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The Hellenistic period is the period of ancient Greek and eastern Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the subsequent conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt the following year. At this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its peak in Europe, Africa and Asia, experiencing prosperity and progress in the arts, exploration, literature, theatre, architecture, music, mathematics, philosophy, and science. It is often considered a period of transition, sometimes even of decadence or degeneration, compared to the brilliance of the Greek Classical era.
After Alexander the Great's ventures in the Persian Empire, Hellenistic kingdoms were established throughout south-west Asia (Seleucid Empire, Kingdom of Pergamon) and north-east Africa (Ptolemaic Kingdom). This resulted in the export of Greek culture and language to these new realms, and moreover Greek colonists themselves. Equally, however, these new kingdoms were influenced by the indigenous cultures, adopting local practices where beneficial, necessary, or convenient. Hellenistic culture thus represents a fusion of the Ancient Greek world with that of the Near East, Middle East, and Southwest Asia, and a departure from earlier Greek attitudes towards "barbarian" cultures. The Hellenistic period was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization (as distinguished from that occurring in the 8th–6th centuries BC) which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa. Those new cities were composed of Greek colonists who came from different parts of the Greek world, and not, as before, from a specific "mother city". The main cultural centers expanded from mainland Greece to Pergamon, Rhodes, and new Greek colonies such as Seleucia, Antioch and Alexandria. This mixture of Greek-speakers gave birth to a common Attic-based dialect, known as Koine Greek, which became the lingua franca through the Hellenistic world. Scholar and historians are divided as to what event signals the end of the Hellenistic era. The Hellenistic period may be seen to end either with the final conquest of the Greek heartlands by Rome in 146 BC following the Achean War, with the final defeat of the Ptolemaic Kingdom at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, or even the move by Roman emperor Constantine the Great of the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople in 330 AD.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Background
- 3 The Ptolemaic kingdom
- 4 The Seleucid Empire
- 5 Arabian Peninsula
- 6 Greek peninsula
- 7 The Greco-Bactrians
- 8 The Indo-Greek kingdoms
- 9 The Kingdom of Pontus
- 10 Rise of Rome
- 11 Culture
- 12 The Hellenistic period and modern culture
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
The word "Hellenistic" is a modern word and a 19th-century concept; the idea of a Hellenistic period did not exist in Ancient Greece. Although related in form or meaning words, e.g. Hellenist (Ancient Greek: Ἑλληνιστής, Hellēnistēs), have been attested since ancient times, it was J. G. Droysen in the mid-19th century, who in his classic work Geschichte des Hellenismus, i.e. History of Hellenism, coined the term Hellenistic to refer to and define the period when Greek culture spread in the non-Greek world after Alexander’s conquest. Following Droysen, Hellenistic and related terms, e.g. Hellenism, have been widely used in various contexts; a notable such use of the terms is, following Matthew Arnold, in contrast to Hebraism.
The major issue with the term Hellenistic lies in its convenience, as the spread of Greek culture was not the generalized phenomenon that the term implies. Some areas of the conquered world were more affected by Greek influences than others. The term Hellenistic also implies that the Greek populations were of majority in the areas in which they settled, while in many cases, the Greek settlers were actually the minority among the native populations. The Greek population and the native population did not always mix; the Greeks moved and brought their own culture, but interaction did not always occur.
Ancient Greece had traditionally been a fractious collection of fiercely independent city-states. After the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), Greece had fallen under a Spartan hegemony, in which Sparta was pre-eminent but not all-powerful. Spartan hegemony was succeeded by a Theban one after the Battle of Leuctra (371 BC), but after the Battle of Mantinea (362 BC), all of Greece was so weakened that no one state could claim pre-eminence. It was against this backdrop, that the ascendancy of Macedon began, under king Philip II. Macedon was located at the periphery of the Greek world, and although its royal family claimed Greek descent, the Macedonians themselves were looked down upon as semi-barbaric by the rest of the Greeks. However, Macedon had a relatively strong and centralised government, and compared to most Greek states, directly controlled a large area.
Philip II was a strong and expansionist king and he took every opportunity to expand Macedonian territory. In 352 BC he annexed Thessaly and Magnesia. In 338 BC, Philip defeated a combined Theban and Athenian army at the Battle of Chaeronea after a decade of desultory conflict. In the aftermath, Philip formed the League of Corinth, effectively bringing the majority of Greece under his direct sway. He was elected Hegemon of the league, and a campaign against the Achaemenid Empire of Persia was planned. However, while this campaign was in its early stages, he was assassinated.
Succeeding his father, Alexander took over the Persian war himself. During a decade of campaigning, Alexander conquered the whole Persian Empire, overthrowing the Persian king Darius III. The conquered lands included Asia Minor, Assyria, the Levant, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Media, Persia, and parts of modern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the steppes of central Asia. The years of constant campaigning had taken their toll however, and Alexander died in 323 BC.
After his death, the huge territories Alexander had conquered became subject to a strong Greek influence (hellenization) for the next two or three centuries, until the rise of Rome in the west, and of Parthia in the east. As the Greek and Levantine cultures mingled, the development of a hybrid Hellenistic culture began, and persisted even when isolated from the main centres of Greek culture (for instance, in the Greco-Bactrian kingdom).
It can be argued that some of the changes across the Macedonian Empire after Alexander's conquests and during the rule of the Diadochi would have occurred without the influence of Greek rule. As mentioned by Peter Green, numerous factors of conquest have been merged under the term Hellenistic Period. Specific areas conquered by Alexander's invading army, including Egypt and areas of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia "fell" willingly to conquest and viewed Alexander as more of a liberator than a victor.
In addition, much of the area conquered would continue to be ruled by the Diadochi, Alexander's generals and successors. Initially the whole empire was divided among them; however, some territories were lost relatively quickly, or only remained nominally under Macedonian rule. After 200 years, only much reduced and rather degenerate states remained, until the conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt by Rome.
When Alexander the Great died (June 10, 323 BC), he left behind a huge empire which was composed of many essentially independent territories. Alexander's empire stretched from his homeland of Macedon itself, along with the Greek city-states that his father had subdued, to Bactria and parts of India in the east. It included Anatolia, the Levant, Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia.
