Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day


  Illustrated History of the World

The Ancient World - ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.

The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The Rise and Fall of a World Power:

From Macedonia to the Diadochoi



The Seleucids and the Ptolemies

The two most important and longest lasting of the Diadochoi kingdoms were those of the Seleucids in Syria and the Ptolemies in Egypt. These kingdoms were ended by Roman conquest.


6 Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid dynasty, received the province of Babylonia after Alexander's death.

6 Seleucus I Nicator

Starting in 312 B.C., he extended his rule through Syria and Mesopotamia and eastward into India. In 305 Seleucus took the title of king and solidified his domain through numerous alliances and military expeditions. He brought Greek and Macedonian settlers into his realm and founded many cities. His son Antigonus I Soter (king from 280 B.C.) introduced the Seleucid ruler cult, settled Celts in Galatia, and founded Antioch.

The most prominent of his descendents was 9 Antiochus III the Great (king from 223 B.C.), who subjugated the Armenian, Bactrian, and Parthian kingdoms and, between 202 and 194, occupied Phoenicia, the western and southern coasts of Anatolia, and Thrace.

9 Antiochus III the Great


Antiochus III

Antiochus III, byname Antiochus The Great, Greek Antiochus Megas (born 242 bc—died 187, near Susa, Iran), Seleucid king of the Hellenistic Syrian Empire from 223 bc to 187, who rebuilt the empire in the East but failed in his attempt to challenge Roman ascendancy in Europe and Asia Minor. He reformed the empire administratively by reducing the provinces in size, established a ruler cult (with himself and his consort Laodice as divine), and improved relations with neighbouring countries by giving his daughters in marriage to their princes.

The son of Seleucus II, Antiochus succeeded his brother Seleucus III as king. He retained from the previous administration Hermias as chief minister, Achaeus as governor of Asia Minor, and Molon and his brother Alexander as governors of the eastern provinces, Media and Persis. In the following year, when Molon rebelled and assumed the title of king, Antiochus abandoned a campaign against Egypt for the conquest of southern Syria, on the advice of Hermias, and marched against Molon, defeating him in 220 bc on the far bank of the Tigris and also conquering Atropatene, the northwestern part of Media. Shortly thereafter he had Hermias killed and was thus rid of most of the influences from the previous administration. In the same year, Achaeus set himself up as king in Asia Minor, but a mutiny in his army kept him from attacking Antiochus.

Antiochus was now free to conduct what has been called the Fourth Syrian War (219–216), during which he gained control of the important eastern Mediterranean sea ports of Seleucia-in-Pieria, Tyre, and Ptolemais. In 218 he held Coele Syria (Lebanon), Palestine, and Phoenicia. In 217 he engaged an army (numbering 75,000) of Ptolemy IV Philopator, a pharaoh of the Hellenistic dynasty ruling Egypt, at Raphia, the southernmost city in Syria. His own troops numbered 68,000. Though he succeeded in routing the left wing of the Egyptian army, his phalanx (heavily armed infantry in close ranks) in the centre was defeated by a newly formed Egyptian phalanx. In the subsequent peace settlement, Antiochus gave up all his conquests except the city of Seleucia-in-Pieria.

After the Syrian war, he proceeded against the rebel Achaeus. In alliance with Attalus I of Pergamum, Antiochus captured Achaeus in 213 in his capital, Sardis, and had him executed in a barbaric manner. After the pacification of Asia Minor he entered upon his later to be famous eastward campaign (212–205), pressing forward as far as India. In 212 he gave his sister Antiochis in marriage to King Xerxes of Armenia, who acknowledged his suzerainty and paid him tribute. He occupied Hecatompylos (southeast of the Caspian Sea), the capital of the Parthian king Arsaces III, and forced him to enter into an alliance in 209 and the following year defeated Euthydemus of Bactria, though he allowed him to continue to rule and retain his royal title. In 206 he marched across the Hindu Kush into the Kābul Valley and renewed a friendship with the Indian king Sophagasenos.

