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After Alexander died of some mysterious illness or poison at Babylon in June 323 BC, the bodyguards summoned his principal friends and officers. Perdiccas placed on the empty throne the ring Alexander had given him while dying and suggested they wait to see if the pregnant Roxane would give birth to a son who could be king, but Ptolemy and others disliked being ruled by the son of an Asian mother. The general Meleager objected to being ruled by Perdiccas in a regency and walked out to join disgruntled soldiers. To avoid civil war, someone suggested Philip's son Arrhidaeus could be king as Philip III, and though considered retarded, he had enough presence to prevent imminent fighting; it was agreed that Meleager would be a third general after Craterus and Perdiccas.
A barbaric Macedonian ritual was arranged in which a dog was cut in two, and the army was supposedly purified. At the urging of Perdiccas though, Philip III allowed 300 men, who had instigated the discord with Meleager, to be trampled to death by the elephants, and Meleager was later murdered in a temple. It was decided that the king would hold supreme power with Ptolemy satrap in Egypt and Libya, Leomodon in Syria, Philotas in Cilicia, Antigonus in Lycia and greater Phrygia, Cassander in Caria, Menander in Lydia, Leonnatus in western Phrygia, Eumenes in Cappadocia, Pithon in Media, Lysimachus in Thrace, and the eastern provinces were to stay the same. Perdiccas was to command the army for the king. Alexander's body in an elaborate funeral procession was headed for Macedonia, but in Damascus it was diverted to Egypt by Ptolemy.
When news of Alexander's death in Babylon reached Athens, Demades doubted it, saying if it were true, the whole world would stink with the dead body. Already upset by the decree that they must readmit exiles and thus give up Samos, Athens led by Hyperides and Leosthenes voted to equip 200 triremes and 40 quadriremes and put all men under forty in the military. Phocion opposed war but continued as a general, while Pytheas, Callimedon and others fled to Antipater and helped to discourage the revolt among the Greeks. With Athenian arms and money Leosthenes hired 8,000 mercenaries at Taenarus. Hyperides and Demosthenes recruited allies in the Peloponnese, though because of the recently defeated Spartan revolt, little help came from there. In gratitude for his patriotic efforts Demosthenes was welcomed back to Athens, which paid his fine. The Athenians and Aetolians did get strong cavalry support from Thessaly as well as Achaeans, Dorians, a few Illyrians and Thracians, Carystians from Euboea, and some Argives, Sicyonians, Eleians, and Messenians from the Peloponnesian peninsula. The league established at Corinth was dissolved, and a new Hellenic league was formed. Macedonian ruler Antipater sent to Craterus in Asia for aid.
Athenian Leosthenes led a force to the pass at Thermopylae and attacked and defeated the Boeotians so that allies could join him. In the first battle with Antipater the Thessalian cavalry helped the Athenians and their allies defeat Antipater's Macedonians, who took refuge in Lamia. Antipater asked to negotiate; but Leosthenes demanded surrender and besieged the fortress, though he did not have the equipment to storm the town successfully. Knowing that Macedonian reinforcements were sure to arrive, Phocion noted that the short sprint had been run well, but he doubted they had the strength for the long course. Leosthenes was hit by a stone from a catapult and died; he was replaced by Antiphilus. A Macedonian army of 20,000 with 1500 cavalry was led from Asia by Leonnatus, but he was defeated and killed by the Hellenic league's 22,000 infantry and 3500 cavalry after they left Lamia, allowing Antipater to withdraw with the remaining forces into Macedonia. At a funeral for Leosthenes and others Hyperides spoke of their courage to safeguard the universal liberty of Greece through the rule of law.
If men are to be happy, the voice of law,
and not a ruler's threats, must reign supreme;
if they are free, no groundless charge,
but only proof of guilt, must cause them apprehension;
nor must the safety of our citizens depend on
those who slander them and truckle to their masters
but on the force of law alone.1
However, a Macedonian fleet of 240 ships defeated the Athenian navy in two major battles off the coast of Aetolia and at Abydos near the Hellespont. Many of the Greek allies who had volunteered went home, and Craterus arrived with 43,000 troops and 5,000 cavalry to defeat the league at Crannon in August 322 BC. With the isthmus to the Peloponnesian peninsula blocked and Athens' harbor at Peiraeus blockaded, Athenians had to submit; they recalled the disenfranchised Demades and sent him with Phocion, Demetrius of Phalerum, and Academy head Xenocrates to Antipater, whose turn it was to demand surrender. By Antipater's refusing to negotiate with the league as a whole and by granting favorable terms to the allies, Aetolia and Athens were left isolated.
Athens was required to pay the cost of the war, accept a Macedonian garrison at Munychia, disenfranchise and exile more than half their citizens, transfer Samos to its natives and exiles, and surrender Demosthenes, Hyperides and two other anti-Macedonian politicians (who were hunted down and killed). Xenocrates commented that these terms were moderate if they were slaves but severe if they were free men. Phocion argued against the garrison, and it was agreed it might be removed when the disenfranchised Athenians went into exile; but the garrison stayed fifteen years. Athens thus became an oligarchy run by its richest 9,000 citizens, who had property over 2,000 drachmae (a drachma being a skilled worker's day's wage); this marked the end of Athenian naval power. Aetolians retreated into the mountains unconquered, as Antipater and Craterus returned to Macedonia before crossing over to Asia to challenge Perdiccas in alliance with Antigonus and Ptolemy. In Libya Thibron, who had probably killed Harpalus on Crete, with the mercenaries attacked and besieged Cyrene. The poor drove out the rich, who fled to Egypt and appealed to Ptolemy; he sent a force led by Ophellas, which defeated the democrats and Thibron's forces.
Roxane had given birth to a son, Alexander IV; now there were two kings. When Philip II's daughter Cynane arranged for her daughter Eurydice to marry Philip III, Olympias instigated Perdiccas and his brother Alcetas to murder Cynane; but the soldiers were so upset that they had to allow the king to marry Eurydice. Perdiccas, leaving Alcetas and Eumenes in Cappadocia, marched into Egypt, where a botched crossing of the Nile lost 2,000 men; his army mutinied, killed him, and joined Ptolemy. Eumenes, not telling his men they were fighting against Craterus, killed Neoptolemus in single combat and won a victory in which Craterus was also killed. The message from the Greek Eumenes to Perdiccas was read by the Macedonian army, which declared Eumenes an enemy and killed supporters of Perdiccas. Antipater became guardian of the two kings while in Syria, and the satrapies of Antigonus and Ptolemy were confirmed, while Seleucus was given Babylon, Antigenes Susa, and Peucestes held Persia. Antigonus went to war against Eumenes and defeated him in Cappadocia, killing 8,000; but Eumenes escaped to a fortress in Armenia. Antigonus consolidated Lydia and Phrygia and built a fleet that destroyed Alexander's navy commanded by Cleitus for Polyperchon, while Ptolemy sent an army that took over Syria and Phoenicia.
Antipater returned to Macedonia with the two kings and died of illness, having appointed Polyperchon administrator and as chief bodyguard his son Cassander, who immediately replaced the governor of the Munychia garrison at Athens with Nicanor. Next Cassander allied himself with Antigonus and Ptolemy against the imperial dynasty, which turned to Eumenes in Asia. Olympias came to Macedonia but became unpopular for executing Antipatrian partisans. Having escaped a siege with an oath of allegiance to the royal family and driven from the Phoenician coast, Eumenes went east to gather support. Seleucus would support the kings but would not obey Eumenes, who had been condemned by a Macedonian army. So Eumenes captured and garrisoned Babylon but was flooded out by Seleucus and Pithon, who opened a dike. In Persia Eumenes was supported by Antigenes, Peucestas, and the imperial army. Two large battles were fought against the army of Antigonus; but when the wives and children of his veterans were captured with the baggage, they mutinied and gave up Eumenes to get them back. Antigonus executed Eumenes and had Antigenes burned alive. Seleucus, fearing treachery when called to account by Antigonus, fled to Egypt, where Ptolemy treated him kindly.
To gain favor in Greece, Polyperchon proclaimed for the kings that exiles (with a few exceptions) were to return to the cities, which were to have the autonomy they had under Philip and Alexander. So the Athenians asked the Macedonian garrison to leave Munychia; but Nicanor, serving Cassander and refusing to obey Olympias' order to surrender it, took over the harbor at Peiraeus and was reinforced by Cassander before Polyperchon's son Alexander arrived. Phocion, whose trust of Nicanor had allowed this, now urged the Athenians to let Alexander's troops into Athens; but the growing number of exiles returning voted to depose those who held office in the Antipatrian oligarchy, which included Phocion and Demetrius of Phalerum, who took refuge with Nicanor while Phocion went to Alexander's camp and was accused of treason. His "trial" was by a large mob that included foreigners and slaves, and very few could hear him over the shouting; finally Phocion exclaimed that he pleaded guilty and pronounced his own death sentence but then asked why the others who were not guilty should be punished too. Nonetheless Phocion and four others were executed with poison hemlock, but Demetrius of Phalerum went into exile. Within three months Cassander arrived with an army, and the oligarchic party put to death their prosecutor and recalled Demetrius of Phalerum.
Polyperchon brought an army of 25,000 but could not retake Piraeus; he operated from Corinth but failed to take Megalopolis. The Athenians made terms with Cassander that lowered the property requirement for citizenship to 1,000 drachmae, but Cassander retained the garrison of Munychia for the duration of the war; Demetrius of Phalerum was put in charge of the government as a despot under Cassander and held that position for ten years. Athens was said to have 400,000 slaves, a vast majority. Many Greek cities supported Cassander, and for the first time in its long and proud history Sparta built a wall of defense around the city.
Olympias, supported by prince Aeacides of Epirus, marched back to Macedonia, imprisoned and had killed Philip III and his wife Eurydice (who chose suicide by hanging) and a hundred prominent friends of Cassander. However, Cassander's army escaped from the Peloponnese and besieged Olympias at Pydna; when the Macedonian soldiers were too awed by Alexander's mother to kill her, some relatives of her victims murdered Olympias. Cassander joined with Lysimachus of Thrace, Ptolemy of Egypt, and Seleucus of Babylon to challenge the growing power of Antigonus, while Polyperchon retreated to Aetolia. Cassander revived the city of Thebes and, sailing across to Epidaurus, retook Argos and Messenia from Polyperchon's son Alexander. Antigonus had Cassander condemned by a Macedonian council for killing Olympias and recalling Olynthian exiles. Antigonus took over Phoenicia, put his son Demetrius at Gaza, and built a fleet of 240 large ships; he also proclaimed Greek freedom and self-government. Antigonus was imitated in this proclamation by Ptolemy; this stimulated Cyrene to revolt against Ophellas, but it was quelled.
In 313 BC Antigonus sent forces to the Black Sea, Miletus and Caria, the Peloponnesian peninsula, and Chalcis before approaching the Bosphorus with his army; but he was blocked there by Lysimachus. Ptolemy with an army of 22,000 attacked Demetrius at Gaza, where 8,000 mercenaries surrendered; Peithon and perhaps Nearchus were killed, and Demetrius fled. Ptolemy then recovered Phoenicia and Syria and settled surrendering mercenaries and Jews at Alexandria. This enabled Seleucus to raise an army and occupy Babylon, defeating and enlisting most of the 17,000 troops of Nicanor before going on to take Media and Susiana. Antigonus recovered Syria and Phoenicia as Demetrius captured 7,000 of Ptolemy's troops at Myus, and Cyrene's Ophellas became independent. Eventually after it was agreed that Antigonus should rule in Asia, Lysimachus in Thrace, Ptolemy in Egypt, the Greek cities be free, and Cassander command in Macedonia, Cassander had Roxane and the young Alexander IV killed. Antigonus encouraged the forming of the Ionian and Aeolian Leagues, founded several new cities, collected contributions, and interfered with grain trading.
Cassander offered to let Polyperchon's son Alexander govern the Peloponnese under him; he accepted and fought against Antigonus' supporter Aristodemus until Alexander was assassinated, though his widow held onto Sicyon. Antigonus encouraged Polyperchon to support Alexander III's son by Barsine, Heracles, and to invade Macedonia; but Cassander offered him the Peloponnese also, and Polyperchon, accepting, murdered young Heracles. The army of Antigonus ravaged Babylon but could not subdue Seleucus, stimulating Ptolemy to send forces to Cilicia against Antigonus. When Ptolemy wanted to marry Cleopatra, a full sister of the "great" Alexander III, she was assassinated by order of Antigonus, who blamed it on some women he then executed. Only Cassander's wife Thessalonica, a daughter of Philip by a Thessalian mistress, survived of the royal family; all the rest were murdered in these power struggles between the successors. Ptolemy brought an army into Greece and took over Corinth and Sicyon, proclaiming himself a liberator of Cassander's garrisons; but angry the Peloponnesians did not make the contributions they promised, he made an agreement with Cassander, left his own garrisons in Corinth and Sicyon, went back to Egypt, and recovered Cyrene after the death of Ophellas.
In 307 BC Antigonus' son Demetrius took the Peiraeus by surprise, allowed Demetrius of Phalerum to retreat to Thebes and then Egypt, and captured the Cassandrian garrisons at Munychia and Megara, declaring the Megarians free and destroying the fortifications at Munychia. The Macedonian Demetrius entered Athens triumphantly, restored its democracy, and promised a large distribution of wheat. Athenians responded by declaring Demetrius and his father Antigonus not only kings but gods and saviors. Those in the previous Athenian government who did not go into exile but stayed for a trial were acquitted. Resentment of the aristocratic government of Cassander and Demetrius of Phalerum influenced by the philosopher Theophrastus (Aristotle's successor) and the speech-writer Deinarchus led a Sophocles to propose and pass a law that no philosopher could open a school without permission of the council and assembly. Theophrastus and other philosophers left Athens, but a year later Philon of the Peripatetic school prosecuted Sophocles for an unconstitutional law, and the latter was fined five talents; it was repealed, and the philosophers returned along with a new one named Epicurus.
