What Cultural Ties United the Ancient Greek World?

The ancient Greek, or Hellenistic, world after Alexander the Great — comprising regions as diverse as the Middle East (Syria and Persia), North Africa (Egypt), Greece and Macedonia — was broadly unified by its language, art, literature, religion and philosophy. Cultural ties, particularly between ancient Macedonia and Asia, are believed to have been cultivated by Alexander as part of his strategy of “homonoia” — human unity or fusion — to “hellenize” the lands he conquered.

One of the key means by which Alexander pursued this end was the institution of a common tongue or “koine” through cross-cultural trade and exchange; virtually everyone in the expansive Hellenistic world spoke a vulgar form of Greek.

Themes within art and literature changed concurrently throughout the Hellenistic world, and reflected the secularization of traditional religious values and a general feeling of disenfranchisement in the face of increasingly bureaucratic politics. Hellenistic art also tended to express a new-found appreciation for history, including the use of older artistic styles, and an embracing of previously unknown cultures and people.

Traditional representations of deities, meanwhile, featured less than images of mortal figures, inkeeping with a general trend in Hellenistic philosophy toward secular approaches to existence. Rather than depending on the old pantheon of gods and goddesses for instruction, thinkers like Diogenes, Epicurus and the Stoics advocated in favor of individual will and natural morality.