Returning westward via the Iranian provinces of Arachosia, Drangiana, and Carmania, he arrived in Persis in 205 and received tribute of 500 talents of silver from the citizens of Gerrha, a mercantile state on the east coast of the Persian Gulf. Having established a magnificent system of vassal states in the East, Antiochus now adopted the ancient Achaemenid title of “great king,” and the Greeks, comparing him to Alexander the Great, surnamed him also “the Great.”

After the death of Ptolemy IV, Antiochus concluded a secret treaty with Philip V, ruler of the Hellenistic kingdom of Macedonia, in which the two plotted the division of the Ptolemaic empire outside Egypt. Antiochus’ share was to be southern Syria, Lycia, Cilicia, and Cyprus; Philip was to have western Asia Minor and the Cyclades. Antiochus invaded Coele Syria, defeated the Ptolemaic general Scopas at Panion near the source of the Jordan River in the year 200, gained control of Palestine, and granted special rights to the Jewish temple state. But Philip, marching along the Dardanelles, became involved in a war with Rhodes and Pergamum, both of whom appealed to Rome for help against Macedonia, informing Rome of the alliance between the two Hellenistic kings. Rome intervened decisively in the system of Hellenistic states. Philip was defeated by the Romans in the Second Macedonian War (200–196), and Antiochus refused to help him. Instead, taking advantage of the Romans’ involvement with Philip, Antiochus marched against Egypt. Though the Romans had sent ambassadors to Ptolemy V, they could not lend him any serious assistance. When peace was concluded in 195, Antiochus came permanently into possession of southern Syria—which had been fought over for 100 years by the Ptolemies and Seleucids—and of the Egyptian territories in Asia Minor. He also gave his daughter Cleopatra in marriage to Ptolemy V. Egypt practically became a Seleucid protectorate.

In his insatiable expansionist drive, Antiochus occupied parts of the kingdom of Pergamum in 198 and in 197 Greek cities in Asia Minor. In 196 bc he crossed the Hellespont into Thrace, where he claimed sovereignty over territory that had been won by Seleucus I in the year 281 bc. A war of harassment and diplomacy with Rome ensued. A number of times the Romans sent ambassadors demanding that Antiochus stay out of Europe and set free all the autonomous communities in Asia Minor. To meet these demands would have meant the actual dissolution of the western part of the Seleucid Empire, and Antiochus thus refused. Tensions with Rome increased further when the great Carthaginian general Hannibal, who had fled from Carthage in the aftermath of defeat by the Romans in the Second Punic War, found refuge with Antiochus in 195 bc and became his adviser.

Antiochus offered an alliance to Philip of Macedonia, whom he had previously forsaken, but was rebuffed. Philip, Rhodes, Pergamum, and the Achaean League joined Rome. Only the Aetolians, discontent with Rome’s growing influence in Greece, called upon Antiochus to be their liberator and appointed him commander in chief of their league. Relying on them Antiochus landed in Demetrias in the autumn of 192 with only 10,500 men and occupied Euboea. But he found little support in central Greece. In 191 the Romans, numbering more than 20,000, cut him off from his reinforcements in Thrace and outflanked his position at the pass of Thermopylae (in Greece). With the remainder of his troops Antiochus fled to Chalcis on Euboea and from there by sea to Ephesus; his fleet was wiped out by the combined naval forces of Rome, Rhodes, and Pergamum. Meeting no resistance, the Roman army crossed the Hellespont in 190. Antiochus was now eager to negotiate on the basis of Rome’s previous demands, but the Romans insisted that he first evacuate the region west of the Taurus Mountains. When Antiochus refused, he was decisively defeated in the Battle of Magnesia near Mt. Sipylus, where he fought with a heterogeneous army of 70,000 men against an army of 30,000 Romans and their allies. Although he could have continued the war in the eastern provinces, he renounced all claim to his conquests in Europe and in Asia Minor west of the Taurus at the peace treaty of Apamea. He also was obliged to pay an indemnity of 15,000 talents over a period of 12 years, surrender his elephants and his fleet, and furnish hostages, including his son Antiochus IV. His kingdom was now reduced to Syria, Mesopotamia, and western Iran. In 187 Antiochus was murdered in a Baal temple near Susa, where he was exacting tribute in order to obtain much needed revenue.

