Hellenistic Monarchs
down to the Roman Empire

The Hellenistic Age suffers from some of the same disabilities as Late Antiquity, i.e. it doesn't measure up to the brilliance of the Golden Age of Greece and of late Republican and early Imperial Rome. However, the Hellenistic world, although mostly not bothering with characteristic Greek experiments like democracy, is where Greece actually became a cosmopolitan culture, a sort of pre-adaptation for the Roman world. Just saying that the Bible begins with the book of Genesis, a Greek word, reflects the degree to which the older cultures of the Middle East came to express themselves in Greek. Several of the Hellenistic Kingdoms, mainly in Anatolia (Armenia, Pontus, Cappadocia, etc.), are domains of non-Greek peoples.

The Hellenistic Age lasts almost exactly 300 years, from the death of Alexander in 323 BC to that of Cleopatra in 30 BC. In the first fifty years, down to 281 BC, we witness a bewildering scrimmage of the Successors fighting over Alexander's Empire. After this shakes down to the Kingdoms of Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucid Asia, and Antigonid Macedon we get a period of relative stability until the arrival of Rome. The Roman defeat of Macedon in 196 and of the Seleucids in 188 begins a period of steady decline. In short order Parthia has mostly overrun Iran (185), Judaea is independent (164), and Macedon is gone (146). All that is left is a bevy of small states and the absurd dynastic circuses of the Seleucids (until 63 BC) and the Ptolemies (until 30 BC), all this under the shadow of a hegemonic Rome. Thus, in its last century, with Rome already occupying Macedon and Greece, the Hellenisitic Age had lost both its cultural heartland and its own internal dynamic. Parthia closed in from the East, as Rome inevitably tidied up from the West. The Parthian defeat of the Romans at Carrhae in 53 BC foretells the ultimate frontiers and balance of power in Western Asia, where a rough status quo would persist until the arrival of the Arabs, more than 600 years later.

Meanwhile, although the literature does not seem as brilliant as the Golden Age of Greece, mathematics, science, and technology develop rapidly. Archimedes very nearly develops calculus. Eratosthenes estimates the size of the Earth with an accuracy that will not be surpassed until Modern times. Hero of Alexandria builds a kind of steam engine. This remains little more than a toy, but the same cannot be said of the immense engines, often of war, that Hellenstic technology otherwise produces. It is all inherited by the Romans, perhaps symbolically with the killing of Archimedes at Syracuse by a Roman soldier in 212 (during the Second Punic War, 218-201).

The tables and narrative are mainly based on E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell University Press, 1968, 1982], Peter Green, The Hellenistic Age, A Short History [The Modern Library, 2007], Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra, The Hellenistic World [Collier Books, 1982, 1990], John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, & Oswyn Murray, Greece and the Hellenistic World, The Oxford History of the Classical World [Oxford, 1988], F.E. Peters, The Harvest of Hellenism, A History of the Near East from Alexander the Great to the Triumph of Christianity [Allen & Unwin, 1970, 1972], C. Bradford Welles, Alexander and the Hellenistic World [A.M. Hakkert Ltd., Toronto, 1970], W.W. Tarn, Hellenistic Civilization [Meridian Books, 1961, 1966], E.M. Forster, Alexandria, A History and a Guide [1922, Anchor Books, 1961, Oxford, 1986], James Romm, Ghost on the Throne, The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire [Knopf, 2011], Robin Waterfield, Dividing the Spoils, the War for Alexander the Great's Empire [Oxford, 2011], and Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. The genealogies now are supplied or corrected from the Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume III, Europäiche Kaiser-, Königs- und Fürstenhäuser, Ergänzungsband [Andreas Thiele, R. G. Fischer Verlag, Second Edition, 2001], which has a section specifically of Hellenistic monarchs. The maps are original, though largely based on those in The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, by Colon McEvedy [Penguin Books, 1967]. A reference is made to the maps of Tony Belmonte, which are used on the Rome and Romania page. Kingdoms listed under the Seleucids are those that broke away from the Asiatic part of Alexander's Empire that largely had been inherited by Seleucus, though a couple of them, like Armenia, were actually only under Seleucid control briefly.

Philosophy of History

Index

Hellenistic Philosophy, 322 BC to 235 AD

History of Philosophy

Philosophy of History

Hellenistic Monarchs

MACEDONIAN GREAT KINGS
Alexander III the Great336-323
King of
Egypt,
332
Great King,
330-323
Defeat of Darius III at Issus, 333;
Occupation of Egypt, 332;
Defeat of Darius III at Gaugamela, 331
Death of Darius III, 330
Alexander Claims Succession
Philip III Arrhidaeus323-317
PerdiccasRegent,
323-320
Alexander IV323-c.310-(305)
Lamian War, 322;
First War of the Successors, 320-319
AntipaterViceroy & Regent,
320-319
PolyperchonRegent,
319-317
Second War of the Successors, 318-316
CassanderRegent,
317-305
Third War of the Successors, 315-311
Sometimes Alexander the Great's brilliance as a general is questioned. Such criticism is usually focused on his conduct of battles. This is a little hard to understand, since Alexander's tactics were often brilliant. Sometimes he does seem personally a bit foolhardly. However, tactics are not the most important point. Simply getting a functioning army all the way from Macedonia to India, and back to Babylon, is the most extraordinary feat -- although there was considerable attrition and suffering in the process, especially coming back by sea and by desert. Winning every battle along the way, however basic the tactics, certainly helps. The Emperor
Julian, a competent general, couldn't even invade Persian Mesopotamia without getting himself into an awkward situation, and then getting himself killed in a skirmish. Alexander's greatest achievement, apart from better luck than Julian, thus is not tactical at all, but operational, i.e. how the campaign is conducted, apart from battles, to implement the strategic goal. An army that is able to move, supply itself, and be prepared to fight is something that in retrospect we don't think much about -- unless the army is unable to do one of these things. Then the problem is obvious. Otherwise, these functions may be invisible to history. It is in operational terms that Alexander was able to do something that, over the same terrain, was not equaled until the Arab Conquest -- but even that was not accomplished by one general in a single campaign.

Just what Alexander's strategic goal was, if not "Conquer the World," is a little vague. His most important strategic move may have been to secure Egypt in his rear before moving into Mesopotamia. Otherwise, if he had failed rather than succeeded, his long trek through Central Asia would have looked foolish and Quixotic. Alexander was ready to go down the Ganges for further conquests. This was territory that previously the Greeks had hardly even heard of. And it was getting a little too far from home for most of the army. The soldiers were mutinous. So Alexander turned back. A nice version of this, however, is told by the Jains. The Greeks were impressed with the "naked philosophers," the homeless ascetics, they encountered in India. The Jains preserve, barely, this tradition of ascetic nudity, and now say that Alexander decided to give up further conquests after being persuaded of their futility by Jain monks. Alexander, however, did not otherwise seem to suddenly turn towards asceticism, so the explanation from the Greek historians of unrest in the ranks seems more likely.

The day of Alexander's death, 11 June 323, is preserved in cuneiform on a Babylonian tablet. It is 29 Aiyaru on the Babylonian calender. Although nothing was done to preserve his body for several days, it was in such good condition when the embalmers arrived that at first they thought he was still alive. This has led to some modern medical opinion that Alexander was in fact not dead, but in a coma. On the other hand, an incorruptible corpse is a mark of particular holiness in Christianity, Buddhism, etc. We don't really think of Alexander as saint-like or divine today; but his death was curiously at the same age as Jesus, 33 years, and he still is considered a prophet in Islam.

After Alexander's untimely death, his half-witted half-brother Philip III was made King, awaiting the birth of Alexander's postumous child by his Bactrian wife, Roxane.
The Companions, , Bodyguards
HephaestionAlexander's friend & lover?; died, 324
Aristonousgeneral of Olympias, put to death by Cassander, 316
The Diadochi, Companions
SuccessorHoldingFate
Perdiccas Regentassassinated by officers, including Seleucus & Peithon, 321/0
Leonnatus Lesser
Phrygia
killed in Thessaly, Lamian War, 322
CraterusMacedon, Cilicia, Coregentkilled by Eumenes, Battle of Cardia, 321
NeoptolemusArmeniapersonally killed by Eumenes, Battle of Cardia, 321
AntipaterMacedon, Regentnatural death, 319
EumenesCappadocia, Lieutenant of Perdiccas & Polyperchonbecomes successful general, but is betrayed to Antigonus and killed, 316
Peithon Mediakilled by Antigonus, 316
Peucestas Persisremoved by Antigonus, 316
AsanderLycia & Cariasubmits to Antigonus, rebels, disappears, 313
LaomedonSyriacaptured by Ptolemy, escaped, unknown fate c.320
StasanorBactriaunknown fate after 316, possibly conquered by Seleucus, 305
PhilotasCiliciaremoved by Perdiccas, 321; captured by Antigonus, 320; recaptured, executed? by Antigonus, 316
MenanderLydiaadheres to Antigonus, general of Antigonus, 321; fate unknown
PolyperchonLieutenant of Craterus, Regent, Peloponnesusdriven from Macedon by Cassander, joins Olympias in Epirus, 317; flees to Peloponnesus, 316; granted Peloponnesus by Cassander after killing Alexander's natural son Heracles, 309; seems to have endured there until death, c.303
The Diadochi, Companion Kings
Antigonus MonophthalmusPhrygia, Lycia, Pamphyliakilled, Battle of Ipsus, 301
Ptolemy I Soter
Egypt
natural death, 283/2
Lysimachus Thracekilled by Seleucus, Battle of Corupedium, 281
Seleucus I NicatorBabylon, 320, driven out or escapes from Antigonus, 316; returned, 312/311, start of Seleucid Eraassassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, 281
This child turned out to be a son, Alexander IV. Brother and son were thus the "Kings" in the custody of the Regents. Meanwhile, the Empire and government had been divided among Alexander the Great's Companion generals, who become the Diadochi, "Successors." Perdiccas, to whom Alexander, on his deathbed, had given his signet ring, soon was faced with a hostile alliance of Antipater, Ptolemy, Craterus, Antigonus, and Lysimachus. In 322, Ptolemy stole the body of Alexander being transported to Macedon -- it would lie in a tomb in Alexandria until disappearing from history, centuries later. In fact, Alexander himself had requested burial in Egypt.

In the table at right, the final members of Alexander's Bodyguard are identified with a yellow star. The Guard traditionally had seven members, but Alexander added Peucetas as an eighth when he and Leonnatus shielded Alexander's body after the King was struck in the chest by an arrow. Alexander had (foolishly) vaulted off a wall into the middle of the defenders of a city in India. The arrow punctured a lung, and Alexander almost died. The Bodyguards figure prominently among the Diadochi. The table shows the most significant of the Diadochi. This only includes the actual Companions of Alexander and thus does not extend into the second generation, e.g. figures like Cassander and Demetrius.

While Eumenes defeated the alliance at Cardia in 320, Perdiccas himself botched an invasion of Egypt and was assassinated. Eumenes was declared an outlaw but, despite losing the battle of Orcynia to Antigonus and retreating into the fortress of Nora (319), maintained himself until forming an alliance with the subsequent Regent Polyperchon. As such, he defeated Antigonus at the Coprates River near Susa, battled him to a draw at Paraetacene north of Persepolis (317), and defeated him at Gabiene (or Gabene) in 316. However, Antigonus captured the opposing camp, and Eumenes was surrendered to Antigonus, and to his death, by his own men (the veteran Argyraspids or "Silver Shields") in exchange for their possessions. Since Eumenes was Greek, his Macedonian troops may not have felt much personal loyalty to him. Indeed, his nominal allies were constantly plotting against him and challenging his authority. This event, however, was probably the end of any control of the Regency over the Empire. Eumenes thus stands as the last Successor loyal to the family of Alexander, undone by the self-interest of everyone else, including the veterans of Alexander who betrayed him. Since Antigonus then did not trust the Argyraspids, their reward was to be dispersed among dangerous frontier posts. Verily, they had their reward.

