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As the first episode in our series on science and technology, we begin by looking at the advancements in medicine during the Hellenistic Age. In Alexandria, Herophilus and Erasistratus became the first doctors to practice human dissections in any significant capacity until the Middle Ages, greatly improving our understanding of anatomy and physiolo…
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Twenty years of chaos in the Ptolemaic kingdom come to an end during the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (204-180). His marriage to the Seleucid princess Cleopatra I Syra confirmed the loss of Coele Syria to Antiochus III, yet she proved to be a good match and helped secure the future of the dynasty. Haronnophoris and the Great Revolt are finally put …
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Rome hoped that the Peace of Apamea would instill some sort of order over the eastern Mediterranean, allowing them to return to Italy after decades of warfare. Yet the vacuum of power left behind in a post-Seleucid Asia Minor would lead to fierce competition, with those like Eumenes II of Pergamon and Pharnaces I of Pontus waging war against their …
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The defeat at the Battle of Magnesia brings the war between Antiochus III and the Roman Republic to a close. Forced to evacuate all territory north of the Taurus Mountains and saddled with an enormous indemnity, Antiochus' career comes to an abrupt end in Elymais after an unprecedented 35 years on the throne, leaving the Seleucid Empire at a crossr…
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On invitation from the Aetolian League, Antiochus III invades the Greek mainland in September 192 and declares war against the Roman Republic. Though he held many victories under his belt, Rome proved to be a fiercer opponent than anticipated, forcing Antiochus to go on the defensive and take the fight back to Asia. A final confrontation on the pla…
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The crisis in Egypt enabled Antiochus III to launch another invasion south into Ptolemaic territory, kickstarting the Fifth Syrian War (202-195) that finally delivered Coele Syria into Seleucid hands after almost a century of conflict. Antiochus' ambition to claim the territories of Seleucus I leads him to campaign in Europe, placing him on a colli…
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With the defeat of Philip V at Cynoscephalae, Flamininus was tasked with deciding the fate of Greece in the postwar period. At the Isthmian Games of 196, he declared the freedom and autonomy of the Greeks, but resistance from the Aetolian League and Nabis of Sparta threatened to overturn the Roman-imposed peace, eventually drawing Antiochus III int…
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No longer tied up by Hannibal, the vengeful Romans give their undivided attention to Philip V in the Second Macedonian War (200-197 BC). The king manages to hold his own against the Republic until they send the ambitious young commander Titus Quinctius Flamininus, who forces a showdown at Cynoscephalae that will radically change the balance of powe…
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With the unexpected death of Ptolemy IV and the Great Rebellion in full swing, Antiochus III and Philip V form a secret pact to destroy the Ptolemaic Kingdom, partitioning the territories for themselves. Their invasions of Coele Syria and Asia Minor sent shockwaves across the eastern Mediterranean, leading several Greek states to request military a…
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The “Golden Age” of the Ptolemaic dynasty comes to an end as Ptolemy IV dies unexpectedly in 204. Greedy ministers looking to control the boy-king Ptolemy V leave Alexandria in a mess of schemes, murder, and rioting. Meanwhile, decades of economic turmoil and cultural tension results the outbreak of the "Great Revolt", a twenty year-long (206-186) …
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The Attalid dynasty that ruled over the city of Pergamon (modern Bergama) is the first Greek monarchy to arise outside of the Successor Kingdoms. Founded by a eunuch named Philetaerus in western Asia Minor, the Attalids went from small regional power to major player in under a generation, in part thanks to their alliance with the Roman Republic. Th…
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Emboldened by his success in the Social War, Philip's desire for world conquest leads him to ally with Hannibal Barca against the Roman Republic in 215. The so-called "First Macedonian War" (215-206 BC) is mainly a conflict between the various states of Greece, leading to the king tightening his grip over the Symmachy, and the end of his relationsh…
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The Roman Republic went from a regional power ruling over Italy to master of a Mediterranean-wide empire in under 50 years, warring against powerful states like the Carthaginians and the Hellenistic kingdoms, yet always coming out on top. Dr. Bret Devereaux joins the show to discuss the Roman military and analyze the various factors that enabled th…
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During the Illyrian Wars of 229-228 and 219, the Roman Republic would intervene in the affairs of Greece for the first time. Their swift defeats of Queen Teuta and Demetrius of Pharos impressed the Greek communities, but would draw the attention of King Philip V of Macedonia.Episode Notes:(https://hellenisticagepodcast.wordpress.com/2023/03/16/084-…
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The “Argonautica”, written by the third century poet Apollonius of Rhodes, is the only surviving epic poem from the Hellenistic period. Recounting the travels of the hero Jason and his crew of Argonauts as they searched for the Golden Fleece, Apollonius managed to pay homage to the works of Homer while also reinventing the genre to better reflect t…
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The various dynasties that rose from the ashes of Alexander's empire proved to be a lucrative source of income for aspiring poets. Ptolemaic Alexandria hosted some of the influential artists of the day, such as Callimachus of Cyrene and Theocritus of Syracuse. Euphorion of Chalcis would move to Seleucid Antioch, and Aratus of Soli would compose his…
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In April 1900, a crew of Greek sponge divers found a 2,000 year old shipwreck at the bottom of the sea of the small island of Antikythera. A century of underwater expeditions has revealed many works of art such as rare life-sized bronze statues and glassware that provides a snapshot of the Late Hellenistic economy, along with the famous Antikythera…