Hans Volkmann

Encyclopædia Britannica

War with Rome in 192-189 resulted when he crossed over to Europe and forced the Greek cities of Asia Minor under his rule. In 189-188 B.C. Antiochus had to withdraw from Asia Minor down to Taurus.

His successors dissipated their powers in fratricidal wars until the Roman general Pompey dethroned the last Seleucid ruler in 64 B.C. and made a Roman province of what was left of the empire.

As a friend of Alexander, 7 Ptolemy I Soter, founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty, wrote Alexander's biography and started the state cult around him.

7 Ptolemy I Soter

He won Egypt in 323 B.C. and took the  title of king in 305. In alliance with Seleucus I, he attacked Macedonia several times. Ptolemy solidified his rule in Egypt, generally adopting Egyptian religious concepts and the image of sovereign.

He founded the Mouseion, the 8 Serapeion, and the great 12 library of Alexandria.

His son Ptolemy II installed the Egyptian national cult around his own dynasty and constructed the 10 Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.


8 Sphinx on the Serapeion in Alexandria

12 The destruction of the Royal Library
of Alexandria by a fire in 47 B.C.



10 The Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria,
one of the Seven Wonders of antiquity

11 Ptolemy III Euergetes (king from 246 B.C.) advanced to the Euphrates and Asia Minor and defended the empire against the expansionist ambitions of the Seleucids. After him, insignificant and often shortlived kings reigned until Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (king 80-51 B.C.). who completely relied on the power of Rome. The story of his daughter Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, belongs to the Roman era under Julius Caesar.


11 Ptolemy III Euergetes



Ptolemy II Philadelphia

Ptolemy II (308-246 B.C., king from 285 B.C.) married his sister Arsinoe II (ca. 316-271 B.C.) according to old Egyptian custom.
He extended the kingdom from Egypt into Nubia and the Arabian Peninsula and gained maritime strength in the Mediterranean.
The couple, deified as the "Theoi Adelphoi," were generous patrons of the arts and sciences and made Alexandria a cultural center of the world.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his wife Arsinoe II



Ptolemy I Soter

Ptolemy I Soter, (born 367/366 bc, Macedonia—died 283/282, Egypt), Macedonian general of Alexander the Great, who became ruler of Egypt (323–285 bc) and founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which reigned longer than any other dynasty established on the soil of the Alexandrian empire and only succumbed to the Romans in 30 bc.

Early life and career
Ptolemy was the son of the nobleman Lagus, a native of the Macedonian district of Eordaea whose family was undistinguished until Ptolemy’s time, and of Arsinoe, who was related to the Macedonian Argead dynasty. He was probably educated as a page at the royal court of Macedonia, where he became closely associated with Alexander. He was exiled in 337, along with other companions of the crown prince. When he returned, after Alexander’s accession to the throne in 336, he joined the King’s bodyguard, took part in Alexander’s European campaigns of 336–335, and in the fall of 330 was appointed personal bodyguard (sōmatophylax) to Alexander; in this capacity he captured the assassin of Darius III, the Persian emperor, in 329. He was closely associated with Alexander during the advance through the Persian highland. As a result of Ptolemy’s successful military performance on the way from Bactria (in northeastern Afghanistan) to the Indus River (327–325), he became commander (triērarchos) of the Macedonian fleet on the Hydaspes (modern Jhelum in India). Alexander decorated him several times for his deeds and married him to the Persian Artacama at the mass wedding at Susa, the Persian capital, which was the crowning event of Alexander’s policy of merging the Macedonian and Iranian populations.

