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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hellenization (or Hellenisation) is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon. The result of Hellenization, elements of Greek origin combined in various forms and degrees with local elements, is known as Hellenism.


Historic usage


Classical period

The term is used in a number of other ancient historical contexts, starting with the Hellenization of the earliest inhabitants of Greece such as the Pelasgians, the Leleges, the Lemnians, the Eteocypriots in Cyprus, Eteocretans and Minoans in Crete (prior to Classical antiquity), as well as the Sicels, Elymians, Sicani in Sicily and the Oenotrians, Brutii, Lucani, Messapii and many others in territories constituting Magna Graecia.

Hellenistic period

Map of the Alexandrian Empire, c. 323 BC.

During the Hellenistic period, following the death of Alexander the Great, considerable numbers of Assyrians, Jews, Egyptians, Persians, Parthians, Armenians and a number of other ethnic groups along the Middle East and Central Asia were Hellenized. The Bactrians, an Iranian ethnic group who lived in Bactria (northern Afghanistan), were hellenized during the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and soon after various tribes in northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent (modern Pakistan) during the Indo-Greek Kingdom. There also was hellenization of Thracians,[1] Dardanians, Paionians and Illyrians[2][3][4][5] south of the Jireček Line and even of Getae.[6]

Of course, Hellenization during the Hellenistic period had its limitations. Case in point, areas of southern Syria that were affected by Greek culture mostly entailed Seleucid urban centers where Greek was commonly spoken. The countryside, on the other hand, was largely unaffected since most of its inhabitants spoke Syriac and continued to maintain their native traditions.[7] Moreover, Hellenization did not necessarily involve assimilation of non-Greek ethnic groups since Hellenistic Greeks in regions such as Asia Minor were conscious of their ancestral lineages.[8]

Middle Ages

Hellenization can also refer to the medieval Byzantine Empire and Constantine's founding of Constantinople (Eastern Roman Empire that was hellenized). Moreover, it can refer to the primacy of Greek culture and the Greek language after the reign of Emperor Heraclius in the 7th century.

Ottoman rule

Hellenization is also the result of the higher status which the Greek culture and the Greek Orthodox Church has enjoyed among the Christian Orthodox population of the Balkans during the Ottoman rule.

Modern usage

A modern use is in connection with policies pursuing "cultural harmonization and education of the linguistic minorities resident within the modern Greek state" (the Hellenic Republic), i.e. the Hellenization of minority groups in modern Greece.[9] The word nowadays has a strong negative meaning in certain circles in Greece as it means illegally giving citizenship to non-Greek immigrants.[10]


  1. ^ Quiles, Carlos. A Grammar of Modern Indo-European. Carlos Quiles Casas, 2007, ISBN 8461176391, p. 76. "Most of the Thracians were eventually Hellenised - in the province of Thrace - or Romanized - Moesia, Dacia, etc. -, with the last remnants surviving in remote areas until the 5th century."
  2. ^ American journal of philology, Τόμοι 98-99,by JSTOR (Organization), Project Muse,1977,page 263, the partly Hellenic and partly Hellenized Epirus Nova
  3. ^ Nicholas Geoffrey Lemprière Hammond. Migrations and Invasions in Greece and Adjacent Areas. Noyes Press, 1976, p. 54. "The line of division between Illyricum and the Greek area 'Epirus Nova'..."
  4. ^ D. M. Lewis (Editor), John Boardman (Editor), Simon Hornblower (Editor), M. Ostwald (Editor). The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 6: The Fourth Century BC. Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 423. "Through contact with their Greek neighbors some Illyrian tribe became bilingual (Strabo Vii.7.8.Diglottoi) in particular the Bylliones and the Taulantian tribes close to Epidamnus."
  5. ^ Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, and Sarah B. Pomeroy. A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture. Oxford University Press, p. 255.
  6. ^ Christopher Webber and Angus McBride. The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46 (Men-at-Arms). Osprey Publishing, 2001, p. 14. "It shows a Hellenised king of the Getai being crowned by the Thracian mother goddess."
  7. ^ Boyce, Mary and Grenet, Frantz. A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. 3: Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman Rule BRILL, 1975, ISBN 9004092714, p. 353. "South Syria was thus a comparatively late addition to the Seleucid empire, whose heartland was North Syria. Here Seleucus himself created four cities—his capital of Antiochia-on-the-Orontes, and Apamea, Seleucia and Laodicia—all new foundations with a European citizen body. Twelve other Hellenistic cities are known there, and the Seleucid army was largely based in this region, either garrisoning its towns or settled as reservists in military colonies. Hellenization, although intensive, seems in the main to have been confined to these urban centers, where Greek was commonly spoken. The country people appear to have been little affected by the cultural change, and continued to speak Syriac and to follow their traditional ways. Despite its political importance, little is known of Syria under Macedonian rule, and even the process of hellenization is mainly to be traced in the one community which has preserved some records from this time, namely the Jews of South Syria."
  8. ^ Isaac, Benjamin H. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. Princeton University Press, 2004, ISBN 0691125988, p. 144. "Apparently the best and most pleasing compliment one could pay to a Hellenistic establishment in Asia Minor was to insist on the lineage of its ancestors: they were not a city of nondescript migrants but of Greeks and Macedonians of true blood. Once again, we see that such views were very common, but there were critics."
  9. ^ Giannēs Koliopoulos and Thanos Veremēs. Greece: The Modern Sequel: From 1831 to the Present. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1850654638, pp. 232-241.
  10. ^ Lambropoulos, Vasilis G. ΤΟ ΒΗΜΑ Online. "Οι παράνομες ελληνοποιήσεις και τα κόλπα της ρωσικής μαφίας". 22 August 1999 (Accessed: 9 December 2009).


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary





Hellenization (plural Hellenizations)

  1. (North American) Alternative spelling of Hellenisation.


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