Hellenistic Age

Hellenistic Age
In the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, the period between the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) and the conquest of Egypt by Rome (30 BC).

Alexander and his successors established Greek monarchies that controlled the area from Greece to Afghanistan. The Macedonian Antigonid kingdom, the Middle Eastern Seleucid kingdom, and the Egyptian Ptolemaic kingdom spread Greek culture, mixed Greek and non-Greek populations, and fused Greek and Oriental elements. They produced effective bureaucracies and a common, creative culture based at Alexandria. A great flowering of the arts, literature, and science occurred particularly in the period 280–160. The decline of the Hellenic states occurred as Rome gained strength and won wars against Macedonia and against Mithradates VI Eupator, turning the kingdoms and their allies into Roman provinces. Egypt was the last to fall, after having been drawn into the civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian (Augustus).

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▪ ancient Greek history

      in the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC to the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BC. For some purposes the period is extended for a further three and a half centuries, to the move by Constantine the Great of his capital to Constantinople (Byzantium) in AD 330. From the breakup of Alexander's empire there arose numerous realms, including the Macedonian, the Seleucid, and the Ptolemaic, that served as the framework for the spread of Greek (Hellenic) culture, the mixture of Greek with other populations, and the fusion of Greek and Oriental elements.


Political developments

Alexander's successors
      Nothing shows the personality of Alexander the Great more clearly than the way in which people who had seemed pygmies at his side now became leaders of the world he had left behind. Blood still counted: the only male relative, a mentally impaired, illegitimate son of Philip, was proclaimed king as Philip III Arrhidaeus (c. 358–317), together with Rhoxane's son Alexander IV (323–310), born after his father's death in August; both were mere figureheads. For the moment Antipater was confirmed in authority in Macedon (Macedonia) and Greece. At Babylon power was shared by two senior officers, Perdiccas (c. 365–321) and Craterus (c. 370–321). By common consent, Alexander's ongoing plans were abandoned. His generals had to be content with the office of governor. Antigonus Monophthalmos (Antigonus I Monophthalmus) (“The One-eyed”; c. 382–301), like Antipater, was not in Babylon at the time of Alexander's death in 323. For almost 10 years he had been governing Phrygia and had shown himself a brave soldier and competent administrator. His firmness and tact were popular with the Greek cities. Of the generals in Babylon, it was Ptolemy (c. 367/366–283) who calculated from the first that the empire would not hold together. He secured for himself the governorship of Egypt, where he aspired to set up an independent kingdom. Lysimachus (c. 360–281) was given the less attractive assignment of governing Thrace. Two of the others, noted for their physical and military prowess, Leonnatus and Seleucus, waited on events. The soldiers discounted Eumenes of Cardia, who bore the main responsibility for civil administration, but he knew more about the empire than anyone else.

      An uprising by Greek mercenaries who had settled in Bactria but wanted to return to Greece was crushed. Trouble in Greece, led by the Athenians and aimed at liberating the cities from Macedonian garrisons, was tougher to control. Sparta refused to participate, as did the islands, but a coalition of Athens with Argos, Sicyon, Elis, and Messenia, supported by Boeotians, Aetolians, and Thessalians, was a formidable challenge to Antipater's authority. For a time Antipater was hard-pressed in Lamia (the war of 323–322 is known as the Lamian War). Leonnatus intervened, nominally in support but in fact ambitious to usurp Antipater's power; he was killed in action, however. In the end Antipater won, Athens capitulated, and Demosthenes (the voice and symbol of anti-Macedonian feeling) committed suicide. Antipater reestablished Macedonian authority autocratically, with no nonsense about a “free” League of Corinth.

      The story of the jockeying for power during the next two decades or so is inordinately complex. First Perdiccas, governing in the name of the two kings with the support of Eumenes, was charged with personal ambition and was assassinated. The armies made Antipater regent (Craterus had been killed in battle), and Antigonus, with Antipater's son Cassander (c. 358–297) as second-in-command, was placed in charge of the armies in Asia. Ptolemy was secure in Egypt; Seleucus (c. 358–281), governor of Babylon, and Lysimachus in Thrace continued to watch and wait; and Eumenes, a non-Macedonian with a fortune behind him, could claim to represent the kings against the ambitions of generals and governors.

      Then, in 319, Antipater died and was succeeded by a senior commander but maladroit politician named Polyperchon, who tried to win the Greeks of the mainland by a new proclamation of their liberties. The result was that the Athenians used their freedom to execute the pro-Macedonians, including the worthy but compromising Phocion. War flared up. Eumenes, allied with Polyperchon, challenged Antigonus and secured Babylon, but he was betrayed and killed in 316. Seleucus escaped to Egypt. Polyperchon's position was weak, and he was soon ousted by the able, up-and-coming Cassander. In becoming master of Macedon and most of Greece, Cassander rebuilt Thebes and put the Aristotelian Demetrius of Phalerum in charge of Athens. Olympias, Alexander the Great's terrible mother, had eliminated Philip III. Cassander had her put to death, while keeping Rhoxane and Alexander IV under his protection—or guard.

      Antigonus was now the dominant figure of the old brigade. Cassander, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus formed a coalition against him. For four years (315–311) they fought indecisively. Antigonus showed himself energetic, resourceful, and imaginative, but he could not strike a decisive blow. The only major change came in the brilliant coup by which Seleucus succeeded in recovering Babylon. In 311 the four leaders agreed to divide the world, leaving Ptolemy with Egypt and Cyprus, Antigonus with Asia, Lysimachus with Thrace, and Cassander with Macedonia and Greece, but only until Alexander IV came of age in 305. Seleucus was left out.

      Royal blood, however, was quickly forgotten in the pursuit of power. Cassander murdered Rhoxane and young Alexander in 310, soon after Antigonus had vainly tried to crush Seleucus. Seleucus, however, held on to a damaged Babylon and the eastern provinces, except for India, which he had to yield to the Indian king Chandragupta. Antigonus now had the effective support of his brilliant son Demetrius (Demetrius I Poliorcetes) (336–283), known as Poliorcetes, or Besieger, who ousted the other Demetrius and restored the democracy and eventually the League of Corinth; he was hymned with divine honours and given the Parthenon as his palace. Demetrius, also in 306, crushed Ptolemy in a naval battle and secured Cyprus and the Aegean, though he failed in a famous siege of Rhodes (305–304). Antigonus and Demetrius now proclaimed themselves joint kings in succession to Alexander. Antigonus, however, failed to conquer Egypt, and the other rulers also took the title of king. Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy formed an alliance against Antigonus and Demetrius, and at Ipsus in 301 the allies, with the help of a force of elephants brought from India by Seleucus, defeated and killed Antigonus. Demetrius escaped, retaining Tyre and Sidon and command of the sea. Lysimachus took large portions of Anatolia; Seleucus assumed control over Mesopotamia and Syria, except for a part in the south occupied de facto by Ptolemy; and Cassander was content with Macedonia and parts of Greece.

      Cassander, who was a statesman, had founded two great cities, Cassandreia and Thessalonica, as well as rebuilding Thebes. His death in 297 was a prelude to more disturbances. Demetrius conquered most of Greece and secured Macedonia in 294, but he was ousted in 288 by Lysimachus in alliance with King Pyrrhus of Epirus (319–272). Demetrius now concentrated all his forces on winning Asia and all but succeeded. He fell ill, however, and surrendered to Seleucus, who gave him every opportunity to drink himself to death. The stage was set for a confrontation between Lysimachus and Seleucus.

      Ptolemy gained command of the sea by Demetrius' fall. He died in his bed, the only one of Alexander's successors to do so, and was succeeded peacefully by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus (308–246). However, a son by his first wife, Ptolemy Ceraunus, the Thunderbolt (grandson of Antipater), was stirring the waters round Lysimachus, and the latter soon lost support. Seleucus defeated and killed Lysimachus, and Alexander's empire, except for Egypt, seemed to be his for the asking. Lysimachus' army, however, supported Ceraunus, who assassinated Seleucus in 281. Seleucus' son by a Sogdian noblewoman succeeded him as Antiochus I (324–261). In Greece proper the strongest powers were Antigonus Gonatas (c. 320–239), son of the brilliant Demetrius and himself a man of high character, ability, and culture, and Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. Pyrrhus was about to embark on his ill-starred expedition to Italy, where he soundly defeated the growing power of Rome but at an enormous cost to himself.

