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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the 240s and 230s saw several shakeups in the political order of Greece. Macedonia under Demetrius II Aetolicus struggled to deal with an onslaught of Greek Leagues, Illyrian tribes, and the premature death of a monarch. Meanwhile, the long-since impotent Sparta sees a potential rejuvenation …
 
The proliferation of the Greek Federal states, those such as Achaean and Aetolian Leagues, was a major political development in the Greek Peninsula during the 3rd century. Despite being in an age of kings, several poleis were able to present a unified front against the Successor dynasties, allowing them to act as allies or rivals depending upon the…
 
As the power couple of the Mediterranean, Ptolemy III and Berenice II Euergetes (Benefactor)would oversee the apogee of Hellenistic Egypt. Ptolemy's successful blitzkrieg against the Seleucid Empire during the Third Syrian War would see a near-total conquest of Syria and Mesopotamia, and brought their northern rivals to their knees. As one of the m…
 
The conquest of Egypt by Alexander and establishment of the Ptolemaic dynasty differed from previous foreign invaders like the Hyksos or the Persians. While the Ptolemies would very much present themselves as traditional pharaohs, they would bring thousands of Greek immigrants, founded poleis, and imported Greek culture en masse. For the indigenous…
 
The Seleucid Empire's vast geographic spread made it the heir to a wide variety of cavalry traditions, with the fighting style of each region being incorporated into an army of Macedonian origin: units like armored cataphracts and horse archers from the steppes, scythed chariots from the Near East, and even war elephants acquired from distant India…
 
Drawn by the prospects of providing service to the Ptolemaic government in either the bureaucracy or the army, or perhaps seeking to settle and farm some of the most productive land in the world, tens of thousands of Greeks would immigrate to Egypt in pursuit of a better life. Thanks to the abundant papyrological record, we are able to get an intim…
 
Alexandria, or Alexandria-by-Egypt as it was called, was the easily the greatest city of the Hellenistic Age. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332/331, it became the pet project of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who turned it into the capital of their mighty empire. Through the dynasty's direction and enormous amounts of money, the city was endowed with m…
 
After facing decades of civil wars and invasions following the death of Alexander, peace was restored in Macedonia by the capable Antigonid king Antigonus II 'Gonatas', who strengthened the kingdom's hegemony over the Greek Peninsula in a reign that lasted an impressive 40 years. Despite this, we know very little about the man and his exploits. Aut…
 
Herodotus described Egypt as the gift of the Nile River, and without a doubt the Ptolemaic rulers took full advantage of the land’s agricultural prosperity. In addition to their exploitation of the Nile’s annual inundation, the Ptolemies would introduce the most rigorously developed (or exploitative) taxation system ever seen in Egypt, and would en…
 
Throughout the three centuries of Ptolemaic control over Egypt, their dynasty can be best described as having a split identity. Ruling from Alexandria, the new intellectual and cultural capital of the Greek-speaking world, the Ptolemies were very much Hellenistic kings and queens. But Egypt was an ancient land, and they needed to come to terms with…
 
Among the many colorful characters of the Wars of the Diadochi, Demetrius I Poliorcetes ("the Besieger") stands out as one of its most prominent, portrayed by the likes of Plutarch as a skilled commander and larger-than-life personality. Dr. Charlotte Dunn, who recently co-authored a biography entitled "Demetrius the Besieger", joins the show to di…
 
The troubled reigns of Seleucus II Callinicus and Seleucus III marked over 20 years of instability for the empire. A 3rd Syrian War led by a vigorous Ptolemy III Euergetes would penetrate into Syria and Mesopotamia, Parthia saw the invasion of the nomadic Parni, and rebellious officials in places like Pergamon would test the limits of the Seleucid …
 
Alexander the Great is easily one of the most popular subjects for writers and artists throughout antiquity. In addition to the many biographies that present wildly different views on the man, there are a dazzling number of depictions of the conqueror in coinage, statues, and various other works of art. Joining us is Meg Finlayson who discusses her…
 
