Alexander the Great and the creation of the Hellenistic age

A. B. Bosworth*

*Corresponding author for this work

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10 Citations (Scopus)


“The name of Alexander marks the end of one age of the world, the beginning of another.” This lapidary and much-quoted apophthegm is the starting point of Johann Gustav Droysen’s revised Geschichte des Hellenismus.It appeared in 1877, when Droysenwas in his seventieth year, at the peak of his powers and reputation, and the republication was a tribute to the notoriety that his work had achieved at the time of Germany’s unification. His vision of the Macedonia of Philip and Alexander was not intended as a political manifesto for the present, but it was eagerly seized upon as foreshadowing what could be achieved by the German states united under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy. An autocratic regime, based on enlightened cultural and political principles, had first conquered and then civilized the world, and the process might be repeated in the modern era. Under those circumstances, it was easy to accept the picture of Alexander as the inaugurator of a new age, and Droysen’s conceptual model, despite some protests, has been almost universally accepted. Alexander, consciously or unconsciously, created a new world informed by Greek culture and absolute monarchy, which lasted until the dominance of Rome as a world power, and Droysen termed the process “Hellenismus.” This was not entirely novel, for the term had been in vogue as a label for the Greek koine as spoken and written by non-Greeks in the eastern Mediterranean after Alexander, but Droysen extended it from a merely philological concept to encapsulate what he saw as the essence of a whole epoch.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to the Hellenistic World
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781139000949
ISBN (Print)9780521828796
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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