Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Frankish states in the Aegean

Is known that in the beginning of the 13th cent Macedonia (Epirus,Thessalonike and Thrace as called during that time) was under the Frankish Control.

Even the seemingly straightforward task of listing the Frankish states in the Aegean which were established after the partition of the Byzantine empire in 1204 is not as easy as at first it might appear. For convenience I have enumerated the six territories which had some form of settled political organisation by 1210.

They were the Latin empire of Constantinople, the kingdom of Thessalonika, the lordship or megaskyrate (later duchy) of Athens and Thebes, the duchy of the Archipelago, the triarchies of the island of Euboea or Negroponte, and the principality of Achaia. In addition to these six, there were numerous family holdings like the counties of Boudonitza and Salona, which were usually dependent upon the lords of Athens and Thebes, and a variety of Italian lords installed on islands in the Cyclades, Sporades and Ionian Group who were dependent on Venice or the duke of the Archipelago on Naxos. There were in excess of 30 different dynasties of such lordlings during the period of Frankish control in the Aegean. Finally, there were a few strictly colonial territories administered by officials sent out from Venice or Genoa for fixed annual or biennial tours of duty, and taking their direction from and responsible to the home government. In this group were the two castellans of Modon and Coron, the duke of Crete, and after 1346 the representatives of the Genoese chartered company or mahona on Chios.

No short account can be entirely satisfactory, especially in a subject which sits uneasily on the edge of two great historical fields of study, the history of Byzantium and the history of the crusades. Does it belong to both or neither? Was the cultural contribution and social reaction of the Franks in the Aegean entirely negative or can positive and original responses to unique problems be identified? My own approach is to see the Frankish states as both an important part of the war against Islam and the succouring of the Holy Land and as a unique experiment in the conquest and settlement of lands which possessed their own rich cultural heritage. However, as archaeological and historical research proliferate, there is a need for an up-to-date account which provides the student with the developments and shifts in emphasis since William Miller produced his fine study, The Latins in the Levant, in 1908.

The Aegean world had an existence in the geographical terminology of the thirteenth century as 'Romania' or the 'imperium Constantinopole' and its component parts of Graecia, la tere d'Ebire (Epiros), Vlachia and la Turkie were identifiable if not precisely defined in the chronicles and letters of the time. Venetian writers of the fourteenth century frequently referred to Negroponte (Euboea), Crete, and the Peloponnese as forming part of 'Romania Bassa'. There was apparently no equivalent reference to the lands between the Isthmus of Corinth and the Bosphorus as Upper Romania.

The states founded by western Europeans in the Aegean began and ended with conquest. This gives some indication of the dogged and determined opposition of the Byzantines and of the lack of stability enjoyed by the Latin states. Their genesis was the conquest of Constantinople by the forces of the Fourth Crusade on 12 April 1204. Their end came at various points from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries -- Thessalonika captured by Theodore Komnenos Doukas in December 1224,

Constantinople retaken by the Byzantines on 25 July 1261, Patras, the last outpost of the Frankish Morea, recovered by the Greek despot of the Morea in 1430, and the duchy of Athens conquered by the Turks in 1450. The Venetian and Genoese colonies survived into the early modern period but these too were eventually conquered by the Turks -- Negroponte in 1470, Modon and Coron in 1500, Chios in 1566 and Crete in 1669, after the 24-year siege of Candia. The ragged nature of these beginnings and endings not only reflects the fragmented nature of the Frankish Aegean but also demonstrates that if some of the new crusader states were politically and economically unviable from the outset, the majority clearly had a fair chance of survival.

The Latin empire claimed suzerainty over the whole of the Latin Aegean, known collectively as Romania. In practice it was seldom exercised outside Thrace and more usually confined to the city of Constantinople and its hinterland. The weakness of the empire was due to a variety of factors. The greatest of these was poverty. Militarily unable to expand its frontiers or to establish any lasting peace with its enemies, its rulers could not exploit the resources of their new realm and instead became dependent on financial and military support from the west. In particular this included that of the pope and the king of France, eked out with loans from Venice and a variety of stop-gap measures involving the sale of relics and even the lead from their palace roofs. In turn this meant that its rulers were never entirely masters in their own house and never attained that status in the west to which their rank of emperor might have entitled them. With the exception of the emperor Henry ( 1206-16), the Latin emperors were a poor lot celebrated more for incompetence than strong military leadership. Henry was the only emperor to campaign in Greece and to enforce his overlordship there.

The final year of his reign has been dubbed the apogee of the Latin empire. For the rest, their suzerainty consisted in underpinning the Latin claim to the Aegean, a role which they could exercise as well in exile in Italy as they could in Constantinople. Their poverty was exacerbated by the needs of defence. In 1205-7 the Vlacho-Bulgarians under Kalojan came near to overwhelming them, and again in the 1230s the Bulgarians seemed set fair to dominate Thrace and take Constantinople. The Greeks in Epiros and in Nicaea maintained pressure on both Constantinople and Thessalonika, driven by their desire to recapture the ancient capital of Byzantium. Thessalonika fell to Theodore Doukas, the despot of Epiros, in 1224, although it was lost in turn to John III Vatatzes of Nicaea in 1246. Thereafter the Latins became resigned to the loss of Constantinople. When the city fell to the Greeks in July 1261 its loss was barely noted in western Europe.

In March 1204 the leadership of the French and Venetian crusaders had laid down guidelines for the disposal of the lands and offices of the Byzantine empire in the event that their attack on Constantinople should prove successful. By the act of partition of September 1204, some effect was given to this earlier arrangement. The Latin emperor Baldwin received one-quarter of the former Byzantine territory and the Venetians and the French three-eighths each. This land had to be conquered and in this process the neat demarcations of the partition became overridden. Boniface of Montferrat, the unsuccessful candidate for the imperial throne, gained lands around Thessalonika not registered in the partition and proceeded to direct the distribution of territory in Thrace and Boeotia which formed part of the French crusaders' condominium. The Venetians for their part received more territory than they could readily occupy. They had acquired the harbour towns of Modon and Coron in Messenia by 1209 and their colonisation of Crete began in 1211. These territories formed colonial possessions with officials sent out by and accountable to the Venetian senate. With regard to the Aegean islands, the Venetians sought to conquer and control these through the sons of their own wealthy families. One such nobleman, Marco Sanudo, conquered the Cycladic islands in 1207. Surprisingly he sought out the suzerainty of the emperor in order to establish his and his descendants claim to the Archipelago and to secure a measure of independence from Venice.

Of the French territories in Greece, the principality of the Morea was the best-documented, the richest and the most secure, cut off from the Greeks of Epiros by the Gulf of Corinth and shielded by the lordship of Athens. By 1210 the Frankish lords of Athens and Thebes had to cope with the Epirote reconquest of southern Thessaly and the temporary loss of Salona. From both these areas raids were launched on their lands culminating in a series of attacks on Thebes itself in the mid-1230s. In general until 1261 the leadership of the Franks in Greece was both active and competent. They clearly felt sufficiently secure to allow themselves to indulge in a destructive civil war in 1255-58. Thereafter, with the loss of Constantinople in 1261 and the recovery of the Peloponnesian towns of Mistra, Maina and Monemvasia by the Byzantines in 1262, the Latins in Greece lost both their security and the initiative. The defensive stance which they were now forced to adopt and which they maintained until their final loss of political control in the mid-fifteenth century involved them in seeking the military help from rulers of the west Mediterranean. The price to be paid was the acknowledgement of the suzerainty of these rulers, often expressed by marriage ties and the transfer of titles. The original Frankish ruling families had died out by 1314 and nominal rule now resided with kings in Naples, Trani and Barcelona.

The able and the ambitious like the Fadriques, the Foucherolles, the Orsini and the Acciaioli could carve out substantial lands and positions for themselves as officials of these absentee rulers. In the Aegean Catalans, Turks, Hospitallers and Venetians now took a leading role fighting and intriguing against each other either on their own account or as part of some holy war. The Aegean had become a fully integrated part of the Mediterranean world and the frontier of Christendom against the Turk.

  1. The Franks in the Aegean, 1204-1500 by Peter Lock, pages 5-8
  2. R. L. Wolff, "'Romania: The Latin Empire of Constantinople'" Speculum 23 ( 1948), 1-34

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Macedonia in the years preceeding the Turkish Occupation


When Stephen Dušan ascended the Serbian throne in 1331, the boundary between Byzantium and Serbia in the region of Macedonia lay further north than Sérres, Melnik, Strumica, Prilep and Ohrid ; that is to say, beyond the present Greek frontier. Dušan was able to take over large portions first of Macedonia and later of Thrace, while the Byzantines were pre-occupied with the civil war between John V Palaeologus and John VI Cantacuzenus, each calling in against the other such traditional enemies of Byzantium as the Serbs, Bulgars and Turks.

The Serbian kral was able to proclaim himself ‘king and emperor of Serbia and Romania’, and in order to strengthen his military power he confiscated a good deal of ecclesiastical property in various parts of Maoedonia as well as Epirus , and assigned it to military men. The monasteries regained possesion of this property only at the end of the Serbian rule , which contemporary Byzantine documents represent as ‘illegal and tyrannical’ . Thus it was that Dušan became sovereign of a large dominion, which stretched southwards to embrace the northern regions mentioned above. Reaching almost as far as Christopolis (Kavála today), only Thessalonica and the surrounding district remained outside the Serbian domain. Athos constituted an independent state of monks under the suzerainty of the Serbian monarch , but Chalcidice generally — cut off as it was by the rugged mass of Mt. Cholomón — his power seems to have been virtually imperceptible and for all practical purposes non-existent. This immense state, however, began to disintegrate immediately after his death in 1355, and the powerful governors of the various provinces were soon coveting their independence. Finally, one of them, Vukašin, became co-regent with Dušan’s son, Stephen Uroš, and subsequently received from him the crown, to reign from 1365-1371. At the same time, Uroš himself delegated to the brother of Vukašin, John Uğlieša, the administration of north-east Macedonia with Sérres as capital, and gave him the title of ‘despot’ (1365-1371) . It is possible that under Uğlieša the boundaries of the state of Serres were expanded to the south and east for a few years (1364-1371) — after the Turks had overrun Thrace — to include Chalcidice, the Holy Mountain, and part of western Thrace as far as Lake Boroú . But these boundaries did not remain fixed and intact. Moreover, the Serbs did not succeed in establishing themselves along the coast of the Aegean either under Dušan or under his successors . Over Chalcidice in particular, Uğlieša seems to have exercised but a shadowy control, except for the Holy Mountain,with which he had close but formal relations, as suited his political designs towards the monks. Thus, after the collapse of the brief Serbian domin ation, the reactions of the monks against it as against the Slavs in general—were violently hostile, and the memories of that period remained painful to them for a long time after . It is true that during the fifteen years’ existence of the Serbian state of Sérres, there had been a steady infiltration of Serbian clergy into Athos, and the Protaton (council of igumens or abbots) was presided over by Serbs. This was the period of ‘Serboproti’ , well-known in the history of the Holy Mountain. But this does not mean that Greeks lost all control of Athos during this period of Serbian occupation. Many Macedonian cities remained in the pastoral care of Greek metropolitans . The Greeks had not yet given up the fight; several parts of Macedonia were in fact recovered from the Serbs, and the Slav conquerors could at no time feel their possessions secure.


Cvijič recalls that Serbs from Raška were settled around Skopje, Véroia, and probably other parts of Macedonia . In fact, even Cantacuzenus records that “inVéroia there were a considerable number of Triballi settled there by the kral” . But a few years later he marched on the city, “where there had gathered a good number of those who had been settled in the villages” , and taking possession of it, he sent back the Serbian soldiery he found there to their kral and to their native land . Some of the peasants from the villages around no doubt returned to their homelands too. It is the same region where, according to Kameniates in the 10th century, there had already existed “ἀμϕίμεικτοί τινες κῶμαι”, that is to say villages with a mixed population of Greeks and Slavs: the so-called Dragouvitai and Sagoudatai. Consequently, on top of the older stratum of Slavs from the 10th century we have a fresh stratum of Serbs from the time of Dušan. But one cannot say if at that time (i.e. the 14th century) there were Greeks also living alongside Serbs; whether that handful of villages around Véroia continued to be ‘ἀμϕίμεικτα’ as Kameniates wrote; or whether the Slavs, speaking an easily assimilated idiom, had managed to absorb the Greeks. It is, moreover, possible that the Greeks, with their numerical superiority, absorbed the Slavs of those villages. An answer to this question may be discerned in what actually occurred at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, when north of a line Yenitsá-Pélla-Kilkís there were a number of villages of which some were Moslem, others Christian, and others again of mixed religion. Of the Christian population the majority were Bulgars , whose numbers had been swelled by a further peaceful influx of their kinfolk, when free passage had been afforded them during Turkish times. To the south, in the middle of that extensive portion of the plain of Thessalonica known as Rumluk — i.e. land of the Romans (viz. Greeks) — there were some fifty villages, many surviving to this day, which, with few exceptions, had Greek names, and which preserved a strong Greek tradition in their language and in their folk culture .

Α limited degree of colonisation by Serbs seems to have taken place also in the southern part of Eastern Macedonia. And here it is interesting to observe that Lemerle, discussing the clashes between Greeks and Serbs in Eastern Macedonia, expresses the opinion that the Serbian armies had a firm grip on the region of Philippi, and that even throughout the Greek parts (”Ρωμαίων μὲν ὄντα, ὑπήκοα δὲ Τριβαλλοῖς ἐκ πολλοῦ”, as Gregoras writes) there had been some colonisation by Serbs here and there . This is very likely, and we can reinforce his opinion by quoting as evidence the observant and trusworthy traveller Belon, who notes that even in his own day (200 years later) with the exception of Serres, both Greek and Serb was spoken in the villages there. During the Turkish occupation, however, these people had been completely hellenized, or else were absorbed by the Bulgarians who filtered down from the north in search of work. The result of this continued assimilation of one group of Slavs by another was that, taken as a whole, they gained more and more territory, until the Bulgarian element became particularly pronounced, especially with the imperceptible movement of farmers and labourers southwards. Thus, in the end, such few Serbs as had survived in that part of Eastern Macedonia were completely absorbed either by the Greeks or by the Bulgarians. Doubtless there will be instances of the deliberate conversion of Greeks into Slavs, just as there was of Bulgarians into Greeks; although such cases are very difficult for us to pinpoint and determine with absolute certainty today.

At all events, we must take it as a fact that the Serbian rulers — and Dušan in particular — greatly facilitated the influx not only of Albanians and Albano-Vlachs by employing many ot them as mercenaries, but also of fresh Slavs — Serbs and Bulgars. These intermingled with the remnants of the old Slav colonists that had remained after their rapid christianization and hellenization in the 8th century and in the first half of the 9th .

The social conditions in Macedonia were no different from the corresponding conditions in other provinces in the Byzantine empire. The Serbian rulers had not changed the regime in the least. They had already adopted from the Byzantines the institution of Pronoia and imposed it in their own country. They too, as the Byzantines, distributed land to their soldiers and to monasteries. Α host of deeds of gift whether of despots or private individuals, have been preserved in the monasteries of both Northern and Southern Macedonia, and particularly of Mount Athos; and these provide us with valuable information about the economic and social conditions of rural life: on the farms of the monasteries and churches and their dependencies, in the villages, fields, vegetable-gardens and mills; also about the tenants (πάροικοι), the state of servitude, forced labour, as well as the productions and distribution of products .


The Greek inhabitants, not unnaturally, were on the defensive in the face of the Slav colonists in Greater Macedonia and perhaps at this point one should consider the size and the state of the Greek population within the empire of Stephen Dušan, and a little later under his successors in the Serbian state of Sérres.

If Dušan proclaimed himself ‘king and emperor of Serbia and Romania’, he had done so not only because he had the intention of extending his sway over Greek lands also, but because he was confronting in a practical way the indisputable fact that he found himself wedged between Greek populations. It is not surprising that this proclamation came after the occupation of Sérres, which he had finally succeeded in capturing after many abortive attempts . This was undoubtedly the reason why he was obliged to re-organise and split up his great dominion into two parts, as Gregoras informs us; the northern part comprised the Serbian territories over whom he ordained as governor his youngest son Uroš, while the ‘Greek lands’ of the south he governed directly in person . Α remnant of the Greek-speaking and racially Greek areas of Northern Macedonia (beyond the present Greek frontier) survived to our day in the form of Melnik, which lies isolated in the depths of a narrow ravine in the Pirin Mountains (Mt. Orvelos) surrounded by towering cliffs. The Byzantine emperors had taken an interest in this natural bulwark against invaders from the north, and had strengthened it with Greek colonists from Philippopolis. Their number was augmented by further immigrants from Crete, who found refuge on Byzantine soil after the failure of their insurrections at home against the Venetians . The Arab traveller Idris, writing in the 12th century, considered Melnik one of the principal towns in the land of the ‘Romans’, and spoke admiringly of its well-cultivated plains and the surrounding villages . The inhabitants of Melnik were pronouncedly conscious of their nationality, and for that reason in 1246, when the emperor of Nicaea, John III Ducas Vatatzes, was marching on their city, they were persuaded by Nicholas Manglavites to surrender the city to the emperor, affirming that “our land belongs to the rulers of the Romans …, we are of pure Romaic blood” exposed to the attacks of foreign peoples. After many vicissitudes it fell into the hands of kral Stephen Dušan, and on his death it passed to Uğlieša with the districts of Sérres and Nevrokop. Later on it seems to have passed into the hands of the lesser Serb rulers, Dragaš and Constantine Dejanovič; and in 1395 it fell to the Turks. Throughout the course of these centuries the people of Melnik have preserved unchanged their Greek character and their monuments of Byzantine ecclesiastical and secular architecture. It is worth the famous 14th century Byzantine house which survives to this day (fig. 1). But it is not only monuments such as these which emphasise the Byzantine character of the town; it lives on in the names of the old families: Mourtzouphlos, Ducas, Kouropalatis, Spandonis, etc..

