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Hellenistic Greece


During the Hellenistic period the importance of Greece proper within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria respectively. Cities such as Pergamon, Ephesus, Rhodes and Seleucia were also important, and increasing urbanization of the Eastern Mediterranean was characteristic of the time.

The quests of Alexander had a number of consequences for the Greek city-states. It greatly widened the horizons of the Greeks, making the endless conflicts between the cities which had marked the 5th and 4th centuries BC seem petty and unimportant. It led to a steady emigration, particularly of the young and ambitious, to the new Greek empires in the east. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch and the many other new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander's wake, as far away as what are now Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom survived until the end of the 1st century BC.

The defeat of the Greek cities by Philip and Alexander also taught the Greeks that their city-states could never again be powers in their own right, and that the hegemony of Macedon and its successor states could not be challenged unless the city states united, or at least federated. The Greeks valued their local independence too much to consider actual unification, but they made several attempts to form federations through which they could hope to reassert their independence.

Following Alexander's death a struggle for power broke out among his generals, which resulted in the break-up of his empire and the establishment of a number of new kingdoms. Macedon fell to Cassander, son of Alexander's leading general Antipater, who after several years of warfare made himself master of most of the rest of Greece. He founded a new Macedonian capital at Thessaloniki and was generally a constructive ruler.



  • Austin, Michel M, The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest: a selection of ancient sources in translation, Cambridge University Press, 1981.
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Wikipedia

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