DIVISION OF ALEXANDER’S EMPIRE AFTER HIS DEATH
After Alexander died, his empire was divided among four of his generals. These generals spent 40 years fighting among themselves before three main dynasties merged: 1) the Antigonids of Asia Minor and Greece, a region referred to as Macedon; 2) the Ptolemies in Egypt (which included Cleopatra); and 3) the Selecuids, who occupied a stretch of land that extended from present-day Syria and Lebanon to Persia. Seleucus, one of these generals, who became ruler of Babylon in 312 B.C., gradually reconquered most of Iran. Under Seleucus's son, Antiochus I, many Greeks entered Iran, and Hellenistic motifs in art, architecture, and urban planning became prevalent. [Source: Library of Congress]
The Egyptian portion of Alexander’s kingdom was ultimately claimed by Ptolemy I, a Macedonian general and friend of Alexander since his early days. He served with Alexander from his first campaigns, and was the first ruler of the Ptolemy dynasty. He played a principal part in the campaigns in Afghanistan and India and participated in the Battle of Issus, commanding troops on the left wing under the authority of Parmenion. He accompanied Alexander during his journey to the Oracle in the Siwa Oasis and commanded the campaign that captured the rebel Bessus. During Alexander's campaign in the Indian subcontinent, Ptolemy was in command of the advance guard at the siege of Aornos and fought at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. [Source: Wikipedia]
It took almost two generations of war for Ptolemies, the Seleucids and the Antigonid kings of Macedon to archieve a sustainable political and military balance. By this time Athens had faded as a political force, but Pergamum, Rhodes, Delos, Pontus on the Black Sea were all independent rising powers. Bactrian Greek rulers broke away from the Seleucid empire around 240 B.C. and held Afghanistan and parts of northwestern Pakistan and India and Central Asia for over a hundred years. The Parthians, whose era began in 247 B.C. were beginning to build up their power, which was to stretch from the Euphrates to the Indus.
The Ptolemies — the Macedonian-Greek dynasty founded by Ptolemy I — was arguably the most successful of the post-Alexander kingdoms. It ruled Egypt for more than 300 years. There were 15 Ptolemic leaders and they ruled from 332 B.C. to 30 B.C. from Alexandria. Cleopatra was the last of Ptolemies. When she died in 30 B.C., Romans took over territory formally controlled by the Ptolemies.
See Separate Article on the Ptolemies
Plots After Alexander's Death
Before his death, Alexander's troops, concerned he was already dead, demanded to see him. Arrian wrote: "Nothing could keep them from the sight of him, and the motive in almost every heart was grief of a sort of helpless bewilderment at the thought of losing their king. Lying speechless as the men filed by, he struggled to raise his head, and in his eyes there was a look of recognition for each individual he passed."
Roxanne, Alexander the Great’s wife, and her son, Alexander IV, born six weeks after Alexander's death were murdered by a distant relative when the boy was 12 or 13. Alexander's mother Olympias was also killed. Plutarch wrote: “Roxana, who was now with child, and upon that account much honored by the Macedonians, being jealous of Statira, sent for her by a counterfeit letter, as if Alexander had been still alive; and when she had her in her power, killed her and her sister, and threw their bodies into a well, which they filled up with earth, not without the privity and assistance of Perdiccas, who in the time immediately following the king's death, under cover of the name of Arrhidæus, whom he carried about him as a sort of guard to his person, exercised the chief authority. Arrhidæus, who was Philip's son by an obscure woman of the name of Philinna, was himself of weak intellect, not that he had been originally deficient either in body or mind; on the contrary, in his childhood, he had showed a happy and promising character enough. But a diseased habit of body, caused by drugs which Olympias gave him, had ruined not only his health, but his understanding. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]
Philip III Arrhidaios — Alexander the Great's half-brother and successor — and his young warrior-queen wife Eurydice, were respectively killed and forced to commit suicide by Olympias, Philip III's stepmother and Alexander's mother. Historical texts say that Philip II was buried, exhumed, burned and re-buried: A royal tomb found in Greece containing the burned bones of a man and a young woman, some scholar believe, could belong to Philip III and Eurydice. Others say the entombed man is probably Philip II, Alexander the Great's father, making the woman in the tomb Cleopatra, Philip II's last wife (She is different from the famous Cleopatra). This Cleopatra also met a tragic end. She was either killed or forced to commit suicide by Olympias. Scholars are still debating issues whether the bones were burned dry or covered in flesh and viscera. [Source: Stephanie Pappas, Live Science, April 8, 2011]
Struggle for Power Between Alexander’s Generals After His Death
When Alexander was on his deathbed he was asked to name a successor. Arrian reported he said the empire should go “to the strongest. I foresee a great funeral contest over me." The account which follows deals with the troubled period after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. when the generals Antigonus, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus and Cassander fought among themselves over the division of the empire.
Pausanias wrote in “Description of Greece”, Book I: Attica (A.D. 160): “After the death of Alexander, by withstanding those who would have conferred all his empire upon Aridaeus, the son of Philip, he became chiefly responsible for the division of the various nations into the kingdoms. He crossed over to Egypt in person, and killed Cleomenes, whom Alexander had appointed satrap of that country, considering him a friend of Perdiccas, and therefore not faithful to himself; and the Macedonians who had been entrusted with the task of carrying the corpse of Alexander to Aegae, he persuaded to hand it over to him. And he proceeded to bury it with Macedonian rites in Memphis, but, knowing that Perdiccas would make war, he kept Egypt garrisoned. And Perdiccas took Aridaeus, son of Philip, and the boy Alexander, whom Roxana, daughter of Oxyartes, had borne to Alexander, to lend color to the campaign, but really he was plotting to take from Ptolemy his kingdom in Egypt. But being expelled from Egypt, and having lost his reputation as a soldier, and being in other respects unpopular with the Macedonians, he was put to death by his body guard. [Source: Pausanias, “Description of Greece,” with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D. in 4 Volumes. Volume 1.Attica and Cornith, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1918]
“The death of Perdiccas immediately raised Ptolemy to power, who both reduced the Syrians and Phoenicia, and also welcomed Seleucus, son of Antiochus, who was in exile, having been expelled by Antigonus; he further himself prepared to attack Antigonus. He prevailed on Cassander, son of Anti pater, and Lysimachus, who was king in Thrace, to join in the war, urging that Seleucus was in exile and that the growth of the power of Antigonus was dangerous to them all.