The relatively brief reign of Antiochus II Theos is noted for his conflict with Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his controversial marriage with Berenice Phernophoros (“the dowry-bringer”). But the true focus of this episode is the convoluted yet critically important events that took place in the eastern satrapies of Parthia and Bactria. The rebellions …
 
Though the longest-lived and most wealthy of the Hellenistic "Big 3", the Ptolemaic rulers in Egypt have never really held the distinction as a major military player in the violent struggles of the Hellenistic period, instead often seen as decadent and lazy as per the writings of those like Polybius. Dr. Paul Johstono joins us to discuss his new bo…
 
As the most prolific of city-founders, the Seleucids sought to dramatically reshape the lands of the Near East and most especially North Syria, which would become the dynasty's new imperial heartland and something of a stand-in for their ancestral homeland of Macedonia. We will cover the creation of these sites, but we'll also assess the impact of …
 
The 1st and 2nd Illyrian Wars, fought between the Roman Republic and the peoples of Illyria (approximately modern Albania to Croatia) in 229-228 and 220-219 BC respectively, are often neglected in favor of the more famous 2nd Punic War. The conflicts with Teuta, the "Pirate Queen" of the Ardiaei, and the unscrupulous Demetrius of Pharos marked the …
 
To rule over the largest and most diverse empire of the Hellenistic realms, the Seleucids needed to deal with serious logistical and administrative challenges. The identity of the Seleucid kings can be viewed through either a Macedonian-Greek, Near-Eastern, or Iranian lens. Its administrative system of satrapies and local power holders were kept in…
 
Straddling the Strait of Kerch in the Northern Black Sea, the Bosporan Kingdom provides an unusual case study within the Hellenistic period. Originally settled by Greeks during the 6th century BC, the Cimmerian Bosporus would become host to a powerful kingdom backed up economically by its massive grain exports to the Mediterranean. For most of its …
 
Though they viewed themselves as the civilized center of the world, the Greeks had always expressed a curiosity for what lay on the periphery. The conquests of Alexander the Great had thrown open the doors of Asia and Africa, lands that were only the stuff of legend and hearsay, to hordes of Greek explorers, scientists, and diplomats. Many would be…
 
The world of the nomads who lived upon the Eurasian Steppe would face a radical transformation between the 4th-2nd centuries BC. Originally dominated by the Scythians and Saka, the Pontic-Caspian and Central Asian Steppes saw the migration and invasion of new tribes, sending them on a collision course with the likes of the Seleucid Empire and Greco…
 
With 49 episodes published, I decided to celebrate by making episode 50 a question and answer session, where I respond to topics fielded by listeners of the show. We dive into discussions on favorite history books, how to get into podcasting, and more historical topics like "who was the greatest of Alexander's Successors?" and "who would win in a w…
 
In this episode, we will be looking at two regions of Asia Minor and the Black Sea: the first is Galatia, home to the descendants of the Celtic tribes who marauded their way through Greece before being settled in central Anatolia, remaining an enclave of Celtic culture while serving as mercenaries (and foes) to the Hellenistic kingdoms. The second …
 
The conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire by Alexander the Great and his Successors did not spell the end of Iranian civilization. During the early Hellenistic period, several Iranian dynasties manage to establish themselves as independent rulers in their own right, propagating and transforming Iranian traditions and cultures in a changing envi…
 
Concluding our look at the philosophies of the Hellenistic Age, we take a round tour of three other important schools: the ascetic and often times crass Cynics, the hedonistic predecessors of the Epicureans known as the Cyrenaics, and the Peripatetics, the heirs of Aristotle and the Lyceum.Title Theme: Seikilos Epitapth with the Lyre of Apollo, pla…
 