Moreover, it is mentioned in the 14th century that Mysian (i.e. Bulgarian) settlers were dwelling along the narrows of the Strymon, in the district of Strumica beyond the present Greek frontier; but that there were also many Greeks to be found amongst them: “καὶ τοῖς ἡμῖν ὁμοϕύλοις ἀναμὶξ τὴν δίαιταν ἔχοντες” . In this connection, the charter, royal decrees (chrysobulls) and other documents of the famous monastery of Our Lady of Mercy near Strumica (founded in 1080) cite a great number of Greek names, which bear witness to the Greek character of the district. These inhabitants were mere pockets of Greek population which had survived the descent of the Slavs, and which existed in districts to the north of the present frontiers of Greece as far as the line formulated by Jireček, running beyond Štip and Sofia as far as the Balkan Range; that is to say, as far as the limits to which Greek civilization and language extended. Consequently, in those regions it was not only Illyrians and Thracians who were converted into Slavs but Greeks as well . In this context Cvijič states quite frankly: “The Byzantine cultural influences were much more powerful in the cities of the Southern Balkans, where they are preserved to this day. Here the Byzantine-Vlach culture had a firm hold on the people of the villages also; and one of the main reasons for this was that in the southern regions a far larger number of Greeks and Vlachs existed in the villages than is the case today …”


Thus it was that the Serbian kral was forced to recognise in Macedonia just as in Thessaly the predominance of Greeks , not only in their regional distribution but in their political and social status. He was obliged to appoint Greek officers in his administration, fugitives from Byzantium during the feuds between JohnVI Cantacuzenus and Anna of Savoy. As Solovjev says, it is typical to find that the higher government offices are bestowed upon Serbs, while the posts of ‘heads’ (κεϕαλαὶ) — that is to say, the local political and social leaders — remain mostly in the hands of Greeks. In particular cases ‘heads’ bear the additional title of ‘judge general’ . This information is significant, when one bears in mind that these ‘heads’ represented the community of local inhabitants in its entirity. With the office of ‘head’ were associated certain administrative powers which connected him with the central authorities; but this link was a very loose one, as is invariably the case with popular authorities. In other words, the ‘head’ plays the same role as the elder of a Greek village.

In our discussion of the ephemeral Serbian state of Sérres, we ought to outline the system according to which the city was governed in the latter days of Byzantium. Just like Thessalonica (which we shall be dealing with later on), Sérres was administered by the most important local personages, who formed a single body referred to in Byzantine writings as the senate (σύγκλητος). And here I should like to express views differing from those of the eminent historian, Ostrogorskij. For I am of the opinion that this particular body was not instituted in Sérres between 1360 and 1365, even though there is mention of this institution for the first time in the acts of 1365 . The term ’senate’ is applied to the social authority which, especially after 1204, exercised a vigorous initiative in the larger towns of the Byzantine empire, a theme I have already touched upon in the ‘History of Modern Hellenism’. Accordingly, the term ’senate’ was the official designation of the communal authority at Sérres, and is reminiscent of the body of the same name at Constantinople, though it did not carry the same prestige. This provincial body coped with the needs of the community, and in conjunction with the community leader (i.e. the ‘head’) essentially ruled the district. Consequently, it played a leading role in the life of Sérres, especially during those troubled times; for these local officials had to make rapid decisions on matters of the moment. Sometimes, however, there is mention of several ‘heads’. It may be that the members of the senate were themselves ‘heads’ , that is to say the notables of the place. They are refered to by this name during the early years of the Turkish occupation also. The senate of Sérres, as of Thessalonica, was composed of twelve members, and this number figures likewise throughout the Turkish occupation .

The ecclesiastical courts constituted an inseparable element of Greek local self-government; and it is worth noting that it was the Greek language which predominated both in the administrative sphere and in the law-courts of the state of Sérres, which must mean that the officials were for the most part Greeks . We may assume, therefore, that the Greeks continued to play an active part in the administration of their villages after they had been taken over by Serbs. This newly established and shortlived Serbian state thus remained essentially Greek in its composition, and was destined in the years that followed to succumb to the influence of Greek cultural forces, just as did the corresponding state of Symeon Uroš Palaeologus in Thessaly.

The number of other Greek nobles and officials was undoubtedly large in Dušan’s state and that of his successors. The Greek clergy was particulany prominent, so that the strong imprint of Orthodoxy was maintained . Altogether there were more Greeks than Serbs among the more influential figures of the land. Thus, to cite an example, there is mention of an eparch, George Isares, who retained the same designation at the court of Stephen Dušan (chrysobull of Vatopediou, April 1348), and who, twenty years later at the court of Uğlieša, bears the title of Megas Primicerius (chief administrator). The son-in-law (through his daughter) of George Isares, George Stanisa, was a Serb, yet the sons of this Byzantine aristocrat were called Michael Angelos Isares and Theodore Comnenus Isares; presumably they had some relationship with the old dynasty of the Comneni. There is also mention of an Alexius Raoul, who went to the court of Dušan and most probably received from hinf the title of Megas Domesticus . We hear too of other Greeks in important posts: Megas Hetairiaches (general), Kyr-John Margarites , along with other officers of Sérres such as the Megas Primicerius Michael Avrampakas; the Megas Papias (supreme officer of the palace), Ducas Nestongos; the Katholikos Krites, Demetrius Comnenus Eudaemonoyannes; the Megas Tsaousios (commander of the bodyguard), Kyr-Kardames Palaeologus; the Katholikos Krites, Nicetas Pediasimus; and Kyr-Orestes styled Katholikos Krites and ‘ἐπὶ τοῦ στρατοῦ’, who built the tower of the castle of Sérres (see figs. 2 and 3). In fact, he figures with these two titles also under the despot Uğlieša in 1366.

It is impossible for us to be precise about the proportions of the two basic elements — Greek and Slav — which made up the population at that time; but there is no doubt that the Greeks were appreciably in the majority at least in the major towns’, as Ostrogorskij has it . We shall have an opportunity later to corroborate this fact, when we come to deal with the period of Turkish domination. Moreover, Ostrogorskij’s condescending reservation ‘at least’ may be omitted, since 200 years later, despite a continuous though nonetheless peaceful influx of Slavs in the meanwhile (especially of Bulgarians southwards), the perceptive and reliable Belon noted that in all the towns of Eastern Macedonia the Greek population was predominant. Furthermore, these Greeks spoke their own tongue, as we shall later demonstrate in the appropriate context. This predominance lasted until the beginning of the 20th century in all the towns and townlets of Macedonia, with the exception of Gevgelija where the Bulgarian element was in a slight majority, and Kilkis where it was much more so . In Sérres and the other large centres the Greek language prevailed both in the state administration and in the Church. From all this it can be seen that the brief Serbian rule did not bring any significant changes, even though the Serbs had effectively taken over control both of state and Church .

Even the mixed population of some country disctricts, which through war and other hardships had sought refuge in the towns, rapidly became thoroughly hellenized. Ostrogorskij has made a close study of the registers (πρακτικὰ) of the Byzantine census officials, who made a record of all the villages, property, names of proprietors and their families, the nature and size of their possessions, the number of beasts, the amount of tax they had to pay, etc; and he has come to the conclusion that the Slavonic names — of both individuals and families — are generally fewer in Chalcidice and the theme of Thessalonica than throughout the theme of Sérres and the Strymon (at least in the villages of the katepanikia of Zavaltía and Popolía that lie in the southern section of the Sérres-Strymon theme). For the central section of the theme we possess no praktikon, but Christian Greek names are everywhere in the vast majority , a fact which has a definite bearing on the composition of the population or, at least, on its thorough hellenization. As for the place-names, Ostrogorskij, speaking of the whole of Eastern Macedonia, asserts that Slavonic names are more common than Greek, though he admits that at that period, when nationality did not mean what it does today, Greek statesmen and writers did not change foreign place-names; and he notes that it is not certain if the inhabitants of certain districts with Slavonic place-names were in fact Slavs .

Kyriakides is quite categorical about the relationship between place-names and the composition of the population in this region of the Lower Strymon. He writes: “Leaving aside Chalcidice, about which we have, with the exception of a few place-names, no information from the writers as regards its colonisation by Slavs, I come to the Strymon, which is considered a Slavonic centre. From these documents it is quite clear that from Amphipolis to the northern end of Lake Achinós the majority of the villages on both sides of the river have Greek names …, that the names of all the inhabitants of all these villages are in every case Greek, except for a few which can be counted on the fingers of one hand” .

I think it is possible to close this chapter with the practical conclusions of Lemerle, which allow us to formulate a clear picture of the whole problem: “Eastern Macedonia was the scene of many contacts and clashes [between Slavs and Greeks] … Let us repeat that the region to the south of the great mountain chain [he means the ranges which form the present Greek-Bulgarian frontier] remained Greek, and that its role was three-fold in the Byzantine empire: it was a rampart and an outpost of Hellenism in the Balkan Peninsula, ensuring its diffusion throughout all that region; it formed a transition zone, an area where Byzantium and an important part of the Slav world interpenetrated each other, permitting a widespread assimilation of the latter by the former; and finally, it served as a link between the two largest towns of the empire, Constantinople and Thessalonica .

Thus the preservation of the old Slav colonies and the creation of new ones had been favoured first by the successive incursions of Bulgarians and more so of Serbs under Dušan and his successors, and later by their generally peaceful infiltration especially after the end of Serbian rule. But while the Greeks were engaged in their obstinate struggle to free their native land and drive out the conquerors from the north to beyond the great mountain ranges, the Ottoman Turks were making their first appearance in Europe (1354).

for fair use only

Professor Apostolos Vakalopoulos in his memorial work..... History of Macedonia 1354-1833, pages 13-26, IMXA 1973
Notes with the primary sources located in the book.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


His best-known work is the Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans, arranged as dyads to illuminate their common moral virtues or failings. The surviving Lives contain twenty-three pairs of biographies, each pair containing one Greek Life and one Roman Life, as well as four unpaired single Lives. As he explains in the first paragraph of his Life of Alexander, Plutarch was not concerned with writing histories, as such, but in exploring the influence of character — good or bad — on the lives and destinies of famous men. Some of the more interesting Lives — for instance, those of Heracles and Philip II of Macedon — no longer exist, and many of the remaining Lives are truncated, contain obvious lacunae, or have been tampered with by later writers. The existing Parallel Lives include Solon, Themistocles, Aristides, Pericles, Alcibiades, Nicias, Demosthenes, Philopoemen, Timoleon, Dion, Alexander, Pyrrhus, Marius, Sulla, Romulus, Pompey, Mark Antony, Brutus, Julius Caesar, and Cicero.

Plutarch's Life of Alexander is one of the five surviving tertiary sources about the Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great, and it includes anecdotes and descriptions of incidents that appear in no other source.

Great work is the "On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander the Great ", an important adjunct to his Life of the great Greek king. More in Plutarch: Alexander's Moralia


For Alexander did not follow Aristotles advice to treat the Greeks as if he were their leader, and other peoples as if he were their master; to have regard for the Greeks as for friends and kindred, but to conduct himself toward other peoples as though they were plants or animals; for to do so would have been to cumber his leadership with numerous battles and banishments and festering seditions. But, as he believed that he came as a heaven sent governor to all, and as a mediator for the whole world, those whom he could not persuade to unite with him, he conquered by force of arms, and he brought together into one body all men everywhere, uniting and mixing in one great loving‐cup, as it were, mens lives, their characters, their marriages, their very habits of life. He bade them all consider as their fatherland the whole inhabited earth, as their stronghold and protection his camp, as akin to them all good men, and as foreigners only the wicked; they should not distinguish between Grecian and foreigner by Grecian cloak and targe, or scimitar and jacket; but the distinguishing mark of the Grecian should be seen in virtue, and that of the foreigner in iniquity; clothing and food, marriage and manner of life they should regard as common to all, being blended into one by ties of blood and children.

[Plutarch, Moralia, Fortune, 6]

But let us compare the actions of men who are admitted to be philosophers. Socrates forbore when Alciviades spent the night with him. But when Philoxenus, the governor of the coastlands of Asia Minor, wrote to Alexander that there was in Ionia a youth, the like of whom for bloom and beauty did not exist, and inquired in his letter whether he should send the boy on to him, Alexander wrote bitterly in reply «Vilest of men, what deed of this sort have you ever been privy to in my past that now you would flatter me with the offer of such pleasures?»
[Plutarch, Moralia, Fortune, 12]

"Yet through Alexander, Bactria and the Caucasus learned to revere the gods of the Hellenes … Alexander established more than seventy cities among savage tribes, and sowed all Asia with Hellenic magistracies … Egypt would not have its Alexandria, nor Mesopotamia its Seleucia, nor Sogdiana its Prophthasia, nor India its Bucephalia, nor the Caucasus a Hellenic city, for by the founding of cities in these places savagery was extinguished and the worse element, gaining familiarity with the better, changed under its influence."

[Plutarch, Moralia, On the Fortune of Alexander, I, 328D, 329A]

"But he said, `If I were not Alexandros, I should be Diogenes’; that is to say: `If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things Hellenic, to traverse and civilize every every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to diseminate and shower the blessings of the Hellenic justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorius Hellenes should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Kaukasos…"

[Plutarch, Moralia, On the Fortune of Alexander, 332 a-b]

Again, however, Fortune stirred up Thebes against him, and thrust in his pathway a war with Greeks, and the dread necessity of punishing, by means of slaughter and fire and sword, men that were his kith and kin, a necessity which had a most unpleasant ending.

[Plutarch, Moralia ,Virtue, 11]

"It is agreed on by all hands, that on the father’s side, Alexander descended from Hercules by Caranus, and from Aeacus byNeoptolemus on the mother’s side"
[Plutarch, The Life of Alexander]

IX. When Philip was besieging Byzantium he left to Alexander, who was then only sixteen years old, the sole charge of the administration of the kingdom of Macedonia, confirming his authority by entrusting to him his own signet. He defeated and subdued the Mædian rebels, took their city, ejected its barbarian inhabitants, and reconstituted it as a Grecian colony, to which he gave the name of Alexandropolis.

[Plutarch, The Life of Alexander]

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Polybius was a Greek statesman and historian who wrote of the rise of Rome to world prominence. Born c. 200 BC, ,at Megalopolis, Arcadia, Greece abd died c. 118 BC.
“All historians,” according to Polybius, "have insisted that the soundest education and training for political activity is the study of history, and that the surest and indeed the only way to learn how to bear bravely the vicissitudes of fortune is to recall the disasters of others."
The Histories on which his reputation rests consisted of 40 books, the last being indexes. Books I–V are extant. For the rest there are various excerpts, including those contained in the collection of passages from Greek historians assembled in the 10th century and rediscovered and published by various editors from the 16th to the 19th century.


“Let it, however, be granted that what I have now said may in the eyes of severe critics be regarded as beside the subject. I will now return to the main point at issue, as they state it. It was this: ‘If the circumstances are the same now as at the time when you made alliance with the Aetolians, then your policy ought to remain on the same lines.’ That was their first proposition. ‘But if they have been entirely changed, then it is fair that you should now deliberate on the demands made to you as on a matter entirely new and unprejudiced.’ I ask you therefore, Cleonicus and Chlaeneas, who were your allies on the former occasion when you invited this people to join you? Were they not all the Greeks? But with whom are you now united, or to what kind of federation are you now inviting this people? Is it not to one with the foreigner? A mighty similarity exists, no doubt, in your minds, and no diversity at all! Then you were contending for glory and supremacy with Achaeans and Macedonians, men of kindred blood with yourselves, and with Philip their leader; now a war of slavery is threatening Greece against men of another race, whom you think to bring against Philip, but have really unconsciously brought against yourselves and all Greece. For just as men in the stress of war, by introducing into their cities garrisons superior in strength to their own forces, while successfully repelling all danger from the enemy, put themselves at the mercy of their friends,–just so are the Aetolians acting in the present case. For in their desire to conquer Philip and humble Macedonia, they have unconsciously brought such a mighty cloud from the west, as for the present perhaps will overshadow Macedonia first, but which in the sequel will be the origin of heavy evils to all Greece.