Without a chosen successor there was almost immediately a dispute among his generals as to who his successor should be. Meleager and the infantry supported the candidacy of Alexander's half-brother, Arrhidaeus, while Perdiccas, the leading cavalry commander, supported waiting until the birth of Alexander's unborn child by Roxana. A compromise was arranged – Arrhidaeus (as Philip III) should become king, and should rule jointly with Roxana's child, assuming that it was a boy (as it was, becoming Alexander IV). Perdiccas himself would become regent of the entire empire, and Meleager his lieutenant. Soon, however, Perdiccas had Meleager and the other infantry leaders murdered, and assumed full control.
The other cavalry generals who had supported Perdiccas were rewarded in the partition of Babylon by becoming satraps of the various parts of the empire. Ptolemy received Egypt; Laomedon received Syria and Phoenicia; Philotas took Cilicia; Peithon took Media; Antigonus received Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia; Asander received Caria; Menander received Lydia; Lysimachus received Thrace; Leonnatus received Hellespontine Phrygia; and Neoptolemus had Armenia. Macedon and the rest of Greece were to be under the joint rule of Antipater, who had governed them for Alexander, and Craterus, Alexander's most able lieutenant, while Alexander's old secretary, Eumenes of Cardia, was to receive Cappadocia and Paphlagonia.
In the east, Perdiccas largely left Alexander's arrangements intact – Taxiles and Porus ruled over their kingdoms in India; Alexander's father-in-law Oxyartes ruled Gandhara; Sibyrtius ruled Arachosia and Gedrosia; Stasanor ruled Aria and Drangiana; Philip ruled Bactria and Sogdiana; Phrataphernes ruled Parthia and Hyrcania; Peucestas governed Persis; Tlepolemus had charge over Carmania; Atropates governed northern Media; Archon got Babylonia; and Arcesilaus ruled northern Mesopotamia. By about 281 BC, the situation had stabilised, resulting in four major domains:
- The Antigonid dynasty in Macedon and central Greece;
- The Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria;
- The Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Mesopotamia based at Antioch;
- The Attalid dynasty in Anatolia based at Pergamum.
The Ptolemaic kingdom
Ptolemy, a somatophylax, one of the seven bodyguards who served as Alexander the Great's generals and deputies, was appointed satrap of Egypt after Alexander's death in 323 BC. In 305 BC, he declared himself King Ptolemy I, later known as "Soter" (saviour). The Egyptians soon accepted the Ptolemies as the successors to the pharaohs of independent Egypt. Ptolemy's family ruled Egypt until the Roman conquest of 30 BC.
All the male rulers of the dynasty took the name Ptolemy. Ptolemaic queens, some of whom were the sisters of their husbands, were usually called Cleopatra, Arsinoe or Berenice. The most famous member of the line was the last queen, Cleopatra VII, known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her suicide at the conquest by Rome marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt.
The Seleucid Empire
Following the carving up of Alexander's empire, Seleucus I Nicator received Babylonia. From there, he created a new empire which expanded to include much of Alexander's near eastern territories. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir, and parts of Pakistan.
The Seleucid Empire was a major center of Hellenistic culture which maintained the preeminence of Greek customs and where a Greek-Macedonian political elite dominated, mostly in the urban areas. The Greek population of the cities who formed the dominant elite were reinforced by emigration from Greece. Seleucid expansion into Anatolia and Greece was abruptly halted after decisive defeats at the hands of the Roman army. Their attempts to defeat their old enemy Ptolemaic Egypt was frustrated by Roman demands. Much of the eastern part of the empire was conquered by the Parthians under Mithridates I of Parthia in the mid-2nd century BC, yet the Seleucid kings continued to rule a rump state from Syria until the invasion by Armenian king Tigranes the Great and their ultimate overthrow by the Roman general Pompey.
Bahrain was referred to by the Greeks as Tylos, the centre of pearl trading, when Nearchus came to discover it serving under Alexander the Great. From the 6th to 3rd century BC Bahrain was included in Persian Empire by Achaemenians, an Iranian dynasty. The Greek admiral Nearchus is believed to have been the first of Alexander's commanders to visit these islands, and he found a verdant land that was part of a wide trading network; he recorded: "That in the island of Tylos, situated in the Persian Gulf, are large plantations of cotton tree, from which are manufactured clothes called sindones, a very different degrees of value, some being costly, others less expensive. The use of these is not confined to India, but extends to Arabia." The Greek historian, Theophrastus, states that much of the islands were covered in these cotton trees and that Tylos was famous for exporting walking canes engraved with emblems that were customarily carried in Babylon.
It is not known whether Bahrain was part of the Seleucid Empire, although the archaeological site at Qalat Al Bahrain has been proposed as a Seleucid base in the Persian Gulf. Alexander had planned to settle the eastern shores of the Persian Gulf with Greek colonists, and although it is not clear that this happened on the scale he envisaged, Tylos was very much part of the Hellenised world: the language of the upper classes was Greek (although Aramaic was in everyday use), while Zeus was worshipped in the form of the Arabian sun-god Shams. Tylos even became the site of Greek athletic contests.
The name Tylos is thought to be a Hellenisation of the Semitic, Tilmun (from Dilmun). The term Tylos was commonly used for the islands until Ptolemy's Geographia when the inhabitants are referred to as 'Thilouanoi'. Some place names in Bahrain go back to the Tylos era, for instance, the residential suburb of Arad in Muharraq, is believed to originate from "Arados", the ancient Greek name for Muharraq island.
The ancient Greeks speculated as to whether the Phoenicians were originally from Tylos. According to the 19th century German classicist, Arnold Heeren: "In the Greek geographers, for instance, we read of two islands, named Tyrus or Tylos, and Aradus, which boasted that they were the mother country of the Phoenicians, and exhibited relics of Phoenician temples." The people of Tyre in particular have long maintained Persian Gulf origins, and the similarity in the words "Tylos" and "Tyre" has been commented upon.
With the waning of Seleucid Greek power, Tylos was incorporated into Characene or Mesenian, the state founded in what today is Kuwait by Hyspaosines in 127 BC. A building inscription found in Bahrain indicate that Hyspoasines occupied the islands, (and it also mentions his wife, Thalassia). From the third century BC to arrival of Islam in the seventh century AD, Bahrain was controlled by two other Iranian dynasties of Parthians and Sassanids.