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Rather than writing tales of gods and heroes or flattering court panegyrics, the poet Theocritus of Syracuse (early second century B.C.) chose to focus on the simple life. As the founder of "Bucolic" or pastoral poetry, Theocritus cast the humble shepherd as the main subject, using idyllic scenes from the ancient countryside to illuminate his poems…
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The playwright Menander of Athens (342/341 – 290 B.C.) was the most renowned comedic author of antiquity, surpassing even Aristophanes in popularity. As the father of the New Comedy, Menander moved away from biting satire to draw humor from the interactions of everyday people, popularizing the use of “stock characters” and romance plots that audien…
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The anchor was the most recognizable image associated with the Seleucids, who used it as their dynastic seal to symbolize their royal authority. Its origins are interwoven into the stories of the dynasty’s founder, Seleucus I Nicator, as omens and prophecies associated the anchor with his imperial destiny. These stories might have been tied to the …
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The Kushans were the premier dynasty of the Yuezhi, a nomadic confederation that migrated and settled in northern Bactria during the mid-to-late second century BC. With a steady hand, their empire would eventually encompass most of Central Asia and Northwestern India for the next 300 years, the former heartlands of the Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek…
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The period from the first century B.C. through the third century A.D. saw a time of unprecedented economic contact between the Mediterranean world (under the dominion of the Roman Empire) and the political entities bordering along the Western Indian Ocean. This fostered the exchange of goods and ideas, leading some scholars to identify it as the fi…
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Following the death of Menander I Soter, the Indo-Greeks would decline in power over the next 150 years as the newly arrived Indo-Scythians/Indo-Saka seized the Punjab, and with the last king disappearing by 10 A.D, Greek rule in Central Asia and India was brought to a definitive end. In their wake, later powers like the Kushan Empire established c…
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It has been argued that the most influential contribution of Gandhara (modern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan) was its role in the creation of several works of art centered around Buddhist themes, including the first known depictions of the Buddha in human form. However, the Gandharan artists also drew a great amount of inspiration from the tradi…
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In the wake of Alexander the Great, the traditions of Hellenism and Buddhism thought came into close contact in Central Asia and India. Lee Clarke, a PhD student in cross-cultural philosophy at Nottingham Trent University, joins the show to discuss the idea of “Greco-Buddhism”, tracing the origins of the Buddha and the establishment of his teaching…
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In antiquity, Gandhara was one of the most deeply-rooted hubs of Buddhism, and scholars have attempted to search for any possible encounters between Buddhists and the Greeks who settled in Central Asia and India. Fascinating pieces of evidence hint at these connections: the Pali text known as the Milindapañha ("The Questions of King Milinda") portr…
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With the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, the rulers of Greco-Bactria would seize the opportunity to invade India in approximately 185 B.C. Famous conquerors like Demetrius and Menander would campaign throughout the subcontinent, seizing the lands of Arachosia and Gandhara (southern Afghanistan and Pakistan) as their new domains, the so-called "Indo…
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In 128 B.C., an explorer and diplomat named Zhang Qian had arrived in the Ferghana Valley in modern Uzbekistan. As the first known Chinese visitor in Central Asia, he was originally tasked by the Han Emperor Wudi to seek an alliance with the Yuezhi nomads, who migrated to Bactria in the 130s and contributed to the collapse of the Greco-Bactrian Kin…
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With the discovery of the city of Ai Khanoum in northeastern Afghanistan, the idea of a strong Greek presence in the makeup of Hellenistic Bactria was reinforced. At the same time, they also demonstrate a reliance on local Bactrian traditions and the formation of brand new identities. Dr. Rachel Mairs, a historian of Hellenistic Central Asia and au…
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The conquests of Alexander the Great resulted in tens of thousands of Greek colonists settling in Central Asia. While excavations of places like the city ruins of Ai Khanoum hint at a flourishing Hellenic culture, local Bactrian and Sogdian traditions continued to hold a powerful influence. In this episode, we take a deeper look at Greco-Bactria by…
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Coins are the most enduring symbols of the Greco-Bactrian and the Indo-Greek kingdoms, considered to be invaluable tools in reconstructing their chronologies in absence of a written history. Joining our series is numismatist Dr. Frank Lee Holt, author of books such as "Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria" and "Lost World of the Golde…
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In the first of several episodes on the "Hellenistic Far East", we will cover the history of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which controlled the lands of Central Asia stretching from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan during the third and second centuries B.C. As one of the most fascinating yet poorly understood regions in antiquity, we will try to piece toget…
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Despite the defeat at Raphia, Antiochus III was not discouraged from further conquests. After dealing with his final rival Achaeus in 213, the Seleucid king would lead a massive expeditionary force into Asia, an anabasis, intending to assert his authority over the wayward satrapies and kingdoms that splintered away during the troubled reigns of his…