Demetrius, aided by thirty quadriremes from Athens, at Cyprus defeated Ptolemy, who lost 120 warships and had 8,000 mercenaries captured. Demetrius and his father Antigonus began calling themselves kings. Antigonus with 88,000 men, the largest Greek army ever, and a comparable navy led by Demetrius invaded Egypt; but storms scattered the fleet, and Ptolemy won over many of Antigonus' mercenaries with money. Now Ptolemy was called king of Egypt, and the royal title was soon adopted by Lysimachus in Thrace, Seleucus in Babylon, and Cassander in Macedonia. Next Rhodes with help from Ptolemy held out for more than a year against the huge siege engines of Demetrius before peace was made; Rhodes sold the abandoned siege engines and used the money to build the famous Colossus of the Sun over its harbor. Demetrius returned to Athens and, for relieving them from a blockade by Cassander, was gratefully welcomed in triumph once again, only to turn Athena's Parthenon into a harem. Demetrius helped liberate much of Greece, married Pyrrhus' sister Deidameia, and revived the league of Corinth as a Panhellenic congress, though it lacked Thessaly, Sparta, and Messenia.
Antigonus, now eighty years old, refused to negotiate with Cassander, and so Cassander formed an alliance with Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus. In 302 BC Demetrius invaded Thessaly with 57,500 men and was met by Cassander with 31,000. However, when Lysimachus crossed the Dardanelles and Seleucus marched west with 500 elephants he had gained in a treaty with India's Chandragupta, Antigonus recalled his son Demetrius to Asia. Two of Antigonus' generals in Asia Minor, Docimus and Phoenix, betrayed him. Lysimachus married the widow of Dionysius to secure Heraclea as winter quarters. Demetrius made a truce with Cassander, recovered the Dardanelles, and wintered in Ephesus. Ptolemy invaded Syria but returned to Egypt after hearing a false report that Lysimachus had been defeated. At Ipsus in 301 BC Lysimachus joined forces with Seleucus, and though supported by his son Demetrius, Antigonus was defeated and killed. Demetrius fled to Ephesus, and Antigonus' kingdom was divided between Lysimachus and Seleucus.
Athenians passed a law declaring their neutrality and forbidding any king to enter the city; thus they sent away Demetrius and his wife Deidameia, though Lachares, supported by Cassander's soldiers, took despotic control. Exiles joined Demetrius, who recovered much of the Peloponnese and blockaded Athens into starvation (by hanging the captain of a wheat shipment to terrorize others) until they opened their gates to him, as Lachares escaped. Cassander died in 298 BC, and his younger son Alexander appealed to Demetrius; but Pyrrhus, secured as king of Epirus by Ptolemy's help, got to Macedonia first and was given western territory by Alexander. Demetrius brought his army, wounded and defeated Pyrrhus, murdered Alexander, expelled his brother Antipater, and proclaimed himself king of Macedonia in 294 BC. When Boeotia allied itself to Pyrrhus and the Aetolian League, Demetrius took Thebes, its money, and garrisoned it, as he had Athens.
Demetrius levied 98,000 soldiers, 12,000 cavalry, and had his fleet built up to 500 galleys in preparation for an invasion of Asia. However, the coalition of Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy called in Pyrrhus. Afraid his army would desert to Lysimachus, Demetrius marched against Pyrrhus; but the army, not wanting to fight for his luxuries, mutinied and went over to the Epirote king, as Demetrius fled in a disguise. So in 288 BC while Ptolemy crossed the Aegean to attack Demetrius at Athens and Corinth, Pyrrhus and Lysimachus conquered and divided Macedonia, Pyrrhus yielding the crown to Lysimachus.
Demetrius retired to Cassandrea, where his wife Phila poisoned herself. Athenians had overcome the garrison in the Museum; but an attempt to attack the Piraeus garrison was betrayed, and 419 Athenians were killed. However, the Cynic philosopher Crates managed to persuade Demetrius to lift his siege and not fight Pyrrhus over Athens. Then Demetrius left his son Antigonus Gonatas in charge of the remaining garrisons in Greece, while he crossed over to Asia Minor and took Sardis. The army of Lysimachus drove Demetrius into Phrygia, and he considered going to Armenia and Media; but hunger took 8,000 men, and they retreated south to Tarsus and Cilicia, where his mercenaries defected to Seleucus, who captured Demetrius and allowed him to drink himself to death, which came in 283 BC.
The same year Berenice's son Ptolemy II Philadelphus succeeded in Egypt. Berenice's daughter Arsinoe II, now queen of Macedonia as wife of Lysimachus, got his popular son Agathocles executed for treason, which caused many to join Seleucus in Anatolia. Lysimachus marched his army there but was defeated and killed in Lydia in 281 BC. Seleucus went to Macedonia to claim the crown, but he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, Eurydice's disinherited son, who now married his half-sister Arsinoe II. Seleucus had already arranged for his son Antiochus to succeed him. Antigonus Gonatas marched north to discover a large invasion of Celtic Gauls defeating and killing Ceraunus; only a legendary miracle of snow at Delphi, the pursuing Aetolians, and a defeat by Antigonus Gonatas in Thrace were able to push the Gauls back out of Greece and across the Hellespont into Anatolia, where they settled as Galatia. The Macedonian crown passed quickly from Ceraunus to Meleager to Antipater and to Sosthenes until in 277 BC Antigonus Gonatas established the Macedonian dynasty that would last more than a century. Pyrrhus returned from campaigning in Italy and ravaged the Peloponnesian peninsula, but he was eventually defeated and killed at Argos by the combined armies of Sparta and Macedonia in 272 BC.
In 334 BC Alexander of Epirus had attacked Lucanian, Bruttian, and Samnite raiders in Italy, where he was killed by a Lucanian exile. In Greek Sicily the Syracusan constitution of Timoleon had been overthrown by an oligarchy of 600. Syracuse sent a force to help Crotona fight off the Bruttians. The strong Agathocles fought bravely, and resenting not being honored, he organized his own force and tried twice to seize the government of Syracuse. By dressing as a beggar Agathocles escaped assassination; but supported by Carthaginians, he was appointed a general in Syracuse by the 600. In 317 BC his soldiers murdered forty senators, then ravaged the city killing 4,000, as 6,000 fled or were expelled. Calling an assembly, Agathocles would only agree to lead if the city gave him dictatorial power. He promised abolition of debts and land distribution; he then expanded Syracusan territory by force of arms.
Syracusan exiles appealed to Spartan king Cleomenes, who sent his son Acrotatus; but when Agathocles killed exile leader Sosistratus at a banquet, Acrotatus fled. A peace mediated by Carthaginian general Hamilcar divided hegemony in Sicily between Agathocles and the Carthaginians although the Greek cities were supposed to be autonomous. Messena stood outside, but Agathocles managed to kill 600 of those who opposed him there and at Taormina. When he besieged Agrigentum, Deinocrates and the exiles turned to Carthage, which captured twenty of his ships. So Agathocles marched into Gela and massacred 4,000 people. At the Himera River he lost 7,000 to the Carthaginian cavalry and from thirsty men drinking salt water.
Besieged at Syracuse in 310 BC Agathocles managed to steal enough money from the 1600 wealthiest citizens he had slaughtered, women's jewelry, and temples to take sixty ships filled with soldiers across to be the first Europeans to attack Carthage. In a sacrifice to Demeter and Persephone he burned his ships before taking a large city and fortifying Tunis. The Carthaginian army was defeated and driven back to Carthage. Believing their loss was because they had been cheating on their child sacrifices, it was said the Carthaginians killed 500 children to expiate their guilt. Meanwhile Agathocles' brother Antander defeated the Carthaginian attack on Syracuse led by Hamilcar, who was captured and killed. The Agrigentines led by Xenodocus expelled garrisons and liberated Sicilian towns. When a mutiny broke out in Tunis, Agathocles' threatening suicide got himself reinstated as general.
After the Syracusans and Carthaginians fought each other while the Libyans watched, Agathocles appealed to Ptolemy's viceroy in Cyrene Ophellas, whom Agathocles then killed, taking over the army he brought, shipping out to Syracuse the colonists Ophellas had raised from Athens. At the same time the Carthaginians were being betrayed by their general Bomilcar. Like Alexander's successors, Agathocles declared himself king; then he attacked Utica by using its leading 300 citizens as shields for his siege engines. Agathocles crossed back to Sicily, and two-thirds of the army led by his son in Libya was destroyed. His generals defeated the Agrigentines, but the autonomy movement was revived by Agathocles' old friend Deinocrates, who raised an army of 20,000.
Agathocles went back to Tunis, where the situation became so desperate he tried to escape secretly but was arrested. Eventually he escaped back to Sicily; his sons left in Libya were killed, as his soldiers capitulated to the Carthaginians; commanders who did not were crucified, while their men were enslaved. In Sicily Agathocles sent for his army, which massacred and plundered Egesta. Unable to agree with Deinocrates, Agathocles made a deal with the Carthaginians, defeated the forces of Deinocrates, and regained control of Syracuse. Agathocles led military expeditions in Italy and took the island of Corcyra away from Cassander's Macedonians in 298 BC and then had 2,000 Ligurians and Etruscans killed for mutinously demanding their pay. Agathocles ruled in Syracuse until his death at age 72 in 289 BC when he was probably poisoned.
Alexander's army had been welcomed into Egypt, and the Macedonians took over imperial rule from the Persians. After Alexander's death, Ptolemy I Soter defeated Perdiccas and established his Macedonian dynasty in Alexandria. Using Egyptian wealth, he hired Greek mercenaries to defend and expand his kingdom, claiming Syria as far north as the Eleutherus River in 301 BC. Seven years later he commissioned Peripatetic scholar and Athenian exile Demetrius of Phalerum to organize the Museum for Hellenic intelligentsia. With the final fall of the Antigonid Demetrius in 285 BC Ptolemy took over his navy along with ports in the Cyclades, Tyre, and Sidon to add to Cypress. Two years earlier he had repudiated his wife Eurydice and her son Ptolemy Ceraunus to marry Berenice. Against the advice of Demetrius of Phalerum he associated in his rule Berenice's and his son, who two years later became Ptolemy II Philadelphus and locked up Demetrius, who was then killed by an asp. In 280 BC Ptolemy II's army took Damascus and Miletus away from the Seleucids.
In 275 BC Ptolemy II Philadelphus married his sister Arsinoe II, who also took the name Philadelphus to signify their love for each other. The next year his half brother and viceroy of Cyrenaica invaded Egypt, while Antiochus I marched into lower Syria. Arsinoe's ambition was credited with Egypt's holding off the Seleucids and hanging on to Anatolia and Cilicia from Miletus south. Egyptian money was sent to support Pyrrhus' plunder of the Peloponnese until he was killed; then Ptolemy II supported Spartan king Areus against Antigonus Gonatas. Egyptian gold also subsidized the new dynasty at Pergamum in Anatolia, and Ptolemy II took Ephesus, only to have Arsinoe's son (by Lysimachus) placed there turn against him in an Ephesian insurrection in 260 BC. Rhodes took over Ephesus as this son was killed by his own troops, and the next year Antiochus II took back Miletus. Egypt lost a naval battle to Antigonus Gonatas off Cos and had to surrender much of its northern empire.
In 246 BC Ptolemy III Euergetes succeeded his father, as did Seleucus II his father Antiochus II. When his sister Berenice was murdered after having married Antiochus II, Euergetes marched into Syria and was victorious, then lost some territory before signing a peace treaty in Palestine. In 219 BC Antiochus III marched down the Phoenician coast; Ptolemy IV Philopator's prime minister Sosibius recruited an army of native Egyptians and stopped the Seleucids at Raphia near Gaza two years later, but the costs of this taxation were felt for many years. The Ptolemies used substantial income taxes, tariffs, and tolls to maintain their Macedonian-ruled military empire. A bureaucracy of Greeks educated by the state administered the top levels, while the Alexandrian library grew to a collection of 700,000 papyrus scrolls. Slaves captured in wars were imported, and it was said that Ptolemy I Soter brought 100,000 Jewish captives back to Alexandria, though scholars consider this exaggerated. Greeks were clearly favored over natives even by the laws, and resentment grew after the Egyptians helped win the victory at Raphia.
When Ptolemy IV Philopator died in 204 BC, a power struggle led to the disappearance of Sosibius, the lynching of the other minister Agathocles in Alexandria, and the murder of Arsinoe III, Philopator's sister and wife. The young Ptolemy V Epiphanes (r. 203-181 BC) faced revolts and even lost control of Thebes to a secessionist Nubian dynasty until 187 BC. Antiochus III took over Syria for the Seleucids, as Egypt was reduced to itself, Cypress, and Cyrene. Ptolemy V was only 28 when he was poisoned in 181 BC; his widow Cleopatra I, daughter of Antiochus III, ruled as regent for eight years. After Egypt sent an expedition into Palestine, Antiochus IV invaded Egypt, and in 169 BC Ptolemy VI Philometor was captured at Memphis, causing the Alexandrians to appoint his brother Euergetes II king as Ptolemy VII. Rome, which was becoming dependent on Egyptian grain, sent an envoy to demand that Antiochus IV leave Egypt, and thus the Seleucids were kept out of Egypt. The Roman senate and the Alexandrians agreed that Ptolemy VI Philometor should rule Egypt and Cypress, while Euergetes II was given Cyrenaica. Philometor invaded Syria again in 147 BC and held it for two years before he was killed near Antioch; Ptolemaic Egypt then withdrew from Syria and never returned.
Euergetes II married Philometer's widow and sister of both of them, Cleopatra II, and then ruled for 29 years along with Ptolemy VI's daughter Cleopatra III, surviving an exile of five years from conflicts with his divorced sister and mother-in-law Cleopatra II. According to Diodorus, Ptolemy VII (Euergetes II) was hated for brutally killing Cyreneans and others, but he favored native Egyptians as the native soldier class grew. Greek language and Egyptian culture merged. Cleopatra III co-ruled with her son Ptolemy VIII until she was able to permanently replace him with her favorite son Alexander, who became Ptolemy IX in 108 BC. Cleopatra III died in 101 BC but was replaced by Berenice. In 88 BC Ptolemy VIII expelled his brother and ruled until he died in 81 BC. Rome took over Cyrenaica in 96 BC and annexed it as a province in 74 BC. The Ptolemies continued to rule under the supervision of the Roman senate until the Alexandrians drove out the flute-playing king Ptolemy XI in 59 BC; but he was restored three years later by the Roman commander in Syria and ruled until 51 BC, when he was succeeded by Ptolemy XII and his sister Cleopatra VII, who became involved with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony in Rome's civil wars.
