WK 4 notes


·         356-336 BC reign of Philip II

·         338 Philip defeats Greeks (battle of Chaeronea)

·         336-323 reign of Alexander

·         331 Alexander defeats Persians (battle of Gaugamela)

·         323-275  Wars of Successors

·         312 Seleucus I conquers Babylon

·         304 Ptolemy I becomes king of Egypt

·         276 Antigonis Gonatas becomes king of Macedon

·         240s revolts vs Seleucids

·         217 Ptolomies seize Palestine

·         167-142 Maccabean revolt in Judea

·         146 Antigonid Macedonia becomes Roman province

·         64 Seleucid Syrian becomes Roman province

·         30 Ptolemaic Egypt becomes Roman Province


What made it possible for Philip and Alexander of Macedon to conquer the Greek city-states and then the Persian Empire?

a) weakness of Greek city states as a result of decades of war (post-Pelop. Wars)

b) Philip II’s efforts to learn/use Greek philosophy/art and culture/economic methods and technology/military techniques

c) Philip’s use of well-trained, professional army with excellent cavalry (in addition to hoplite forces)

Note in addition to text that army became “career” of hand-picked sons of Macedon aristocracy, high level of cohesion among leadership cohort

d) clever use of statesmanship, diplomacy, bribery, bullying vs Greeks.  Besides military victories (e.g., over Athens and Thebes in 338), these allowed him to systematically dominate Greece.  Only Sparta did not recognize Philip as overlord....

Philip murdered 336.  Alexander, aged 20, becomes king.  Brilliant, taught by Aristotle, charismatic, cultured, mercurial, ruthless and VAIN.  Ruthless—killed all male relatives to eliminate challenge to throne....

e) in addition to his father’s great military and diplomatic skills, Alexander also had great grasp of power of propaganda....  EG, Depicted wars vs rebellious Greek city states as necessary to unite Greece vs Persia, to get “revenge” for Persian wars [invasion of Persia had been Philip’s goal, too]; had coins cast with HIS face; declared self as “god” when he conquered Egypt (maybe believed it, but also in line with Egyptian tradition), etc.

f)  Darius III of Persia had bigger army, more wealth and resources, BUT was having trouble controlling rebellious regions...

g) Alexander invaded Anatolia with relatively small force (35,000) of his best troops and moved FAST, maneuvered Persians into a series of battles under conditions that gave him advantage in Anatolia (334), Syria (333), and then drove into Mesopotamia (battle of Gaugamela, 331).  That all but finished the Persians...  though he then followed what was left of their army to Babylon and then into Persia and personally burned down the royal palaces at Susa and Persepolis...

Everywhere his army conquered, he installed governors from Macedon and Greece, but also made use of the local elite to rule.  He actively sought to spread “Greek” [Hellenistic] culture, but also to merge it with the culture of the east—of Persia, Babylon, and Egypt—to create a synthesis...  He established the new capital of his empire, for instance, in Babylon, married a Bactrian princess (Roxanne) and required that his officers marry Persian women.  Alexander not only declared himself a god, like his Egyptian predecessors, but also referred to himself as “king of kings” like the Persian emperor.  As the text notes, this offended the Greeks—Aristotle, for instance, quit his post as one of Alexander’s advisors in protest.  Aristotle was allowed to live, but others whom Alexander suspected of disloyalty were not so lucky, and he regularly had his commanders, advisors, and allies executed for treason (or murdered).

Meanwhile, Alexander did not stop his army in Persia, but sought to conquer the wealth of India that had been part of the Persian Empire and he sought to control trade routes through central Asia.  He drove his army north towards the Caspian Sea then east into Bactria (today’s Afghanistan), where he encountered fierce resistance.  He then forced his soldiers—at this point the same Macedons who had been with him from the beginning—to cross the Hindu-Kush mountains through today’s Pakistan and into the Indus River valley.  Although he won some huge battles in today’s Packistan (e.g., at Hydaspes River in 326), his army was exhausted.  The fighting in India became tougher and tougher—Alexander himself supposedly was wounded by an arrow when his army was put under siege at Pattala, and many of his men died of malaria (which he probably caught, too).  When his soldiers threatened a mass mutiny, Alexander gave up on India and marched back to Babylon. 