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Only a few short years after his coronation, Antiochus III would invade the kingdom of Ptolemy IV in 219 B.C., intent on reclaiming the lands of Coele Syria as part of his birthright. To stem the tide, the Ptolemaic government tries to rejuvenate the now-rusty Egyptian army by ordering a massive recruitment drive and issuing reforms, and the two ki…
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In 222 B.C., two of the world's most powerful kingdoms saw the coronation of two young monarchs: Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemy IV Philopator of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. As Antiochus tries to keep his realm from falling apart in the face of rebellions and the assassination of his older brother, the laziness of Ptolemy allo…
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In this episode, we bring the Second Punic War to a close as Hannibal tries to conquer southern Italy, while the Scipio and Barcid families clash over control of the Iberian Peninsula. During the Spanish campaigns, Publius Scipio (the future Scipio Africanus) becomes the premier general of the Republic, bringing the fight to Africa itself as he cla…
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After the losses at Trebia and Trasimene, the strategies of Fabius Maximus Cuncutator ("the Delayer") manages to give the Republic some valuable breathing room. Despite Fabius' best efforts, Hannibal manages to deliver Rome its most devastating defeat on the plains of Cannae in 216. Meanwhile, Marcus Claudius Marcellus leads a campaign in Sicily ag…
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With the destruction of the Celtiberian city of Saguntum in 219, much of the Mediterranean world was plunged into a state of warfare for nearly two decades, as the Roman Republic would once again battle Carthage for dominance, and face their greatest foe to date: Hannibal Barca, son of Hamilcar. To the surprise and horror of the Senate, Hannibal wo…
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Fellow history podcaster Tristan Hughes (The Ancients Podcast) joins the show to discuss his new book, "Alexander's Successors at War: The Perdiccas Years, 323-320 BC", which covers the first tumultuous years of the Wars of the Successors. Though framed around the career of Perdiccas, the standing regent of Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, t…
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The period from the signing of the Treaty of Lutatius in 241 until the siege of Saguntum in 219 is often passed over by those learning about the Punic Wars, but it is integral to understanding how the Romans and Carthaginians went to battle once again. Rome fought to stem the tide of Celtic warbands invading from Northern Italy, whereas Carthage fa…
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Thanks to his role in the Maccabean Revolt, Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire played an important part in the history of Judaism. From the prophecies of Daniel to the histories of Josephus, Dr. Joseph Scales joins the show to talk about the perception of Antiochus IV in the Jewish literary tradition, viewed as both an incompetent ruler …
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At only 18 years of age, Philip V was crowned with the diadem following the death of his uncle Antigonus III Doson in 221. Many believed that the boy was going to be a pushover, easy prey for the machinations of his courtiers and for the many belligerent powers of the Greek Peninsula. Philip however proved to be a king in the mold of Pyrrhus and Al…
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Despite the failure of Agis IV to reform a weakened Sparta, a more politically astute (and ruthless) successor could be found in the rival Agiad house, Cleomenes III. Under his reign, Sparta would be restored to a level of power capable enough to bring the Achaean League to its knees during the Cleomenean War (228-222). In a moment of crisis, Aratu…
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the 240s and 230s saw several shakeups in the political order of Greece. Macedonia under Demetrius II Aetolicus struggled to deal with an onslaught of Greek Leagues, Illyrian tribes, and the premature death of a monarch. Meanwhile, the long-since impotent Sparta sees a potential rejuvenation …
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The proliferation of the Greek Federal states, those such as Achaean and Aetolian Leagues, was a major political development in the Greek Peninsula during the 3rd century. Despite being in an age of kings, several poleis were able to present a unified front against the Successor dynasties, allowing them to act as allies or rivals depending upon the…
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As the power couple of the Mediterranean, Ptolemy III and Berenice II Euergetes (Benefactor)would oversee the apogee of Hellenistic Egypt. Ptolemy's successful blitzkrieg against the Seleucid Empire during the Third Syrian War would see a near-total conquest of Syria and Mesopotamia, and brought their northern rivals to their knees. As one of the m…
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The conquest of Egypt by Alexander and establishment of the Ptolemaic dynasty differed from previous foreign invaders like the Hyksos or the Persians. While the Ptolemies would very much present themselves as traditional pharaohs, they would bring thousands of Greek immigrants, founded poleis, and imported Greek culture en masse. For the indigenous…
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The Seleucid Empire's vast geographic spread made it the heir to a wide variety of cavalry traditions, with the fighting style of each region being incorporated into an army of Macedonian origin: units like armored cataphracts and horse archers from the steppes, scythed chariots from the Near East, and even war elephants acquired from distant India…
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Drawn by the prospects of providing service to the Ptolemaic government in either the bureaucracy or the army, or perhaps seeking to settle and farm some of the most productive land in the world, tens of thousands of Greeks would immigrate to Egypt in pursuit of a better life. Thanks to the abundant papyrological record, we are able to get an intim…
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Alexandria, or Alexandria-by-Egypt as it was called, was the easily the greatest city of the Hellenistic Age. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332/331, it became the pet project of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who turned it into the capital of their mighty empire. Through the dynasty's direction and enormous amounts of money, the city was endowed with m…
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