1902 Encyclopedia > Macedonian Empire

Macedonian Empire




MACEDONIAN EMPIRE, THE. The attention of the Greeks was drawn at an early time to the danger that the northern tribes might combine to invade the south. Sitalces, king of Thrace, spread great alarm by an inroad during the Peloponnesian War, but the real peril was from Macedonia rather than from Thrace. The Macedonians had been gradually pushing their way down towards the coast, and, though Alexander I. was a vassal of Xerxes, the retreat of the Persians, 478 B.C, left these hardy tribes free. They were still in a primitive state, mountain shepherds, ill clothed and ill housed, many of them clad only in skins. They wore the kausia or broad-brimmed hat; they ate and drank from wooden platters and cups ; they differed little from what they had been when the first Perdiccas came to the country, when the king's wife baked cakes with her own hand on the hearth. But the peasants were freemen, not serfs like the Penestse of Thessaly. It was still neces-sary for the young warrior to slay a foe before he could take his place in the tribe; and Cassander had to sit instead of reclining at the banquet of his father Antipater, because he had not yet killed a wild boar. The drunken bouts at these banquets led to some of the deeds which are a blot on the fame of both Philip and Alexander. The king held large domains, and had a choice body of " com-panions" around him, but the warriors used much freedom of speech towards him, and the chiefs could only be condemned by the assembled host. When, however, any one was thus convicted of treason, his kindred were also put to death. If any blood guilt was incurred, a dog was cut in two and the soldiers passed between the halves laid out in the open air, that so they might be purified. There were still but few towns, or even strongholds, to which the people could fly when the Illyrians came in over Mount Bermius from the west, or the Thracians across the Stryj mon from the east, or the Pasonians down the river Axius from the north. The western tribes too were at this time being pushed onward into Macedonia by a migration of the Gauls. Archelaus, son of Perdiccas II., however, built forts, cut straight roads, and collected horses and arms. The cavalry of the richer landowners was good ; but the foot soldiers were armed only with wicker shields and rusty swords. Archelaus also courted the friendship of leading Athenian statesmen, philosophers, and poets; and later oa the Athenian general Iphicrates did essential service to the royal house.

But the advance made by Archelaus, who died 399 B.C, was almost all lost before Philip II. came to the throne, and the kingdom was reduced to a narrow district round Edessa, shut out from the sea by Greek cities. Olynthus, the chief of these cities, had in the reign of Philip's father, Amyntas II., induced many places to make themselves in-dependent of the king, but the jealousy of Sparta proved fatal to the Olynthian confederacy, and destroyed what would have been a bulwark against the barbarians of the north (379).