The successes of Eumenes, and his tragic end, seem to have received little attention in most treatments of Hellenistic history. I took a whole class in Hellenistic history at UCLA in 1968, and over the years acquired a number of books about the Hellenistic Age, and I knew little about Eumenes and his story until the recent Ghost on the Throne and Dividing the Spoils. Since Eumenes was the Last Faithful Successor to Alexander, and his conflict with Antigonus is a matter of high drama and considerable military interest, this is not a matter of isolated significance. Instead, the fall of Eumenes is an ominous and portentous moment in the collapse of the unity of Alexander's Kingdom.

Philip III ended up murdered by Alexander's mother, Olympias, in league with Polyperchon, in 317. This set a very bad precedent for the treatment of the Royal family. Polyperchon was nominated Regent by the dying Antipater, who had been the Viceroy of Macedon and then Regent after Perdiccas was murdered. But Polyperchon was driven from his position by Cassander, son of Antipater. Olympias was then murdered by Cassander, who soon displayed his ambition to forget the Empire and simply become sovereign in Macedonia. Alexander IV and his mother Roxane were imprisoned, isolated, and then quietly murdered by Cassander -- so quietly that we don't really know when, but the guess is that it was around 310 or 309. Alexander IV's "official" reign, and the fiction of a unified empire, was maintained for a few more years, until Antigonus and Demetrius (306) and then Lysimachus, Seleucus, Ptolemy, and Cassander (305) had all proclaimed themselves Kings in their own right -- 305 is the point where the Canon of Kings ends the reign of Alexander. Alexander would have come of age in 305, so presumably, if he was not then King, other arrangements were called for. All the Successors, of course, had sworn Oaths to surrender their authority to Alexander at his majority; but the Loyalist cause had really died with Eumenes. Oddly enough, Cassander seems to have buried Philip III, his wife Eurydice (or Adea), Alexander, and Roxane in lavish tombs at Vergina. Philip's tomb was first unearthed in 1977 and was at first thought to be that of Philip II. What Cassander thought he was doing, after the faithlessness and treachery of his behavior, is puzzling. The "Star of Vergina," , is an artifact of the tombs. The modern Republic of Macedonia used it on its flag, but produced a modified version after protests by Greece.

The chronology of this period includes some uncertainties. Thus, the death of Perdiccas may be seen dated to 320 or 321. I have been revising things in line with Robin Waterfield's Dividing the Spoils, the War for Alexander the Great's Empire [Oxford, 2011], which uses 320; but some inconsistencies may be found. I have also been introducing Waterfield's system of dividing the fighting into six "War of the Sucessors," which go from the disputed Regency of Perdiccas to the death of Lysimachus, the last of the Bodyguards, in 281. I doubt that this is original with him, but I do not have other sources that use it. As Waterfield admits, the fighting covered by these divisions is nearly continuous, so it may be a reach to divide it at all; but there are definitely phases of the fighting, and some division is helpful. In the First War, the focus is on Perdiccas and Eumenes. In the Second War, Eumenes still supports the loyalist Regent Polyperchon. The Second, Third, and Fourth Wars involve Antigonus disposing of Eumenes, emerging as the dominant Successor (nominally as the deputy of Polyperchon), and then being defeated by the combination of all the others, led by Lysimachus. The Fifth War contains and disposes of Demetrius, although the threat of the Antigonids nevertheless continued; and then the Sixth eliminated Lysimachus, who, with Macedon, Thrace, and Asia Minor in hand, was in a position to repeat the career of Antigonus. Seleucus stops that; and then, despite Seleucus' own assassination, the division of the lands is essentially finalized:  Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucid Asia, and then, after another few sharp conflicts, Antigonid Macedon.

The following combined genealogy covers early Macedonia, Epirus, the Macedonian Great Kings and Regents, Magas of Cyrene, and later Macedonia. The genealogy of the Seleucids and Ptolemies is given separately below. The intermarriages here between the Diadochi are bewildering, and hard to link intuitively in just two dimensions. The Antigonids succeed to Macedon, but then only rule for four generations, with the last of the line, Perseus, already a vassal of the Romans.

KINGS OF THE
CIMMERIAN BOSPORUS
Spartocus I438/7-433/2 BC
Seleucus & Satyrus I433/2-393/2
Satyrus I433/2-389/8
Leucon I & Gorgippos389/8-349/8
Spartocus II & Parisades I349/8-344/3
Parisades I344/3-311/0
Satyrus II & Prytanis311/10-310/9
Prytanis310/9
Eumelus310/9-304/3
Spartocus III304/3-284/3
Parisades II284/3-c.245
Spartocus IVc.245-240
Leucon II240-220
Hygiaenon220-200
Spartocus V220-180
Parisades III180-150
Parisades IV150-125
Parisades V125-109
Mithridates VI
of Pontus
107-63
Roman Protection, 63
Pharnaces63-47
Asanderc.47-17
Dynamis17-16
Scribonius15?
Polemo14-8
Dynamis8 BC-7/8 AD
[unknown]7/8-10/11
Aspurgus10/11-37/8
Gepaepyris37/8-39
Mithridates39-44/5
Cotys I44/5-62?/67
Rescuporis I68/9-90
Sauromates I93/4-123/4
Cotys II123/4-132/3
Rhoemetalcus131/2-153/4
T. Iulius Eupator153/4-173?
Sauromates II 173/4-210/11
Rescuporis II210/11-226/7
Cotys III227/8-233/4
Sauromates III229/30-231/2
Rescuporis III233/4
Pharsanzes?
Ininthimaeus236
Sauromantes IV?
C. Iulius Teiranes275/6-278/9
Chedosbiusc.280
Phophorses286/7-308/9
Radamsadius308/9-318?
Rescuporis IV318/9-c.335
Conquest by Goths, c.335
This genealogy has been largely assembled from the Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte, Volume III, Europäiche Kaiser-, Königs- und Fürstenhäuser, Ergänzungsband [Andreas Thiele, R. G. Fischer Verlag, Second Edition, 2001].

KINGS OF EPIRUS
Tharypsd.385
Alcetas I385-c.370
Neoptolemus Ic.370-c.358
Alexander Ic.358-331
Aeacides319/17-c.312
Alcetas IIc.312-306
Neoptolemus II331-296
Pyrrhus I297-272
King of Macedon, 288-283, 273-272
Drives Demetrius out of Macedonia, 288; War in Italy, 281-278; Defeat of Romans, Heraclea, 280, "Pyrrhic Victory"; War in Sicily, 278-275; killed at Argos by roof tile, 272
Alexander II (Alikasudara [note])272-242
Olympias242-240
Pyrrhus II240-234
Ptolemy234-230
Monarchy overthrown, Epirus divided between Rome and Macedon

 
Independent and non-Greek, Epirus was the home of Alexander's mother Olympias, to which she returned after repudiation by Philip II and other setbacks. The most famous person from Epirus ever, however, was probably Pyrrhus I, whose adventures included the first major contact between the Greek world and
Rome. Called in by Greek cities alarmed at Roman growth, Pyrrhus won some battles, but with such loss that his name has become a byeword for costly, i.e. "Pyrrhic," victory. After bouncing all over the map, and holding the throne of Macedon twice, Pyrrhus was finally killed when a woman in Argos threw a roof tile at him. His death is also said to have happened in a skirmish.

Pyrrhus's adventure in Sicily was followed shortly thereafter by the First Punic War, 264-241, by which Rome defeated Carthage, conquered Sicily, and became in consequence the Great Power of the Western Mediterranean.

Rome's First Illyrian War, 229-228, resulted in a Roman protectorate, the first Roman possession in the Balkan's, on the border of Epirus.


The Cimmerian Bosporus, in the Crimea, was a very long lived Greek and Hellenistic colonial kingdom that passed under Roman protection and survived all the way to conquest by the Goths. This span, over very different eras, all by itself makes the kingdom of great interest. Only Armenia and kingdoms in the Caucasus were more durable as Roman client states. The list is given in E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell Univesity Press, 1968-1982], pp. 132-133. The obscurity of this realm is evident in the circumstance that it is not shown on any of Tony Belmonte's maps. It is, however, followed in The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History, and is shown from that source in the Animated History of Romania. The often dual dates reflect uncertainty over which Julian calendar year matches up with the Greek year, which starts in the Autumn, in question. The greatest obscurities in dates are in the third century, when the sources even for Roman history aren't all that great. The absorption of the kingdom by the Ostrogoths, who dominated the Ukraine at the time in the fourth century, is a portent for the trouble that the Empire proper was going to have with the Goths in the fifth century.

Antigonus Monophthalmos, an old general of Philip II, did not rule over Macedonia but would be the first of Alexander the Great's generals to proclaim himself a King in his own right. Having disposed of Eumenes, and after tossing Seleucus out of Babylon, Antigonus holds the lion's share of Alexander's empire, as we see in the map for 315. After a few years, during which Seleucus returns to Babylon, and Alexander IV is apparently killed, Antigonus proclaims himself, and his son Demetrius, Kings (306). Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassander, and Lysimachus soon followed suit (305).

ANTIGONID KINGS
Antigonus
Mono- phthalmos
Satrap of
Phrygia,
334-306
King,
306-301
Second War of the Successors, 318-316; Third War of the Successors, 315-311; Fourth War of the Successors, 307-301
Demetrius I
Poliorcetes
306-285,
d.283
Fifth War of the Successors, 288-286
Antigonus II
Gonatas
285-239
Macedon,
277-273,
272-239
The magnitude of the threat posed by Antigonus led all the others to combine against him. In 311, Seleucus launches a daring expedition back to Babylon and succeeds in detaching the Eastern lands of the empire from Antigonus. Two attempts were made to unseat Seleucus. Nicanor, the Satrap of Media installed by Antigonus, quickly marches against Babylon, with superior forces, but is then surprised in his camp and defeated. Invading Iran in turn, Seleucus defeats Nicanor and kills him in personal combat. With Seleucus away scooping up the East, in 310 Demetrius himself marches on Babylon, which was in the hands of a Seleucid lieutenant, Patrocles. Having fought his way into the city, Demetrius is called away in 309 to deal with Ptolemy. His lieutenant, Archelaus, is then driven away by the returning Seleucus, whose situation is now apparently secure.

By 301, a little more than twenty years after the death of Alexander, the fiction of a unified realm is gone, and we're not even sure when Alexander IV and Roxane were killed. Antigonus still holds the center. He is reasonably suspected of intending to reunite Alexander's empire under himself. All the others converge against him.


Antigonus, perhaps feeling all of his eighty years, is defeated and killed by Lysimachus and Seleucus at the climactic battle of Ipsus in 301 -- perhaps the largest battle of the era. This puts an end to his ambitions and his Kingdom. His son, Demetrius I Poliorcetes (Poliorkêtés, "Sieger of Cities," though his greatest siege, of Rhodes, was a failure), survived the battle -- it is unclear whether, leaving the field in pursuit of the defeated allied cavalry, he simply never returned or was prevented from rejoining the fight by the elephants of Seleucus.