Questions on the existence of true knowledge had plagued many Greek philosophers, but it was during the Hellenistic period when Skepticism, divided between two competing branches, emerged to openly cast doubt on the possibility of knowing anything at all. The disciples of Pyrrho of Elis, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, sought to achieve inne…
 
From the super galleys of the Hellenistic monarchs to the engagements of Cape Ecnomus and Drepana during the First Punic War, the Hellenistic Age was the epoch of naval warfare in the ancient world. Joining us is nautical archaeologist and PhD student Stephen DeCasien to talk about the intricacies and evolution of the navy during the period, the pr…
 
With an Egyptologist’s perspective, PhD student Henry Bohun joins the show to help explore the complexities of the relationship between the Greco-Macedonian rulers of the Ptolemaic Dynasty with that of their native Egyptian subjects. Despite being Macedonian to the core, the Ptolemies nevertheless saw themselves as heirs and continuators of the Pha…
 
The legacy of Cleopatra, the last independent queen of Ptolemaic Egypt and arguably the most famous figure of the Hellenistic period, is not just limited to the works of William Shakespeare. Joining us today is Yentl Love, creator and writer of the website "The Queer Classicist", who talks about the reception of Cleopatra (Qalūbaṭrah) in the Islami…
 
In this episode we are joined by historian and Cornell PhD student John McTavish to discuss the Wars of the Diadochi, where the Successors of Alexander the Great fought over a period of 40 years to carve apart his empire and found their own kingdoms, giving birth to the Hellenistic World as we know it. We discuss the problems of early Hellenistic s…
 
Arguably the most popular of the Hellenistic philosophies, the Stoic movement, with its emphasis on reason and self-control, attracted several famous figures such as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas, and Seneca the Younger. Believing that wisdom is the highest good and can be achieved through philosophy, t…
 
A quick update on the release of show merchandise and on the upcoming Q&A (question and answer) session for episode 050.Hellenistic Age Podcast Show Merchandise:Etsy Page (https://www.etsy.com/shop/HellenisticAgePod)Bookmark (https://etsy.me/2WmQxHE)Episode 50 Q&A Contact (send in by or before episode 048):Email (hellenisticagepodcast@gmail.com)Con…
 
Named after the eponymous philosopher Epicurus (341 – 270 B.C.), the Epicurean school was one of the more popular if controversial doctrines to emerge during the Hellenistic period. Arguing that “Death is nothing” and denying the existence of the afterlife, Epicurus and his followers sought to explain the world through empirical observation and the…
 
By 255 B.C., the Carthaginians were in dire straits, having faced the prospect of a Roman invasion of North Africa. However, the talented leadership of Xanthippus of Lacedaemonia and Hamilcar Barca managed to stave off defeat for another 15 years, but the unrelenting nature of the Romans in spite of military and natural disasters would bring an end…
 
Dr. Nikolaus Overtoom joins us to discuss the Parthians and the Arsacid dynasty, a group that emerged from the Central Asian Steppes to come into conflict with the Seleucids and Hellenistic kingdoms during early-middle 3rd century B.C. We talk about Dr. Overtoom's work regarding early Parthian history, the adaptability of a steppe society ruling ov…
 
The First Punic War, lasting from 264 to 241 B.C., was the longest uninterrupted war in the ancient world, fought between the Roman Republic and the Phoenician city-state of Carthage. Exploring the origins of the conflict is essential, tracing the earliest instances of Romano-Punic relations to the intervention of Rome on the behalf of the Mamertin…
 
Polybius of Megalopolis (~200 - 118 B.C.) was a Greek nobleman and high ranking member of the Achaean League, whose political career was prematurely ended when he was taken as a political hostage to Rome. Rather than disappearing into obscurity, Polybius took it upon himself to compose a "universal" history, so as to explain to his fellow Greeks ho…
 
The city-state of Carthage , founded by Phoenician settlers in modern Tunisia during the 9th century B.C., was a premier power of the western Mediterranean. Stretching their reach from North Africa into Spain, Sicily and Sardinia, the Carthaginians managed to establish a formidable economic empire thanks to their nautical prowess, eventually leadin…
 