Philip himself had the best of all trainings, that of ad-versity. During the reign of his eldest brother Alexander II., Pelopidas took hostages for the fidelity of Macedonia, and among them was Philip, then about fifteen years old. He remained two or three years at Thebes, profiting by literary training, and above all by the living example of Epaminondas, the ablest organizer and most scientific tactician of the age, who had trained the soldiers that broke through the Spartan line at Leuctra. When Philip returned home, his brother Perdiccas III. entrusted him with the government of a district, where he organized a force on the Theban model. On the death of Perdiccas, though he left an infant son Amyntas, Philip was called to the throne (359), for the reign of a child in an early state of society means anarchy. Philip's energy soon made itself felt. He fortified a new capital, Pella, safe amidst its lake-like marshes, from which he could act against the coast. Greece was at the moment completely disorganized. Sparta had lost, not only her supremacy over the other Greek states, but the control over Messenia and Arcadia, which leant on Thebes for defence against her revenge. Thebes had incurred odium from her conduct towards the free cities of Bosotia, was at feud with Athens, and had but a precarious hold over Phocis and Thessaly; while Thessaly itself, after the fall of the tyrants of Pherae, was a prey to internal feuds. Athens was the first to come into collision with Philip, owing to her holding possessions on the coast of Macedonia and Thrace, whence she procured ship timber and naval stores. Philip had conciliated her for the time by withdrawing his troops from Amphipolis, her old colony in the bend of the river Strymon, while he was driving off the Illyrians and reducing the tribes to the west as far as the Lake Lychnitis. But Athens was at this moment threatened by the revolt of her allies which led to the Social War, and so lost the chance of reoccupy-ing Amphipolis while Philip was busied in the interior. The moment his hands were free, he retook the place, which was all-important to him, as it was not only the most convenient maritime station in Thrace, but also threw open to him all the country east of the Strymon, and especially the gold region near Mount Pangaaus, the productive country facing the island of Thasos; and to secure his conquests he founded a new city in the interior called Philippi. His gold coins, struck on the Attic standard, soon became well known, and even the early gold coins of distant Britain copied the types of the Macedonian money. He also took Pydna and Potidsea, thus depriving Athens of her hold on the Thermaic Gulf, while the occupation of Methone opened the way into Thessaly. Moreover, the Social War had not yet ended when the disastrous Sacred War began, which added religious to political enmity, and benefited only the aggressor from the north. The Amphictyonic League was called into activity to crush the Phoeians, who in their despair seized Delphi, and by the use of its treasures collected troops enough to hold Thebes in check for some years. It was the misfortune of Greece that there had arisen mercenary bands, like the condottieri of mediaeval Italy, who hired themselves out to any one that would employ them. The citizens became more averse to service as civilization increased, and the work of war was now done by alien hands. Only a standing army could face the standing army of Macedonia,,but the industrious and refined citizens naturally disliked continuous service, and it was long before even Demosthenes could arouse Athens to the necessity of the struggle. He was opposed by the old statesmen, by honest men such as Phocion (whose peace policy, however expedient after Chaeronea, was impolitic during most of Philip's reign), and by others whom Philip had bribed—for he loved to "plough with a silver plough-share." The Sacred War gave Philip a pretence for interfering on behalf of the Delphic god. He drove the Phocian mercenaries from Thessaly, incorporated the ex-cellent Thessalian cavalry in his army, and gained a good naval position on the Gulf of Pagasaa (Volo), the great inlet and outlet for the trade of the country. This also opened the way to Eubcea, for the possession of which, however, Athens struggled hard. It was on the Gulf of Pagasse that Demetrias was afterwards founded, which, with Chalcis and Corinth, became the "fetters of Greece." Philip also laid a strong hand on Epirus, occupied Acarnania, won over the iEtolians by the gift of Naupactus, and thus hemmed in Athens on the land side. It is true that, when he marched on Thermopylae, B.C. 352, a sudden effort of the Athenians enabled them to reach the pass in time to arrest his progress, and save the Phoeians for a while; but Philip had now a large seaboard, and he pro-ceeded to increase his fleet, to extend his dominion in Thrace on both sides of the Hebrus, and secure it by the founda-tion of Philippopolis, Calybe, Beroea, and Alexandropolis, while the Greek colonies along the Euxine up to Odessus sought his alliance. There was worse to come, for Philip b}' the year 347 had destroyed Olynthus and thirty-one other free cities in Chalcidice, and sold their inhabitants as slaves, a calamity such as had not happened since the invasion of Xerxes. This struck terror into all the south country, and we find Isocrates, once the champion of Panhellenic freedom, proclaiming Philip the arbiter of Greece, and advising him to use his power for the purpose of conquer-ing Persia. He found himself bitterly deceived, and " that dishonest victory at Chaeronea, fatal to liberty, killed with report that old man eloquent." The Thebans were still unwilling to combine with Athens, and even called in Philip to end the Sacred War. This gave him the command of Thermopylae, and the means of inarching into Bceotia and Attica, while the destruction of the Phoeians spread the terror still more widely. Philip now became the recognized religious leader of the Amphictyonic League, and began to interfere authoritatively in the Peloponnese. He was also preparing to master the Bosphorus and the Hellespont, the outlets from the Euxine into the iEgean, through which the main supplies of corn came from the country north of the Euxine to Athens, which therefore laid great stress on the possession of the Chersonese. Once again Athens gained a success when she sent Phocion to relieve Byzantium from his attack (339). The Greek cities began again to lean on her, and her trade increased owing to the destruction of Olynthus by Philip, and of Sidon by the Persian king Ochus. The Greeks too began to see that Philip's allies were being swallowed up one by one. Philip himself, when returning through the passes of Haemus from an attack on the Scythian king, who ruled between the mountains and the Danube, suffered heavily from a surprise by the Triballi. But a second Sacred War against the Locrians of Amphissa, caused by Aeschines's troublesome activity, again brought Philip into the heart of Greece. He fortified Elatea in Phocis, and demanded a passage through Bceotia to attack Athens. On this Demosthenes won his greatest triumph, when he induced Thebes to join in the struggle for freedom and independence ; and, though the patriots were defeated at Chaeronea, 338 B.C., yet their blood was not shed in vain; their example has told on all future time. Philip used his victory moderately, for he wished to leave Greece quiet behind him when he crossed into Asia to assail the great king. He garrisoned the citadel of Thebes, and demanded from Athens an acknowledgment of his leadership in the national war against Darius ; and a congress at Corinth recognized him as its chief, and arranged what contingents were to be sent from each state. His assassination in 336, at the early age of forty-seven, hardly delayed the execution of the plan, for he was succeeded by Alexander, who combined the qualities of a king of the heroic ages with all that Greek training could give. Though the Macedonians had a dialect of their own, yet they had neither language for communicating with others nor any literature except what they derived from Greeks, and Philip had taken care to give his son even a better training than he had received himself. Alexander was also as prompt and cruel as his father. He at once rid himself of his cousin and brother-in-law Amyntas and other kinsmen and possible com-petitors for the throne, or persons otherwise dangerous. Then he dealt some heavy blows against the barbarians east, north, and west, some of whose chiefs he took for further security with him into Asia. He was just south of Lake Lychnitis, on the western side of the range of Scardus or Pindus, when the news reached him that the exiles had roused Thebes to arms, and were besieging his garrison in the Cadmeia or citadel. Striking through a cleft in the main range of mountains, through which the Devol flows, and marching south along the Haliacmon and over the Cambunian ridge, which joins Pindus to Olympus, he reached Bceotia in less than a fortnight, stormed Thebes, sold the citizens as slaves, and destroyed the place. The citadel alone remained as a Macedonian fortress, until Cassander rebuilt the city. Amidst the general terror, Alexander thought it wisest to follow his father's policy here also, and be content with his election as captain-general by the congress of Corinth.