“But if thanks are due to the Aetolians for this single service, how highly should we honour the Macedonians, who for the greater part of their lives never cease from fighting with the barbarians for the sake of the security of Greece? For who is not aware that Greece would have constantly stood in the greatest danger, had we not been fenced by the Macedonians and the honourable ambition of their kings?”
[Polybius, The Histories, Book IX, 35, 2]

“…I assert is that not only the Thessalians, but the rest of the Greeks owed their safety to Philip.”
[Polybius, The Histories, Book IX, 33, 3]

“…because he (Philip) was the benefactor of Greece, that they all chose him commander-in-chief both on sea and land, an honour previously conferred on no one.”
[Polybius, The Histories, Book IX, 33, 7]

“…he (Alexander) inflicted punishment on the Persians for their outrages on all the Greeks, and how he delivered us all from the greatest evils by enslaving the barbarians and depriving them of the resources they used for the destruction of the Greeks, pitting now the Athenians and now the Thebans against the ancestors of these Spartans, how in a word he made Asia subject to Greece.“
[Polybius, The Histories, Book IX, 34, 3]

“The 38th book contains the completion of the disaster of the Hellenes. For though both the whole of Hellas and her several parts had often met with mischance, yet to none of her former defeats can we more fittingly apply, the name of disaster with all it signifies than to the events of my own time. In the time I am speaking of a comon misfortune befell the Peloponnesians, the Boiotians, the Phokians, the Euboians, the Lokrians, some of the cities on the Ionians Gulf, and finally the Macedonians“
[Polybius, The Histories, Book IX, 38, ]

“..the Achaean magistrates refused the latter request on the ground that they were not empowered to receive additional members without consulting Philip and the rest of the allies. For the alliance was still in force which Antigonus had concluded during the Cleomenic war between the Achaeans, Epirots, Phocians, Macedonians, Boeotians, Acarnanians,º and Thessalians. They, however, agreed to march out to their assistance on condition that the envoys deposited in Sparta their own sons as hostages, to ensure that the Messenians should not come to terms with the Aetolians without the consent of the Achaeans.”
[Polybius, The Histories, IV, 9, 4]

Even when he [Alexander] crossed to Asia to chastise the Persians for the outrages they had perpetuated against the Hellenes, he strove to exact the punishment…”
[Polybius, The Histories, 5.10.8]

Polybios also in talking of the size and height of the Alps compares them the greatest mountains in HELLAS: Taugetos, Lykaion, Parnassos, OLYMPOS, Pilion, and Ossa; and Aimos, Rodopi and Dounax in Thrace.”
[Polybius, The Histories, 34.10]

While wintering in Macedonia Philip spent his time in diligently levying troops for the coming campaign, and in securing his frontiers from attack by the barbarians of the interior.
[Polybius, The Histories, ,XX,3]

8 Antiochus, surnamed the Great, he whom the Romans overthrew, upon reaching Chalcis, as Polybius tells us in his 20th Book, celebrated his wedding. He was then fifty years old, and had undertaken two very serious tasks, one being the liberation of Greece, as he himself gave out, the other a war with Rome. He fell in love, then, with a maiden of Chalcis at the time of the war, and was most eager to make her his wife, being himself a wine-bibber and fond of getting drunk. 3 She was the daughter of Cleoptolemus, a noble Chalcidian, and of surpassing beauty.
[Polybius, The Histories, XX,8]

Again, no one could approve of the general scheme of this writer. Having set himself the task of writing the history of Greece from the point at which Thucydides leaves off, just when he was approaching the battle of Leuctra and the most brilliant period of Greek history, he abandoned Greece and her efforts, and changing his plan decided to write the history of Philip. 4 Surely it would have been much more dignified and fairer to include Philip’s achievements in the history of Greece than to include the history of Greece in that of Philip.
[Polybius, The Histories, 8.11.3-4 ]

There are several peninsulas jutting out from Europe, and Polybius has given a better description of them than Eratosthenes, but not an adequate one. 12 The latter says there are three, that which runs down to the Pillars and is occupied by Spain, that running down to the Straits and occupied by Italy, and thirdly that terminated by Cape Malea and comprising all the peoples between the Adriatic and the Euxine and Tanaïs. 13 Polybius agrees about the two first, but makes the third that reaching to Malea and Sunium, occupied by the whole of Greece, by Illyria and parts of Thrace, the fourth being the Thracian Chersonese, on which is the Strait between Sestus and Abydus, inhabited by Thracians, and the fifth that of the Cimmerian Bosporus and the mouth of the Palus Maeotis.
[Polybius, The Histories, 34.7.13]

Antiochus traversed the worst part of the road in the manner I have described, safely but very slowly and with difficulty, only just reaching the pass of Mount Labus on the eighth day. 2 The barbarians were collected there, convinced that they would prevent the enemy from crossing, and a fierce struggle now took place, in which the barbarians were forced back for the following reason. 3 Formed in a dense mass they fought desperately against the phalanx face to face, but while it was still night the light-armed troops had made a wide detour and occupied the heights in their rear, and the barbarians, the moment they noticed this, were panic-stricken and took to flight. 4 The king made every effort to restrain his men from continuing the pursuit, summoning them back by bugle-call, as he wanted his army to descend into Hyrcania unbroken and in good order.
[Polybius, The Histories, 10.31.2-4]

Philip, then, is but the nominal pretext of the war; he is in no kind of danger; but as he has for allies most of the Peloponnesians, the Boeotians, the Euboeans, the Phocians, the Locrians, the Thessalians, and Epirots, you made the treaty against them all, the terms being 5 that their persons and personal property should belong to the Romans and their cities and lands to the Aetolians. 6 Did you capture a city yourselves you would not allow yourselves to outrage freemen or to burn their towns, which you regard as a cruel proceeding and barbarous; 7 but have made a treaty by which you have given up to the barbarians the rest of the Greeks to be exposed to atrocious outrage and violence.
[Polybius, The Histories, 11.5.6-7 ]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Diodoros Sikeliotis (Siculus)

Diodorus Siculus was a Sicilian Greek historian who lived from 90 to 21 BC.
He wrote, a world history in 40 books, ending it near the time of his death with Caesar's Gallic Wars. Fully preserved are Books I-V and XI-XX, which cover Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Indian, Scythian, Arabian, and North African history and parts of Greek and Roman history.
His histories, while not considered great scholarly material in their own right, borrowed heavily from other writers whose works are now lost. In this regard, Siculus is valuable as a historical record for those writers who came before him.
Bibliotheca Historica =Library of History, surviving books cover the ancient Egyptian, Assyrians, Ethiopians and Greeks up to about 302 BC.


“Such was the end of Philip … He had ruled 24 years. Is considered this king (Philip) began his monarchy with the bad conditions and he conquered the bigger monarchy of Hellenes increasing the hegemony no so much with the heroism of arms, as long as with the skilful handlings and his diplomacy .”
[Diodoros of Sicily 16.95.1-2]

“Along with lavish display of every sort, Philip included in the procession statues of the twelve Gods wrought with great artistry and adorned with a dazzling show of wealth to strike awe to the beholder, and along with these was conducted a thirteenth statue, suitable for a god, that of Philip himself, so that the king exhibited himself enthroned among the twelve Gods. Every seat in the theater was taken when Philip appeared wearing a white cloak and by his express orders his bodyguard held away from him and followed only at a distance, since he wanted to show publicly that he was protected by the goodwill of all the Hellenes, and had no need of a guard of spearmen.”
[Diodoros of Sicily 16.92.5-93.2]

“After this Alexandros left Dareios’s mother, his daughters,and his son in Susa, providing them with persons to teach them the hellenic dialect,…”
[Diodoros of Sicily 17.67.1]

“Alexandros observed that his soldiers were exhausted with their constant campaigns. …The hooves of the horses had been worn thin by steady marching. The arms and armour were wearing out, and the Hellenic clothing was quite gone. They had to clothe themselves in materials of the barbarians,…”
[Diodoros of Sicily 17.94.1-2]

and the Athenians were not ready to concede the leading position among the Greeks to Macedon.”
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.3.2]

“Similarly, the Thebans voted to drive out the garrison in the Cadmeia and not to concede to Alexander the leadership of the Greeks.”
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.3.4]

“First he [Alexander] dealt with the Thessalians, reminding them of his ancient relationship to them through Heracles“
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.4.1]

“where he convened the assembly of the Amphictyons and had them pass a resolution granting him the leadership of the Greeks“
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.4.2]

“He [Demosthenes] was generally believed to have received large sums of money from that source [King of Persian] in payment for his efforts to check the Macedonians and indeed Aeschines is said to have referred to this in a speech when he taunted Demosthenes with his venality:At the moment, it is true, his extravagance has been glutted by the king’s gold, but even this will not satisfy him; no wealth has ever proved sufficient for a greedy character””
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.4.8]

“he spoke to them in moderate terms and had them pass a resolution appointing him general plenipotentiary of the Greeks and undertaking themselves to join in an expedition against Persia seeking satisfaction for the offences which the Persians had committed against Greece“
[Diodorus of Sicily, 17.4.9]


“Now that the men of this family are Hellenes, sprung from Perdiccas, as they themselves affirm, is a thing which I can declare on my own knowledge, and which I will hereafter make plainly evident. That they are so has been already adjudged by those who manage the Pan-Hellenic contest at Olympia“
[Herodotus, The Histories 8.43]

“Tell your king who sent you how his Hellenic viceroy of Macedonia has received you hospitably… “
[Herodotus V, 20, 4]

“Now that these descendants of Perdiccas are Hellenes, as they themselves say, I myself chance to know”
[Herodotus V, 22, 1]

“Xerxes, having so spoken, held his peace. (SS 1.) Whereupon Mardonius took the word, and said: ….I myself have had experience of these men when I marched against them by the orders of thy father; and though I went as far as Macedonia, and came but a little short of reaching Athens itself, yet not a soul ventured to come out against me to battle. ……But, notwithstanding that they have so foolish a manner of warfare, yet these Greeks, when I led my army against them to the very borders of Macedonia, did not so much as think of offering me battle.”
[Herodotus Book VII ]

“…but the Dorians on the contrary have been constantly on the move; their home in Deucalion’s reign was Phthiotis and in the reign of Dorus son of Hellen the country known as Histiaeotis in the neighbourhood of Ossa and Olympus; driven from there by the Cadmeians they settled in Pindus and were known as Macedons; thence they migrated to Dryopis, and finally to the Peloponnese, where they got their present name of Dorians.”
[Herodotus, Book I, 56]

“…Three brothers of the lineage of Temenos came as banished men from Argos to Illyria, Gavganis and Aeropos and Perdikkas, and worked for the king that was there… When the king learned that when the queen baked the bread of Perdikkas, it doubled its size, than of the the other breads, he considered that as a miracle and ordered the 3 brothers to leave his kingdom. The brothers required their payment. Then the king told them to take the sun as a payment. Gavganis and Aeropos where taken by surprise and the youngest brother, Perdikkas, accepted the offer. He took out his sword, circled it 3 times and took the sun, which he placed in his underarm and left with his brothers…”
[Herodotus VIII,137]

“Now these were the nations who composed the Grecian fleet. From the Peloponnese, the following- the Lacedaemonians with six, teen ships; the Corinthians with the same number as at Artemisium; the Sicyonians with fifteen; the Epidaurians with ten; the Troezenians with five; and the Hermionians with three. These were Dorians and Macedonians all of them (except those from Hermione), and had emigrated last from Erineus, Pindus, and Dryopis. The Hermionians were Dryopians, of the race which Hercules and the Malians drove out of the land now called Doris. Such were the Peloponnesian nations.”.”
[Herodotus, Book VIII ,43]

The whole nation of the Phocians had not joined the Medes; on the contrary, there were some who had gathered themselves into bands about Parnassus, and made expeditions from thence, whereby they distressed Mardonius and the Greeks who sided with him, and so did good service to the Grecian cause. Besides those mentioned above, Mardonius likewise arrayed against the Athenians the Macedonians and the tribes dwelling about Thessaly.
[Herodotus, Book IX ]
Some remarks as about Herodotos. The earliest surviving memory of the Macedonian locates them in the Pindos.
Herodotos refers to it twice:
on the first occasion he informs us that the Dorian dwelt about Pindos and were then called Makedno the second he describes the Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, the Sikyonians, the Epidaurians ar Troizenians as of Dorian and Makednian stock, and their early origins to the Pindos.
Other authors knew the Dorians originally came from the Pindos specifically from that part of it known in antiquity Lakmos (its modern name in the vernacular is Ζygos). These authors refer neither to the Makednoi nor to the Makedones, but their statements accord perfectly with the tradition preserved by Herodotos.
However, critical analysis of the sources, together with a variety of evidence, leads to a slight correction of the tradition in the form in which it is preserved:
the Dorian peoples seem to have been formed about the middle of the thirteenth century B.C. in central Greece from a number of different tribes, one of which was a section of the Makednoi or Makedones that had come from Lakmos at least as early as 1400 B.C. The ancestors of the Makednoi had entered the wider area of Macedonia and Epirus at an earlier date, about 2100 B.C., along with other Proto-Greek tribes.
The surviving tradition appears to be mistaken on a second point, too:
the home of the Makednoi could not have been limited to Lakmos; they will undoubtedly also have occupied territory lying at a lower altitude. Lakmos, like the entire Pindos range, is only suitable for the summer grazing of sheep and goats and as a source of wood. From October to April shepherds are obliged to graze their flocks in the plains. It is a reasonable hypothesis that the Makednoi had winter grazing grounds not only in Epirus, but also in south-west Macedonia since it was from here that they later expanded to the east and north. They very probably succeeded in occupying all the territory abandoned by the Proto-Arkadians when they migrated to the Peloponnese about 1900 B.C. One branch of the Makednoi, known later by the name Magnetes , spread into Pieria, from where they migrated to the region around Ossa and Pelion during the century of the great population movements between 1200 and 1100 B.C. To the north of the Makednoi lived the Boiotoi. The name points to Mt. Boion in the northern Pindos, but this tribe too will have also occupied some territory in the plains. Towards the end of the Bronze Age the Boiotoi migrated to south-west Thessaly, from where they moved shortly afterwards to the land that was named after them.
The vacuum created by the departure of the Boiotoi facilitated the expansion of Greek tribes from Epirus into those areas of western Macedonia known in the first millennium B.C. as Orestis, Lynkestis and Pelagonia.
These tribes were later absorbed by the Makedones.
The remaining areas of Macedonia were oc*cupied towards the end of the Bronze Age by the Paiones, the Bottiaioi, the Eordoi, the Almopes, the Derriopes or Deuriopes and the Pelagones. Towards the end of the period, and a little later, Macedonia was penetrated by Phryges, Mygdones, Thrakes and Pelasgoi, who destroyed, displaced or subjugated the Paiones. During the following centuries all the peoples mentioned above suffered a similar fate as a result of the expansion of the Makedones from the sites they had originally occupied to the south-western extremity of Macedonia, to the east, and to the north.
The above analysis is from Professor and member of the Athens Academy M.B. Sakellariou in Macedonia: 4000 Years of Hellenic Civilisation, pages 46-47


[99]Assembling in Doberus, they prepared for descending from the heights upon Lower Macedonia, where the dominions of Perdiccas lay; for the Lyncestae, Elimiots, and other tribes more inland, though Macedonians by blood and allies and, dependents of their kindred, still have their own separate governments. The country on the sea coast, now called Macedonia, was first acquired by Alexander, the father of Perdiccas, and his ancestors, originally Temenids from Argos. This was effected by the expulsion from Pieria of the Pierians, who afterwards inhabited Phagres and other places under Mount Pangaeus, beyond the Strymon (indeed the country between Pangaeus and the sea is still called the Pierian gulf) of the Bottiaeans, at present neighbors of the Chalcidians, from Bottia, and by the acquisition in Paeonia of a narrow strip along the river Axius extending to Pella and the sea; the district of Mygdonia, between the Axius and the Strymon, being also added by the expulsion of the Edonians. From Eordia also were driven the Eordians, most of whom perished, though a few of them still live round Physca, and the Almopians from Almopia. These Macedonians also conquered places belonging to the other tribes, which are still theirs--Anthemus, Crestonia, Bisaltia, and much of Macedonia proper. The whole is now called Macedonia, and at the time of the invasion of Sitalces, Perdiccas, Alexander's son, was the reigning king.

