The Hellenistic era was launched by Alexander the Great, and his death is usually defined as the starting point. The Greek word Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) was in use before, during, and after the Hellenistic era as far as I can tell. I wonder whether Alexander's conquests and the onset of the Hellenistic era had an effect on the meaning of the Greek word itself. Was there a change in meaning from the time before Alexander to the time after him in the meaning of Ἕλληνες or related words?

  • This is a very interesting question and I hope a more erudite scholar will be able to answer it in detail. My impression was always that the "real" Greeks in Philip's time considered the Macedonians to be not Greek at all, being too tribal to be worth consideration. That fits Alexander into the same pattern as Napoleon (who was not French) and Hitler (who was not German). – Martin Kochanski Jun 19 at 6:21

With the spred of Alexsander's empire, a quasi-Greek culture spread throughout the countries he conquered. It rapidly became the prestige culture for those that wished to be up-to-date and cosmopolitan. Since these people were not Greekand the culture was not pure Greek, the people were known as Hellistists or Greek-like and the culture was known as Hellenistic.

  • Welcome to the site! Can you comment on the word "Hellenes" as well? The question was specifically about the change of meaning of that word. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 19 at 8:33

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