He left Antipater as regent, and at once crossed the Hellespont to Sestus in the spring of 334, before the Persian fleet was ready to intercept him, or the main Persian army had been embodied. What information had he as to the regions beyond the Taurus and beyond the Tigris, and still more as to the great table-land of Asia extending from Persia to the Indus ? He had the Anabasis of Xenophon, and perhaps the Persian history of Ctesias, but he must have relied mainly on information derived from Greeks who had been in the Persian service, or who had traded in the interior. But he knew one thing for certain, that no force in Asia could resist Philip's veteran army. Philip had formed the local battalions of militia into the phalanx, arrayed sixteen deep, and armed with long two-handed pikes (sarissx); and this steady body of pikemen, with the veterans in the front ranks, had borne down on the open plain of Chaeronea the resistance of the Greek hoplites, who were only armed with a much shorter spear. The phalanx was supported on the flanks by the light infantry of the guard (hyjmspists), by targeteers (peltasts) trained after the plan of Iphicrates, by light lancers, and by a strong body of heavy cavalry, headed by the king's companions, and fighting with the short thrust-ing pike. It was the charge of the cavalry led by Alexander in person, at the head of the " agema " or royal squadron, that decided all his battles. It seems strange, however, to us to hear that the men had neither saddles nor stirrups, nor were the horses shod. The fine native army was largely reinforced by barbarian archers, darters, and slingers, and by regiments of Greek mercenaries; and this systematic combination of different arms and kinds of troops was supported by field and siege artillery of an improved type. Later on, when the main Persian army was broken up, Alexander added to the number of light troops, and made the regiments smaller and more flexible. Philip had moulded his country into a military monarchy, and turned the nobles into a caste of officers. All its strength was devoted to the one object of war, and it became for the time an overmatch for all its neighbours. On the other hand, Persia had deprived the subject peoples of national life and spirit; the retreat of the Ten Thousand had shown how useless her native levies were, and now her defence rested almost entirely on a force of Greek troops under the able Rhodian general Memnon. The Orientals fought mainly with missiles, and were little suited for close combat hand to hand. The Persian satraps, however, had around them some choice horsemen, armed with missile javelins and with scimitars; and they insisted, against Memnon's advice, on fighting at the Granicus, which flows northward from Ida into the Propontis, but is every-where fordable. A sharp cavalry action at the passage of the river (334 B.C.) gave Alexander all Asia Minor, and the completeness of his victory might seem to justify Livy's saying that he " did but dare to despise an empty show," and the words attributed to his uncle, Alexander of Epirus, that he himself had found the men's chamber in Italy while his nephew had found the women's in Asia. The Greeks had long been conscious of their superiority. " They might," said Aristotle, " govern the world, could they but combine in one political society." Agesilaus of Sparta and Jason of Pherse had already planned the attack on Persia, and the liberation of the Asiatic Greeks; and Alexander acted in the full consciousness that he was extending Greek rule and civilization over the East. At the news of the battle on the Granicus, Sardis surrendered. It was the centre to which all the routes converged, but Alexander did not (like Cyrus the younger) at once push on into the heart of the empire along the great road that led from Sardis to Susa. His object was to secure a firm base of operations, by occupying the line of coast round the Mgetrn, and forcing the Phoenician fleet in the Persian service to retire. The Greek colonization of Asia Minor had prepared the way for him; the Greek cities along the western and southern coast threw open their gates, and Alexander restored their popular constitutions. He even recognized the Lycian con-federation. Memnon was only able to organize a resist-ance at Miletus and Halicarnassus. But his real plan was to put troops on board his ships and raise Greece against the Macedonian yoke, especially as the Athenian fleet was still more than a match for that of Alexander. But when Memnon died there was no one left to carry out this able plan, and Darius threw away his best chance by recalling the troops. Then Alexander marched up northwards from Lycia through Pisidia and Phrygia to Gordion on the Sangarius, whence the main road led east across the Halys and through Cappadocia to Cilicia, between the passes of Mount Taurus and those of Mount Amanus. Here Darius tried to throw his army across the Greek line of communi-cation with their supplies, but his host, crowded together in the narrow ground on the river Pinarus near Issus, was hopelessly defeated. The modern name of the Gulf of Issus, " Iskenderun," still preserves the memory of Alexander. Then I'armenio, Alexander's second in com-mand, pushed on and took Darius's treasures and stores at Damascus. Again, however, Alexander deferred his march inland till he had mastered Phoenicia and Egypt, and so gained the command of the sea in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean. Only the brave freemen of two fortified cities, Tyre and Gaza, held out; and when the Phoenician and Cyprian fleet transferred its allegiance to the invader their only effective weapon was wrested from the hands of the Persians. The occupation of Cyprus and Egypt had been one of the boldest conceptions of the age of Pericles and Cimon, and its success would have secured the supremacy of Greek commerce. As the Persians had persecuted the Egyptians for their worship of animals, Egypt welcomed the deliverer, and recognized him as the son of Ammon; while the Greek colonies of Cyrene and its Pentapolis sent to tender submission. Alexandria was founded on the seaboard as a new centre of commerce, from which it was easy to communicate with the Govern-ment and with all parts of the empire. The protecting island of Pharos gave the means of forming two good harbours on a coast elsewhere harbourless; while Lake Mareotis, communicating by canals with the Nile, enabled produce to be easily brought down from the interior.