Though initially a critical failure upon release, subsequent re-cuts of the 2004 "Alexander" film by director Oliver Stone has been more positively received, and it has been praised as one of the most historically accurate films to depict the ancient world thanks to the historical consultant Robin Lane Fox. In this loosely-structured episode, we ar…
 
In Greek Sicily, the rule of law was dominated by the tyrant, and no tyrant was more infamous than Agathocles (361 - 289 B.C.). For over three decades he ruled the city of Syracuse as both a tyrant and king, bringing it into a golden age. At the same time, Agathocles enacted political massacres and acts of brutality to ensure his control, and he wa…
 
By 272 B.C., the throne of Macedon now lay firmly in the hands of Antigonus II Gonatas. As a “philosoper-king”, the court of Pella would play host to a great amount of intellectual celebrities of the early Hellenistic period, and peace would return Macedon to a state of prosperity. The situation would be different in Greece, as stirrings of rebelli…
 
Antigonus II Gonatas, son and grandson of Demetrius I Poliorcetes and Antigonus I Monopthalmus, was not of the same military mold as his forebears, traditionally preferring the company of philosophers over the camp. However, it would be left to him to achieve the family dream of taking the throne of Macedon, all the while dealing with the likes of …
 
We are joined by Dr. Kyle Erickson in order to discuss his work on the Hellenistic period and the Seleucid Empire in particular. We discuss the strategies of the Seleucid rulers in coming to terms with a large and diverse collection of people, the variety (and scarcity) of our sources including coinage, and looking at the ways Seleucid kings and qu…
 
Often neglected in favor of his more glamorous son Alexander the Great, Philip II of Macedon (r. 359 - 336 B.C.) was one of the most important figures of the ancient world. His accession to the throne of a crumbling backwater kingdom would prompt him to not only save Macedon from destruction, but through a series of military and economic reforms, b…
 
From Alexandria to Ai-Khanoum, the Hellenistic period would give rise to some of the most impressive cities in the world as the royal dynasties sought to make their mark on the landscape with ambitious building projects and military settlements. We'll trace the path of a Hellenistic city from foundation to megalopolis, what exactly makes them "Hell…
 
The reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (282-246 B.C.) would be the height of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and his capital of Alexandria would become one of the most prosperous economic and intellectual centers in the world. Its wealth, in conjunction with Ptolemy's meddling in foreign affairs would invite conflict both from the neighboring Seleucid Empire …
 
With the death of Ptolemy I Soter, the Hellenistic World would be subject to a collection of his formidable children: Ptolemy II Philadelphos, Arsinoe II, Magas, and Ptolemy Ceraunus. We also spend considerable time discussing the incestuous royal sibling marriages that would become standard policy of the Ptolemaic Dynasty.Title Theme: Seikilos Epi…
 
Ptolemy I Soter, a former commander of Alexander the Great turned King and Pharaoh of Egypt, was perhaps the craftiest out of all of Alexander’s Successors. A talented commander and even more brilliant politician, Ptolemy would wield diplomacy and intrigue with a deft hand, founding what would become the longest lasting Hellenistic Kingdom in his n…
 
Led by rulers such as Chandragupta and Ashoka the Great, the Mauryan Empire would be the largest empire ancient India had yet seen. Stretching across almost all of the Indian subcontinent into modern Afghanistan and Iran, the Maurya would develop close contacts with the Hellenistic world. We will look at the history and the inner workings of the em…
 
The elephant, introduced to the Greco-Macedonians by way of Alexander's conquests, would prove to be one of the most iconic elements of the Hellenistic period. From the use of war elephants in battles like Ipsus and Zama, the scientific insights of authors like Aristotle and Megasthenes, and symbols of power for the Hellenistic rulers, we will expl…
 
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