Satrap of Egypt
Ptolemy, who distinguished himself as a cautious and trustworthy troop commander under Alexander, also proved to be a politician of unusual diplomatic and strategic ability in the long series of struggles over the throne that broke out after Alexander’s death in 323. Convinced from the outset that the generals could not maintain the unity of Alexander’s empire, he proposed during the council at Babylon, which followed Alexander’s death, that the satrapies (the provinces of the huge empire) be divided among the generals. He became satrap of Egypt, with the adjacent Libyan and Arabian regions, and methodically took advantage of the geographic isolation of the Nile territory to make it a great Hellenistic power. He took steps to improve internal administration and to acquire several external possessions in Cyrenaica (the easternmost part of Libya), Cyprus, and Syria and on the coast of Asia Minor; these, he hoped, would guarantee him military security. Although he pursued a friendly policy toward Greece that secured his political influence there, he also succeeded in winning over the native Egyptian population.

In 322 Ptolemy, taking advantage of internal disturbances, acquired the African Hellenic towns of Cyrenaica. In 322–321, as a member of a coalition of “successors” (diadochoi) of Alexander, he fought against Perdiccas, the ruler (chiliarchos) of the Asiatic region of the empire. The coalition was victorious and Perdiccas died during the fighting. Ptolemy’s diplomatic talent was put to the test during this war. When the satrapies were redistributed at Triparadisus in northern Syria, Antipater, the general of the European region, became regent of the Macedonian empire and Ptolemy was confirmed in possession of Egypt and Cyrene. He further strengthened his position by marrying Eurydice, the third daughter of Antipater.

About 317 he married Berenice I, the granddaughter of Cassander, the son of Antipater. Cassander, at his father’s death in 319, refused to accept his father’s successor, made war upon him, seized part of the empire, and in 305 assumed the title of king of Macedonia. In the coalition war of 315–311, Ptolemy obtained possession of Cyprus. In this war he scored his most important victory in the battle near Gaza in 312, in which the Egyptian contingents were decisive. But war broke out anew in 310, and he lost Cyprus again in 306. He temporarily lost Cyrene as well and was unable to hold the important Greek positions of Corinth and neighbouring Sicyon and Megara, which he had captured in 308. He ultimately suffered overwhelming defeat in 306 in the naval battle near Salamis on Cyprus. The victor in this battle, Antigonus I Monophthalmus, who was assisted by his son, Demetrius Poliorcetes, assumed the title of king in 306. The remaining satraps, led by Ptolemy after he successfully resisted Antigonus’ attack on Egypt, also took the title of king in 305–304.

King of Egypt
After naming himself king, Ptolemy’s first concern was the continuing war with Antigonus, which was now focussed on the island of Rhodes. In 304 Ptolemy aided the inhabitants of Rhodes against Antigonus and was accorded the divine title Soter (Saviour), which he was commonly called from that time. The dissolution of Alexander’s empire was brought to a close with the battle near Ipsus in Asia Minor in 301. During this battle Antigonus was defeated by the other kings. This led to the attempt by the remaining successors of Alexander to define their kingdoms. For this reason a dispute arose between Ptolemy and Seleucus I Nicator of Babylon over Syria, particularly the southern Syrian ports, which served as terminal points for the caravan routes. This quarrel, however, was temporarily settled peacefully through compromise. In addition to Coele Syria (Palestine), Ptolemy apparently also occupied Pamphylia, Lycia, and part of Pisidia in southern Asia Minor.

During the last 15 years of his reign, because of the defeats he suffered between 308 and 306, Ptolemy preferred to secure and expand his empire through a policy of alliances and marriages rather than through warfare. In 300 he concluded an alliance with Lysimachus of Thrace (modern Bulgaria) and gave him his daughter Arsinoe II in marriage in 299/298. At approximately the same time he married his stepdaughter Theoxena to Agathocles, the tyrant of Syracuse (southeastern Sicily). About 296 he made peace with Demetrius Poliorcetes, to whom he betrothed his daughter Ptolemais. To Pyrrhus of Epirus, Demetrius’ brother-in-law, who was at the Egyptian court as a hostage, he gave his stepdaughter Antigone. He finally brought rebellious Cyrene into subjection in 298, and in approximately 294 he gained control over Cyprus and the Phoenician coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon.