At last the time was come for delivering the final blow to Persia. Alexander passed the Euphrates at Thapsacus (" the passage "), and then marched north-east through the hilly country by Nisibis, to avoid the hot desert of Mesopotamia. He crossed the Tigris unopposed, and defeated Darius's hosts at Gaugamela. The long struggle of two hundred years between Greece and Persia was at an end. The victory converted Alexander into the great king, and Darius into a fugitive pretender; and Babylon and Susa submitted. At Babylon Alexander sacrificed to the native gods, as he had done elsewhere, and this admixture of the religions of all countries largely influenced the later phases of heathenism. The priests recognized the Greek kings, and the later cuneiform inscriptions com-memorate Seleucus and Antiochus. When Euemerus's view spread, that the gods were only deified men, a fusion of religions became still easier. The worship of the Sun-god and of Osiris, the god of the dead (especially under his Grecized form at Siuope as Serapis), extended far and wide. In administering these countries, Alexander separated the civil, military, and financial functions, and, where natives were left in office, entrusted taxation and military command to Macedonians. The great power of the satraps had weakened the central government of Persia, and Alexander adopted a wiser plan, but his generals restored the old system after his death. The Persian treasures, dispersed by the conquest, gave a fresh stimulus to commerce, especially as Persia was rich in gold, which was scarce iii the West. Alexander had already prepared the way for a universal currency by coining silver didrachms and tetradrachms after the Attic standard, which became current coinage over most of the East; the Ptolemies, however, adopted the Phoenician standard for Egypt. Up to this point the countries conquered admitted of being more or less assimilated and Hellenized; but, when Alexander penetrated through the passes that led up to Persepolis in Persia, and thence to Ecbatana in Media, and again north to secure the defiles that led down to the Caspian, and so skirting the southern flank of the range of Elburz to Hecatompylus in Parthia, the centre of the roads leading to Hyrcania (at the south-east of the Caspian), to Bactria, and to Ariana, and then from Kandahar northwards to Cabul, and through the mighty range of the Hindu-Kush to Bactria (Balkh) south of the Oxus, and Sogdiana (Bokhara) between that river and the Jaxartes, and at last as far as the Indus and the Punjab, his route lay through tribes that still possessed their native strength and power of resistance to foreign influence, though for the moment overborne by the superiority of the Western arms. Alexander saw the danger, and met it by settling Greek colonists in new cities which were to serve as military posts, depots of commerce, and centres from which to Hellenize the country districts; and many of them are still important points in the East, though the desert has spread, and robber hordes have stopped some of the old caravan routes. Such places are Merv, Herat, Kandahar, Cabul, Samarkand, Khojend. Bactria and Sogdiana were to serve as a frontier against the wild hordes of the north, and thus Alexander's measures determined the fortune of Transoxiana for centuries. Some native rulers also were left to form a sort of barrier in front of the empire to the north and east. Alexander laid the main stress on securing the great rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris, the Oxus and Jaxartes, the Indus and Hydaspes. In Greece itself the Macedonian kings upheld tyrants or oligarchies, but here freer municipal constitutions were allowed to attract colonists. Alexander further planned to fuse the noble Persian race with the Greeks by intermarriage, and by giving the Persians equal rights in the army and the administration. Common service in these was the best means for Helleniz-ing the natives. This was a more generous plan than Aristotle's advice as to the way of ruling barbarians would have led to; but Alexander saw that the Eastern peoples were not barbarians like the Illyrians. The culture of Egypt reached far back ; the astronomy and art of Babylon could not be despised; the religions of Persia and India afforded matter of interest to Greek inquiry. These lands of ancient civilization might teach as well as learn some-thing from Greece. The Eastern nations responded to the touch, and Persian legend to this day preserves the name
of Iskander among the names of their national heroes. Alexander's conquests were to be justified by the result, by the union of East and West, and the diffusion of Western civilization over Asia. Even India should feel something of the new influence. Alexander would have made the nations into one. An old writer says, " The elements of the nations' lives were mixed together as in a love cup, and the nations drank of the same cup, and forgot their old enmity and their own weakness " (Plut., De Fort. Alex., i. 6). There is, it is true, a reverse to the picture. The oppressive conduct of many of the Macedonians thus suddenly put into power was an evil omen of what might happen if their chief was removed; and, if the East was becoming Hellenized, yet Alexander became in turn Orientalized. Could he remain a Western king and also an Oriental despot 1 a Greek and a Persian 1 It might be good policy, but Philip's old generals could not help show-ing their disgust, and Clitus and others paid for it with their lives. The Greek states also felt the difference. Just before his death Alexander required them to worship him as a god, and, without any regard to the rules agreed on at the congress of Corinth, forbade the federal meetings of the Achseans and Arcadians, and issued a decree restoring all exiles to the various states. Greece became practically a province of the Eastern empire, and the patriots who had maintained the fight for freedom were more than justified by the ruin that came on Greece through Alexander's successors. Even if he himself had not been spoilt by success and absolute power, yet he was but a lucky accident. And, though the Hellenizing influence spread over much of the East in a way to which there has been but one parallel, the mixture of German and Roman elements when the barbarians invaded the empire, yet Alexander's conquests, while they Hellenized Asia, tended to Asiatize Hellas; they put an end to the genuine Hellenic spirit, to its productive genius and consummate literary and artistic excellence, as well as to its political freedom. The New Comedy shows how national life and public interests had died out; with all its fine psychological analysis it does but dwell on the characters and situations of daily life and purely domestic feelings. But the braggart soldier is now a common character in the play, and slavery plays a greater part than ever. Last of all, Alexander marched along the Cabul river, and through the pass of Jellalabad to the passage of the Indus by Attock; but when he reached the Hyphasis (Sutlej) the weary troops refused to cross it and press on to the Ganges. He then sent Nearchus down the Indus, to sail round to the mouth of the Euphrates, and explore a route for traffic across the Indian Ocean. Nearchus profited by the monsoons, which thus became known to the Greek sailors. The king himself went down the river to see the great southern ocean with its strange tides, and he planned that an Alexandria on the Indus should communicate with the Alexandria of the Nile valley by an intermediate harbour on the Euphrates. He further planned the circumnavigation of Arabia, if not of Africa also, and a voyage to the north of the Caspian. At the same time Pytheas of Marseilles was exploring the British and Baltic seas. This enlarged and systematic exploration of the earth, combined with increased means of communication among its inhabitants, was beneficial to civilization, if we may define growth in civilization as growth in the amount of services rendered to each other in civil society. The record kept by Alexander's quarter-masters (bematistee) of the length of his marches gave succeeding geographers important information; and it was more useful to Eratosthenes than the vague descriptions in the historians, who were striving after literary effect, and some of whose accounts were very legendary, for legends soon clustered round the name of the great conqueror. Alexander seems also to have had a description (anagraphe) of the empire drawn out. After his return through the desert of Baluchistan, along the Indian Ocean, he devoted himself to consolidating the internal administration and checking the oppression exercised by his officers ; but he was planning new conquests in the West, from all parts of which he had received ambassadors, when he died of marsh fever at Babylon (323 B.C.), at the early age of thirty-two.