Under the Ptolemies the temples of Egyptian religion were respected, and many new ones were built. These included hymns to the gods, such as one to the creator god Khnum urging him to awaken in peace. The Demotic language was used not only for daily business but also for literary works that continued the ancient Egyptian wisdom tradition. Two tales of the antiquarian prince Setne Khamwas indicate that magic was still a popular theme. In the first, Setne Khamwas finds a magic book he gets from Na-nefer-ka-ptah and his wife and child, who had all died in attaining the magical book, which Setne then uses to seduce a beautiful woman named Tabubu; but before she will give in to his pleasure, she keeps making requests until finally Setne kills his own children. Just as he is about to enjoy her, he awakes naked to see the Pharaoh telling him to go to Memphis to see his children. Setne finds his children there safe and is persuaded to return the magic book back to Na-nefer-ka-ptah.
In the second story Setne's son Si-Osire demonstrates his ability to read a book without opening it. They observe the honored funeral of a rich man and the body of a poor man being carried off only in a mat, but the son wishes that his father will go to the underworld with the poor man. When his father asks why, the son leads him to the next world, where one's good deeds are weighed against one's bad deeds. Those whose misdeeds are greater go to the Devourer, while the soul that has more good deeds rises into heaven with the august spirits. The poor man is now richly dressed and standing next to Osiris, because his good deeds outweighed his bad deeds; but the rich man has been imprisoned for his many bad deeds. Those who do good to others will fare well in the next world, but the evil experience evil. Si-Osire demonstrates his abilities by reading a closed book for the Pharaoh and proving that his magic is more powerful than the magic of the Nubian court; then he vanishes, and Setne and his wife conceive another son.
Animal fables were also passed down as folkloric wisdom. The one which concludes with the Aesopian fable of the mouse who helps the lion after he is spared is very critical of humans who kill and torture various animals such as a panther, horse, donkey, bear, ox, cow, and another lion. Each of these says that there is no animal more cunning than man and hopes that they will not fall into the hand of man. After the mouse helps the lion escape from the human trap, he says, "It is beautiful to do good to him who does it in turn."2
The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq is about a priest of Re, who is asked to join a plot to kill Pharaoh; but Ankhsheshonq tries to persuade his friend not to do it. The conspirators are caught and executed, and Ankhsheshonq is put in prison for not reporting the plot. There he writes a long list of proverbial wisdom for his son that includes such ideas as being gentle and patient so that your heart will be beautiful and not to abuse others when faring well lest you fare badly. The golden rule is well expressed as not doing to another what you dislike so as to cause another to do it to you. Wealth of a town is a just lord, of a temple the priest, of a field its work, of a storehouse its stock, of a wise person speech, of a town not taking sides, and of a craftsperson one's equipment. Much more good and practical advice is included.
The Instruction of Papyrus Insinger is more pious and moral. The author noted that a son does not die from being punished by his father; but whoever loves his spoiled son will spoil himself too. Various ways of discovering the heart are by sending one on a mission, testing in some matter, consulting one in deliberation, and asked one for something; but a woman may not be known anymore than the sky. A ruler is punished for letting an impious person have power. Greed is condemned for putting strife and combat in a house and for removing shame, mercy, and trust from the heart. Whoever loves one's neighbor will find a family around one. We are advised not to cheat when questioned, because behind us is a witness (God). Violence, poverty, insult, and unkindness are found to be never at rest.
The library and museum at Alexandria attracted and encouraged not only the collection of literature in Greek but the writing of it too. Euclid taught geometry and wrote his Elements here about 300 BC. Callimachus was born in Cyrene about 310 BC, studied with the Peripatetic philosopher Praxiphanes in Athens, and was appointed a librarian at Alexandria by Ptolemy II Philadelphus. Most of his works are lost, but his hymns praising Zeus, Apollo, Cyrene, Artemis, Delos, and Demeter survive. He wrote that Apollo appears only to the good, and the "Bath of Athena" describes how Teiresias went blind after seeing the goddess naked but was given prophetic vision. His hymn about the island of Delos mentions the Celtic war of the Galatians and claims he prophesies for Ptolemy who is to be. His first epigram advises a man not to marry above his station but to keep to his rank. An epitaph of a man sleeping the holy sleep suggests that the good do not die.
Theocritus was born at Syracuse in Sicily about 310 BC; he may have studied medicine at Cos in the eastern Aegean, and he wrote poetry for Ptolemy II Philadelphus at Alexandria. He agreed with Callimachus on literary style and is considered the founder of Bucolic or pastoral poetry, although he lived in the two largest cities of the Hellenic world, Syracuse and Alexandria. Another poet and friend of his named Sotades was imprisoned for denouncing Ptolemy's incestuous marriage; after many years Sotades escaped and was captured by an Egyptian admiral. Theocritus wrote "Harvest Festival" complaining of his friend's suffering; but Ptolemy ordered Sotades put in a chest and drowned at sea. Theocritus returned to his native Syracuse, where the tyrant Hieron II put him to death for criticizing his son and refusing to stop doing so.
Theocritus wrote that the Cyclops Polyphemus found relief in singing about his love; perhaps the poet did too, though his description of Aeschines' smacking his girlfriend on the head a couple of times, causing her to run off like a swallow, portrayed a grim realism. Thyonichus tells Aeschines that Ptolemy is warm-hearted, loves his mistresses and learning, never forgets a friend or an enemy, is generous if one does not ask too much, and would be ready to hire him as a soldier if he was ready to bear the brunt of an enemy's charge without budging. In another dialog describing a crowded festival at the palace, the housewife Praxinoa praises Ptolemy for having cleaned things up and reduced crime since his father died. Though he often praised warriors, in "The Graces" Theocritus hopes that the armory will be shrouded with cobwebs and that the war-cry will become a forgotten sound.
His 17th Idyll praises Ptolemy for controlling with the sword Syria, Phoenicia, Libya, Arabia, Ethiopia, Lycia, Pamphylia, Caria, Cilicia, and the Cyclades, while his ships are sovereign on the seas. He lauds his wealth derived from tribute all around and claims there is peace from raiders. This treasure is put to use in temples and cities and shared with vassal kings and companions; even singers do not lack a reward. Theocritus praised Ptolemy for having deified both his parents and for combining the love of a wife and sister. Although Ptolemy's name may be ranked with gods and heroes, for virtue one must still pray to Zeus. For a statue of Aphrodite Theocritus wrote, "Those who cherish the divine powers live more happily here on earth."3
Apollonius was a citizen of Alexandria and studied with Callimachus. To show that epic poetry still was viable, he wrote the Argonautica, which was severely criticized by Callimachus and Theocritus. So the young poet went to Rhodes, where his revision of the work was so popular that they honored him with their citizenship; thus he is known as Apollonius of Rhodes. Later returning to Alexandria, he was much acclaimed and appointed director of the Library. The story of Jason and the heroes, who sailed on the Argo to capture the golden fleece from Colchis at the east end of the Black Sea, was already well known; but Apollonius' psychological as well as mythical treatment might qualify it as one of the first novels except that it is in verse. His comments aside to the reader make it seem modern.
Afraid of a prophecy that Jason would mean his death, King Pelias sends his nephew on a long perilous journey, hoping that he will never see him again. Pelias having slighted the goddess Hera, she takes Jason's side. A generation before the Trojan War, the heroes who volunteer for the adventure include Peleus (father of Achilles), Telamon (father of Ajax), Orpheus, and the immensely strong Heracles himself. The use of a ship to secure a valuable item from the Black Sea area reflects the Aegean Greeks' concern for centuries to control trade from that region with a strong navy. In choosing their leader, Heracles declines and nominates the organizer Jason, who is elected. Idmon prophesies their quest will be successful, though he himself will die. Idas belligerently asks his own fate, and this quarrel might have become violent; but Jason intervenes, and Orpheus calms them down with music.
On the island of Lemnos they meet women, who had slaughtered their husbands the previous year for casting them off and enjoying captured women; the poet noted how Hypsipyle glossed over the massacre in her account to Jason and his men, who lingered to help repopulate the island with men until Heracles urged them to get moving again. Hypsipyle gives Jason several gifts, which he later gives to others. They are initiated into secret mysteries at Samothrace. On an island in the Propontis when they are attacked by savages, they kill them all; then taken for raiders at night by mistake, they kill many of their hosts, the Doliones. When his servant Hylas is captured by a water nymph, Heracles goes looking for him and is left behind. The twin Polydeuces (Pollux) kills the bully Amycus in a boxing match. The Berbyces then attack, and Castor kills the first man. The natives soon scatter, and the Argonauts pillage their cattle and sheep.
The Argonauts rescue the prophet Phineas from his daily torment by the Harpies, and he becomes their counselor and helps them get through the Cyanean rocks. The chief Lycus offers his son Dascylus as their guide. They find the sons of Phrixus (who had taken the golden fleece in the first place) shipwrecked suppliants and decide to help them. Phrixus had married Chalciope, the daughter of King Aeetes; now that Phrixus has died, these brothers are going to take over their grandfather's estate. Jason asks for their help as pilots so that he can take the golden fleece to Greece. Argus and his brothers warn them that a serpent guards the fleece and that it will be difficult to take it from the warlike Aeetes without his permission. Jason assures them they are well acquainted with war also, but Ancaeus suggests they consider using fair words to get what they want.
Hera and Athena decide to ask Aphrodite for help so that Medea will fall in love with Jason and help him get the fleece. Hera is grateful to Jason, because once when she was disguised as an old woman, he carried her across a river. Aphrodite offers Eros a toy ball if he will shoot Medea, who is considered something of a witch herself. When Jason goes to talk with Aeetes, his daughter Medea is shot in the heart by Eros and can not stop looking at and thinking about Jason. He offers to fight the enemies of Aeetes for the fleece, but Aeetes fears they came to take his throne. This angers Telamon, but Jason makes a more politic reply to soothe the king's feelings. Aeetes tells how he plows his field with two ferocious bulls, sows it with teeth from a monstrous serpent which grow into warriors, whom he then slays. If Jason can do this, he may have the fleece. Argus and Chalciope ask for Medea's aid, and so swept away by love is she that she almost commits suicide but then gladly helps Jason by giving him an ointment that will protect him. Jason promises her a bridal bed and declares that nothing shall part their love but death. Jason accomplishes his task in the field as the warriors all are killed; then Medea puts the serpent asleep so that he can take the golden fleece.
Medea, Jason, and his men flee in the Argo, but Aeetes' son Apsyrtus corners them in the Danube River. He agrees that they had the right to the fleece even though they took it clandestinely, and he proposes Medea's fate should be decided by a neutral king. Medea demands that Jason honor his pledge to her or slit her throat. She lures her brother Apsyrtus to a meeting so that Jason can murder him. Then the argonauts kill his Colchian crew. On their long trek home Medea is denied forgiveness from Circe for killing her brother, but divine aid guides their journey. Medea pleads for help from Arete, wife of King Alcinous, who learns that her husband will allow her to stay with Jason if she is married to him or has conceived his child. Arete tells them to wed that night, and the virgin Medea does so. The Colchians have to accept Alcinous' judgment or lose access to his harbors. After being blown south to Libya and carrying the Argo over land to another port, the Argonauts eventually come home. Value taken from a distant kingdom proved to be a violent adventure.
The Seleucid kingdom dated its beginning from 312 BC when Seleucus I Nicator seized Babylon in his own name; but his empire was not really established until Antigonus I was defeated at Ipsus in 301 BC, and Asia Minor was not included until Lysimachus was eliminated in Lydia in 281 BC. When Seleucus I was assassinated the next year, his son by his Persian wife Apame had already married his step-mother Stratonice and was co-ruling from Seleucia on the Tigris; Antiochus I became the second Seleucid king, ruling over the Asian empire Alexander had taken from the Persians with the exception of Egypt, Cyrene, and those parts of southern Syria which Ptolemy held temporarily and which the Seleucids and Ptolemies fought over until the end of the third century BC. This Seleucid empire extended from the Aegean Sea to what is now Afghanistan, containing about one and a half million square miles and about thirty million people compared to seven million in Egypt and four million in Macedonia. However, it was not long before this cumbersome empire governed by Macedonian soldiers lost vast territories. Antiochus defeated the Galatians in Anatolia in 275 BC and invaded lower Syria the next year.
A more western capital was built for the king and called Antioch on the Orontes in Syria, taking over the Macedonian population of nearby Antigonia, while the crown prince continued to govern in Seleucia on the Tigris, where most of the Babylonian population moved. Another Seleucia called Pieria was established on the Phoenician coast; but this was lost to the Ptolemies from 241 to 219 BC until the Seleucids built a strong navy. Various heavy taxes were levied to support the empire and its military garrisons, whose soldiers were given farms and organized into cities with Hellenic assemblies, judges, and laws. Many Hellenistic cities were established with the designated number of 5,300 male citizens, close to what was recommended in Plato's Laws, making a city of about 25,000 Greek inhabitants plus slaves. Trade was facilitated by a single currency, and silk came all the way from China.
Antiochus I Soter (r. 280-261 BC) was credited with driving out the Gauls and tried to take Syria from the Ptolemies with military force but was turned away. In the reign of Antiochus II Theos (r. 261-246 BC), who was admired for killing the Milesian tyrant Timarchus, Persia broke away. By the time he was poisoned by his first wife Laodice, the Greeks in prosperous Bactria led by Diodotus had become independent, followed by Hyrcania and Parthia led by the brothers Arsaces and Tiridates. Arsaces was killed in battle, but Tiridates ruled Parthia for 37 years and moved the capital to Hellenized Hecatompylos. Ptolemy II was forced to cede Ionia, Cilicia, and Aegean islands to Antiochus II in 255 BC. Three years later Antiochus II repudiated his wife Laodice and married Ptolemy's daughter Berenice.
