Compare and contrast Judean, Roman, and Carthaginian responses to Hellenistic influences. How receptive was each society to Greek cultural influences?

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Hellenism was a period in Ancient Greece that covered the spread of Greek culture with Alexander the Great. Hellenism, unlike classical Greek culture, incorporated elements of Persian culture. It's years are from Alexander the Great's conquest (323 BCE) to the annexation of Greece into the Roman Empire in 31 BCE.

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Hellenism was a period in Ancient Greece that covered the spread of Greek culture with Alexander the Great. Hellenism, unlike classical Greek culture, incorporated elements of Persian culture. It's years are from Alexander the Great's conquest (323 BCE) to the annexation of Greece into the Roman Empire in 31 BCE.

The Judean response to Hellenism was mixed. They had contact with Hellenism through trade and in the Hellenistic rulers who came into Jewish lands in Palestine. Because of these interactions, we can see elements of Hellenism in the Jewish community. An example of this is the leader Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Selucid King who accepted and promoted Hellenistic culture among its people. Devout Jews who had incorporated Greek practices were supported by the king and gained influence.

The Romans incorporated lots of Hellenistic culture. When the Romans were just forming in 509 BCE, the Greeks had been around for a long time. In fact, Greek culture was pervasive throughout the Mediterranean. When the Romans started gaining power, it was natural to incorporate and integrate Greek Hellenistic culture instead of getting rid of it. Even Julius Caesar was into Greek culture. When he famously crossed the Rubicon River and invaded Rome, he said "the die is cast." He didn't say this in Latin, he said it in Greek, as it was a popular phrase in a Greek dice game!

The Carthaginian Empire, which formed in North Africa in the modern-day country of Tunisia, was also quite Hellenized, as it was part of a Hellenized Mediterranean. Not only were Carthaginian coins reminiscent of Greek coins (see the uploaded image), but the military was based off of Greek phalanx, a style popular in Greek before and improved upon during the Hellenic period.

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Each of these societies during the Hellenistic period had complex and nuanced responses to the cosmopolitan Greek culture. It should also be noted that none of these responses were uniform; each of these societies consisted of hundreds of thousands of individuals with a wide range of opinions. Some Romans, for example, embraced Greek culture and others rejected it.

Jewish reactions to Hellenistic culture were varied. Some Jews in Alexandria, for example, were Hellenic cosmopolitans who barely spoke Hebrew. The Old Testament was famously translated into Greek (the Septuagint), and many Jewish writers such as Philo and Josephus wrote in Greek and embraced certain elements of Greek paideia. Other Jews were opposed to Gentile culture, seeing it as a threat to Jewish identity, and emphasized the importance of distinctive Jewish practices, such as dietary laws and circumcision.

Among Romans, Horace famously stated,

Captive Greece took captive her savage conqueror and brought the arts to rustic Latium.

Quintilian recounts that the popularity of Greek pedagogues led to some Roman aristocrats learning Greek as a first language and speaking Latin awkwardly as a second language. While some laws were passed to reduce Greek influence, in general Rome comfortably assimilated Greek influences, and Greek culture and language dominated the eastern Roman Empire.

Carthage opposed Greek city-states in the Sicilian Wars (c. 600–265 BCE) and the Punic Wars (264–146 BCE) and had a distinctive Phoenician culture, language, and religion. It was after the destruction of Carthage by Rome and its assimilation into the Roman Empire that Hellenistic culture influences grew.

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To some degree, Judean, Roman, and Carthaginian societies adopted elements of Greek culture.  This mostly happened through the natural diffusion that takes place when people of different cultures interact.  Of the three cultures, Greek influence on Judea was not as prevalent.  The relationship between Judea and the Hellenistic monarchs was unique in that the monarchs had sovereignty over the region of Palestine after Alexander the Great defeated the Persians.  Jews did not readily adopt Greek traditions. A major reason for this is the monotheistic religion practiced in Judea was a stark contrast to the many gods worshiped by the Greek religion.  Orthodox Jewish groups fiercely opposed Greek influences on their culture and religion. The Jews would respect the authority of the king as long as the king respected the religious and cultural traditions that they held so dearly.  When monarchs tried to be too aggressive in acculturating their subjects, especially in terms of religious tradition, the Jews rebelled openly.  One Jewish group successfully reclaimed the Holy Land for this reason (the Maccabees.)

That is not to say that the Jews completely rejected Greek influences.  Groups known as Hellenists energetically embraced Greek ideas and culture and drew the ire of the authors of some of the Jewish scriptures. The Sadducees were the most recognized of the Hellenists.  Archaeological evidence also suggests that synagogues were fashioned after Greek temples and were even decorated with symbols of Greek gods.  This points to the fact that, at least aesthetically, images of the Greeks were pleasing to Jews.  Of the groups that were dominated by Alexander the Great, the land of Judea assimilated the least.

The Carthaginians were quite receptive of Greek culture and influence.  The Carthaginians were originally the Phoenicians from Lebanon.  By the time they were fighting against the Romans for Mediterranean dominance in the Punic Wars, they were speaking a language that had a great deal of Greek influence.  Carthage adopted Greek systems of warfare and hired Spartan and Hellenistic mercenaries to fight in its military. Similarities also existed in the coin systems and pantheon of gods of Carthage and Greece.  Carthage, like the Greeks, established colonies throughout the Mediterranean Sea, which made them a wealthy kingdom.  Carthage seems to have eagerly adopted Greek culture.

The history of Greek and Roman interaction actually predates Rome itself, so it would stand to reason that the Greek influence was salient.  The Greek city-states had established colonies on the Mediterranean coast of Italy when Rome was just a small farming village.  Rome never saw Greece as a threat culturally or militarily.  When Rome conquered the entirety of the Italian peninsula, it absorbed Greek people and Greek ideas.  Romans adopted Greek ideas of law, justice, architecture, and government.  Even during the period of Hellenistic influence, the Romans saw themselves as the protectors of the Greek cities. This would change after Hellenistic kings allied themselves with Carthage during the Punic Wars, but this did not change the fact that Romans were very comfortable in adopting Greek culture.  Romans, especially the upper class Patricians, felt that they would be viewed in higher esteem if they acted Greek.  

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