Nevertheless, Demetrius possessed a considerable fleet, had occupied a good part of Greece, and also continued to hold Cyprus, Sidon, and Tyre. Despite everyone'e impression and best wish, he continued to be a player and is simply cut loose to seek his own fortune. This includes the throne of Macedonia (294-288), where, however, his actions, attitudes, and ambitions failed to win him much in the way of love, loyalty, or support. His project to invade Asia foundered on desertion by the Macedonians and then deposition by Pyrrhus and Lysimachus. Despite other possessions falling away (Cyprus and the Phoenician cities), Demetrius invades Asia anyway, is led deep into the interior, and then, as Seleucus tempts the desertion of his men, is captured in 285 -- the effective end of his Kingship. Treated well enough by Seleucus, his health became the worse for drink, and he died in 283. He had left his son, Antigonus II Gonatas, behind in Greece; and so, just as in the previous generation, the son is left with a kind of starter set to rebuild the kingdom lost by the father. Finally, with a great defeat of the invading Celts, Antigonus installed their line in Macedonia. It continued until Roman conquest in 168

There is a course on the Hellenstic Age issued by The Teaching Company ("The Great Courses"), "Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age" [2000], given by Jeremy McInerney, an Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Pennsylvania. McInerney is an engaging lecturer, but he seems to be impatient with narrative history, which is a serious drawback for the life of Alexander and the early years of the Successors. This results in an astronishing gap in his treatment. After introducing Antigonus Monophthalmos, showing his central kingdom on two maps, and mentioning Demetrius, McInerney never does get around to describing what happened to either of them. This means that the Battle of Ipsus, one of the most dramatic events of the age, goes unmentioned. Nor do we ever hear anything of the conflict of Antigonus with Eumenes, who himself is never mentioned. Even worse, indeed shockingly worse, we are never told how the Antigonids, either Demetrius or Antigonus Gonatas, come to the Throne of Macedon. Since this involves the subsequent history of Macedonia until the Roman Conquest, it is an astonishing oversight. When McInerney moves on to discuss Hellenistic sculpture, he lists the major successor Kingdoms he has considered -- but Macedonia is conspicuous by its absence. I don't know how he could have done this. Similarly, McInerney ignores Lysimachus until mentioning him in passing in relation to the establishment of Pergamum, showing his kingdom only on a map of Pergamum. McInerney's impatience also results in some simple distortions. Thus, he describes Perdiccas as turning on Ptolemy, invading Egypt, and being assassinated as his army was about to cross the Nile. This ignores the provocations and disloyalty of Ptolemy, manifest in the theft of Alexander's body, and the fact that Perdiccas had already tried to cross the Nile and was repulsed. I know that the Wars of the Successors are confusing; but, really, if you are going to teach a course, you should be able to get them straight and not leave out major and formative events. Having skipped over and/or distorted such events, McInerney then devotes two whole lectures to essentially defending the Greeks against possible charges of anti-Semitism, the sort of anachronistic and irrelevant exercise that can easily obsess the modern, politically correct academic. It adds nothing to an account of Hellenistic history. As noted elsewhere, the issue would be more relevant to Manethô's treatment of the Jews. But then Manethô was not a Greek.

KINGS OF THRACE
Odrysian Kings
Tires I480-460
Sitalkes460-424
Sporadokosc.460-c.430
Sadokos425-424
Seuthes I424-415
Amadokos I415-391
Seuthes II405-384
Maesades389-384
Kotys I384-359
Kersouleptes I359-341
Seuthes III341-c.306
Macedonian control, 341
ZopyrionGovenor, c.331-
325/324
LysimachusSatrap
of Thrace,
323-305
King,
305-281
Fourth War of the Successors, 307-301, defeats & kills Antigonus I at Ipsus, 301; King of Macedon, 288; Sixth War of the Successors, 282-281; killed by Seleucus I, battle of Corupedium, 281
Ptolemy Ceraunus281-279
assassinates Seleucus I, 281; Invasion of Gauls, Ceraunus killed, 279
Thrace continues, c.280 BC-46 AD
Thrace experiences a very short lived notoriety as a Great Power. Lysimachus is a major player among the Diadochi and receives Thrace as his share of the spoils. However, nearly his entire reign was troubled by the power of the native Thracians, who had only been subdued by Philip II as recently as 341. The Thracian King, Seuthes III, ruling from his own capital, appropriately called Seuthopolis, although formally a vassal of Macedon, was nevertheless constantly prepared to revolt, as he did at least three times against Lysimachus. Although Lysimachus was repeatedly the victor, this expended his resources, tied him down, and produced settlements that were never dominant enough to reduce Seuthes to a condition where he could not revolt again. Only the death of Seuthes (c.306) seems to have given Lysimachus enough freedom of action to become a real participant in the larger conflict of the Successors. Thus, Lysimachus is in on the overthrow of Antigonus Monophthalmos (301), but then Seleucus turns against him. Lysimachus is killed in the victory of Seleucus at Corupedium (281).
Contemporaneous Kings
Eurizelmes389-384
Thirisadesin Strimos, 359-356
Amadokos IIin Maroneia and Chersonese, 359-351
Ketriporisin Strimos, 356-?
Skostodokos351-?
Tires IIin Maroneia and Chersonese, 351-342
Kersebleptesc.348-341
Seleucus, however, is assassinated by his guest, Ptolemy Ceraunus, shortly after the victory. Ceraunus is variously said to have struck as Seleucus was stepping out the boat in Europe, or while the two of them were out riding together. With the distruption of the deaths of Lysimachus and Seleucus, and the contemporaneous appearance of the first
Celtic invaders, the Thracians quickly begin to reorganize themselves.

Never as strong as under Seuthes III, the new Thrace is, if anything, more obscure than the old and now generally remains outside the control of the Hellenistic Kingdoms. It disappears off many of the historical maps for the period, as we would expect if it was never organized enough to project its sovereignty, diplomatically or militarily, or participate in events. In retrospect, it does not seem to have ever been appropriate as a base for one of the major Successors. Lysimachus got a bad deal. Lapsing back into their marginal place on the boundary of civilization, the Thracians were only finally reduced to vassalage by Rome.

KINGS OF MACEDONIA
Antipater IViceroy,
327-319
Lamian War, 322; First War of the Successors, 320-319
PolyperchonRegent,
319-317
Second War of the Successors, 318-316
CassanderRegent,
317-305
King,
305-297
Third War of the Successors, 315-311; Fourth War of the Successors, 307-301
Philip IV297-296
Alexander V296-294
killed by Demetrius, 294
Antipater II296/5-294,
d.287
Demetrius I Poliorcetes294-288,
d.283
Fifth War of the Successors, 288-286; expelled by Lysimachus, & Pyrrhus, 288; surrendered to Seleucus, 285
Pyrrhus of Epirus288-283,
273-272
Lysimachus288-281
Sixth War of the Successors, 282-281; killed by Seleucus I, battle of Corupedium, 281
Ptolemy Ceraunus281-279
assassinates Seleucus I, 281; Invasion of Gauls, Ceraunus killed, 279
Antigonus II Gonatas, (Antikini [note])Antigonid, 285-239
277-273,
272-239
Defeats Celts, occupies Macedonia, 277; Chremonidean War, 267-262
Demetrius II Aetolicus239-229
Philip232-229
Antigonus III Doson229-221
Philip V221-179
First Macedonian War (of Rome), 214-205; Second Macedonian War, 200-196, Defeated by Rome, Cynoscephalae, 197
Perseus179-168
Third Macedonian War, 171-167; Roman rule, 167-150
Philip VI150-148
Fourth Macedonian War, 149-146,
Rome annexes Greece
& Macedonia, 146
With the removal of "the Kings," Philip III and Alexander IV, to Macedon (321), that Kingdom, replacing Alexander's Babylon, becomes the de jure capital, again, of the Macedonian Empire. However, the Kings are merely figureheads and pawns in the power struggles now developing. With both Kings murdered in turn (317, c.310), Cassander is left maintaining the fiction of Alexander's authority. It lasted rather longer than we might have expected. Antigonus Monophthalmos declares himself and his son Demetrius "Poliorcetes" Kings in 306. Then all the Diadochi, Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus, followed suit in 305. This reduced Macedon itself to the position of no more than first among equals, if that. It soon becomes the most contested of the successor Kingdoms. Demetrius displaces the sons of Cassander (294) and then is ejected by Lysimachus and Pyrrhus (288). They share Macedon until Lysimachus ejects Pyrrhus (283). Then Lysimachus is killed by Seleucus, who is killed by Ptolemy Ceraunus (281). Ptolemy is killed by invading
Celts (279), which puts the Kingdom pretty much up for grabs. It is duly grabbed by Antigonus II Gonatas, son of Demetrius, who defeats the Celts (277). Things are about ready to settle down. Antigonus is briefly ejected by Pyrrhus again (273-272), but then returns to establish his dynasty for the rest of the independent history of Macedonia.

Antigonus did an excellent job of founding a durable kingdom. His strategy in Greece involved the key strategic locations that his father Demetrius had managed to acquire and preserve, and that for a while then were almost the only possessions of the Antigonids. These places were the Piraeus, the port of Athens (and often including a garrison in Athens itself), Corinth, Chalcis, and Demetrias. Chalchis was situated at the narrowest point in the passage between the island of Euboea and the mainland. Demetrias, founded and named after his father Demetrius, was at the head of the Pagasaean gulf in Thessaly. It became a seat of the monarchy, thanks to its strategic location. Indeed, Corinth, Chalcis, and Demetrias came to be called the "Fetters of Greece," , at least by the time of Philip V [Polybius, The Histories, Volume V, Book XVIII, 11:5, W.R. Patton, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard, 1926, 2006, p.106-107]; and their possession was consistent with the policy of Antigonus, not to conquer Greece, but to prevent the formation of powers that might unify the country and challenge Macedonia. He himself lost Corinth, perhaps the most strategic location of all, to the Achaean League in 243, but the city was then returned to Antigonus Doson in 223 to secure his support. It remained in Macedonian hands until after the defeat by the Romans at Cynoscephalae in 197, when the Romans "freed" the city in 193, but then, of course, garrisoned the Acrocorinth -- as they did Chalcis and Demetrias. Rome thus inherited the "Fetters" and their function. The possession of such strategic locations is reminiscent of 19th century Britain holding bases such as Gibraltar, Malta, and Singapore.

Macedonia became the first of the Hellenistic successor kingdoms to feel the wrath of Rome. This started with the Second Punic War, 218-201, when Hannibal's invasion and victories in Italy (like Cannae, 216) made it look like Rome might actually be defeated by Carthage. To Philip V, a Macedonian alliance with Carthage then seemed reasonable. When fortune turned against Carthage, a peace was patched up (205), but Roman revenge could be expected after the final and decisive defeat of Carthage (202). When revenge came (197), Macedon permanently lost its position in Greece and any real freedom of action. The final reduction of Macedonia coincided with the Third Punic War, 149-146, when Carthage itself was conquered and destroyed. Both Africa and Macedonia became Roman provinces.

As the Hellensitic Kingdoms are forming, the city of Rome has occupied most of Central Italy. The Second Samnite War (327-304) secured Roman domination. The next real contest would be with the Greek cities in the south. The Greeks derived aid from Pyrrhus of Epirus (281-278), but this was unavailing. Tarentum surrendered in 272, leaving the Romans in complete control of Southern Italy. By 270, the Roman Republic is all but coextensive with Italy. Only the Po Valley, still Celtic (and even called "Cisalpine Gaul"), is unoccupied.

After the fall of Lysimachus, the assassination of Seleucus, and the establishment of Antigonus Gonatas in Macedonia, the successor Kingdoms have shaken down to just three. This gives the form of things for a while, still pretty early in the Hellenstic Period, just fifty years after the death of Alexander. That a generation and more has passed is now conspicuous. Alexander's own Bodyguards and generals are gone. Antiochus' name is even today preserved in the name of the city of Antioch, though its modern name, Antakya, is in a language, Turkish, that would have been no more familiar to the Hellenistic Greeks than Navajo.