Seleucus II (r. 246-226 BC) tried to recover the east with his army, but he had to return to Antioch to quell a revolt. Seleucus II appointed his brother Antiochus the Hawk regent in Asia Minor, and they fought each other for a decade while the empire shrank. After both Antiochus the Hawk in Thrace and his brother Seleucus II were murdered the same year, Seleucus III tried to reconquer Asia Minor but was defeated by Pergamum's Attalus I and was then assassinated by his own men in 223 BC; he was succeeded by his brother, 18-year-old Antiochus III (called "the Great"), who appointed Achaeus to direct the war in Asia Minor.
Two brothers, Molon and Alexander, satraps in Babylon and Persis respectively, declared themselves independent kings and were followed by Media king Atropatene, who threw off his vassalage. Antiochus III marched his imperial army east, and by 219 BC Molon and Alexander, abandoned by their armies, committed suicide. Achaeus, whose father was a hostage in the court of Ptolemy III, broke off the siege of Pergamum and heading toward Antioch, declared himself king; but his troops failed to go along. Antiochus III took advantage of a dynastic succession in Egypt to attack Palestine; but after regaining Seleucia Pieria he was eventually defeated at Raphia in 217 BC. Three years later Antiochus III besieged Achaeus at Sardis and, after he was betrayed, had his body mutilated.
Having ended the civil war and regained some of western Anatolia, the energetic Antiochus III next marched east through Armenia and Media to take on the Parthians. To finance this adventure Antiochus III took the treasury from the temple of the goddess Anahita near Ecbatana. The Seleucid army captured Hecatompylos, causing Parthian king Artabanus I to withdraw into Hyrcania; but Antiochus III could do no more than accept their promise of fealty and tribute. Then Antiochus III attacked independent Bactria, which would not yield. Euthydemus argued that their conflict would only help the Sacae nomads; so by conferring a gift of elephants and supplies, Euthydemus was accepted as a vassal king, as his son Demetrius married a daughter of Antiochus III. After eight years Antiochus III eventually returned to Seleucia on the Tigris, having gone through Afghanistan to India and back through Arachosia and Seistan; but these regions were too spread out to be governed by his empire.
Another dynastic succession in Egypt stimulated Antiochus III to negotiate with Macedonian Philip V to divide up Egypt's Asian possessions. The Seleucid army then defeated the Egyptians at Panium in 200 BC, and five years later Ptolemy V surrendered his Asian holdings in a treaty and accepted Antiochus' daughter Cleopatra I as a bride. By then the ambitious Antiochus III had already crossed over into Europe to take Lysimachia in Thrace. He sent ambassadors to Rome asking for friendship; but the Roman senate replied that they would be friends if Antiochus left the Greeks in Asia free and independent and if he kept away from Europe. Antiochus would not release the Aeolians and Ionians, who were accustomed to obeying Asian kings. Antiochus III with 10,000 men sailed across the Aegean and took Euboea, Thebes, and Thessaly, where he alienated Philip V. Smyrna and Lampsacus appealed to Rome, which gained the support of Philip V's Macedonians, and the Seleucids were defeated at Thermopylae, Antiochus III barely escaping by ship to Ephesus.
Withdrawing from Thrace and granting autonomy to Smyrna and Lampsacus were now not enough for Rome, which demanded that the Seleucids clear out of Anatolia. Eumenes II of Pergamum helped the Roman soldiers at Magnesia defeat the more numerous forces of Antiochus III, who sued for peace. Publius Scipio replied that the grasping nature of Antiochus caused his misfortunes; he should not have invaded Europe and taken away the liberty of the people Romans had freed. In the treaty of Apamea in 188 BC Scipio imposed the same conditions, demanded twenty hostages including his son Antiochus, a reduction of ships to twelve, and payment to Rome for the cost of the war totaling 15,000 talents over the next twelve years. The over-reaching ambition of Antiochus III had broken the Seleucid power. Parthian king Phriapatius reconquered the regions south of the Caspian Sea, and the Media Atropatene declared independence.
Seleucus IV (r. 187-175 BC) was assassinated by a conspiracy of court officers; but his brother Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175-163 BC), who had been a hostage in Rome, modernized the Seleucid army along Roman lines, and in 169 BC he sent troops east to Bactria and then attacked Memphis in Egypt. However, he had to withdraw before Roman power in Egypt, and his taking of the treasury from the temple at Jerusalem and his Hellenistic religious reforms brought on a Judean revolt. Shortly after the death of Antiochus IV, Judea and Commagene in Syria both became independent kingdoms during the reign of Demetrius I until he was killed and succeeded by Balas in Syria. The Seleucids lost Mesopotamia to the Parthians, whose king Mithridates I (c. 171-138 BC) captured Seleucid king Demetrius II in 140 BC. An invasion by Antiochus VII to recover Media and Babylon eventually ended in his defeat and death in 129 BC. Starting in 150 BC two rival branches of the Seleucid dynasty fought each other for the Syrian kingdom that remained until the Romans took it over in 64 BC.
In Bactria Demetrius moved east into Taxila and in 175 BC sent his general Menander to conquer much of the northern Mauryan empire including the capital at Pataliputra. Eucratides I (c. 171-155 BC) was succeeded by Menander (c. 155-130 BC), and after his queen Agathocleia's regency, Strato I ruled for half a century while Amyntas, a descendant of Eucratides I, reconquered some territories from the Scythians; but by the middle of the first century BC there were no more Greeks ruling in this area.
Bithynia and Caspian regions east of it never were conquered by Alexander nor by his successors and remained independent kingdoms. Nicomedes I (r. 279-250 BC), the son of Bithynian king Zipoetes I (r. 297-279 BC), encouraged Hellenistic culture but also asked for the aid of the Gauls against Antiochus I, which led to the establishment of these Celts in Galatia. Bithynia thrived under Prusias I (c. 230-182 BC) and allied itself with Rome; but Nicomedes IV at his death in 74 BC bequeathed the kingdom to Rome.
In Pontus Mithridates I ruled 301-266 BC, while at Comana the priests of the earth-mother goddess Ma dominated 6,000 male and female slaves. In 183 BC Pharnaces I, who according to Polybius surpassed all previous kings in his contempt for the laws, attacked Sinope, then took Tium in Bithynia and invaded Galatia. After three Roman embassies and pressure from Rhodes, three years later Pharnaces made peace "for all time" with Eumenes II of Pergamum and Ariarathes of Cappadocia, renouncing Galatia, restoring Tium and prisoners of war while paying 1200 talents. Cappadocia governed itself as a vassal of the Seleucids, and Ariarathes III was named king there in 255 BC. With Greek administrators Pontus grew in power until Mithridates V (c. 150-120 BC) was the most powerful king in Asia Minor. His son Mithridates VI called Dionysius (c. 120-63 BC) tried to expand the kingdom and fought numerous wars with the Romans until Pontus was finally absorbed into the Roman province of Bithynia by Pompey, though Tigranes I, who had conquered Syria in 83 BC, was able to hang on to Armenia until his death in 56 BC. Mithridates II reigned in Parthia from 123 to 86 BC.
Philetaerus was military governor of Pergamum under Antigonus I, then for Lysimachus, before contributing the enormous treasure to the Seleucids and ruling there for them. However, his son Eumenes I (r. 263-241 BC) with the help of Ptolemy III became independent. Pergamum's Attalus I Soter (r. 241-197 BC) defeated the Galatians and sided with the Romans and the Aetolians against Macedonia's Philip V. His son Eumenes II (r. 197-160 BC) expanded Pergamum to half of Asia Minor including Lydia and Phrygia. Pergamum was Hellenized with military settlements and a library that rivaled Alexandria's; but Attalus III (r. 138-133 BC) bequeathed his royal estates and treasures to Rome, which took the kingdom, squelched a revolt, and made it the province of Asia.
Under the Ptolemies Israel and Judah were combined into Judea and were administered by their own Jewish council of elders as before for about a century until the Zadokite priest Onias II withheld taxes. So Ptolemy III transferred authority to Tobias, and the Tobiad family became the tax collectors for Egypt. When Manetho and other Hellenistic historians contradicted the Hebrew account of the Exodus from Egypt, writing that they had been deported so as not to spread infectious diseases, Jewish scholars in Alexandria got together and published a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures called the Septuagint after its seventy translators.
After the Egyptians were defeated by Antiochus III at Panion in 200 BC, the Seleucids restored the Zadokite priest Simon the Just and exempted the shrine at Jerusalem from taxes. However, the reparations the Seleucids had to pay Rome after the treaty of Apamea brought about a land tax in Judea of one-third of the crop. Many Jews, notably the Hasidim, resented Hellenistic influences; others did not. Onias III was suspected of using the Temple treasure for Ptolemaic subversion and was assassinated after his brother Jason took over the high priesthood by offering more tribute to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The Zadokite line was replaced though when pro-Greek Menelaus offered even more gifts in 172 BC. Jason went into exile but came back and regained his priesthood, put Menelaus in prison, closed the gymnasium at Antiochia, and expelled the foreign troops from the Akra fortress. This brought Antiochus IV to Jerusalem, where he had its walls torn down, took the temple treasure, and reinstated Menelaus and the Syrian garrison to protect the Hellenizers. Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to replace Judaism with Hellenic religion by forbidding circumcision and in 167 BC even rededicated the Jerusalem temple to Olympian Zeus.
Mattathias refused to make a pagan sacrifice and killed a Jew who did and the Seleucid officer enforcing the sacrifice; then he escaped to the hills with his five sons. After some of these revolutionaries were killed on the Sabbath when they refused to fight, Mattathias and his friends decided that they must defend themselves on the Sabbath. Mattathias died the next year, but his son Judas led a guerrilla movement that attacked Seleucids and any Hellenizers. Judas persuaded his men that it was not the size of their army but strength that comes from heaven that gave them victories. After they defeated a force from Samaria led by Apollonius, Antiochus IV appointed Lysias governor of the region, and he sent 40,000 soldiers and 7,000 cavalry. According to the First Book of Maccabees Judas with 3,000 men defeated a force led by Gorgias of 6,000, of which half were killed. Lysias came back the next year with 65,000, and the Jews killed 5,000 of them.
In December 164 BC the Maccabees took over the temple at Jerusalem, dedicating it with the festival of Lights (Hanukkah). Many more battles were fought, and even more more killed. Judas' men killed every male in the city of Bozrah, but an attack by Joseph and Azariah cost 2,000 Jewish lives. According to the First Maccabees author, Antiochus IV died regretting the evils he had done to Jerusalem, but according to Polybius he died because he intended to plunder the temple of Artemis in Parthia.
Antiochus V attacked Jerusalem with 100,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry; but because of the Sabbath year and a famine, a peace was made with the Jews. Demetrius I seized the Seleucid throne and had Antiochus V and Lysias murdered. Bacchides was appointed governor and a Hellenizer called Alcimus high priest. The Hasidim trusted him, but Alcimus had sixty of them killed in one day. Command of the army was given to Nicanor, who had intended to raise the tribute due to the Romans by selling Jews as slaves at the rate of ninety for a talent. The Jews defeated the army led by Nicanor, who was killed and beheaded. However, facing an army of 22,000, most of the 3,000 Jews slipped away; Judas, fighting with the 800 who remained, was killed in 160 BC. Alcimus also died that year, and so Judas' brother Jonathan combined both leadership roles until he too was captured and killed in 142 BC. The last Maccabean brother Simon expelled the Seleucid garrison from Jerusalem, captured the Gazara fortress, secured an alliance with Rome, and established a free Jewish state.
When Simon was assassinated by his son-in-law in 135 BC, Antiochus VII reconquered Judea; but with his death six years later Simon's son John Hyrcanus I regained control by renewing the Hasmoneans' treaty with Rome, annexing Samaria, Galilee, and Idumea. Hyrcanus forced Idumeans to convert to Judaism by circumcision, and his resentment against the independent Samaritans destroyed their town and shrine at Mount Gerizim. According to Josephus, Hyrcanus was the first Jew to use the wealth of the sepulcher to maintain foreign troops.
Jews had divided into Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. Sadducees were nationalistic aristocrats, officers, soldiers, and the wealthy, who believed in authority, force, and strict punishments. The Pharisees were more liberal in interpreting the scriptures and allowed more mercy, though emphasizing the law. Matthai of Arbela said, "Take a teacher, win a friend, and judge every person from the presumption of innocence."4 The Essenes were mystics, who sought purity through cleanliness, asceticism, celibacy, communal living, and meditative prayer away from the temple and synagogues. When Hyrcanus asked the Pharisees if they had any criticism of him, Eleazar ben Poira suggested he appoint another high priest, since he should not be such as the son of a prisoner. Hyrcanus reacted by appointing Sadducees to offices in the temple, courts of law, and on the council, while the Pharisee judges sentenced Eleazar to 39 lashes.
Hellenizing increased though, as John Hyrcanus' son Aristobolus I called himself Philhellen; after replacing her as head of state, he was said to have starved his mother to death in prison and had his brother Antigonus killed; but he ruled only a year. His widow let his brothers out of prison, making Alexander Janneus king (r. 103-76 BC); he expanded his realm by force of arms using mercenaries, taking from the Nabateans Gaza and twelve cities across the Jordan. Alexander was influenced by the Sadducee Diogenes; when as high priest he snubbed a ritual cherished by the Pharisees at the feast of Tabernacles, they threw fruit at him; in reaction his mercenaries killed 6,000 within the precincts of the temple in 93 BC. Six years of bloody uprisings followed, and the Pharisees even turned to Seleucid king Demetrius III, who invaded Judea with 40,000 troops; however, several thousand Pharisees left the Syrian camp to join Alexander, and Demetrius had to retreat. Other Pharisees were forced to surrender, and Alexander ordered 800 of them crucified, causing thousands of Pharisees to flee Judea while the Sadducees feasted. He had strong fortresses built near the Dead Sea at Alexandrion and Machaerus, though Hyrcanus had already built Hyrcanion.