In a last coalition war in 288–286, in which Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and Pyrrhus opposed Demetrius, the Egyptian fleet participated decisively in the liberation of Athens from Macedonian occupation. During this war Ptolemy obtained the protectorate over the League of Islanders, which was established by Antigonus Monophthalmus in 315 and included most of the Greek islands in the Aegean. Egypt’s maritime supremacy in the Mediterranean in the ensuing decades was based on this alliance.

Ptolemy was able to evaluate the chaotic international situation of this post-Alexandrian era, which was characterized by constantly renewed wars with shifting alliances and coalitions, in realistic political terms. Adhering to a basically defensive foreign policy, he secured Egypt against external enemies and expanded it by means of directly controlled foreign possessions and hegemonic administrations. He did not, however, neglect to devote attention to the internal organization of the country and to provide for a successor. In 290 he made his wife Berenice queen of Egypt and in 285 (possibly on June 26) appointed his younger son Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who was born to Berenice in 308, co-regent and successor. The provision for the succession, which was based on examples from the time of the pharaohs, made possible a peaceful transition when Ptolemy died in the winter of 283–282. The early Ptolemies were occupied with the economic exploitation of Egypt, but, because of the lack of first-hand information, the details of Ptolemy’s participation in the process cannot be determined. It is certain, however, that discrimination against the Egyptians took place during his reign. The only town he founded was Ptolemais in Upper Egypt. He probably placed Macedonian military commanders alongside the Egyptian provincial administrators and intervened unobtrusively in legal and financial affairs. In order to regulate the latter, he introduced coinage, which until that time was unknown in Egypt.

He found it necessary from the outset, however, to pursue a conciliatory policy toward the Egyptians, since Egyptians had to be recruited for his army, which initially numbered only 4,000 men. Ptolemy won over the Egyptians through the establishment in Memphis of the Serapis cult, which fused the Egyptian and Greek religions; through restoration of the temples of the pharaohs, which had been destroyed by the Persians; and through gifts to the ancient Egyptian gods and patronage of the Egyptian nobility and priesthood. Finally, he founded the Museum (Mouseion), a common workplace for scholars and artists, and established the famous library at Alexandria. Besides being a patron of the arts and sciences, he was a writer himself. In the last few years of his life Ptolemy wrote a generally reliable history of Alexander’s campaigns. Although it is now lost, it can be largely reconstructed through the extensive use made of it later by the historian Arrian.

Several times during his life Ptolemy was proclaimed a deity by certain classes of people. After his death he was raised to the level of a god by all the Egyptians.

Robert Werner


Ptolemy II Philadelphus

Ptolemy II Philadelphus, (born 308 bc, Cos—died 246), king of Egypt (285–246 bc), second king of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who extended his power by skillful diplomacy, developed agriculture and commerce, and made Alexandria a leading centre of the arts and sciences.

Reigning at first with his father, Ptolemy I Soter, he became sole ruler in 283–282 and purged his family of possible rivals. This dynastic strife led also to the banishment of his first wife, Arsinoe I, daughter of King Lysimachus of Thrace. Ptolemy then married his sister, Arsinoe II, an event that shocked Greek public opinion but was celebrated by the Alexandrian court poets. Taking advantage of the difficulties of the rival kingdoms of the Seleucids and Antigonids, Ptolemy II extended his rule in Syria, Asia Minor, and the Aegean at their expense and asserted at the same time his influence in Ethiopia and Arabia. Egyptian embassies to Rome as well as to India reflect the wide range of Ptolemy’s political and commercial interests.