[100] These Macedonians, unable to take the field against so numerous an invader, shut themselves up in such strong places and fortresses as the country possessed. Of these there was no great number, most of those now found in the country having been erected subsequently by Archelaus, the son of Perdiccas, on his accession, who also cut straight roads, and otherwise put the kingdom on a better footing as regards horses, heavy infantry, and other war material than had been done by all the eight kings that preceded him. Advancing from Doberus, the Thracian host first invaded what had been once Philip's government, and took Idomene by assault, Gortynia, Atalanta, and some other places by negotiation, these last coming over for love of Philip's son, Amyntas, then with Sitalces. Laying siege to Europus, and failing to take it, he next advanced into the rest of Macedonia to the left of Pella and Cyrrhus, not proceeding beyond this into Bottia and Pieria, but staying to lay waste Mygdonia, Crestonia, and Anthemus. The Macedonians never even thought of meeting him with infantry; but the Thracian host was, as opportunity offered, attacked by handfuls of their horse, which had been reinforced from their allies in the interior. Armed with cuirasses, and excellent horsemen, wherever these charged they overthrew all before them, but ran considerable risk in entangling themselves in the masses of the enemy, and so finally desisted from these efforts, deciding that they were not strong enough to venture against numbers so superior.
[Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,book 2]

“The Hellenic troops with him consisted of the Ambraciots, Leucadians, and Anactorians, and the thousand Peloponnesians with whom he came; the barbarian of a thousand Chaonians, who, belonging to a nation that has no king, were led by Photys and Nicanor, the two members of the royal family to whom the chieftainship for that year had been confided. With the Chaonians came also some Thesprotians, like them without a king, some Molossians and Atintanians led by Sabylinthus, the guardian of King Tharyps who was still a minor, and some Paravæans, under their king Oroedus, accompanied by a thousand Orestians, subjects of King Antichus and placed by him under the command of Oroedus. There were also a thousand Macedonians sent by Perdiccas without the knowledge of the Athenians, but they arrived too late. With this force Cnemus set out, without waiting for the fleet from Corinth. Passing through the territory of Amphilochian Argos, and sacking the open village of Limnæa, they advanced to Stratus the Acarnanian capital; this once taken, the rest of the country, they felt convinced, would speedily follow”
[Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,book 2, Chapter VIII]

“In all there were about three thousand Hellenic heavy infantry, accompanied by all the Macedonian cavalry with the Chalcidians, near one thousand strong, besides an immense crowd of barbarians.”
[Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War,book 4, 124]


“There remain of Europe, first, Macedonia and the parts of Thrace that are contiguous to it and extend as far as Byzantium; secondly, Greece; and thirdly, the islands that are close by. Macedonia, of course, is a part of Greece, yet now, since I am following the nature and shape of the places geographically, I have decided to classify it apart from the rest of Greece and to join it with that part of Thrace which borders on it and extends as far as the mouth of the Euxine and the Propontis. Then, a little further on, Strabo mentions Cypsela and the Hebrus River, and also describes a sort of parallelogram in which the whole of Macedonia lies.”
[Strabo, Geography,book 7,Fragm,9]

“And even to the present day the Thracians, Illyrians, and Epeirotes live on the flanks of the Greeks (though this was still more the case formerly than now); indeed most of the country that at the present time is indisputably Greece is held by the barbarians — Macedonia and certain parts of Thessaly by the Thracians, and the parts above Acarnania and Aetolia by the Thesproti, the Cassopaei, the Amphilochi, the Molossi, and the Athamanes — Epeirotic tribes.”
[Strabo, Geography,book 7,VII,1]

What is now called Macedonia was in earlier times called Emathia. And it took its present name from Macedon, one of its early chieftains. And there was also a city emathia close to the sea. Now a part of this country was taken and held by certain of the Epeirotes and the Illyrians, but most oii by the Bottiaei and the Thracians. The Bottiaei came from Crete originally, so it is said, along with Botton as chieftain. As for the Thracians, the Pieres inhabited Pieria and the region about Olympus; the Paeones, the region on both sides of the Axius River, which on that account is called Amphaxitis; the Edoni and Bisaltae, the rest of the country as far as the Strymon. Of these two peoples the latter are called Bisaltae alone, whereas a part of the Edoni are called Mygdones, a part Edones, and a part Sithones. But of all these tribes the Argeadae, as they are called, established themselves as masters, and also the Chalcidians of Euboea; for the Chalcidians of Euboea also came over to the country of the Sithones and jointly peopled about thirty cities in it, although later on the majority of them were ejected and came together into one city, Olynthus; and they were named the Thracian Chalcidians.”
[Strabo, Geography, book 7, Fragm 11]

“When the Euboeans were returning from Troy, some of them, after being driven out of their course to Illyria, set out for home through Macedonia, but remained in the neighborhood of Edessa, after aiding in war those who had received them hospitably; and they founded a city Euboe“
[Strabo, Geography,book 10,I,15]

“From its melody and rhythm and instruments, all Thracian music has been considered to be Asiatic. And this is clear, first, from the places where the Muses have been worshipped, for Pieria and Olympus and Pimpla and Leibethrum were in ancient times Thracian places and mountains, though they are now held by the Macedonians;”
[Strabo, Geography,book 10,III,17]

“….and again, of the Epeirotes, the Molossi became subject to Pyrrhus, the son of Neoptolemus the son of Achilles, and to his descendants, who were Thessalians. But the rest were ruled by men of native stock.”
[Strabo, Geography, book 7, VII, 8]

“It is said that Orestes once took possession of Orestias — when in exile on account of the murder of his mother — and left the country bearing his name; and that he also founded a city and called it Argos Oresticum.”
[Strabo, Geography,book 7,VII,8]

“After having described as much of the western parts of Europe as is comprised within the interior and exterior seas, and surveyed all the barbarous nations which it contains, as far as the Don and a small part of Greece, [namely, Macedonia,] we propose to give an account of the remainder of the Helladic geography.
[Strabo, Geography, BOOK 8, 1]

“…but after they had intrusted to Lycurgus the formation of a political constitution, they acquired such a superiority over the other Greeks, that they alone obtained the sovereignty both by sea and land, and continued to be the chiefs of the Greeks, till the Thebans, and soon afterwards the Macedonians, deprived them of this ascendency“
[Strabo, Geography, BOOK 8, V]

“The veneration for this god prevailed so strongly among the Greeks, that the Macedonians, even when masters of the country, nevertheless preserved even to the present time the privilege of the asylum, and were restrained by shame from dragging away the suppliants who took refuge at Calauria
[Strabo, Geography, BOOK 8, 6]

“The Acarnanians, and the Ætolians, like many other nations, are at present worn out, and exhausted by continual wars. The Ætolians however, in conjunction with the Acarnanians, during a long period withstood the Macedonians and the other Greeks “
[Strabo, Geography, Book 10, Chapter 2, 23]
Egypt is now a Province; and it not only pays considerable tribute, but also is governed by prudent men81 — the praefects who are sent there from time to time. Now he who is sent has the rank of the king; and subordinate to him is the administrator of justice,82 who has supreme authority over most of the law-suits; and another is the official called Idiologus,83 who inquires into all properties that are without owners and that ought to fall to Caesar; and these are attended by freedmen of Caesar, as also by stewards, who are entrusted with affairs of more or less importance. There are also three legions of soldiers, one of which is stationed in the city and the others in the country; and apart from these there are nine Roman cohorts, three in the city, three on the borders of Aethiopia in Syenκ, as a guard for that region, and three in the rest of the country. And there are also three bodies of cavalry, which likewise are assigned to the various critical points. Of the native officials in the city, one is the Interpreter,84 who is clad in purple, has hereditary prerogatives, and has charge of the interests of the city; and another the Recorder;85 and another the Chief Judge;86 and the fourth the Night Commander.87 Now these officers existed also in the time of the kings, but, since the kings were carrying on a bad government, the prosperity of the cities was also vanishing on account of the prevailing lawlessness. At any rate, Polybius, who had visited the city, is disgusted with the state of p51things then existing; and he says that three classes inhabited the city: first, the Aegyptian or native stock of people, who were quick-tempered and not88 inclined to strife; and, secondly, the mercenary class, who were severe and numerous and intractable (for by an ancient custom they would maintain foreign men-at‑arms, who had been trained to rule rather than to be ruled, on account of the worthlessness of the kings); and, third, the tribe of the Alexandrians, who also were not distinctly inclined to civil life, and for the same reasons, but still they were better than those others,89 for even though they were a mixed people, still they were Greeks by ORIGIN and mindful of the customs common to the Greeks. But after this mass of people had also been blotted out, chiefly by Euergetes Physcon, in whose time Polybius went to Alexandria (for, being opposed by factions, Physcon more often sent the masses against the soldiers and thus caused their destruction) — such being the state of affairs in the city, Polybius says, in very truth there remained for one, in the words of the poet, merely “to go to Aegypt, a long and painful journey.”
[Strabo Book XVII, 12 ]

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Hellenistic Period in World History

A great pupmhlet from Stanley M. Burstein published on Jan. 23, 1995. Reprinted from American Historical Association for "fair use" only.
Hellenistic period (4th - 1st century BC) is a period in the times in world history of the Mediterranean region usually considered to stretch from the death of Alexander the Great to the defeat of Cleopatra. It is often considered a period of transition, sometimes even of decline or decadence, between the brilliance of the Greek Classical Era and the strength of the Roman Empire, and is therefore often neglected by scholars. However, the splendor of cities, such as Alexandria, Antioch, Pergamon, the importance of foreign trade, cultural exchanges, and the dominant role of Greek and its diffusion profoundly affected the face of the ancient Near East later under Roman dominion.

The Hellenistic era was defined by 19th century historians (the term "hellenistic" was defined by the German Historian Johann Gustav Droysen in Geschichte des Hellenismus in 1836 and 1843) as part of a linguistic and cultural criterion for the spectacular increase in the areas where Greek (ἑλληνίζειν / hellênízein) was spoken, and therefore a term for the phenomenal expansion of Hellenism.

However, according to Paul Veyne, the phenomena of Hellenization of large regions and of the meeting of ancient Eastern and Western civilizations continued under the "Greco-Roman Empire."

Recent archaeological and historical work has led to a reevaluation of the period, especially two specific aspects of it:
  • the existence and stature of great kingdoms led by dynasties of Greek origin (Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Antigonid, Attalid, etc.) and
  • the role of hundreds of cities whose importance, contrary to a long-held idea, was far from declining.
Enjoy the article...........

Introduction:The Hellenistic Period in Modern Historiography

The Hellenistic period is conventionally said to extend from the accession of Alexander the Great to the throne of Macedon in 336 B.C. to the death of Cleopatra VII of Egypt in 30 B.C. Its beginning is marked by Alexander's successful invasion of the Persian Empire and its end by the redivision of the Near and Middle East between Rome and the new Iranian-ruled kingdom of Parthia. For much of the intervening three hundred years the territory of the former Persian Empire was dominated by a series of Macedonian-ruled kingdoms in which Greeks and Greek culture enjoyed unprecedented preeminence. Art and literature flourished, the foundations of Western literary scholarship were laid, and Greek scientists formulated ideas of theories that would remain fundamental to work in a variety of fields until the Renaissance.

There was also a dark side to the Hellenistic period. It was the first great age of Western imperial expansion in Asia, ushering in the beginning of the end of the great civilizations of the ancient Near East that had dominated the Near and Middle East for almost three thousand years. These two aspects of the Hellenistic period, the emergence of Greek culture as a significant factor in the culture of the old world and the decline of Greece's Near Eastern rivals, were intertwined, since it was Macedonian imperial domination in the east that facilitated the cultural hegemony of Greece.

This view of the Hellenistic period as one of the major creative periods of Greek history and a fundamental turning point in the history of ancient Eurasia is, however, comparatively recent. Prior to the nineteenth century the Hellenistic period attracted little scholarly interest. To scholars who identified the concept of Hellenism with the Greek republican tradition of the polis , or city-state, and with the restraint and balance of fifth-and fourth-century art, the "baroque" art and "oriental" monarchies of the Hellenistic period seemed decadent. Three factors were responsible for a more positive reassessment of the importance of these three centuries.
The first was the publication between 1833 and 1843 of J. G. Droysen's great three-volume Geschichte des Hellenismus (History of Hellenism), with its revolutionary interpretation of the Hellenistic period as the time in which Greek and Near Eastern cultures mingled in the lands conquered by Alexander the Great to form the cultural matrix from which Christianity emerged.2 The second was the archaeological revolution. Excavation of Hellenistic period sites in Europe and Asia provided--and continues to provide--extensive information concerning the physical setting and material culture of the inhabitants of the new Macedonian kingdoms and their neighbors. Archaeology has also furnished scholars with a wealth of new written evidence in the form of inscriptions on stone and especially papyri, both literary and nonliterary,3 which has made the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the most important period for the recovery of classical literature since the Renaissance. Equally important, the texts also provided scholars with a detailed view of the government and society of a major kingdom, Ptolemaic Egypt, through documentation unrivaled for its comprehensiveness before the late Middle Ages. The third factor that contributed to the reassessment of the Hellenistic period was the creation of new European empires during approximately the same period in the areas once dominated by the Hellenistic kingdoms. The opening of these regions to Western exploration encouraged scholars to see Alexander, his Macedonian successors, and their Greek collaborators as forerunners of their own people and imperial endeavors. The result was almost a century of creative scholarship in which three generations of the most talented European and American historians assimilated the new data and fleshed out Droysen's view of Hellenistic civilization as a mixed culture, Greek in its essential character but enriched by the admixture of elements derived from the ancient cultures of the Near East.

The "heroic age" of Hellenistic scholarship ended in the 1940s. Thereafter, for almost two decades the views of the founders of Hellenistic studies reigned almost unchallenged, becoming enshrined in textbooks and encyclopedias that are still in common use today. During the last three decades--but especially during the 1980s--a new generation of Hellenistic historians, building on the foundations laid by their predecessors but reflecting the changed perspectives of a different time, have re-examined the bases of the interpretation of Hellenistic history and civilization first proposed by Droysen over a century ago. The result has been disconcerting.
The disappearance of the nineteenth-century European empires has left late twentieth-century scholars skeptical of their predecessors' optimistic picture of Graeco-Macedonian invaders and their Near Eastern subjects harmoniously living together and cooperating in the creation of a brilliant new mixed civilization. Contemporary scholars have emphasized instead the colonial character of the Hellenistic kingdoms, the tendency of the Greeks and Macedonians to hold themselves aloof from their non-Greek neighbors, and the essentially Greek character of most manifestations of Hellenistic culture. Aided by the recent publication of new editions and translations of Hellenistic Egyptian and Babylonian literary and documentary texts, scholars have also begun to remedy the neglect of the cultures of the subject peoples of the Hellenistic kingdoms that characterized so much of nineteenth-and twentieth-century scholarship. A new and more complex Hellenistic history is beginning to emerge, one that recognizes both the achievements of Hellenistic civilization and the price paid for them.4 The purpose of this essay is to give a preliminary outline of this new history of the Hellenistic period.

The Hellenistic Age (336-30 B.C.)

Rarely has an epoch-making reign begun with such poor prospects as that of Alexander the Great. Prior to the early fourth century B.C., Macedon was hardly more than a geographical expression, designating the loosely organized kingdom that occupied a region in northern Greece extending along the southern foothills of the Balkan Mountains from the Chalcidic Peninsula westward to the borders of modern Albania. The kings of Macedon sat on uneasy thrones, their hold on power and the unity of the kingdom itself repeatedly threatened by Thracian and Illyrian invasions and the intervention of various Greek states on behalf of rival Macedonian dynasts. Almost three decades of unrelenting effort at home and abroad by Alexander's father, Philip II (359-336 B.C.), had been required to transform the once-weak kingdom of Macedon into the strongest military power in the eastern Mediterranean and the mistress of the Balkans. But Philip's assassination in 336 B.C. threatened all of his achievements with sudden collapse just when he was about to launch his most ambitious undertaking, a full-scale invasion of Persian-occupied Asia Minor. Alexander, barely twenty years old and virtually unknown outside Macedonia, succeeded to a kingdom threatened with civil war at home and rebellion by its Greek and non-Greek subjects in the Balkans. Not only did he survive against all expectations, but in the thirteen years of his reign he transformed the ancient Western world, carrying Macedonian arms all the way to western India and destroying the Persian Empire, which had ruled western Asia for over two centuries.

Alexander's unexpected death at Babylon in the summer of 323 B.C. prevented him from establishing a permanent political organization for his vast conquests. It also encouraged speculation concerning his character and ultimate goals that continues unabated even today. In antiquity, opinions on Alexander varied widely. To his Greek contemporaries he was a brutal tyrant and conqueror. Their feelings are well summed up by the Athenian orator Demades, who bitterly observed on hearing rumors of Alexander's death that they couldn't be true "because the world would stink from the stench of his corpse." Later authors, such as the Greek moralist Plutarch and the Greco-Roman politician Arrian, writing during the early centuries of the Christian Era and reflecting the sense of Greek cultural superiority characteristic of intellectuals in the Roman Empire, took a more positive view of his reign, emphasizing the heroic scale of his conquests and his role in facilitating the spread of Hellenism to the east.

The same dichotomy has marked modern Alexander scholarship. Until recently, most historians, following the lead of the Roman imperial writers, whose works dominate the surviving sources, propounded a similarly benign view of Alexander's reign. The Macedonian king's opponents, such as the Athenian orator and statesman Demosthenes, were dismissed as provincial reactionaries who failed to see that the time had come for Greek unification even if it had to be imposed by force. The brutalities of Alexander's campaigns were ignored or glossed over. Actions viewed in antiquity as typical of a tyrant--such as Alexander's drunken rages or his demand late in his reign that he be deified--were explained away or given a positive interpretation. The climax of this scholarly trend came in W. W. Tarn's famous 1948 biography of Alexander with its romantic conception of the king as a chivalrous philosopher in arms who sought to use his conquests to realize the Cynic and Stoic dream of the brotherhood of man.5
In no other area of Hellenistic history has the revisionism of post-World War II historiography had more dramatic results. The idealistic interpretations of scholars such as Tarn have been subjected to a rigorously skeptical critique and discredited. In an important series of articles published in the late 1950s and the 1960s, historian E. Badian clearly established the apologetic character of the "official" tradition represented by sources such as Arrian's Anabasis Alexandri , and painstakingly reconstructed the fierce personal rivalries that dominated the political life of Alexander's court.6 The result has been the emergence of a deliberately "tough-minded" view of Alexander as a ruler who brooked no opposition in his drive to achieve personal autocracy and glory through conquest, a view neatly summed up by the title of the most recent major history of Alexander's reign, A. B. Bosworth's Conquest and Empire , published in 1988.7 Students of Alexander's reign are also increasingly doubtful that the king ever had a plan for his empire beyond its indefinite expansion. Perhaps most important of all has been the recognition that the ultimate significance of his spectacular reign was negative: the destruction of the existing state system in western Asia.