Alexander was succeeded on the throne by his widow Salome Alexandra, who in correcting his wrongs was greatly influenced by the Pharisees, as prisoners were released and exiles came back. The Sadducees were removed from the Sanhedrin. Her brother Simon ben Shetach deferred presidency of the great council to Judah ben Tabbai, who came from Alexandria; both these men promoted education and improved administration of the law, though after Simon ben Shetach succeeded Judah eighty women were crucified for witchcraft at Ascalon. Alexandra's son was high priest and as John Hyrcanus II claimed the throne in 67 BC,;but he had to fight a civil war for six years against his brother Aristobolus II, who took the side of the Sadducees. According to Josephus, who may have exaggerated, 50,000 Jews died in this war. A good man named Onias was stoned to death for trying to bring the two sides together.
Bribed by Antipater, the Nabatean king Aretas marched into Judea with 50,000 men to aid Hyrcanus' forces in besieging Jerusalem. The Roman Pompey, who was fighting the Armenian king Tigranes, sent Scaurus to Judea. Aristobolus' gift of 300 talents inclined him to give an ultimatum to Hyrcanus and the Arabs that they lift the siege. While Aretas fled to Philadelphia (Amman) and Scaurus went back to Damascus, Aristobolus pursued the retreating Jews, killing 6,000. Hyrcanus II and Antipater appealed to Pompey, urging him to repudiate the violent methods and unjust claim of Aristobolus II; thus they gained the support of the Roman army. Pompey then denied the appeals of Aristobolus, kept him in custody, and besieged Aristobolus' Sadducees in Jerusalem, finally using a Sabbath day to build up his earthworks and take the city. Pompey made Judea a Roman province in 63 BC, designated Hyrcanus high priest and ethnarch but not king, appointed Antipater governor, ordered the walls of Jerusalem razed and the city taxed, and had the zealots beheaded, though he kept Aristobolus and his family as prisoners. Josephus blamed the Roman takeover on the conflict between Hyrcanus II and Aristobolus II.
Alexander, the son of Aristobolus II escaped, but the Roman army led by Gabinius defeated the Jews at Jerusalem, killing 3,000 and capturing 3,000. Gabinius divided Israel into five parts, and the Jews were ruled by an aristocracy instead of a monarch. Aristobolus also escaped from Rome and quickly gathered an army of 8,000 in Judea; but they were also overwhelmed by the Romans at Machaerus, and for a second time Aristobolus went as a captive to Rome. Jewish uprisings continued to occur, but Antipater helped the Romans win over the rebels or put them down.
The Roman Crassus, betraying his promise, plundered the temple treasury of gold worth 10,000 talents and was killed fighting the Parthians in 53 BC. When Julius Caesar took power in Rome, he released Aristobolus II and gave him two legions to bring over Judea to his side. When Pompey died, Antipater went over to Caesar, who in gratitude for military help from Antipater and John Hyrcanus II, appointed the latter ethnarch and made Antipater administrator to collect Roman taxes. Caesar also enacted laws protecting Jewish communities in the empire. Jews did not have to go into the Roman army and were permitted to meet and practice their religion. They were no longer forced to provide winter quarters for Roman legions, but they had to give a fourth part of their harvest every other year to the Roman soldiers. Antipater's son Herod, to please the Romans, captured and executed a band of zealots led by Hezekiah. However, Hyrcanus II was urged to put Herod on trial for killing people contrary to Jewish law; though when Herod appeared unrepentant with an armed guard, Hyrcanus adjourned the court. Sextus Caesar in Damascus appointed Herod governor of lower Syria.
After assassinating Caesar, Cassius raised Roman armies and oppressed Judea, demanding 700 talents and reducing Emmaus, Gophna and two other cities to slavery when they did not readily comply. Herod brought in a hundred talents from Galilee and was made a general over a fleet and an army. Antipater brought another hundred talents and (according to Josephus) persuaded Cassius not to execute Malichus, who turned around and had Antipater poisoned, though Herod and Cassius plotted the murder of Malichus in revenge. This caused Helix with the support of Hyrcanus II to attack Herod's brother Phasael. Herod expelled Marion, whom Cassius had made autocrat of Tyre. Marion brought back Antigonus, the other son of Aristobolus II; but Herod banished him and then betrothed Mariamme, daughter of Aristobolus' son Alexander and grand-daughter of Hyrcanus II.
After Cassius was defeated at Philippi, bribes convinced Antony to appoint Herod and his brother Phasael tetrarchs over all Judea; those who complained were imprisoned, and some were killed. Two years later a Parthian army, led by prince Pacorus and commanded by Barzapharnes and supporting the claim of Antigonus to Hyrcanus' throne, invaded Syria. Herod and Phasael's forces fought and guarded Jerusalem against the Jews supporting Antigonus, who sent Pacorus as a mediator. Phasael naively welcomed Pacorus into Jerusalem and went as an envoy along with Hyrcanus II to Barzapharnes, from whom they learned that Antigonus had promised the Parthians 500 Jewish women (according to Josephus). Herod avoided being lured into their trap, escaped from Jerusalem, fought against Jews, deposited his closest friends and family at Masada while scattering his forces in Idumea, and escaped to Petra in Arabia. The Parthians then plundered Jerusalem and enthroned Antigonus, who personally chewed off the ears of Hyrcanus II so that he could not serve as high priest according to Mosaic law. Phasael killed himself by smashing his head, and Hyrcanus was taken in chains to Parthia.
Herod went to the Nabatean king, who pressured by the Parthians, expelled him to Egypt. From there Herod made his way to Rome, where his gifts to Antony encouraged the senate to make him king in order to help fight the Parthians. Herod raised money for mercenaries in Antioch, marched through Galilee gaining support, took Joppa, rescued his friends at Masada, and then attacked Jerusalem. Herod arranged for Silo's Roman army to winter at Jericho and cleared the zealots and garrisons of Antigonus out of Galilee. Herod then used his forces to help Antony to take Samosata. However, Herod's brother Joseph and some Romans were wiped out near Jericho by Antigonus. Antony made Sossius governor of Syria and ordered him to assist Herod with Roman legions. Herod with one legion marched through Samaria, killing many and burning the houses. The combined armies of Herod and Sossius besieged Jerusalem while Herod married Mariamme; the Jews resisted for four months and then were slaughtered mercilessly by the frustrated soldiers in 37 BC. Herod tried to stop the looting of the kingdom he wanted to rule but gave the gold and silver to Antony, who ordered the captured Antigonus beheaded.
Hyrcanus II was returned to Judea, though Herod appointed Ananel high priest, but replaced him with Aristobolus III at the urging of his mother, wife, and Cleopatra of Egypt; however, Herod had his men drown the young Aristobolus. Herod was given Samaria, but several territories including Jericho Antony handed over to his mistress Cleopatra VII in Egypt. Herod attacked the Nabatean Arabs, according to Josephus, accusing them of violating international law by murdering his envoys; but when Cleopatra sent a force led by Athenion to assist King Malich, Herod was defeated; yet he roused his troops and eventually conquered the Nabateans, making Malich his vassal. Herod had refused to accept 500 talents when the Arab water supply dried up, killing and imprisoning many thousands. Herod accused Hyrcanus of having plotted with the Nabatean king and executed him, and he replaced the Sanhedrin, which had criticized him for brutality, executing 45 of its 71 members, though he spared the chairmen and influential teachers Hillel and Shammai. When Antony and Cleopatra were defeated at Actium in 31 BC, gifts and Herod's abilities persuaded Octavius at Rhodes to give Herod back a larger Judea; rival governors were put to death. Many Jewish lives had been lost in resistance, but Roman power eventually made this cunning Idumean king of the Jews under their empire.
Several apocryphal (hidden) books written during the Hellenistic era were included in the Septuagint, but only the book of Daniel made the later canon. Its prophecies indicate that at least part of Daniel was probably written about 164 BC during the Maccabean revolt, the point at which the prophecies go astray. The first part of the book tells the story of the heroic Daniel, who is able to perceive and interpret the dreams of Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar. His three friends, who prove that their vegetarian diet is more healthy than the king's rich food, are miraculously protected in a burning furnace, and Daniel himself survives caged with lions. The second half of the book contains Daniel's visions and prophecies of the future; but the speculation about the northern king (Antiochus Epiphanes), who would take action against the holy covenant and set up an abomination of desolation, that he would conquer Egypt and Libya and then die there did not occur, as the 6th chapter of First Maccabees indicates he never conquered Egypt and died in Babylon.
A story of sexual harassment was added to the book of Daniel in which Susanna is falsely accused of adultery by two judges, who try to use their position to make her lay with them. She refuses and is convicted of adultery; but a young Daniel senses something is wrong and by questioning the two judges separately proves that their stories do not match; thus she is saved, and the two judges are executed. In another detective story Daniel demonstrates to the Babylonian king that the god does not eat the daily sacrifices by spreading ashes to show the footsteps of those who come in to take the food. This story carries the common theme that the one spiritual God is more real than the many gods depicted as idols and images.
A philosophical story in Esdras asks what one thing is strongest. One man says wine, because it overcomes people; another says the king, who rules over people; Zerubbabel first says women, who give life and can control men; but then he notes that truth is stronger than all of these, which can be unjust, because the truth is never unjust.
Tobit is about an angel rewarding the family of Tobit, who cares enough to bury the abandoned corpses of Jews. He advises his son Tobias to be disciplined in his conduct, not to drink to excess, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and all his surplus to charity. Occult or Egyptian influences are indicated in the way the angel guides Tobias to use magic to chase away the demonic lover of Sarah so that he won't die like the others when he marries her; magic also cures the blindness of his father Tobit. Then the angel advises them to praise God and do good, indicating that prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and justice; those who give charity will have a full life, but those who sin are the enemies of their own lives.
Like Esther the story of Judith is another violent fantasy of revenge in which a beautiful widow seduces Nebuchadrezzar's commander Holofernes into trusting her so much that she is able to cut off his head and so inspire the Jews to defeat his decapitated forces and take their booty. Prior to this assassination the Jews are clearly the innocent sufferers, as the only reason for the war against them is that they refused to join Nebuchadrezzar in his war. The theme of the story is indicated by the advice of Achior to Holofernes that God will defend the Jews as long as they do not sin.
The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach was written about 180 BC and translated into Greek by his grandson about fifty years later. After a brief prologue the book begins with the idea that all wisdom comes from God, and there is much wisdom in this collection of proverbs. Unjust anger can tip the scale to ruin, but a patient person will endure until the right moment and then find joy bursting forth. Exalting oneself can lead to a fall and dishonor. A son should help his father in his old age and not grieve him; even if he lacks understanding, one should show forbearance. As water extinguishes fire, charity atones for sin; and whoever requites favors provides for the future. Further advice is to deliver the wronged from wrong-doers and not to be fainthearted in judging a case. Be like a father to orphans instead of like a husband to their mother.
Wisdom (Sophia) is personified as female. Whoever obeys Wisdom will judge the nations, and whoever gives heed to her will live securely. Whoever loves her loves life, and those who seek her early will be filled with joy. "Never speak against the truth, but be mindful of your ignorance."5 Refuse to lie, for lying serves no good. The teacher warns against the dangers of riches and notes the disadvantages of poverty. "A rich man does wrong, and he even adds reproaches; a poor man suffers wrong, and he must add apologies."6 Much practical advice for seeking wisdom and avoiding fools is given. The idea that evil will roll back on the one doing it is expressed. Vengeance lies in wait like a lion for the proud who mock and abuse. It is suggested that if one forgives others, one will be pardoned when praying. The last part of the book praises the lives of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, Joshua, Caleb, Nathan, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Isaiah, Josiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zerubbabel, and Simon ben Onias, who was high priest about 219-196 BC.
The Second Book of Maccabees includes a martyrdom story of a mother and her seven sons, who one after another are tortured and killed for refusing to eat pork forbidden to the Jews. The Fourth Book of Maccabees places this story in the context of the Stoic philosophy, which demonstrates that reason can overcome the passions. God gave the law by which one may order oneself through prudence, justice, virtue, and courage.
The Wisdom of Solomon was probably written by a Jew in the first century BC although the persona of the ancient sage king is used to praise wisdom. The author considered the reasoning unsound of the atheistic hedonists, who deny there is a spiritual life beyond the body and thus whose values are only material and short-sighted. The ungodly are punished by their reasoning and sinners by their own actions in disregarding the just, for whoever despises wisdom is miserable. The most severe judgment falls on those in high places. Wisdom begins with the desire to learn, and the love of wisdom leads to keeping her laws. She teaches self-control, prudence, justice, and courage.
Antigonus II Gonatas, son of Demetrius and grandson of Antigonus I, after defeating the Gauls in Thrace, eliminated his rivals and established the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia in 276 BC. Two years later though, the king of Epirus, Pyrrhus, invaded Macedonia, drove out Antigonus Gonatas to Thessalonica, and took over the defecting Macedonian army. Violations of royal tombs by a garrison of Gauls at Aegae offended people, and Pyrrhus went south to invade the Peloponnese, leaving his son Ptolemy in charge. Antigonus Gonatas regained control of Macedonia and conveyed an army by sea to Corinth against Pyrrhus, whose son Ptolemy was killed in an ambush by the forces of King Areus of Sparta. At Argos Pyrrhus was trapped between the armies of the Macedonians and the Spartans and killed by a tile thrown by a woman from a rooftop in 272 BC.
The Aetolian league had taken possession of Delphi in 290 BC and fought off (according to Diodorus) 160,000 Gauls there in 279 BC. This collection of villages north of the Corinthian Gulf joined together for defense and plunder, increasing their votes on the Amphictyonic council from two to six in ten years. Athens, urged on by Egypt, declared the Chremonidean War (named after its Athenian proposer) against Antigonus Gonatas in 267 BC; but Spartan help collapsed when their king Areus died two years later; the army of Epirus was defeated by Gonatas' young son. Besieged Athens, unrelieved by Egypt, was starved into accepting a Macedonian garrison by 262 BC.