For a time Antigonus prepared for war, and was by no means confident of the issue; but on learning that the revolt of Cyrene had called Ptolemy to Libya, he immediately reduced the Syrians and Phoenicians by a sudden inroad, handed them over to Demetrius, his son, a man who for all his youth had already a reputation for good sense, and went down to the Hellespont. But he led his army back without crossing, on hearing that Demetrius had been overcome by Ptolemy in battle. But Demetrius had not altogether evacuated the country before Ptolemy, and having surprised a body of Egyptians, killed a few of them. Then on the arrival of Antigonus Ptolemy did not wait for him but returned to Egypt.
“When the winter was over, Demetrius sailed to Cyprus and overcame in a naval action Menelaus, the satrap of Ptolemy, and afterwards Ptolemy him self, who had crossed to bring help. Ptolemy fled to Egypt, where he was besieged by Antigonus on land and by Demetrius with a fleet. In spite of his extreme peril Ptolemy saved his empire by making a stand with an army at Pelusium while offering resistance with warships from the river. Antigonus now abandoned all hope of reducing Egypt in the circumstances, and dispatched Demetrius against the Rhodians with a fleet and a large army, hoping, if the island were won, to use it as a base against the Egyptians. But the Rhodians displayed daring and ingenuity in the face of the besiegers, while Ptolemy helped them with all the forces he could muster. Antigonus thus failed to reduce Egypt or, later, Rhodes, and shortly afterwards he offered battle to Lysimachus, and to Cassander and the army of Seleucus, lost most of his forces, and was himself killed, having suffered most by reason of the length of the war with Eumenes. Of the kings who put down Antigonus I hold that the most wicked was Cassander, who although he had recovered the throne of Macedonia with the aid of Antigonus, nevertheless came to fight against a benefactor.
“After the death of Antigonus, Ptolemy again reduced the Syrians and Cyprus, and also restored Pyrrhus to Thesprotia on the mainland. Cyrene rebelled; but Magas, the son of Berenice (who was at this time married to Ptolemy) captured Cyrene in the fifth year of the rebellion. If this Ptolemy really was the son of Philip, son of Amyntas, he must have inherited from his father his passion for women, for, while wedded to Eurydice, the daughter of Antipater, although he had children he took a fancy to Berenice, whom Antipater had sent to Egypt with Eurydice. He fell in love with this woman and had children by her, and when his end drew near he left the kingdom of Egypt to Ptolemy (from whom the Athenians name their tribe) being the son of Berenice and not of the daughter of Antipater.
“This Ptolemy fell in love with Arsinoe, his full sister, and married her, violating herein Macedonian custom, but following that of his Egyptian subjects. Secondly he put to death his brother Argaeus, who was, it is said, plotting against him; and he it was who brought down from Memphis the corpse of Alexander. He put to death another brother also, son of Eurydice, on discovering that he was creating disaffection among the Cyprians. Then Magas, the half-brother of Ptolemy, who had been entrusted with the governorship of Cyrene by his mother Berenice--she had borne him to Philip, a Macedonians but of no note and of lowly origin--induced the people of Cyrene to revolt from Ptolemy and marched against Egypt.
“Ptolemy fortified the entrance into Egypt and awaited the attack of the Cyrenians. But while on the march Magas was in formed that the Marmaridae,a tribe of Libyan nomads, had revolted, and thereupon fell back upon Cyrene. Ptolemy resolved to pursue, but was checked owing to the following circumstance. When he was preparing to meet the attack of Magas, he engaged mercenaries, including some four thousand Gauls. Discovering that they were plotting to seize Egypt, he led them through the river to a deserted island. There they perished at one another's hands or by famine. Magas, who was married to Apame, daughter of Antiochus, son of Seleucus, persuaded Antiochus to break the treaty which his father Seleucus had made with Ptolemy and to attack Egypt.
When Antiochus resolved to attack, Ptolemy dispatched forces against all the subjects of Antiochus, freebooters to overrun the lands of the weaker, and an army to hold back the stronger, so that Antiochus never had an opportunity of attacking Egypt. I have already stated how this Ptolemy sent a fleet to help the Athenians against Antigonus and the Macedonians, but it did very little to save Athens. His children were by Arsinoe, not his sister, but the daughter of Lysimachus. His sister who had wedded him happened to die before this, leaving no issue, and there is in Egypt a district called Arsinoites after her.”
Lysimachus, A General Who Didn’t Get a Cut of the Empire
Pausanias wrote in “Description of Greece”, Book I: Attica (A.D. 160): “Lysimachus was a Macedonian by birth and one of Alexander's body-guards, whom Alexander once in anger shut up in a chamber with a lion, and afterwards found that he had overpowered the brute. Henceforth he always treated him with respect, and honored him as much as the noblest Macedonians. After the death of Alexander, Lysimachus ruled such of the Thracians, who are neighbors of the Macedonians, as had been under the sway of Alexander and before him of Philip. These would comprise but a small part of Thrace. If race be compared with race no nation of men except the Celts are more numerous than the Thracians taken all together, and for this reason no one before the Romans reduced the whole Thracian population. But the Romans have subdued all Thrace, and they also hold such Celtic territory as is worth possessing, but they have intentionally overlooked the parts that they consider useless through excessive cold or barrenness. [Source: Pausanias, “Description of Greece,” with an English Translation by W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D. in 4 Volumes. Volume 1.Attica and Cornith, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd., 1918]
“Since Lysimachus, then, overlooked Arsinoe's murder of Agathocles, Lysandra fled to Seleucus, taking with her her children and her brothers, who were taking refuge with Ptolemy and finally adopted this course. They were accompanied on their flight to Seleucus by Alexander who was the son of Lysimachus by an Odrysian woman. So they going up to Babylon entreated Seleucus to make war on Lysimachus. And at the same time Philetaerus, to whom the property of Lysimachus had been entrusted, aggrieved at the death of Agathocles and suspicious of the treatment he would receive at the hands of Arsinoe, seized Pergamus on the Caicus, and sending a herald offered both the property and himself to Seleucus.