While a new war with the Seleucids (from 274 to 270) did not affect the basic position of the rival kingdoms, the so-called Chremonidean War (268?–261), stirred up by Ptolemy against Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, resulted in the weakening of Ptolemaic influence in the Aegean and brought about near disaster to Ptolemy’s allies Athens and Sparta. Ptolemy was no more successful in the Second Syrian War (c. 260–253), fought against the coalition of the Seleucid king Antiochus II and Antigonus Gonatas. The unsuccessful course of the military operations was compensated for, to a certain degree, by the diplomatic skill of Ptolemy, who first managed to lure Antigonus into concluding a separate peace (255) and then brought the war with the Seleucid Empire to an end by marrying his daughter, Berenice—provided with a huge dowry—to his foe Antiochus II. The magnitude of this political masterstroke can be gauged by the fact that Antiochus, before marrying the Ptolemaic princess, had to dismiss his former wife, Laodice. Thus freed for the moment from Seleucid opposition and sustained by the considerable financial means provided by the Egyptian economy, Ptolemy II devoted himself again to Greece and aroused new adversaries to Antigonid Macedonia. While the Macedonian forces were bogged down in Greece, Ptolemy reasserted his influence in the Aegean, making good the setback suffered during the Chremonidean War. He further improved his position by arranging for the marriage of his son (and later successor) Ptolemy III Euergetes to the daughter of King Magas of Cyrene, who had proved so far a very troublesome neighbour. Not aiming at outright hegemony (even less imperialistic conquest) in the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean, Ptolemy II tried nonetheless to secure for Egypt as good a position as possible, holding at large his rivals beyond a wide buffer zone of foreign possessions. Without being completely successful, he managed to let his allies bear the brunt of the heaviest reverses, healing his own military wounds with diplomatic remedies. The influence on Ptolemy of his wife and sister Arsinoe II, particularly in foreign affairs, was certainly substantial, though not as extensive as claimed by some contemporary authors.

Ptolemy II’s record in domestic affairs is no less impressive. From pharaonic times onward, agriculture and the work of artisans in Egypt had been highly organized. Under Ptolemy’s supervision and with the help of Greek administrators, this system developed into a kind of planned economy. The peasant masses of the Nile Valley provided cheap labour, so that the introduction of slavery on a broad basis was never considered an economic necessity in Ptolemaic Egypt. Ptolemy II became a master at the fiscal exploitation of the Egyptian countryside; the capital, Alexandria, served as the main trading and export centre. Ptolemy II displayed a vivid interest in Greek as well as in Egyptian religion, paid visits to the sanctuaries in the countryside, and spent large sums erecting temples. Anxious to secure a solid position for, and religious elevation of, his dynasty, the King insisted upon divine honours not only for his parents but also for his sister and wife Arsinoe II and himself as theoi adelphoi (“brother gods”). He thus became one of the most ardent promoters of the Hellenistic ruler cult, which in turn was to have a far-reaching influence on the cult of the Roman emperors.

Under Ptolemy II, Alexandria also played a leading role in arts and science. Throughout the whole Mediterranean world the King acquired a reputation for being a generous patron of poets and scholars. Surrounding himself with a host of court poets, such as Callimachus and Theocritus, he expanded the library and financed the museum, a research centre founded as a counterweight to the more antimonarchial Athenian schools. Learning there was not confined to philosophy and literature but extended also to include mathematics and natural sciences. The age of Ptolemy II coincided with the apex of Hellenistic civilization; its vigour and glamour were a result of the still fresh forces of Greek leadership in the eastern Mediterranean. Ptolemy II was no man of peace, but neither was he one of the warlike Hellenistic soldier-kings. A prudent and enlightened ruler, he found his strength in diplomatic ability and his satisfaction in a vast curiosity of mind.

Heinz Heinen



Ptolemy III Euergetes

Ptolemy III Euergetes, ( Greek: Benefactor) (flourished 246–221 bc), Macedonian king of Egypt, son of Ptolemy II; he reunited Egypt and Cyrenaica and successfully waged the Third Syrian War against the Seleucid kingdom.