The city of Sicyon often suffered under tyrants; but when Cleon was killed, Timoclides and Clinias were chosen as respected magistrates. When Timoclides died, Abantidas killed Clinias and tried to kill his seven-year-old son Aratus too, but he escaped to Argos. After a while the tyrant Abantidas was killed by Dinias and a logician named Aristotle during a discussion in the marketplace. Abantidas' father Paseas took over but was assassinated by the next tyrant Nicocles. Now twenty, Aratus gathered some mercenaries and in a stealthy raid at night took over the tyrant's house without a person dying, as Nicocles fled through underground passages. Aratus had Sicyonian liberty proclaimed and invited back the many exiles driven out by previous tyrants, causing internal conflicts over property. To defend themselves against the ambitions of Macedonian Antigonus Gonatas, Sicyon joined the Achaean league in 249 BC. Aratus went to Egypt and got 150 talents from Ptolemy II to help settle the disputes between the rich and the poor. Made sole arbitrator, Aratus nonetheless convened a commission of fifteen citizens to help him make settlements.
In 245 BC the Aetolian league defeated the Boeotians and controlled central Greece, while many Dorians and Arcadians became citizens of the Achaean league, which elected Aratus its leader. The Achaean general was not allowed to succeed himself, and so Aratus was elected every other year; two years later after raising money by selling family treasures, Aratus led another daring raid that took the citadel at Corinth away from the Macedonians. Megara, Troezen, and Epidaurus joined the Achaean league; but though Aratus devastated Salamis and released Athenian citizens without ransom, the Athenians refused to join the league.
Intent on overthrowing the tyranny in Argos, Aratus failed and was charged by its latest tyrant Aristippus and convicted of acts of hostility by a jury of Arcadians from Mantinea. His hatred of Argos also caused the Achaeans to violate the traditional safe conduct by selling their enemies, who passed through their territory after attending the games celebrated by the Argives. However, when Aristippus marched on Cleonae, Aratus defeated the Argives, as his forces killed 1500 soldiers and Aristippus without losing a man; but he still could not take or liberate Argos, as Aristomachus became tyrant there. So Aratus turned his attention to Lydiades, who had usurped power at Megalopolis, and he persuaded him to resign the government and enroll his city into the Achaean league. Lydiades was then elected general in 235 BC by the Achaeans and declared war on the Lacedaemonians, which Aratus opposed. While the Achaeans fought the Aetolian league, Aratus and Lydiades were elected general in alternating years. Aristomachus was also persuaded to let Argos join the Achaean alternately in 229 BC, and he was elected general by the Achaeans the next year.
Frequent wars in Greece increased the population of slaves, causing unemployment, increasing mercenaries, and leading to more wars. The poet Leonidas of Tarentum indicated that one had to wear weapons to live in Sparta, for the city had gone weapons-crazy. The number of citizens in Sparta was reduced to 700 hoplites; many of the remaining landowners were women, and wealth was concentrated in the hundred who owned more than their own lots. In 244 BC 20-year-old Agis became king and canceled debts, promising to redistribute the land of Sparta into 4,500 equal lots with 15,000 lots for those dwelling in the surrounding area who could bear arms; he promised to contribute his own land and 600 talents, and many of his wealthy relatives and friends did likewise. However, Agis IV postponed the land reform to join Aratus' Achaean league in challenging Macedonian tyranny over Megalopolis and Argos. Returning from the war, Agis found reactionary forces led by co-king Leonidas in control; rather than provoke a civil war, Agis went into exile and was the first Spartan king to be executed by the ephor officials.
Antigonus Gonatas was succeeded as king of Macedonia in 239 BC by Demetrius II. Alexander of Epirus had also died, and the Aetolians were demanding the northern half of Acarnania, which Epirus thought belonged to them. Alexander's widow Olympias gave Demetrius her daughter Phthia in marriage, which put the Macedonians against the Aetolians, who allied themselves with the Achaeans. Thus Demetrius spent ten years fighting the Aetolian and Achaean leagues, taking Boeotia and Phocis but losing control of the Peloponnese. In Epirus after Macedonian support was withdrawn, a revolution overthrew the royal dynasty in 231 BC, establishing a federal republic and renouncing its claims in Acarnania. The Acarnanians declared their independence, but were invaded by the Aetolians and so appealed to Demetrius for help; he recommended the Illyrians, who were known for their piracy and now turned to conquest, extending their control south to the Corinthian Gulf and even taking Corcyra until they were stopped by the Romans.
Leonidas II ruled Sparta alone until he died in 235 BC and was succeeded by his son Cleomenes III, who married Agis' beautiful widow Agiatis and was won over by her to the radical program of social reform. After the death of Demetrius II in 229 BC, the Achaean league and the Spartans fought over Arcadian towns. Athens by 228 BC finally paid off the Macedonian garrisons with 150 talents to which Aratus contributed twenty talents, although Athens still refused to join the Achaean league. The wealthy Eucleides contributed large amounts, raised private funds for the defense of Athens, and as military treasurer controlled Athenian finances for twenty years. However, the Boeotians and Phocians in throwing off Macedonian domination did join the Achaeans. When the Achaeans attacked Elis in 227 BC, Cleomones' Spartan forces routed them; but he was defeated by a relief force led by Aratus near Megalopolis. When Aratus refused to pursue them, Lydiades did and was killed.
Returning to Sparta to institute the reforms, Cleomenes had his soldiers murder the ephors; he exiled eighty citizens and removed the ephors' seats, except for the one he sat in to conduct business. Cleomenes gave his property to the state and assigned a lot to each of those he had exiled. He made citizens of 4,000 men who lived around Sparta, arming and training them as hoplites with traditional Spartan discipline. Cleomenes was also influenced by the Stoic philosopher Sphaerus, whom he appointed Spartan Minister of Education and put in charge of Lycurgan restoration of Spartan discipline. Those previously not enfranchised who lived around Sparta, resident aliens, and even Helots were given more rights. With Ptolemy III's support, the army was re-organized, though the mother and children of Cleomenes III had to go to Alexandria as hostages.
Spartan power grew, but Aratus still refused to accept Cleomenes' leadership of the Achaean league. Instead in 224 BC Aratus turned to the Macedonian regent for young Philip V, Antigonus Doson, who formed an alliance not only with the Achaean league but also with Thessaly, Epirus, Acarnania, Boeotia, Euboea, and Phocis. Doson was elected commander-in-chief (hegemon), took Mantinea and gave it to the Achaean league, which killed or sold into slavery all its people in revenge for the Mantineans having murdered the Achaean garrison. Cleomenes freed 6,000 Helots, who could pay five minae each, raising 500 talents and equipping 2,000 of them for his phalanx. The Spartans captured Megalopolis; Cleomenes offered to restore the city if they would become his ally; but Philopoemen would not let the Megalopolitans abandon their pledge to the Achaeans, and the city was plundered and razed. One of the generals for Megalopolis in their battles with Sparta was the Cynic poet Cercidas, who lamented the suffering of the poor, criticized the gods for not distributing earthly goods justly, and warned the rich to stop being spendthrifts or misers and to help those in need, or else there would be trouble.
While the Macedonian troops were in winter quarters, the forces of Cleomenes ravaged the country around Argos; but with their Egyptian subsidy withdrawn, Sparta was defeated at Sellasia by greater numbers and taken for the first time in its history. Although Antigonus Doson treated the city humanely and left soon to quell revolts in the north, the reforms were canceled. Cleomenes fled to Egypt, where he was supported by Ptolemy III; but conditions deteriorated under Ptolemy IV, and Cleomenes and his few supporters, after a futile revolt in Alexandria, committed suicide.
Antigonus Doson died in 221 BC, and 17-year-old Philip V began to rule Macedonia. Described as lascivious and a most cruel tyrant by Plutarch, Philip V gave the Aetolian Dicaearchus twenty ships to use for piracy, ordered 10,000 Dardanians massacred, and put to death without trials so many of his noble subjects and relations that the Macedonians felt horror and hatred toward him. The Aetolians led by Scopas ravaged their former ally Messenia, which having been spared in the Cleomenic war, offered much booty. The Achaeans voted for reprisals. Some Cynaetheans betrayed their city to the Aetolians, and Polybius blamed their destruction on neglecting their musical traditions.
Young Philip V did not punish Sparta for those who had killed some of his supporters. Joining with Macedonia's allies at Corinth, he and the Achaean league declared they would take back any city taken by Aetolians since the death of Demetrius II nine years before; but they would not punish those who had been compelled to join the Aetolian league. So began what was called the Social War. Scerdilaidas got help from Philip in subduing Illyria by promising to attack the Aetolians by sea for twenty talents per year. The Byzantines, no longer able to pay off the Gauls, had to start charging shipping duties, which led to a war with maritime power Rhodes until Byzantium agreed to end the tolls. On Crete the dominance of Knossos and Gortyna led to a civil war, as Polyrrhenia appealed to and later supported the Achaeans and Philip, while the Knossians supported Aetolia.
When news of Cleomenes III's death reached Sparta in 219 BC, the ephors were assassinated; Lycurgus and Agesipolis were made kings, and an alliance with the Aetolians and Elis was formed. While Scopas and the Aetolians marched through Thessaly to invade Macedonia, Philip's forces passed through Acarnania to attack the Aetolian city Phoetiae until news of a Dardanian invasion of Macedonia caused Philip to send Demetrius of Pharos by sea while he marched back to Pella, scaring away the Dardanians. While the Spartans harassed Argolis and Arcadia, the Aetolians, now led by Dorimachus, invaded Epirus and destroyed their sanctuary at Dodona. Philip joined the Achaeans led by the younger Aratus in Arcadia, where they stormed Psophis and gave this town and Lasion to the Achaeans. Next the Macedonian army captured many while plundering Elis, no longer inviolable because of the Olympic games.
Philip V started listening more to Aratus than to the advice of Apelles, who was hostile to the Achaeans and whose accusation of Aratus proved false. Short of supplies, Philip got the Achaeans to vote him fifty talents and a large supply of grain. With Dorimachus and half the Aetolian army fighting in Thessaly, Philip invaded Aetolia again and in revenge for Aetolian crimes at Dium and Dodona the Macedonians looted and destroyed religious and artistic works at Thermus. Polybius strongly criticized Philip for this behavior and suggested he would have been much more successful by being generous rather than destructive. Eventually the conspiracy of Apelles, Leontius, and Megaleas was exposed after Megaleas was tried by Philip's friends and imprisoned; Leontius and Ptolemaeus were executed, and Megaleas, Apelles, his son and a favorite took their own lives. Philip's army regained control of Thessaly and Magnesia, taking a town there called Thebes, selling its inhabitants into slavery, and renaming it Philippi.
Hearing that Hannibal had defeated the Romans in Etruria, Demetrius of Pharos began to fill Philip's head with thoughts of greater conquest. So in 217 BC he made a treaty with the Aetolians in which each side kept what they held. Agelaus of Naupactus argued that the Greeks must be united in peace to take up the challenge of either Rome or Carthage. According to Polybius, a drastic change in Philip's situation occurred when he listened to Demetrius of Pharos again rather than Aratus and betrayed the Messenians by taking their citadel. Later Philip V secretly had Aratus poisoned. Philip's ambition caused him to make an alliance with Carthage's Hannibal against Rome, which then formed an alliance with the Aetolians, Elis, Sparta, Messenia, and Pergamum. When Spartan tyrant Machanidas attacked Mantinea in 208 BC, Philopoemen's Achaean army trained in phalanx warfare was said to have slaughtered 4,000 men there, as Philopoemen killed Machanidas with his javelin. The next year Nabis instituted more radical policies in Sparta that even freed some Helots.
Philip V invaded Aetolia and made another peace, but his enslavement of the Cius alienated Rhodes. Having built up his navy, the Macedonians attacked Rhodes, raised money by piracy, fought the Pergamene fleet, and besieged Abydos. Attalus I of Pergamum and Rhodes appealed to Rome. When they had defeated Carthage, the Romans saved Athens after Philip's forces sacked the suburbs. The Romans then invaded Macedonia, and supported by the Aetolian league, defeated the Macedonian army in Thessaly in 197 BC. The poet Alcaeus, who satirized Philip for attacking everything except Mount Olympus and for poisoning Epicrates and Callias wrote the following epigram:
Not wept for and not buried in this tomb
we lie, traveler, thirty-thousand men,
destroyed by the fighting Aetolians and Latins
brought by Titus from broad Italy,
a calamity to Emathia; while His Boldness,
Philip, went off faster than any deer.7
Apparently Philip V had the critical poet crucified, for he left the following epigram:
Traveler, on this ridge a leafless, barkless tree,
one gaunt cross, is planted: Alcaeus'.8
The next year during the Isthmian games at Corinth, Flamininus proclaimed Greek liberty as a gift from Rome. However, Thessaly was divided into a federation of four states, and several cities had their magistrates and council seats restricted to the wealthy. Unable to protect it, Philip had given Argos to Spartan tyrant Nabis, who instituted his reforms there by terror until he was persuaded by the Romans to free Argos. The Romans withdrew from Greece in 194 BC.
Unhappy with the settlement, the Aetolians allied with Nabis in Sparta and invited Seleucid Antiochus III to liberate Greece. However, some Aetolians, who assassinated Nabis and plundered their host city, were then massacred by the Spartans. The Aetolians took Demetrias in Magnesia and waited there for the 10,000 men Antiochus brought across to take the Propontis peninsula in Thrace; but they were defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae, and Antiochus fled back to Asia. The Romans punished the Aetolians by restricting their territory, and a treaty with Rome ended their independence. The Roman legions marched through Macedonia with Philip's protection, crossed the Hellespont and defeated the Seleucids again at sea and on land. The Roman senate liberated the Greek cities who had taken their side, giving Pergamum much territory and Rhodes Lycia and Caria south of the Maeander. Though Rhodians had argued for liberating Greek cities from Pergamum's control, Lycians were soon fighting Rhodes for their independence.
As this war was ending in 188 BC, the Achaean league led by Philopoemen captured Sparta unresisted. Philopoemen executed eighty Spartans who had murdered Achaeans at Compasium, expelled the partisans of Nabis, sold 3,000 who would not leave into slavery, demolished new fortifications, dispossessed the Helots, and abolished the institutions of Lycurgus, replacing them with Achaean ephebic training. Philopoemen got Sparta, Elis, and Messenia to join the Achaean league, uniting the Peloponnesian peninsula; but when Messenia revolted, Philopoemen was captured and poisoned in 182 BC.