“Lysimachus hearing of all these things lost no time in crossing into Asia and assuming the initiative met Seleucus, suffered a severe defeat and was killed. Alexander, his son by the Odrysian woman, after interceding long with Lysandra, won his body and afterwards carried it to the Chersonesus and buried it, where his grave is still to be seen between the village of Cardia and Pactye.”
Rulers of Alexander the Great’s Divided Empire After His Death
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The following abridged list of rulers for the ancient Greek world is primarily for the rulers of the Hellenistic age (323–31 B.C.), after the time of Alexander the Great. In the preceding centuries, the dominant geopolitical unit was the polis or city-state. Greek city-states were governed by a variety of entities, including kings, oligarchies, tyrants, and, as in the case of Athens, a democracy. [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]
Rulers of Macedonia After Alexander the Great
Philip III Arrhidaios (323–317 B.C.)
Alexander IV (323–310 B.C.)
Olympias (317–316 B.C.)
Cassander (315–297 B.C.)
Philip IV (297 B.C.)
Antipatros and Alexander V (297–294 B.C.)
Demetrios I Poliorketes ("Besieger") (294–288 B.C.)
Pyrrhos of Epeiros (288/7–285 B.C.)
Lysimachos (288/7–281 B.C.)
Seleukus (281 B.C.)
Ptolemaios Keraunos ("Thunderbolt") (281–279 B.C.)
Antigonos II Gonatas (ca. (277–239 B.C.)
Demetrios II (239–229 B.C.)
Antigonos III Doson (ca. (229–222 B.C.)
Philip V (222–179 B.C.)
Perseus (179–168 B.C.)
Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (306–30 B.C.)
Ptolemy I Soter ("Savior"; governor from 323) 306–282 B.C.)
Ptolemy II Philadelphos ("Sister-friend") (284–246 B.C.)
Ptolemy III Euergetes ("Benefactor") (246–222 B.C.)
Ptolemy IV Philopator ("Father-friend") (222–204 B.C.)
Ptolemy V Epiphanes ("[God] Manifest") (210–180 B.C.)
Cleopatra I (180–177 B.C.)
Ptolemy VI Philometor ("Mother-friend") (180–164, (163–145 B.C.
Cleopatra II (170–115 B.C.)
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II Physkon ("Potbelly") (170–163, (145–116 B.C.)
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator (with Ptolemy VI and briefly after the latter's death) (145–144 B.C.)
Ptolemy IX Soter II Lathyros ("the Bean") (116–107, 88–81 B.C.)
Cleopatra III (140–101 B.C.)
Ptolemy X Alexander I (107–88 B.C.)
Berenike III (100–80 B.C.)
Ptolemy XI Alexander II 80 B.C.)
Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos Auletes ("the Piper") (80–58, 55–51 B.C.)
Cleopatra V (80–69 B.C.)
Berenike IV and Cleopatra VI (58–55 B.C.)
Ptolemy XIII (51–47 B.C.)
Cleopatra VII (51–30 B.C.)
Ptolemy XIV (47–44 B.C.)
Caesarion (Ptolemy XV) 44–30 B.C.)
Rulers of Pontus in the Black Sea Area (ca. 280–63 B.C.)
Mithridates I (ca. 280–ca. 266 B.C.)
Ariobarzanes (ca. 266–ca. 255 B.C.)
Mithridates II (ca. 255–ca. 220 B.C.)
Mithridates III (ca. 220–ca. 185 B.C.)
Pharnaces I (ca. 185–ca. 170 B.C.)
Mithridates IV Philopator (ca. 170–ca. 150 B.C.)
Mithridates V Euergetes (ca. 150–120 B.C.)
Mithridates VI Eupator, "the Great" (ca. 120–63 B.C.)
Rulers of Baktria in Afghanistan and Central Asia (256–55 B.C.)
Diodotos I (256–248 B.C.)
Diodotos II (248–235 B.C.)
Euthydemos I (ca. 235–ca. 200 B.C.)
Euthydemos II (ca. 200–ca. 190 B.C.)
Demetrios I (ca. 200–ca. 185 B.C.)
Antimachos I (ca. 195–ca. 185 B.C.)
Pantaleon (ca. 185–ca. 180 B.C.)
Demetrios II (ca. 185–ca. 175 B.C.)
Agathokles (ca. 180–ca. 165 B.C.)
Eukratides I (usurper?) (ca. 171–ca. 155 B.C.)
Agathokleia and Menandros (ca. 155–ca. 130 B.C.)
Kalliope and Hermaios (ca. 75–ca. 55 B.C.)
The Seleucid Empire, the largest of the kingdoms that succeeded Alexander the Great’s short-lived empire. Until quite recently, the chronology of the kings was for the most part based on classical sources, but the publication of the Astronomical Diaries, other cuneiform sources, and studies of the number of coin dies, have generated a lot of new information. [Source: Livius.org]
“The dynasty can be divided into five sections. The main branchstarted with Seleucus I Nicator (r.311-281 B.C.), and remained essentially unchallenged until the revolt of Alexander Balas in 152. He and his sons were rivals until 123 B.C. . Their presence was a serious obstacle for the kings of the main line who had to cope with Parthian aggression in the east; much territory was lost. Cleopatra Thea and Antiochus VIII Grypus briefly reunited the remains of the Seleucid Empire, but the dynasty fell apart in two rival branches, a northern one and a southern one.
