often intractable sources. This same fact explains the extraordinary volatility of Hellenistic as the constant discovery of new evidence through archaeology forces the revision or abandonment of even the most seemingly secure historical reconstructions. Not surprisingly, in these circumstances the perspective from which historians view their subject is especially important.

This is particularly clear with regard to the interpretations offered by the nineteenth-and early twentieth-century founders of Hellenistic studies. Obsessed by the analogy between the Hellenistic kingdoms and modern European imperialism in the Near and Middle East, they placed at the center of their works the problem of the ultimate failure of the Macedonian kingdoms and the possible implications of this failure for their own compatriots. The triumph of Greek political rationalism over Eastern theocratic absolutism, the most important result of Alexander's conquests, proved to be only temporary; it was the unchanging East that won the lasting victory. Such was the central theme of the great early histories of the Hellenistic period. Their authors' interpretations of this theme were usually cast in terms of stereotypes typical of what the literary critic Edward Said has called "Orientalism."10 Scholars accepted as accurate the tendentious characterization of Hellenistic Greek society offered by European Greeks and Romans, who claimed that virile European Greeks degenerated into corrupt Asiatics. Evidence of interest in or sympathy for the traditional cultures of the Near and Middle East, particularly their religious cultures, was excoriated as a betrayal of Western values. Total collapse was averted only by the fortuitous intervention of the philhellenic Romans, which prolonged the survival of Western rule and the dominance of Hellenism in the western portions of Alexander's empire until the Arab conquests and the final victory of the East in the seventh century A.D.

The study of the political history of the Hellenistic period has been least affected by the contemporary reaction against imperialist and chauvinist interpretations, and for good reason. Progress in the study of ancient history has always gone hand in hand with the discovery of new historical sources, and, with the exception of inscriptions, no significant new sources for Hellenistic political history have been discovered. Almost every archaeological expedition brings with it a harvest of new inscriptions, many of them of great interest. Epigraphical evidence is, however, by its very nature particularistic. It throws a bright light on isolated events, but it leaves their historical context in the shade. As a result, the general outlines of the account of Hellenistic political history sketched out in the great late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century histories of the period have remained essentially intact despite numerous modifications and corrections in their details.

The situation is different with regard to historians' views about the character of the Hellenistic kingdoms themselves. Recognition of the colonial nature of the Macedonian kingdoms, combined with intensive study of a steadily growing body of evidence bearing on their organization and social structure, has led to what can only be called a revolution in scholars' understanding of how these states actually functioned.

Descriptions of the organization of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the standard histories of the period are marked by a striking clarity and simplicity. The Hellenistic kingdoms were the result of conquest, and their organization was said to be based on two principles: first, that as spear-won land, the kingdom and its population essentially belonged to the king; and second, that the conduct of the king's business and the performance of the king's work took precedence over all other economic activities. These principles were common to all the Macedonian kingdoms, but analysis of their practical application was based largely on the example of Ptolemaic Egypt. There, the rich papyrological evidence--including royal letters, decrees, government regulations, petitions, and similar sources rescued from the debris of long-abandoned Egyptian towns--seemed to provide a vivid picture of the day-to-day functioning of a state, whose elaborate organization would win approval from even the most demanding modern government planner.

In these historical reconstructions the barter-based economy of Pharaonic Egypt was seen as having been transformed and modernized by the introduction of coinage on a large scale. Land usage was rationalized by the introduction of a comprehensive classification system according to which all Egyptian land was divided into two broad categories: royal land for basic agricultural production and "released land." There were four functional subcategories of released land: cleruchic land to support the army, gift land to reward government officials, temple land to provide economic support for Egypt's numerous temples, and private land, which included personal house and garden plots owned by individuals. Each major economic activity of the state was organized as a separate monopoly so as to generate the maximum revenue from fees and taxes for the king with the least risk. Potential foreign competition for the profits of Egyptian commerce was neutralized by currency manipulation and strict import controls. Every detail of the functioning of the Egyptian economy was planned and managed by an extensive bureaucracy. This bureaucracy was headquartered in Alexandria but its agents--Greek at the upper levels and Egyptian at the lower--could be found in even the most remote village. To facilitate proper functioning of the system, every person from royal peasant to immigrant soldier was registered according to place of residence and economic function. Over the whole system presided the king. The king was, however, no longer merely the first among equals as he was and continued to be in the tradition of the Macedonian homeland. In the Hellenistic state he was an autocrat whose every word was law and whose supremacy over all levels of society was symbolized by the institution of an official cult of the living ruler and his royal ancestors. This picture of the Hellenistic state as an example of a planned society, which the early Hellenistic historians teased out of the evidence, was breathtaking in its completeness and apparent rationality--and hardly any aspect of it has remained unchallenged by recent scholarship.11

