Hellenistic Greece - World History

Hellenistic Greece - World History
Posted on 30-12-2022

Hellenistic Greece ( 320 ) Alexander's empire fragmented into several kingdoms.

At the end of the 4th century, the Chinese state of Qin began a process of expansion to the south and northwest by which it considerably increased its territory. The other states had to make great diplomatic efforts, either to ally against him or to maintain friendly relations with Qin. Around this time lived Mengzi, a Confucian philosopher of whom the book that bears his name is preserved and in which he rigorously develops the theories of Confucius. The Zhuangzi was also written at this time , one of the fundamental works of philosophical Taoism. Nothing is known of its author, but his style is scathing and controversial, unusual characteristics in Chinese philosophy.

In Europe some time ago a group of seafaring peoples of Indo-European origin had begun a process of expansion from the Jutland peninsula or its surroundings. By this time they had spread through Scandinavia and northern modern Germany and Poland, from the Weser to the Vistula. This last territory had been populated by Celts, who were displaced to present-day France. The Celts called these new towns Germans . Leaving the sea, the Germans became warrior-farmers. They were ruled by an oligarchy of nobles, subject to a king whose authority was of divine origin. They essentially worshiped nature, the battlefield for Odin, or Wotan, god of storms and victories, Tyr, god of assemblies, and Thor, or Donar,God of lightning. They practiced their worship in high places, or at the foot of majestic trees, in fountains, etc. Unlike the Celts, there was no priestly class similar to the druids, but it was the nobles or the heads of families who served as priests. On the other hand, they did have singers similar to the bards who told stories about the gods at holy festivals, stories that were composing an extensive Germanic mythology. For example, the Germans believed that warriors, when they died, were led to Odin by some beautiful Amazons, the Valkyries, and in paradise they enjoyed the happy life of banquets and great combats forever.

In Mexico, the Olmec culture quickly disappeared. Various regional cultures developed then, but it will take several centuries before finding new significant developments in the area.

In the civilized West, the end of the century was marked by power struggles between the Diadochi, the former generals of Alexander the Great. In 320, Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt, sent an army into Canaan. He attacked Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and the Jews refused to fight on their holy day, so he had no difficulty in taking the city. Antipater ruled Greece and Macedonia, but he died in 319 and, for some strange reason, appointed Polyspercho, another Diadocus, as regent instead of his son Cassander. He did not accept the situation and sought support in Greece to overthrow Polispercón. The sons of the diádocos who, like Cassander, also participated in the disputes for the remains of the Empire, were called Epigonos (born after). Cassander tried to legitimize his aspirations by controlling Philip III, Alexander's mentally handicapped half-brother, but Olympias had him assassinated.

A new character had appeared in Syracuse: his name was Agathocles, and he was of humble origin, but he had great charm, which allowed him to marry a wealthy widow and thus became one of the most influential men in the city. He was expelled because of his political activities, but he recruited a private army and dedicated himself to fighting as a mercenary in different parts of the world. Finally, in 317 he returned to Syracuse, took it, and had many oligarchs and supporters of tyranny executed. After that, he himself ruled as a tyrant, but he won the support of the lower classes.

Meanwhile Cassander was taking Athens with the help of the most important Greek cities, and in 316 he marched against Olympia in Macedonia and had her executed. He then imprisoned Roxana, Alejandro's wife, along with his youngest son. This is how he took control of Macedonia and Greece that his father had denied him. That same year, another Diadocus, Antigonus, defeated Eumenes in battle and had him executed, whereupon he seized Asia Minor. He then he marched on Babylon and drove out Seleucus. Antigonus and his son Demetrius his son they soon dominated the Asian part of Alexander's empire, and everything seemed to indicate that they would have no difficulty in taking over the rest. But, precisely because of this, Ptolemy and Cassander allied with Seleucus against them.