Almost perennial civil wars made the Seleucid Empire, which had once been the largest in the world, helpless against local revolts. In 74/73 B.C., the remains were taken over by Armenia, which lost them for years later; after a couple of years of independence, the last Seleucid ruler was overthrown in 65 B.C.
“Seleucus I Nicator1(June 311-September 281 B.C.)
Antiochus I Soter (September 281-2 June 261 B.C.)
Antiochus II Theos (2 June 261-early July 246 B.C.)
Seleucus II Callinicus (July/August 246-December 225 B.C.)
Seleucus III Keraunos (or Soter) (December 225-April-June 222 B.C.)
Antiochus III the Great (April-June 222-3 July 187 B.C.)
Seleucus IV Philopator (3 July 187-3 September 175 B.C.)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes (3 September 175-November/December 164 B.C.)
Antiochus V Eupator (November/December 164-after 29 October 162 B.C.)
Demetrius I Soter (before September/October 161-beginning of June 150 B.C.)
Alexander I Balas (summer 152-beginning of August 145 B.C.)
Demetrius II Nicator (first reign, before 8 September 145-July/August 138 B.C.)
Antiochus VI Dionysus (or Epiphanes, 145/144-141/140 B.C.)
Diodotus Tryphon (141/140-after August 138 B.C.)
Antiochus VII Sidetes (or Euergetes, July/August 138-after 20 May 129 B.C.)
Demetrius II Nicator (second reign, first months of 129-after March 125 B.C.)
Alexander II Zabinas (129-123 B.C.)
Cleopatra Thea (125 B.C.)
Seleucus V (125 B.C.)
Cleopatra Thea and Antiochus VIII Grypus (125-121 B.C.)
Antiochus VIII Grypus (121-96 B.C.)
Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (115-early 95 B.C.)
Demetrius III Eucaerus (or Philopator, 97/96-87 B.C.)
Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator (96-94 B.C.)
Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus (c.95-93/92 B.C.)
Philip I Philadelphus (c.95-c.75 B.C.)
Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator (early 95-c.88 B.C.)
Antiochus XII Dionysus (87-83/82 B.C.)
Tigranes II the Great of Armenia (74/73-69 B.C.)
Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (69-64 B.C.)
Philip II Philoromaeus (67/66-66/65 B.C.)
Pergamon (about 100 kilometers north of present-day Izmir Turkey) emerged as a powerful city-state in the era of upheaval that followed the death of Alexander the Great. Located on the top of a small mountain with views in every direction, the ruins spread out over a large area and include the temples of Troy and Dionysus, the sanctuary of Demeter, the celebrated library, and a three-tiered gymnasium. Built into the side of the mountain is an impressive amphitheater with 15,000 seats.
Pergamon (Bergama) was a powerful Hellenistic colony that ruled over a large amount of land in Asia Minor in third and second centuries B.C. At it is height more than 200,000 people lived on the mountain and the surrounding plains. The library's collection of scrolls was so impressive the Egyptians slapped a papyrus embargo on Pergamon out of fear their collection of scrolls would surpass the collection in Alexandria. In response to this Pergamon scribes made "paper" from animal skins. The English word "parchment" is derived from "Pergamene paper." In the end Marc Anthony gave the city and library to Cleopatra who had many the scrolls transported to Alexandria.
The book of Revelations in the Bible referred to ancient Pergamon as a place "where Satan dwelleth." But despite this, and the fact that Roman priests used to martyr Christians here, Pergamon was the site of one the original "Seven Churches." Much of Pergamon was destroyed in a wave of earthquakes between the mid-forth and mid-sixth century that also brought down much or Troy, Aphrodisias, Ephesus and Smyrna. At the site today captions that explain how water was transported to the top of the mountain and stored (that, after all, was one of the big problems of having a city on top of a mountain).
According to UNESCO: Pergamon was founded in the 3rd century BC as the capital of the Attalid dynasty. Located in the Aegean Region, the heart of the Antique World, and at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, it became an important cultural, scientific and political centre. Creation of the capital on top of Kale Hill set the scene for the city. High steep sloping terrain and the Bakırçay Plain were integrated into the urban plan. The exceptional composition of monuments includes the extremely steep theatre, the lengthy stoa, a three-terraced Gymnasium, the Great Altar of Pergamon, the tumuli, pressured water pipelines, the city walls, and the Kybele Sanctuary which was perfectly aligned with Kale Hill. As the Attalid capital, Pergamon was the protector of cities in the Hellenistic Period. It had political and artistic power and built up a very intense relationship with its contemporary civilisations. The dynasty founded one of the largest libraries in Pergamon, and the rivalry between three Hellenistic dynasties caused the Attalid Dynasty to create the famous sculpture school.[Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website *=*]
“After the city was passed to the Romans in 133 BC, Pergamon became a metropolis and was the capital of the Roman Province of Asia during the Roman imperial period. The Romans maintained the already existing structures of the Hellenistic Period while adding new functions as a cultural and imperial cult centre of the empire. Consequently, during the Roman Period, many important structures were built or further developed, including the Asclepion Sanctuary, a well-known healing centre whose sacred spring still flows; the Roman Theatre; one of the largest Roman amphitheatres; a great aqueduct; the Trajan Temple and the Serapeum. During the Byzantine Period due to the relocation of the trade roads and political centres from the Aegean Region to northwest Anatolia, especially to İstanbul (Constantinople), Pergamon was transformed from a major Hellenistic and Roman centre into a middle-sized town, and continued its cultural-religious importance as home to one of the Seven Churches of Asia. Pergamon now preserves and presents this transformation. *=*
“After the arrival of the Ottomans, Pergamon experienced one more cultural adjustment, which is especially evident on the Bakırçay Plain. The Ottomans provided the city with all necessary urban structures, such as mosques, baths, bridges, khans, bedestens (covered bazaars), arastas (Ottoman markets) and water systems overlaying the Roman and Byzantine settlement layers. The superimposition of all these different periods and cultures through continuous habitation in Pergamon, finds its reflection in Pergamon’s urban form and architecture as continuities, formations, transformations and losses due to the material existence and use of space by different eras and cultures. The re-use of structures by later cultures is particularly demonstrated by the Church of St. John, formerly part of the Serapeum, a sanctuary dedicated by the Romans to an Egyptian deity. It subsequently became an Ottoman Mosque as well as incorporating a Jewish Synagogue. *=*
“From the 3rd century BC onwards, the city was encircled by a ring of grave mounds of various sizes, which demonstrated Pergamon’s claim to the plain of Bakırçay. In addition to grave mounds, there were sanctuaries, such as the Kybele Sanctuary at Kapıkaya, sited on prominent hills and mountain peaks in the area surrounding the city. Pergamon is a testimony to the unique and integrated aesthetic achievement of the civilizations. It incorporates Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman structures, reflecting Paganism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam; preserving their cultural features within the historical landscape. *=*
The Attalids, Rulers of Pergamon in Asia Minor (283–129 B.C.)
