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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

Nationality and religion in the fifth century 


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This epoch is of particularly great importance for the ways in which the main national and religious problems were met. The national problem was concerned with the discord among the different nationalities within the Empire as well as the conflicts with the tribes attacking it from without.

Hellenism, it would seem, should have been the main force unifying the varied population of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, but in reality it was not. Hellenistic influence could be found in the East as far as the Euphrates and in Egypt as early as the time of Alexander of Macedon and his successors. Alexander himself considered colonization one of the best means for transplanting Hellenism; it is said that he alone founded more than seventy cities in the East. His successors continued this policy of colonization. The areas to which Hellenism had spread to some extent reached as far as Armenia in the north and the Red Sea in the south and as far as Persia and Mesopotamia in the East. Beyond these provinces Hellenism did not reach. The main center of Hellenistic culture became the Egyptian city, Alexandria. All along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, Hellenic culture predominated. Of these three sections, Asia Minor was perhaps the most Hellenized; its coast had been occupied for a long period of time by Greek colonies, and their influence gradually, though not easily, penetrated into the interior of the region.

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