The Hellenistic Political World

It would require almost four decades after Alexander's death for a new state system to emerge in the Near and Middle East. During those four decades the hope of maintaining intact Alexander's empire proved to be a seductive will-o'-the-wisp. Efforts to hold the empire together were frustrated by alliances of Alexander's surviving generals. First Perdiccas, whom Alexander had designated to administer the empire after his death, tried to maintain the empire intact in his capacity as regent for Alexander's mentally retarded half-brother, Philip III (323-316 B.C.) and his infant son Alexander IV (316-312 B.C.). After Perdiccas's death in 321 B.C., Antigonus the One Eyed (306-301 B.C.), Alexander's Satrap (i.e., governor) of Phrygia, also attempted to defend the unity of the empire. Both, however, failed. The result was that by the end of the wars of Alexander's successors in 280 B.C., his empire had broken up into three major kingdoms ruled by Macedonian dynasties: the Ptolemies, whose realm included Egypt, Palestine, Libya, and Cyprus; the Seleucids, whose territories extended from the Mediterranean to the borders of India; and the Antigonids, in Macedon and northern Greece.

The kingdoms that constituted the Hellenistic political world had hardly come into existence when their survival was threatened by severe internal and external stresses. Particularly hard hit were the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms. The former, centered in Syria but having to guard against threats on fronts as distant as western Turkey and the borders of India, proved especially vulnerable to separatist tendencies. Even before the end of the fourth century B.C., Seleucus I (311-281 B.C.) had ceded his dynasty's claims to Alexander's conquests in India to Chandra Gupta (ca. 324-300 B.C.) , the conqueror of Northern India and founder of the Maurya dynasty. Seleucus I traded his Indian claims for a military alliance and peace on his far eastern frontier. By the mid-third century B.C. the bulk of Seleucid territory in Anatolia had been usurped by a series of small kingdoms of which the most important was that of the Attalids of Pergamum in the northwestern corner of the peninsula. At almost the same time, the migration into central Iran of the Parni (or Parthians), a nomadic people of Iranian stock from Central Asia, temporarily severed communications between the western heart of the Seleucid kingdom and its eastern marches. As a result, a strong Greek-ruled kingdom emerged with its capital at Bactra, modern Balkh, in Afghanistan. One of the Greek rulers of Bactria, Menander (ca. 155-130 B.C.), even conquered much of northern India and under the name Milinda became one of the most revered figures of Buddhism.8 Still, the Syrian and Mesopotamian core of the kingdom remained intact and provided a sufficiently strong base for Antiochus III (223-187 B.C.), a Seleucid, to launch a counteroffensive at the end of the third century B.C. that restored his dynasty's authority over most of its former territory.

The Ptolemies faced less severe problems in their Egyptian fortress, but even so, a combination of native revolts, military defeats by the Seleucids, and crises over the succession to the throne brought the kingdom to the verge of dissolution late in the third century B.C. The threatened collapse was averted, however, by the vigorous action of Ptolemy V (204-180 B.C.) in the early second century B.C., and the dynasty managed to retain its hold on its Egyptian heartland until the end of the Hellenistic period. Thus, for the better part of two centuries the political life of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean took place within the framework provided by the three major Macedonian kingdoms. It was the advance of Rome in the west and Parthia in the east that finally put an end to the world created by Alexander's conquests.

Historiography Of The Hellenistic Period

If the outlines of the political history of the Hellenistic period are clear, its details are not. Indeed, compared to the history of fifth and fourth century B.C. Greece or the history of the Roman Republic, it has a disconcertingly kaleidoscopic character. The narrative of events shifts abruptly from one geographical locale to another, its chronology is vague and insecure, and the personalities and policies of even the most important rulers are frustratingly unclear. The cause of these problems is not in doubt. No comprehensive ancient narrative history survives to serve as a guide for modern historians. By a cruel stroke of luck, the last manuscript of such an account, a copy of books twenty-one to forty of the vast Library of History of Diodorus of Agyrium, the first century B.C. universal historian, perished in the Ottoman Turkish sack of Constantinople in A.D. 1453. Diodorus's history is the only significant ancient literary work known to have been lost in that tragic event.9 As a result of its loss, modern historians are forced to cobble together their accounts from disparate, fragmentary, and often intractable sources. This same fact explains the extraordinary volatility of Hellenistic as the constant discovery of new evidence through archaeology forces the revision or abandonment of even the most seemingly secure historical reconstructions. Not surprisingly, in these circumstances the perspective from which historians view their subject is especially important.
This is particularly clear with regard to the interpretations offered by the nineteenth-and early twentieth-century founders of Hellenistic studies. Obsessed by the analogy between the Hellenistic kingdoms and modern European imperialism in the Near and Middle East, they placed at the center of their works the problem of the ultimate failure of the Macedonian kingdoms and the possible implications of this failure for their own compatriots. The triumph of Greek political rationalism over Eastern theocratic absolutism, the most important result of Alexander's conquests, proved to be only temporary; it was the unchanging East that won the lasting victory. Such was the central theme of the great early histories of the Hellenistic period. Their authors' interpretations of this theme were usually cast in terms of stereotypes typical of what the literary critic Edward Said has called "Orientalism."10 Scholars accepted as accurate the tendentious characterization of Hellenistic Greek society offered by European Greeks and Romans, who claimed that virile European Greeks degenerated into corrupt Asiatics. Evidence of interest in or sympathy for the traditional cultures of the Near and Middle East, particularly their religious cultures, was excoriated as a betrayal of Western values. Total collapse was averted only by the fortuitous intervention of the philhellenic Romans, which prolonged the survival of Western rule and the dominance of Hellenism in the western portions of Alexander's empire until the Arab conquests and the final victory of the East in the seventh century A.D.
The study of the political history of the Hellenistic period has been least affected by the contemporary reaction against imperialist and chauvinist interpretations, and for good reason. Progress in the study of ancient history has always gone hand in hand with the discovery of new historical sources, and, with the exception of inscriptions, no significant new sources for Hellenistic political history have been discovered. Almost every archaeological expedition brings with it a harvest of new inscriptions, many of them of great interest. Epigraphical evidence is, however, by its very nature particularistic. It throws a bright light on isolated events, but it leaves their historical context in the shade. As a result, the general outlines of the account of Hellenistic political history sketched out in the great late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century histories of the period have remained essentially intact despite numerous modifications and corrections in their details.

The situation is different with regard to historians' views about the character of the Hellenistic kingdoms themselves. Recognition of the colonial nature of the Macedonian kingdoms, combined with intensive study of a steadily growing body of evidence bearing on their organization and social structure, has led to what can only be called a revolution in scholars' understanding of how these states actually functioned.

Descriptions of the organization of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the standard histories of the period are marked by a striking clarity and simplicity. The Hellenistic kingdoms were the result of conquest, and their organization was said to be based on two principles: first, that as spear-won land, the kingdom and its population essentially belonged to the king; and second, that the conduct of the king's business and the performance of the king's work took precedence over all other economic activities. These principles were common to all the Macedonian kingdoms, but analysis of their practical application was based largely on the example of Ptolemaic Egypt. There, the rich papyrological evidence--including royal letters, decrees, government regulations, petitions, and similar sources rescued from the debris of long-abandoned Egyptian towns--seemed to provide a vivid picture of the day-to-day functioning of a state, whose elaborate organization would win approval from even the most demanding modern government planner.
In these historical reconstructions the barter-based economy of Pharaonic Egypt was seen as having been transformed and modernized by the introduction of coinage on a large scale. Land usage was rationalized by the introduction of a comprehensive classification system according to which all Egyptian land was divided into two broad categories: royal land for basic agricultural production and "released land." There were four functional subcategories of released land: cleruchic land to support the army, gift land to reward government officials, temple land to provide economic support for Egypt's numerous temples, and private land, which included personal house and garden plots owned by individuals. Each major economic activity of the state was organized as a separate monopoly so as to generate the maximum revenue from fees and taxes for the king with the least risk. Potential foreign competition for the profits of Egyptian commerce was neutralized by currency manipulation and strict import controls. Every detail of the functioning of the Egyptian economy was planned and managed by an extensive bureaucracy. This bureaucracy was headquartered in Alexandria but its agents--Greek at the upper levels and Egyptian at the lower--could be found in even the most remote village. To facilitate proper functioning of the system, every person from royal peasant to immigrant soldier was registered according to place of residence and economic function. Over the whole system presided the king. The king was, however, no longer merely the first among equals as he was and continued to be in the tradition of the Macedonian homeland. In the Hellenistic state he was an autocrat whose every word was law and whose supremacy over all levels of society was symbolized by the institution of an official cult of the living ruler and his royal ancestors. This picture of the Hellenistic state as an example of a planned society, which the early Hellenistic historians teased out of the evidence, was breathtaking in its completeness and apparent rationality--and hardly any aspect of it has remained unchallenged by recent scholarship.11
The new view of the Hellenistic state is, in part, the result of the contemporary scholarly reaction against "Eurocentric" interpretations. Nineteenth-and twentieth-century historians treated the Hellenistic state as an essentially Greek--that is, European--political form and saw in it, therefore, a sharp break with the past. Recent scholars, on the other hand, increasingly tend to emphasize continuity with the political traditions of the ancient Near East and view the Hellenism of the Macedonian kingdoms as a facade behind which traditional Near Eastern institutions continued to function much as they had under the Persians and even before. This trend is particularly clear in studies of the Seleucid kingdom. Examples are easy to find. For instance, an important series of late-third and early-second-century-B.C. Greek inscriptions from Caria, in southwestern Anatolia, revealed that the traditional ruler of the sanctuary of Labraunda, the high priest of the temple of Zeus Labraundos, continued to function much as his predecessors had under the Persian regime. All that had changed was that decrees issued in his name were now composed in Greek and couched in the terminology typical of a Greek polis . Recently published epigraphic and cuneiform sources have revealed similar continuities in landholding patterns and political institutions between Persian and Hellenistic Syria-Palestine and Mesopotamia.

Just as important in encouraging this revisionist trend has been contemporary scholars' interest in determining how the Hellenistic state actually worked on a day-to-day basis. The picture of the Hellenistic state found in the standard textbooks was the product of an enormous collective scholarly effort to assimilate and organize into meaningful patterns the huge mass of discrete and heterogeneous source material produced by modern archaeology. The result was the elaboration of schematic constitutional and administrative frameworks into which the abundant but all too often fragmentary evidence could be fitted. In this effort particular attention was devoted to documents such as the so-called Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II and P. Tebt. 703 : The Instructions of a Dioiketes (financial administrator) to his Oikonomos (steward), which were thought to be official digests of the rules governing the organization and administration of some of the most important governmental and economic institutions of Ptolemaic Egypt. Contemporary scholars, however, are more interested in determining how the Macedonian kingdoms functioned than in constructing abstract models of their administrative organization. Through the analysis of the growing mass of documents reflecting the actual operations of the Hellenistic states, they have almost totally deconstructed these simple and sometimes even simplistic reconstructions of their organization.

Most dramatically affected has been the understanding of the nature of the Hellenistic monarchies. Until comparatively recently, the Macedonian monarchy was characterized as a hereditary monarchy tempered by elements of popular sovereignty that included the right of the people represented by the army assembly to actively participate in the choice of king and to function as a court of first instance in cases of crimes against the state. Evidence of such extensive citizen rights is almost totally lacking for the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms, whose monarchs ruled as autocrats and were defined in their official documents as consisting of the "king, his friends [the king's personal entourage] and the army." Not surprisingly, earlier scholarship attributed the atrophy of supposedly traditional Macedonian rights to the pervasive "oriental" influence in the Hellenistic kingdoms.12 In an important series of studies R. M. Errington demonstrated that this contrast between the supposedly "constitutional" Macedonian monarchy and its autocratic Hellenistic successors is illusory since the actual behavior of the Macedonian kings as described in the literary sources and inscriptions makes it clear that they also ruled as autocrats and that the only significant limits on the extent of their autocracy were not constitutional but practical, namely, the loss of the support of the army and the potential resistance of the great nobles, who had the power to unseat a king if provoked too far.13
Hardly less dramatic have been the changes in the understanding of the way Hellenistic governments conducted their affairs. The changes are most apparent with regard to Ptolemaic Egypt, but similar developments can be seen in the scholarship dealing with the other kingdoms. Most striking is the almost total disappearance from the scholarly literature of reference to the idea that rational planned economies managed by large and efficient bureaucracies were characteristic of these kingdoms. Typical of the new view of Hellenistic governmental practice is the reinterpretation by the French historian P. Vidal-Naquet of one of the centerpieces of the traditional interpretation--the diagraphe sporou or "crop planting schedule."14 Formerly viewed as a comprehensive plan drawn up in Alexandria that set out in detail the crops to be planted in each area of Egypt for the next year, the diagraphe sporou is now seen instead as a document compiled by the central government from often arbitrary estimates by local officials of their areas' potential agricultural yields, which the administration used to calculate the government's future revenues.

Working independently, a young American scholar named D. Brent Sandy undermined another of the main supports of the traditional view of the Hellenistic central planning by showing that the Revenue Laws of Ptolemy II does not describe the actual management of the Ptolemaic oil monopoly but some administrator's unrealistic dream of how such a monopoly ought to work.15 At the same time, closer examination of the bureaucracy revealed that it lacked some of the key characteristics of any true bureaucracy, namely, defined career paths, clear chains of command, and clearly specified areas of responsibility for its officials. Instead, government officials were political appointees with often multiple and sometimes even overlapping responsibilities, who accepted whatever position the king posted them to, irrespective of their previous service. Instead of the smoothly running bureaucratic machines envisioned by their late-nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century predecessors, more recent scholars see the Hellenistic governments as vehicles whose primary purpose was to extract the maximum revenue from their rulers' subjects. Documents such as Ptolemy II's (282-246 B.C.) recently discovered order for a complete economic survey of Egypt, and his letter forbidding lawyers from assisting individuals in disputes concerning taxes, bear witness to the Hellenistic kings' insatiable need for money to support their ambitious foreign policies.16 The numerous royal orders forbidding government officials from exploiting the king's subjects for personal gain and frequent recourse in the second century B.C. to the issuance of philanthropa , blanket amnesties for unfulfilled obligations owed the government and for charges of wrongdoing by government officials, equally attest to the inherent inefficiency and corruption of the system in actual practice. The result has been the creation of a view of the Hellenistic kingdoms that is less clear and elegant than that held by the founders of Hellenistic historiography, but that is more nuanced and more accurately reflects the historical situation in which these states existed.

Greeks and Non-Greeks in the Hellenistic World

Any discussion of Hellenistic social history must begin with one fact. The lives of the vast majority of people--Greek and non-Greek alike--changed little, since the low productivity of the ancient economy as a whole meant that the bulk of the population continued to live in rural areas as subsistence farmers. Nevertheless, it is also clear that the conquests of Alexander brought expanded opportunities for many Greeks in Europe and Asia Minor. Economic opportunity and the variety of available social roles increased significantly, particularly in the colonial cities of Egypt and the Near East.

Not surprisingly, opportunities were greatest for the male members of the Greek elite. The wealth and influence exercised by the officials of the Macedonian kings and their supporters in the Greek cities are well documented in inscriptions and papyri. Less glamorous but equally real and more numerous were the opportunities created by the kings' incessant need for Greeks to serve in their armies and to fill the multitude of minor but potentially lucrative administrative jobs required to govern their kingdoms. Opportunities expanded for women also in the Hellenistic period.

As in the case of men, these opportunities were greatest for women of wealth. The great queens such as Arsinoe II and Cleopatra VII of Egypt are most prominent in the ancient sources, but even some Greek cities allowed women to hold minor public offices in return for their willingness to use their wealth for civic purposes. Education also created opportunities for some women, including both upper-class intellectuals such as the Cynic philosopher Hipparchia and women from more modest backgrounds such as the professional musician Polygnota of Thebes, whose career is documented in a series of inscriptions from Delphi.

Most historians believe, however, that the price paid for these new opportunities was high. In their view, that price included not only the loss of independence but also the death of the polis itself, that uniquely Greek form of city that had given birth to the great cultural achievements of the Classical period. Nor is this a modern opinion. Greeks of the Hellenistic and Roman periods never tired of looking back with nostalgia to the glories of Archaic and Classical Greece and urging their contemporaries to return to the ways of their glorious ancestors.

The Polis

The centuries following the reign of Alexander were difficult, but it is not true that the polis and its culture died in the early Hellenistic period. The polis did, however, change. Already in the fourth century B.C., under the pressure of social and economic changes, the belief in the ability of the average citizen to play a decisive role in the government of his city had declined. Increasingly, specialists such as the Athenian financial experts Euboulus and Lycurgus and professional soldiers and their mercenary commanders--such as the Athenian Iphicrates and Memnon of Rhodes--tended to displace the amateur magistrates, generals, and citizen levies of the classical poleis . In the new political configuration of the third and later centuries this trend intensified. No longer significant militarily or politically in a world of great and not-so-great kingdoms, the poleis had to struggle to maintain a precarious independence in the face of continual efforts by the various kingdoms to subdue them or use them as pawns in their own diplomatic and military struggles. As time went on, democratic governments became little more than facades behind which aristocratic oligarchies governed, often with the tacit or open support of one or another of the great powers.