The new view of the Hellenistic state is, in part, the result of the contemporary scholarly reaction against "Eurocentric" interpretations. Nineteenth-and twentieth-century historians treated the Hellenistic state as an essentially Greek--that is, European--political form and saw in it, therefore, a sharp break with the past. Recent scholars, on the other hand, increasingly tend to emphasize continuity with the political traditions of the ancient Near East and view the Hellenism of the Macedonian kingdoms as a facade behind which traditional Near Eastern institutions continued to function much as they had under the Persians and even before. This trend is particularly clear in studies of the Seleucid kingdom. Examples are easy to find. For instance, an important series of late-third and early-second-century-B.C. Greek inscriptions from Caria, in southwestern Anatolia, revealed that the traditional ruler of the sanctuary of Labraunda, the high priest of the temple of Zeus Labraundos, continued to function much as his predecessors had under the Persian regime. All that had changed was that decrees issued in his name were now composed in Greek and couched in the terminology typical of a Greek polis . Recently published epigraphic and cuneiform sources have revealed similar continuities in landholding patterns and political institutions between Persian and Hellenistic Syria-Palestine and Mesopotamia.

Just as important in encouraging this revisionist trend has been contemporary scholars' interest in determining how the Hellenistic state actually worked on a day-to-day basis. The picture of the Hellenistic state found in the standard textbooks was the product of an enormous collective scholarly effort to assimilate and organize into meaningful patterns the huge mass of discrete and heterogeneous source material produced by modern archaeology. The result was the elaboration of schematic constitutional and administrative frameworks into which the abundant but all too often fragmentary evidence could be fitted. In this effort particular attention was devoted to documents such as the so-called Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II and P. Tebt. 703 : The Instructions of a Dioiketes (financial administrator) to his Oikonomos (steward), which were thought to be official digests of the rules governing the organization and administration of some of the most important governmental and economic institutions of Ptolemaic Egypt. Contemporary scholars, however, are more interested in determining how the Macedonian kingdoms functioned than in constructing abstract models of their administrative organization. Through the analysis of the growing mass of documents reflecting the actual operations of the Hellenistic states, they have almost totally deconstructed these simple and sometimes even simplistic reconstructions of their organization.

Most dramatically affected has been the understanding of the nature of the Hellenistic monarchies. Until comparatively recently, the Macedonian monarchy was characterized as a hereditary monarchy tempered by elements of popular sovereignty that included the right of the people represented by the army assembly to actively participate in the choice of king and to function as a court of first instance in cases of crimes against the state. Evidence of such extensive citizen rights is almost totally lacking for the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms, whose monarchs ruled as autocrats and were defined in their official documents as consisting of the "king, his friends [the king's personal entourage] and the army." Not surprisingly, earlier scholarship attributed the atrophy of supposedly traditional Macedonian rights to the pervasive "oriental" influence in the Hellenistic kingdoms.12 In an important series of studies R. M. Errington demonstrated that this contrast between the supposedly "constitutional" Macedonian monarchy and its autocratic Hellenistic successors is illusory since the actual behavior of the Macedonian kings as described in the literary sources and inscriptions makes it clear that they also ruled as autocrats and that the only significant limits on the extent of their autocracy were not constitutional but practical, namely, the loss of the support of the army and the potential resistance of the great nobles, who had the power to unseat a king if provoked too far.13

Hardly less dramatic have been the changes in the understanding of the way Hellenistic governments conducted their affairs. The changes are most apparent with regard to Ptolemaic Egypt, but similar developments can be seen in the scholarship dealing with the other kingdoms. Most striking is the almost total disappearance from the scholarly literature of reference to the idea that rational planned economies managed by large and efficient bureaucracies were characteristic of these kingdoms. Typical of the new view of Hellenistic governmental practice is the reinterpretation by the French historian P. Vidal-Naquet of one of the centerpieces of the traditional interpretation--the diagraphe sporou or "crop planting schedule."14 Formerly viewed as a comprehensive plan drawn up in Alexandria that set out in detail the crops to be planted in each area of Egypt for the next year, the diagraphe sporou is now seen instead as a document compiled by the central government from often arbitrary estimates by local officials of their areas' potential agricultural yields, which the administration used to calculate the government's future revenues.