In 313 Cassander defeated the King of Epirus, a cousin of Olympias who had succeeded Alexander of Epirus after his death in Italy. His son was proclaimed king, who accepted the rule of Macedonia.

in 312Demetrius attacked Ptolemy in Gaza. He led a formidable army there consisting of 11,000 infantry, 2,300 cavalry and 43 elephants. Since Alexander found them in India, elephants became a Greek weapon of war, they seemed a powerful element to disorganize enemy troops, but little by little it became clear that it was easy to reject them: elephants quickly recognized the danger and they quickly turned around and ended up turning against those who carried them. This is how it happened in Gaza: Ptolemy placed iron stakes at regular intervals on the battlefield. When the elephants found them they stopped and Ptolemy took advantage of the confusion that dominated his adversaries, with which Demetrius was forced to retreat hastily. After this withdrawal, Ptolemy razed all the fortifications of Judea and Syria, to prevent Antigonus or Demetrius from using them against him. In addition, he helped Seleucus to reconquer Babylon, so that Antigonus was forced to fight on two fronts. For his part, Demetrius decided to fight Ptolemy at sea. Ptolemy possessed a powerful fleet, and Demetrius hastened to assemble his own. After this withdrawal, Ptolemy razed all the fortifications of Judea and Syria, to prevent Antigonus or Demetrius from using them against him. In addition, he helped Seleucus to reconquer Babylon, so that Antigonus was forced to fight on two fronts. For his part, Demetrius decided to fight Ptolemy at sea. Ptolemy possessed a powerful fleet, and Demetrius hastened to assemble his own. After this withdrawal, Ptolemy razed all the fortifications of Judea and Syria, to prevent Antigonus or Demetrius from using them against him. In addition, he helped Seleucus to reconquer Babylon, so that Antigonus was forced to fight on two fronts. For his part, Demetrius decided to fight Ptolemy at sea. Ptolemy possessed a powerful fleet, and Demetrius hastened to assemble his own. For his part, Demetrius decided to fight Ptolemy at sea. Ptolemy possessed a powerful fleet, and Demetrius hastened to assemble his own. For his part, Demetrius decided to fight Ptolemy at sea. Ptolemy possessed a powerful fleet, and Demetrius hastened to assemble his own.

Rome was still at war with the Samnites. After the setback suffered at the Caudine Gallows, the war was entrusted to Lucio Papirio Cursor (the runner), who was consul five times and dictator twice. He was a man who imposed a strict discipline and was not liked by the troops, but he won victories. In this period, the Roman army was gradually perfecting itself. In the days before the Gallic invasion, the combat technique consisted simply of gathering an adequate number of men, between 3,000 and 6,000, and attacking armed with long swords. This group of men was called a legion, which in Latin means the same thing: group, set. On the other hand, the soldiers were not professionals, but peasants who momentarily left their lands when they needed to fight in the vicinity. However, the long siege of Veii forced many soldiers to stay away from their lands for an indefinite period of time, which led to the institution of pay, so that some citizens began to dedicate themselves exclusively to the militia. This gave them more time to be trained in more sophisticated techniques than merely attacking when given the signal.

During the wars against Samnio, the legion specialized. He divided into a group of about 3,000 heavily armed men, about 1,000 lightly armed for faster manoeuvres, and about 300 horsemen for even faster manoeuvres. Groups of 10 men, called decurias, were formed under the responsibility of a decurion, and 10 decurias formed a century, under the orders of a centurion. In battle, the legion was arranged in three lines, all of which carried heavy short swords, the first two also carrying javelins and darts, while the third carried the long swords. The first two lines were divided into maniples (something like handfuls)which were placed leaving spaces between them, so that the first two lines formed a kind of chessboard. This allowed a series of maneuvers adapted to each specific situation: the first line could attack, throw its javelins and withdraw when exhausted, while the second line could then advance through the gaps in the first without those who fell back hindering those who came forward. they advanced. The cavalry could quickly reinforce the weakest points, etc.

On the other hand, in 312 the patrician Appius Claudius was elected censor. He was known as Appius Claudius the Censor until he went blind, and then he was called Appius Claudius the Blind. That same year he ordered the construction of a road that would link Rome with Capua, in Campania, at a distance of about 212 kilometers. It was known as the Appian Way. It was the first of many roads that the Romans would build. Their goal was, of course, to enable armies to move quickly to where they were required. Another innovation due to Appius Claudius was that he extended Roman citizenship to landless individuals, indicating that a middle class of merchants and artisans was emerging in Rome. He also studied grammar, wrote poetry, and was the first Roman to write down his speeches. Appius Claudius is considered the father of Latin prose and with him it becomes clear that Roman culture was also undergoing profound changes.