This bleak picture is, however, only part of the story. The political life of the polis narrowed and became harsher, but it did survive. Numerous inscriptions from all over Aegean Greece attest to the vigor and creativity of poleis and to the patriotism of individuals who were still willing to risk fortune and sometimes even life for the welfare of their polis and the reward of a decree of thanks passed by its assembly. For the first time in Greek history peaceful settlement of international disputes through arbitration became almost routine, while the Aetolian and Achaean Leagues managed for a time to overcome the particularism of the polis and build powerful federal states before both were crushed by Rome. Far from dying, the polis remained a vital part of Greek life until the last vestige of self-government disappeared in the great crises of late antiquity that mark the beginning of the Middle Ages throughout the Mediterranean basin.17

Egypt And The Near East

In Egypt and the Near East the situation was different. Throughout the late fourth and early third centuries Greeks moved east to populate Alexandria, Antioch, and the other new cities that Alexander and his successors, especially the Seleucids, founded in order to better control their new realms. These cities prospered. Alexandria18 and Antioch19 in particular grew to enormous size with populations in the hundreds of thousands and with splendid public buildings and amenities unknown to the cities of old Greece. Although little remains of Hellenistic Alexandria and Antioch, some idea of their splendor and prosperity can be gained from Ai Khanum, possibly Alexandria on the Oxus, in northern Afghanistan, where French archaeologists discovered a large city with broad streets, monumental temples, a large gymnasium and theater, and elegant mansions. It is not surprising that Heracleides Creticus, author of a brief travel guide to Greece, felt it necessary to warn travelers from the east against being disappointed at their first impressions of Athens and the other famous cities of the Greek homeland with their old-fashioned streets and shabby houses.20

Splendid though they were, the new cities of Asia were but islands of Greek domination and culture in a predominantly non-Greek world. The early Hellenistic historians viewed the Hellenistic cities as "melting pots" in which Greek and non-Greek cultures and peoples met and blended to form a new cosmopolitan civilization. In the 1970s and 1980s some scholars proposed a much harsher interpretation of Hellenistic social relations, one that is surprisingly close to the fourth-century B.C. Athenian rhetorician Isocrates's dream of a conquered Asia in which natives worked like Sparta's helots to support the new Greek colonists and their Macedonian masters. In this view, Greek and native societies tensely coexisted in the Macedonian kingdoms with little or no interaction instead of blending to form a new culture. For these scholars the Hellenistic world was one in which status was determined by ethnicity--and the ethnic affiliations that counted were Macedonian and Greek. It is not known for certain whether or not Alexander hoped that a mixed elite of Macedonians, Greeks, and non-Greeks would rule his empire. But in Ptolemaic Egypt and in Seleucid Asia, Macedonians and Greeks--who together comprised less than 10 percent of the total population--alone belonged to the ruling elite.21

Evidence that seems to support this interpretation of the social structure of the Hellenistic kingdoms is easy to find. As always, it is Egypt that provides the fullest evidence.22 There throughout the Hellenistic period separate legal systems were maintained for Greeks and Egyptians. Ethnic prejudices and tensions are well documented in the sources. The Ptolemaic court poet Theocritus characterizes petty street crime as an "Egyptian game" and an agricultural worker complains that his supervisors hold him in contempt and refuse to pay him "because I am an Egyptian." Similarly, the personal papers of a Greek recluse at Memphis are filled with stories of personal harassment by his Egyptian neighbors. Hellenistic Egypt also provides evidence both of the existence of a resistance literature that looked forward to the end of foreign rule and repeated rebellions intended to achieve that goal.

Although the evidence is less abundant, what there is suggests that the situation in the Seleucid kingdom was similar. An analysis of the origins of known Seleucid officials revealed that fewer than five percent were of non-European origin, and native rebellions in Judaea and Iran are well documented. Archaeological evidence suggesting actual physical separation of the Greek and native sections of Ai Khanum indicates that a similar strict division between privileged Macedonians and Greeks and subject natives existed even on the far eastern frontier of the Hellenistic world.

In spite of this evidence, contemporary Hellenistic historians are coming to believe that this picture of the Hellenistic world as divided into two almost totally isolated societies, one Greek and the other non-Greek, is almost as great a distortion of ancient social reality as the idealistic image of a harmoniously mixed Hellenistic civilization that it is intended to replace. The problems are threefold: first, the divided view of Hellenistic society is based primarily on Greek textual evidence, which tends to ignore non-Greek subjects; second, it exaggerates barriers to contact between Greeks and non-Greeks in the Hellenistic kingdoms; and third, it minimizes the social divisions and conflicts within the native populations of the Hellenistic kingdoms. Part of the problem is that substantial social isolation did characterize the life of the one portion of the native population that is most visible in the Greek sources, the rural poor. Studies of the population of Egyptian villages like Kerkeosiris and Soknopaiou Nesos reveal an almost total absence of either Greek residents or Greek influence on daily life, and the admittedly limited evidence for rural life in the Near and Middle East suggests a similar situation.

Egyptian and cuneiform sources draw a very different picture, however, of the life of the non-Greek aristocracies. In the theocratic monarchies of the ancient Near East, support of the gods and their priesthoods had been essential to the security of the state, and that continued to be true during the Hellenistic period. In Egypt the Ptolemies subjected the great temples to greater control than their Pharaonic predecessors had, but they also maintained and even expanded the scale of state subsidy of religion as can be seen from the vast extent of temple building sponsored by the Ptolemies. Study of the extensive Egyptian evidence for the Hellenistic period is only in its infancy, but already it has revealed that under the Ptolemaic regime the priestly families prospered, accumulating large estates and actively engaging in business transactions of all kinds, while expending large sums on the traditional Egyptian indicators of personal success: dedications to the gods and lavish tomb furnishings.23 Nor were opportunities limited to the religious elite. Analysis of the personal archives of village officials, individuals dismissed by early Hellenistic historians as lowly figures of little influence, has shown that such figures could grow rich by exploiting their role as essential intermediaries between the Greek-speaking central government and its Egyptian subjects.24 Not surprisingly, priests and local officials were loyal supporters of the Ptolemaic regime, and both were singled out for reprisal during the native uprisings of the late third and second centuries B.C. The 1981 study of the temples of Hellenistic Babylonia by Gilbert J. P. McEwan suggests that a similar pattern of royal patronage for the great temples and priestly prosperity characterized Seleucid policy also.25 The evidence is less clear for the Greek kingdoms in Bactria and India, but the small amount of evidence available--Hindu and Buddhist dedications by Greek officials26 and the classification of the Greeks as Kshatriya (warriors) by Indian thinkers27 --indicates that conditions were similar there as well.
Equally important is the increasing ease with which non-Greeks could join the Greek political elite as time passed. Membership in the political elite required certification as a Greek citizen, but obtaining that certification was not difficult. At the beginning of the Hellenistic period intermarriage was likely to have been relatively common since the bulk of Greek immigration was military in character and therefore predominantly male. Moreover, as Roger Bagnall has shown in a careful study of Greek immigration to Egypt, a kingdom that actively recruited settlers, the actual number of immigrants was relatively small. And most immigrants came in the early years of Macedonian rule,28 so the number of ethnic Greeks can never have been large. Similar studies are lacking for the other Hellenistic kingdoms, but there is little reason to believe that the results would be different. The implications are clear. Since apartheid was not characteristic of Greek society at any time, the need of the Hellenistic kings for a Greek elite to provide a reliable base of support for their rule meant in practice that as time passed, the citizen bodies of some so-called Greek cities in the Near East were more and more composed not so much of persons of Greek birth as of Greek culture: that is, of those who had received a Greek education and adopted a Greek lifestyle and often a Greek name. All others were subjects. Just as has happened with regard to the study of other aspects of Hellenistic history, therefore, the major achievement of contemporary Hellenistic social history has been to reveal the complexity of the Hellenistic world.

Culture in the Hellenistic Period

The colonial situation in which Greeks in the Macedonian kingdoms found themselves gave Greek culture in the Hellenistic East a different character and significance than it had in the poleis of old Greece, where Greek culture was the traditional heritage. No common bond of history united the heterogeneous citizens of Alexandria or the other cities and settlements of the East, or informed their culture with shared values and meaning. For them, Greek culture was a cherished badge of status, proof that one belonged to the privileged class, and as such it was eagerly sought by Greeks and ambitious non-Greeks alike.

From the Mediterranean to the borders of India, Greek culture was dominant and a traveler could expect to find in the new cities, just as in the old, many of the familiar institutions of Greek life. Not only was city life similar over this vast area but so also was much of cultural life. Everywhere Greek was the language of government and culture so that one could travel from Greece to India without fear of being misunderstood. Greek and Hellenized intellectuals shared a common reverence inculcated by their teachers for the works of the great authors of the Archaic and Classical periods whom they viewed as models of perfection that could never again be equaled, let alone surpassed. In their own works, Hellenistic intellectuals affirmed their status as Greeks and their role as upholders of the Greek tradition by studding their writings with learned allusions to the masterpieces of the past. The same purposefulness is evident in the use made of the Greek tradition in the visual arts. Thus, the reliefs of the great altar of Pergamum built by Eumenes II (197-160 B.C.) to commemorate his victories over the Galatians seem at first sight alien to the serenity of classical sculpture with their powerful straining and emotionally expressive figures. In actuality, the reliefs echo in their overall composition and detail the pedimental sculptures of that most classical of Greek monuments, the Parthenon, in the same way that Hellenistic poets alluded to their classical models. Through its stylistic and thematic links to one of the most hallowed monuments of the Greek past, the altar powerfully affirms both the Greekness of Eumenes and his dynasty.29

Education helped to reinforce the diffusion and dominance of Greek culture in the Hellenistic world. As Greek culture became more closely associated with the written rather than the spoken word, instruction tended to focus on a few great books, most notably the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer, and emphasized memorization and the imitation of stylistic models over independent creation. Artists and writers, who, like soldiers, tended more and more to be professionals, wandered far from their homes in search of patrons and commissions and carried their views with them, thereby imposing a superficial uniformity on the cultural life of the Greek and Hellenized elites of the Hellenistic world. In a similar way, the new cities, with their institutions modeled on those of cities of old Greece, helped to impart a Greek tone to the social and political life of the East.

However, intellectual life in the Hellenistic world was uniform only on the surface. Even cursory study reveals significant differences between the culture of Aegean Greece and that of the new kingdoms of Asia and Egypt. Many factors were responsible for these differences, but the most important was the fundamental difference in the history of the areas. Greek culture was at home in the cities of Europe and the Aegean basin. In these cities writers and artists had at their disposal the whole repertoire of themes and motifs provided by a tradition with centuries of historical development behind it. Writers and artists in Asia did not share this tradition. In old Greece, the local dialects and traditional cults and festivals flourished throughout the Hellenistic period and beyond. In addition, major new festivals were founded, such as that of Artemis Leucophryene at Magnesia on the Maeander in western Asia Minor. Elsewhere in Greece old festivals gained new splendor and prestige, such as that of the healing god Asclepius, whose temple at Epidaurus in the northeast Peloponnesus attracted sufferers in search of a miraculous cure from all over the Greek world. Most important of all, the intimate connection between the polis and culture that had characterized Archaic and Classical Greece remained intact throughout the Hellenistic period and is readily apparent in the works of the writers and thinkers of European Greece.

Culture In Hellenistic Greece

In Athens, as elsewhere, the prevailing traditionalism of the Hellenistic period made itself felt, most notably in the area of drama where, instead of new plays, audiences preferred revivals of the works of the three master tragedians of the fifth century--Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Professional actors performed the plays on the basis of official texts maintained by the state and with the aid of subsidies from the Athenian government. Tragedy thus died, a victim of Hellenistic awe in the face of the achievements of the classical past, but comedy continued to thrive in the form of the so-called New Comedy.

Prior to the twentieth century judgments concerning the nature of New Comedy were based on the only sources then available--adaptations of New Comedy plays by the Roman Republican playwrights Plautus and Terence. To those who read these adaptations the dominant characteristic of the New Comedy seemed to be escapism, and as escapist literature the New Comedy seemed to fit the needs of the supposedly politically uninvolved and demoralized citizens of the Hellenistic Greek cities. The recovery during the course of the twentieth century of two complete plays and significant portions of several others by its most distinguished practitioner, the late-fourth-century B.C. playwright Menander, has forced a reassessment of that view. True, the wild comic invention of his great fifth-century B.C. predecessor Aristophanes is missing in Menander's elegantly crafted comedies with their emphasis on the pitfalls that must be traversed by young lovers en route to their inevitably happy marriage; but the plays are set in a real Athens with specific locales. More important, although the fierce political satire of Old Comedy is lacking, comment on contemporary issues and ideas is not; the issues, however, are now social and intellectual rather than political. Thus, Meander's interest in the problems of young lovers reflects a new concern for the affective aspects of marriage that is most clearly expressed in the observation of the second-century B.C. Stoic philosopher Antipater of Tarsus that "the man who has had no experience of a married women and children has not tasted true and noble happiness"30 and which found practical expression in the provision in some marriage contracts from Egypt allowing a wife to seek a divorce because of her husband's sexual misconduct.31 Similarly, there is gentle satire of fashionable theories of moral egoism in the Dyscolos or Grouch , the first complete Menandrian play to be rediscovered; while the Samia or Samian Woman , casts a jaundiced eye on the recent revival of claims for the divine parentage of kings. Finally, the vivid opening scene of the Aspis or Shield targets a grimmer subject: the hollowness of the dreams of wealth and adventure offered to the youth of Athens by the recruiters of mercenaries for the armies of the new Macedonian kingdoms of the Near and Middle East.

In works of history, the most important genre of Hellenistic prose literature, the desire to maintain continuity with the Greek past is particularly clear. Felix Jacoby's great collection, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker , published between 1923 and 1958, includes fragments of more than eight hundred "lost" Greek historians who wrote during the Hellenistic period.32 Most of these historians followed the path laid down for them by the fifth-century B.C. founders of Greek historiography, Herodotus and especially Thucydides. Like Thucydides, many were political figures who wrote about the Greek cities and politics from the perspective of long careers in the service of their home cities or of one of the kings. Modern Hellenistic historians, influenced by their belief that the polis was not a significant factor in Greek life after the death of Alexander the Great, centered their histories on the great powers of the period--the kingdoms of Alexander's successors and the Romans. A few Greek historians did likewise. The late-fourth-century B.C. historian Theopompus of Chios made the career of Philip II the focal point of his huge fifty-eight-book history of the Greek world from 360 to 336 B.C., and two centuries later, Polybius of Megalopolis, the greatest of Hellenistic historians, wrote during his exile in Rome a history in forty books of the period from 220 to 146 B.C. to explain to his fellow Greeks how in less than a century Rome conquered the entire Mediterranean world.

But Polybius and Theopompus were exceptions. By far the majority of Hellenistic historians, whatever their background, followed the example of Thucydides and placed at the center of their works the Greek cities, their wars, and their politics. The identification of history with the history of the cities is most obvious in the numerous histories of individual cities written during these three centuries. A typical example is the Atthis of the Athenian patriot Philochorus, which provided a detailed year-by-year chronicle of the history of Athens from its mythical foundations to just before its author's execution on orders of the Macedonian king Antigonus Gonatas (283-239 B.C.). Philochorus's account served scholars for centuries as a standard reference work on the antiquities of Athens. In it and other similar works, patriotic authors treated at great length the origins, myths, and internal politics of their beloved cities while relegating the Macedonian kingdoms and Rome to the role of foreign interlopers whose policies and actions occasionally intruded on a city's affairs.

The same belief in the centrality and vitality of the polis also characterized the works of historians who focused on broader topics. Thus, the Athenian historian Phylarchus built his history of third-century B.C. Greece around the glorious but unsuccessful attempt by the Spartan kings Agis IV (244-241 B.C.) and Cleomenes III (237-222 B.C.) to restore Sparta to a leading position in Greece by reviving the ancient institutions of the Lycurgan constitution.33 Phylarchus's enthusiasm for the kings' cause and despair at their ultimate failure can still be seen in Plutarch's vivid life of Agis and Cleomenes and in Polybius's history, both of which made use of Phylarchus's now-lost work. By contrast, no historian from European Greece is known to have written on Alexander or his successors after the early third century B.C. In drama and historiography, the Greek tradition, as it had crystallized in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., lived on in Hellenistic Greece. Hellenistic historians constantly borrowed literary techniques from rhetoric and poetry to enhance the elegance of their writing and the emotional impact of their works, and they boasted of their superiority to their classical predecessors in this regard. But historiography itself remained, like comedy, embedded in the polis culture that had given it birth.

The situation is somewhat different in the case of philosophy, the other major area of intellectual activity in Hellenistic Greece. Of the basic continuity between Classical and Hellenistic Greek philosophy there can be no doubt.34 Epicurus, who founded the Epicurean school of philosophy, discovered the atomic theory that forms the basis of his philosophy in the writing of the fifth-century B.C. philosopher Democritus. Likewise, Zeno, the founder of the other major Hellenistic philosophical school, Stoicism, is said to have been inspired to become a philosopher by Xenophon's memoirs of Socrates; his own writings included a Republic written as an answer to Plato's great work of the same name. Similar links with fifth-and fourth-century B.C. philosophy are evident in the lesser Hellenistic philosophical schools, such as Cynicism and Skepticism. Nevertheless, the relationship of Hellenistic philosophy to the preceding Greek philosophical tradition differs from the situation with regard to historiography in significant ways.