Working independently, a young American scholar named D. Brent Sandy undermined another of the main supports of the traditional view of the Hellenistic central planning by showing that the Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II does not describe the actual management of the Ptolemaic oil monopoly but some administrator's unrealistic dream of how such a monopoly ought to work.15 At the same time, closer examination of the bureaucracy revealed that it lacked some of the key characteristics of any true bureaucracy, namely, defined career paths, clear chains of command, and clearly specified areas of responsibility for its officials. Instead, government officials were political appointees with often multiple and sometimes even overlapping responsibilities, who accepted whatever position the king posted them to, irrespective of their previous service. Instead of the smoothly running bureaucratic machines envisioned by their late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century predecessors, more recent scholars see the Hellenistic governments as vehicles whose primary purpose was to extract the maximum revenue from their rulers' subjects. Documents such as Ptolemy II's (282-246 B.C.) recently discovered order for a complete economic survey of Egypt, and his letter forbidding lawyers from assisting individuals in disputes concerning taxes, bear witness to the Hellenistic kings' insatiable need for money to support their ambitious foreign policies.16 The numerous royal orders forbidding government officials from exploiting the king's subjects for personal gain and frequent recourse in the second century B.C. to the issuance of philanthropa , blanket amnesties for unfulfilled obligations owed the government and for charges of wrongdoing by government officials, equally attest to the inherent inefficiency and corruption of the system in actual practice. The result has been the creation of a view of the Hellenistic kingdoms that is less clear and elegant than that held by the founders of Hellenistic historiography, but that is more nuanced and more accurately reflects the historical situation in which these states existed.

Greeks and Non-Greeks in the Hellenistic World

Any discussion of Hellenistic social history must begin with one fact. The lives of the vast majority of people--Greek and non-Greek alike--changed little, since the low productivity of the ancient economy as a whole meant that the bulk of the population continued to live in rural areas as subsistence farmers. Nevertheless, it is also clear that the conquests of Alexander brought expanded opportunities for many Greeks in Europe and Asia Minor. Economic opportunity and the variety of available social roles increased significantly, particularly in the colonial cities of Egypt and the Near East.

Not surprisingly, opportunities were greatest for the male members of the Greek elite. The wealth and influence exercised by the officials of the Macedonian kings and their supporters in the Greek cities are well documented in inscriptions and papyri. Less glamorous but equally real and more numerous were the opportunities created by the kings' incessant need for Greeks to serve in their armies and to fill the multitude of minor but potentially lucrative administrative jobs required to govern their kingdoms. Opportunities expanded for women also in the Hellenistic period.

As in the case of men, these opportunities were greatest for women of wealth. The great queens such as Arsinoe II and Cleopatra VII of Egypt are most prominent in the ancient sources, but even some Greek cities allowed women to hold minor public offices in return for their willingness to use their wealth for civic purposes. Education also created opportunities for some women, including both upper-class intellectuals such as the Cynic philosopher Hipparchia and women from more modest backgrounds such as the professional musician Polygnota of Thebes, whose career is documented in a series of inscriptions from Delphi.