Philetairos (not king) (283–263 B.C.)
Eumenes I (not formally king) (263–241 B.C.)
Attalos I Soter (241–197 B.C.)
Eumenes II Soter (197–159/8 B.C.)
Attalos II (159/8–139/8 B.C.)
Attalos III (139/8–133 B.C.)
Aristonikos ("Eumenes III") (133–129 B.C.)
Importance of Pergamon
According to UNESCO: “The building of Pergamon into the slopes at the top of Kale Hill, exploiting the topography with manmade terraces and grand monuments dominating the surrounding plain, is a masterpiece of Hellenistic and Roman urban planning and design. The acropolis remained as Pergamon’s crown while the city developed on the lower slopes during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, extending its domination of the landscape. *=*[Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website *=*]
The urban planning, architectural and engineering works of Pergamon reflect a synthesis nourished from the cumulative background of Anatolia. The Kybele Sanctuary at Kapıkaya, with local Anatolian roots, represents the continual use, synthesis of cultures and interchange of human values through time. The Serapeum, a Roman temple dedicated to an Egyptian deity exhibits the interchange of human values, as did the relocation of the Kybele meteorite to Rome, facilitated by the Attalids. *=*
‘Pergamon and its Multi-layered Cultural Landscape’ bears unique and exceptional testimony to Hellenistic urban and landscape planning. The architectural monuments including the Asclepion, Serapis Temple and Sanctuary, Kybele Sanctuary at Kapıkaya and Tumuli are exceptional testimonies to their period, culture and civilization. *=*
“The acropolis of Pergamon, with its urban planning and architectural remains is an outstanding ensemble of the Hellenistic Period. The Serapis Temple and Sanctuary, Asclepion, water supply system and amphitheatre combine to illustrate the Roman period in Anatolia as a significant stage in history.‘Pergamon and its Multi-layered Cultural Landscape’ is an outstanding historic urban landscape illustrating significant stages of human existence in the geography to which it belongs. *=*
“Pergamon is associated with important people, schools, ideas and traditions concerning art, architecture, planning, religion and science. The Pergamon sculpture school contributed the ‘Pergamon style’. The Kybele Cult represents a continual tradition and belief in Anatolia. Due to the consequent settling of Romans in Anatolia, following transfer of the Kybele cult idol to Rome by Pergamon’s Attalid king and the subsequent inheritance by Rome of Pergamon due to Attalid bequest in 133 BC, Pergamon is directly associated with the creation of an eastern Roman empire. The continual religious use of the Temple of Serapis, which was first constructed as a temple during the Roman period, converted and used as a church during late Roman and Byzantine periods, while one of its rotunda was used as a synagogue, and which then continued to be used but as a mosque beginning from 13th century onwards, is an example of the continuity of use for religious purposes at a particular place. The physician, surgeon and philosopher Galen was trained in Pergamon and his works were disseminated from there. Last but not least, there is the tradition of production of Parchment specific to Pergamon. *=*
Pergamum was discovered in the late 19th century by German engineer Carl Humann. With the help 2,000 workmen, 1,000 oxen and 500 camels, he excavated the famous Altar of Zeus from inside a wall of a Byzantine building. In all he uncovered 97 marble slabs and 2000 fragments from the main frieze, 36 slabs and 100 fragments of a smaller frieze and numerous statues and architectural pieces---all as good a quality as the Elgin marbles.
These items were packed in 462 cases and shipped off to Berlin. At first the Ottoman government wanted two thirds of the finds but eventually they signed a contract to sell them for 20,000 marks. Today the entire altar sits reassembled inside a huge room in Berlin's Pergamum museum. When I was in Pergamum the Turks had pinned up banners all over town claiming they wanted the alter back the same the Greeks want the Elgin Marbles back. [Information for this section was taken from an article on Pergamum by Stanley Meisler, Smithsonian magazine, October 1991].
The Commagene kingdom was a border kingdom between the Roman Empire and Persia. It existed from 162 B.C., when it won independence from the Seleucids, to A.D. 72, when it became part of the Roman province of Syria. The Commagene have been described as a semi-Iranian people that practiced the Zoroastrian faith and worshiped gods with combined Eastern and Western names like Zeus-Orimasdes and Apollo-Mithras. The site was rediscovered in 1881. The discovery that one statue was of King Antiochus was made a Dutch woman who claims she lived in Commagene in a different life.
According to UNESCO: “Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.) reigned over Commagene, a kingdom founded north of Syria and the Euphrates after the breakup of Alexander's empire. His mausoleum —Nemrut Dag — is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. The syncretism of its pantheon, and the lineage of its kings, which can be traced back through two sets of legends, Greek and Persian, is evidence of the dual origin of this kingdom's culture. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website *=*]
Nemrut Dağ (500 miles southeast of Ankara) is another one of Turkey's impressive sites. It is so impressive in fact that several books about wonders of the world have featured it on their cover. Located on top of a 7000-foot-high mountain, Nemrut Dağ consists of a gigantic tumulus (burial mound) and two sets of funerary statues.