By about 250 BC, Seleucids lost their territories to Parthians, an Iranian tribe from Central Asia. Parthian dynasty brought the Persian Gulf under their control and extended their influence as far as Oman. Because they needed to control the Persian Gulf trade route, the Parthians established garrisons in the southern coast of Persian Gulf.
During the Hellenistic period the importance of Greece proper within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria respectively. Cities such as Pergamon, Ephesus, Rhodes and Seleucia were also important, and increasing urbanization of the Eastern Mediterranean was characteristic of the time.
The conquests of Alexander had a number of consequences for the Greek city-states. They greatly widened the horizons of the Greek world, making the endless conflicts between the cities which had marked the 5th and 4th centuries BC seem petty and unimportant. It led to a steady emigration, particularly of the young and ambitious, to the new Greek empires in the east. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch and the many other new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander's wake, as far away as what are now Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom survived until the end of the 1st century BC.
The defeat of the Greek cities by Philip and Alexander also taught the Greeks that their city-states could never again be powers in their own right, and that the hegemony of Macedon and its successor states could not be challenged unless the city states united, or at least federated. The Greeks valued their local independence too much to consider actual unification, but they made several attempts to form federations, most prominently the Aetolian League and the Achaean League, through which they could hope to reassert their independence.
Following Alexander's death a struggle for power broke out among his generals, which resulted in the break-up of his empire and the establishment of a number of new kingdoms. Macedon fell to Cassander, son of Alexander's leading general Antipater, who after several years of warfare made himself master of most of the rest of Greece. He founded a new Macedonian capital at Thessaloniki and was generally a constructive ruler.
Cassander's power was challenged by Antigonus, ruler of Anatolia, who promised the Greek cities that he would restore their freedom if they supported him. This led to successful revolts against Cassander's local rulers. In 307 BC, Antigonus's son Demetrius captured Athens and restored its democratic system, which had been suppressed by Alexander. But in 301 BC, a coalition of Cassander and the other Hellenistic kings defeated Antigonus at the Battle of Ipsus, ending his challenge.
After Cassander's death in 298 BC, however, Demetrius seized the Macedonian throne and gained control of most of Greece. He was defeated by a second coalition of Greek rulers in 285 BC, and mastery of Greece passed to the king Lysimachus of Thrace. Lysimachus was in turn defeated and killed in 280 BC. The Macedonian throne then passed to Demetrius's son Antigonus II, who also defeated an invasion of the Greek lands by the Gauls, who at this time were living in the Balkans. The battle against the Gauls united the Antigonids of Macedon and the Seleucids of Antioch, an alliance which was also directed against the wealthiest Hellenistic power, the Ptolemies of Egypt.
Antigonus II ruled until his death in 239 BC, and his family retained the Macedonian throne until it was abolished by the Romans in 146 BC. Their control over the Greek city states was intermittent, however, since other rulers, particularly the Ptolemies, subsidised anti-Macedonian parties in Greece to undermine the Antigonids' power. Antigonus placed a garrison at Corinth, the strategic centre of Greece, but Athens, Rhodes, Pergamum and other Greek states retained substantial independence, and formed the Aetolian League as a means of defending it. Sparta also remained independent, but generally refused to join any league.
In 267 BC, Ptolemy II persuaded the Greek cities to revolt against Antigonus, in what became the Chremonidian War, after the Athenian leader Chremonides. The cities were defeated and Athens lost her independence and her democratic institutions. The Aetolian League was restricted to the Peloponnese, but on being allowed to gain control of Thebes in 245 BC became a Macedonian ally. This marked the end of Athens as a political actor, although it remained the largest, wealthiest and most cultivated city in Greece. In 255 BC, Antigonus defeated the Egyptian fleet at Cos and brought the Aegean islands, except Rhodes, under his rule as well.
Antigonus II died in 239 BC. His death saw another revolt of the city-states of the Achaean League, whose dominant figure was Aratus of Sicyon. Antigonus's son Demetrius II died in 229 BC, leaving a child (Philip V) as king, with the general Antigonus Doson as regent. The Achaeans, while nominally subject to Ptolemy, were in effect independent, and controlled most of southern Greece. Athens remained aloof from this conflict by common consent.
Sparta remained hostile to the Achaeans, and in 227 BC Sparta's king Cleomenes III invaded Achaea and seized control of the League. Aratus preferred distant Macedon to nearby Sparta, and allied himself with Doson, who in 222 BC defeated the Spartans and annexed their city – the first time Sparta had ever been occupied by a foreign power.
Philip V, who came to power when Doson died in 221 BC, was the last Macedonian ruler with both the talent and the opportunity to unite Greece and preserve its independence against the "cloud rising in the west": the ever-increasing power of Rome. He was known as "the darling of Hellas". Under his auspices the Peace of Naupactus (217 BC) brought conflict between Macedon and the Greek leagues to an end, and at this time he controlled all of Greece except Athens, Rhodes and Pergamum.
In 215 BC, however, Philip formed an alliance with Rome's enemy Carthage, which drew Rome directly into Greek affairs for the first time. Rome promptly lured the Achaean cities away from their nominal loyalty to Philip, and formed alliances with Rhodes and Pergamum, now the strongest power in Asia Minor. The First Macedonian War broke out in 212 BC, and ended inconclusively in 205 BC, but Macedon was now marked as an enemy of Rome. Rome's ally Rhodes gained control of the Aegean islands.
In 202 BC, Rome defeated Carthage, and was free to turn her attention eastwards, urged on by her Greek allies, Rhodes and Pergamum. In 198 BC, the Second Macedonian War broke out for obscure reasons, but very likely because Rome saw Macedon as a potential ally of the Seleucids, the greatest power in the east. Philip's allies in Greece deserted him and in 197 BC he was decisively defeated at the Cynoscephalae by the Roman proconsul Titus Quinctius Flamininus.
Luckily for the Greeks, Flamininus was a moderate man and an admirer of Greek culture. Philip had to surrender his fleet and become a Roman ally, but was otherwise spared. At the Isthmian Games in 196 BC, Flamininus declared all the Greek cities free, although Roman garrisons were placed at Corinth and Chalcis. But the freedom promised by Rome was an illusion. All the cities except Rhodes were enrolled in a new League which Rome ultimately controlled, and democracies were replaced by aristocratic regimes allied to Rome.