Most historians believe, however, that the price paid for these new opportunities was high. In their view, that price included not only the loss of independence but also the death of the polis itself, that uniquely Greek form of city that had given birth to the great cultural achievements of the Classical period. Nor is this a modern opinion. Greeks of the Hellenistic and Roman periods never tired of looking back with nostalgia to the glories of Archaic and Classical Greece and urging their contemporaries to return to the ways of their glorious ancestors.
The Polis

The centuries following the reign of Alexander were difficult, but it is not true that the polis and its culture died in the early Hellenistic period. The polis did, however, change. Already in the fourth century B.C., under the pressure of social and economic changes, the belief in the ability of the average citizen to play a decisive role in the government of his city had declined. Increasingly, specialists such as the Athenian financial experts Euboulus and Lycurgus and professional soldiers and their mercenary commanders--such as the Athenian Iphicrates and Memnon of Rhodes--tended to displace the amateur magistrates, generals, and citizen levies of the classical poleis . In the new political configuration of the third and later centuries this trend intensified. No longer significant militarily or politically in a world of great and not-so-great kingdoms, the poleis had to struggle to maintain a precarious independence in the face of continual efforts by the various kingdoms to subdue them or use them as pawns in their own diplomatic and military struggles. As time went on, democratic governments became little more than facades behind which aristocratic oligarchies governed, often with the tacit or open support of one or another of the great powers.

This bleak picture is, however, only part of the story. The political life of the polis narrowed and became harsher, but it did survive. Numerous inscriptions from all over Aegean Greece attest to the vigor and creativity of poleis and to the patriotism of individuals who were still willing to risk fortune and sometimes even life for the welfare of their polis and the reward of a decree of thanks passed by its assembly. For the first time in Greek history peaceful settlement of international disputes through arbitration became almost routine, while the Aetolian and Achaean Leagues managed for a time to overcome the particularism of the polis and build powerful federal states before both were crushed by Rome. Far from dying, the polis remained a vital part of Greek life until the last vestige of self-government disappeared in the great crises of late antiquity that mark the beginning of the Middle Ages throughout the Mediterranean basin.17
Egypt And The Near East

In Egypt and the Near East the situation was different. Throughout the late fourth and early third centuries Greeks moved east to populate Alexandria, Antioch, and the other new cities that Alexander and his successors, especially the Seleucids, founded in order to better control their new realms. These cities prospered. Alexandria18 and Antioch19 in particular grew to enormous size with populations in the hundreds of thousands and with splendid public buildings and amenities unknown to the cities of old Greece. Although little remains of Hellenistic Alexandria and Antioch, some idea of their splendor and prosperity can be gained from Ai Khanum, possibly Alexandria on the Oxus, in northern Afghanistan, where French archaeologists discovered a large city with broad streets, monumental temples, a large gymnasium and theater, and elegant mansions. It is not surprising that Heracleides Creticus, author of a brief travel guide to Greece, felt it necessary to warn travelers from the east against being disappointed at their first impressions of Athens and the other famous cities of the Greek homeland with their old-fashioned streets and shabby houses.20

Splendid though they were, the new cities of Asia were but islands of Greek domination and culture in a predominantly non-Greek world. The early Hellenistic historians viewed the Hellenistic cities as "melting pots" in which Greek and non-Greek cultures and peoples met and blended to form a new cosmopolitan civilization. In the 1970s and 1980s some scholars proposed a much harsher interpretation of Hellenistic social relations, one that is surprisingly close to the fourth-century B.C. Athenian rhetorician Isocrates's dream of a conquered Asia in which natives worked like Sparta's helots to support the new Greek colonists and their Macedonian masters. In this view, Greek and native societies tensely coexisted in the Macedonian kingdoms with little or no interaction instead of blending to form a new culture. For these scholars the Hellenistic world was one in which status was determined by ethnicity--and the ethnic affiliations that counted were Macedonian and Greek. It is not known for certain whether or not Alexander hoped that a mixed elite of Macedonians, Greeks, and non-Greeks would rule his empire. But in Ptolemaic Egypt and in Seleucid Asia, Macedonians and Greeks--who together comprised less than 10 percent of the total population--alone belonged to the ruling elite.21

Evidence that seems to support this interpretation of the social structure of the Hellenistic kingdoms is easy to find. As always, it is Egypt that provides the fullest evidence.22 There throughout the Hellenistic period separate legal systems were maintained for Greeks and Egyptians. Ethnic prejudices and tensions are well documented in the sources. The Ptolemaic court poet Theocritus characterizes petty street crime as an "Egyptian game" and an agricultural worker complains that his supervisors hold him in contempt and refuse to pay him "because I am an Egyptian." Similarly, the personal papers of a Greek recluse at Memphis are filled with stories of personal harassment by his Egyptian neighbors. Hellenistic Egypt also provides evidence both of the existence of a resistance literature that looked forward to the end of foreign rule and repeated rebellions intended to achieve that goal.

