What advances did the Hellenistic Greeks have in the areas of art, philosophy and science? What made these possible?
I think one advantage that Greece had was that there were so many people interested in cultural pursuits. The culture stressed arts and sciences, and therefore many people pursued them. Some good ideas came out of that!
Interesting question. While science may not normally be associated with Hellenistic Greece, it is true that astronomy has its roots therein. Though astronomy was not tied into trade or industry of the era, as it was then too newly developed to be seen as having practical value, some major accomplishments date to the Hellenistic period.
- Aristarchus of Samos determined the distance and enormity of the universe deduced from the seemingly fixed stars.
- Aristarchus importantly posited a heliocentric, as opposed to a geocentric, planetary system, a view rejected by those who followed him. A heliocentric system is one in which Earth revolves around the Sun (Helios). A geocentric system is one in which the Sun revolves around Earth.
- Hipparchus prepared the best chart of the heavens known to the Hellenistic world.
- Later, Ptolemy compiled what he thought the best astronomical understanding of the Hellenistic world, in which a geocentric view of the planetary system was passed down to posterity: it is called Almagest.
You might like to think about the way in which Greek drama at this period developed particular genres that are still much used today, such as tragedy. The original conception of a Greek tragedy as defined by Aristotle is still something that we use today in order to analyse many plays, both ancient and modern, and still proves helpful.
It was during the Hellenistic period that art, math, and science seemed to explode at a massive level. Basically, this period was experiencing a boom in culture. The people of this period, instead of contemplating, would analyze .
While there does not seem to be a great difference between the two, there is. When analyzing, one would methodically examine the structure of something. When one contemplates, they simply think about it.
Therefore, during the Hellenistic period, people were more apt to structurally examine the idea or existence of something instead of simply thinking about it abstractly.
I don't think of the things mentioned in the previous post as having to do with Hellenistic Greece. I think of them more as being connected to Classical Greece. Of course, Aristotle was sort of a bridge between the two since he was Alexander's tutor.
For me, Hellenistic Greece is connected to things like new philosophies and religions. These were ideas that tried to help people get by in a world that seemed new and unfamiliar. We can see this in things like the mystery cults of Dionysus and Isis. These new religions purported to have secret knowledge that, when revealed, would lead to worldly success.
The ancient Greeks contributed significantly to the development of drama, especially in Athens. Partly these advances were due to the size and prosperity of the city states. Impressive theaters were built, and plays were well attended. In Athens, the plays benefitted from the democratic political philosophy of the state, although religion was also a strong influence on the plays. The plays also benefitted from the intelligent support of philosophers such as Aristotle, who saw their value, defended it, and explained in great detail the social and artistic significance of works of art.