In 192 BC, war broke out between Rome and the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III. Antiochus invaded Greece with a 10,000 man army, and was elected the commander in chief of the Aetolians . Some Greek cities now thought of Antiochus as their saviour from Roman rule, but Macedon threw its lot in with Rome. In 191 BC, the Romans under Manius Acilius Glabrio routed him at Thermopylae and obliged him to withdraw to Asia. During the course of this war Roman troops moved into Asia for the first time, where they defeated Antiochus again at Magnesia on the Sipylum (190 BC). Greece now lay across Rome's line of communications with the east, and Roman soldiers became a permanent presence. The Peace of Apamaea (188 BC) left Rome in a dominant position throughout Greece.
During the following years Rome was drawn deeper into Greek politics, since the defeated party in any dispute appealed to Rome for help. Macedon was still independent, though nominally a Roman ally. When Philip V died in 179 BC, he was succeeded by his son Perseus, who like all the Macedonian kings dreamed of uniting the Greeks under Macedonian rule. Macedon was now too weak to achieve this objective, but Rome's ally Eumenes II of Pergamum persuaded Rome that Perseus was a potential threat to Rome's position.
End of Greek independence
As a result of Eumenes's intrigues, Rome declared war on Macedon in 171 BC, bringing 100,000 troops into Greece. Macedon was no match for this army, and Perseus was unable to rally the other Greek states to his aid. Poor generalship by the Romans enabled him to hold out for three years, but in 168 BC the Romans sent Lucius Aemilius Paullus to Greece, and at Pydna the Macedonians were crushingly defeated. Perseus was captured and taken to Rome, the Macedonian kingdom was broken up into four smaller states, and all the Greek cities who aided her, even rhetorically, were punished. Even Rome's allies Rhodes and Pergamum effectively lost their independence.
Under the leadership of an adventurer called Andriscus, Macedon rebelled against Roman rule in 149 BC: as a result it was directly annexed the following year and became a Roman province, the first of the Greek states to suffer this fate. Rome now demanded that the Achaean League, the last stronghold of Greek independence, be dissolved. The Achaeans refused and, feeling that they might as well die fighting, declared war on Rome. Most of the Greek cities rallied to the Achaeans' side, even slaves were freed to fight for Greek independence. The Roman consul Lucius Mummius advanced from Macedonia and defeated the Greeks at Corinth, which was razed to the ground.
In 146 BC, the Greek peninsula, though not the islands, became a Roman protectorate. Roman taxes were imposed, except in Athens and Sparta, and all the cities had to accept rule by Rome's local allies. In 133 BC, the last king of Pergamum died and left his kingdom to Rome: this brought most of the Aegean peninsula under direct Roman rule as part of the province of Asia.
The final downfall of Greece came in 88 BC, when King Mithridates of Pontus rebelled against Rome, and massacred up to 100,000 Romans and Roman allies across Asia Minor. Although Mithridates was not Greek, many Greek cities, including Athens, overthrew their Roman puppet rulers and joined him. When he was driven out of Greece by the Roman general Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Roman vengeance fell upon Greece again, and the Greek cities never recovered. Mithridates was finally defeated by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) in 65 BC.
Further ruin was brought to Greece by the Roman civil wars, which were partly fought in Greece. Finally, in 27 BC, Augustus directly annexed Greece to the new Roman Empire as the province of Achaea. The struggles with Rome had left Greece depopulated and demoralised. Nevertheless, Roman rule at least brought an end to warfare, and cities such as Athens, Corinth, Thessaloniki and Patras soon recovered their prosperity.
The Greek kingdom of Bactria (or Greco-Bactrian kingdom) began as an offshoot of the Seleucid empire. The sheer size of the eastern Seleucid domains must mean that the satraps governing the provinces had significant freedom from central control. In around 250 BC, the governor of Bactria, Sogdiana and Margiana, one Diodotus, took this process to its logical extreme and declared himself king. At around the same time, the re-emergence of a native Persian dynasty under the Parthian king Arsaces effectively cut the nascent Greco-Bactrian kingdom off from the rest of the Seleucid empire. This probably allowed it to maintain its independence in the medium term, but in the long-term may have contributed to its decline and fall; it could no longer receive manpower or aid from other Hellenistic regions at sufficient levels.
Diodotus II, son of Diodotus, was overthrown in about 230 BC by Euthydemus, possibly the satrap of Sogdiana, who then started his own dynasty. In c. 210 BC, the Greco-Bactrian kingdom was invaded by a resurgent Seleucid empire under Antiochus III. While victorious in the field, it seems Antiochus came to realise that there were advantages in the status quo (perhaps sensing that Bactria could not be governed from Syria), and married one of his daughters to Euthydemus's son, thus legitimising Greco-Bactria. Soon afterwards the Greco-Bactrian kingdom seems to have expanded, possibly taking advantage of the defeat of the Parthian king Arsaces II by Antiochus.
Demetrius, son and successor of Euthydemus, invaded north-western India in 180 BC, after the destruction of the Mauryan empire there; the Mauryans were probably allies of the Bactrians (and Seleucids). The exact justification for the invasion remains unclear, but by about 175 BC, the Greeks ruled over parts of north-western India.
This period also marks the beginning of the obfuscation of Greco-Bactrian history. Demetrius possibly died about 180 BC; numismatic evidence suggest the existence of several other kings shortly thereafter. It is probable that at this point that the Greco-Bactrian kingdom split into several semi-independent regions for some years; Euthydemus II (son of Demetrius?) seems to have ruled in Bactria, with Agathocles, Antimachus I and Pantaleon ruling in India. In around 171 BC the usurper Eucratides I swept to power in Bactria, removing whichever king(s) were actually ruling at that point. Similarly, in India, the general Apollodotus I seems to have assumed more-or-less complete power by around 170 BC, thereby marking the true start of the Indo-Greek kingdom (see below).
Eucratides may have been a member of the Seleucid royal family, who set out to (re)claim the Bactrian lands. Eucratides certainly had a vast and prestigious coinage, suggesting he was a ruler of considerable importance. He appears to have re-invigorated the Bactrian kingdom, although territory was lost to Parthia in the west. He fought with the Indo-Greeks, and appears to have occupied India up to the river Indus for a while. However, his murder in 145 BC triggered a civil war which fatally weakened the kingdom as his sons Eucratides II and Heliocles I fought each other. Heliocles was the last Greek to clearly rule Bactria, his power collapsing in the face of tribal invasions of Bactria, by about 130 BC. However, Greek urban civilisation seems to have continued in Bactria after the fall of the kingdom, having a hellenising effect on the tribes which had displaced Greek-rule.