Although the evidence is less abundant, what there is suggests that the situation in the Seleucid kingdom was similar. An analysis of the origins of known Seleucid officials revealed that fewer than five percent were of non-European origin, and native rebellions in Judaea and Iran are well documented. Archaeological evidence suggesting actual physical separation of the Greek and native sections of Ai Khanum indicates that a similar strict division between privileged Macedonians and Greeks and subject natives existed even on the far eastern frontier of the Hellenistic world.

In spite of this evidence, contemporary Hellenistic historians are coming to believe that this picture of the Hellenistic world as divided into two almost totally isolated societies, one Greek and the other non-Greek, is almost as great a distortion of ancient social reality as the idealistic image of a harmoniously mixed Hellenistic civilization that it is intended to replace. The problems are threefold: first, the divided view of Hellenistic society is based primarily on Greek textual evidence, which tends to ignore non-Greek subjects; second, it exaggerates barriers to contact between Greeks and non-Greeks in the Hellenistic kingdoms; and third, it minimizes the social divisions and conflicts within the native populations of the Hellenistic kingdoms. Part of the problem is that substantial social isolation did characterize the life of the one portion of the native population that is most visible in the Greek sources, the rural poor. Studies of the population of Egyptian villages like Kerkeosiris and Soknopaiou Nesos reveal an almost total absence of either Greek residents or Greek influence on daily life, and the admittedly limited evidence for rural life in the Near and Middle East suggests a similar situation.

Egyptian and cuneiform sources draw a very different picture, however, of the life of the non-Greek aristocracies. In the theocratic monarchies of the ancient Near East, support of the gods and their priesthoods had been essential to the security of the state, and that continued to be true during the Hellenistic period. In Egypt the Ptolemies subjected the great temples to greater control than their Pharaonic predecessors had, but they also maintained and even expanded the scale of state subsidy of religion as can be seen from the vast extent of temple building sponsored by the Ptolemies. Study of the extensive Egyptian evidence for the Hellenistic period is only in its infancy, but already it has revealed that under the Ptolemaic regime the priestly families prospered, accumulating large estates and actively engaging in business transactions of all kinds, while expending large sums on the traditional Egyptian indicators of personal success: dedications to the gods and lavish tomb furnishings.23 Nor were opportunities limited to the religious elite. Analysis of the personal archives of village officials, individuals dismissed by early Hellenistic historians as lowly figures of little influence, has shown that such figures could grow rich by exploiting their role as essential intermediaries between the Greek-speaking central government and its Egyptian subjects.24 Not surprisingly, priests and local officials were loyal supporters of the Ptolemaic regime, and both were singled out for reprisal during the native uprisings of the late third and second centuries B.C. The 1981 study of the temples of Hellenistic Babylonia by Gilbert J. P. McEwan suggests that a similar pattern of royal patronage for the great temples and priestly prosperity characterized Seleucid policy also.25 The evidence is less clear for the Greek kingdoms in Bactria and India, but the small amount of evidence available--Hindu and Buddhist dedications by Greek officials26 and the classification of the Greeks as Kshatriya (warriors) by Indian thinkers27 --indicates that conditions were similar there as well.

Equally important is the increasing ease with which non-Greeks could join the Greek political elite as time passed. Membership in the political elite required certification as a Greek citizen, but obtaining that certification was not difficult. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period intermarriage was likely to have been relatively common since the bulk of Greek immigration was military in character and therefore predominantly male. Moreover, as Roger Bagnall has shown in a careful study of Greek immigration to Egypt, a kingdom that actively recruited settlers, the actual number of immigrants was relatively small. And most immigrants came in the early years of Macedonian rule,28 so the number of ethnic Greeks can never have been large. Similar studies are lacking for the other Hellenistic kingdoms, but there is little reason to believe that the results would be different. The implications are clear. Since apartheid was not characteristic of Greek society at any time, the need of the Hellenistic kings for a Greek elite to provide a reliable base of support for their rule meant in practice that as time passed, the citizen bodies of some so-called Greek cities in the Near East were more and more composed not so much of persons of Greek birth as of Greek culture: that is, of those who had received a Greek education and adopted a Greek lifestyle and often a Greek name. All others were subjects. Just as has happened with regard to the study of other aspects of Hellenistic history, therefore, the major achievement of contemporary Hellenistic social history has been to reveal the complexity of the Hellenistic world.

