Book Review: A History Of The Hellenistic World

A History Of The Hellenistic World, 323-30 BC, by R. Malcolm Errington

One of the more lamentable aspects of reading a history like this is knowing that while the historian responsible for this work is surely competent at what he does, that he resents the importance of biblical history and indeed resents the Hellenistic age being called what it is. Hellenism, after all, discusses people trying to be Greek, and was originally a hostile term in its use in the Bible, and the author does not think it fair or just to call an entire age hostile merely because Hellenizing Jews proved to be such a problem for those who were serious about the Bible just as secularizing tendencies have proven to be so antithetical to sound biblical religion in our own culture and our own present evil age. And the author is apparently one who wants to celebrate, at least insofar as it can be celebrated, the struggle for the Macedonian rulers for dominance in the Mediterranean world as well as the cultural significance of what was created during this period of intensely complex relationships within families, between states, and in the world as a whole, and the author’s desire to get behind the conflict of the age is admirable even if much of what we know about this particular time does spring from its extreme warfare.

This book is a bit more than 300 pages and is divided into four parts and sixteen chapters. The book begins with a list of illustrations, maps, a preface, a list of abbreviations, and an introduction that shows the author’s lack of interest in biblical history. After that the first part discusses the making of the Hellenistic world, which discusses the first steps involving the death of Alexander and its immediate repercussions, the efforts of Cassander to serve as a regent, and Antigonos (1), the consolidation of power under Alexander’s successors (2), the period from Ipsos to Koroupedion that marked the continuing struggle between those successors over dominance in areas like Syria and Anatolia (3), and the structure of power under new kings, the distribution of land, and regional government (4). The second part of the book covers the Hellenistic world in action in Europe (5), in Asia under the Seleucids (6), and in Egypt as the ruler cult was founded and put into practice (7). After this comes the challenge of Rome (III), with a look at the clouds in the west (8), the storm in the Balkans (9), and the symploke in Asia and Europe (10). Finally, the fourth part of the book explores Rome in the Hellenistic world with a regional study that takes in Europe (with a focus on Macedonia, Achaia, and Athens) (11), Egypt and Asia (12), the end of the Seleucids (13), Central and Eastern Anatolia (14), Egypt’s gradual conquest by Rome (15), and an epilogue (16), after which comes a select bibliography, royal dynasties, and an index.

One of the more intriguing aspects of this book is the way that the author attempts to deal with the complexity of the Hellenistic period through a regional look at the various realms of the age. By and large, the political history, such as we know it, of the Hellenistic age does allow for a regional approach, for the most part, with the attempt of Macedonia and various Greek regional powers to operate in Europe being one easy region. Another straightforward region for much of the history of age is Anatolia, with the regional ambitions of Pergamum, the Galatians of Phrygia, Rhodes, and others. Beyond that Egypt and the rest of the Middle East under Seleucid rule also make for convenient regions, and the author examines their struggles for dominance within the realm and between realms and the grim fate that befell each of them as they fell into Roman domination as the period wound to a close. If the borders of the Hellenistic age seem rather transitional, beginning with the rise of the Macedonians and their conquest of the Persian Empire and ending with the rise of the Roman Empire into a full domination of the Mediterranean world (the last time so far this has happened) will tend to give that impression.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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