Almost nothing is known of Ptolemy’s youth before 245, when, following a long engagement, he married Berenice II, the daughter of Magas, king of Cyrene; thereby he reunited Egypt and Cyrenaica, which had been divided since 258. Shortly after his accession and marriage, Ptolemy invaded Coele Syria, to avenge the murder of his sister, the widow of the Seleucid king Antiochus II. Ptolemy’s navy, perhaps aided by rebels in the cities, advanced against Seleucus II’s forces as far as Thrace, across the Hellespont, and also captured some islands off the Asia Minor coast, but were checked c. 245. Meanwhile, Ptolemy, with the army, penetrated deep into Mesopotamia, reaching at least Seleucia on the Tigris, near Babylon. According to classical sources he was compelled to halt his advance because of domestic troubles. Famine and a low Nile, as well as the hostile alliance between Macedonia, Seleucid Syria, and Rhodes, were perhaps additional reasons. The war in Asia Minor and the Aegean intensified as the Achaean League, one of the Greek confederations, allied itself to Egypt, while Seleucus II secured two allies in the Black Sea region. Ptolemy was pushed out of Mesopotamia and part of North Syria in 242–241, and the next year peace was finally achieved. Ptolemy managed to keep the Orontes River region and Antioch, both in Syria; Ephesus, in Asia Minor; and Thrace and perhaps also Cilicia.

Within Egypt, Ptolemy continued the colonization of al-Fayyūm (the oasis-like depression southwest of Cairo), which his father had developed. He also reformed the calendar, adopting 311 as the first year of a “Ptolemaic Era.” The Canopus decree, a declaration published by a synod of Egyptian priests, suggests that the true duration of the year (365 1/4 days) was now recognized, for an extra day was added to the calendar every four years. The new calendar failed, however, to achieve popular acceptance. The priests and classical sources also credited Ptolemy with the restoration of the divine statues plundered from the temples during Persian rule. In addition, the King initiated construction at Edfu, the Upper Egyptian site of a great Ptolemaic temple, and made donations to other temples.

Ptolemy avoided involvement in the wars that continued to plague Syria and Macedonia. He did, however, send aid to Rhodes after earthquakes devastated the island, but he refrained from subsidizing the schemes of the Spartan king against Macedonia, though he granted him asylum in 222. In Asia Minor, when a pretender to one of the kingdoms, who was the instigator of much of the trouble there, sought asylum in Ptolemaic territory, Ptolemy promptly interned him. His policy was to maintain an equilibrium of power, guaranteeing the safety of his own territory. After declaring his son his successor, Ptolemy died, leaving Egypt at the peak of its political power and internally stable and prosperous.



Macedonia after Alexander's Death


The struggle of the Diadochoi for Macedonia and Greece was played out through family intrigues. Alexander's dynasty fell, and almost all of the Diadochoi joined in the scramble for power in Europe.

Upon Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his strongest generals proceeded to divide power. They controlled the richest satrapies, leading the strongest and largest armies, and fought for control of the empire.

Antipater, whom Alexander had appointed viceroy, ruled 3 Macedonia until his death in 319 в.с .


3 Map of ancient Greece showing Macedonia in the north in red, Thracia in yellow, Epirus in green, copper engraving,
18th century



4 King Antipater in battle, copper engraving,
17th century

The Macedonians in Alexander's army wanted to hold on to the Argead dynasty and chose Alexander's half-brother Philip III Arrhidacus as king in 325 B.C.

Alexander IV, who was born after the 2 death of his father, also had dynastic claims.

Antipater became regent of the empire in 321, while at the same time 1 Olympias, Alexander the Great's mother, tried to secure influence as head of the dynasty.

1 Olympias, wife of Philip II and mother of Alexander the Great
2 Dying Alexander, marble sculpture, second century B.C.

Antipater decided on the loyal general Polyperchon as his successor, but his own son Cassander wanted control and allied himself with Antigonus I, who had established an empire in Asia. Cassander and Antigonus unseated Polyperchon and allied themselves with King Philip III and his wife Eurydice. Polyperchon in turn allied himself with Olympias, and together they had the royal couple killed and from 317 ruled as regents in the name of the child Alexander IV. Thereupon, Cassander started a campaign of revenge against the royal house. He marched out of Athens with the army at his side in 316, had Olympias executed, and drove out Polyperchon. He took the young Alexander IV and his mother Roxana as prisoners and put them to death in 310. With this, Cassander had annihilated Alexander's dynasty. Through shifting alliances with other Diadochoi rulers (Lysimachus, Ptolemy I, and Seleucus I), he was able to gain recognition from all as "viceroy of Europe" by 311 B.C. After engaging in serious clashes with Antigonus beginning in 307, Cassander's position finally became untenable around 300 B.C.