The Indo-Greek kingdoms
The separation of the Indo-Greek kingdom from the Greco-Bactrian kingdom resulted in an even more isolated position, and thus the details of the Indo-Greek kingdom are even more obscure than for Bactria. Many supposed kings in India are known only because of coins bearing their name. The numismatic evidence together with archaeological finds and the scant historical records suggest that the fusion of eastern and western cultures reached its peak in the Indo-Greek kingdom.
As mentioned, Apollodotus made himself king of 'India' in around 170 BC. The exact fate of Apollodotus is unknown, but he seems to have extended the conquests east into Gandhara and western Punjab. In about 155 (or 165) BC he seems to have been succeeded by the most successful of the Indo-Greek kings, Menander I. Menander converted to Buddhism, and seems to have been a great patron of the religion; he is remembered in some Buddhist texts as 'Milinda'. He also expanded the kingdom further east into Punjab, though these conquests were rather ephemeral.
After the death of Menander (c. 130 BC), the Kingdom appears to have fragmented, with several 'kings' attested contemporaneously in different regions. This inevitably weakened the Greek position, and territory seems to have been lost progressively. Around 70 BC, the western regions of Arachosia and Paropamisadae were lost to tribal invasions, presumably by those tribes responsible for the end of the Bactrian kingdom. The resulting Indo-Scythian kingdom seems to have gradually pushed the remaining Indo-Greek kingdom towards the east. The Indo-Greek kingdom appears to have lingered on in western Punjab until about 10 AD when finally ended by the Indo-Scythians.
For centuries after the demise of the Indo-Greek kingdom, Greek civilization influenced Indian culture, art, and language. Even the depictions of Buddha appear to have been influenced by Greek culture: Buddha representations in the Ghandara period often showed Buddha under the protection of Herakles.
Influence of Indian culture
Several references in Indian literature praise the knowledge of the Yavanas or the Greeks. The Mahabharata compliments them as "the all-knowing Yavanas" (sarvajnaa yavanaa) i.e. "The Yavanas, O king, are all-knowing; the Suras are particularly so. The mlecchas are wedded to the creations of their own fancy." and the creators of flying machines that are generally called vimanas.
Yet another Indian text, (Gargi-Samhita), also similarly compliments the Yavanas saying: "The Yavanas are barbarians yet the science of astronomy originated with them and for this they must be revered like gods".
The Kingdom of Pontus
The Kingdom of Pontus was a Hellenistic kingdom on the southern coast of the Black Sea. It was founded by Mithridates I in 291 BC and lasted until its conquest by the Roman Republic in 63 BC. Despite being ruled by a dynasty which was a descendant of the Persian Achaemenid Empire it became hellenized due to the influence of the Greek cities on the Black Sea and its neighboring kingdoms. The kingdom grew to its largest extent under Mithridates VI the great, who conquered Colchis, Cappadocia, Bithynia, Lesser Armenia, the Greek colonies of the Tauric Chersonesos and for a brief time the Roman province of Asia. After a long struggle with Rome in the Mithridatic wars, Pontus was defeated, part of it was incorporated into the Roman Republic as the province Bithynia and Pontus and the eastern half survived as a client kingdom.
Rise of Rome
Widespread Roman interference in the Greek world was probably inevitable given the general manner of the ascendency of the Roman Republic. This Roman-Greek interaction began as a consequence of the Greek city-states located along the coast of southern Italy. Rome had come to dominate the Italian peninsula, and desired the submission of the Greek cities to its rule. Although they initially resisted, allying themselves with Pyrrhus of Epirus, and defeating the Romans at several battles, the Greek cities were unable to maintain this position and were absorbed by the Roman republic. Shortly afterwards, Rome became involved in Sicily, fighting against the Carthaginians in the First Punic War. The end result was the complete conquest of Sicily, including its previously powerful Greek cities, by the Romans.
The independent cities of Magna Graecia did not form part of the Hellenistic domains and had, by this time, been eclipsed in power by the Hellenistic kingdoms of the east. They also remained independent at a time when the Mediterranean was increasingly dominated by 'great powers'. This, and their proximity to Rome, had made them easy and obvious targets. Conversely, the major Hellenistic realms were not in the immediate Roman sphere of influence, and were powerful enough to deter Roman aggression. The events which, in retrospect, marked the beginning of the end for the Hellenistic kingdoms could have been avoided; even if it seems likely that a collision between them and Rome would have ultimately occurred.
Roman entanglement in the Balkans began, as so often, with trade. Illyrian piratical raids on Roman merchants twice led to a Roman task force invading Illyria (the First and, Second Illyrian Wars). Tension between Macedon and Rome increased when the young king of Macedon, Philip V harboured one of the chief pirates, Demetrius of Pharos (a former client of Rome). As a result, in an attempt to reduce Roman influence in the Balkans, Philip allied himself with Carthage after Hannibal had dealt the Romans a massive defeat at the Battle of Cannae (216 BC) during the Second Punic War. Forcing the Romans to fight on another front when they were at a nadir of manpower gained Philip the lasting enmity of the Romans; the only real result from the somewhat insubstantial First Macedonian War (215–202 BC).
Once the Second Punic War had been resolved, and the Romans had begun to regather their strength, they looked to re-assert their influence in the Balkans, and to curb the expansion of Philip. A pretext for war was provided by Philip's refusal to end his war with Attalid Pergamum, and Rhodes, both Roman allies. The Romans, also allied with the Aetolian League of Greek city-states (which resented Philip's power), thus declared war on Macedon in 200 BC, starting the Second Macedonian War. This ended with a decisive Roman victory at the Battle of Cynoscephalae (197 BC). Like most Roman peace treaties of the period, the resultant 'Peace of Flaminius' was designed utterly to crush the power of the defeated party; a massive indemnity was levied, Philip's fleet was surrendered to Rome, and Macedon was effectively returned to its ancient boundaries, losing influence over the city-states of southern Greece, and land in Thrace and Asia Minor. The result was the end of Macedon as a major power in the Mediterranean.