Fifty years later things don't seem all that different, but big changes are in the offing. The Romans have defeated Carthage in the First Punic War (264-241) and secured Sicily, after a long and difficult campaign. Roman victory, however, was mainly effected by the defeat of the Carthaginian navy. Carthaginian forces on Sicily thus could be isolated. Rome became the dominant naval power in the Western Mediterranean, and Carthage would never be able to seriously challenge this. Once the war was won, the Romans continued to press their advantage, occupying Sardinia and Corsica (237) and gaining a toehold in Illyrium and Epirus (228).

The Second Punic War is soon to break out. This will radically alter the balance of power, making Rome dominant in the West and inflicting a defeat on Macedon. Worse will soon follow. Meanwhile, Bactria is the first part of the Kingdom of Seleucus to become alienated and independent, though under its Greek (shortly to become Buddhist) Kings, it is still a fully Hellenistic successor Kingdom. Antiochus III has come to the throne, but he has not yet engaged in the campaigns that will earn him the epithet "the Great." Nor has he encountered the misfortune, the Romans, that will turn his achievements to nought.

While the Diadochi are the high profile players in Hellenistic history, Greece itself continued to consist of city states. Some, although occasionally subject to foreign, mainly Macedonian, control, largely preserved their independence and long continued as autonomous players. Athens and Sparta are conspicuous in this category. Leagues of cities were already familiar from Greek history, but to the extent that they represented real power, they usually reflected the dominance of one member. The League of Delos thus became the instrument of Athens. The League of Corinth was created by Philip II of Macedon to control Greece, while maintaining the fiction that the Greek cities were independent. As the Hellenistic Age developed, however, we have the new phenomenon of leagues which become politically and military important in their own right without being dominated by a particular member, much less some other power. These were the Aetolian League, mainly in the mountains north of the Gulf of Corinth, and the Achaean League, beginning along the north coast of the Peloponnesus. Neither league began near what had hitherto been centers of Greek power, and the Aetolians were in an area that had barely passed from tribal to urban organization -- though their acquisition of Delphi around 300 (or in 290) gave them one of the symbolic centers of Greek religion and identity. In the course of events, the Aetolians achieved temporary control over Boeotia and Thessaly. The Achaeans eventually annexed Sparta but then displeased Rome with its treatment. They each developed something like a federal structure, with a League Assembly and the annual election of a president or general (strategos) to lead the whole. The Achaean League especially was well led by Aratus, who was president every other year (he could not succeed himself) from 245 to 213, and was followed by Philopoemen of Megalopolis from 208 until his death in 182. The Aetolians made the mistake of allying with Antiochus III against Rome, and the Romans reduced them to a vassal status in 189. The Achaeans also eventually fell afoul of Rome, and in 146 the Romans sacked Corinth and dissolved the League. Among the hostages that Rome demanded from Achaea in 167 was the historian Polybius, who ended up observing a great deal of Roman history, like the Third Punic War (149-146). Both leagues were the only Greek precedent for the kind of federal structure of government that was attempted in the United States Constitution. The name of the Achaean League lived on in subsequent history. The name of the Roman province that included the Peloponnesus, Athens, and Boeotia was "Achaea"; and when the Crusaders divided up Romania after the Fourth Crusade, the Peloponnesus became the Principality of Achaea.

THE SELEUCIDS, MACEDONIAN KINGS OF IRAN, IRAQ, SYRIA, ETC.
Seleucus I NicatorSatrap of Babylonia, 320-316, 311-305
King, 305-281
First War of the Successors, 320-319; Second War of the Successors, 318-316; Third War of the Successors, 315-311; Seleucid Era Begins, 312/311; Fourth War of the Successors, 307-301; Seleucus concedes India to Chandragupta Maurya, c.303; Fifth War of the Successors, 288-286; Sixth War of the Successors, 282-281; defeats and kills Lysimachus, killed by Ptolemy Ceraunus, 281
Antiochus I Soter280-261
First Syrian War, 274-271
Antiochus II Theos (Anityoka [note])261-247
Second Syrian War, 260-253; Parthia independent, 248 Arsacid (Parthian) Era Begins, 248/247
Seleucus II Callinicus246-226
Third Syrian War, 246-241; Bactria independent, 239
Seleucus III Ceraunus ("Thunderbolt")226-223
Antiochus III the Great223-187
Fourth Syrian War, 219-217; campaign to India, 212-205; Parthia regained, 209; siege of Bactria, 208-206; Fifth Syrian War, Palestine won from Ptolemies, 203-200; peace with Ptolemy V, who marries Cleopatra I, 195; Syrian War with Rome, 192-188; defeat at Thermopylae, 191; naval defeat off Myonessus, 190; defeated by Scipio Africanus at Magnesia, 189; Treaty of Apamea, loss of Asia Minor, 188
Seleucus IV Philopator187-175
Parthians expand into eastern Iran, 185
Antiochus IV Epiphanes175-164
Sixth Syrian War, Egyptian expedition, 170-168; Jewish Revolt, 167; Maccabees occupy Jerusalem, 164
Antiochus V Eupator164-162
Demetrius I Soter162-150
[Alexander Balas]159-147
Demetrius II Nicator146-140
Maccabees uncontested in Judaea, 142 Parthians take Media, 141
Antiochus VI Ephiphanes Dionysus145-142
Antiochus VII Euergetes139-129
Parthians take Persia, 139; Antiochus killed by Parthians
Demetrius II Nicator (restored)129-126
Cleopatra Thea126
Parthians take Babylonia, 126, Seleucids left with nothing but Syria
Cleopatra Thea & Antiochus VIII Philometer Grypus125-121
Seleucus V126-125
Antiochus VIII Philometer Grypus (continued)121-96
Antiochus IX Philopator Cyzicenus116-95
Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator96-95
Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator95-83
Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus95
Philip I Epiphanes Philadelphus95-83
Demetrius III Philopator Soter Eucairus95-88
Antiochus XII Dionysus87-84
[Tigranes II of Armenia]83-69
Antiochus XIII Asiaticus69-64
Philip II Philorhomaeus66-63
Pompey annexes Syria to Rome, 63 BC
Seleucus, although at one point a refugee with Ptolemy I, returned across the desert to Babylon in 311 to ultimately appropriate the lion's share of Alexander's empire. This dramatic event, counted as Seleucus' first regal year, was continued as the Seleucid Era, the first continuous count of time in world chronology, soon to inspire the similar Arsacid Era of
Parthia. The beginning of the Seleucid Era is given as 312/311 because the Babylonian New Year was in the Spring but the Seleucid year for the Greeks was reckoned from the previous Fall (September or October). There is also the residual uncertainty about Hellenistic dating. E.J. Bickerman, for instance, positively asserted that Seleucus reconquered Babylon "in August of 312" [Chronology of the Ancient World, Cornell University Press, 1968, 1980, 1982, p.71], while a more recent treatment by Robin Waterfield says, "In the spring of 311 he [i.e. Seleucus] was given a thousand men by Ptolemy and set out from Palestine to Babylonia" [Dividing the Spoils, Oxford, 2011, p.123]. While we may have more confidence in up-to-date scholarship, sometimes older analyses are later vindicated.

As recounted above, Seleucus had to fend off two major efforts against him to recover Babylon for Antigonus Monophthalmos. With Babylon secure, he was able to take control of the vast Iranian hinterland, the geographical bulk of Alexander's Empire. However, Seleucus leaves India to the growing power of the Mauryas, and was compensated with war elephants that he then began to breed himself. Having defeated and killed Antigonus (301) and Lysimachus (281), Seleucus was about to add Thrace to his kingdom when, stepping out of the boat in Europe, he was assassinated by Ptolemy Ceraunus, whom he had taken in as a refugee from his father, Ptolemy I. Ceraunus is also said to have killed Seleucus while they were hunting together near Lysmacheia, which had been Lysimachus' capital on the Gallipoli peninsula. Ceraunus claimed the throne of Thrace and Macedon, while the rest of Seleucus' domain passed to his half-Iranian son Antiochus.

The capital of the kingdom, Seleucia, founded on the Tigris, began to replace Babylon as the metropolitan city of the region, but it did not achieve the historical significance and permanence of Alexandria in Egypt. Instead, it was ultimately replaced by the neighboring new capitals of the Parthians, Ctesiphon, and of the Abbasid Caliphs, Baghdâd. A more permanent city of historical importance and fame would be Antioch in Syria (now in Turkey).

While Seleucid authority was never fully established over several kingdoms in Anatolia, like Armenia and Pontus, more distant areas, like Parthia and Bactria, began to drift away. Antiochus III stopped this process and began to reverse it, marching to India and wresting Palestine from the Ptolemies, but then had the misfortune to become the first Seleucid to clash with Rome. His defeat in 190 began a steep decline for the kingdom. By 125, the Seleucids would be confined to Syria. Their last 60 years would be consumed with pointless dynastic conflict and fragmentation, and 14 years of Armenian occupation. Then Rome would pick up the pieces. Pompey "settles the East" in 63 BC with the annexation of the remaining Seleucid lands and the reduction of other local states, like Judaea, to Roman clients.


The idea of the Seven Wonders of the World is the essence of Hellenism. A wide ranging and cosmopolitan culture embraces the great works of the past and the present, though mainly of the present. Only the Pyramids antedate the times of the Greeks. The philosopher Thales was already teaching when the Hanging Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar.
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD
1. The PyramidsEgyptian
2. The Hanging Gardens of BabylonNeo-
Babylonian
3. The Statue of Zeus at OlympiaGreek
4. The Mausoleum at HalicarnassusCarian
5. The Temple of Artemis at EphesusGreek
6. The Colossus of RhodesGreek
7. The Pharos Lighthouse of AlexandriaHellenistic
Only one Wonder, however, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, dates from the actual Golden Age of Greece in the 5th century. The Temple of Artemis, at least the one familiar in the Hellenistic Age (an earlier templed dated from the 6th century), and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus were products of the 4th century; and King Mausolus (d. 353) was not even a Greek, but a Carian, one of the pre-Greek peoples of western Anatolia. The last two Wonders were then actual products of the Hellenistic Age, in the 3th century. The Colossus of Rhodes was constructed by a surviving Greek city state, to celebrate its delivery from the siege of Demetrius Poliorcetes in 305; but then the Pharos Lighthouse was one of the supreme symbols of Hellenistic Monarchy, built by Ptolemy I and II in the first and greatest city of Alexander, marking its location, day and light, on the edge of the otherwise flat and undistinguished Delta of Egypt.

The Colossus of Rhodes did not survive long as constructed. It fell in an earthquake in 226 BC. Its ruin, however, was a tourist attraction until the island was seized by the future Caliph Mu'âwiya in 654 AD. According to Theophanes Confessor, Mu'âwiya sold the bronze statue, 1370 years after its construction, for scrap to a Jewish merchant. The Pharos Lighthouse lasted much longer, ultimately collapsing during an earthquakes itself, in 1303 AD, under the Mamlûks. Reconstructed as a still surviving fort, the massive masonry blocks of the Lighthouse can even now be inspected. The Crusaders built a fort out of the Mausoleum also, and it is hard to know how much damage it may already have endured. The Temple of Artemis suffered more than one act of destruction. The pre-Hellenistic temple was set on fire by an aronist in 356. The Goths damaged the rebuilt temple in 268 AD, during their raids of the Third Century. It is unclear whether this completely destroyed the temple or not. As the area of Ephesus silted up, the site was buried. When excavated after its discovery in 1869, the "Englishman's Pit" subsequently filled up with water. It then looked like a small abandoned lake with a few stones and columns visible above water. Much of the stone may have been taken for other projects, including the Church of Sancta Sophia in Constantinople. The Statue of Zeus from Olympia was relocated to Constantiople at its building, along with masses of other Classical statuary of whose existence we still seem to be learning, and kept at the Lauseion Palace. When the Palace burned in 475, the statue was lost, along with others, such as the famous Aphrodite of Cnidus. But there are other reports that the statue of Zeus had not been moved to Constantinople at all, leaving its fate uncertain. Most uncertain of all is the fate of the Hanging Gardens. Archaeologists have been entirely unable to identify a possible site for the Gardens in the excavations of Babylon. Because of this, some now doubt whether the Gardens even existed, at least in the form commonly described (on terraces, etc.). It is hard to know what to make of this, since Babylon was a place familiar to many Greeks, already from the Golden Age, but then to thousands of them in the time of Alexander. In any case, Babylon was slowly abandoned under the Seleucids, and the Emperor Trajan only found ruins when he visited the site in 117 AD.