5 Thessalonica, Cassander's wife, who had tried to decide his succession, was murdered by her son Antipater.

In 294 Antipater was finally deposed by Demetrios I Poliorcetes, who gave way to the rule of the Antagonids over Macedonia and Greece.The peace between the successors ot Alexander recognized the effective division between Antigonus, who was supreme in Asia; Cassander. who dominated Greece and Macedon; Lysimachus, who ruled Thrace; Ptolemy, who governed Egypt; and Seleucus, who ruled the eastern satrapies. Soon after his death in 297, his dvnasty came to an end.


5 King Antipater I kills his mother Thessalonica



Macedonia under the Antigonids

The descendents of Antigonus I finally succeeded in gaining power in Macedonia and thus over Greece. Their successors waged war against the growing power of Rome.


Antigonus I Monophthalmus ("the One-eyed," ca. 382-301 в.с.) and his son Demetrius I Poliorcetes—"the Besieger"—were the last of the Diadochoi to hold onto Alexander's plans for a world empire. From their power base in Asia, they invaded Greece and took Athens claiming to be "liberators." After the expulsion of Cassander, Antigonus assumed the title of king in 306 B.C. and revived the Corinthian League for the liberation of all of Greece. In 301 Antigonus fell at Ipsus against Lysimachus and Seleucus I.

Demetrius was able to bring a large part of Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor under his control but was captured by Seleucus I in 285 B.C.
His son Antigonus II Gonatas (king 283-239 B.C.), however, was able to maintain Antigonid control of Macedonia and most of the Greek cities through alliances until the country was invaded and conquered by the Romans in 168 B.C.

By about 250 B.C. the situation was generally settled, and Macedonia was again the undisputed master of Greece. Demetrius II (king 239-229 B.C.) son of Antigonus I, secured victories over the Celts and the Dardanians and dominated the Aegean Sea, defeating the battle fleets of the Egyptian Ptolemies at Cos in 258 в.с. and at Andros in 245 B.C. Antigonus III Doson (regent, then king 229-221 B.C.) brought Sparta under their sovereignty, and Antigonus united almost all of the Greek peninsula in the "Hellenic League" in 224.

However, conflict began to develop with the rising power of Rome, which sought to hinder Macedonia's consolidation of its strength in Europe.

Philip V of Macedonia (king from 221 B.C.) allied himself with the Carthaginian general Hannibal in 215 B.C. to expand westward against Rome.


6 King Philip V forces Theoxena and her husband Poris
to commit suicide for fleeing Macedonia

During the First Macedonian War (215-205 B.C.) Philip was relatively  successful, gaining access to the  Adriatic Sea, but when a few Greek cities pulled out of the 8 Second Macedonian War (200-197 B.C.), he was defeated by the Romans.

In the following years he became entangled by internal Greek unrest. Philip's son 7, 9 Perseus was the last king of Macedonia. After suffering several 10 defeats by Rome, Perseus was captured in 168 and paraded through the streets of Rome in a victory procession in 167.
Macedonia was then divided into four republics and finally made part of the Roman Empire as a new province.


8 The Greeks are set free at the
Isthmic Games, 196 B.C.,
after the Second Macedonian War

7 King Perseus of Macedonia in profile,
contemporary cameo

9 Perseus marches through the Thessalian
canyons to Illyria during the Third Macedonian War

10 Roman legionnaires break the Macedonian
phalanx in the Battle of Pydna, 168 B.C.




The philosopher Epicurus,
ca. 270 B.C.

The Athenian Philosophy

During the period of Antigonid rule over Greece, Athens remained a center of culture and philosophy. In 306 B.C. Epicurus founded his school, whose followers strove for individual happiness andpeace. The Stoics, named after their meeting place in the columned hall on the Agora of Athens, first met around 300 B.C. and with their austere rationalism stood in opposition to the hedonism of the Epicureans.

The Stoa Poikile ("painted colonnade"),
at the Agora in Athens, where philosophy
was taught and after which the
Stoics were named