Hellenistic historiography was in every sense a continuation of the Classical tradition of historical writing inasmuch as the historians shared the same polis-centered viewpoint of their fifth-and fourth-century B.C. predecessors, treated similar subjects, used their predecessors' works as models, and even sometimes wrote continuations of them. By contrast, the case of Hellenistic philosophy is similar to that of drama, but more extreme in that the Hellenistic philosophers built upon only a small portion of the Classical philosophical tradition while discarding the rest.
Thus, except for Epicurus, Hellenistic philosophers showed little interest in the pre-Socratics or their speculations concerning the nature of the universe. They instead focused their attention on the so-called Socratic thinkers, most notably Plato, Aristotle, and Antisthenes, and even in the case of these thinkers the Hellenistic philosophers were more concerned with their ethical and epistemological ideas than with the social and political views that accompanied them. So, while the perfect societies in Plato's Republic and Laws are recognizable Greek poleis , Zeno in his Republic envisaged a perfect society of wise men free of any connection with existing forms of society or their problems. In other words, Hellenistic philosophers were concerned with man in the abstract; their goal was to devise ethical systems that would enable him to find happiness by gaining such control of his internal life that he could accept with equanimity whatever blows the external world dealt him. It was unimportant whether he achieved this control through rigorous application of the Epicurean calculus of pleasure and pain or the Stoic wise man's recognition that true happiness comes only with the acceptance of one's place in the plan of the logos that pervades the universe. Plato's Socrates claimed in the famous allegory of the cave that the philosopher, once he has seen the truth, must go back into the cave to enlighten his fellows, to which an Epicurean might observe that he should do so "only if it gave him greater pleasure than pain" and a Stoic "only if that were his role in the divine plan."

The teachings of the Hellenistic schools, which were propounded by different masters for the benefit of the educated elite, were as much dogmas about the way to salvation as they were bodies of rational speculation about the nature of reality and knowledge. By severing in this way the link that bound Classical philosophy to the polis , Hellenistic philosophers inevitably narrowed the focus of philosophy and eliminated from it that vigorous concern for the problems of everyday social and political life that strikes every reader of Plato and Aristotle. However, Hellenistic philosophy did gain in compensation a universality in the application of its theories that made it accessible to men everywhere. As a result, Greek philosophy in its Hellenistic guise survived as a vital force in the Christian and Islamic cultures of the Middle Ages long after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (A.D. 527-565) closed the philosophical schools in Athens in A.D. 529.

Culture Of Hellenistic Egypt And The Near And Middle East

By contrast, the culture of Hellenistic Egypt and the Near and Middle East was a colonial culture, that is, a simplified and incomplete version of Greek culture.35 It included only those components that were sufficiently common to all Greeks to withstand transportation to a new and alien environment. In their new environments, members of the comparatively small and heterogeneous Greek immigrant population shared only a vague sense of common Greekhood and their hopes of a better future in the conquered lands. Cults strongly identified with particular cities or regions, therefore, tended not to survive, but those without such local connections, like the cults of Dionysus and Aphrodite, flourished, as did such new deities as Tyche , or Chance, the personification of the hidden order that ruled the life of all men.
Similarly, the numerous local dialects of the mother country quickly faded in the new kingdoms with their heterogeneous populations. Koine , the common language, a simplified form of Attic Greek, became the language of government, literary, and religious culture in the Hellenistic East and remained so throughout the rest of antiquity and well into the Middle Ages.36 The process of cultural selection was even more rigorous in the area of intellectual culture, since in the Hellenistic East intellectual life had to be consciously re-created: books and art objects or their creators had to be imported, and a tradition of education had to be encouraged to perpetuate the culture. A recently discovered inscription from Ai Khanum vividly illustrates the kind of individual initiative that was required to transplant the Greek intellectual tradition to the remote new lands won by Alexander the Great. In the shrine of city's heroized founder, a certain Clearchus (possibly Aristotle's far-traveled student and colleague, Clearchus of Soli) proudly recorded his gift to the city and its founder of a collection of Delphic maxims, which he claimed to have transcribed personally at Delphi and transported to Bactria.37 The same sense of the precariousness of Greek culture on this far eastern frontier of the Greek world is suggested by the discovery of fragments of a treatise on Aristotelian philosophy and a page of Greek poetry in the ruins of the city's treasury building. But what of the settlers' relationship to the culture of their new homes?

At the heart of the traditional approach to Hellenistic history was the belief that Hellenistic civilization was the product of a synthesis of Greek and ancient Near Eastern intellectual traditions, and undoubtedly some interchange of ideas took place in the new cosmopolitan cities of the Hellenistic East, such as Alexandria, where Egyptians, Greeks, Jews, and Syrians, not to mention such exotic peoples as Nubians and Indians, mingled. Greeks did patronize the temples of Egypt and the Near East, and Egyptian deities like Isis and Osiris; various forms of the Syro-Anatolian Great Mother, such as Cybele; and the hybrid Graeco-Egyptian god Sarapis all found wide followings in the Greek world.

Efforts were also made to win the interest and sympathy of the Greek colonists for the cultures of their new homes by native intellectuals. In the early third century B.C. both the Babylonian priest Berossus and the Egyptian priest Manetho composed histories of Babylon and Egypt in Greek.38 Sometime in the reign of Ptolemy I (305-282 B.C.) Manetho also joined forces with an Athenian priest and theologian named Timotheus to create out of a mixture of Greek and Egyptian elements a new patron god for Alexandria, Sarapis. At about the same time, the Buddhist ruler of northern India, Ashoka (ca. 269-233 B.C.), commissioned Greek translations of his famous Rock Edicts for the edification of the Greek settlers in Afghanistan.39 A century later Jewish apologists and historians also tried to build bridges to their Greek neighbors by recasting the teachings of the Torah in terms of Greek philosophy and discovering supposedly ancient connections between Greek and Jewish history, such as the existence of bonds of kinship between Spartans and Jews! The potential for the development of a muticultural civilization based on the synthesis of the best of the Greek and non-Greek intellectual traditions of the peoples of the former Persian empire seems to have existed, but such a civilization was not realized.

The reasons for that failure were explored by the Italian historian Arnaldo Momigliano in an important book, Alien Wisdom . Momigliano pointed out that while non-Greek intellectuals made considerable efforts to learn Greek and to integrate Greek ideas into their work, no comparable effort was made by Greeks.40 In fact, Greek interest in the civilizations of the ancient Near East seems to have quickly faded in the new kingdoms. Few Greek writers appear to have been familiar with "barbarian" ideas; those who were acquainted with them knew them only in a "translated" form that was compatible with Greek ideas and values. Greeks did, of course, recognize and worship the deities of their new homes--that was only prudent. But those non-Greek gods that attracted strong Greek followings, such as Isis, Osiris, and Mithras, did not do so in their native form but only after they had been made the center of mystery cults that emphasized purity, initiation, and salvation. Practices such as mummification and animal worship that too obviously conflicted with traditional Greek religious ideas were purged from these cults, and what few authentic native elements remained attached to the deities merely served to add an exotic flavor to what were essentially Greek cults.41 Only in Bactria and India was the situation different. Significant numbers of Greeks living in those regions, exposed for the first time to religious traditions with strong, well-articulated belief systems,42 embraced Indian religions, especially Buddhism. Unfortunately, the detailed history of the Greek encounter with Indian religion is now lost, but clear evidence of it is provided by a handful of surviving epigraphic and literary texts and the Greek-influenced art of the Gandhara school.

In spite of the Greek experience in Bactria and India, most aspects of Greek intellectual life in the Hellenistic East were relatively unaffected by contact with non-Greek cultural traditions. The intellectual life that did emerge in the East was influenced by two factors. The first was the comparative weakness of the polis tradition in the new kingdoms, particularly in Egypt, where there were only three Greek cities--Alexandria, the old colony of Naucratis, and Ptolemais in Upper Egypt--whose powers of self-government were sharply limited by the Ptolemaic government. The second factor was the strong role played by government patronage in determining the direction of intellectual activity in the various kingdoms.

The weakness of the polis tradition in the Hellenistic East is reflected in the comparative lack of literary and artistic forms connected with the polis and the tendency of writers and artists to address their works to patrons or other intellectuals rather than to the general citizen body. Thus, even though history was cultivated in Egypt and Asia, it primarily took the form of ethnographic studies in the manner of Herodotus. Hecataeus of Abdera's history of Egypt and Megasthenes's Indica are examples of such ethnographic studies. The political histories favored by the historians of European Greece did not attract the historians in the Hellenistic East. Similarly, although touring companies of professional actors could find ready audiences for productions of plays by the fifth-and fourth-century B.C. masters, the writing of new plays was limited to the composition of "closet dramas," literary exercises intended not for public production but for recitation before small audiences of cognoscenti. The only extant Hellenistic tragedy, the Alexandra of the third-century B.C. Alexandrian poet Lycophron, is a dramatic monologue spoken by Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, in a maddeningly obscure style appropriate to the utterances of a prophetess cursed with the gift of true prophesy but fated to have no one believe her. The pastoral, the only new poetic genre to emerge in the Hellenistic period, reached the level of great poetry in the hands of the Syracusan poet Theocritus. But with its idealization of rural simplicity, the pastoral suggests not merely isolation but even alienation from the polis tradition. In the visual arts the same sense of alienation from the traditions of the Classical polis can be seen in the interest in exploring novel subjects. There were, for instance, numerous sculptural studies of what, given the Classical emphasis on youth and physical beauty, can only be called the ugly--drunken old women, aged peasants, and broken-down athletes and slaves.

When Alexander included in his entourage Greek artists and intellectuals such as Aristotle's nephew, Callisthenes, his court historian, he was acting in accordance with a tradition of Macedonian royal patronage of Greek culture that reached back to the fifth century B.C. His example was followed by all his successors but by none to such effect as the Ptolemies. "Come to Egypt," sang Ptolemy II's court poet, Theocritus, because "Ptolemaios is the best paymaster for a free man."43 Theocritus's immediate reference was to Ptolemy's interest in recruiting soldiers in Greece and Greek Italy for his wars with his Seleucid rivals. With the enormous wealth of Egypt at their disposal, however, the Ptolemies could afford to subsidize intellectuals and to encourage their work by establishing cultural institutions of a new type. The principal institution of this sort was the Museum where distinguished scholars, supported by government stipends, pursued their studies in congenial surroundings. Connected to the Museum was the royal library, whose collection is said to have ultimately reached seven hundred thousand papyrus rolls and to have included copies of virtually every book written in Greek. The library offered unprecedented resources for scholarly research in every field of intellectual endeavor. An envious rival might sneer at the successful occupants of Ptolemy's "bird coop" (i.e., "the Museum"), and with some justification, since subsidized intellectuals were expected to earn their keep.44 Thus, doctors and writers receiving government stipends served as physicians and tutors to members of the royal family and celebrated its achievements, as did the scholar-poet Callimachus, whose The Lock of Berenice commemorated the naming of a constellation in honor of the wife of Ptolemy III (246-222 B.C.). In Idyll 17 the Syracusan poet Theocritus similarly praised in extravagant terms the first decade of Ptolemy II's reign.

In spite of any sneering that may have taken place, the roll call of Alexandrian intellectuals is long and distinguished, particularly in the fields of literary scholarship and applied science, where their achievements remained unmatched during the rest of antiquity. Scholars such as Callimachus and the philologists Zenodotus and Aristarchus founded the scholarly study of Greek literature and the Greek language and prepared standard texts of Homer and the other poets that are the ancestors of those we still use. The mathematician and geographer Eratosthenes, relying on evidence provided by Ptolemaic explorers, established the principles of scientific cartography and produced a strikingly accurate estimate of the circumference of the earth. According to the Roman medical writer Celsus, the Ptolemies aided the researches of the doctors Herophilus and Erisistratus by providing them not only with corpses to dissect but also live convicts for vivisection, thereby enabling them to make fundamental discoveries about the nature and functions of the human nervous and digestive systems. The physicist Ctesibius did pioneering work in the study of ballistics and the use of compressed air as a source of power. As in Greece, the Hellenistic period in the East was marked by significant cultural achievements, although it is true that subjects that did not receive royal largess tended to stagnate. Thus, apart from the works of Euclid, whose Elements was still being used to introduce students to geometry in the early twentieth century, the Alexandrian contribution to formal philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, which were of limited interest to the Ptolemies, was undistinguished in quality and limited in quantity.

The general lack of interest among Greeks in the cultures of their native neighbors, and the affirmation of ties with the artistic and literary traditions of European Greece evident in the works of Greek intellectuals and artists living in the Hellenistic kingdoms, have numerous parallels in the behavior of colonial artists throughout history. Less clear is the situation concerning the non-Greek cultures of the Hellenistic world and the attitudes of their intellectuals to Greek culture.

Serious scholarly study of these cultures is only just beginning.45 Only in the case of Hellenistic Jewish culture does a long scholarly tradition exist, but many of the assumptions that have guided the study of Hellenistic Judaism are currently undergoing fundamental revision. Hellenistic Jewish literature can be divided into two broad categories. The first category includes the so-called Apochrypha and Pseudepigrapha , noncanonical books written originally in Hebrew or Aramaic and in traditional Jewish literary forms such as psalms, royal chronicles, wisdom texts, and apocalypses, but preserved only in Greek translations; the second category encompasses works written originally in Greek and using Greek literary forms such as tragedy, epic, and history to treat Jewish themes. The bifurcated character of Hellenistic Jewish literature has traditionally been explained as being the result of literary activity by Jews living in two distinct environments, the former reflecting the traditional Jewish ambiance of Hellenistic Judaea and the latter the experience of Hellenized Jews living in the cosmopolitan environment of Ptolemaic Alexandria.46

This interpretation conforms closely to the model of cultural separatism that has dominated Hellenistic studies in recent years. It is supported by the prominence of themes critical of Greek culture in the Apochrypha and the Pseudepigrapha as well as in the recently discovered body of texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls , on the one hand, and by the efforts to reconcile Greek and Jewish thought in the works of authors such as the second-century B.C. historian Artapanus and the early-first-century A.D. Alexandrian philosopher-theologian Philo, on the other hand. However, the outlines of a more nuanced interpretation of relations between Hellenistic Greek and Jewish culture has recently begun to emerge. This interpretation recognizes the existence of tension between the two cultural traditions but nevertheless allows for significant interaction between them. Central to this new approach to the study of Hellenistic Judaism is the demonstration by Ben Zion Wacholder47 and Martin Hengel48 that the sharp distinction between a Hellenized Jewish diaspora and a Judaean Jewish society ignorant of and hostile to Greek culture is false, and that evidence of familiarity with Greek literature comparable to that characteristic of diaspora authors is present also in works written in Hellenistic Judaea. The full implications of this discovery have yet to be completely worked out. An indication of the possibilities opened up by it, however, is provided by E. J. Bickermann's brilliant analysis of the Jewish school system created by the Pharisees in the third and second century B.C.--a development for which there was no precedent in previous Jewish history. Bickermann explains that the school system was developed as a direct response to the challenge to the survival and integrity of Judaism posed by the patronage of Greek schools by the Jewish elite of Hellenistic Judaea.49

The contrast between the Greek intellectuals' conscious effort to distance themselves from the native cultures of the Hellenistic kingdoms and the non-Greek thinkers' ambivalent attitude toward the dominant Greek culture is particularly well documented in the case of Hellenistic Judaism. The evidence is less clear with regard to the native cultures elsewhere in the Hellenistic world, but the general situation seems to have been similar. In Egypt the production of works critical of foreign rule in Egypt written in Demotic and in traditional Egyptian genres, such as the short story and the prophetic text, was balanced by the simultaneous appearance of new literary forms influenced by Greek literature, such as the epiclike prose narratives about the early-first-millennium B.C. king Petubastis, which show clear Homeric influence. An old literary form, the instruction text, was also revived and renewed through the incorporation of compositional strategies and themes borrowed from such popular Hellenistic literary forms as the gnomologia , or collection of maxims, and the diatribe.50 The gradual replacement of cuneiform by Aramaic, which was written in an alphabetic script on perishable materials, has deprived historians of most of the source material for the study of the cultural life of Seleucid Babylonia, but the little evidence there is points to a similar pattern of the revival of traditional literary forms combined with innovation sparked by contact with Hellenism.

How far this process of cultural appropriation and adaptation might have gone is unknown. Essential to the prestige of Greek culture in the Hellenistic period was the patronage it received from the Macedonian and Greek rulers of the Near and Middle East. That patronage ended with the disappearance of the Hellenistic kingdoms in the late second and first centuries B.C. The causes of this disappearance varied. The Bactrian and Indian Greek kingdoms fell victim to invasions by central Asian nomads fleeing the growing power of Han China; the Ptolemaic and Seleucid states, weakened by bitter dynastic strife, succumbed to the aggresive new empires of Rome and Parthia. Whatever the particular circumstances may have been in each individual case, the results were usually the same. Deprived of political support, Greek culture gradually disappeared as a coherent cultural force over much of the Hellenistic world. The new rulers of the Near East and Middle East--Parthians, Saka, and Kushans--patronized local cultural traditions in an effort to rally support for their regimes from the non-Greek elites of their territories.51 Only in the western part of the Hellenistic world was the outcome different. There, the substitution of Roman for Macedonian rule in Egypt and Syria-Palestine abruptly ended the relative prosperity the native elites of those areas had enjoyed for much of the third and second centuries B.C.