With the Seleucids, as with the Ptolemies, we have a genealogy that gets more complicated as time goes on. This happens as brothers and cousins begin to contend for the Throne, but also as intermarriage, particularly with the Ptolemies, becomes increasingly more confusing. A name so famous in Egypt, Cleopatra, actually derives from a Seleucid marriage, Cleopatra a daughter of Antiochus III. Three of her grandchildren marry back into the Seleucids. Cleopatra Thea marries three Seleucids (although there seems to be some question about the parentage of Alexander Balas) and has children by all of them who eventually becomes Kings. Cleopatra V Selene marries her brother, Ptolemy IX, and then two Seleucids, the son (Antiochus VIII, following her sister) and grandson (Antiochus X) of her own cousin (Cleopatra Thea). The dynasty ends with the five sons of Antiochus VIII and their cousin fighting among themselves as the Kingdom crumbles. Two members of the next generation wrap things up, after Tigranes II of Armenia took over (83-69), until the Romans pick up the pieces in 63. The last King, Philip II, bears the interesting epithet of "Philorhomaeus," "Roman Lover."

Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian commander in Sicily during the First Punic War, prepared for the future by moving to Spain and enlarging Carthaginian possessions there. He even founded a "New Carthage," the Latin version of whose name, Carthago Nova, still exists, as Cartagena (in both the Old World and the New). The Second Punic War (218-201) is then initiated by Hamilcar's son, Hannibal. With Carthaginian control of the sea lost, but a successful new domain in Spain, Hannibal decided to beat the Romans at their own game, not only to defeat them on land but to actually invade Italy and do it there. Crossing the Alps with his war elephants, Hannibal created one of the most dramatic and memorable campaigns in world history. In three years, Hannibal inflicted three crushing defeats on the Romans, at the Trebia River in 218, at Lake Trasimene in 217, and finally at Cannae in 216. Cannae, where Hannibal executed a double envelopment of four Roman Legions, surrounding and annihilating them, established a military ideal, a Holy Grail for tactics, for all subsequent military history. After this, the Romans tried to avoid battle in Italy. Hannibal, with no resources to besiege Rome or other cities, lost the initiative. Meanwhile, a Roman army reduced Spain, defeating Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal. Then, the victor of Spain, Scipio Africanus, invaded Africa in 204. Hannibal finally left Italy to defend Carthage itself, and then was defeated at Zama in 202. Hannibal fled as far as Bithynia, where he took poison in 183 rather than be surrendered to the Romans. Carthage was reduced to a rump state in Tunisia.

Macedon made the mistake, when Hannibal looked like a winner, of joining Carthage against Rome. Although bailing out when the tide turned, Philip V nevertheless became the target of Roman vengeance once Carthage had been dealt with. The Second Macedonian War (200-196) has now permanently reduced the Macedonian domain. Carthage for the moment suvives, but only until the Third Punic War (149-146), when it is annihilated. Meanwhile, Antiochus III, the Great, has marched to India and defeated the Ptolemies, driving them out of Asia. These great successes will shortly be undone by the first Seleucid clash with Rome, the Syrian War (192-188). In the aftermath of the Second Punic War, we thus have a unification of the Mediterranean basin, where the power of Rome begins to stretch from one end of the Sea to the other.

KINGS OF PONTUS
Mithridates of Cius337/6-302/1
Mithridates I302/1-266/5
Ariobarzanes266/5-c.255
Mithridates IIc.255-c.220
Mithridates IIIc.220-c.185
Pharnaces Ic.185-c.170
Mithridates IV
Philopator Philadelphus
c.170-c.150
Mithridates V Euergetesc.150-121/0
Mithridates VI Eupator121/0-63
First Mithridatic War,
defeat by Rome, 88-85;
Second Mithridatic War, 83-82;
Third Mithridatic War, 74-63;
Pompey's Settlement of the East, 63
Pharnaces II of the
Bosporus
63-47
Ariarates47-39
VIII of Cappadocia, 101-96 BC
Darius39-37
Polemon I37-8 BC
Bosporus, 14-8 BC
Pythodoris (or Pythodorida) 8 BC-19/23/38 AD
Artaxias(19 AD-27)
Polemon II38-64
Roman Province
The small states of
Armenia, Pontus, Bithynia, Pergamum, Cappadocia, Galatia, Commagene, and Caria testify to the ethnic complexity of Asia Minor.
Celtic Chiefs in THRACE
Bolgios281-?
Brennusc.280
Celtic Thracian Kingdom of TILIS, 279-c.200
Kommotoriosc.279-c.250
Ariopharnc.235
Kavaros?-c.218
GALATIA
LiutariusChief
278-?
Leonnarius278-?
Twelve Tetrarchies,
228-183
To Pergamum, 183-166
Twelve Tetrarchies,
183-89
To Pontus, 89-86
Twelve Tetrarchies,
86-62
DeiotarusKing
62-40
Brogitarius.62-44
Amintas37-25
Annexed to Rome, 25 BC

Galatians were actually Celts from central Europe. They seem to have arrived south of the Danube by 280, disrupting the Thracian and Macedonian Kingdoms. They founded an ephemeral and poorly attested state in Thrace itself and then invaded Greece in 279, killing Ptolemy Ceraunus. This threw Macedon into chaos, which was not relieved until Antigonus Gonatas defeated the invaders in Greece in 277 and assumed the Macedonian Throne.

Meanwhile a group crossed the Bosporus and established themselves in Anatolia, creating the durable and memorable domain of Galatia. At first led by tribal chiefs, they were long organized in local "tetrarchies," only becoming a kingdom after the arrival of the Roman Pompey in 63 BC. Their capital, Angora (or Ancyra), has given us the modern name of varieties of cat, goat, and rabbit, two of which are used for their hair. The modern city, Ankara, is now the capital of Turkey. The idea of Celts in the middle of modern Turkey now seems so strange that it sounds like a Monty Python skit.

Of the lists given here, only the rulers of Pergamum would actually have been Greeks. We can see non-Greek influences in the names of the multiple "Mithridates" of Pontus and Commagene. This name means the "gift," dates, of the Iranian god Mithra (Sanskrit Mitra). This is a Persian name whose modern form is Mehrdâd, of whose meaning many modern Iranians may be unaware. The cult of Mithra becomes one of the popular Roman mystery religions, Mithraism. The Galatians and the ancient peoples of Anatolia, however, except for the Armenians, gradually disappeared from history. This was at first under Greek influence, as literate people came to write only in Greek. Indeed, when the Emperor Nicephorus I colonized people from Anatolia into Greece itself, it leaves us wondering how many modern Greeks are actually descendants of Cappadocians, Galatians, etc. Eventually, however, the Turkish conquest erased whatever may have remained of all of them in their homeland.

THE ATTALIDS OF PERGAMUM
Philetaerus283-263
holds Pergamum for Lysimachus, deserts to Seleucus, 282; defense against Celts, 278-276
Eumenes I263-241
ally of Ptolemy II in defeat of Antiochus I, Sardis, 262
Attalus I Soter241-197
King,
238-197
Defeat of Celtic Gauls or Galatians, c.238; Ally of Rome, First Macedonian War, 214-205; Second Macedonian War, 200-196
Eumenes II Soter197-160
Syrian War, 192-188; defeated Antiochus III with Scipio Africanus at Magnesia, 189; Treaty of Apamea, gains much of Asia Minor, 188
Attalus II Philadelphus160-139
Attalus III Philometor139-133
kingdom willed to Rome
KINGS OF BITHYNIA
Zipoetes298/7-c.280
Nicomedes Ic.280-c.250/42
Ziaelasc.250/42-c.230/27
Prusias Ic.230/27-c.182
Hannibal dies in exile, 183
Prusias IIc.182-149
Nicomedes II Epiphanes149-c.127
Nicomedes III Euergetesc.127-c.94
Nicomedes IV Philopatorc.94-74 BC
Roman Province
KINGS OF CAPPADOCIA
Datamesd.362
Ariaramnes I (Ariamnes)362-350
Ariarathes ISatrap
350-331
King
331-322
Eumenes the Diadochus323-316
Ariarathes II301-280
Ariaramnes II280-c.250
Ariarathes III255/1-220
Ariarathes IV Eusebes220-c.162
Ariarathes V
Eusebes Philopater
c.120-c.111
Ariarathes VI
Epiphanes Philopater
c.120-c.111
Ariarathes VII Philometorc.111-c.100
Ariarathes VIII Eusebes Philopater
of Pontus
c.100-c.88
Ariobarzanes I Philoromaiosc.95-c.62
Ariobarzanes II Philopator62-c.54
Ariobarzanes III
Eusebes Philoromaios
c.54-42
Ariarathes IX42-36
Archelaus36 BC-17 AD
Cappadocia becomes Roman Province
KINGS OF COMMAGENE
Sames Ic.290-c.260
Arsames Ic.260-c.228
Xerxesc. 228-c. 201
PtolemaeusSatrap
c. 201-163
King,
c.163/2-c.130
Samus II Theosebes Diakiosc.130-c.100
Mithridates I Callinicusc.100-c.70
Antiochos I Theos Dikaios
Epiphanes Philoromaios
Philhellen
c.70-c.35
Mithridates IIc.31
[Antiochus II]d.29
Mithridates IIIc.20 BC
Antiochus IIId.17 AD
Roman Province, 17 AD
Antiochus IV38 AD-72
Pergamum (Pergamon) became one of the star territories of the Middle Hellensitic Age. Part of this was clever political opportunism in dealing with the Diadochi, part was a resolute defense against the Celts, part was a massive investment in cultural activities, and, finally, part was a prudent alliance with Rome, which led to the extraordinary act of Attalus III willing the Kingdom to Rome in 133. The cultural activities included massive building projects at Pergamum, as well as the patronage of other building projects in Greece proper. The Great Altar of Zeus, built by Eumenes II, was one of the most brilliant constructions of the age, and is now remarkable in having been removed in its entirety by German archaeologists to Berlin, where it mercifully survived the bombing of World War II. Only the foundations remain on site. Of equivalent cultural importance was the library that was created in the city. Not as famous as the
Alexandrian Library, the Pergamum Library nevertheless had considerable influence in its day, not the least of which was the development of parchment (Latin pergamenum, French parchemin) as a medium for writing and books. The story is that Ptolemy V suspended exports of papyrus in 190. This was done either because Ptolemy was jealous of the Library at Pergamum, or because the increased demand for papyrus was resulting in overharvesting (implying that the papyrus grew wild), which alarmed the government. Or, alternatively, the increased demand for papyrus may simply have driven prices up to the point that alternative media became attractive. While animal skins had early been used for writing, the Attalids (Eumenes II again) now invested in better preparation techniques. As it happened, parchment, although more expensive than later paper, would prove to be more durable than either papyrus or paper. Thus, many Mediaeval manuscipts prepared on parchment, like those of the Archbishop Arethas of Caesarea, survive, while contemporary books on paper have not. Pergamum therefore unintentionally provided for the survival of Mediaeval, and through it Ancient, learning.

