[B-Greek] the word hellenistic.

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Jul 30 12:02:33 EDT 2003

At 11:43 AM -0400 7/30/03, dave pursey wrote:
>     i have a question (probably a dumb one) i'd like to see if i can get
>answered.  The question is this  what does hellenistic mean; and here's
>the dumb part, because it sounds a lot like the word hell, i know that
>here's no connection with hell concerning this word but i'd still like to
>know what it means.

The answer might be illuminating for some others too. Greeks are called--in
Greek--hELLHNES and the country "Greece" is called hELLAS; their own
traditional explanation is that they derived from an eponymous ancestor
named hELLHN--rather as the Hebrews referred to themselves as "children of
Israel." So "Hellenic" means "Greek." Now, after Alexander's conquests in
the Eastern Mediterranean and on across to northern India, there was a
process of spreading Greek culture into old cities and into newly colonized
cities; that process was referred to in Greek as hELLHNIZW ("Hellenize").
The term "Hellenistic" usually refers to the period of ancient history
following upon Alexander's conquests, after ca 330 BC, when the focus of
international culture no longer resided in Athens or the Greek mainland but
in the new kingdoms with Greek-speaking kings: Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus
in Syria, etc., etc.: it's an era of syncretism, of mixed Greek and
oriental native cultures.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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