Epilogue: Rome and the Transformation of Hellenism

The emergence of Rome as the preeminent power in the eastern Mediterranean basin was rapid. In the half century between the outbreak of the Second Macedonian War (200-197 B.C.) and the sack of the Greek city of Corinth (146 B.C.), Rome crushed the kingdom of Macedon, humbled the once mighty Seleucid kingdom, and reduced Ptolemaic Egypt and the other states of the region to little more than clients incapable of independent action. It is not surprising, therefore, that Roman domination of the Hellenistic East is predominantly associated with negative images that belied the promise of "freedom" held out to the Greeks at Isthmia in 196 B.C. Prominent among these images are the enslavement of 150,000 Epirotes by the army of Aemilius Paulus in 168 B.C. and the humiliation of Rhodes the same year; Roman soldiers using valuable paintings as gameboards during the sack of Corinth in 146 B.C.; Sulla's devastation of Attica in 86 B.C.; and Plutarch's ancestors at Chaeronea being drafted as baggage carriers during the civil wars of the forties and thirties B.C. The magnitude of the disruption of Greek life during the almost two centuries required for Rome to consolidate its rule over the eastern Mediterranean should not be underestimated. But that reality should not be allowed to obscure the almost equally important fact noted by every observant tourist and increasingly recognized by scholars, namely, that a remarkable cultural renaissance took place in the Greek cities of old Greece and the Near East during the first two centuries of the Christian Era.52 Evidence of this renaissance is visible in the ruins of the splendid public buildings erected during the Principate that everywhere in the eastern Mediterranean dominate the ruins of Greek cities and in the innumerable honorary statues and inscriptions from this period that crowd our museums.
There was, therefore, considerable justice in the second-century A.D. orator Aelius Aristides's enthusiastic praise of the benefits of the Pax Romana , although a conscientious Roman governor like Pliny the Younger, who was sent to the province of Bithynia in northern Turkey by the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117) in A.D. 110, might grumble at the fiscal chaos caused by the ambitious building projects undertaken by the cities in their constant struggle to outdo each other in public splendor and distinction.53 The renaissance was not limited to architecture and the visual arts. During the second and third centuries A.D., there was a remarkable upsurge of Greek literary activity that historians of Greek literature call the Second Sophistic. Although named after its most characteristic feature--the enormous cultural and sometimes even political prestige of the great public orators such as Aelius Aristides and Herodes Atticus54 --the renaissance was not confined to rhetoric. New works appeared in almost every genre of Greek literature, and many of them, including the biographies and essays of the moralist Plutarch and the histories of Arrian and Dio Cassius, were works of considerable distinction.

Science and philosophy also flourished during these centuries. Galen and Ptolemy compiled syntheses of Greek medicine, astronomy, and geography that remained authoritative for more than a millennium. The Egyptian Neo-Platonist Plotinus created the last great philosophical system of antiquity, a philosophical mysticism based loosely on the works of Plato that was Christianity's most formidable intellectual rival. Only in one area of Greek life--in the civic and political culture of Greek cities themselves--was there no renaissance. On the contrary. It was during these same two centuries that the last vestiges of the polis tradition of self-government began to disappear.

Officially, the cities continued to be treated as self-governing entities. Epigraphical records of their government's activities are not uncommon, but the spirit was gone. City assemblies no longer met, and city councils were controlled by narrow aristocratic oligarchies.55 Even the freedom of action of these oligarchic regimes was increasingly limited by the Roman government's practice of using officials such as Pliny the Younger to monitor their conduct of affairs. Plutarch candidly assessed the situation in an essay written in response to a young friend's request for advice about a possible political career. "Nowadays," he wrote, "when the affairs of the cities no longer include leadership in wars, nor the overthrowing of tyrannies, nor acts of alliances, what opening for a conspicuous and brilliant public career could a young man find?" Plutarch answered his own question by pointing out that "there remain the public lawsuits, and embassies to the Emperor."56 For Greek patriots such as Plutarch, for whom holding the traditional magistracies in his home city of Chaeronea was a sacred obligation, the contrast with the freedom of fifth-and fourth-century B.C. Greece was painful. Faced with such limited opportunities in their homes, other Greeks turned their back on the polis and sought and found rewarding careers in the service of Rome. Among the men who did so were Arrian, governor of Cappadocia under the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138) and historian of Alexander, and Dio Cassius, consul, praetorian prefect during the early third century A.D., and historian of Rome.

While Greek culture enjoyed a renaissance in the early centuries of the Christian Era, the same was not true of the non-Greek cultures of Egypt and the Near East, and the reason is clear. Unlike the Hellenistic kings, who had needed the support of both Greek and native elites to rule their multiethnic kingdoms, the Roman emperors relied almost entirely on the Greek cities of the eastern Mediterranean to provide the essential infrastructure of imperial administration. The result was a system in which Greek culture and Roman citizenship were specially privileged, the former as the key to social and cultural prestige and the latter as the means to a political career and its rewards. Non-Greek cultural traditions and institutions were not persecuted, but they were devalued. The cultural implications of the new regime were clearly expressed by the second-century A.D. Syrian writer Lucian, who observed in his autobiographical essay, "The Dream," that without a Greek education a man could only be an "artisan and commoner, always envying the prominent and fawning on the man who was able to speak . . . ," while the educated man was "honored and praised, in good repute among the best people, well regarded by those who are preeminent in wealth and breeding . . . and considered worthy of public office and precedence."57 Lucian's calculation was correct. A Greek education and his literary skill brought him fame and a lucrative post on the staff of the Prefect of Egypt.

Some groups, such as the Jews, resisted, sometimes violently, the assimilatory pressures of Roman imperial society; for others, the growing Christian church offered new opportunities for the satisfaction of their ambitions. Not surprisingly, however, over time increasing numbers of non-Greeks followed Lucian's example and sought to acquire the advantages of Greek status, especially after the Constitutio Antoniniana of A.D. 212 erased the legal barriers between Greeks and non-Greeks by conferring Roman citizenship on virtually all inhabitants of the empire.58 The process of cultural assimilation was not always free of friction. Complaints of Greek prejudice and cultural chauvinism are easy to find in the writings of Hellenized non-Greeks. The Hellenized Syrian rhetorician Tatian, for example, urged Greeks not to despise non-Greeks and their ideas since most Greek practices "took their origin from barbarian ways."59
By late antiquity a significant but unfortunately unquantifiable portion of the social and intellectual elite of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire consisted of Hellenized non-Greeks. The local languages of the region survived in the vernacular speech of the urban and rural lower classes and even found new written expression in the literatures of Syriac and Coptic Christianity, but the traditional cultures of Egypt and the Near East, deserted by the native elites that had patronized them for millennia and harassed by the government of the Christian Roman emperors, continued to exist only in the esoteric knowledge of the priests of a few remote and impoverished temples.60 Meanwhile, the dominant strand in the intellectual life of the eastern Mediterranean basin was what scholars call "Hellenism," essentially a cosmopolitan form of Greek culture loosely based on the canon of the pre-Hellenistic Greek literary classics that formed the basis of both pagan and Christian education and thought, but stripped of any remaining vestiges of the civic culture of the Greek city-states that had given birth to it almost a millennium earlier.61 It was in this form that Greek culture survived in the lands conquered by Alexander the Great to be encountered by the Medieval civilizations of Byzantium and Islam, but that is another story.

1. I should like to thank the editors of the journal Choice and E. J. Brill for permission to use in this study material previously published in "Hellenistic Culture: Recent Resources (1960-89)," Choice 27 (1990): 1634-43; and "The Greek Tradition from Alexander to the End of Antiquity," Paths from Ancient Greece , ed. Carol Thomas (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988), 28-50. Thanks also are due to my daughter Miriam Burstein, for her patience and critical acuity. The work is immeasurably better for both.
2. Droysen's great work has never been translated into English. The peculiar cultural situation in which Droysen wrote his work and the problems he encountered are penetratingly discussed in Arnaldo Momigliano, "J. G. Droysen between Greeks and Jews," Essays in Ancient and Modern Historiography (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1977), 307-24.
3. The best introduction to the study of papyri and their contents is E.G. Turner, Greek Papyri: An Introduction, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).
4.The first large-scale history of the Hellenistic period written from this perspective is Peter Green, Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990).
5. W. W. Tarn,Alexander the Great , 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948). For the background of Tarn's Alexander see A. B. Bosworth, "The impossible dream: W. W. Tarn's Alexander in retrospect,"Ancient Society: Resources for Teachers 13 (1983): 131-50.
6. Badian's views concerning Alexander are most accessible in E. Badian, "Alexander the Great and the Unity of Mankind," Historia 7 (1958): 425-44; and "Alexander the Great and the Loneliness of Power," Journal of the Australian Universities Language and Literature Association 17 (1962): 80-91.
7. A. B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
8. The only comprehensive study of the Greek kingdom of Bactria remains W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, 3d ed. by Frank Lee Holt (Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1984). Important revisions of Tarn's romantic and excessively Eurocentric reconstruction of Bactrian history are A. K. Narain, The Indo-Greeks (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957) and Frank L. Holt,Alexander the Great and Bactria (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989).
9. L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson, Scribes & Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek & Latin Literature, 2d ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974) 63.
10. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
11. The fullest and clearest exposition of this view of the Hellenistic monarchies is to be found in the first volume of M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World , 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1941).
12. See in particular the important collection of essays edited by Amélie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin-White, Hellenism in the East (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987) and the recent general study by the same authors, From Samarkand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992).
13. Errington's views are most conveniently available in R. Malcolm Errington, A History of Macedonia , trans. Catherine Errington (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990).
14. P. Vidal-Naquet, Le bordereau d'ensemencement dans l'Égypte ptolémaïque, Papyrologica Bruxellensia 5 (Brussels: Fondation égyptologique Reine Elisabeth, 1967).
15. In his dissertation Oils in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Provisions of P. Rev. in the Light of the Papyri (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1977; abstract in Dissertations Abstract, 38,6 [1978], 7311-A).
16. Translations in Stanley M. Burstein, The Hellenistic Age from the battle of Ipsos to the death of Kleopatra VII, Translated Documents of Greece & Rome, Vol. 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), No. 96-97.
17. The classic statement of the case for the continuing vitality of thepolis in the Hellenistic Period is A. W. Gomme, "The End of the City-State," Essays in Greek History and Literature (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1937), 204-48.
18. Cf. P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, 3 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972).
19. Cf. Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961).
20. Heracleides Creticus's work is translated in Truesdell S. Brown, Ancient Greece (New York: Free Press, 1965), 245-54.
21. Christian Habicht, "Die herrrschende Gesellschaft in den hellenistischen Monarchien ," Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial-und Wirtschaftsgeschichte 45 (1958): 1-16.
22. Contemporary scholarship on Ptolemaic Egypt is surveyed in Alan E. Samuel, The Shifting Sands of History: Interpretations of Ptolemaic Egypt, Publications of the Association of Anceient Historians 2 (Lanham, Md., 1989).
23. Janet H. Johnson, "The Egyptian Priesthood in Ptolemaic Egypt," Egyptological Studies in Honor of Richard A. Parker, ed. L.H. Lesko (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1986), 79-82.
24. Naphtali Lewis, Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt (Oxford, 1986), 104-23.
25. Gilbert J. P. McEwan,Priest and Temple in Hellenistic Babylonia (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1981). 26. Best known is the pillar dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu at Besnegar by a man who identifies himself as "Heliodorus, the son of Dion, . . . Greek ambassador from the court of the Great King Antialkidas (for translation see Burstein, Hellenistic Age, No. 53). Less well-known but equally revealing is the Buddhist relic vase from Swat dedicated by a Greek official named Theodorus (cf. W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India, 388-89, for details). The fact that both inscriptions are in Prakrit indicates that they were addressed to the local populations.
27. The Kshatriya or warrior Varna ranks second in the Hindu hierarchy of Varnas. Its ascription to the Greeks is implied by the statement in The Laws of Manu that they had lost it through failure to perform the appropriate rituals and consult priests (The Laws of Manu, trans. Wendy Doniger with Brian K. Smith [London: Penguin Books, 1991], 10.43-44).
28. Roger S. Bagnall, "The Origins of the Ptolemaic Cleruchs," The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 21 (1984): 7-20.
29. John Onians,Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age: The Greek World View 350-50 B.C. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979), 85-88.
30. The quotation from Antipater of Tarsus is found in H. von Armin, Stoicorum Veterum Fragmenta (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1903), 3.63.
31. The most accessible discussion of these issues in English is Sarah B. Pomeroy, Women in Hellenistic Egypt: From Alexander to Cleopatra (New York: Schocken Books, 1984).
32. Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker , 3 vols. in 15 parts (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1923-1958).
33. Thomas W. Africa, Phylarchus and the Spartan Revolution (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961).
34. The standard introduction to Hellenistic philosophy is now A. A. Long, Hellenistic Philosophy: Stoics, Epicureans, Sceptics, 2d ed. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986).
35. The fullest account of the culture of Hellenistic Egypt is Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, vol. 1, 305-794.
36. Robert Browning, "Greek Diglossia Yesterday and Today," International Journal of the Sociology of Language 35 (1982): 49-52.
37. For translation see Burstein, Hellenistic Age, No. 49.
38. The most recent edition of the fragments of Berossus with commentary is Stanley Mayer Burstein, The Babyloniaca of Berossus (Malibu: Undena Press, 1978). The only available translation of the fragments of Manetho remains the Loeb edition by W. G. Waddell,Manetho (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1940).
39. For translation see Burstein,Hellenistic Age, No. 50.
40. Arnaldo Momigliano, Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975).
41. Ronald Mellor, "Archaeology and the Oriental Religions in the West," The Ancient World 7 (1983): 129-38.
42. It is worth noting that the conversion of the Bactrian king Menander to Buddhism is portrayed in the Questions of Milinda as being the result of a series of public discussions of Buddhist doctrine with the monk Nagasena.
43. The Idylls of Theokritis , trans. Barriss Mills (West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1963), 14, lines 63-64.
44. Timon of Phlius as quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists , 1.22d. The only comprehensive study of the political implications of state patronage in the Hellenistic period is Thomas W. Africa,Science and the State in Greece and Rome (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1968).
45 Samuel K. Eddy, The King is Dead: Studies in the Near Eastern Resistance to Hellenism 334-31 B.C. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961) remains the only general study of non-Greek culture during the Hellenistic period.
46. John J. Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1986). Critical editions and translations of the bulk of surviving Hellenistic Jewish literature can be found in James H. Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha , 2 vols. (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1983-85) and Carl R. Holladay, Fragments from Hellenistic Jewish Authors, 2 vols. (Chico and Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1983-89).
47 Ben Zion Wacholder, Eupolemus: A Study of Judaeo-Greek Literature (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1974).
48. Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period , trans. John Bowden, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974).
49. Elias J. Bickerman, The Jews in the Greek Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), 161-76.
50. Miriam Lichtheim, Late Egyptian Wisdom Literature in the International Context: A Study of Demotic Instructions, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 52 (Göttingen: Vantenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983). For translations of most of the principal extant works of Demotic literature see Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature: Volume III: The Late Period (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980).
51. As such phenomena as the use of the Greek alphabet by the Kushans to write their language and the obvious Hellenistic influence in Gandharan Buddhist art indicate, the retreat of Greek culture was a gradual process in even the most remote regions of the Hellenistic world. Nevertheless, the Greek influence evident in Indian astronomy is more likely to have been the result of direct contact with the Roman east via the Indian Ocean than being due to the mediation of the surviving remanants of Hellenistic Greek settlements.
52. Approaches to the Second Sophistic, ed. G. W. Bowersock (University Park: American Philosophical Association, 1974), 1-3. There is no good history of Roman Greece. A useful brief account is A. H. M. Jones, "The Greeks under the Romans," Studies in Ancient Economic and Administrative History , ed. P. A. Brunt (Oxford: Blackwell, 1974), 90-113.
53. A good example is provided by the exchange of letters between Pliny and the Emperor Trajan apropos of Pliny's visits to the cities of Nicomedia and Nicaea in the province of Bithynia: cf. Pliny the Younger, Letters , 10.37-40.
54. The sophists and their place in imperial Greek culture is the subject of G. W. Bowersock, Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969).
55. The decline of civic government in the Roman imperial period has been studied by G. E. M. de Saint Croix, The Class Struggle in the Ancient World (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981), 300-15, 518-37.
56. Plutarch, Precepts of Statecraft , in Moralia , vol. 10, trans. Harold N. Fowler (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1936), 805 a-b.
57. Lucian, The Dream , 9.11.
58. The evolution of Greek identity throughout history is outlined in Robert Browning, "Greeks and Others: From Antiquity to the Renaissance,"History, Language and Literacy in the Byzantine World (Northampton: Variorum Reprints, 1989), II:1-26.
59. Tatian, Address to the Greeks , 1.1. Similar comments can be found in the works of other Hellenized non-Greeks including the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the Phoenician rhetorician Philo of Byblus, and the Syrian philosopher Numenius of Apamaea.
60. The gradual decline of the traditional Egyptian scripts in Roman Egypt is outlined in Karl-Theodor Zauzich, "Demotische Texte römischer Zeit ," Das römisch-byzantinische Ägypten: Akten des internationalen Symposions 26.-30. September 1978 in Trier, ed. G. Grimm, H. Heinen, and E. Winter (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1983), 77-80.
61. On this see now G. W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990).