Back in Babylon, Alexander dismissed the Macedon soldiers who he considered disloyal (though there were no mass reprisals), and began to build a new army with Persian soldiers.  His aim, most historians believe, was to build a fleet and then to conquer Arabia.  But in June 323 he died in Babylon at age 32 and 11 months—the ruler of the largest empire in the world to that point and the center of what is probably history’s greatest and longest-lasting heroic cult.... 



How were the successor states that ruled Alexander's empire after his death organized and what was the relationship between Greeks and the native peoples in these successor states?

His Generals, and their sons and grandsons (!) fought wars for almost 50 years over who would rule what part of empire.  His wife Roxanne claimed that she and his only son were the heirs, but they were murdered pretty early on... 

Three Macedonian generals eventually established three large kingdoms and set up dynastic successor states:  the Antigonid dynasty in Macedon; the Ptolomaic dynasty in Egypt; and the Selucid dynasty in Mesopotamia...  FROM CLASSICAL CITY STATES TO HELLENISTIC MONARCHIES

In Egypt and Western Asia, these states based n new Greek/Macedonian-local native elite.  Usually Greeks/Macedonians in top posts; locals in mid-level and lower posts.  But in time these FUSED, by 200s the native elites/civil servants often seen as “Hellenes,” took Greek names, etc. (see discussion of soldiers in Egypt in text).   

ANTIGONID GREECE AND MACEDON:  dynasty established by grandson of Alex’s general Antigonus (the one-eyed).  Dynasty acted as patron of Greek culture, philosophy and arts.

Monarchy, Ruled over most of Greece, but not over territories of the Aetolian League and the Achean League (monarchical city states in a federation).  And not over Sparta, which in late 200s had a revolution (led by kings) that democratized Spartan society somewhat (e.g., land reform), but which was crushed by other Greek states in 222 BCE....

PTOLEMAIC EGYPT:  dynasty ruled by Alexander’s general Ptolomy, who cast self as successor to Alexander as god-king (story of Alex’s body and tomb) and set self up as new Pharaoh.  Like old Egypt, state control of economy, irrigation, trade, huge building projects.  Richest kingdom in Hellenistic world, with Alexandria (capital) as glittering center of Helenistic culture (eg., library, scholarship, science).  Ruling class of Macedons and Greeks, merchantry of Greeks and Jews, most of population = Egyptian farmers and peasants, with high tax burden.

By late 200s, having trained Egyptians for army (shortage of Macedons), Ptolmaic kings began to face internal rebellions (e.g., break-offs in south).  In good times, Ptomolies accepted as Pharaohs; in hard time, hostility towards high taxes (for army, building projects, etc) fueled opposition.  BUT over time (again) FUSING of cultures led to hybrid Egyptian Helenes (Speak Greek, worship Egyptian gods, etc).

SELEUCIDS (and ATTALIDS):  Massive multi-ethnic empire-kingdom ruled by general Seleucis out of Babylon, but with nodes of power in Anatolia and Syria as well.  Assumed PERSIAN king’s system of imperial rule (USE OF SATRAPS, royal road, etc!).  Antioch (in Anatolia) second richest Hellenistic city after Alexandria.

Small Break-away state of Attalid kingdom in Anatolia, capital Pergamum = major center of Greek arts, science, philosophy, theater


 In what sense was Hellenistic culture across Alexander's former empire a blending of Greek culture and the cultures of "conquered" peoples in Egypt, Persia and Indian cultures, and what were the most important developments in science and the arts in the Hellenistic world?

Cities became cosmopolitan centers, locals, Greeks, Jews, and other colonists, etc.  EMMIGRATION to “colonies.”  All TIED TOGETHER BY NEW SENSE OF WHAT IT MEANT TO BE GREEK---based on culture and language, not on city-state!  SO—Hellenistic culture and Hellenistic identity went way beyond old Greek city-state identities and cultures... 