Nemrut Dağ is the world's largest artificial mound. Over 197 feet high and covering 7.5 acres, it was built by the a self-absorbed monarch named King Antiochus I (69-34 B.C.), of the obscure Commagene kingdom, to commemorate himself. It takes about 20 minutes just to walk around the massive pile of shale and fist-size stones, and, as you stroll along, your heart cries for all the poor slaves that dragged these stones to the top of the mountain.
Scientists have been searching inside the tumulus for the burial chamber of the king, which may hold incredible riches, for more than a century. A psychic, a German geophysicist and a Dutch archeologist think that they have located the chamber. They aren't revealing their secrets and are waiting for permission form Turkish authorities to excavate.
According to UNESCO: “Crowning one of the highest peaks of the Eastern Taurus mountain range in south-east Turkey, Nemrut Dağ is the Hierotheseion (temple-tomb and house of the gods) built by the late Hellenistic King Antiochos I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.) as a monument to himself. Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.). It is one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period. Its complex design and colossal scale combined to create a project unequalled in the ancient world. A highly developed technology was used to build the colossal statues and orthostats (stelae), the equal of which has not been found anywhere else for this period. The syncretism of its pantheon and the lineage of its kings, which can be traced back through two sets of legends, Greek and Persian, is evidence of the dual origin of this kingdom's culture. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website *=*]
“The tomb of Antiochos I of Commagene is a unique artistic achievement. The landscaping of the natural site of Nemrut Dağ is one of the most colossal undertakings of the Hellenistic period (some of the stone blocks used weigh up to nine tons). The tomb or the Hierotheseion of Nemrut Dağ bears unique testimony to the civilization of the kingdom of Commagene. Antiochos I is represented in this monument as a descendant of Darius by his father Mithridates, and a descendant of Alexander by his mother Laodice. This semi-legendary ancestry translates in genealogical terms the ambition of a dynasty that sought to remain independent of the powers of both the East and the West. More so than the tombs at Karakus and Eski Kahta, the tumulus at Nemrut Dağ illustrates, through the liberal syncretism of a very original pantheon, a significant, historical period. The assimilation of Zeus with Oromasdes (the Iranian god Ahuramazda), and Heracles with Artagnes (the Iranian god Verathragna) finds its artistic equivalent in an intimate mixture of Greek, Persian and Anatolian aesthetics in the statuary and the bas-reliefs.” *=*
Layout of Nemrut Dag
On the south side of the tumulus are a bunch of stone heads. Some of the heads are as tall as a full grown basketball players and all of them are in surprisingly good condition, except for a few chipped noses and cracked brows here and there. The one with handlebar mustache is the Commagene king, and he has placed himself among his "peers"---a lion, an eagle, Zeus, Hercales and Apollo and several Greek and Persian gods.
On the northern side of the tumulus is another set of impressive statues. The heads here as almost as large as those on the southern side except they have bodies to go along with them. Again the king has placed himself among gods and eagles, who, on this side, are all seated on thrones, and declared that they would be “unravaged by the outages of time." The only problem is the 30 foot high bodies were decapitated by an earthquake a few centuries ago and now the heads are positioned on the ground. The complex also incides a cave cistern, some releifs and ruins of columns.
According to UNESCO: “With a diameter of 145 meters, the 50 meters high funerary mound of stone chips is surrounded on three sides by terraces to the east, west and north directions. Two separate antique processional routes radiate from the east and west terraces. Five giant seated limestone statues, identified by their inscriptions as deities, face outwards from the tumulus on the upper level of the east and west terraces. These are flanked by a pair of guardian animal statues – a lion and eagle – at each end. The heads of the statues have fallen off to the lower level, which accommodates two rows of sandstone stelae, mounted on pedestals with an altar in front of each stele. One row carries relief sculptures of Antiochos’ paternal Persian ancestors, the other of his maternal Macedonian ancestors. Inscriptions on the backs of the stelae record the genealogical links. A square altar platform is located at the east side of the east terrace. On the west terrace there is an additional row of stelae representing the particular significance of Nemrut, the handshake scenes (dexiosis) showing Antiochos shaking hands with a deity and the stele with a lion horoscope, believed to be indicating the construction date of the cult area. The north terrace is long, narrow and rectangular in shape, and hosts a series of sandstone pedestals. The stelae lying near the pedestals on the north terrace have no reliefs or inscriptions. [Source: UNESCO]
Macedonian Wars and the Weakening of the Seleucid Empire
The Macedonian Wars (214–148 B.C.). The Macedonian Wars were a series of conflicts fought by the Roman Republic and its Greek allies in the eastern Mediterranean against several different major Greek kingdoms, with the main one being Macedonia. They resulted in Roman control or influence over the eastern Mediterranean basin, in addition to their hegemony in the western Mediterranean after the Punic Wars. Traditionally, the "Macedonian Wars" include the four wars with Macedonia, in addition to one war with the Seleucid Empire, and a final minor war with the Achaean League (which is often considered to be the final stage of the final Macedonian war): 1) First Macedonian War (214 to 205 B.C.); 2) Second Macedonian war (200 to 196 B.C.); 3) Seleucid War (192 to 188 B.C.); 4) Third Macedonian War (172 to 168 B.C.); 5) Fourth Macedonian War (150 to 148 B.C.). [Source: Wikipedia +]
The most significant war was fought with the Seleucid Empire, while the war with Macedonia was the second, and both of these wars effectively marked the end of these empires as major world powers, even though neither of them led immediately to overt Roman domination. Four separate wars were fought against the weaker power, Macedonia, due to its geographic proximity to Rome, though the last two of these wars were against haphazard insurrections rather than powerful armies. Roman influence gradually dissolved Macedonian independence and digested it into what was becoming a leading global empire. The outcome of the war with the now-deteriorating Seleucid Empire was ultimately fatal to it as well, though the growing influence of Parthia and Pontus prevented any additional conflicts between it and Rome. +
“From the close of the Macedonian Wars until the early Roman Empire, the eastern Mediterranean remained an ever shifting network of polities with varying levels of independence from, dependence on, or outright military control by, Rome. According to Polybius, who sought to trace how Rome came to dominate the Greek east in less than a century, Rome's wars with Greece were set in motion after several Greek city-states sought Roman protection against the Macedonian Kingdom and Seleucid Empire in the face of a destabilizing situation created by the weakening of Ptolemaic Egypt. +
Historians see the growing Roman influence over the east, as with the west, not as a matter of intentional empire-building, but constant crisis management narrowly focused on accomplishing short-term goals within a highly unstable, unpredictable, and inter-dependent network of alliances and dependencies. With some major exceptions of outright military rule (such as parts of mainland Greece), the eastern Mediterranean world remained an alliance of independent city-states and kingdoms (with varying degrees of independence, both de jure and de facto) until it transitioned into the Roman Empire. It wasn't until the time of the Roman Empire that the eastern Mediterranean, along with the entire Roman world, was organized into provinces under explicit Roman control. +
Romans Take On Antiochus III, Ruler of Syria and the Seleucid Empire.
