History of the Sciences in Greco-Roman Antiquity

By Arnold Reymond; Ruth Gheury De Bray | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE ALEXANDRIAN PERIOD

(from 300 B.C. to the first century of the Christian Era)

I F the conquests of Alexander the Great caused Greek language and science to penetrate into the East, they also brought about an upheaval of existing conditions. Greece lost her creative originality at the same time as her political autonomy. Athens certainly remained the seat of the philosophical schools, but in reality other towns, foremost amongst them Alexandria, became the centres of intellectual life. This now changed its character; instead of, as in the past, spreading through small democratic states, it concentrated in the capitals of the kingdoms which arose on the ruins of Alexander's empire, and hence was confined to smaller and smaller circles, for in spite of its diffusion, the Greek language, with its characteristic syntax and vocabulary, remained an unknown tongue to the masses of Asia Minor and Egypt. The classical works of Greece could only be appreciated by the chosen few. This state of affairs was unfavourable for literary and philosophical production. The latter, when it is intended for only a small circle of readers, is no longer animated by popular inspiration, and loses itself in subtlety, affectation and erudition.1 But for the sciences properly so called, these conditions were very advantageous. Owing to the diffusion of Greek culture throughout the eastern littoral of the Mediterranean, specialists were sure to meet with savants

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1
15 Heiberg, Naturwiss., p. 42.

-65-

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