The Succession Crisis
On Alexander the Great’s deathbed, he was asked to whom he bequethed his Kingdom. Alexander’s reply was garbled, he may have said ‘Craterus’, his most senior general. However Craterus was not around at the time, Alexander’s other generals interpreted his reply as ‘Krat’eroi’ (“to the strongest”).
Alexander’s generals, known as the Diadochi, squabbled amongst themselves over who was the rightful heir to the throne. Originally at least 9 of the Diadochi vied for control of different parts of the Empire in a series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Diadochi. Continue reading «The Diadochi and the Hellenistic Age»
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, it also sits right in the center of the Mediterranean Sea and serves as a connector for both Europe and Africa, and the Western and Eastern Mediterranean trade systems. It was not long before both the Phoenicians and Greeks began to colonize the island.
The Phoenicians colonized the Western portion of the island. Dorian Greeks, mainly from Megara, Corinth, Rhodes, and Crete, concentrated their settlements in the Southeastern portion of the island, whilst the Ionian Greeks settled in the Northeast.
The original inhabitants of the island were divided into three main tribal groups, the Elymians, the Sicani, and the Sicels. Through trade and cultural exchange, the native groups gradually took on more and more traits of the colonizing cultures, too such a degree that the ruins of native Sicilian settlements such as Segesta, with its pillared temple and theatre are virtually indistinguishable from Greek ruins.
A number of Ancient writers (Herodotus, Strabo, Pliny etc.) make reference to an ancient civilization at the western extreme of the Mediterranean known as Tartessos, Herodotus tells the legend of a Greek Sailor called Koliaos who blew off course and arrived in Tartessos to find a kingdom rich in silver and other metals. After being royally entertained for some months, his ship was loaded up with silver and he was sent home.
Whilst there is little firm evidence of any formal kingdom of Tartessos, we do know that Iberia was a major source of silver for the Iron Age Near East. For this reason, Phoenician traders and colonists arrived in droves to ship back silver to the Assyrian Empire. The Phoenicians began to arrive around 1,000-900 BC, their first major colony was Gades (modern Cadiz). Centuries later, the Greeks arrived and set up their main colony at Emporiae (modern Ampurias) in 575 BC. A similar process of cultural diffusion took place in Iberia as in Sicily, the local Iberians began to adopt Greek and Phoenician artistic styles, most evident of this are a set of famous sculptures from South East Spain such as the Dama de Elche.
Alexander the Great was the son of King Phillip II of Macedon, in Northern Greece. Legend has it that when Alexander was a child, a horse was brought to the Kingdom of Macedon called Bucephalus, it was said that no man could tame it. Alexander, then just 10 years old, bet his father that he could tame the horse. He spoke soothingly to the horse and turned it towards the sun so that it could no longer see the shadow of itself, which had been the cause of its distress. Plutarch says that the incident so impressed Philip that he told the boy, «My son, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you.»(source) Continue reading «Alexander the Great»
By 500 BC, Greek and Phoenician settlers had colonized the entire Mediterranean, from Iberia in the west, to the Black Sea in the East. Colonists came to the new shores for a number of reasons, to exploit new land and resources, to trade with local groups, and to escape political and military oppression at home.
Meanwhile in the East, the Achaemenid Empire of Persia was at its greatest extent. They had conquered the Phoenician homeland in modern day Lebanon, this lead to the emergence of the Phoenician colony of Carthage in North Africa as the leader of the new autonomous Phoenician world in the Western Mediterranean.
In the Italian Peninsula, the Etruscan civilization is at its height. The Etruscans controlled an large area of North-Central Italy. But a small town at the southern tip of Etruscan control has just rebelled and established a Republic, that town is Rome.
By 500 BC, the Achaemenid Empire of Persia was at its greatest extent, they controlled a vast empire stretching from Afghanistan in the East, to Egypt and Anatolia in the West. They had already conquered the Greek cities in Anatolia and were now at the borders of Greece itself. Starting in 502 BC, the Ionian cities of Anatolia began revolting against Persian rule. Two Ionian cities in mainland Greece, Athens and Eritrea, sent assistance to the rebelling Ionians in Anatolia, together this Ionian force sacked the Achaemenid regional capital at Sardis in 498 BC. The Mighty Persian Empire sent an expeditionary force to exact revenge upon the Ionians, led by Artaphernes (brother of the Persian King Darius I) and Dates, a Median general in the Persian Army. The force defeated the Ionians in Anatolia at the Battle of Ephesus (498 BC), and then sailed on to mainland Greece to punish Athens and Eretria for their support of the rebels. Continue reading «The Greco-Persian Wars (499 – 448 BC)»
Sparta is renown today for it’s militaristic society and land-based empire, which is often presented in contrast with other Greek city-states such as Athens, who grew rich from maritime trade. The Spartans produced little of value in the realms of the arts and philosophy, their legacy lies in their military might. Whilst other Greek city-states such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes rose to prominence and then faded, Sparta seems to have maintained it’s empire throughout the Ancient Greek period and even withstood the expansion of the great Macedonian generals of the Hellenistic Age.
Sparta was located in the center of Laconia in the southern portion of the Peloponnese. Sparta had existed during the Mycenaean Age, and is mentioned by Homer as an important participant in the Trojan Wars. During the Archaic Age of Greece, the Dorians migrated to the Peloponnese and came to dominate the region. By 800 BC, the Dorians were firmly established in Laconia and Sparta was clearly a Dorian city. (See map 1- 800 BC) Continue reading «The Rise of Sparta»