Culture in the Hellenistic Period

The colonial situation in which Greeks in the Macedonian kingdoms found themselves gave Greek culture in the Hellenistic East a different character and significance than it had in the poleis of old Greece, where Greek culture was the traditional heritage. No common bond of history united the heterogeneous citizens of Alexandria or the other cities and settlements of the East, or informed their culture with shared values and meaning. For them, Greek culture was a cherished badge of status, proof that one belonged to the privileged class, and as such it was eagerly sought by Greeks and ambitious non-Greeks alike.

From the Mediterranean to the borders of India, Greek culture was dominant and a traveler could expect to find in the new cities, just as in the old, many of the familiar institutions of Greek life. Not only was city life similar over this vast area but so also was much of cultural life. Everywhere Greek was the language of government and culture so that one could travel from Greece to India without fear of being misunderstood. Greek and Hellenized intellectuals shared a common reverence inculcated by their teachers for the works of the great authors of the Archaic and Classical periods whom they viewed as models of perfection that could never again be equaled, let alone surpassed. In their own works, Hellenistic intellectuals affirmed their status as Greeks and their role as upholders of the Greek tradition by studding their writings with learned allusions to the masterpieces of the past. The same purposefulness is evident in the use made of the Greek tradition in the visual arts. Thus, the reliefs of the great altar of Pergamum built by Eumenes II (197-160 B.C.) to commemorate his victories over the Galatians seem at first sight alien to the serenity of classical sculpture with their powerful straining and emotionally expressive figures. In actuality, the reliefs echo in their overall composition and detail the pedimental sculptures of that most classical of Greek monuments, the Parthenon, in the same way that Hellenistic poets alluded to their classical models. Through its stylistic and thematic links to one of the most hallowed monuments of the Greek past, the altar powerfully affirms both the Greekness of Eumenes and his dynasty.29

Education helped to reinforce the diffusion and dominance of Greek culture in the Hellenistic world. As Greek culture became more closely associated with the written rather than the spoken word, instruction tended to focus on a few great books, most notably the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, and emphasized memorization and the imitation of stylistic models over independent creation. Artists and writers, who, like soldiers, tended more and more to be professionals, wandered far from their homes in search of patrons and commissions and carried their views with them, thereby imposing a superficial uniformity on the cultural life of the Greek and Hellenized elites of the Hellenistic world. In a similar way, the new cities, with their institutions modeled on those of cities of old Greece, helped to impart a Greek tone to the social and political life of the East.

However, intellectual life in the Hellenistic world was uniform only on the surface. Even cursory study reveals significant differences between the culture of Aegean Greece and that of the new kingdoms of Asia and Egypt. Many factors were responsible for these differences, but the most important was the fundamental difference in the history of the areas. Greek culture was at home in the cities of Europe and the Aegean basin. In these cities writers and artists had at their disposal the whole repertoire of themes and motifs provided by a tradition with centuries of historical development behind it. Writers and artists in Asia did not share this tradition. In old Greece, the local dialects and traditional cults and festivals flourished throughout the Hellenistic period and beyond. In addition, major new festivals were founded, such as that of Artemis Leucophryene at Magnesia on the Maeander in western Asia Minor. Elsewhere in Greece old festivals gained new splendor and prestige, such as that of the healing god Asclepius, whose temple at Epidaurus in the northeast Peloponnesus attracted sufferers in search of a miraculous cure from all over the Greek world. Most important of all, the intimate connection between the polis and culture that had characterized Archaic and Classical Greece remained intact throughout the Hellenistic period and is readily apparent in the works of the writers and thinkers of European Greece.
Culture In Hellenistic Greece

In Athens, as elsewhere, the prevailing traditionalism of the Hellenistic period made itself felt, most notably in the area of drama where, instead of new plays, audiences preferred revivals of the works of the three master tragedians of the fifth century--Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Professional actors performed the plays on the basis of official texts maintained by the state and with the aid of subsidies from the Athenian government. Tragedy thus died, a victim of Hellenistic awe in the face of the achievements of the classical past, but comedy continued to thrive in the form of the so-called New Comedy.