There was now left in the world only one great power which could claim to be a rival of Rome. That power was Syria, under its ambitious ruler, Antiochus III, 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire. David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “A number of things led to the conflict between Rome and this great power in Asia. Rome and Flamininus did not deal so well with Antiochus on the diplomatic plane; he wanted the Romans to define the limits of his sphere of influence in Thrace, but they were unwilling or unable to do so. The senatorial treaty of 196 B.C. (ratifying the decision of Flamininus) had carried a not-so-subtle warning to Antiochus: all the Greeks states were to be free, without tribute or garrison, both in Europe and in Asia. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College ^*^]
“Flamininus was probably sincere in wanting to free the Greeks. Certainly the annalists made the most of the occasion of his proclamation (Livy 33.32 and 34.49). But trouble arose over the Roman settlement of the division of Thessaly, which had not been as favorable to the Aetolian League as it might have been, and in the Peloponnesus Flamininus had to stamp out the Spartan king Nabis, who had taken Argos. Still, when Flamininus said no garrison he meant Roman ones too, and in 194 he got his wish; over the protests of the Philhellenic (?) Scipio Africanus, who was in favor of making Greece a consular province, all the Roman forces were withdrawn. ^*^
“In 193-194 B.C. the Romans continued to negotiate with Antiochus to no avail. The Romans were prepared to let Antiochus keep Egypt and the rest of his empire if he got out of Thrace, but this proved unacceptable. In 193 B.C. the Aetolians, who had been dissatisfied with the settlement of 196, invited Antiochus to come in and liberate Greece. Antiochus was willing. He and the Aetolians looked for aid from Philip and from Hannibal, but both were still licking their wounds; in fact Philip had decided that for the moment his interests lay in remaining friends with Rome, and he provided assistance to Rome in the war against Antiochus (short of supplying troops). In Sparta old King Nabis was as ready as ever, though, and he managed to destroy a few towns before Flamininus put him down again in 192. The Aetolians subsequently managed to foment a plot in Sparta to kill Nabis, and also took the stronghold of Demetrias (another of the fetters of Greece).” ^*^
War with Antiochus of Syria (192-189 B.C.)
The direct cause of the War with Antiochus of Syria (192-189 B.C.) grew out of the intrigues of the Aetolians in Greece. This restless people stirred up a discord among the Greek cities, and finally called upon Antiochus to espouse their cause, and to aid them in driving the Romans out of the country. Antiochus accepted this invitation, crossed the Hellespont, and landed in Greece with an army of 10,000 men (192 B.C.). Rome now appeared as the protector of Europe against Asia. She was supported by her previous enemy, Philip of Macedonia; and she was also aided by the kingdom of Pergamum and the republic of Rhodes.[Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]
David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “In the fall of 192 B.C. Antiochus was at Demetrias. Probably the most he hoped for was to make a quick show of force in Greece, then to retire on equal terms. But Rome responded with a declaration of war. Antiochus got no support in Greece except from the Aetolians, who had their eyes on Thessaly. In 191 B.C. a Roman army under M. Acilius Glabrio met Antiochus at Thermopylae, and repeated the tactic Xerxes had used in the late summer of 480; the key to the Roman victory was the weakness of the Aetolian contingent guarding the path against an encircling move. Antiochus' army was annihilated in the pass. Antiochus hastily retreated to Asia Minor, whither he was pursued by the Romans. The next few years in Greece saw the troublesome Aetolian League neutralized, bound by a treaty to preserve the empire and maiestas of the Roman people (189 B.C.). This treaty (Polybius 21.32 = SB 69) may be contrasted with the one made between Rome and the Aetolians in 201, when Rome required Aetolian help against Philip. Its relatively harsh terms are said to have been counter to the desires of Flamininus and reflective of the policies of Acilius Glabrio. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College]
The career of Antiochus in Greece was short. After he was defeated by Marcus Porcius Cato in the famous pass of Thermopylae (191 B.C.), and was driven back across the sea into Asia Minor. A Roman fleet chased Antiochus into his home waters, bolstered by alliance with the Rhodians, whose navy was the envy of the Aegean. Why did the Romans take the war with Antiochus into the area of Asia Minor, which had never before been the scene of non-diplomatic Roman intervention? Surely one reason was to gratify Eumenes of Pergamum, who had succeeded to the throne of a very proud tradition (the Attalids) but whose lands and influence had been severely curtailed by the growth of Seleucid power. The Rhodians, whose fleet protected their brisk commerce in the eastern Mediterranean, also advocated putting Antiochus down. Less plausible is the motive adduced by Scullard, that Antiochus was seen as another Hannibal, and the pursuit to Asia Minor was simply the flip side of Scipio Africanus' strategy of taking the war to Hannibal in Africa. I knew Hannibal, Hannibal was a friend of mine, and believe me Antiochus was no Hannibal (á la Lloyd Bentsen); Antiochus posed no direct threat to Rome. Least effective as a motive here is the prospect of economic gain; the Romans were still hesitant about reaping the fruits of their intervention in Greece, and no one in 191 can have been thinking yet in terms of a province of Asia.