As a result of the confusion in Greece at the end of the Second Macedonian War, the Seleucid Empire also became entangled with the Romans. The Seleucid Antiochus III had allied with Philip V of Macedon in 203 BC, agreeing that they should jointly conquer the lands of the boy-king of Egypt, Ptolemy V. After defeating Ptolemy in the Fifth Syrian War, Antiochus concentrated on occupying the Ptolemaic possessions in Asia Minor. However, this brought Antiochus into conflict with Rhodes and Pergamum, two important Roman allies, and began a 'cold war' between Rome and Antiochus (not helped by the presence of Hannibal at the Seleucid court). Meanwhile, in mainland Greece, the Aetolian League, which had sided with Rome against Macedon, now grew to resent the Roman presence in Greece. This presented Antiochus III with a pretext to invade Greece and 'liberate' it from Roman influence, thus starting the Roman-Syrian War (192–188 BC). Another decisive Roman victory at the Battle of Magnesia (190 BC) saw the defeat of Antiochus. Another crippling treaty followed, with Seleucid possessions in Asia Minor removed and given to Rhodes and Pergamum, the size of the Seleucid navy reduced, and a massive war indemnity invoked.
Thus, in less than twenty years, Rome had destroyed the power of one of the successor states, crippled another, and firmly entrenched its influence over Greece. This was primarily a result of the over-ambition of the Macedonian kings, and their unintended provocation of Rome; though Rome was quick to exploit the situation. In another twenty years, the Macedonian kingdom was no more. Seeking to re-assert Macedonian power and Greek independence, Philip V's son Perseus incurred the wrath of the Romans, resulting in the Third Macedonian War (171–168 BC). Victorious, the Romans abolished the Macedonian kingdom, replacing it with four puppet republics; these lasted a further twenty years before Macedon was formally annexed as a Roman province (146 BC).
The Attalid dynasty of Pergamum lasted little longer; a Roman ally until the end, its final king Attalus III died in 133 BC without an heir, and taking the alliance to its natural conclusion, willed Pergamum to the Roman Republic.
Contrarily, having so firmly intricated themselves into Greek affairs, the Romans now completely ignored the rapidly disintegrating Seleucid empire (perhaps because it posed no threat); and left the Ptolemaic kingdom to decline quietly, while acting as a protector of sorts, in as much as to stop other powers taking Egypt over (including the famous line-in-the-sand incident when the Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to invade Egypt). Eventually, instability in the near east resulting from the power vacuum left by the collapse of the Seleucid empire caused the Roman proconsul Pompey the Great to abolish the Seleucid rump state, absorbing much of Syria into the Roman republic. Famously, the end of Ptolemaic Egypt came as the final act in the republican civil war between the Roman triumvirs Mark Anthony and Augustus Caesar. After the defeat of Anthony and his lover, the last Ptolemaic monarch, Cleopatra VII at the Battle of Actium, Augustus invaded Egypt and took it as his own personal fiefdom. He thereby completed both the destruction of the Hellenistic kingdoms and the Roman republic, and ended (in hindsight) the Hellenistic era.
In some fields Hellenistic culture thrived, particularly in its preservation of the past. As has been noted, the states of the Hellenistic period were deeply fixated with the past and its seemingly lost glories.
Athens retained its position as the most prestigious seat of higher education, especially in the domains of philosophy and rhetoric, with considerable libraries. Alexandria was arguably the second most important center of Greek learning. The Library of Alexandria was estimated to have had 700,000 volumes. The city of Pergamon became a major center of book production, possessing a library of some 200,000 volumes, second only to Alexandria's. The island of Rhodes boasted a famous finishing school for politics and diplomacy. Cicero was educated in Athens and Mark Antony in Rhodes. Antioch was founded as a metropolis and center of Greek learning which retained its status into the era of Christianity. Seleucia replaced Babylon as the metropolis of the lower Tigris.
The spread of Greek culture throughout the Near East and Asia owed much to the development of cities. Settlements such as Ai-Khanoum, situated on trade routes, allowed cultures to mix and spread. The identification of local gods with similar Greek deities facilitated the building of Greek-style temples, and the Greek culture in the cities also meant that buildings such as gymnasia became common. Many cities maintained their autonomy while under the nominal rule of the local king or satrap, and often had Greek-style institutions. Greek dedications, statues, architecture and inscriptions have all been found. However, local cultures were not replaced, and often mixed to create a new culture.
Greek language and literature spread throughout the former Persian Empire. The development of the Alexander Romance (mainly in Egypt) owes much to Greek theater as well as other styles of story. The Library at Alexandria, set up by Ptolemy I Soter, became a center for learning and was copied by various other monarchs. An example that shows the spread of Greek theater is Plutarch's story of the death of Crassus, in which his head was taken to the Parthian court and used as a prop in a performance of The Bacchae. Theaters have also been found: for example, in Ai-Khanoum on the edge of Bactria, the theater has 35 rows – larger than the theater in Babylon.
The spread of Greek influence and language is also shown through Ancient Greek coinage. Portraits became more realistic, and the obverse of the coin was often used to display a propaganda image, commemorating an event or displaying the image of a favored god. The use of Greek-style portraits and Greek language continued into the Parthian period, even as the use of Greek was in decline.
The concept of Hellenization, meaning the spread of Greek culture, has long been controversial. Undoubtedly Greek influence did spread through the Hellenistic realms, but to what extent, and whether this was a deliberate policy or mere cultural diffusion, have been hotly debated.
It seems likely that Alexander himself pursued deliberate 'Hellenization' policies. While it may have been a deliberate attempt to spread Greek culture, it is more likely that it was a series of pragmatic measures designed to aid in the rule of his enormous empire. These policies can also be interpreted as the result of Alexander's possible megalomania during his later years.
The first tenet of Alexander's policies was the founding (or re-founding) of cities across the empire. This has, in the past, been interpreted as part of Alexander's desire to spread Greek culture throughout the empire. These cities were presumably intended to be administrative headquarters in the regions, and to have been settled by Greeks; many were settled by veterans of Alexander's campaigns. Undoubtedly, this would have resulted in the spread of Greek influence across the empire; however, the primary purpose could have been to control his new subjects, rather than specifically to spread Greek culture. Arrian explicitly says that a city founded in Bactria was "meant to civilise the natives"; however, this comment could be interpreted in either way (with civilise as a euphemism for 'control'). Certainly, the cities would have been garrison points, and thus allowed control of the surrounding areas.
Secondly, Alexander attempted to create a unified ruling class of Persians and Greeks, bound by marriage ties. He used both Greeks and Persians in positions of power, although he depended more on Greeks in unstable positions, and also replaced many Persian satraps in a purge after his return from India. He also tried to mix the two cultures, adopting elements of the Persian court (such as a version of the royal robes and some of the court ceremony and attendants) and also attempting to insist on the practice of proskynesis for his Greek subjects. This is probably an attempt to equalize the two races in their behavior towards Alexander as 'Great King', but it was bitterly resented by the Macedonians, as the Greek custom was reserved solely for the gods. This policy can be interpreted as an attempt to spread Greek culture, or to create a hybrid culture. However, again, it is probably better seen as an attempt to help control the unwieldy empire; Alexander needed loyalty from Persian nobles as much as from his Macedonian officers. A hybrid court culture may have been created so as not to exclude the Persians. Furthermore, Alexander's marriage to, and child with the Bactrian princess Roxana can be interpreted as an attempt to create a royal dynasty which would be acceptable to both Asians and Greeks.
Alexander also unified the army, placing Persian soldiers (some trained in the Macedonian way of fighting and some in their original styles) in the Macedonian ranks. However, again, this can simply be seen as a pragmatic solution to chronic manpower problems. Alexander's increasing megalomania can be seen in his plan to completely homogenize the populations of Europe and Asia by mass re-settlement. While this thoroughly impractical plan could be interpreted as an attempt to create a new hybrid culture, the sheer ambitiousness of the plan suggests some other process at work.
In short, Alexander's policies did undoubtedly result in the spread of Greek culture, but whether this was their primary aim must remain doubtful. They probably represent, instead, pragmatic attempts by Alexander to control his extensive new territories, in part by presenting himself as the heir to both Greek and Asian legacies, rather than an outsider.
After Alexander's death in 323BC, the Empire was split into satrapies under his generals. Most of Alexander's cultural changes were rejected by the Diadochi, including the cross-cultural marriages they entered into. However, the influx of Greek colonists into the new realms continued to spread Greek culture into Asia. The founding of new cities continued to be a major part of the Successors' struggle for control of any particular region, and these continued to be centres of cultural diffusion. The spread of Greek culture under the Successors seems mostly to have occurred with the spreading of Greeks themselves, rather than as an active policy.
Despite their initial reluctance, the Successors seem to have later deliberately naturalised themselves to their different regions, presumably in order to help maintain control of the population. Thus, for instance, we find the Ptolemies, as early as Ptolemy I Soter, the first Hellenistic king of Egypt, portrayed as pharaohs. Similarly, in the Indo-Greek kingdom, we find kings who were converts to Buddhism (e.g. Menander). The Greeks in the regions therefore gradually become 'localised', adopting local customs as appropriate. In this way, hybrid 'Hellenistic' cultures naturally emerged, at least among the upper echelons of society.
In summary, Alexander's conquests and the Successor kingdoms allowed widespread Greek colonisation and cultural diffusion, but it is unlikely this was ever a deliberate policy. Furthermore, such Hellenization was accompanied by the opposite spread of Asian culture to Europe. Nevertheless, the upheavals which occurred during this period do seem to have resulted in the development of hybrid 'Hellenistic' cultures. As a final point, it should be noted that the degree of influence that Greek culture had throughout the Hellenistic regions is often exaggerated because of the great influence on later generations of a small number of extensively Hellenized cities, particularly Alexandria.
In the Hellenistic period, there was much continuity in Greek religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshiped, and the same rites were practiced as before. Change came from the addition of new religions from other countries, such as including the Egyptian god(esse)s of Isis and Serapis, and the Syrian gods of Atargatis and of Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfillment in both the present life and the afterlife. The worship of Hellenistic rulers was also a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adopted earlier pharaonic practice, and established themselves as god-kings. Elsewhere rulers might receive divine status without the full status of a god.
Magic was practiced widely, and these too, were a continuation from earlier times. Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles, and use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells. Also developed in this era was the complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to the educated elite.
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many different schools of thought developed in the Hellenistic world and then the Greco-Roman world. Hellenistic philosophy experienced an age of eclecticism, a new awakening of the diverse knowledge and theories present in Greek culture. Instead of contemplating and debating ideals, logic, extinguished emotion, or consummate beauty, people would explore and analyze reality. There were Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Syrians and Arabs who contributed to the development of Hellenistic philosophy. Elements of Persian philosophy and Indian philosophy also had an influence. The most notable schools of Hellenistic philosophy were:
- Neoplatonism: Plotinus (Egyptian), Ammonius Saccas, Porphyry (Syrian), Zethos (Arab), Iamblichus (Syrian), Proclus
- Academic Skepticism: Arcesilaus, Carneades, Cicero (Roman)
- Pyrrhonian Skepticism: (?) Pyrrho, Sextus Empiricus
- Cynicism: Antisthenes, Diogenes of Sinope, Crates of Thebes (taught Zeno of Citium, founder of Stoicism)
- Stoicism: Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Crates of Mallus (brought Stoicism to Rome c. 170 BC), Panaetius, Posidonius, Seneca (Roman), Epictetus (Greek/Roman), Marcus Aurelius (Roman)
- Epicureanism: Epicurus (Greek) and Lucretius (Roman)
- Eclecticism: (?) Cicero (Roman)
The spread of Christianity throughout the Roman world, followed by the spread of Islam, ushered in the end of Hellenistic philosophy and the beginnings of Medieval philosophy, which was dominated by the three Abrahamic traditions: Jewish philosophy, Christian philosophy, and early Islamic philosophy.
Hellenistic culture produced seats of learning in Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria along with Greek speaking populations across several monarchies. Hellenistic science differed from Greek science in at least two ways: first, it benefited from the cross-fertilization of Greek ideas with those that had developed in the larger Hellenistic world; secondly, to some extent, it was supported by royal patrons in the kingdoms founded by Alexander's successors. Especially important to Hellenistic science was the city of Alexandria in Egypt, which became a major center of scientific research in the 3rd century BC. Two institutions established there during the reigns of Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 323–283 BC) and Ptolemy II Philadelphus (r. 281–246 BC) were the Library and the Museum. Unlike Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, these institutions were officially supported by the Ptolemies; although the extent of patronage could be precarious, depending on the policies of the current ruler.
Hellenistic scholars frequently employed the principles developed in earlier Greek thought: the application of mathematics and deliberate empirical research, in their scientific investigations.
Geometers such as Archimedes (c. 287 – 212 BC), Apollonius of Perga (c. 262 – c. 190 BC), and Euclid (c. 325 – 265 BC), whose Elements became the most important textbook in mathematics until the 19th century, built upon the work of the Hellenic era Pythagoreans. Eratosthenes used his knowledge of geometry to measure the distance between the Sun and the Earth along with the size of the Earth.
Astronomers like Hipparchus (c. 190 – c. 120 BC) built upon the measurements of the Babylonian astronomers before him, to measure the precession of the Earth. Pliny reports that Hipparchus produced the first systematic star catalog after he observed a new star (it is uncertain whether this was a nova or a comet) and wished to preserve astronomical record of the stars, so that other new stars could be discovered. It has recently been claimed that a celestial globe based on Hipparchus's star catalog sits atop the broad shoulders of a large 2nd-century Roman statue known as the Farnese Atlas.
The level of Hellenistic achievement in astronomy and engineering is impressively shown by the Antikythera mechanism (150–100 BC). It is a 37-gear mechanical computer which computed the motions of the Sun and Moon, including lunar and solar eclipses predicted on the basis of astronomical periods believed to have been learned from the Babylonians. Devices of this sort are not found again until the 10th century, when a simpler eight-geared luni-solar calculator incorporated into an astrolabe was described by the Persian scholar, Al-Biruni.[not in citation given] Similarly complex devices were also developed by other Muslim engineers and astronomers during the Middle Ages.[not in citation given]
The interpretation of Hellenistic science varies widely. At one extreme is the view of the English classical scholar, Cornford, who believed that "all the most important and original work was done in the three centuries from 600 to 300 BC" At the other is the view of the Italian physicist and mathematician, Lucio Russo, who claims that scientific method was actually born in the 3rd century BC, to be forgotten during the Roman period and only revived in the Renaissance.
The term Hellenistic is a modern invention; the Hellenistic World not only included a huge area covering the whole of the Aegean, rather than the Classical Greece focused on the Poleis of Athens and Sparta, but also a huge time range. In artistic terms this means that there is huge variety which is often put under the heading of "Hellenistic Art" for convenience.
There has been a trend in writing the history of this period to depict Hellenistic art as a decadent style, following of the Golden Age of Classical Athens. Pliny the Elder, after having described the sculpture of the classical period says: Cessavit deinde ars ("then art disappeared"). The 18th century terms Baroque and Rococo have sometimes been applied, to the art of this complex and individual period. The renewal of the historiographic approach as well as some recent discoveries, such as the tombs of Vergina, allow a better appreciation of this period's artistic richness.
The Hellenistic period and modern culture
The focus on the Hellenistic period over the course of the 19th century by scholars and historians has led to an issue common to the study of historical periods; historians see the period of focus as a mirror of the period in which they are living. Many 19th century scholars contended that the Hellenistic period represented a cultural decline from the brilliance of classical Greece. Though this comparison is now seen as unfair and meaningless, it has been noted that even commentators of the time saw the end of a cultural era which could not be matched again. This may be inextricably linked with the nature of government. It has been noted by Herodotus that after the establishment of the Athenian democracy:
- ...the Athenians found themselves suddenly a great power. Not just in one field, but in everything they set their minds to...As subjects of a tyrant, what had they accomplished?...Held down like slaves they had shirked and slacked; once they had won their freedom, not a citizen but he could feel like he was labouring for himself"
Thus, with the decline of the Greek polis, and the establishment of monarchical states, the environment and social freedom in which to excel may have been reduced. A parallel can be drawn with the productivity of the city states of Italy during the Renaissance, and their subsequent decline under autocratic rulers.
However, William Woodthorpe Tarn, between World War I and World War II and the heyday of the League of Nations, focused on the issues of racial and cultural confrontation and the nature of colonial rule. Michael Rostovtzeff, who fled the Russian Revolution, concentrated predominantly on the rise of the capitalist bourgeoisie in areas of Greek rule. Arnaldo Momigliano, an Italian Jew who wrote before and after the Second World War, studied the problem of mutual understanding between races in the conquered areas. Moses Hadas portrayed an optimistic picture of synthesis of culture from the perspective of the 1950s, while Frank William Walbank in the 1960s and 1970s had a materialistic approach to the Hellenistic period, focusing mainly on class relations. Recently, however, papyrologist C. Préaux has concentrated predominantly on the economic system, interactions between kings and cities and provides a generally pessimistic view on the period. Peter Green, on the other hand, writes from the point of view of late 20th century liberalism, his focus being on individualism, the breakdown of convention, experiments and a postmodern disillusionment with all institutions and political processes.
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... and the Greeks, or at least the Greco-Macedonian Seleucid Empire, replace the Persians as the Easterners.
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The Seleucid kingdom has traditionally been regarded as basically a Greco-Macedonian state and its rulers thought of as successors to Alexander.
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The wars between the two most prominent Greek dynasties, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, unalterably change the history of the land of Israel.... As a result the land of Israel became part of the empire of the Syrian Greek Seleucids.
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In addition to the court and the army, Syrian cities were full of Greek businessmen, many of them pure Greeks from Greece. The senior posts in the civil service were also held by Greeks. Although the Ptolemies and the Seleucids were perpetual rivals, both dynasties were Greek and ruled by means of Greek officials and Greek soldiers. Both governments made great efforts to attract immigrants from Greece, thereby adding yet another racial element to the population.
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The Greco-Macedonian Elite. The Seleucids respected the cultural and religious sensibilities of their subjects but preferred to rely on Greek or Macedonian soldiers and administrators for the day-to-day business of governing. The Greek population of the cities, reinforced until the second century BC by emigration from Greece, formed a dominant, although not especially cohesive, elite.
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Like other Hellenistic kings, the Seleucids ruled with the help of their “friends” and a Greco-Macedonian elite class separate from the native populations whom they governed.
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Hero of Alexandria (lived c. AD 60) Greek mathematician and engineer, the greatest experimentalist of antiquity
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Imagine tossing a top-notch laptop into the sea, leaving scientists from a foreign culture to scratch their heads over its corroded remains centuries later. A Roman shipmaster inadvertently did something just like it 2,000 years ago off southern Greece, experts said late Thursday.
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