All attempts to keep his empire together inevitably failed, but his work was done, since, whether for good or evil, the Helleuizing of the East determined the whole course of history. The army resolved that his child (not yet born) by his Bactrian wife Roxane, and his imbecile half-brother, Philip Aridaeus, should bear rule jointly. First Perdiccas was named regent, but the generals began to combine against him, and he perished in trying to reduce to obedience Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, the man who saw most clearly and earliest the tendency of events. Then Antipater, who had with difficulty defeated the gallant attempt of the Greeks under the leadership of Athens to regain their freedom in the Lamian War, was made regent. On his deathbed he transferred the office to Polysperchon, who soon proved unequal to his task, and even gave up Phocion, the leader of the Macedonian party at Athens, to death. Antigonus, the commander-in-chief in Asia, destroyed Eumenes, who was faithful to the royal house but was a Greek from Cardia and not a Macedonian. He then tried to reunite the satrapies : but Ptolemy of Egypt, Lysimachus of Thrace, and Seleucus of Babylon combined with Cassander of Macedon against him, and he fell (301 B.C.) at the battle of Ipsus in Phrygia. This decided the final break up of the empire. Several native princes retained their dominions and formed a kind of neutral zone between the new kingdoms, and the Getas on the Danube maintained themselves against Lysimachus. The customary feuds in the royal house, and its intrigues with the generals, soon led it to destruction. Roxane, the mother of the child Alexander, began by murdering Alexander's other wife Statira, the daughter of Darius. Alexander's Epirote mother Olympias killed Philip Aridseus and his wife Eurydice, and Cassander killed Olympias herself, and afterwards Roxane with her son. There were similar feuds and murders in the houses of all Alexander's successors, except the early Antigonids. Their marriages, like those of Philip and Alexander, were of a very Oriental character; and " in these families," says Plutarch, " murders of sons, mothers, and wives were frequent, murders of brothers were even common as a necessary precaution for safety." The generals assumed the title of king after Demetrius's defeat of Ptolemy off Cyprus (307 B.C.), and their example was followed by Agathocles at Syracuse, and Dionysius at Heraclea on the Euxine. Demetrius, after his father's death at Ipsus, fled to Greece, and occupied much of the country. His viceroy in Boeotia was the historian Hieronymus of Cardia, the friend and fellow-citizen of Eumenes. Demetrius for a time even gained Macedonia, but his Oriental rule disgusted the people, and he had to fly to Seleucus, who married his daughter Stratonice. Seleucus detained him under honourable guard till his death, perhaps with some idea of using his help if the balance of power should again be threatened. When an empire breaks up, old geographical relations make themselves felt, the great masses and divisions of the land exert their influence and affinities of race begin to show their old power, the natural boundaries of mountain and river tend to reappear; and so it proved now. After Cassander's death, and the defeat of Lysimachus by Seleucus, Seleucus reorganized Asia by breaking up the twelve large satrapies into more than seventy districts of a more manageable size. He then crossed to Europe to re-unite Macedonia to Asia, but was murdered by Ptolemy Ceraunus, eldest son of Ptolemy of Egypt—who had chosen his second son Philadelphus as his heir instead of the wild Ceraunus, Seleucus's death ended the generation of Alexander's generals. A new state of things followed. Ceraunus fell in battle against the invading Gauls, whose migrations gave a final blow to the old system. Part of the Gauls passed on into Greece, where the free states destroyed them, while others crossed into Asia and occupied the country named from them Galatia, 276 B.C. Lastly, after Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose sister Deidamia married Demetrius, had more than once nearly gained, possession of Macedonia, Antigonus Gonatas, the son of Demetrius, finally secured the succession, and restored the wasted realm to the position of one of the great kingdoms by the side of Egypt and Syria. The last struggle of Athens against him in the war of Chremonides (a pupil of Zeno of Citium) proved fruitless. He also regained the Macedonian frontier on the side of Epirus as it had been in Philip's time, and the Aous became the boundary towards the Dardanians on the north-west. Of the kingdom thus restored his family retained possession till Perseus was overthrown by the Romans at the battle of Pydna(168 B.C.), but the later kings wasted their strength in useless wars instead of doing what might have been done, conquering and Hellenizing the country up to the Danube. The Epirote kings Alexander and Pyrrhus had striven to found a new military empire in Italy, but in vain. The Apennines can be seen from the coast of Epirus, and these kings were always stretching eager hands over the sea to the new lands in the West, but their power proved unequal to the task, and Pyrrhus's position in history is mainly important because his expedition brought Greece and Italy into close connexion. His geniality of character impressed his contemporaries, and has left its impress on Roman and Greek legend.