Prior to the twentieth century judgments concerning the nature of New Comedy were based on the only sources then available--adaptations of New Comedy plays by the Roman Republican playwrights Plautus and Terence. To those who read these adaptations the dominant characteristic of the New Comedy seemed to be escapism, and as escapist literature the New Comedy seemed to fit the needs of the supposedly politically uninvolved and demoralized citizens of the Hellenistic Greek cities. The recovery during the course of the twentieth century of two complete plays and significant portions of several others by its most distinguished practitioner, the late-fourth-century B.C. playwright Menander, has forced a reassessment of that view. True, the wild comic invention of his great fifth-century B.C. predecessor Aristophanes is missing in Menander's elegantly crafted comedies with their emphasis on the pitfalls that must be traversed by young lovers en route to their inevitably happy marriage; but the plays are set in a real Athens with specific locales. More important, although the fierce political satire of Old Comedy is lacking, comment on contemporary issues and ideas is not; the issues, however, are now social and intellectual rather than political. Thus, Meander's interest in the problems of young lovers reflects a new concern for the affective aspects of marriage that is most clearly expressed in the observation of the second-century B.C. Stoic philosopher Antipater of Tarsus that "the man who has had no experience of a married women and children has not tasted true and noble happiness"30 and which found practical expression in the provision in some marriage contracts from Egypt allowing a wife to seek a divorce because of her husband's sexual misconduct.31 Similarly, there is gentle satire of fashionable theories of moral egoism in the Dyscolos or Grouch , the first complete Menandrian play to be rediscovered; while the Samia or Samian Woman , casts a jaundiced eye on the recent revival of claims for the divine parentage of kings. Finally, the vivid opening scene of the Aspis or Shield targets a grimmer subject: the hollowness of the dreams of wealth and adventure offered to the youth of Athens by the recruiters of mercenaries for the armies of the new Macedonian kingdoms of the Near and Middle East.

In works of history, the most important genre of Hellenistic prose literature, the desire to maintain continuity with the Greek past is particularly clear. Felix Jacoby's great collection, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker , published between 1923 and 1958, includes fragments of more than eight hundred "lost" Greek historians who wrote during the Hellenistic period.32 Most of these historians followed the path laid down for them by the fifth-century B.C. founders of Greek historiography, Herodotus and especially Thucydides. Like Thucydides, many were political figures who wrote about the Greek cities and politics from the perspective of long careers in the service of their home cities or of one of the kings. Modern Hellenistic historians, influenced by their belief that the polis was not a significant factor in Greek life after the death of Alexander the Great, centered their histories on the great powers of the period--the kingdoms of Alexander's successors and the Romans. A few Greek historians did likewise. The late-fourth-century B.C. historian Theopompus of Chios made the career of Philip II the focal point of his huge fifty-eight-book history of the Greek world from 360 to 336 B.C., and two centuries later, Polybius of Megalopolis, the greatest of Hellenistic historians, wrote during his exile in Rome a history in forty books of the period from 220 to 146 B.C. to explain to his fellow Greeks how in less than a century Rome conquered the entire Mediterranean world.

But Polybius and Theopompus were exceptions. By far the majority of Hellenistic historians, whatever their background, followed the example of Thucydides and placed at the center of their works the Greek cities, their wars, and their politics. The identification of history with the history of the cities is most obvious in the numerous histories of individual cities written during these three centuries. A typical example is the Atthis of the Athenian patriot Philochorus, which provided a detailed year-by-year chronicle of the history of Athens from its mythical foundations to just before its author's execution on orders of the Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas (283-239 B.C.). Philochorus's account served scholars for centuries as a standard reference work on the antiquities of Athens. In it and other similar works, patriotic authors treated at great length the origins, myths, and internal politics of their beloved cities while relegating the Macedonian kingdoms and Rome to the role of foreign interlopers whose policies and actions occasionally intruded on a city's affairs.