      At this point, migrating Celts (Celt) under the command of Bolgius and Brennus caused an added complication, not least by the defeat and death of Ceraunus. Brennus pushed down into Greece but was repulsed by the Aetolians. The dangers posed by the invading Celts led, in 279, to a treaty between Antigonus and Antiochus, who agreed not to interfere in one another's spheres of influence. Each won a decisive victory over the Celtic invaders, who eventually settled in Serbia, Thrace, and Galatia in central Anatolia. Antigonus was able to secure Macedonia. Lysimachus' kingdom was never revived. The three centres of power were Macedonia, Syria, and Egypt.

The mid-3rd century
      The power of the rulers was not yet secure. Ptolemy II (Ptolemy II Philadelphus) had already launched an offensive after the death of Seleucus and somehow secured Miletus. He made a new drive in 276 to gain Seleucid Syria only to be repulsed. About that same time, however, he renounced his first wife and married his sister Arsinoe, who was actually widow to both Lysimachus and Ceraunus. She was a woman of dynamic authority who inspired Ptolemy's armies to sweep up the coast and secure Phoenicia and much of coastal Anatolia. Her brief years were years of brilliant culture. When she died on July 9, 270, the court poet Callimachus wrote a poem on her deification.

      In the west, Pyrrhus, returning to Epirus full of thwarted ambition, overran Macedon but abandoned it to attack southern Greece. He failed, however, to take Sparta and died in street fighting in Argos, after being struck to the ground by a tile hurled down by a woman watching from the roof. Pyrrhus had fostered the Hellenization of northwestern Greece and built the magnificent theatre at Dodona; he was more than a military adventurer.

      Antigonus was influenced by stoic philosophy (see below); he had a high sense of duty and once said that the power of kings was merely a spectacular form of servitude. He also was a friend of the poet Aratus. There was no serious challenge to his power in the north. In the south, Athens, led by the handsome Chremonides, allied with Sparta and other cities against him; the alliance was backed by Egypt and received some support from Epirus. The war was hard-fought for four years (266–262), but the alliance fell apart. The political power of Athens was finally broken, but the city survived as a cultural centre. Antigonus left Sparta to itself and placed dictators (tyrants) of his own choice in other cities.

      Antiochus I of Syria died in 261. He was succeeded by his son Antiochus II (Antiochus II Theos) (287–246), who formed an alliance with Antigonus against Ptolemy II. In the Second Syrian War (259–255), Antiochus recovered most of the coast of Anatolia and Phoenicia, while Antigonus won a naval victory and with it command of the sea; he even was able to put a half-brother into power in Cyrene. The death of Antiochus II in 246, however, brought on a fresh power struggle in Syria, and Ptolemy III Euergetes (c. 284–221), succeeding his father in the following year, was able to march through the distraught realm. Seleucus II Callinicus (c. 265–225) eventually restored stability and recovered some but not all of the lost territory. Yet he was again challenged by civil war and had to abandon Bactria, Parthia, and the eastern provinces (Cappadocia had already been lost before the civil war).

      The weakness of the Seleucids brought a new power onto the scene. Pergamum had great resources in silver, agriculture, and stock breeding but had not come to marked prominence. Attalus I Soter (269–197), who ruled from 241 to 197, made Pergamum a great power. He defeated the resurgent Celts of Galatia, took the title of king, for a period held mastery of much of Anatolia, intervened in the west, and all the while made his city a major centre for literature, philosophy, and the arts.

      During the middle of the century some remarkable developments in confederation occurred on mainland Greece. Epirus had been a form of confederacy between Molossians, Thesprotians, and Chaonians. Pyrrhus had established an autocratic monarchy, but after his death in the 230s the people reverted to a federal constitution. In Boeotia, a confederacy composed of officials predominantly from Thebes (the largest city in a system that gave all citizens the right to vote in the primary assembly) modified its pattern to grant equality to the constituent cities regardless of size. In Aetolia, there was a confederacy with a strong primary assembly that met twice a year and a council with proportional representation of the member states based on each state's military contingent; the existence of tribal districts intermediate between the cities and the whole confederacy was an unusual feature. Neighbouring Acarnania also had a federal constitution. The two neighbours were generally hostile, but at one point they actually agreed on limited mutual rights of citizenship.

      The best-known of the confederacies was the Achaean League. It had existed earlier, to be revived in 280 by the cities of Dyme, Patrae, Tritaea, and Pherae; it was joined by Aegium, Bura, and Cerynea. “For the first 25 years,” wrote the historian Polybius, “the above-mentioned cities shared in a confederacy, appointed a common secretary according to a rota, and two generals. After that they took a fresh decision to appoint a single general and to entrust him with plenary authority. Margus of Cerynea was the first.” There were also 10 magistrates called demiourgoi. Then, in 251, the Greek statesman Aratus (Aratus Of Sicyon) (271–213), incorruptible, adventurous, persuasive, skilled in diplomacy, passionately attached to freedom and implacably ambitious for his own position, rid his native Sicyon of its tyrant and brought it into the league. By 245 he was elected general and held the office in alternate years. Aratus heartily loathed tyrants and Macedon alike. A notable guerrilla fighter, he led the league in the work of liberation, freeing Corinth and winning Megara and some cities of the Argolid but not Argos or Athens. Then he clashed with the revolutionary nationalism of Cleomenes III of Sparta (c. 260–219), and, rather than seeing his life's work imperiled by Cleomenes' revolution, he preferred to sell it back to the imperialists of Macedon. Macedon came and conquered. Aratus and the league were allowed to retain a shadow of independence, but no more than that. The league, however, remained intact. Executive power lay with the Council, which seems to have been a large body constituting a kind of representative government. What the Achaean League did, for a limited period over a limited area, was to combine the distinctive character of the city-state with a wider vision. On the coins the local Aphrodite of Corinth and Hera of Argos yield place to the more widely recognized Zeus Homagyrius and Demeter Panachaea. According to Polybius, the whole Peloponnese during the most important phase of the Achaean League could be considered a single polis.

      Sparta, always different from the rest of Greece, was a shadow of its former self. There were no more than 700 Spartan citizens, and the land, far from being equally distributed, was in the hands of only a few. Agis IV, coming to power in 244, essayed economic and social reform by abolishing debts and redistributing land. He succeeded in the former but was killed by those whose power he threatened. His widow was married to Cleomenes, son of the other king, Leonidas II. She, however, won him to the need for revolution. In this she was supported by Cleomenes' stoic tutor Sphaerus, who seems to have read a remarkable utopian narrative composed c. 250 by an otherwise obscure author named Iambulus. Cleomenes came to the throne in 235; in 227 he began to break the power of the oligarchy within the aristocracy, abolish the debts owed by poor farmers to rich landlords, and redistribute the land. He also reintroduced the common meals and restored the simplicity of life and the education for character that were traditional in Sparta. Cleomenes III combined a narrow Spartan nationalism with a visionary idealism. The revolution spread; everywhere there was demand for “division of land and cancellation of debts.” Cleomenes, however, was stopped by Aratus, an adamant opponent of his reforms, the Macedonians were called in, and at Sellasia, in the summer of 222, the Spartans were beaten and Cleomenes forced into exile, where he died.


The coming of Rome (225–133)
      In the 3rd century, Rome had been encroaching on the Greek settlements of southern Italy and Sicily. Pyrrhus, as noted above, had been called in by Tarentum in the Tarentines' fear of Rome. Hieron (Hieron I) (c. 306–215), a Syracusan supporter of Pyrrhus, seized power in his city; he was made king in 269 and actually reigned for 54 years. For a year or two he continued to oppose Rome, but then he formed an alliance with it, helping it in its wars with Carthage. Farther away yet, Massalia (modern Marseille), an outpost of Greek culture, took care to maintain good relations with Rome; at the same time, it maintained a strong independent navy and a stable oligarchic government. (Massalia is a classic example, often forgotten, of the durability of the Greek city-state in the Hellenistic age; even in 121 BC, when the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis was established, Massalia was still an equal ally of the Roman Republic.)

      In the late 220s new monarchs acceded to the throne in the three great kingdoms of Syria, Egypt, and Macedon, and Polybius chose that point for the formal start of his history. Antiochus III (c. 242–187), called the Great, succeeded his brother Seleucus II in Syria, and from the first he showed a desire for imperialist expansion. His attempt to conquer Egyptian territory in the Palestinian area in the Fourth Syrian War (219–216) was foiled at the battle of Raphia. His campaigns in the east were more successful: he secured Armenia, Parthia and Bactria became his vassals, and he carried out impressive demonstrations near the northwestern frontier of India and across the Persian Gulf. He turned to adventures in Europe but came up against a Rome resurgent after its war with Hannibal; by the peace of Apamea in 188 he was confined to his still considerable Asian domains. In Egypt, Ptolemy IV Philopator (c. 244–205) succeeded to power in 221. He repelled Antiochus III at Raphia with Egyptian soldiers, and his reign was marked by the power of native Egyptians and of Nubian rulers in the south. He died in 205, leaving a five-year-old son. There occurred an uprising, which deposed his minister Agathocles, and disturbances throughout the reign. Philip V of Macedon (238–179) came to the throne in the same year. Although popular with the common people and quite capable on the battlefield, he showed unsound judgment and lacked stability of temperament. Like Antiochus, he had expansionist ambitions, but he supported Hannibal against Rome and was roundly defeated by the Romans at Cynoscephalae in 197.

      Rome was almost forced into the Greek world. In 229–228 and again in 219 it had been campaigning against pirates in Illyria. Then, from 218 to 201, it was preoccupied with and became drained by the Second Punic War with Hannibal. Even so, Rome kept Philip V at bay and, once Hannibal was eliminated, defeated him in the Second Macedonian War. Rhodes and Pergamum had checked Philip's enterprises in the Aegean but were understandably nervous about his future intentions. They called in the Romans, who were equally suspicious of Philip. Their victory over him at Cynoscephalae, where the Macedonian phalanx of heavy infantry showed that it was hard to beat if it kept its ranks but vulnerable if it did not, demonstrated Rome's supremacy. Rome, however, annexed no territory; the narrow oligarchy governing Rome had no desire to take on administrative responsibilities that might require extending the circle of those in power. The young commander Titus Quinctius Flamininus (Flamininus, Titus Quinctius) (consul in 198) was a philhellene. At the Isthmian Games in 196 he proclaimed the freedom of Greece. A priesthood to him was set up at Chalcis, which still survived in Plutarch's time, and a paean was composed to Titus, Zeus, and Roma, ending “Hail Paean Apollo, hail Titus our Saviour” (or “Liberator”). He checked the ambitions of Nabis of Sparta, who combined the revolutionary program of Cleomenes III with imperialism and cruelty. Yet in 194 all Roman troops were withdrawn from Greece.

      The next challenge came from Antiochus, as already indicated. The Romans returned to Greece to fight him. They defeated him in Asia, strengthening Pergamum and Rhodes at his expense but annexing no territory themselves. Then Perseus (c. 212–165), son to Philip V, succeeded to his throne and power in 179. He secured his position by dynastic marriages; he wedded the daughter of Seleucus IV (c. 218–175) and was allied by marriage to Prusias I Cholus of Bithynia. In addition, he used diplomacy to extend his influence. Nevertheless, in 172 Eumenes II of Pergamum (d. 159), who had succeeded his long-lived father in 197 and who was a great builder in his capital, felt threatened by the growth of Macedonian power and appealed to Rome. The result was the so-called Third Macedonian War (172–168), which ended with the defeat of Perseus by Lucius Aemilius Paullus at Pydna. Macedonia was divided into four republics—and yet again the Romans withdrew without annexations. If Rome, as its enemies avowed, was a dragon, it was a reluctant dragon.

      Meantime, Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria (c. 215–163) had come to power in 175. He had been a hostage in Rome and was a passionate philhellene; he paid lip service to the political traditions of both Athens and Rome. The Romans, however, prevented him from annexing Egypt and Cyprus, which he had invaded in 168.

      Antiochus actively pursued a policy of Hellenization as a means to unify his kingdom. This policy, however, led to an uprising in Judaea, though it should be emphasized that it was a pro-Syrian party among the Jews (Jew) that applied to the king for permission to build a gymnasium, with all that this implied. Party conflict among the Jews—i.e., the supporters of Hellenization and the orthodox Jews who fiercely opposed it—was a major factor in the disturbance. Equally, Antiochus' sense of his own divinity, represented by the title Epiphanes (God Manifest), was unacceptable to the orthodox Jews who recognized the absolute claims of the God of Israel. Antiochus forbade the practices of the Jewish faith and placed an altar to Olympian Zeus (“an abomination of desolation”) on the altar of the temple. Resistance flared up, first passive, then, under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus (Maccabeus, Judas) (who made “a league of amity and confederacy” with the Romans), active and military. The details of the conflict as it spread over decades and the reigns of successive rulers of Syria are complex: suffice it to say here that for virtually a century the Jewish people enjoyed a large measure of de facto independence.

      By 146 the Romans were impatient with Greek instability, and at the same time they were determined to have done with Carthage. The city was razed and a province established in the fertile farmland of modern Tunisia. A pretender, who had arisen in Macedon, invaded Thessaly; he was defeated, captured, and executed, and Macedonia was annexed as a Roman province. The Greeks clashed with the Romans; patriotic sentiment ran high but to no effect. The Romans treated Corinth as Alexander had treated Thebes—they leveled it. In the rest of Greece the leagues were dissolved, democracies abolished, and power placed with the rich. Intercity peace was established and left to the governor of Macedonia to enforce. The ironic result was that the city-states had, imposed from outside, a degree of autonomy and peace they had previously lacked. Then, in 133, Attalus III of Pergamum (c. 170–133) bequeathed his kingdom to Rome—an odd, though perhaps realistic bequest. It aroused opposition, led by a pretender named Aristonicus, who was driven by a combination of personal ambition, nationalist resentment, and utopian idealism. The movement was backed by a stoic philosopher named Blossius, who had been concerned with the reforms of the Gracchi in Rome. It spread among the oppressed and aimed to establish a utopian “City of the Sun.” Roman military power, however, was too strong. Aristonicus was defeated and killed; Pergamene territory became the Roman province of Asia.

      For the most part the story of the kingdoms of Egypt (Egypt, ancient) and Syria during the 2nd and 1st centuries was one of stormy and deeply divisive feuds. In Egypt brother-and-sister marriage in the royal house was frequently practiced. The rulers were for the most part an undistinguished lot, yet the country remained wealthy, and there was expansion to the south. In Syria civil war and division seemed to be the rule rather than the exception. Antiochus VII Sidetes (c. 159–129), after a victorious campaign in Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and even Media, looked briefly as if he might restore the lost glories. The Parthians, however, rallied, surprising and killing him in the winter of 130–129, and regained all he had recovered. Thereafter the kingdom became weak and divided, and neighbouring states were constantly gnawing at its edges. Far to the east the Greek dynasty that had ruled Bactria since about 256 was coming to an end by the middle of the 1st century. In western India, however, Menander, a hero of Indian legend, was in power; the art of the Gandhara region (present northwestern Pakistan) shows marked Greek influence.

      Mithradates (Mithradates VI Eupator) (Mithridates) VI Eupator of Pontus (c. 132–63 BC) was still a minor in 120—the year that his father was murdered—when he was named joint ruler with his mother and brother. For some years he was a refugee from his mother's power. Then, in a sudden sally, he secured the throne, imprisoned his mother, killed his brother, and married his sister. Pontus, sprawling along the southern coast of the Black Sea, included Greek colonies and a native population; the largest section of the people, including the rulers, were Iranian. Mithradates was able, cunning, and ambitious. He secured money and men by expanding to the north and then turned to Anatolia, the Aegean islands, and even Greece, where the financial oppression of the Romans made him appear a liberator. The Romans defeated him time and again, but he showed a subtle resilience until his final defeat by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (106–48 BC). In 67 Pompey made his greatest contribution to peaceful trade and development by his systematic destruction of the pirates. He put an end to the danger from Mithradates, who was driven from his kingdom and committed suicide in 63. Pompey in his celebrated settlement of the East annexed Syria as a Roman province, settled Judaea, and planted Roman colonies.

      Henceforth the Greek world was dominated by Rome. Julius Caesar and Pompey faced one another at Pharsalus in Thessaly in 48. Mark Antony and Octavian faced Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus at Philippi in Thrace. The brilliant Cleopatra VII (Cleopatra) (69–30 BC), last of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, was ambitious to rule the world. In the realism of power politics she had to conquer Rome: the path lay through marriage with whoever held the power there. The surviving portraits show that she was no great beauty. Nonetheless, she charmed Caesar and held Antony in the power of her personality. Yet she backed the wrong man. A third conflict for the mastery of the world in two decades was held in Greece, culminating in the naval battle of Actium off the western coast in 31. The victor was Octavian (63 BC–AD 14), the future Caesar Augustus. The last kingdom of Alexander's successors fell to Rome.

The Greek world under the Roman Empire
      Under Augustus, Macedonia, though including Thessaly, was separated from a new province of Achaea with its administrative centre in Corinth; both provinces were assigned to the Roman Senate. Thrace remained a kingdom and was not annexed until AD 46, when it became a province under an imperial procurator. Asia was a province, incorporating the western coast of Anatolia and reaching into the interior. Bithynia-Pontus stretched along the northern coastline. There was a third area of special command in Cilicia, but this did not last; part of it went to Syria, part to a new province, Galatia (25 BC), and part to small vassal states. The imperial province of Cilicia dates from AD 72. Lycia et Pamphylia became a separate province under Claudius in AD 43; and Cappadocia had been annexed earlier under Tiberius in AD 17. Cyprus constituted a province, at first under the emperor, but later it was transferred to the senate. Crete and Cyrene formed a single province. Syria was the most important of the eastern provinces. Finally there was Egypt, an imperial preserve and vital for the grain supply and revenue of the empire.

      During the next century and a half, four major factors affected the eastern half of the empire. First, a whole series of earthquakes and other calamities devastated the cities of Anatolia. (Strabo, the aforementioned Greek historian and geographer, has an appalling account of the eruptions around Philadelphia, which drove the inhabitants into the open country as refugees.) The Roman emperor Tiberius (ruled AD 14–37) met these disasters with constructive aid, and 12 cities set up a record of his benefactions, calling him “the simultaneous founder of 12 cities.” Second, there began to be trouble with the Jews, not just in Judaea but in Alexandria and elsewhere as well. The Roman emperor Caligula's demands for worship led to an embassy to Rome, recorded by the great Hellenized Jewish scholar Philo Judaeus (c. 30BC–AD 45). The emperor's death resolved the problem, but even the more tolerant Claudius (ruled AD 41–54) had to intervene in Alexandria. The wars of 66–70 and 132–135, revolts against Roman rule in Judea, had the effect of further dispersing the Jewish people around the empire. Third, Nero (ruled 54–68), patron of the arts and philhellene, made a triumphal tour of Greece, dancing, singing, competing, and carrying away the prizes. The four great festivals at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and the Isthmus were crowded into one year for his sake. “The Greeks are the only people who understand how to be an audience,” he said. He proposed and began a Corinth canal and proclaimed the freedom of the Greeks, which, in effect, meant reduced taxation. Finally, there was the eastern frontier and the power of the Parthians, and subsequently Sāsānian Persia. Armenia was a focal point. The rulers in general walked a tightrope between the great powers with skill. Trajan (ruled 98–117), however, followed a strong-arm policy. He annexed Armenia, making it a province, did the same to Mesopotamia and to Adiabene, and captured Ctesiphon. On his coins he put the inscription Parthia capta (“Parthia conquered”), followed by rex Parthis datus (“the king given to the Parthians”) as he imposed a puppet monarch. He dreamed of being a second Alexander, but he died, and Hadrian (ruled 117–138) gave up the three new provinces, retaining only a fourth, Arabia.

      A period of peace was then followed by one of chaos. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161–180), Ctesiphon was again taken; but there also was a disastrous plague spread through the Greek world and even to Italy and Rome. The 19th-century classical historian Barthold Georg Niebuhr said that the ancient world never recovered from the blow. In addition, mainland Greece suffered from an incursion of a people called the Costoboci, who even succeeded in sacking Eleusis in 170–171. The accession of Septimius Severus (ruled 193–211), who came from Africa, brought a remarkable coterie of women from Syria to power in Rome. Julia Domna, “Julia the philosopher,” was the emperor's second wife. She established a highly cultured court, inviting to it scholars and writers such as Galen and Philostratus from the Greek east. Her sister Julia Maesa and her nieces Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea were responsible for the coming to power first of the fantastic Elagabalus and then of the young Severus Alexander.

      In 224 the Sāsānian dynasty came to power in Persia with an autocratic centralized government upheld by a strong religious commitment. Its rulers aimed to drive the Romans out of Asia; in 256 they ravaged Antioch, and in 260 they captured the emperor Valerian. At Palmyra, an outpost of Greek culture, the remarkable Septimia Zenobia came to power and at one time conquered Syria, Egypt, and much of Anatolia. In 267 the Germanic Heruli actually sacked Athens, Corinth, Argos, and Sparta. But the Romans were resilient. Aurelian recovered the lost ground. He had, however, felt the power of the east, and in 274 he introduced the Unconquered Sun as the supreme god of the Romans. It was clear to the emperor Diocletian that the administrative system had to be changed; he placed two rulers in charge of the east (himself being one of them), and two of the west, with 13 regions and 116 provinces. Nicomedia in Bithynia was chosen as the eastern capital. Constantine (c. 285–337), after winning sole power, went further and moved the capital of the whole empire into the east. He thought first of Troy, as Julius Caesar had before him, but in the end he chose Byzantium with its magnificent site where the Bosporus, the Golden Horn, and the Propontis meet. On May 11, 330, he inaugurated New Rome, or Constantinople, to be the capital of the new Christian empire. It was, in a sense, the triumph of Hellenism and ensured the survival of the Roman dominion in the east for more than 1,000 years.

Hellenistic civilization

Institutions and administrative developments
The great cities
      The greatest of Alexander's foundations became the greatest city of the Hellenistic world, Alexandria-by-Egypt. It was laid out in the typical Hellenistic grid pattern along a narrow strip between Lake Mareotis and the sea. Canopic Way ran the length of the city, finely paved and nearly 100 feet (30 metres) wide, with seven or more main roads parallel to it. Across it was the shorter Transverse Street, with at least 10 parallel major roads. The city was divided into five regions, known as Alpha, Beta (the Palace area), Gamma, Delta (the Jewish quarter), and Epsilon. The great buildings included the palace, Alexander's tomb, the temple of the Muses, the academy and library, the zoological gardens, the temple of Serapis, the superb gymnasium, stadium, and racecourse, the theatre, and an artificial mound, the shrine of Pan, ascended by a spiral road. There were two harbours. The famous lighthouse lay on an offshore island. A canal to the Nile helped secure the water supply; there also were rainwater cisterns. The city wall was some 10 miles (16 kilometres) long. It was a cosmopolitan city. The so-called Potter's Oracle described the city as “a universal nurse, a city in which every human race has settled,” and Strabo called it “a universal reservoir.”

      The great Seleucid capital Antioch on the Orontes stood safely some 11 miles from the sea on a major trade route. Originally small, the grid plan with blocks roughly 390 feet by 115 feet was laid out from the first for the expansion over the plain, which eventually took place. A colonnaded street, in Roman times more than 88 feet in width (about one-third carriageway and one-third for each sidewalk), ran the city's length. Aqueducts brought water from the mountains to flow in water conduits along the east-west streets and through terracotta pipes along the cross streets. Like Alexandria, the city was cosmopolitan, and Tacitus speaks of intermarriage between the ethnic groups. When Julia Domna held court, students came from Phoenicia, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Arabia, Cilicia, and Cappadocia. It was a city noted for its luxurious living, as the magnificent mosaics of the Roman period from Antioch itself and the fashionable suburb of Daphne demonstrate. Antioch suffered severely from earthquakes and flooding; thus there was much rebuilding. The population was perhaps 500,000 at its largest.

      It seems that Antioch was smaller than Seleuceia on the Tigris, the largest of all the Seleucid foundations, with 600,000 inhabitants according to Strabo. Little, however, is known about it, except that it was on a grid plan and had a stone wall on foundations of baked mudbrick. In 143 BC it became an autonomous Greek city under Parthian control.

       Pergamum, a small town before it became the capital of the Attalid dynasty, remains one of the most spectacular of ancient sites. The southern face of the acropolis was brilliantly terraced and carried two agoras, stoas, a gymnasium, palaestras, an odeum, temples, and other buildings. Near the top stood the great altar of Zeus with its mighty frieze (now in Berlin) of the battle of gods and giants, and the throne of Satan. The main street leads through a gate to the upper city. There one finds an imposing sanctuary of Athena, the famous library, and a temple of Trajan, on which excellent restoration work has been done. Below is a vertiginous theatre seating 10,000, with a removable stage building on a terrace leading to the Ionic temple, presumably of Dionysus. Much of the remainder of the upper city was occupied by the palace buildings and storehouses. Less can be discerned of the lower city, except for the sanctuary and hospital of Asclepius, founded about 400 BC but developed in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

      The most evocative remains of all the ancient cities are those of Ephesus. It was moved to its longest-lasting site about 290 BC by Lysimachus and built mostly on a grid plan with a wall of more than 5.6 miles. Much of what is visible today dates from the Roman period. By the harbour, today far inland, are the great baths; a broad colonnaded street leads to the theatre, the scene of the silversmiths' riotous protest against the apostle Paul. A cross street passes in front of the theatre, with a huge agora to the south and the imposing Library of Celsus, dedicated in AD 110. From there the slightly eccentric Curetes Street runs eastward. On one side are wealthy houses with mosaics and frescoes, on the other the Baths of Scholasticia and the Temple of Hadrian. Further up the street is the colossal terrace that sustained a Temple of Domitian and leads on to the area of the State agora, the political, administrative, and religious centres, and a magnificent gymnasium. The great Temple of Artemis, a little way off, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The administration of Ptolemaic Egypt
      Ptolemaic Egypt represented, in the words of the 20th-century historian Frank William Walbank, “a large-scale experiment in bureaucratic centralism and in mercantilism.” There was a constant need to import material not readily available at home, such as the timber and pitch required for warships and the mercantile fleet and also gold. Demetrius, chief executive of the mint in Alexandria, wrote to Ptolemy II's finance minister, Apollonius, in 258 BC about the need to import as much gold as possible. The Ptolemies had a closed monetary system, which required all foreign traders on arrival to change their money. Exports included linen, papyrus, faience, and eventually glass (with a stringent quality control), and, when appropriate, grain. The administrators divided the country into more than 30 regions, or nomes, with smaller divisions into districts and villages. There was military government alongside a complex financial administration responsible for collecting rents and taxes. At the same time, the local finance offices were instructed (a document survives) to encourage the peasants, protect them from disaster, and ensure the sowing of the correct crops. The king, in theory, claimed all the land and let it to peasants on short leases, providing the seed-corn but requiring its equivalent to be returned. The oil-producing crops were state monopolies; so were mines, quarries, salt, nitre, and alum. Other areas of agriculture were controlled by license, taxation, and price-fixing. A surviving letter from a finance minister says, “No one has the right to do what he wants, but all is regulated for the best.” Perhaps it was not always as systematic, efficient, and incorrupt as it sounds or as some admirers have proposed. Nor was it all so new. The major change was the imposition of a Macedonian and Greek ruling class, who filled the upper ranks of the civil service. Egyptians held some of the lower posts, but only in the priesthoods could they retain wealth and influence. There was friction at times; for example, a camel driver complained of nonpayment because “I do not know how to behave like a Greek.”

      Still, there were few slaves outside the cities, and double names attest the gradual acceptance of some Egyptians into the upper echelons of society. The remarkable Cleopatra VII, however, was the first sovereign to learn the native language. When all is said about defects in the administration, Egypt was, and remained, inordinately wealthy, and the Romans were delighted to secure its revenues and its grain.

Military developments
      The victories of Philip II and Alexander the Great were made possible by imaginative generalship and inspirational leadership combined with the use of elite troops that were specially trained and equipped. The Macedonian phalanx depended upon a long, heavy spear called a sarissa. The troops were organized in battalions of about 1,500 men forming 15 rows in depth. The 11 rows at the rear held their spears vertically, causing them to tower formidably above them. The four front rows held their spears horizontally so that all projected in front of the phalanx. For protective armour they wore helmets, leather corselets, and metal greaves, and each carried a small round shield. The phalanx was virtually impregnable to a frontal attack but could not easily swerve or reverse. The heavy cavalry of the Companions carried a shorter spear and scimitar and wore metal helmets and breastplates. They advanced in the form of a spearpoint, or triangle, so as to break up the opposing line of battle. On the wings of the phalanx were fairly mobile troops: light cavalry, slingers and archers and javelin men, and light infantry.

      The successors recruited large armies of 60,000 or even 100,000 men, including many mercenaries. By about 200 BC troops from Greece, Crete, and the Balkans had decreased in number and many more were recruited from the Syrian territories. The mercenaries were not normally trained for the phalanx but were supplementary to it. The employment of mercenaries increased the number of desertions and the amount of looting; this in turn led to the need for more stringent discipline in the field. At the same time, the armies were relatively free from the hatreds liable to arise between highly politicized national forces. Surrender on easy terms followed by ransom tended to be the order of the day.

      Alexander was a great master of siegecraft. He used saps and mines, timbered galleries, catapults and stone throwers, siege towers, scaling ladders, and covers for such operations as filling up ditches or bringing battering rams to bear. These new devices were countered by better walls, towers, ditches, and outworks so that in general the besiegers had to rely on treason, bribery, stratagem, or on starving out the besieged town. Demetrius and Philip V were the only two of the successors who gained much reputation in siege work.

      The fleets of the Hellenistic age were smaller in number of boats than those of the Classical period, but the battleships were larger. Ptolemy II's fleet of 336 was smaller than that of Athens in its war with Sparta. The quinquereme, however, was now the standard battleship, and its crew was about double that of the trireme. Even larger vessels were used, such as a 16-oarer with two banks of oars and eight men to an oar. The Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas had a flagship of the 18-oar type. One even hears of a 40-oarer. In general, the Macedonian navy dominated the Aegean and the Egyptians the rest of the eastern Mediterranean. There were, however, many fluctuations, and Rhodes was never negligible.

Civic structures
      Wherever Hellenization was strong, there tended to be support for the institution of the city-state as well as a measure of synoecism, or gathering of smaller communities in a new polis. The Alexandrias were followed by countless towns, to which were given names such as Antiocheia, Seleucias, Laodicea, Ptolemais, Demetrias, or Cassandreia. Some townships that were not essentially Greek, such as Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Aradus, and Sardis, were nonetheless treated as cities, except for the towns of Mesopotamia. Non-Greek immigrants into Greek cities might be granted their own administrative system rather than being absorbed into the general citizenship; for example, the Jews in Alexandria had their own ethnarch and Council of Elders.