In Asia Seleucus had in vain tried to preserve the most easterly provinces, for the Eastern nature had at once begun to react against the Macedonian conquest, and the Seleucid kingdom had no true centre or natural limits. Sandra-cottus, a native chief, founded a great kingdom in India with Indian and " Javanic"(Ionian,i.e., Greek) support; and Seleucus, after one campaign, gave up the eastern districts as far as the Paropamisadae west of Cabul. Sandracottus was perhaps supported by the Brahmans whom Alexander had opposed, but the Punjab has witnessed more than one revolt against the system of caste, which had its stronghold in the valley of the Ganges; and Buddhism soon became predominant in the new kingdom. The edicts of Asoka, the second successor of Sandracottus, which made Buddhism the state religion (though Brahmanism was tolerated), mention Antiochus Ptolemy and Antigonus (see INDIA, vol. xii. p. 787, for a full account); and Buddhist missionaries began to spread the faith westwards as well as to the south, and some knowledge of the cycle of Eastern story and fable was communicated to the Greeks. But we have not the materials for estimating the influence exercised in Asia by the Greeks on the new kingdom. Similarly a Graeco-Bactrian kingdom, which. was made independent by Theodotus or Diodotus about 256 B.C., lasted for two centuries. Many of its coins have been found with legends at first purely Greek, but becoming gradually barbarized. Some of the early ones resemble the gold coins of Antiochus II. of Syria, who ruled just before Diodotus made the new state independent. After the first five kings, however, the legends are in Prakrit as well as in Greek. The caravan routes were long kept open, and in this way trade with China was maintained, and silk and other Chinese commodities reached Europe.

native Persian chiefs became practically independent, such as Atropates in the Median district, called from him Atropatene, and elsewhere ; for the clan system was suited to these districts, and they preserved the system of Zoroaster till Artaxerxes (Ardshir) restored the Persian monarchy, 226 A.D. (see PBESIA). But even here Greek influence lasted on ; nor when Arsaces, about 250 B.C., had set up the kingdom of Parthia and made Hecatompylus his capital, did that influence die out in Parthia. Even the new cities founded by the Parthian kings, such as Dara, were on the Greek model, and largely inhabited by Greeks; and some of the chief cities retained Greek municipal constitutions, such as Ctesiphon, which took the place of Seleucia on the Tigris as Seleucia had taken the place of the old capital Babylon—

" Of later fame, Built by Ematbian or by Parthian hands, The great Seleucia, Nisibis, and there Artaxata, Teredon, Ctesiphon."

So again in Asia Minor native chiefs began to rule in Armenia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, and Pontus; and some of them, such as the Cappadocian princes of the Mithridatic family, who afterwards ruled at Amasia, claimed descent from the royal Achaemenid house of Persia, or from leading Persian houses. They, as well as the princes of Pontus, intermarried with the house of Seleucus, to which their help was important. Bithynia and Pontus had an era of independence, from which they reckoned their dates just as the Syrian kings did from the return of Seleucus to Babylon. The independence of Judaea under the Maccabees was established at a later time (see ISRAEL). All these were subject to the Hellenizing influence of the Greek towns; and the Greek language spread everywhere, even among the Galatians, as we see by the inscriptions. Nicomedes of Bithynia founded Nicomedea in 264 B.C., as a Greek town ; it soon rivalled Nicsea in importance, and we owe to it Arrian, the historian of Alexander. The barbaric princes often took wives, ministers, officers, en-gineers, literati, artists, actors, and intermediate agents of all kinds from some neighbouring Greek city, a custom which had begun before the time of Alexander, as we see in the case of Mausolus of Oaria. In Pergamon, about 238 B.c.,Philetserus, by the help of the royal treasure, made him-self independent, and under Eumenes and Attalus the little state showed much political skill in trimming the balance of power between the neighbouring dynasties. Attalus took the title of king after a victory over the Galatians on the Caicus, and this victory was commemorated by the Gigantomachia around the famous altar lately discovered at Pergamon (see Conze, Beschreibung der Pergamenischen Bildwerlce ; Overbeck, Geschichte der Griecldschen Plastik, 3d ed.). He also sent commemorative statues to Athens; one of which, long celebrated as the Dying Gladiator, is now seen to be the portraiture of a dying Gaulish chief. Greek art, transplanted from Athens and the Peloponnese to Pergamon and Rhodes, though it had ac-quired a somewhat florid tinge, was yet not unworthy of its descent from the schools of Phidias and Lysippus, and owing to the close alliance of these two cities with Rome, as against Macedon and Syria, this revived Greek art found its way to Italy. Pergamon also became a centre of Greek learning only second to Alexandria; and, when Ptolemy cut off the supply of papyrus from Egypt, Crates of Mallus in Cilicia (whose name was only second to that of Aristarchus) is said to have revived the old Asiatic use of "parchment"—a name which itself preserves the memory of Pergamon. Papyrus, it is true, remained the usual material for books till about the 4th century, when the Christian Church finally adopted the new material due to the invention of Crates (see Birt, Das antike Buehwesen),

