The Hellenistic Age: From Alexander to Antiochus III



what's happening here just as a preliminary remark is that the Greek world has now been spread to the rest of the ancient Near East we looked at Alexander the Great last week and as you know at the very height of his career he dies so he's only he in his early 30s and we have about a 15 year period in which his entire domain is up for grabs and all of these generals who had served together in his military now turn on each other and it's kind of a bloodbath for about 15 years but when the dust settles which most would say is about the year 308 you have essentially a fourfold division of his empire and so that 15 years is rather chaotic but what comes out the other end of the story is this you know relatively neat division of the ally of the Empire of Alexander into those four as it were slices of pie you know now what happened was that that means the rest of the world outside of Greece was ruled by Greek people all of these generals were Greek and they established in each of their holdings a kind of Greek elite and so it created a tension everywhere in the world between the indigenous culture and this new overlay that began to be viewed as the more sophisticated way to live the Greek way of life so everywhere you go whether in Egypt or Mesopotamia and certainly in Judah and Jerusalem and elsewhere that tension is part of the story it's called the Hellenistic world Helene is the word that means Greek and so it's the Greek world of the Greek izing of the world if you will in Israel the tension was between those who were sympathetic to a Greek way of life and wanted to embrace it increasingly and those who were more committed to the traditional Jewish religion Jewish culture Jewish law in modern terms we'd say it was the Liberals and the Conservatives you know the Conservatives wanted to conserve the great heritage of the Jewish tradition Jewish practice Jewish dietary regulations and so on the these liberals really wanted to as much as possible accommodate a more Greek outlook in the New Testament we hear of the Sadducees and the Pharisees the rise of those two groups really dates back to about the middle of this era where you this tension between the Liberals and the Conservatives becomes increasingly part of the life story of the people of Israel so a lot of good things are happening or at least a lot of interesting things are happening during this period and for that reason alone I think it's worth kind of looking at it now what I'm going to do the approach I'm taking is a little different than I've done in the past I'm just gonna give you each verse and then try to explain it and if I get confused which I might you just be patient and look at me politely and I'll probably you know kind of get it straight but it's it is a little detailed and you have to sort of keep your eye on the ball as we go along part of what makes this confusing is that we cover a fairly broad period of time and the text doesn't necessarily notify us when it skips ahead fifty years you know and so it can sound as if it's talking about the same person when in fact it's talking about a subsequent ruler the king of the north the king of the south is actually referring to the rulers and their successors the information we have about this era comes largely from three sources we have Josephus the great historian of the Jewish tradition we have the book of Maccabees and the apocryphal documents that are part of the Roman Catholic Bible but not part of our Protestant scriptures but are still very good history and then we also have Roman or a Greek historian named Polybius who writes a book entitled the rise of Rome and those three if we kind of triangulate they're three independent reports give us a fairly consistent account of what's happening and interestingly it's fairly consistent with what we find in Daniel chapter 11 so those are the background sources by which we hopefully can construe this so here we go the angel says to Daniel now I will announce announce the truth to you three more Kings shall arise in Persia the fourths will be far richer than all of them and when he has become strong through his riches he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece now we are familiar with this this is familiar terrain for us if you've been in the class the king of Persia at Daniel's time was Cyrus we've already been told that early in chapter 10 he ruled down to about the year 5:30 then the verse tells us three more Kings will arise and of course you who've been in the class know that there were three more kings after Cyrus the first of these is cam by C's the not-so-great son of Cyrus the Great he was the one who really impeded the ongoing building of the temple there in Jerusalem he's followed by my favorite pseudo shmurda s' otherwise known as gal mater but he held himself out as the deceased indeed assassinated brother of cam Pisces and so he rules only for a matter of months he's followed by Darius the Great who we looked at in some detail two or three weeks ago he is the one who really authorized the completion of the tavern our the building of the temple there in Jerusalem which was completed in 516 seventy years after it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar then Daniel is told a strong and rich King will arise who will stir up everyone against Greece and that seems pretty clearly to be referring to the next king who was Xerxes and Xerxes we looked at fairly recently he's the one who was at least apparently the husband of Esther in the Old Testament he's also the one who fought the second Persian war and that is by far the greatest conflict to date the Greeks that had to deal with and thus the verse is fairly accurate and describing what took place then then we hear a warrior King shall arise who shall rule with great Dominion and take action as he pleases well the verse says then but please note it's a hundred years later alright so this is one of our first little skips we go from the career of Xerxes down to the career of Alexander and so this is virtually unanimously understood as a reference to Alexander who of course exports the great achievements of Greek culture and philosophy to the world and he does that between 336 and 323 and last week you who are here know we spent really most our time examining the career of Alexander the Great Alexander's domains look like this it was the largest empire that had been created to date it extended way over in the East all the way through much of India nearly to China in the West it went of course through the Greek Peninsula it controlled all of Egypt and all points in between so it was an expansive domain that Alexander was able to take care of that's the little shot of him that we looked at last week that mosaic from Pompeii all right verse 4 while he is still rising in power his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven but not to his posterity nor according to the Dominion with which he ruled for his kingdom shall be uprooted and go to others besides these very descriptive of course of what actually happened in the case of Alexander on his death we have a four-fold division of the domains of Alexander the first of these that will mention is one of the people that served in his court really back in Greece a man by the name of Cassander so he rules in Macedon and all of the Greek Peninsula the next one in the middle there is a guy by the name of Antigonus he was a commander under Alexander he took and a tolya or what we might call Turkey and Asia Minor off more or less to the east was a character named Seleucus and Seleucus controls Mesopotamia and points east into India and then finally down in Egypt we have the fourth and probably the most prominent of the commanders that served under Alexander whose name is Ptolemy now if you look at that you'll see that it actually does kind of look like the four points of a compass doesn't it Antigonus to the north Ptolemy to the south Cassander to the west Seleucus to the east in the ancient nomenclature to say it was divided among the four winds of heaven is pretty descriptive of what actually happened Alexander's Holdings didn't go to his own son he did have a son that son died soon thereafter and didn't survive to inherit anything and so it was really the military characters who became the heirs of Alexander's holdings verse five then the King of the South shall grow strong but one of his officers shall grow stronger than he and shall rule a realm greater than his own realm all right the King of the South is Ptolemy Ptolemy is the main commander really that's served under Alexander he rules in Egypt from 322 to 285 he claimed and held himself out to the Egyptian people as their true pharaoh and they were willing to accept him as their true Pharaoh because they had already accepted Alexander now you may remember Alexander came in and he said he took Egypt without a shot being fired in fact the Egyptians were very happy to have Alexander come because they hated the Persians and Alex anyone that got them out from under the Persians had to be good and so Alexander was freely accepted more than that he went around he worshipped the Egyptian gods and held himself out as a true and faithful Egyptian even though he was really a Greek and by this time the Egyptians were willing to accept that now the Egyptians had an elaborate view of how the successor Pharaoh took that honor to himself and one of the most important features of it was to bury the body of the preceding Pharaoh and Ptolemy astutely figured out that if he could somehow come by the body of Alexander and bury it in Egypt publicly that would basically say to the Egyptian people I am your next Pharaoh and that's exactly what he did and so he buries the body of Alexander in the city of Alexandria and the Egyptian people said that's good enough for us and so at that point Ptolemy basically legitimizes his claim to be the next Pharaoh and from this point on there are thirteen Ptolemies that's easy to keep track of them you know the last one is the sister of Ptolemy the thirteenth who is a woman by the name of Cleopatra and we'll have Cleopatra at least the predecessor to her showing up in our story today so anyway the the Ptolemies are easy because we've just got 'told of ease with numbers after their name and that's the way we'll refer to them now Seleucus was a lieutenant who had served under Ptolemy in Alexander's army and so the verse says one of his officers shall grow strong in other words Seleucus would grow strong he had been an officer under Ptolemy excuse me so what happened here Ptolemy good-looking guy served as a lieutenant under Seleucus rather serve as a lieutenant under Ptolemy he was appointed by Ptolemy as the dust was settling here to be say trap of Mesopotamia which at least at the time would have suggested he still was somewhat beholden to Ptolemy but in 315 now remember Alexander died in 323 so just a few years later Antigonus attacks Seleucus this is the time of turmoil this is before you've had everything kind of shaken out you know so antagonist wants to expand his holdings and he attacks Seleucus well Ptolemy down in Egypt wants to help this guy that had served under him and so he himself comes to the rescue of Seleucus it's a complicated story but the long and short of it is that Antigonus is pushed back and indeed Seleucus is reinstated and indeed even reinforced in his claim to this region so he actually wound up by the year 309 controlling more territory than he had in the first place and so you've got a kind of shift of the picture here in which Seleucus now becomes the dominant character holding more territory than anybody else so if you look at this map it becomes a little bit disproportionate by this time Seleucus is this big yellow section Ptolemy is down there the blue section Egypt Antigonus has been squeezed quite a bit so he has the orange section and then Cassander has the green section so you see Seleucus has sort of expanded his holdings at the expense of the others and that really does comport rather well with that verse verse 6 after some years they shall make an alliance now these are successors to these guys so we're skipping ahead again and the daughter of the King of the South shall come to the king of the north to ratify the agreement but she shall not retain her power and his offspring shall not endure she shall be given up she and her attendants and her child and the one who supported her I'll just hang on to that verse but let's see what actually happens here told me the first dies and gives to his son told me the second Philadelphus of a lover of a brother literally control of Egypt so he takes rule in Egypt and 485 that's told me the second he was coronated as his father had been in the full Egyptian style and unlike the Greek custom he actually marries his full sister this was done in Egypt not anywhere else her name was arson away so if you look at the coinage of the realm at the tie you'll find that there's two faces on it the face in the foreground is told me the second the face in the background is arsenault a and so they rule together in Egypt now from 285 to 246 the successor to Seleucus is Antiochus the first Souter literally savior they like to give themselves rather grandiose titles you know so Antiochus the first launches shortly after he becomes ruler about ten years later what's called the first Syrian war there's six Syrian Wars this is the first Antiochus attacked but he actually lost territory to Antiochus in other words it was a losing proposition and told him he extended his control up into southern Syria into a region that actually includes Jerusalem so at this point Jerusalem now comes under the control of the Egyptians and for another hundred years or so Jerusalem is dominated by Egyptian occupation and so that's really the most important thing that happens all right the successor to and Tyga's the first Antiochus the second phallus literally God takes up in 261 and he launches the second Syrian war this is in 260 just hang on I know this is tedious you're doing great if you just kind of keep your eyes open I'm happy you know choir blessings on UI they're going out the door think thank goodness I'm in choir Oh so alright so this is the second Syrian war this war goes on for about ten years and ends in 248 with a marriage treaty now this is what the verse is describing so it's what I say is that we skipped ahead about fifty years here and the marriage treaty is that the daughter of Ptolemy whose name is Berenice is given to Antiochus ii as his wife and so this is supposed to make everybody happy and the only person who didn't like the arrangement very much was the former wife of Antiochus who gets bumped out of the picture by this newcomer from Egypt Berenice now she was not one to be meddled with her name was Leo Dees she by the way is the woman for whom the city of Laodicea was named and so when you read in the New Testament the book of Revelation I think also in Ephesians you'll have mention of the city of Laodicea she was named or the city was named in honor of Leo dese well she was a force to be reckoned with and so even though she had been jilted now replaced by this newcomer from Egypt she does some palace maneuvering in the long and short of it is that she winds up poisoning her former husband Antiochus and berenice and the son that had been born to them so the deal is off even though we had this nice marriage treaty obviously with the intervention here of Leo Dees that breaks down and that's why the verse says she shall not referring to buried Berenice she shall not retain her power and his offspring shall not endure that is the offspring of Antiochus by Berenice shall not endure she shall be given up she and her attendants her child and the ones supported her all of her attendants and all of those who were associated with her are equally liquidated in this palace coup all right so that's what's happening in the verse is quite accurate in what it describes but from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place who shall come with an army enter the fortress of the king of the north and deal with them and prevail now a branch of her roots is just a way of referring to her brother so the successor in Egypt has now told me the third you a Gertie's means a doer of good works so Ptolemy the third the brother of Berenice has now taken the throne at the same time we have the the rule of Seleucus the second and so he takes control in easily we have a regime change on both hands but this told me the third is indeed the brother of Berenice he declares the third Syrian war to avenge the death of his sister Berenice so he launches this attack and we have a description of what happened in verse 8 he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt with their princes which can also mean they're molded images their precious articles of silver and gold and shall continue more years than the king of the north so he's relatively successful he attacks that is the Egyptian told him he attacks he carries home a great deal of wealth and so on and the attack is fairly successful at the expense of Antiochus a Seleucus actually then the latter shall invade the realm of the King of the South but return to his own land the last little detail here is that Seleucus attempts to retaliate fails and so that's the end of that Syrian war alright verse 10 his sons shall wage war that is the sons now of Seleucus his son shall wage war and assemble a multitude of great forces which shall advance like a flood and pass through and again shall carry the war as Mars's fortress now notice it says his sons this is referring to a brother and then a his two sons two brothers the first of these is Seleucus the third he only rules for four years he's assassinated he doesn't get much traction and then we have another regime change I know this is impossible hang on this brings us to ptolemy the fourth and Antiochus the third so again we've skipped ahead two or three generations and now this verse is actually describing the Groote the connection between these two guys so ptolemy the fourth and Tychus the third what happens is in 219 Antiochus the third many times called Antiochus the great launched the 4th Syrian war they fight for two or three years to a kind of a stalemate outcome moved with rage the King of the South shall go out and do battle against the king of the north so Antiochus the third attacks told me the fourth responds with a huge reaction he'll muster a great multitude which shall however be defeated by his enemy so what happens is you have a fairly major conflict but Antiochus loses a major battle at raffia in 217 and finally in 211 they're able to achieve peace and so this is a may the fourth Syrian war it goes on for the better for about a decade really Rafi is right they are kind of in that region of the Sinai when the multitude has been carried off this is referring to khatola me his heart shall be exalted he shall overthrow tens of thousands but shall not prevail most who interpret this from a biblical point of view say that what's referred to here is the ptolemy is persecuting the jewish people now this is important up until this time Egyptian control in Jerusalem has been fairly benign but now this told me the 4th puffed-up with pride over his defeat of Antiochus is now kind of strutting his stuff showing his great power and he does it at the expense of the people who are living in Jerusalem and so basically this is a time of hardship for the folks in Jerusalem and it begins to breed in them a resentment of the Egyptians alright so verse 13 for the king of the north shall again Ray raise a multitude larger than the former and after some years he shall advance with a great army and abundant supplies and Tyga's the third licking his wounds goes off to the east regroups re gathers power and so on that takes place for about five years in those times many shall rise against the king of the south referring to people in Jerusalem the lawless among your own people shall lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision but they shall fail best guess is this is descriptive of a series of revolts in Jerusalem against the Egyptians misguided attempts to realize the vision of a coming Messiah and so there was under this more or less oppressive dominion of the Egyptians a desire to throw off their rule and the Messianic expectation was already at this point beginning to be a rallying cry and so it seems that there were a series of revolts here and the book of Maccabees does give some evidence that that was the case so that seems to be what's being suggested there Ptolemy resisted that revolt and dealt rather severely with it and so these Jewish rebellions were unsuccessful then the king of the north shall come and throw up siege works and take a well fortified city and the forces of the South shall not stand not even as pick troops for there shall be no strength to resist so now we're moving forward and this is Ptolemy v who becomes king in Egypt at about eight years old antiochus has been working to build up his armaments and now seizes the opportunity of a weak ruler in Egypt as an opportunity to attack so that's what the verse is describing and this is the fifth Syrian war he takes a well fortified city that's called Pawnee as' it later was called Caesarea Philippi and so it's again a city we hear of in the New Testament it's taken by Antiochus he also takes Judah so this is the moment around the Year 200 the Jerusalem shifts from being under Egyptian control to being under Syrian control under the control of Antiochus this was the point where you begin to see the split in sentiment in Jerusalem because some people saw Antiochus as a savior and some in Jerusalem one so sure and so the beginning of this split between liberal and conservative really dates back probably to about this time but he who comes against him referring to an Tyga's shall take actions as he pleases no one will withstand him he shall take a position in the beautiful land referring to Judah and all of it shall be in his power so at this point he takes all of this region pushes into Egypt and indeed he controls Jerusalem and was generally at this point welcomed as a savior because there was widespread hostility toward the Egyptians all right he so set his mind to come with the strength of his whole kingdom and he shall bring terms of peace and perform them in order to destroy the kingdom he shall give him a woman in marriage now this is Antiochus is going to give a woman in marriage to Ptolemy who is now a teenager but it shall not succeed or come to his advantage what happened is that there's a peace treaty finally between these two and 197 and it's based once again on a marriage in which Antiochus gives his daughter who's in to happen happens to be Cleopatra to Ptolemy this is the first of seven Cleopatra's alright Cleopatra no we're not covering them today so just relax we're almost done in fact you know relief this is the the seventh of these Cleopatra's though is also known as Elizabeth Taylor you know so we have Cleopatra number one we're gonna have six more and then Cleopatra number seven is the last pharaoh actually of Egypt so this is where the Cleopatra is enter the picture and they enter because it's the daughter of Antiochus who has now given his daughter a teenage woman to a teenage guy the king of Egypt and his hope and this is what the verse implies is to destroy Egypt meaning he wants his daughter who's very bright to sort of steer this young impressionable Ptolemy into the fold of her father Antiochus and essentially make Egypt a part of his hegemony you see to kind of bring it under his significant influence well as it turns out this Cleopatra was was had a mind of her own you know the rosetta stone it was found by Napoleon's army about 1800 ad and it's a record of a wedding celebration and the celebration is indeed the celebration of the wedding between Cleopatra and Ptolemy v this is where this particular document was inscribed it's famous because it describes that wedding and that celebration in three separate languages Greek which everybody could read demotic which was a sort of phonetic form of the Egyptian language and then hieroglyphic and so scholars who you know studied this for some years were able to finally break the code of Egyptian hieroglyphics by using the rosetta stone we're interested in it because it is in fact describing this very marriage that took place on that occasion between these two well as it turns out Cleopatra the daughter of Antiochus persuades her husband told me not to ally with her father but she knows that the smart money is betting on Rome and so even at this point she encourages her impressionable younger teenage husband to ally himself with Rome that of course makes Antiochus furious but he's not prepared to attack the country ruled by his own daughter and so instead this follows afterward he shall turn to the coastlands and shall capture many but a commander shall put it into his insolence indeed he shall turn his insolence back upon him what Antiochus does instead is Jiri asserts his control into Asia Minor from there he actually crosses over into Europe he's trying to push the Romans out he wants to show his daughter that the Romans aren't as tough as they think and as she thinks in fact they are as tough as she thought and so he is in fact bested by them in a series of battles he's trying to push them out but finally he's defeated and indeed humiliated by the Romans and all of that takes place in about the Year 188 so the final discussion of Antiochus is he shall turn back toward the fortresses of his own land he shall stumble and fall and not be found and that's going to bring the successor then to the throne of just finishing up Antiochus the this is called the piece of op Amaya it enforced onerous terms against him he went out trying to get money to pay off the debt he owed to the Romans for picking a fight with them he was eventually murdered that was in 187 and that sets up the discussion we want to have next week because about 20 years later is the Maccabee and revolt and in much in some ways what we've described this morning is intended to help us understand the Maccabee and volt congratulations you're here you've made it through

12 comments

  1. First half of this lecture is focused on telling the story of the old testament.

    X Persian king is “good” or “bad” based exclusively on how they forwarded the second temple.

    Another example of “the entire world” being as few people as necessary

  2. This guy looked at the post battle of ipsus map and said that said it happened after Triparadisus, he then mistook Lysimachus's territories for Antigonus, who was dead at that point, I can't really trust anything this guy says after those mistakes.

    The comment by the user Oxwagon below says it way better then I did.

  3. I am a Greek in Canada
    I have the Philosopher's Big Forehead
    Like Aristotle …+ all those other big heads
    I went bald …so I grew a big fuckin beard

    I look ancient
    I think a lot …while smoking cigarretes

    HA !

  4. He makes a few mistakes in his overview of things after Alexander's death. Mostly not major stuff that I would bother to comment on, but one I have to point out is that he overlooks the existence of Lysimachus (the fifth successor king), whom he mistakenly conflates with Antigonus. The orange territory at 14:22 was that of Lysimachus after Antigonus was defeated and killed, not what was left of Antigonus' territory. There's a couple of other points that summon my UMM AKSHUALLY reflex, but since it's a Biblical history course I don't expect too much focus on/familiarity with diadochi minutiae. It's a good lecture in the context of his course (the historical context of the Bible).

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