MACEDONIAN KINGS OF BACTRIA
Diodotus I SoterSatrap,
256-248
Diodotus IIKing,
248-235
Euthydemus I Theos235-200
Besieged by Antiochus III, independence recognized, 208-206
Demetrius I200-185
Euthydemus II200-190
Antimachus I Theos190-180
Pantaleon185-175
Demetrius II Antiketos180-165
Agathocles180-165
Eucratides I171-155
Menander Soter Dikaios (Milinda)155-130
Yüeh-chih occupy Bactria, 130
Plato155-?
Heliocles I155-140
Eucratides II140-?
Antimachus II130-125
Strato I Epiphanes
Soter Dikaios
130-95
Archebius130-120
Philoxenus125-115
Zoilus?-125
Heliocles II120-115
Lysias120-110
Antialcidas115-100
Apollodotus115-95
Zoilus, Dioysius,
& Apollophanes
95-80
Nicias95-85
Diomedes95-85
Telephus95-80
Hippostratus85-70
Amyntas85-75
Theopilus?-75
Hermaeus Soter,
last Greek king
75-55, or 40-1 AD

Little is known of the history of Greek Bactria. About fourty kings can be identified from their coins, but many of the dates are conjectural. Names and dates for all the here are from E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell U. Press, 1982], and Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra, The Hellenistic World [Collier Books, 1990].

Menander Soter Dikaios (Milinda in Pali) is an important figure in the history of Buddhism, as the king in the Milindapanha, "Questions of Milinda," where he asks the sage Nagasena about Buddhism. As Greek Bactria absorbed Buddhist influence, Buddhism reflected Greek artistic influences, and perhaps more.

About the time of Menander's death (130 BC), the Yüeh-chih pushed into Bactria -- subsequently to move into India as the Kushans. Then the Sakas under Maues (97-58 BC) invaded India and broke up the remaining Greek kingdom in the Indus Valley, with one part of it remaining in the Kabul Valley, another on the Left Bank on the Indus. See the map below for 74 BC.

At the beginning of March, 2001, the rulers of Afghanistan, the barbarous zealots of the Tâlibân ("students"),
CARIA
Lydamis I 
Artemisia I
the Valiant
c.490s-
mid 5th cent.
Psyndalismid 5th cent.-
late 5th cent.
Lydamis IIlate 5th cent.
Tissaphernes
(Tisapharna)
Satrap of
Lydia
415-407
415-395
Hyssaldomos
of Mylasa
c.395
Hecatomids
Hecatompos395-377
Mausolos377-353
Artemisia II353-350
Hydrites350-343
Idneus.343-341
Ada 343-341
Pyxodoros341-335
Orontabatis335-334
Memnon335-334
To Macedon, 334-305
Ada (restored)334-320s
Olympichusin Mylasa
320s
Asander the
Diadochus
323-c.310s
To Antigonus, 305-295
decided to destroy all the "idols" in the country, which meant the entire collection of Buddhist art in the Kabul museum, and the two great cliff carved Buddhas in Bamian province, 175 and 120 feet tall. Although there was an international outcry against this, including from other Islâmic countries as radical as Irân, and offers from museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art simply to take in all Buddhist art objects, no one doubted that the Tâlibân were wicked and stupid enough to go through with their despicable vandalism. And, indeed, they went through with it, blowing the Bamian Buddhas to pieces. Where is the
Râj when we need it? Now, of course, the Tâlibân have been overthrown with American help, in the aftermath of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. There has been some talk about restoring the Bamian Buddhas, but I still have heard no word about the fate of the Kabul museum collection.


Caria, although very close to the Doric Greek areas near Rhodes, was nevertheless not a Greek kingdom. It's principal claim to fame comes from two rulers, Mausolos and his sister Artemisia II (who, being named after the goddess Artemis, may show Greek influence, or indicate the likelihood that Artemis was not originally a Greek goddess). Although this kind of brother-sister marriage would be typical of the Hellenistic Period, thought to be inspired by Egypt, and Mausolos is usually thought of as a Hellenistic monarch, he was in fact ruling under the Persians and even his sister, who survived him, died before Alexander arrived. Nevertheless, at his capital of Halicarnassus, he began a great tomb, finished by his sister, which became one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Mausoleum then gives its name to any great stone burial building. The original survived well into the Middle Ages, before donating its stone to fortresses. An earlier Artemisia, "the Valiant," had her own claim to fame. Commanding Carian ships for the Persians at the Battle of Salamis in 480, she saw the way the battle was going and determined to escape. Geting away involved ramming and sinking another Carian ship. Xerxes, watching the battle, thought that Artemisia had sunk a Greek ship and commented that, "My men have become women, and my women men." I am not aware of Xerxes' reaction when he discovered the truth. It doesn't seem to have affected the tenure of the dynasty. The rulers of Caria were never Kings. They were recognized by the Persians as "Dynasts," and sometimes as Satraps, and by some of their subject Greek cities as "tyrants," i.e. monarchs who were not traditional Kings. Mausolos' relative freedom of action never grew into independence. Caria became subject to Macedon as it had been to Persia.


Less than fifty years after the last map (178 years since the death of Alexander), the Hellenistic World looks much different. At the middle of the Second Century BC, Rome is now the dominant power, not only stretching from the Atlantic to Thrace, but the arbiter of power further East. The Seleucids are out of Asia Minor, except for Cilicia, and Pergamum, a Roman client, has expanded from a city state into a major kingdom. Parthia has now broken away (248) and occupied eastern Iran (185), to begin a history of several centuries (until 227 AD) as a Great Power, the only thing like an equal on the borders of Rome. Judaea is also independent. The occupation of Jerusalem by the Maccabees (164), when the lamps of the Temple were relit and burned miraculously without additional oil, led to a Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. Nevertheless, Demetrius II still has a substantial Kingdom. This will not last, as the Parthians take Media (141), Persia (139), and Babylonia (126). In short, Seleucid power is on the verge of collapsing, and the rest of the dynasty will consist of local family conflicts in Syria. Meanwhile, Menander of Bactria has converted to Buddhism and will be featured in the Milindapanha, "Questions of Milinda," perhaps the most durable and influential consequence of the Greek Kingdom of Bactria.

THE PTOLEMIES,
MACEDONIAN KINGS
OF EGYPT;
"XXXII" DYNASTY
Ptolemy I Soter I
("Savior")
Satrap of Egypt,
323-305
King,
305-
285,
d.283
First War of the Successors, 320-319;
Second War of the Successors, 318-316;
Third War of the Successors, 315-311;
Fourth War of the Successors, 307-301;
Fifth War of the Successors, 288-286
Ptolemy II Philadelphus
(Turamaya [note])
285-247
Sixth War of the Successors, 282-281;
First Syrian War, 274-271;
Chremonidean War, 267-262;
Second Syrian War, 260-253
Ptolemy III Euergetes I
("Do-Gooder/Benefactor")
247-222
Third Syrian War, 246-241;
Decree of Canopus, attempts to
institute intercalation, 238
Ptolemy IV Philopator222-205
Fourth Syrian War, 219-217;
Revolt & Independence of
Upper Egypt, 206-186
Ptolemy V Epiphanes205-180
Fifth Syrian War, Palestine
lost to Seleucids, 203-200; Decree of
Memphis (2), the Rosetta Stone, 196
Cleopatra I180-176
Ptolemy VI Philometor176-145
Sixth Syrian War, 170-168
Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator145
Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II170, 145-116
Cleopatra III &
Ptolemy IX Soter II
116-107
Cleopatra III &
Ptolemy X Alexander I
107-101
Ptolemy X Alexander I
& Cleopatra Berenice
101-88
Ptolemy IX Soter II
(restored)
88-80
Roman Protection, 80 BC
Cleopatra Berenice &
Ptolemy XI Alexander II
80
Ptolemy XII Neo
Dionysus, Auletes
80-58
Berenice IV58-55
Ptolemy XII Neo
Dionysus (restored)
55-51
Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
& Ptolemy XIII Dionysus
51-47
Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
& Ptolemy XIV Philopator
47-44
Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator
& Ptolemy XV Caesarion
44-30
Roman Conquest, 30 BC
Ptolemy I might strike one as the cleverest and most prudent of the Diadochi. Egypt was a well defined and rich land, long familiar with a Greek presence, and it became the most prosperous and durable of the Hellenistic Kingdoms. Soon Ptolemy might well make a claim to priority among his peers by virtue of possessing the mummified body of Alexander himself (stolen on its trip back to Macedonia) and ruling from the city of Alexandria, the first such city founded by Alexander, which became the greatest Hellenistic city, especially distinguished by the Pharos Lighthouse (one of the
Seven Wonders of the World) and by the Museum, i.e. the place of the Muses (more a university than a museum), with its great Library.

The Great Library was founded with the advice of the philosopher Demetrius of Phaleron, who lately had been the Macedonian governor of Athens (from 317 to 307, until the city was taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes). The Library was intended to have every book in the world in it, but with the provision that this be in Greek translation. Reportedly, ships were searched for books, which, if the Library did not already have them, were seized, copied, and then returned (hopefully before the ship had left). Although the precise location of the Library is unknown, it is believed to have been in the Bruchion District, adjacent to the Museum and the Royal Palace. Subsequently, under Ptolemy II, another library is believed to have been created at the Serapeum, the temple to the invented Ptolemaic god Serapis. The Mediaeval Roman scholar John Tzetzes (d.c.1180) reports that the main Library contained "400,000 composite books and 90,000 single books," while the "external" section -- the Serapeum? -- contained 42,800 papyrus rolls [N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, Duckworth, 1983, 1996, p.195]. It is not clear where Tzetzes got his information, but he had access of sources from the Hellenistic Age that are lost to us, including the actual catalogue of the Library made by the poet Callimachus (d.240 BC), the Pinakes.

In Jewish tradition, related by Josephus, a friend of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Aristeas, wrote to Jerusalem, under Ptolemaic rule at the time, to ask the High Priest Elazar for permission to translate the Torah (the Pentateuch) from Hebrew into Greek. Elazar agreed, and selected 72 translators who then produced the Septuagint. While the "Letter of Aristeas" is sometimes said to be a Hasmonean, or later, forgery, Simeon ben Gamaliel, president of the Sanhedrin in the 1st century AD, ruled (according to the Palestinian Talmud) that the Torah could be written in Greek as well as Hebrew [cf. Alfred J. Kolatch, This is the Torah, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, New York, 1988, pp.46-49]. Since the Library would have wanted the Bible in Greek, especially with a large Jewish community in Alexandria, and the Bible certainly was translated thereabouts at the time, this lends some weight to the "Letter of Aristeas," or some equivalent.

While the Library is sometimes said to have been burned by the Arabs in 641 AD, it is likely that the original had already been destroyed. When that would have happened is an obscure and controversial matter. Both Plutarch and Ammianus Marcellinus positively assert that the Library burned in the course of the fighting between Caesar (hold up in the Palace with Cleopatra) and (her brother) Ptolemy XIII, when Caesar set fire to hostile ships, and the fire spread into the city. However, other writers, like Dio Cassius, provide details that appear to go back to a lost treatment by Livy, that the fire was confined to the harbor area, where it chanced that some scrolls were burned. While it is not clear whether these scrolls were actual books, or simply blank papyrus stock, it does mean that the libraries escaped harm. This seems consistent with a subsequent visit of Strabo (d.c.24 AD) to the apparently undamaged Library. Luciano Canfora argues in this vein [The Vanished Library, A Wonder of the Ancient World, 1987, translated by Martin Ryle, University of California, 1990], also citing Orosius (c.418 AD). However, Orosius understands that books were burned, and gives a figure of 400,000, which sounds like the magnitude reported for the whole Library [Orosius, Seven Books of History against the Pagans, translated with an introduction and notes by A.T. Fear, Liverpool University Press, 2010, p.296]. A.T. Fear agrees with Canfora that Livy, the source for Dio, Orosius, and others, had only given a figure of 40,000 (& Confora argues that his is also the number in alternative manuscripts of Orosius) and allows that the burned books or scrolls may indeed have been in harbor warehouses [p.297, note 226]. It is a shame that what were really the contemporary sources for these events have been lost.