That same year, the Etruscan cities, which until then had respected and renewed ancient peace agreements with Rome, decided that Rome's problems in the south would allow them to improve their situation in the north, so they declared war on it. Rome was not intimidated. She left Papirio Cursor in the south and sent troops north under Quinto Fabio Máximo Ruliano . (The fourth name indicates that he was adopted from the Rulia family). Previously, Fabio had defeated a Samnite army in contravention of orders from the dictator Papirio Cursor. He was outraged, because for him a victory did not excuse disobedience. He might have been willing to execute Fabio, but he was met with staunch opposition from the soldiers and had to give in to avoid a rebellion.

In 311 the enemies of Agathocles decided to ask for help from Carthage, who gladly sent an expeditionary force under the command of a new Hamilcar, who slowly approached Syracuse, victory after victory.

In 310 Cassander decided to execute the wife and son of Alexander the Great, whom he had imprisoned. Thus, the only descendant of the royal house was Thessalonica, Alexander's half-sister, whom he married. He also rebuilt a city in Chalcidice and named it Thessaloniki (present-day Thessaloniki) after his wife.

Hamilcar had come to besiege Syracuse itself. Agathocles' situation was compromised, as he had gone too far in killing oligarchs and now found no support anywhere. Desperation led him to a bold plan. He left a small force in the city and embarked with the rest of his men. He took advantage of the fact that a part of the Carthaginian fleet broke through the encirclement for an instant to board some ships that brought supplies, and then Agathocles sailed at full speed towards the hole. When the Carthaginians found out and changed course, he had already escaped (moreover, the provisions were then able to reach Syracuse). He landed near Carthage and, as his troops were too few to take part with him and leave part guarding the fleet, he struck another daring stroke: he had his ships burned, so that the only chance his men had of returning safely was to win. He then camped on the outskirts of Carthage.

The Carthaginians assumed that Hamilcar's army had been annihilated, otherwise Agathocles would not have been able to reach it. They sent messengers to find out what had happened and order the return of possible survivors. Meanwhile they attacked Agathocles with a makeshift army which was easily disbanded, but in the meantime the city was prepared for a siege. Hamilcar received the order to return, but he did not want to do so before taking Syracuse, this made him rush, he was defeated and died. The Carthaginian troops finally returned to his city, but Agathocles had had time to build himself new ships and return to Syracuse, which he received as a hero.

This same year Zenón de Citio opened a school in Athens . He had studied with cynical philosophers, but he elaborated a much more refined philosophy. He taught that man should be above emotions, he should avoid joy and pain, and thus become master of fortune, whether it is good or bad. His objective must be virtue and the fulfillment of duty. The greatest power, he claimed, is power over oneself. His school had a portico adorned with paintings, which is why the Greeks called it the Stoa Poikile (the painted portico). For this reason, Zeno and his followers are known as Stoics, and his philosophy as Stoicism.

In 309 Seleucus annexed Bactria, the easternmost region of the former Persian Empire, and tried to extend his rule further east, pitting him against the Indian king Chandragupta. Lysimachus founded the city of Lysimachia in Thrace and made it his capital. That year Ptolemy I appointed Magas, who had just married a daughter of the king, governor of Cyrene.

In 308 Fabio achieved the surrender of Etruria after a series of successful campaigns, while the war against the Samnites continued in the south. In 307 the Carthaginians were forced to sign a peace treaty with which they recognized Agathocles' dominance over most of Sicily. Meanwhile Demetrius's fleet was taking Athens and in 306 defeated Ptolemy's fleet off Cyprus. Demetrius had definitely taken over the sea. After this victory, Antigonus decided that he could not wait any longer. He was already seventy-five years old and the chances of seeing the entire empire of Alexander under his rule were dwindling. Therefore he decided to name himself king of Asia Minor, and the other Diadochi hastened to follow his example. With this the dismemberment of the empire was finally recognized.