All along the coast also a number of Greek cities acquired practical independence owing to the division of power among the princes, Greek as well as native, who were further kept in check by the invading Gauls. Such were the cities of Byzantium, Cyzicus, Heraclea, Sinope, and Olbia on the north-west of the Black Sea, and Panticapaaum or Bosporus between that sea and the Palus Maeotis. The true Greek spirit survived above all in Rhodes, as it did also at Massalia in the West. All the more did the Syrian kings strive to maintain their power by founding cities under their own rule, which were made attractive to new colonists by something of municipal independence, with the right to bear arms, to coin money, and to manage their own judicial affairs. Each city had its demus, senate, archons, and generals. There were four of these great cities in Syria itself:—two inland, Antioch on the Orontes, the greatest commercial entrepot in the East, and Apamea, the military centre of the kingdom; two on the coast, Seleucia, with its rock fortress to serve as a refuge in time of trouble, and farther south Laodicea on the sea, among its rich vineyards. They were all named after the royal family. Other towns were named from places in Greece or Macedonia, such as Achaia, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Arethusa, Astacus, Bercea, Callipolis, Chalcis, Edessa, Heraea, Larissa, Maronea, Oropus, Pella, Perinthus, Tegea ; for the oppressed Greeks of Greece itself and of Magna Graecia here found an outlet for their energy. Some military colonies were planted on the west and south of Calatia, to keep the Gauls in check, and guard the roads leading from Phrygia, the centre of the commerce of Asia Minor, to the towns on the coast; such were Antioch in Pisidia, Apamea Cibotus, Synnada, and Thyatira. Even Palestine, notwithstanding the temporary success of the Maccabees, was full of Greek towns like the later Cassarea, and the manufacturing population used the Greek language. We have some traces of the state of things in the Economics, a work of this period, though falsely attributed to Aristotle ; and the later political literature shows that men had a clear idea of the aims and means of the politics of the day, and that diplomacy and international law had considerably developed. Thus a large influx of new Hellenic blood was poured into the lands on this side of the Tigris, into Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and Syria; during the century after Alexander's death nearly two hundred cities were founded, and the Greek race became predominant in western Asia, though of course it was differentiated by the various peoples which it undertook to assimilate, and by which it could not but be influenced in turn, especially as the princes found it necessary to conciliate them. The historians of the time are mostly lost; but many inscriptions survive which show what a blending of populations took place. One gives us a rescript of Antigonus on incorporating the people of Lebedus with the Teians. Another shows that Magnesia became absorbed in Smyrna, now restored after it had long lain waste. Others tell us that places like Erythrae and Iasus recovered something like independence owing to the needs of the Syrian kings. Amidst the feuds of the great powers the Ionian states recovered their freedom, and were able to form a kind of federal union. Similarly we hear of the community (KOLVOV) of Bithynia, of Asia, and the like. A new life of a somewhat different kind from the old Greek life in politics, religion, and science dates from the revolution effected by Alexander's conquests, though in the lower strata of the country population old beliefs still had some hold, as is evident by what Pausanias found existing even in his day in Greece itself. But old distinctions tended to vanish away, only that between poor and rich acquired still greater force, material interests became predominant. We see also that in the manu-facturing towns the workmen had formed benefit societies, and secret or public associations of various kinds. And it j was in these commercial centres, with their somewhat 1 cosmopolite character, free from old prejudices and ideas, that Christianity found an early home. Greek freedom made a great impression in the East. The Greeks had no I system of castes, no close priesthood, no sacred books like ! those of India to limit their development; their views may almost be called cosmopolitan, and the distinction between "Greek"and "barbarian" already tended to disappear, as Alexander perhaps had wished. Attic speech became the basis of the new written language, and, with Attic customs, prevailed at the courts of Alexandria and Babylon, of Bactra and Pergamon. Attic plays were acted at Ctesiphon down to Roman times; and the later rhetoricians and sophists imitated the masters of Attic oratory. The Greek view as to Philip and Alexander was thus enabled to hold its own against the prevailing Macedonian tone on these matters, especially when Macedonia lost its leading position, for that country produced only soldiers—with the exception of Marsyas of Bella, and of King Ptolemy, who wrote with true military brevity an account of Alexander's campaigns, which Arrian wisely preferred to the more romantic account of Clitarchus. But, though the towns became Hellenizerl, yet the Hellenistic populations did not possess the highest qualities of the Greek mind, as the surrounding elements and the climate naturally wrought some alteration. Polybius looked with surprise at the Greeks settled in Alexandria. The living forces of Greece —its productive genius, self-organizing power, and active spirit of political life—were weakened and gradually lost their energy. The Attic language became the Hellenistic, Attic eloquence received a florid Asiatic tinge (though iEschines himself taught at Rhodes), but true eloquence can only flourish, as Tacitus points out, in a free state. Literature and art lost their connexion with a true national life. Architecture took another character, and the plastic art of Pergamon, though derived from Athens, and that of Rhodes, though derived from the Sicyonian school, through Chares of Lindus (who modelled the Sun-god, known as the " Colossus "), had lost the self-restraint and dignity of the highest Greek art. But the suppression of political freedom turned the force of the Greek mind all the more strongly into other channels, and science and criticism, and speculation and literary history, made a great advance. Considerable schools were opened at Tarsus and other centres of commerce. As the free state lost its power over the mind, men had recourse to philosophy, and regained in mental fortitude and independence the outward freedom they had lost. Then this feeling reacted on politics, and a generation of patriots like Philopcemen arose, worthy to represent Greece in these her last days. The new teaching of freedom came forth, as was right, from Athens; it was the followers of Arcesilaus, the founder of the new Academy, who freed Megalopolis from its tyrant. The later developments of philosophy were mainly due to Zeno of Citiurn in Cyprus, and to Epicurus, who finally taught at Mytilene and Lampsacus; but Athens was still the chief home of their teaching. The writings of the great philosophers of this age, however, are mostly lost to us, as well as those of the historians, and after Aristotle there is a strange gap in the tradition up to the Christian era. The Greeks now wished to know the early history of the East, and the Eastern peoples wished to make their history known to the great literary nation. Hence Berosus wrote the history of Babylon for Antiochus II., from the archives in the temple of Belus, Manetho that of Egypt for Ptolemy | Philadelphus, Menander of Tyre that of Phoenicia, and | Jewish writers the history of their race and religious views, which are finally summed up for us by Philo and Josephus. The sacred books of Egypt, Palestine, and Persia were to be found in the Alexandrian library, and the religious syncretism that resulted from the mixture of races prepared the way for monotheism and for Christianity. The astrology, however, and divination of the East in turn made their way among the Greeks, and led to curious superstitions, and a whole literature of Sibylline books and similar forgeries sprang up. Christianity itself spread chiefly in the Hellenized towns ; the country districts were much longer in feeling the new influence.