      Some of the successors were hostile to the Greeks, notably Antipater and Cassander. All were liable to impose conscription and taxation, though occasionally immunity was granted. The kings exercized control through a resident representative (epistates) in the cities, though this was generally handled delicately and diplomatically. Sometimes, however, they preferred to support a puppet dictator. The rights of minting coinage were severely restricted. The apparatus of civic government, however, remained, and, under the Seleucids, decrees were passed by council and assembly in city after city. During the periods of relative freedom in mainland Greece, there was sometimes democracy, and the Ptolemies maintained democracy in Cos. Yet the kings generally, and the Romans after them, encouraged autocratic or oligarchic government. Most cities in mainland Greece and some others, such as Rhodes, Cyzicus, and Byzantium, retained rights of foreign policy, including military action. They also acted to maintain the grain supply, sometimes by the public purchase of grain and its cheap sale or free distribution. The same freedom made possible the remarkable developments in federal government already noted. This in turn led to a great increase in the use of arbitration in the settlement of disputes, which was obligatory within the confederacies or among those cities directly dependent on the monarch and not infrequent outside.

      The encouragement by the overlord, whether Greek or Roman, meant changes in the political patterns. These can be seen reflected in Roman times in the works of Plutarch (who, however, idealizes the past to such an extent that one cannot be sure of him as a contemporary witness) or of the Greek rhetorician and philosopher Dion Chrysostom. Plutarch preferred monarchy and was opposed to extending the franchise to all the free population; interestingly, though, he favoured some kind of party system, so that there is more than one policy to choose from. The changes meant a more or less settled ruling class in the cities. There was now no room for demagogy because there was no deme which it made any difference to court. Where the politically ambitious had scope was in deputations to the kings or, later, the Roman emperors. Nonetheless, the path of the ruling class was not always strewn with roses. Its members were expected to bear the brunt of public expenditure, which in the harsher times of the later empire could become burdensome. In questions addressed to an oracle, found at Oxyrhynchus and dating from the late 3rd century AD, the inquiries “Am I to become ambassador?” or “Am I to become a senator?” are not very different from the question “Am I to become bankrupt”? They were dictated by fear, not ambition. Similarly, there are some amusing records of council meetings which show nominees eager to wriggle out of an office that might become expensive, while the others blocked their paths of escape and applauded the patriotism of acceptance.

       slavery was virtually universal but varied in its incidence. On the whole, though there were numerous exceptions, Greeks did not enslave Greeks; their slaves came predominantly from Anatolia and Syria, Thrace, the Danube basin, and southern Russia. The main sources were war and piracy, fostered by the work of the slave-dealers. The great centres of the trade were Byzantium and Ephesus, but, from the middle of the 2nd century BC to the middle of the 1st, Delos became the dominant market. In the Greek east, slaves were numerous in the cities; it should, however, be noted that they could hold relatively responsible jobs. There were comparatively few slaves in the countryside. Under the early Roman Empire the supply dwindled with the control of piracy and a long period of peace. Liberal legislation by Claudius in the 1st century AD and by Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus in the 2nd gave increasing protection and rights to slaves. The price of slaves rose, which implies that often they could be afforded only for skilled work. In the 3rd century, with frontier wars and brigandage resurgent, the prices dropped somewhat, but demand still outstripped supply. The breeding of slaves continued, and the sale of newborn babies was legalized and that of older children, though illegal, was widespread.

Economic developments
      Alexander's conquests had four major effects on the economy. In the first instance, it released a large quantity of silver and gold from the treasuries of Persia. The immediate result was a sharp rise in prices, but, as the surplus funds were absorbed into capital, prices began to fall. Second, the integration of quarreling city-states into a single empire removed some of the obstructions to mutual trade. Third, Philip had already adopted the Attic standard for gold, and Alexander adopted it for silver as well. The successors in general followed, though the Ptolemies preferred the Phoenician standard. The complex needs of money-changing were thus greatly reduced. These two standards held good until some time in the 1st century BC, when the Roman challenge to them triumphed. Finally, and most obviously, the extension of empire meant an extension of trade routes; China became open to trade for the first time and East Africa, Arabia, and India became more easily accessible than before.

      The Egyptian trade was mainly by sea, featuring the port of Berenice on the Red Sea, while Alexandria was established as one of the greatest mercantile centres on the Mediterranean. Toward the end of the 2nd century BC an Indian at Alexandria explained to Ptolemy VII the secret of the monsoon, which greatly facilitated the sea passage to India and enhanced the importance of Coptos on the upper Nile. The Egyptians also had an eye to the land routes. This explains their desire to command the Phoenician ports, which were not only the terminus of one land route but also producers of woven stuffs and fine dyes.

      The key point for Seleucid trade was Seleucia on the Tigris. In one direction, the route led to Antioch on the Orontes with branches to Ephesus and Damascus. In the other, there were three routes to India, two by land and one by sea. Alexander's foundation of Alexandria in Areia was important to the trade. Dura Europus on the Euphrates was a fort protecting the lines of trade; it was retained by the Romans. The caravan cities, such as Petra and Palmyra (formerly Tadmor), flourished on the trade. The advance of Chinese military power from Turkistan in the 2nd century BC fostered the trade with China along the famous Silk Road through central Asia. The Chinese exported silk and other textiles, bamboo, and iron and imported vines and other trees and plants, as well as wine, olives, woolen goods, and artwork (which affected Chinese artistic style). The demand for luxury goods in the prosperous days of the early Roman Empire increased the trade with China, India, and Arabia, and an embassy from Marcus Aurelius actually reached China by way of Annam.

      Early in the Hellenistic age, the Greek navigator, geographer, and astronomer Pytheas of Massalia embarked on one of the most remarkable feats of exploration. Evading the Phoenician outposts, he slipped through the Strait of Gibraltar, sailed north along the coasts of the Iberian peninsula and France, crossed over to Cornwall, continued around the north of Britain and on to Helgoland, and then returned. The Phoenicians, however, allowed no other ship to pass Gibraltar and the only tangible result of Pytheas' voyage was an increase in the trade in Cornish tin by overland routes through France.

      In general the Romans made transport, whether by land or sea, safer and swifter. The Greek Epictetus could say, “Caesar has procured us a profound peace. There are no wars, no battles, no massive brigandage, no piracy; we may travel at all hours and sail from East to West.” An inscription from Hierapolis in Phrygia dating from the imperial period tells how an operator named Flavius Zeuxis passed Cape Taīnaron no fewer than 72 times.

      The economy of mainland Greece declined during the Hellenistic age, though standards rose briefly about 260 BC, and there were pockets of prosperity, such as the Boeotian city of Tanagra famous for its terra-cotta figurines. The general picture is one of poverty, unemployment, falling wages, depopulation, and emigration. The forests were stripped, the land neglected, and smallholdings swallowed up in large estates, which, however, were underdeveloped. The Athenian silver mines at Laurium were depleted, though they reopened briefly at the end of the 3rd century BC. Demand for fine painted pottery had ceased. Athenian wine was of poor quality. Olive oil, however, continued to command a market, so much so that a law of AD 125 reserved one-third of the production to indigenous use; but, as the historian Moses I. Finley argued, olive oil alone would hardly meet the balance of payments. The centres of Hellenic prosperity had shifted with the movement of Hellenism from Athens, Corinth, Sparta, and Argos to Alexandria, Rhodes, Pergamum, and Antioch.

      Within the Mediterranean basin, trade was mostly in essentials or things regarded as such. Metals ranked highest in importance: there was silver from Spain, copper from Cyprus, iron from the Black Sea coast and later China, and tin from Cornwall. Food also was important: grain came from Egypt, North Africa, the Crimea, and perhaps Babylonia. In other areas there was some specialization: Athens was noted for honey as well as olive oil, Byzantium for fish, Jericho for dates, and Damascus for prunes. Textiles were prominent: linen arrived from Egypt, a kind of silk from Tyre and true silk from China, and woolen goods from Miletus. Timber came from the forests of Anatolia and the north, marble for building from Paros and Athens, granite from Egypt: some docks constructed in Delos about 130 BC are of Egyptian granite.