Romans Defeat Antiochus of Syria and the Seleucid Empire
David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “A series of naval battles saw the Romans temporarily in command of the seas. Meanwhile a Roman army was marching across Thrace. Its commander was officially L. Scipio, but at his side was his elder brother P. Scipio Africanus, calling the shots. Antiochus tried to negotiate, but the price demanded by the Romans, that he give up most of the Seleucid empire, was too high. The next year the Romans followed him, and fought their first battle upon the continent of Asia. The Roman army was nominally under the command of the new consul, L. Cornelius Scipio, but really under the command of his famous brother, Scipio Africanus, who accompanied him. The decisive battle was fought at Magnesia (190 B.C.), not far from Sardis in western Asia Minor. Forty thousand of the enemy were slain, with a comparatively small loss to the Romans. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College]
At the battle at Magnesia in 190 B.C., the Roman forces were outnumbered over 2 to 1, but despite heavy losses on their left flank to the Persian cavalry the Roman legions made short work of the Syrians in the center and the affair ended in Rome's favor. Had the settlement rested with the Scipios, Antiochus would have been left as a major power in the region and, incidentally, a stabilizing force. But the absence of the Scipios from Rome had exposed them to political attack, and their replacements in Asia Minor imposed such harsh terms upon Antiochus that a power vacuum was created in the Middle East.
After the great victory of Magnesia, Rome turned her arms against the Aetolians, who were so foolish as to continue the struggle. Their chief city, Ambracia, was taken; and they were soon forced to submit. Macedonia and all Greece, with the exception of the Achaean league, were now brought into subjection to the Roman authority. \~\
Reduction of the Seleucid Empire and Outcome of the War with Antiochus
Scipio imposed the terms of peace, which required Antiochus: 1) to give up all his possessions in Asia Minor—the most of which were added to the kingdom of Pergamum, with some territory to the republic of Rhodes; 2) to give up his fleet and not to interfere in European affairs; 3) to pay the sum of 15,000 talents (nearly $20,000,000) within twelve years; and 4) to surrender Hannibal, who had taken an active part in the war. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]
David Silverman of Reed College wrote: “The terms barred Antiochus from military activity west of the Taurus mountain range, effectively ejecting him from most of Turkey. Again, Gruen's method is to divine the original motive from the outcome; after Antiochus was defeated, the Romans parceled out his land between the Rhodians and Eumenes of Pergamum. Rhodes' tenure was destined to be short, however. In the years 169-167 a revolution at Rhodes brought an anti-Roman party to power, and even though the Rhodians tried to make amends after Roman supremacy was demonstrated yet again at Pydna, it was too late. [Source: David Silverman, Classics 373 ~ History 393 Class, Reed College ^*^]
“The Romans had demanded a huge indemnity from Antiochus (15,000 talents as against a mere 1000 from Philip in 196 B.C., 10,000 from Carthage in 202 B.C.). Bent on discrediting financial gain as a motive for Roman imperial conquests in this period, Gruen argues that such indemnities had two purposes: a) to reimburse Rome for the costs of the war, and b) to act as a punitive fine. Of course such sums could hardly be paid all at once, and installment schedules were devised. Perhaps it is a bit naive to insist that those who favored hunting Antiochus down so far from Italian soil had completely forgotten the lucrative legacy of the 2nd Punic War. But there is at least one seemingly telling point in Gruen's favor. In 191 B.C., the Carthaginians offered to pay off the balance of their ten thousand talent indemnity in a single lump sum (Livy 36.4); the Senate refused to allow this, which indicates that the symbolic importance of the annual monetary declaration of Carthaginian submission was paramount. Carthage is by any lights a special case, though, and humbling someone like Antiochus can not have been as crucial to Roman pride.
The Fate of Hannibal: To the Romans it seemed an act of treachery that Hannibal, who had been conquered in a fair field at Zama, should continue his hostility by fighting on the side of their enemies. But Hannibal never forgot the oath of eternal enmity to Rome, the oath which he had sworn at his father’s knee. When Antiochus agreed to surrender him, Hannibal fled to Crete, and afterward took refuge with the king of Bithynia. Here he continued his hostility to Rome by aiding this ruler in a war against Rome’s ally, the king of Pergamum. The Romans still pursued him, and sent Flamininus to demand his surrender. But Hannibal again fled, and, hunted from the face of the earth, this great soldier, who had been the most terrible foe that Rome had ever encountered, took his own life by drinking poison. It is said that the year of his death was the same year (183 B.C.) in which died his great and victorious antagonist, Scipio Africanus.” \~\
Silverman wrote: “In 146 B.C., Carthage and Corinth were both utterly destroyed. Macedonia and Africa were now provinces. In 133 Attalus III of Pergamum had died and tried to spare the Romans involvement in a war over his succession (there was no heir) by bequeathing his empire (in his will) to the Roman people. If so he failed, but a brief campaign in 131 and 130 was enough to settle the hash of Aristonicus, a pretender to his throne. The creation of a province of Asia followed in 130. Seleucid power was a thing of the past, and although two Ptolemies (VI and VII) were squabbling over Egypt and its vassals, the Romans simply left them to it. So the east was quiet. In the west, there was ongoing difficulty with the administration of Spain (Numantine War, 143-133), but no major threat prior to the war with Jugurtha (112-106). ^*^
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018