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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: May 2012

Jewish Responses to Greek and Roman Cultures, 322 b.c.e. to 200 c.e.

Summary

PRESERVATION AND ADAPTATION: THE ENCOUNTER WITH HELLENISM

Alexander and his successors

In 333 b.c.e. Alexander the Great defeated Darius the Persian and gained access to both Egypt and Mesopotamia. A year later he took Egypt as well as the Mediterranean coast, and Jerusalem, along with all the other cities of the region, submitted. With the conquest of the eastern Mediterranean the Hellenistic period begins. Despite reports in Josephus and later Rabbinic legend, Alexander did not visit Jerusalem. But his battles did take him to Persia, which he finally subdued along with Mesopotamia and surrounding territories as far as the Indus River (in present-day Pakistan). Alexander's untimely death in 323 left his unstable and scattered conquests in the hands of his fractious generals, but the cultural and political changes that took shape in his wake prevailed. The “Hellenistic period” would last until the growing influence over and the conquest of the area by the Romans between 200 and 31 b.c.e.

One of Alexander's generals, Ptolemy, used Egypt's natural borders and wealth to consolidate his rule there and, in 305 b.c.e., declared an independent kingdom. Another general, Seleucus, who ruled Mesopotamia from Babylon, fended off numerous attacks from both indigenous populations and a third general, Antigonus, who controlled Asia Minor (modern Turkey). After surviving exile from his own kingdom, Seleucus finally consolidated his control in 301 b.c.e. when he and a coalition of local military leaders defeated Antigonus at Ipsus in western Asia Minor.

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