It was in Egypt, however, that Hellenism was perhaps most highly developed. The Ptolemies gained Gyrene and Cyprus, and struggled hard with the Syrian kings for the possession of Phoenicia; Palestine was as of old the battle-field for the king of the north and the king of the south. The Ptolemies even held Seleucia at the mouth of the Orontes for some time. The history of these times is lost in its detail; the only thing certain is the spread of the Hellenistic spirit in the East. Many Jews were trans-planted to Alexandria and Cyrene, occupied large quarters of those cities, and had full civil rights. The Ptolemies also pushed south into Ethiopia, and the African elephants which they trained for war enabled them to oppose the Syrian army with its Indian elephants. A Greek inscrip-tion at Adulis, though of later origin, commemorates the conquests of the third king of this line. These kings also secured the route down the Red Sea, reopened the old canal of Necho leading from the Nile into that sea, founded Arsinoe and other important towns, and made discoveries on the route to India. The new information thus gained was recorded in the geographical works of Agatharcides of Cnidus and Artemidorus of Ephesus. The old trade of Egypt had chiefly consisted in the export of corn; now the wares of Arabia, South Africa, and India came through Egypt to Europe, and ships of Alexandria became frequent visitors to the western waters. Even in Asia Minor Egypt won influence as Syria lost it, and a court poet (perhaps Theocritus) was justified in praising the Egyptian king who was master of the sea. The carrying trade had fallen largely into the hands of Egypt from the time when the war between Seleucus and Antigonus stopped the trade of the caravans by land, and the import and export duties formed a large part of the Egyptian revenues. After the return of Pyrrhus from Italy, Philadelphus even made a treaty with Rome. The Sicilian Greeks might be rivals in trade, but the Italians were good customers, and produced the excellent wool which was invaluable for the Egyptian manufactures, as the cultivation of cotton in Egypt had but begun. Puteoli, the first really good port to the south of Rome, was the chief centre of the trade even at this early time. The Egyptian trade was concentrated in Alexandria, which thus became one of the greatest cities on the earth. Science flourished there, and men like Archimedes came thither to study. Much of what was done was done for ever. No mathematician has to redemonstrate the problems of Euclid. Geography was founded by Eratosthenes of Cyrene on a mathematical and astronomical basis: he first calculated the magnitude of the earth by measuring an arc of the meridian, the process employed at the present day. Modern astronomy too is the natural development of the work of Hipparchus and Ptolemy. Erasistratus and Herophilus investigated the structure and functions of the valves of the heart, and the nerves of sensation and motion, and a close connexion was thus formed between anatomy and medicine. The Museum, a sort of college, numbered Eratosthenes, Callimachus, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus among its members. They fixed the text of the classical writers on critical principles; and grammar assumed the form itkept for centuries. Poetry itself had a kind of second summer with Callimachus and Apollonius Rhodius, and, under Sicilian influences, with Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus. All the knowledge of the past was treasured up for transmission to a future age.

There was no more unity among the Macedonian monarchies than there had been among the free cities of Greece, and the kings were even less able to combine against Rome than the republics against Philip. When Philip V. tried to keep the Romans out of Greece, he met with no support from Antiochus the Great, and was defeated by Flamininus at Cynoscephalse, 197 B.C. Antiochus in turn had no help from Philip when Scipio crossed into Asia and defeated the Syrian army at Magnesia, 190 B.C. Last of all, Perseus was overthrown at Pydna (168 B.C.), while Antiochus Epiphanes was trying to plunder Egypt; and Macedonia was divided into four districts, like those out of which the kingdom had been originally formed— Amphipolis, Thessalonica, Pella, Pelagonia. The Romans in many respects carried on the work of spreading Greek culture. They gave the Greek cities of Asia a freer scope for their action on the country ; they united the whole Greek race, east and west, under one rule, and opened out the world to their enterprise. We meet with many great names in this later age, such as Posidonius at Rhodes, Galen at Pergamon, Strabo at Amasia. Epictetus was a Greek slave from Phrygia. Cappadocia became so thoroughly Greek that the church itself owed to it such men as Basil and Gregory. The Greek influence even spread to Palmyra in the desert, and its ruin in the third century marks the first great check sustained by Hellenism. But under the rule of Rome it may almost be said that the primitive unity of the Gneco-Italian race was restored, and the work of the Macedonian conqueror completed in western Asia.

This article is mainly based on Grote's Greece, and Droysen's Hellenismus, 2d ed., 1877. For more detailed accounts and for the personal history see ALEXANDER, ANTIGONUS, ANTIOCHUS, ANTIPATER, &C. The original authorities are collected in Didot's Historici Graeci, and his Arrianus, 1877. (G. W. BO.)



The above article was written by Rev. C. W. Boase, M.A., Lecturer in Modern History, Exeter College, Oxford.



Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries