The death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC marks the beginning of the Hellenistic Period and covers 300 years to the invasion of Egypt by the Romans. The word Hellenic refers only to the Greeks, but the term Hellenistic refers to `the Greek-influenced societies that arose in the wake of Alexander's conquest' (Sacks, 105). The Hellenistic world extended from Greece all the way to Afghanistan and resulted in the beginning of the mass spreading of Greek culture. Its central characteristics were the mass empires created by Alexander and his successors, the mingling of Greek and other cultures and the diffusion of religions
The conquests of Alexander the Great
Alexander won a reputation for military genius when he became king of Macedon after the murder of his father. He undertook the long term dream of his father to punish the Persians for their invasion of Greece, almost 150 years earlier. Little by little he took over the Persian Empire, first Turkey then Israel then Egypt then all the way east to Afghanistan and India "The most lasting thing he did was to found cities, some 70 of them, which were outpost of Greek culture all over the known world" (Thomas, 2003). In 323 BC he died at Babylon at the age of only thirty-two. "Alexander left behind not only conquests but also monarchy" (Boardman, 1986). He provided a model for the series of Hellenistic kings that followed.
The kingdom after Alexander
The question of succession presented a difficult problem. "Philip 111 Arrhidaeus, the bastard son of Philip 11 and therefore half brother to Alexander was mentally retarded" (Milton, 1986) and his own son Alexander 1V was only a baby. In the absence of a suitable successor his generals fought each other and the winners split Alexander's territory into three empires which lasted until the Roman Conquest.
The Antigonid dynasty was founded by Antigonos 1. Antigonus ruled over Asia minor, Macedonia and Thrace and in 306 BC he declared himself king of the Macedonians "The Seleucids moved to control and reform the pre-existing Persian bureaucracy, installing Greek officials and switching from clay tablets to parchment and from cuneiform to Greek or Aramaic" (Stewart, 2004).. Antigonos' attempts to take control of the whole of Alexander's empire led to his death. His son, Demetrius managed to regain control of Macedon a few yeas later but lost his throne and died in prison.
Ptolemy 1 Soter proclaimed himself king of the Ptolemy kingdom of Egypt in 305 BC. He was a man of great culture and learning and under his leadership his capital Alexandria became and "important cultural center and its museum was the first known and its library was the largest in the ancient world" (Arcadia, 2004). He was also the author of a lost history of Alexander's campaign. The dynastic history is confusing because all the male rulers took the name Ptolemy and many married their sisters who were often called Cleopatra.