Early History Part III


With the age of Hellenism, opened by Alexander’s victory over the Persians, the autocracy of the Greek Poleis came to an end: Political power now emanated from the monarchically ruled empires of the Diadochi and the mother country, with Athens as its center, indicated its hegemonic position the periphery from: to the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Syria and the Antigonids in Macedonia. At the same time, however, the traditional political culture spread by leaps and bounds across all Mediterranean countries and in the east as far as India; a large-scale civilization arose, a mixture of Greek and oriental elements. The lingua franca was Greek, the so-called Koine (“common language”) derived from the Athens dialect. A new cultural center was built in Alexandria, generously endowed by the Ptolemies.

During Hellenism, the third major epoch of antiquity was gradually being prepared: the Roman Empire. Rome rose in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. BC to the leading power: At that time, after the unification of Italy, the elimination of Carthage, the only serious competition, succeeded, and the Diadochian empires fell one by one to the Romans; last, after the battle of Actium (31 BC), that of the Ptolemaic Cleopatra ruled Egypt. The most important turning point in Roman history coincides with the transition from the Hellenistic era to the imperial era. The republican state system had proved incapable of satisfactorily administering the growing empire; The dictatorship of Caesar and subsequently the permanent monarchical system of Augustus emerged from a century of internal wars.

The imperial era

In contrast to the extremely dynamic development during the last century of the Roman Republic, the imperial period, the period of the Pax Romana, had a relatively static appearance. The half millennium until the migration of peoples and the fall of the western half of the empire shows only one major turning point: the imperial crisis in the middle of the 3rd century AD, which led to the still relatively liberal constitution, Augustus had created the so-called principate (from Latin princeps, “first man”, an expression only suggestive of the emperor’s outstanding position), was replaced by the dominate, a strictly absolutist and dirigistic coercive system. This also meant an epochal turning point for the spread of the Latin language: At that time the great expansion movement came to a standstill, which took place during the principle of the whole of the West, i.e. H. Africa, Spain and Gaul, as well as the Alpine and Danube regions.

Christianization and the fall of antiquity

According to Healthvv, the turning point of the 3rd century AD has recently led to the thesis that the next phase, late antiquity, already has closer ties with the following period, the early Middle Ages, than with the previous one. Since the territory of the empire survived the crisis undamaged, only internal developments can be cited for this, in particular the spread of Christianity, which rose to become the only legal religion in the course of the 4th century. At the same time, the church adopted the nimbus of the capital Rome, and its organization proved to be so stable that it survived the collapse of the state administration in the chaos of the German trains.

In the 5th century the processes began which brought the physical end to the Mediterranean world of antiquity. From the dissolving Imperium Romanum, three powers emerged from the interim stage of short-lived Germanic rule: the Islamic-Arab states in the south and south-west (in Persia, Armenia, Arabia, Egypt, Africa and Spain), the Frankish Empire in the north and east or Byzantium in the east. The former masters of the world, the Romans, disappeared as an ethnic greatness in the course of the 6th and 7th centuries, and with them their language, Latin; this only lived on – thanks to the church, then also thanks to the state – as a laboriously learned second idiom of Romance and Germanic speakers.

The epochs of cultural history

The three main epochs of antiquity are derived from the political realities; the periods of cultural development, especially those of literary and art history, do not always coincide with this. The Christian literature of late antiquity z. B. was essentially independent of the fortunes of the Roman state. In addition, the phase shift mentioned is particularly noticeable in the area of ​​intellectual history; when Roman literature reached its classical height in the Ciceronian-Augustan period, the Greek sister had already passed its (“modern”) late phase. From a cultural and historical point of view, the category of antiquity is largely nothing but a framework that encompasses the succession of the inventing Greeks and the imitative Romans.

The Greek culture

With the Greeks, however, the cultural-historical epoch boundaries essentially coincide with the political ones. The classical period coincided with the general heyday after the Persian Wars, and later, as in the political as well as in the cultural area, the reigns of Alexander the Great and Augustus marked deep cuts.

In addition to the epic and the didactic poem (Hesiod), the archaic period produced a great variety of lyrical forms in literature; however, apart from Pindar’s songs of victory, not much more of this wealth have reached posterity as fragments. The epic and didactic poem thematize mythology, as do the narrative parts of lyric poetry; there, moreover, the author’s experiences are poetically processed. – When the temple was built, the Doric and Ionic styles developed into their canonical form; the large-scale sculpture gradually breaks away from its strict Egyptian models.

Early History 3

Early History Part III
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