What were the central political, economic, and social developments of the Hellenistic World? The Hellenistic era was the age of Alexander the Great and beyond roughly 300BC-30BC. One of Alexander’s generals was later appointed governor of Egypt and signified an end of the pharaohs of independent Egypt. This was the age of Cleopatra and lasted until the Roman conquests in 30BC. Alexander also appointed a governor for Babylonia as well. This was the age of the rise of the Roman Empire as well.
The end of the Hellenistic Age came when Greece lost its independence and was directly annexed into the Roman Empire as another province. With all the trade routes opened up by Alexander’s conquests and in the inflow of Persia gold and silver, trade blossomed in the Hellenistic age and governments used that to augment revenues. The agricultural population declined and landownership became more concentrated with many holdings of land going to the states. The roles of the states grew and became more of a principal capitalist and owner.
With the increased inflow of gold and silver, the money was abundant and the roles of banks and large business houses grew. While the age was prosperous, it was focused mostly on the ruling upper class. Unemployment was large. Working classes were poorly compensated and it became cheaper to pay a free cheap labor rather than maintain a slave. The Hellenistic age also saw the rise of large metropolitan cities as fewer people lived in the countryside and concentrated on large cities such as Alexandria, Egypt.
Many of the characteristic economic and social developments of the Hellenistic Age are equally suggestive of contemporary experience: the growth of big business, the expansion of trade, the zeal for exploration and discovery, the interest in mechanical inventions, ruthless competition among merchants, the devotion to comfort and the craze for material prosperity, the growth of metropolitan cities with congested slums, and the widening gulf between rich and poor.
In the realms of intellect and art the Hellenistic civilization also bore a distinctly modern flavor. This was exemplified by the exaggerated emphasis upon science, the narrow specialization of learning, the penchant for realism and naturalism, the vast production of mediocre literature, and the popularity of mysticism side by side with extreme skepticism and dogmatic unbelief. As there were no suitable heirs, Alexander’s Empire were left to his generals. By 275BC they fragment into three primary ones Macedon (areas around Greece), Asia (areas round Babylon), and Egypt. Because of the expanded trade and influence from all the parts of Alexander’s Empire, influences from Babylonian math and Egyptian medicine as well as the introduction of war elephants into the military. Greek mathematics up to the Hellenistic era had mostly been focused on geometry. But the introduction of the concept and representation of a “0” from Babylon made higher level mathematics possible. Influences also went the other way.
Greek sculpture also influenced a style of Buddhist sculpture resulting in the presence of curly-haired Buddha as far east as China. The large scale production, metropolian cities, and expansion of industry. commerce, and government were hallmarks of the Hellenistic era. Huge museums, parks, large libraries, and a reduced agrarian society which we would recognize today were arguably the results the rapid growth and expansion of industry and commerce possible from the large united lands left by Alexander the Great.