Callicrates became leader of the Achaean league and, while staying on friendly terms with Rome, allowed Sparta to rebuild their walls and resume their traditional discipline. Philip V died in 179 BC and was succeeded in Macedonia by his son Perseus, who already had had his brother Demetrius assassinated, ordered his rival Antigonus killed, and continued his father's war preparations against Rome. When Eumenes II of Pergamum was nearly murdered by agents of Perseus and persuaded the Roman senate to attack Macedonia, the Roman army invaded Greece and took three years to defeat the Macedonians; but in 168 BC largely because Perseus was unwilling to give money to allies, his army was soundly defeated at Pydna. The Antigonid dynasty ended as Macedonia was divided into four tribute-paying republics by the Romans. One thousand eminent Achaeans named by Callicrates were deported to Rome for fifteen years, including the historian Polybius. From Epirus 150,000 were taken to the Roman slave markets. Athens had supplied the Roman army with over a million gallons of grain and was rewarded with Haliartus as well as Lemnos and Delos, which as a free port became a great commercial success, though Athenian settlements caused problems later in all these colonies.
When Athens tried to tax Oropus, they complained to the Roman senate; they referred the dispute to Sicyon, which fined Athens 500 talents. The Athenians sent to Rome Carneades, head of the Academy, along with the heads of the Stoic and Peripatetic schools, and they managed to get the fine reduced to 100 talents. When the Oropians appealed to the Achaean league, Athenians plundered Oropus and withdrew; but a dispute over a bribe of ten talents divided this league, and Rome eventually allowed Sparta, Corinth, Argos, and others to secede from the league. In 150 BC the Achaean league attacked Sparta in defiance of the Roman senate. The next year Andriscus, claiming to be the son of Perseus, tried to revive the Macedonians; but they were defeated, and Macedonia became a Roman province. In 146 BC the Achaean army was routed by the Romans. Because Roman envoys had barely escaped death from a Corinthian mob, the Roman senate ordered all the inhabitants of Corinth sold into slavery and the city demolished. Greece was absorbed into the province of Macedonia.
When Pontus king Mithridates VI revolted against Roman taxation, he sent to Athens in 88 BC an envoy named Athenion, who persuaded the Athenians to let him take over the city and challenge Rome. The wealthy began to leave, but Athenion placed guards at the gates and put to death many who resisted his dictates. Archelaus led forces that killed thousands of Italians at Delos and sent its treasure with Aristion to Athens. Archelaus also got support for Mithridates' revolt from the Lacedaemonians and Achaeans, and his fleet seized the Piraeus harbor. However, Sulla brought five Roman legions to Greece, picked up support in Boeotia, and besieged Athens and Piraeus. Athenians were reduced by starvation to cannibalism; when the Romans finally stormed the city, many were slaughtered, slaves were sold, Aristion and his bodyguards were executed, and 40 pounds of gold and 600 pounds of silver were taken; but Athens was allowed to survive under Roman domination.
Rhodes steadily grew in prosperity and power, especially after withstanding the siege of the Antigonid Demetrius in 305 BC. Building the Colossus and becoming a commercial center, Rhodes got wealthy from a two-percent tax on trade that included much grain. After the colossal statue was destroyed by an earthquake in 227 BC, many Greek cities contributed to restoring the city. Early in the second century BC to safeguard shipping, their navy cleared the eastern Mediterranean of pirates. However, when Rhodes did not support the Romans in their war against Macedonian king Perseus 171-168 BC, Rome declared Delos a free port under Athenian control, which took much banking business and trade away from Rhodes. With less funds piracy increased again, though Rhodes fought off Rome's enemy Mithridates VI, and they continued to be a cultural center until Rhodes was devastated by Caesar's murderer Cassius in 43 BC.
Xenocrates (396-314 BC) was head of the Academy in Athens from 339 BC for 25 years until his death. Plato said that Aristotle needed a bridle but Xenocrates a spur. In Sicily when Dionysius II warned Plato he might lose his head, Xenocrates pointed to his own and said that no one would touch it until they cut off his. Xenocrates went as a diplomat to Macedonia, and Philip said he was the only man he could not bribe. Alexander gave Xenocrates a large amount of money, but he took only 3,000 drachmae and sent the rest back, saying that Alexander had greater needs and more people to keep. Xenocrates refused to accept a gift from Antipater; when sent to plead for Athenian prisoners, he refused to dine with Antipater until the Macedonian agreed to release them. A native of Chalcedon and unable to pay the Athenian tax on resident aliens because he refused to charge fees, Xenocrates was put up for sale; but Demetrius of Phalerum purchased him so that Athens would have its tax and then liberated him.
Xenocrates lived simply, studying and teaching; it was said that he left the Academy only once a year to attend the Dionysian tragedies. Xenocrates spent an hour each day in silence. Testing his reputation for virtue, the courtesan Phryne told him she was being pursued; he shared his bed with her, but she complained he was more like a statue than a man. Many of his ideas were adopted by the Stoics, such as the division of philosophy into logic, ethics, and physics, the distinction between the body, mind, and soul, and particularly the ethical idea that happiness results from what is natural. His division of spiritual beings into gods, humans, and semi-divine spirits later influenced Christians.
Pyrrho of Elis (c. 360-270 BC) began as a poor and unknown painter, but he traveled extensively and learned not only from the Magi of Persia when he accompanied Alexander but also from the philosophers of India. He became an agnostic and founded the Skeptical school based on the suspension of judgment. Pyrrho denied that anything is just or unjust, honorable or dishonorable; there is only custom and convention or a moral relativism. Influenced by Hindu ascetics, Pyrrho withdrew from the world and lived in solitude, rarely seeing his relatives. It was said that Athens honored him with citizenship for having killed the Thracian Cotys. The Skeptics challenged the dogmas of the other schools but put forward none themselves except the suspension of judgment. They tried to show how things gained credence and then endeavored to destroy those beliefs. Some considered their goal to be insensibility, but others described it as gentleness. Skepticism influenced Arcesilaus (315-241 BC), the founder of the Middle Academy, and Carneades (213-129 BC) who headed the New Academy. With the development of Stoic and Epicurean ideas, many philosophers became more eclectic also.
Theophrastus (371-287 BC) first studied with Plato but left him to join Aristotle and became head of the Lyceum when Aristotle died in 322 BC. He was given the name Theophrastus by Aristotle for his graceful style. When Agnonides prosecuted Theophrastus for impiety, he barely got enough votes to escape being punished himself. Some 2,000 people were said to have attended the lectures of Theophrastus. He left Athens when philosophers were forbidden to teach there without permission; but he came back the next year when the law was overturned as its author was fined. Theophrastus said that the most valuable expenditure is time. His last words when he died at 84 were to encourage his students to go on inquiring into right conduct. Theophrastus believed that all living beings are related, and he rejected animal sacrifices and the eating of meat; he said that all people are related to each other and members of the same nation. He wrote many books on a wide variety of subjects in science as well as philosophy and was most influential in botany for centuries; one of his books described the medicinal properties of plants. However, his only extant work is a short book on Characters, which only includes the bad ones.
In Characters Theophrastus defined the ironical person as one who affects to be worse, considered flattery degrading, described the behaviors of chatterers, boors, those who are too anxious to please, the demoralized outcast, those who invent news and rumors, the shameless, the stingy, the abominable who are blatantly offensive, those whose timing is wrong, those who overdo, the ineffectual, the hostile whose words are harsh, the superstitious, the person always with a grievance, the distrustful, the offensive who neglect their personal condition, the tiresome, those with petty ambitions, the mean with money, boasters, the arrogant, the cowardly, the authoritarian, slanderers, the avaricious, those who seem to love evil, and those who learn too late. He gave numerous examples for each, such as the avaricious person when giving a party will not put out enough bread for the guests. There is much practical wisdom in these negative examples of the annoying things people often do.
Menander (342-292 BC) studied with Theophrastus at the Lyceum. Menander wrote more than a hundred plays, and many of his new comedies of manners were adapted by the Romans Plautus and Terence. Until the discovery of Dyskolos in 1958, none of his surviving plays were complete. This comedy won a prize when it was first performed in 316 BC. The title refers to a person who is hard to please.
The play is set in the country, where the farm house of the misanthropic Knemon is near a shrine to Pan and the house of his step-son Gorgias, who now lives with his mother, because Knemon is tired of "holy acrimony." Pan has caused the well-to-do young Sostratos to fall in love with Knemon's daughter Myrrhine. To gain her father's permission Sostratos works in the field with Gorgias; but Knemon, bothered by requests to borrow kitchen utensils from the cook of Sostratos' family celebrating at Pan's shrine, keeps the sourpuss home, wary of the people nearby. Knemon's slave has dropped the bucket in the well, and trying to fetch it and a hoe, Knemon falls into the well himself. When he is rescued by Gorgias and Sostratos, his gratitude changes his usual mood. With everyone concerned about making money he never thought he would meet a kind person. He adopts Gorgias as his son and asks him to find a husband for his daughter, offering a dowry of one talent. Soon Sostratos is betrothed to Myrrhine and Gorgias to the sister of Sostratos, whose father offers the hardworking farmer a dowry of three talents. The slave of Sostratos' father brings out the recuperating Knemon while the cook and he ask to borrow one thing after another. Finally they are able to get the reclusive old man to attend the wedding feast, and all celebrate.
The Woman of Samos is about a refugee, who was expelled from there when Macedonia defeated Athens in 322 BC. Demeas has taken her in but will not marry her until her citizenship is proven, and it is considered her duty not to have children who would not be citizens. Thus she has ordered her child to be exposed while Demeas is away; but she is raising the child of Demeas' son Moschion and Plangon, the daughter of their neighbor; Demeas' not knowing whose child it is makes for the drama. Moschion, accused by his father of fathering a child by the Samian woman Chrysis, considers soldiering in the east; but his love for Plangon makes that unthinkable, forbidden by his new purpose of love. The play deals with the problems of those returning from Samos and the increasing tendency to expose babies (particularly girls) at birth because of poverty.
In several of Menander's plays young men fall in love with slave-girls, who when their origins are learned, turn out to be citizens so that they can be happily married. In The Arbitration a passer-by is stopped to arbitrate a dispute over tokens taken from a foundling, who was handed over to someone else. It is argued that everyone ought to feel an obligation to see that justice is done. Charisios considers himself a faultless student of ethics who has made honor his aim; but now his having rejected his wife for a mishap reveals his conceit and folly, and he is afraid he'll be a bad example. A slave asks Smicrines if he thinks it is right for a man to take his daughter from her husband; but the father replies that it is necessary even if it is not right. The slave turns to the audience and notes that this man considers what is wrong necessary. However, when the slave explains to him that the child is his grandchild, all is bliss.
Another play, the title of which means the woman whose hair has been clipped all around, is about a soldier Polemon, who comes home to find his mistress Glycera in the arms of a neighbor; so he cuts off her hair. Glycera's maid calls soldiers a lawless lot, who can't be trusted. However, the neighbor turns out to be her brother, and their father warns Polemon not to take the law into his own hands by taking her away by force; but he does have a right to lodge a legal complaint. Eventually Polemon learns to be less ferocious after he realizes that he almost destroyed his whole life. He asks Glycera to forgive him, and she does.
Many fragments indicate the gentle ethics of Menander, who along with Homer and Virgil was one of the most admired writers in ancient times. One character notes that the greatest strength is to know how to endure the greatest wrongs with self-control; anger and bitterness betray to the world a petty mind. Another passage transcends the traditional idea of noble birth by suggesting a noble character that makes for a noble life makes one of noble birth even if one is a black African. He also noted that a conscience with a secret guilt can make even the bold cowardly. The following fragment indicates his community spirit of justice:
If each of us would willingly take our part, and join
In stout resistance, call each unjust act a blow
Aimed at ourselves no less than at our neighbor, if
We worked and fought in common, we wouldn't every time
See crime succeed; we'd keep a watch on wicked men,
Get them their just deserts; and soon they'd be reduced
To a mere handful easily kept under control.9
Epicurus was born in February 341 BC and died in 270. He was an Athenian citizen, although he was raised at Samos by his father, who was a schoolmaster. At 14 he became interested in philosophy when a teacher could not explain the meaning of Hesiod's term "chaos," and the works of Democritus soon intrigued him. At the age of 18 he reported to Athens for two years of military service. A year later he joined his father for a few years in Colophon, where he had gone when the Athenian settlers were expelled from Samos by Perdiccas; there Epicurus gained disciples. He traveled and listened to the lectures of Xenocrates. Epicurus taught at Mytilene and Lampsacus in Asia before buying a home and the Garden in Athens, where he taught from 306 BC until his death, although he occasionally traveled to Asia Minor. Unlike the Academy, the Lyceum, and the Stoics, his school at the Garden admitted women and even one slave.
Because of the rivalry of other schools and his emphasis on pleasure, critics accused Epicurus of living with courtesans and overindulging in eating so much that he vomited twice a day; but his own ideas and life-style make these charges seem unlikely. He had many friends, who considered him a moderate man of goodwill, and he was honored with a statue in bronze. Friends came from all over to be with him in the Garden, and he was described as living simply and frugally, drinking water and only a half pint of thin wine per day. His own writing mentioned living on bread and water, as he asked for a little cheese as a treat. However, there can be little doubt that Epicurus' philosophy of pleasure was practiced differently by many and was condemned by even more as indulgent hedonism.
The philosophy of Epicurus affirms in every animate being two states of feeling - pleasure and pain; one is favorable and the other hostile to life, and by them choice and avoidance are determined. He taught that three motives for injurious acts are hatred, envy, and contempt, but the wise overcome these by reason. Once one becomes wise, one does not assume the opposite habit, if one can help it. Susceptibility to emotion does not necessarily hinder one's wisdom. The wise are happy even on the rack and will show gratitude to friends in word and deed. The wise do not make fine speeches, and Epicurus believed that one is never better for sexual indulgence. He advised against taking part in politics nor would the wise ever be a tyrant nor a Cynic nor a beggar. One may take a suit to court and take care of one's property for the future. The wise are grateful to those who correct one, will believe and not doubt everything. Epicureans did not consider all sins to be equal and valued health as sometimes a good.