In Egypt and Asia, mixing of cultures—Hellenistic rulers recognized local gods, built them temples, etc., but at same time introduced Greek school institutions, Greek games and athletics and theater, Greek buildings and urban design.  So HELENISTIC CULTURE WAS IN MANY WAYS A FUSION.

Examples—e.g., Greek speaking Egyptians who worshiped Egyptian gods, etc.  Greek culture among the Parthians in Persia/Bactrians in Pakistan/King Asoka in India—Greek theater, philosophy, library, schools, astronomy but with Indian gods.  Greeks in return MIGHT have been influenced to some extent by Indian Buddhism and other aspects of Indian culture...

Centers outside Greece became pillars of Greek culture—Alexandria for science, medicine, poetry, library and museum, etc etc etc. 

EG--MATH in Alexandria = Euclid;

Medicine = Herophilus (dissection, brain as nerve center, mechanics of the eye, etc).

Astronomy:  Aristarchus of Samos—heliocentric universe (but could not prove it).

Engineering:  Archimedes, sicilian greek:  displacement, water-screw, calculation of pi, etc.

TRENDS In literature (in Egypt and Greece is instructive):  e.g., in Greece, Menander (340s-290s) developed comic style that focused on PRIVATE life (not on public life that was focus of comic style when the POLIS meant something).  Poetry (e.g., Callimachus) now mostly abut PRIVATE life.  SO—INNER life gets more attention in Hellenistic period than in Classical period (when stress was on Public life.)  When it did deal with old hero tales (e.g., poems of Apollonius of Rhodes), it often cast the hero as a failure (old age of heroic individualism was gone, just like the polis).

Also, literature and art became far more sensitive to women.  Romantic love and heterosexuality feature of Hellenistic art and literature, vs heavy emphasis on homosexual desire in classical period...  (at same time, relatively greater political influence, power, public role of elite women, increase in elite women’s literacy, access to schooling...)

What were the most important developments in philosophy and religious practices in the Hellenistic era? 

 General social, political and cultural trends moved towards uncertainty, new mixing of ideas, increased philosophical debate.

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle had all offered ideas of the GOOD LIFE that linked the pursuit of truth, ethics, and public life.  Hellenistic philosophy de-emphasized  public-political activity in the pursuit of the good life, more emphasis on “internal well-being,” “peace of mind,” reducing pain.

CYNICISM:  eg, Diogenes (400-325).  Best path to happiness = satisfying needs simply; rejected any absolute truth-ethics—everything is relative/conditional to the subject (subjective realativism).

STOICISM:  e.g., Zeno (335-263).  Believed in absolute truth/ethics, GOOD LIFE = cmplete devotion to pursuit of truth.  Divine reason/truth exists, and divine/absolute truth is the same everywhere (though man can only know the world through senses= empiricism/materialism).  Duty is to pursue truth in public life, but also emphasis on “internal” life—motivations for actions are as important as the actions...

EPICUREANISM:  e.g., Epicurus (341-270).  Also empiricist/materialist.  Believed that public life generally led to unhappiness.  Good life = maximize pleasure and minimize pain.  Determine difference between wants and needs.  Needs actually simple, easy to meet. = peace of mind. Wants are never reached and create pain.  (NOT abut pursuit of pleasure through luxury or excess!)

SKEPTICISM:  Pyrrho (360-270).  Also sought peace of mind, but Rejected stoicism and Epicureanism as based on principles that could not be proven.  Do not reach conclusions that can’t be proven, avoid  politics= peace of mind.

RELIGION---Decline of faith/belief in old gods as irrelevant or immoral (ideas of stoics, etc), old fashioned.  If Alexander could be called a god, then couldn’t Zeus have just been a king like him?  (etc). 

Rise of idea of divine kings undercut old religion (both Ptolemies and Seleucids, like Alexander, claimed to be gods...) 

Rise of worship of cult of Tyche (too-kay), goddess of luck/good fortune.

Mystery cults, with secret rituals that set out rules for ethical living, promised life after death/redemption (etc).  (eg, cult of Demeter; cult of Isis [from Egypt].... 

In all cases, undercut old gods and replaced them with worship relevant to new culture, concern with internal life of individual...