The testimony of Plutarch and Ammianus, however, is an indication that by their time, the Library was gone. This is puzzling in the case of Plutarch, who died after 120 AD, since the likely occasions for the destruction of the Library are all subsequent to this. The best candidate may be the earliest. The Emperor Aurelian retrieved the East from Zenobia in 272 AD. Egypt was part of Zenobia's acquisitions, but the records place all of the fighting in Syria and Palmyra. On the other hand, Ammianus says that "under the rule of Aurelian, the quarrels of the citizens [of Alexandria] turned to deadly strife; and then her walls were destroyed and she lost the greater part of the district called Bruchion, which had long been the abode of distinguished men" [Ammianus Marcellinus II, translated by J.C. Rolfe, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard, 1940, 1986, pp.303-305, boldface added]. So Aurelian, in reoccupying Egypt from Zenobia, had to deal with some kind of riot or revolt in Alexandria, in the course of which most of the Bruchion was destroyed, perhaps taking the Library with it -- although Ammianus does not actually say so (perhaps because he already thinks that the Library burned in the days of Caesar). Yet this is the most specific information from antiquity about destruction in the appropriate quarter of Alexandria.

Ths next possibility for damage to the Library is when Alexandria was burned and/or looted as the Emperor Diocletian put down the revolt of Achilleus in 298 AD. We don't have very good information about this, but it sounds like the city, under siege for eight months, suffered widespread damage. Politically, this looks like a more serious event, and a more protracted war, than in the reign of Aurelian. Yet its results are more a matter of inference.

Robin Waterfield apparently does not consider the events under Aurelian or Diocletian as decisive. He does not cite any specific evidence, but he thinks that the tsunami of 365 AD, reported (again) by Ammianus, may have "devastated" the Library [Dividing the Spoils, the War for Alexander the Great's Empire, Oxford, 2011, p.137 & p. 239, note 14]. I have not seen such a suggestion elsewhere, but we do know what a wall of water can do to buildings and books; and Alexandria was certainly vulernable and badly hit. This is a tempting possibility, but the theory is entirely speculative.

Meanwhile, we know that the Serapeum was destroyed in 391/392 AD, as the Emperor Theodosius closed pagan temples. There is no specific reference to the destruction of its library, so, for all we know, the library may already have been destoyed (in line with earlier events), or the books may have been dispersed.

If the destruction of the Great Library was ultimately the doing of the Arabs, we do have a story about it. In his Ta'rikh al-Hukama', Ibn al-Qiftî (c.1172-1248) relates a dialogue between 'Amr ibn al-'As., the conqueror of Egypt, and John Philoponus. John asked what was to be done with the books of the Library, and 'Amr wrote an inquiry to the Caliph 'Umar. The Caliph replied that if the books therein duplicated the Qur'ân, then they were unnecessary, and if they did not, or contradicted it, they were superfluous or pernicious. Either way they should be destroyed. 'Amr ordered that the books be used to fire the public baths, which were thus fed for six months.

This story, however, is only attested in much later sources. Al-Qifti writes in the 13th century, six hundred years after the events. An earlier version of the story, and perhaps its source, is related by Eutychius (877-940), the Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria (933-940). But Eutychius is still three hundred years after the event, and he may also be suspected of some bias and hostility in the matter. Just as significant is the internal incoherence of the story. John Philoponus was well known in Islamic philosophy, as Yah.yâ 'n-Nah.wî, , "John the Grammarian." He had, however, died around 570, decades before the Islamic Conquest of Eqypt, with his works subject to comment by the younger Simplicius, who died around 560. So the exchange between John and 'Amr cannot have happened, which casts doubt on the whole business. Willing to believe worse of Christians (who destroyed the Serapeum) than of Muslims, Gibbon dismissed the account. All things considered, the misadventures of earlier Roman history would seem the more likely explanation for the loss of the Great Library.

All the mystery, confusion, and speculation about the fate of the Library can have curious effects. In a book about irrational numbers, the mathematician Julian Havil refers to "the staged destruction of the academic riches of Alexandria:"

the Romans (seemingly in 48 B.C.E.) razed the great Library of Alexandria with its estimated 500,000 manuscripts, the Christians (in 392 C.E.) pillaged Alexandria's Temple of Serapis with its possible 300,000 manuscripts, and finally the Muslims burnt thousands more of its book (in about 640 C.E.). [The Irrationals, A Story of the Numbers You Can't Count On, Princeton University Press, 2012, pp.11-12]

So Havil has come away with the impression that the Library was destroyed all over again on more than one occasion. One wonders what he has been reading, especially as the numbers he gives are larger than are featured in the primary sources. And the accidental fire in the day of Caesar is now converted into a deliberate act, that he "razed the great Library." I don't know why Caesar could possibly have wanted to destroy the Library. Perhaps he has been confused with the Caliph Omar. Well, why not. Perhaps every reference to the loss of books, or damage to the city, was true. That's one way to look at it.

An equal or greater mystery than the fate of the Library is that of the tomb of Alexander the Great, the Sema or Soma, which contained the mummified body of Alexander, after it had been transported from Babylon and stolen by Ptolemy I. With attested visits from Julius Caesar to Caracalla, references to the tomb subsequently disappear, and we are left with no hint of what happened to it. Various efforts have been made to locate any evidence of its foundations under modern Alexandria, but the results seem negative or inconclusive. There is also now the story, or speculation, that the tomb was actually at the Siwa Oasis, which Alexander had visited in his own lifetime, to consult the Oracle of Amun. However, I am aware of no reference in ancient history to the tomb being there, while references to persons like Julius Caesar visiting the tomb do not involve accounts of the demanding journey that would have been necessary to reach the oasis. So I expect that, if any evidence of the tomb survives, it lies buried under today's Alexandria.

Besides the translation of the Bible, another consequence of the presence of the Jewish community at Alexandria may have been the growing use, even by pre-Christian pagans, of the seven day week. This was, to be sure, not directly associated with Judaism, but with a version of the week produced in Alexandria in terms of the seven planets. The "planetary" week is preserved in most of the languages of Francia, even while there is nothing of the sort in modern Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic. Few languages, perhaps only Welsh and English, retain all the planetary names, with Jewish and Christian terms, usually for Saturday and/or Sunday, intruding elsewhere. "Sunday," indeed, retains the strongest pagan association as, even for Constantine, it commemorated the veneration of Sôl Invictus, the state god of the Tetrarchy.

"Philadelphus," "brotherly (or sibling) love," was a name assumed by Ptolemy II because he had married his sister, Arsinoe (also "Philadelphus"). This was in immitation of Egyptian mythology and became a Ptolemaic practice. Later, when Cleopatra (VII, picture below right, bas relief from Deir el Bahri) met Julius Caesar in 48 BC, she was already married, at 16, to her brother and co-ruler, Ptolemy XIII. She also happened to be at war with him! Caesar helped defeat her brother, who died in the process. Formally marrying a younger brother, Ptolemy XIV, Cleopatra actually lived with Caesar, and went back to Rome with him in 46. After Caesar was assassinated in 44, she returned to Egypt, killed her brother, and formally associated her son by Caesar, Caesarion, with her as Ptolemy XV. The conquest of Egypt by Octavian/Augustus, resulted in Cleopatra and her new Roman protector, Anthony, committing suicide, and Caesarion being killed by Octavian.

At the beginning of the table above, and at left, we see the names "Ptolemy" and "Cleopatra" as they were written in hieroglyphics. Since Egyptian didn't write vowels, and didn't have the letter "l," certain glyphs have been adapted to write the vowels and "l" in these Greek names. The Egyptian values of the glyphs are shown in red, and the alternate Greek values in blue. The name "Ptolemy" on the Rosetta Stone, which was identified by the royal cartouche wrapped around it, was the beginning of the decipherment of hieroglyphics -- although the evident use of vowels confused matters for a little while. Even here, however, not all the vowels are well indicated. "Ptolemy" leaves out an "e" and ends by poorly representing the group "aio" in Greek. The name "Cleopatra" (Cleopatra I was a Seleucid princess who married Ptolemy V) ends with the consonant "t," which in Egyptian indicates the feminine gender ending and is only pronounced as the vowel "a." At the very end is the determinative of an egg, which evidently is used to reinforce the feminine gender ending.

In the strange political project of turning all Egyptians into Nubians, or even Nigerians, the Ptolemies pose a special challenge, since they weren't Egyptians at all but are nevertheless roped into the business because Cleopatra is too famous an Egyptian not to actually have been an Egyptian. The easiest procedure is simply to ignore the history altogether, which one sees in claims that Aristotle stole all the knowledge of Egypt from the Library at Alexandria -- overlooking little problems like that the Library, or even the City, didn't even exist yet, or that the books in the Library were all in Greek -- or that Cleopatra has unaccountably ended up with a Greek name ("Father's Fame") -- the name of Alexander the Great's sister, which was only introduced into Egypt with the marriage of Ptolemy V to Cleopatra I, a daughter of Antiochus III. Once the history is actually acknowledged, a fall-back position is possible:  The name of Cleopatra's grandmother, the third wife of Ptolemy IX, is unknown. To those in the right frame of mind (i.e. "critical race theory" paranoia), this is clear evidence that this woman was Egyptian, or Black, or both -- with her identity concealed by racist historians, past and present. Well, OK. A black grandmother would make Cleopatra black by the laws of South Carolina. That no Ptolemies before Cleopatra herself even spoke Egyptian may, however, tell against their marrying one, of whatever complexion.

The Ptolemaic chronology and genealogy here is mainly from C. Bradford Welles, Alexander and the Hellenistic World [A.A. Hakkert Ltd., Toronto, 1970] and E.J. Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World [Cornell U. Press, 1982]. It all can be very confusing. Some older treatments of the Ptolemies leave out Ptolemy XI and reduce the numbers of the higher Ptolemies (XII, XIII, XIV & XV) by one (to XI, XII, XIII & XIV), or insert an extra Ptolemy IX (a dead son of Ptolemy VIII), turn Ptolemy X into Ptolemy XII (keeping Ptolemy XI the same), and increase the numbers of the higher Ptolemies by one (to XIII, XIV, XV & XVI) [cf. E.M. Forster, Alexandria, Doubleday, 1961, Oxford University Press, 1986, pp.14-15 -- Forster also has exchanged numbers between Ptolemy VII and Ptolemy VIII]. The latter numbering is indicated in red next to the standard numbering. Cleopatra VI is sometimes counted as Cleopatra V because Cleopatra V and Cleopatra IV have sometimes been regarded as the same person. It is rarely noted that Cleopatra (VII) and Marc Anthony had a daughter, Cleopatra Selene, who married Juba II, King of Numidia. They had a son, Ptolemy, who reigned until about 40 AD. The HBO series Rome, which ran for two seasons, featured the conceit that the father of Caesarion was actually a Roman soldier, bedded by Cleopatra as insurance that Caesar would believe she had conceived by him. As luck would have it, this soldier was the one later charged with killing the boy. The series ended with, as we might imagine, him saving the child, his own son, instead of killing him.