Ptolemy became Ptolemy I, the first king of the 31st Dynasty,also known as the Ptolemaic dynasty, because all its successors would also be called Ptolemy. He established his capital at Alexandria, which became a stronghold of Greek culture in Egypt. Indeed, the Ptolemies fully respected Egyptian customs and revered their gods, at least formally, and allowed the entire country to be ruled according to tradition by native rulers. Instead, Alexandria was to all intents and purposes a Greek city that the Egyptians did not consider part of their country. The result was a perfect symbiosis, in such a way that the Egyptians never rebelled against the rule of the Ptolemies, contrary to what had happened with the Hyksos, the Assyrians or the Persians. Ptolemy I was the first Egyptian monarch to mint coins, which gave a huge boost to the country's economy.

For his part, Seleucus became Seleucus I, the first monarch of the Seleucid Empire,which included not only Mesopotamia, but also all the eastern territories of Alexander's empire. Seleucus I tried to promote the decadent Mesopotamian culture, to the detriment of Iranian culture, and even tried to protect it from Greek influence. He discouraged Zoroastrianism and promoted the Babylonian cult and the Aramaic language. It seems that he decided to continue Alexander's project to unite Greeks and Asians in a common culture. He was the only Diadocus who kept the Asian woman that Alexander had imposed on him. His intention was for Babylon to retain its own culture while Seleucia,a new city that he had ordered to be built 55 kilometers from Babylon, was like the Alexandria of Egypt. However, the Greek culture swept away the ancient culture of the Sumerians. The Greek and its alphabet displaced the tablets and the cuneiform writing and gradually Babylon ceased to have the slightest relevance.

Lysimachus also proclaimed himself king of Thrace. Agathocles also, in Sicily, followed the example of the Diadochi and proclaimed himself king. Demetrius's next step after his victory in Cyprus was to besiege the island of Rhodes, which was an ally of Ptolemy I.

In 306 a man born in Samos arrived in Athens, although his parents were Athenians. His name was Epicurus, and he taught a moderate version of Aristippus's philosophy of pleasure. Epicurus affirmed, in effect, that pleasure was the main good, but he added that it could only be obtained from a moderate and virtuous life.

In 305 Seleucus I was definitively defeated by Chandragupta in India and signed a peace treaty, after which India began to receive Western culture through its relations with the Seleucid empire.

Meanwhile Papirio Cursor was able to definitively expel the Samnites from Campania and invaded Samnio itself. The Samnites found themselves threatened and were quick to sue for peace. This was signed in 304,so that Roman sovereignty over Campania was recognized, but Samnium retained its independence. That year Demetrius decided to lift the siege of Rhodes. He had used cumbersome machines, but the Rhodians managed to hold out. Demetrius' siege became so famous that from then on he was known as Demetrius Poliorcetes (the besieger). The Rhodians, for their part, decided to use the machines abandoned by the besiegers to build a large statue commemorating his victory. This was a very ambitious project that would take more than a decade to complete.

After leaving Rhodes, Demetrius returned to Athens, which was being besieged by Cassander. Demetrius liberated Athens and took control of most of Greece. In 302 he was elected general-in-chief of the Greek cities, as were Philip II and Alexander the Great. But Cassander sent troops to Asia Minor to confront Antigonus. Demetrius had to return to Asia to help his father, allowing Cassander to retake Greece. Finally, in 301 all the other Diadoci united against Antigonus and Demetrius in a battle at Ipso,in central Asia Minor. About 300 elephants participated in the battle between both sides. Antigonus was finally defeated. It is said that he died shouting "Demetrio will save me", but Demetrio had to flee. Lysimachus extended his kingdom by annexing Antigonus' territories in Asia Minor to Thrace. Seleuco I reproached Ptolemy I that he had hardly been involved in the battle of Ipso, and took this as an excuse to claim Syria. On the other hand, a Persian descendant of a family of satraps took advantage of the confusion after the battle of Ipso to set himself up as king of a region of Asia Minor, that corresponding to the northeastern coast, (the sea, in Greek). The new king adopted the name of Mithridates I.

Around this time King Chandragupta abdicated and became a disciple of the Jain saint Bhadrabahu. He was succeeded by Bindusara, whom the Greeks called Amitrajates (Enemy Killer).

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