In his letter to Menoeceus Epicurus encouraged him to seek wisdom when young and not tire of it in old age, for no age is too early or late for the health of the soul. To say that it is not the time for studying philosophy is to say that it is not the time for happiness. He recommended believing that God is a living being, immortal and blessed, and that one should uphold this blessedness and immortality. The greatest evils happen to the wicked and the greatest goods to the good from the gods, because they favor their own good qualities in humans but reject what is alien to them. The wise do not deprecate life nor fear its end. The same exercise involves living well and dying well. Preference and aversion should be toward securing the health of the body and the tranquillity of the mind, which are the sum of the blessed life; for the end of all actions is to be free of pain and fear. Pleasure is the beginning and end of the blessed life and the starting point of every choice and aversion.
Although pleasure is the first and natural good, not every pleasure is to be chosen, but they should be passed over when a greater annoyance may ensue. Pains are often better than pleasures when they eventually result in greater pleasure. By measuring one against the other and looking at their convenience and inconvenience, these matters may be judged. Independence of outward things is a great good. Those enjoy luxury the most who have the least need of it. What is natural is easily procured, but vain and worthless things are hard to gain. Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet, once the pain of desiring is removed. Hunger makes bread and water highly pleasurable. To habituate oneself to a simple and inexpensive diet will supply all one's needs for health and enable one to meet the necessities of life easily.
Epicurus noted that by making pleasure the aim he did not mean prodigal pleasures of sensuality as misunderstood through ignorance, prejudice, or misrepresentation. He considered pleasure to be the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul, not an unbroken succession of drinking bouts, revelry, sex, and luxurious food. Rather sober reasoning rationally determines every choice and avoidance by banishing those beliefs that cause the soul tumult. Thus the greatest good is prudence, and all virtues spring from it. He taught that we cannot lead a life of pleasure without prudence, honor, and justice, nor a life of prudence, honor, and justice that is not also a life of pleasure. Such a person holds a holy belief in the gods and is free of the fear of death. One may understand how the limit of good things may be reached and attained and how either the duration or the intensity of pain is slight. Epicurus taught that some things happen by necessity, others by chance, and some through our own agency; it is to our free actions that praise and blame attach. Even the misfortune of the wise is better than the prosperity of a fool. By practicing these things day and night with similar people one will not be disturbed but will live as a god among people.
Epicurus chose the virtues on account of pleasure and not for their own sake. He left a list of sovereign maxims for his followers. A blessed and eternal being has no trouble and brings no trouble to any one else, being exempt from anger and partiality. Pleasure reaches its limit by removing all pain. It is impossible to live pleasantly without living wisely, well, and justly; it is also impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasantly. Fortune seldom interferes with the wise, who direct their life by reason. The just enjoy the greatest peace of mind, while the unjust are full of extreme uneasiness. Those who understand the limits of life know how easy it is to procure enough to remove the pain of need and make all of life complete, no longer needing things that can only be won by labor and conflict.
Of all the ways to ensure happiness by wisdom throughout life the most important is to acquire friends. Nothing enhances our security so much as friendship. Natural desires, which do not give pain when not gratified, are pursued because of illusory opinion and persist only because of illusory opinion. Natural justice is based on the expediency of preventing one person from harming or being harmed by another. Animals and tribes, which cannot make covenants with each other so as not to inflict and suffer harm, are without justice. Injustice is not evil for itself but because of its consequences. For a wrong-doer to be undetected is difficult, for no one secretly violating the social contract may feel confident of not being discovered. Laws which cease to be expedient cease to be just.
Necessity is an evil; but it is not necessary to continue living subject to necessity. Most people are in a coma when they are at rest and mad when they act. As we value the work on our own characters, so too should we regard the characters of our friends. No one chooses something thinking it is evil; but when it appears good compared to a greater evil, the bait is taken and one is caught. We may obey nature by satisfying necessary desires and also bodily desires that do not harm us, while rejecting those that are harmful. Poverty in proportion to the natural purposes of life is great wealth, but unlimited wealth is great poverty. Learning and pleasure advance together. Our flesh bids us escape from hunger, thirst, and cold; the one free of these in happiness may vie with Zeus. Don't spoil what you have by desiring what you don't have. Whoever sees many reasons for ending one's life is of small account. Neither the one who engages in the petty trade of always seeking aid from friends nor the one who deprives oneself of hope for the future by never thinking of such aid can be a true friend.
"The love of money, if unjust, is impious, but if just, shameful; for to be sparing sordidly is unseemly even with justice."10 The wise accustomed to limited means have learned such self-sufficiency that they know better how to share with others than to take from them. The study of nature does not produce people who boast and shout or make a show of their culture, but people who are fearless and self-sufficient, depending on themselves and not on those who depend on their possessions. In regard to sexual passion Epicurus advised following one's inclinations provided that one neither violates the laws, disturbs customs, harms any neighbors, injures one's own body, nor wastes one's possessions, though he considered this impractical. "Friendship dances around the world summoning us all to awaken to the blessing."11 Envy no one: the good do not merit envy; as for the evil, the greater their fortune, the greater the pains they inflict on themselves. We need to free ourselves from the prison of private and public business. It is not one's belly that cannot be satisfied, but the false idea of the unending filling of one's belly.
It is foolish for children to resist their parents' anger: for if it is justified, it's better to seek forgiveness; if it isn't justified, resisting usually makes it worse; it is better to turn the anger aside by a display of good feeling. Epicurus saw a limit to simple living, which when surpassed is as great an error as extravagance. Praise may be welcomed if unsought, but we should be more concerned with correcting ourselves. It is foolish to pray for what one is capable of obtaining oneself. We may show our feeling for departed friends not by wailing but by meditating. If one happens on great wealth, one may gain good will by distributing it to others. Don't do anything that would cause you to fear if it were discovered by your neighbor. Test every desire by considering what will happen if it is fulfilled and if it is not fulfilled. Suffering bodily pains helps us to guard against them in the future. In a philosophical dispute the one who is defeated gains most by learning most. Freedom is the fruit of self-sufficiency. The noble are concerned with wisdom and friendship. The calm do not disturb themselves or others. The soul does not rid itself of confusion nor gain a worthy joy through possessing wealth nor honors from the common crowd nor through any of the unlimited desires.
Zeno was a Phoenician from Citium on Cyprus. He died about 260 BC at the age of 72 or 90. His fortune of a thousand talents was lost in a shipwreck on the Attic coast about 314 BC. His merchant father had brought him many books about Socrates when he was a boy. He was reading Xenophon's Memoirs of Socrates in Athens when he asked where men like that were to be found. Someone pointed to the Cynic philosopher Crates, who lived like a beggar with the woman Hipparchia, another philosopher. Zeno was a pupil of Crates and attended the lectures of Xenocrates and Stilpo for ten years. An oracle told him to take on the complexion of the dead, and so he studied the ancient authors. However, his natural modesty did not allow him to practice the ascetic shamelessness of the Cynics. When Crates tried to drag him away from Stilpo by pulling his cloak, Zeno said that the proper way to seize a philosopher is by the ears and to drag one by persuasion; violence may take his body, but his mind would still be with Stilpo. Zeno once pointed out to a youth talking nonsense that we have two ears and only one mouth so that we may listen more and talk less.
Zeno began to teach pacing back and forth in a colonnade, and thus his school of philosophy became known as the Stoics from the Greek word for porch (stoa). Athens honored him with the keys to the city, a gold crown, and a bronze statue. Antigonus Gonatas liked his lectures and invited him to his court; but Zeno, writing he could not go at the age of eighty, sent two of his companions instead. He said a friend is another I. When he was punishing a slave for stealing, the slave pleaded that it was his fate to steal; Zeno agreed and said it was his fate to be beaten too. Zeno could endure and practiced frugality, eating uncooked food and wearing a thin cloak.
The Stoics considered the first impulse of all animals to be self-preservation; pleasure only comes as a by-product. Zeno wrote that the purpose of life is agreement with nature, for our individual natures are part of the whole universe. Right reason pervades all things, and the law common to all forbids what is contrary to nature. The virtue of the happy person in the smooth flow of life is when all actions promote the harmony of the spirit living in the individual with the will of the one who orders the universe. Virtue is valuable for its own sake as a harmonious disposition and not from hope or fear of external motives. Virtue is the state of mind that makes life harmonious. A rational being may be perverted, however, by the deception of external pursuits or by the influence of associates.
The Stoics argued that virtue can be taught, because bad people do sometimes become good. The primary virtues are wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation. Particular virtues are magnanimity, continence, endurance, presence of mind, and good counsel. Wisdom is defined as knowledge of good and evil, courage as knowledge of what one ought to choose. Magnanimity is what enables one to rise above anything that happens; continence is the disposition and habit in accord with reason that is never overcome by pleasure; endurance is the knowledge of what to hold on to; presence of mind is finding out what is best to be done at any moment; and good counsel is knowing what we need to do and how to do it for the best. The corresponding vices come from ignorance. Goods can be external or mental.
For the Stoics all good is expedient, binding toward unity, profitable, useful, serviceable, beautiful, beneficial, desirable, and just or right in that it brings people together. What most people consider to be external values such as life, health, pleasure, beauty, strength, wealth, a good reputation, and noble birth and their opposites to the Stoic are neutral and thus neither good nor evil, though they may be "preferred." What is good benefits and does not injure, but those things which can be used either for good or bad are not goods in themselves. However, Poseidonius (c. 135-50 BC), who taught at Rhodes, did maintain that these values are good too. Chrysippus (c. 286-206 BC) denied that pleasure is a good, because some pleasures are disgraceful. For most Stoics these things are indifferent, though those valued may be preferred and others rejected. Harmony in life's process is what determines duty or what one ought to do. Appropriate acts are those guided by reason such as honoring the gods, parents, brothers, and country and communicating with friends. Taking care of one's health is considered an unconditional duty; other duties depend on circumstances.
Falsehood can lead to perversion and the passions or emotions, which Zeno defined as unnatural movements in the soul or as excessive impulses. Zeno classified the emotions into the categories of grief, fear, desire, and pleasure. Chrysippus wrote that emotions are judgments; avarice, for example, is based on the supposition that money is a good. Grief or pain they held to be a mental contraction expressed as pity, envy, jealousy, rivalry, heavy grief, annoyance, distress, anguish, and distraction. Fear is an expectation of evil and can be terror, nervous shrinking (from action), shame, consternation, panic, and mental agony. Desire or the craving of an irrational appetite ranges as want, hatred, contentiousness, anger, love, wrath, and resentment. Pleasure is an irrational elation at getting what one wants and includes ravishment, malevolent joy, delight, and transports of delight that can melt away virtue.
The three emotions that are considered good by the Stoics are joy, caution, and wishing, which are the rational counterparts of pleasure, fear, and desire. The wise person is passionless and does not fall into the weakness of the emotions, although a bad person can be apathetic in being callous and relentless. The wise are free of vanity, being indifferent to good or bad reports, genuinely earnest in self-improvement, and free from pretense and business cares. They are not liable to madness nor to grief. Stoics were willing to participate in politics in order to restrain vice and promote virtue, and they married and raised children. They believed that the wise are free and the bad are slaves of their vices. They also condemned the subordination of traditional slavery. They believed only the wise and good are fit to be magistrates, judges, and orators. The wise do not hurt others or themselves. The wise pray to the gods for good things, and they believed that friendship, which is a common use in treating friends as oneself, can only exist between the wise and good. The unwise are mad, which comes from folly. Wisdom comes from understanding and good counsel, moderation from good discipline and orderliness, and courage from constancy and vigor.
Stoics held that a wise person might make one's own exit from life for the sake of one's country and friends or if suffering from intolerable pain, mutilation, or an incurable disease. Zeno in his Republic and Chrysippus in his treatise On Government both favored a community of wives with the free choice of partners, sharing paternal affection for all the children alike and, they believed, ending the jealousies arising from adultery. They both recommended a mixed government of democracy, kingship, and aristocracy (rule by the virtuous). God they identified with reason, fate, Zeus, and many other names. Zeno maintained the unity of the world, and the Stoics considered the world a living being endowed with a soul, as indicated by the individual souls making it up. For the Stoics God is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect, intelligent, happy, with no evil, and taking providential care of the whole world but not having a human shape. The various Greek gods and goddesses represent peculiar attributes of God. Zeno's successor was considered by most to be Cleanthes, who lived to be nearly ninety, dying in 232 BC. Chrysippus studied with Cleanthes and wrote extensively.
The Hellenistic times were hard with many wars, occasional famines, and increasing slavery. 30,000 slaves toiled in Athens' silver mines at Laurion, and the gold mines of the Ptolemies worked by slaves were notorious. Slave revolts were becoming more frequent and larger, and Poseidonius warned that the ill treatment of slaves by their masters endangered the whole community. City states had lost power to larger kingdoms; wealth and power had become concentrated in fewer hands; and philosophers had responded by turning inward for personal happiness. Utopian visions were written by Euhemerus, who lived at the court of Macedonian king Cassander about 300 BC and suggested in his fanciful Sacred History that the gods had once lived on earth, and by Iambulus, a Nabatean who wrote about a city of the sun found near Ethiopia, where people lived communally with dignified free labor and no class distinctions.
1. Hyperides, Funeral Speech tr. J. O. Burtt, 25.
2. Ancient Egyptian Literature tr. Miriam Lichtheim, Vol. 3, p. 159.
3. Theocritus, Selected Epigrams tr. Robert Wells, 13.
4. Graetz, Heinrich, History of the Jews, Vol. 2, p. 20.
5. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, Revised Standard Version, 4:25.
6. Ibid., 13:3.
7. Palatine Anthology 7:247 tr. Alistair Elliot
8. Ibid. 16:26b tr. Edwin Morgan.
9. Menander fragment 542 tr. Philip Vellacott.
10. Vatican Sayings 43 tr. Sanderson Beck.
11. Ibid., 52.
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