      The prosperity of Egypt, “the gift of the Nile,” was rooted in agriculture. The land lent itself to the cultivation of wheat, barley and sorghum, flax, vegetables (including lentils, beans, chickpeas, and onions), the date palm, and papyrus, as well as the raising of animals, such as horses, donkeys, goats, cattle, poultry, and fish.

      Strabo gives a vivid picture of the resources of the Seleucid kingdom. He speaks of the rich yields of barley and the varied uses of the products of the palm—for food, drink, sweetening, fuel, and weaving. Mesopotamia is “good pastureland, and rich in vegetation, evergreens and spice.” Rice was introduced into Persia from India, and the vine from Greece.

      Similarly Strabo identifies the specialties of different regions of Anatolia. He mentions the fruit trees, vines, and olives of Melitene; the stone, timber, and pastures around Mazaca; the orchards of Cappadocia, and its mineral resources in red ochre, crystal, onyx, and mica; the market gardens of Sinope and beyond them olive groves and timber forests; the cattle and cheese of Bithynia; the styrax, producing gum and wood for spears, of the Taurus Mountains; and the superb wools of Laodicea and Colossae.

      One figure suffices to indicate the huge economic expansion during the Hellenistic age. The customs revenue of Rhodes in about 170 BC was five times that of Athens in 400, with almost certainly the identical rate of 2 percent. It would be hard to demonstrate more clearly that the Hellenistic world operated in a totally different dimension.

Cultural developments
      It was in the Hellenistic age that the grid plan came into its own, in the numerous new foundations, and some of the refoundations, such as Priene.

      The great buildings of the Classical age had been predominantly religious; those of the Hellenistic age were predominantly secular, though it will not do in the ancient world to make a rigid distinction between the two. The chief characteristic of Hellenistic temple architecture was the predilection for the Corinthian style (Corinthian order), which came into its own with the Temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens, begun in 174 BC. Many Hellenistic temples were of immense size; this one is 135 feet by 354 feet on the stylobate. The oracular temple of Apollo at Didyma is 168 feet by 359 feet on the stylobate. Another colossal temple was built at Cyzicus in the 2nd century AD, with columns of more than 6.5 feet in diameter; it displaced the temple of Artemis at Ephesus as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

      Some of the theatres were similarly colossal. Hieron II's 3rd-century modifications of the rock-cut theatre in Syracuse and the theatres at Megalopolis and Ephesus accommodated more than 20,000 people. There were changes of design, initiated at Athens with the emergence of New Comedy, which eliminated the chorus from a significant part in the drama. The result was the introduction of a high shallow stage, removable for revivals of the ancient plays and therefore of wood. Later the proscenium was built in from the first, and eventually it was constructed of stone, as at Oropus in about 200 BC; at Athens the change was deferred until about 150 BC. The Roman-built theatres are distinguishable by the fact that the auditorium is a perfect semicircle. The orchestra was often expanded for gladiatorial and wild animal fights and correspondingly surrounded by a high wall; at Stobi, Tyndaris, and Corinth this was more than 9.8 feet in height. Roman theatres were often built standing free rather than fitted into a hillside: the magnificent theatre at Aspendus is an example. The best-preserved theatre of the Roman Hellenistic world is at Bostra Traiani in present-day Syria.

      All stadiums (stadium) by definition ought to have the course of a given length, though, curiously, they vary by more than 30 feet. The stadium at Athens was built in the shape of a U with one flat end and one rounded; it was reconstructed in Pentelic marble in AD 143 by the millionaire benefactor Herodes Atticus. The great stadiums at Aphrodisias and Nysa in Anatolia and at Laodicea in Syria belong to the Roman period and are rounded at both ends. The one at Aphrodisias seated 30,000 people and is excellently preserved. The gymnasium and palaestra tended in the Hellenistic period to be more formalized in plan and structure.

      The palaces of the Greek period have not survived. Remaining houses show increasing elaboration and luxury. Examples from the 3rd century may be seen in Priene, consisting normally of a block of four rooms with a pillared entrance opening on to a courtyard. In some of the wealthier houses, rooms are found on three sides of the court, and there may be columns opening onto an entrance corridor on the fourth. This structure developed into a peristyle house already found in Olynthus in the 4th century. Delos has a variety of peristyle houses built on irregular plans; generally one finds a great water cistern and often spectacular mosaics. In southern Italy the Greek population developed its own style of house, whose court in Pompeii blended with that of the peristyle structure. These houses presented to the street generally bare walls. The typical house is symmetrical about its long axis. A short hall reaches an atrium, or lofty court with an impluvium, or cistern, at its centre.

      Hellenistic sculpture, often of a very high quality, is notable for its variety. Alexander's pothos, or yearning for something unattained, was a mood that became expressed in the art. Lysippus, Alexander's favourite sculptor, had produced a seminal statue, the “Apoxyomenos” (“The Athlete, Scraping Himself”), a figure standing with one arm extended and the other pulled across his body. The viewer has to move around it because no single viewpoint is satisfactory. Eutychides, a pupil of Lysippus, carried the principle further in his portrayal of “The Fortune of Antioch.” Vastly more complex, and showing the search for an original subject, is the brilliant and brutal “The Punishment of Dirce” by Apollonius and Tauriscus of Tralles. “Laocoön,” a portrayal of anguish, shows the figure of the priest Laocoön and his two sons in the grip of two snakes. The sculpture, in immobile stone, is bursting with dynamism and energy.

      Pergamum was one of the great centres of sculpture. There Attalus I commemorated his victory over the Gauls with a huge monumental group on a circular base. The altar of Zeus at Pergamum bore a frieze 364 feet long portraying the battle of the gods and giants; muscular superhuman figures are rendered in dynamic, agonized conflict.

      An aspect of the Hellenistic search for variety was the use of the genre subject, such as a boy with a goose, a drunken old hag, a boy pulling a thorn from his foot. The attractive terra-cotta figurines from Tanagra and Myrina offer a fine selection of scenes from ordinary life, such as a grossly fat nurse with a bulbous nose holding a baby in her lap, a boy wearing a dunce's cap, two women gossiping, or acrobats in all manner of attitudes. The search for variety, paradoxically, also took the form of a return to the Classical style. Examples are the “ Venus de Milo,” whose face recalls the manner of the 4th-century sculptor Praxiteles, and the “ Belvedere Torso,” modeled on a 4th-century sculpture but with a muscular twist that marks it as Hellenistic.

      Portraiture was a natural accompaniment of the courts. Rulers were finely portrayed not just in statues but on coins. Some of the finest of these come from the outlying kingdoms of Bactria and India. The portraits do not always flatter; the monarchs appear podgy or scrawny, broken-nosed or hook-nosed. Full statues were rarer. Portraits were not confined to rulers. The statue of Demosthenes in Copenhagen, taut and intense, is copied from a 3rd-century original by Polyeuctus, sculpted well after the orator's death. Philosophers were often depicted; although it is possible to distinguish individuals, a type of “philosopher” is imposed on them.

      In literature, just as in the arts, one finds a combination of novelty and commonplace types and themes. In the New Comedy at Athens, of which Menander (c. 342–292 BC) was the leading exponent, the theme is no longer fantasy but real life. The plays are not uproarious, as those of Aristophanes can be, but they are filled with quiet good humour. Besides Menander, there was Herodas (3rd century BC), who in his Mimiambi (Mimes) sketched episodes from life. Theophrastus (c. 370–287 BC) produced a minor masterpiece, Characters, in which he depicted such figures as the Stupid Man, who cannot remember where he lives, or the Tactless Man, who makes a misogynistic speech at a wedding.

      Some writers took a deeper interest in psychology. The poet Apollonius of Rhodes (3rd century BC) wrote an epic on the Argonauts, in which he closely observed the psychology of Medea at her first experience of love; his sensitive and romantic rendition influenced the Roman poet Virgil in his portrayal of the ill-fated love between Dido and Aeneas. Theocritus (c. 300–260 BC), who came from Sicily but lived mostly in Cos and Alexandria, examined in his second idyll the love-hate relationship of a girl to her unfaithful lover. The world of Theocritus is a world of pastoral artifice having little to do with the real hardships of country life, but the details are exquisitely noticed.