The same belief in the centrality and vitality of the polis also characterized the works of historians who focused on broader topics. Thus, the Athenian historian Phylarchus built his history of third-century B.C. Greece around the glorious but unsuccessful attempt by the Spartan kings Agis IV (244-241 B.C.) and Cleomenes III (237-222 B.C.) to restore Sparta to a leading position in Greece by reviving the ancient institutions of the Lycurgan constitution.33 Phylarchus's enthusiasm for the kings' cause and despair at their ultimate failure can still be seen in Plutarch's vivid life of Agis and Cleomenes and in Polybius's history, both of which made use of Phylarchus's now-lost work. By contrast, no historian from European Greece is known to have written on Alexander or his successors after the early third century B.C. In drama and historiography, the Greek tradition, as it had crystallized in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., lived on in Hellenistic Greece. Hellenistic historians constantly borrowed literary techniques from rhetoric and poetry to enhance the elegance of their writing and the emotional impact of their works, and they boasted of their superiority to their classical predecessors in this regard. But historiography itself remained, like comedy, embedded in the polis culture that had given it birth.

The situation is somewhat different in the case of philosophy, the other major area of intellectual activity in Hellenistic Greece. Of the basic continuity between Classical and Hellenistic Greek philosophy there can be no doubt.34 Epicurus, who founded the Epicurean school of philosophy, discovered the atomic theory that forms the basis of his philosophy in the writing of the fifth-century B.C. philosopher Democritus. Likewise, Zeno, the founder of the other major Hellenistic philosophical school, Stoicism, is said to have been inspired to become a philosopher by Xenophon's memoirs of Socrates; his own writings included a Republic written as an answer to Plato's great work of the same name. Similar links with fifth-and fourth-century B.C. philosophy are evident in the lesser Hellenistic philosophical schools, such as Cynicism and Skepticism. Nevertheless, the relationship of Hellenistic philosophy to the preceding Greek philosophical tradition differs from the situation with regard to historiography in significant ways.

Hellenistic historiography was in every sense a continuation of the Classical tradition of historical writing inasmuch as the historians shared the same polis-centered viewpoint of their fifth-and fourth-century B.C. predecessors, treated similar subjects, used their predecessors' works as models, and even sometimes wrote continuations of them. By contrast, the case of Hellenistic philosophy is similar to that of drama, but more extreme in that the Hellenistic philosophers built upon only a small portion of the Classical philosophical tradition while discarding the rest.

Thus, except for Epicurus, Hellenistic philosophers showed little interest in the pre-Socratics or their speculations concerning the nature of the universe. They instead focused their attention on the so-called Socratic thinkers, most notably Plato, Aristotle, and Antisthenes, and even in the case of these thinkers the Hellenistic philosophers were more concerned with their ethical and epistemological ideas than with the social and political views that accompanied them. So, while the perfect societies in Plato's Republic and Laws are recognizable Greek poleis , Zeno in his Republic envisaged a perfect society of wise men free of any connection with existing forms of society or their problems. In other words, Hellenistic philosophers were concerned with man in the abstract; their goal was to devise ethical systems that would enable him to find happiness by gaining such control of his internal life that he could accept with equanimity whatever blows the external world dealt him. It was unimportant whether he achieved this control through rigorous application of the Epicurean calculus of pleasure and pain or the Stoic wise man's recognition that true happiness comes only with the acceptance of one's place in the plan of the logos that pervades the universe. Plato's Socrates claimed in the famous allegory of the cave that the philosopher, once he has seen the truth, must go back into the cave to enlighten his fellows, to which an Epicurean might observe that he should do so "only if it gave him greater pleasure than pain" and a Stoic "only if that were his role in the divine plan."

The teachings of the Hellenistic schools, which were propounded by different masters for the benefit of the educated elite, were as much dogmas about the way to salvation as they were bodies of rational speculation about the nature of reality and knowledge. By severing in this way the link that bound Classical philosophy to the polis , Hellenistic philosophers inevitably narrowed the focus of philosophy and eliminated from it that vigorous concern for the problems of everyday social and political life that strikes every reader of Plato and Aristotle. However, Hellenistic philosophy did gain in compensation a universality in the application of its theories that made it accessible to men everywhere. As a result, Greek philosophy in its Hellenistic guise survived as a vital force in the Christian and Islamic cultures of the Middle Ages long after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (A.D. 527-565) closed the philosophical schools in Athens in A.D. 529.

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