Alexander the Great
Alexandria was founded in 331 BCE by Alexander the great. After his death, his empire crumbled. Because Alexander did not appoint a successor, the leaders of the Macedonian military were struggling for power. Out of this struggle came four Hellenistic kingdoms. Translated, Hellenistic means “to imitate Greeks”. Four Hellenistic kingdoms emerged because of the struggles. They were named: Antigonid kingdom of Macedonia, Seleucid Kingdom, Kingdom of Pergamum, and Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Alexandria was at the center of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
The character of these four kingdoms has survived to this day. None of these has been more significant than Alexandria. It became the center of business and culture. Astronomy, medicine, literature, philosophy, and religion were also very important. The development of Hellenistic Alexandria spanned many generations. Theaters, gardens, gymnasiums, mansions and other infrastructure were constructed under the rule of Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
An additional substantial characteristic of Alexandria was its role as a polis. Alexandria had its own citizenship and constitution, yet its self-rule and its city administration were controlled in scope. The population of Alexandria was largely multi-cultural. People came from all around the area. People from Syria, Asia Minor, Libya, Italy and Memphis all traveled to be a part of something important.
Early on, Alexandria was divided into five districts named for the first five letters of the Greek alphabet. Alpha, the royal district, was home to palaces, temples, museums, libraries, and gardens. Beta was the Greek aristocracy district. Gamma belonged to the Greek commoners. Delta was the district for the foreign minorities and Epsilon was left to the native Egyptians.
The lives of women in Alexandria had turned to more than just wives and homemakers for the most part. Greek women who immigrated to Egypt had a lot more liberties than a woman who was born in Egypt. Women of high importance were allowed to handle their own legal, financial, and business affairs. During this time, women were also allowed to become educated. They were poets and artists; they also worked in the medical field. They pursued the field of literature, music, and athletics, as well as politics. The women in this era who took advantage of these opportunities were essentially, the “bra burners” of their day. Although they didn’t neglect their duties as a wife and mother, they started investing in themselves.
Even though there were many social and economically different people living in the Hellenistic world, the Greeks provided a feeling of harmony. There were major accomplishments as far as literature, art, science, and philosophy were concerned. Alexandria was set to be the cultural epicenter with the construction of libraries and museums.
There was a mass amount of literature produced in the Hellenistic Age, most of which has not survived. Literary ability was seen as very important and was funded accordingly. The publication of historical and biographical readings increased as well as theatrical productions. Where there used to be serious, educational shows now stood more light hearted comedies. They no longer looked strictly to teach but also entertain.
Art was also something people craved. There were many opportunities for architects and sculptors to beautify cities, both new and old. The rich paid to have the city adorned with a new style of sculpting. There was less and less of Gods, Goddesses, and the perfect beauty, and more, and more of emotional, realistic art which consisted of things like drunk old women and children playing. The art of the era had influences all the way in India where the created the statue of the Buddha.
Known as the “Golden Age of Science”, the Greeks began to make the distinction between philosophy and science. The Greeks recognized a significant value of