      Alexandria was noted for its learning. The poet Callimachus (c. 305–240 BC), who was attached to the city's famous library, wrote poetry of polished craft and allusive scholarship. His great work Aetia (“causes”) is a rare miscellany, a long poem made up of short sections. Callimachus, immensely influential, has quality.

      The major contributions to prose literature fall in the Roman period, though the novel developed earlier in Alexandria. Ingenious and exciting plots are combined with stereotyped characters. Longus' Daphnis and Chloe (date unknown) is perhaps the best of such works of prose fiction. Another important development was the rhetoric of the movement known as the Second Sophistic, which belongs mainly to the 2nd century AD. Its finest practitioner was Dion of Prusa (Dion Chrysostom) (c. AD 40–112), nicknamed Chrysostom. Herodes Atticus (c. AD 101–177) and the flowery Polemo (c. AD 88–144) had much influence; more survives from the dull, Athens-loving hypochondriac Aelius Aristides (c. AD 117–187) and the facile Maximus of Tyre (c. AD 125–185). Greater than any of these is the Syrian Lucian (c.AD 120–185), a satirist and brilliant entertainer, who spared neither gods nor humans.

      Other writers, worthy enough, must receive passing mention: they are the geographers Strabo (c. 64 BC–AD 25) and Ptolemy and Pausanias (both 2nd century AD), the historians Diodorus Siculus of Sicily (1st century BC), Arrian (2nd century AD), Appian (2nd century AD) and Dio Cassius (2nd–3rd century AD), the voluminous Jewish writers Philo Judaeus and Flavius Josephus (c. AD 37–100), the vastly miscellaneous Athenaeus (c. AD 200), the historian and teacher of rhetoric Dionysius of Halicarnassus (fl. late 1st century BC), and the unknown writer (conventionally known as Longinus) of a major work On the Sublime (1st century AD), with his acute observations about Homer and Sappho, Demosthenes and Thucydides, and even about “the Jewish lawgiver” in Genesis.

Science and medicine (medicine, history of)
      The three great areas of Hellenistic scholarship were medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. Alexandria attracted Herophilus (fl. 3rd century BC) from Chalcedon, who refused to stand in awe of the accepted medical dogmas and was distinguished in systematic anatomy, and the notable physiologist Erasistratus (Erasistratus Of Ceos) (fl. 3rd century BC) from Ceos, who realized that the heart is the motor for the circulatory system and deduced the existence of capillaries. Philinus (fl. 3rd century BC) from Cos founded the empirical school, trusting clinical observation rather than theory. In the 1st century BC Asclepiades of Bithynia, who worked in Rome and was a great believer in hygiene, was claimed the founder of the rival methodist school, based on Epicurean atomism. In the 2nd century emerged the towering figure of Galen of Pergamum (c. AD 129–199), whose authority later was second only to that of Aristotle.

      In astronomy the first great advances were due to Aristarchus Of Samos in the early 3rd century BC. He was the pioneer of the theory that the Sun is at the centre of the universe. His greatest achievement lay in his method for determining the sizes and distance of the Sun and the Moon, though his observational technique was inadequate for correct results. Later in the century Eratosthenes of Cyrene, a typical polymath, calculated the Earth's circumference by an excellent method, though his good result was due to the mutual canceling out of two errors.

      In mathematics the key figures are Euclid (fl. c. 300 BC), Archimedes (c. 287–212 BC), and Apollonius (fl. late 3rd century BC). Euclid, whose Elements served as a basic textbook of geometry for 2,000 years, was both a systematizer and original mathematician. Archimedes preferred to concentrate on particular problems, working in the realms of geometry, physics, and mechanics, and he formulated the science of hydrostatics. Apollonius of Perga was the great authority on conics. One other significant mathematician was Hero of Alexandria (fl. 1st century AD), who actually devised a simple steam engine but treated it as a mere toy.

      The philosophers of the period pursued autarkeia: self-sufficiency, or nonattachment. The most extreme position was taken by the cynics (Cynic), whose founder was Diogenes of Sinope (c. 400–325 BC). Behind his rejection of traditional allegiances lay a profound concern with moral values. What matters to human beings, he taught, was not social status or nationality but individual well-being, achieved by a reliance on one's natural endowments. He was followed by the attractive couple Crates (c. 365–285 BC) and Hipparchia. Zeno (335–263 BC), founder of the stoics, began from here. To the stoics (Stoicism) nothing is good but virtue, nothing bad but vice; all else is indifferent. The stoics were pantheists. They believed that all is in the hands of God; indeed, God is all. Moreover, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and human beings only have to accept and give praise. Zeno was succeeded by a religious genius named Cleanthes (331–232 BC) and he by the great systematizer Chrysippus (c. 280–207 BC). The 2nd century produced Panaetius (c. 185–109 BC), who smoothed away some of the sharper stoic paradoxes for the Romans, and the 1st brought Poseidonius (c. 135–50 BC), another mediator between east and west.

       Epicurus (341–270 BC), an Athenian contemporary of Zeno, stood poles apart in thought from the stoics. In opposition to their moralism he taught that the goal of life is pleasure, a position for which he has been much maligned. In fact, he advocated the simple life as being the most pleasurable and said that it was impossible to live pleasurably without being wise, just, and honest.

John Ferguson

Additional Reading
General historical works include F.W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World (1981), a useful one-volume account by a leading authority; Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra: The Hellenistic World (1982), a well-written, reliable conspectus; Peter Green, Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (1990), on every aspect of Hellenistic cultural and political history; W.W. Tarn and G.T. Griffith, Hellenistic Civilisation, 3rd ed. (1952, reissued 1975), a masterly, pioneering, and eminently readable study; John Ferguson, The Heritage of Hellenism (1973), thematic and well-illustrated; William Scott Ferguson, Hellenistic Athens: An Historical Essay (1911, reprinted 1974), still the best book on the subject; M. Cary, A History of the Greek World from 323 to 146 B.C., 2nd ed., rev. (1951, reissued 1972), a useful and clear coverage of the chosen period; and M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World, 3 vol. (1941, reprinted 1986), a comprehensive and authoritative study, though at times controversial.Particular topics are addressed by the following studies: H. Idris Bell, Egypt, from Alexander the Great to the Arab Conquest: A Study in the Diffusion and Decay of Hellenism (1948, reprinted 1977), a standard history by a great authority; Edwin Robert Bevan, The House of Seleucus, 2 vol. (1902, reprinted 2 vol. in 1, 1985), still the best treatment in English; Esther V. Hansen, The Attalids of Pergamon, 2nd ed., rev. and expanded (1971), a major original synthesis; W.W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria & India, 3rd ed. updated by Frank Lee Holt (1985), a pioneering and controversial work; A.K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks (1957, reissued 1980), critical and sympathetic; and David Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor: To the End of the Third Century after Christ, 2 vol. (1950, reprinted 1988).Hellenistic culture and science are described and discussed by T.B.L. Webster, Hellenistic Art (1967), a general work; Christine Mitchell Havelock, Hellenistic Art, 2nd ed. (1981), detailed studies of individual items; Margarete Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, 2nd rev. ed. (1981), well-illustrated and reliable; J. Charbonneaux, R. Martin, and F. Villard, Hellenistic Art, 330–50 BC (1973; originally published in French, 1970), magisterial and richly illustrated; Albin Lesky, A History of Greek Literature (1966; originally published in German, 2nd ed., 1963), brilliant, but only partly on the period; George Sarton, A History of Science, vol. 2, Hellenistic Science and Culture in the Last Three Centuries B.C. (1959), an authoritative summary; E.D. Phillips, Greek Medicine (1973, reissued as Aspects of Greek Medicine, 1987), a good overview; A.A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics, 2nd ed. (1986), an excellent introduction; and Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine During the Early Hellenistic Period (1974, reissued 1981; originally published in German, 1969), a magisterial study. Further studies on Hellenistic philosophy and on Hellenistic religions may be found in the bibliographies of the articles Greek literature and Hellenistic religion.John Ferguson

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Universalium. 2010.

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