Index of Egyptian History

In the End Game of the Hellenistic Period, local powers surge into brief glory with the collapse of the Seleucids. An Armenian Kingdom will not again touch the Mediterranean until Lesser Armenia in the 12th century. Pontus briefly turns the Black Sea into a Pontic lake. In 88 Mithridates VI invaded Asia Minor and massacred Romans (First Mithridatic War, 88-85). In 87 he was in Greece, but then he was defeated by Sulla in 86 and withdrew from his conquests in 85. When he occupied Bithynia in 74, this provoked a massive conflict (the Third Mithridatic War, 74-63). Defeats by Pompey and an internal revolt led to Mithridates' suicide (63). The map thus shows the situation just before this final crisis. Pompey's settlement of the East in 63 extends direct Roman control all around the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the Greek presence in Bactria is crumbling. The Sakas and Kushans have arrived off the steppe and will dominate India and Central Asia for some time. The Parthians are solidly established, applying pressure in both Syria and India. Of the Kingdoms of the Diadochi, only Egypt remains. In 59 BC, Ptolemy XII secures Roman protection with a bribe to the Triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. He is overthrown by his daughter Bernice in 58 but is then restored in 55 by the Roman governor of Syria, Gabinius, with a promise of 10,000 talents of silver (perhaps $900 million dollars). Caesar arrived in Egypt in 48 to deal with Ptolemy's daughter Cleopatra, as recounted above.

The Kingdom of the Nabataeans
Harithath (Aretas) I169 BC-144
Maliku (Malichus) I144-110
Harithath (Aretas) II110-95
Erotimc.110-c.100
Ubaidah (Obodas) I95-87
ar-Rabil (Rabbel) I87
Harithath III (Aretas Philhellen)87-62
Roman Client, 63 BC
Ubaidah (Obodas) II62-c.50
Maliku (Malichus) IIc.50-28
Ubaidah (Obodas) III28-9
Harithath IV (Aretas Philopatris)9 BC-c.40 AD
Maliku (Malichus) IIIc.40-c.70
Shakilatc.40-c.60
ar-Rabil II (Rabbel Soter)c.71-106
Gamilatc.71-90
Maliku (Malichus) IV106
Roman Province
The Kingdom of the Nabataeans is in the area the Romans called Arabia Petraea, "rocky" Arabia, in contrast to Arabia Felix, "happy" or "fortunate" Arabia and Arabia Deserta, "desert" Arabia. Arabia Felix was no less than the distant center of its own civilization in
Yemen. "Arabia Petraea" gives or derives its name from the capital of the Nabataeans, the remarkable city of Petra, "rock" in Greek,
Osrhoene or Edessa, modern Urfa
Aryu132 BC-127
'Abdu bar Maz'ur127-120
Fardhasht bar Geba'u120-115
Bakru I115-112
Bakru II bar Bakru112-92
Ma'nu I94
Abgar I Piqa94-68
Abgar II bar Abgar68-53
Ma'nu II Aloho52-34
Faquri (Paqor)34-29
Abgar III29-26
Abgar IV Sumaqa26-23
Ma'nu III Saflul23-4
Abgar V Ukkama bar Ma'nu4 BC-7 AD,
13-50
Ma'nu IV bar Ma'nu7-13
Ma'nu V bar Abgar50-57
Ma'nu VI bar Abgar57-71
Roman Client, 63 AD
Abgar VI71-91
vacant, 91-109
Abgar VII bar Ezad109-116
vacant, 116-118
Yalud (Yalur)118-122
Frantsafat (Parthamaspat of Armenia)118-123
Ma'nu VII bar Ezad123-139
Ma'nu VIII bar Ma'nu139-163, 165-167 (165-177)
Wa'el bar Sahru163-165
Abgar VIII the Great167-214 (177-212)
Abgar IX Severus bar Abgar214-216 (212-214)
Ma'nu IX bar Abgar216-242 (214-240)
Abgar X Farhat bar Ma'nu242-244 (240-242)
Roman Province, 244
which is still today one of the major tourist attractions of Jordon and has figured as a location in many movies, such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Nabataeans apparently were never under the rule of any of the Greek kingdoms and made an excellent living as the middle men on trade routes down all the way to Yemen. Eventually, the Kingdom was annexed as a Roman province. Note that the name Maliku is familiar as the Arabic word for "king."

The familiar images of Petra are the facades of tombs, temples, and perhaps some public buildings. The Nabataeans were too wise to build their actual dwellings on or the near the floor of canyons and defiles that were subject to unpredictable but devastating flash floods. Not much remains of their clifftop homes.
 
Here we see the imposing facade of what is called the "Treasury," although its real function is unknown, which greets travelers as they emerge from the Siq, the narrow passage that leads dramatically into the city. There are few images more familiar, or more beautiful, in the catalogue of ancient ruins.

Emesa or Homs,
under Roman suzerainty
Sampsigeramus I69-43
Imblichus64-31
Alexander31-29
vacant, 29-20
Imblichus II20-11
Sampsigeramus II11 BC-42 AD
Aziz (Asisus)42-54
Julius Sohemus54-73
Julius Alexiolate 1st century
Julius Sampsigeramus III (Shamashgeram)c.79
Julius Bassianus2nd century
father of Julia Domna and Julia Maesa of the Severans
Varius Avitus Bassianus ElagabalusRoman Emperor,
218-222
Sulpicius Uranius Antoninusthird century
To Palmyra, 261-271; Rome, 271


Edessa found its way from Seleucid rule, to Armenian, and then to Parthian. Then, after a ten year war, 53-63 AD, the Roman border was pushed across the upper Euphrates and Edessa became a Roman client. It survived in that fashion until the troubles of the 3rd century, when it finally became the Roman province of Osrhoene. It would become an important city from Late Roman times through the Middle Ages, a Center of the Syrian Orthodox faith and a Crusader State.


Emesa, the modern Homs, is a city in central Syria over which the last shreds of Seleucid authority were maintained. As it began to achieve autonomy in 69 BC, it would only be six years before Pompey arrived to reduce the region to Roman vassalage. Emesa did have its peculiarities. The Kings were Priests of a Phoenician sun god, and after 73 AD they had no other function. Perhaps this is why the dates are so poorly attested. They were of no political significance.

 
This obscurity was abruptly and dramatically reversed when a daughter of King Julius Bassianus, Julia Domna, married Septimius Severus (187), who would become Roman Emperor in 193 AD. It was the Bassiani women who then dominated the "Severan" dynasty of Rome. This reached its unlikely and tragicomic culmination with the Emperor Elagabalus (or Heliogabalus), who himself assumed the Priest-Kingship of Emesa. The Emperor's behavior, both personal and ritual, was scandalous to the Romans, whose elite opinion had always despised "eastern" cults anyway. Elagabalus and his mother were then murdered, to be succeeded, however, by his more conventional cousin, Alexander, and his mother. Nevertheless, for all its peculiarities, this was the last period of stability before the free-for-all of Emperors into which the Third Century plunged.

KINGS OF THRACE
Odrysian Kings
Odroesc.280-273Adaeusc.280-273
Skostodosc.275Orsoaltiosc.265
Kersivaulos...c.260Kotys IIc.260
Tires IVc.250Adeosc.235
Rascouporis Ic.213Seuthes IV213-175
To Macedon, 208-183
Abrupolisc.200-172Amadokos
III
?-184
To Pergamon,183-180
Tires Vc.183-148
The lists for the Nabataeans, Edessa, and Emesa are all from
Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies. I have seen the rulers in no books of Hellenistic or Roman history.

Bruce R. Gordon's Regnal Chronologies are also the sources the the Kings of Thrace listed above and then now here. I have also not seen them in books of Greek, Hellenistic, or Roman history.

After the fall of Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy Ceraunus, and with Celtic tribes pouring across the land, Thrace lapsed into anarchy. Nevertheless, the native Odrysian dynasty began to reorganize.
Kingdom of Odrissae
Kotys III180-168
To Rome, 168-150
Diygyles150-140
Bizc.148/6
Tires VIc.149
To Rome, 140-73
Amodokos IVc.90-c.80
Kingdom of Astean
Kotys Ic.100-c. 87
Sadalas Ic.87-c. 80
Kotys IIc.80-45
Sadalas II44-42
To Sapes, 42-31
Sadalas IIIc.31
Kotys III31-18
Raskouporis18-11
Kotys IV11
To Rome, 11 BC

It was never to be all that organized. Multiple poorly attested Kings confuse the picture and make for a very problematic chronology. After a while, further fragmentation occurs; and we get the development of more than one Kingdom, or we might even say "tribes." Very little attention gets paid to this in Hellenistic histories, and Thrace seems to just disappear off the maps after the end of the Kingdom of Lysimachus.
Kingdom of Sapes
Kotys Ic.55-48
Raskouporis48-42
Raskosc.42
Kotys IIc. 42-31
Roimitalkes I31-13
Kotys III (VIII)southeast, 13 BC-18 AD
Raskouporis IIInorthwest, 13 BC-18 AD
Roimitalkes II18-37
Roimitalkes III18-46
To Rome, 46 AD
Under Roman suzerainty, however, the Kingdoms become somewhat better known. Like most of the Kingdoms of Asia Minor, the Thracians are eventually absorded into the Roman state.

Just who the Thracians were is a matter of uncertainty and controversy. Their language, which is very poorly attested, is believed to be Indo-European; but its affinities are tenuous. The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History [Colin McEvedy, 2002] shows Thracian clearly linked only to the Phrygians, Dacians, and Armenians. Later states, such as Cappadocia, Bithynia, and Pontus are shown as linguistically related, but these were all probably speaking descendants or dialects of Phyrgian. Moreover, Philip Baldi [An Introduction to the Indo-European Languages, Southern Illinois University Press, 1983] says:  "Although many comparativists have listed Armenian as a member of the Thraco-Phrygian group, this highly speculative classification is not well substantiated by the Thraco-Phyrgian data" [p.79]. Thracian is so poorly attested, even in comparison to Phrygian, that many sources in historical linguistics do not even mention the existence of a Thraco-Phrygian group (e.g. Robert S.P. Beekes, Comparative Indo-European Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, 1995, pp.22-23). The lack of evidence about these languages does not necessarily mean that the people were illiterate. Literacy came to mean reading and writing Greek, and much of the evidence for the languages themselves is preserved in Greek glosses or inscriptions or epigraphs in the Greek alphabet.

In the final map, below, we see the results of the reign of Augustus, who brought the Hellenistic Period to its end. Various remnant vassal kingdoms are subject to Rome. Some, like Armenia, will persist all through Roman history. Parthia is at its apogee, with perhaps loosely controlled (and poorly understood) Parthian satraps, the Suren, now exercising control in India. Meanwhile the Chinese, at the end of the Former Han Dynasty, have arrived in the Tarim Basin.

The Olympic and the Other Panhellenic Games

Hellenistic Philosophy, 322 BC to 235 AD

History Continued, The Parthian Arsacids, 248 BC-227 AD

History Continued, Rome and Romania, 27 BC-1453 AD

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved


Hellenistic Monarchs
down to the Roman Empire, Note


The names in parentheses are Sanskrit names from inscriptions of Ashoka (c.274/269-232), who had unified India and then embraced Buddhism. Ashoka wrote letters (circa 247, the year in which both Antiochus II and Ptolemy II died) to as many Hellenistic monarchs as he knew about to urge them to embrace Buddhism. A letter was also sent to Magas of Cyrene (Maga). The text of the letters is preserved in Ashoka's monumental inscriptions. No Greek historian mentions them. This makes the reign of Ashoka the earliest benchmark for chronology in Indian history.

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Hellenistic Philosophy

322 BC to 235 AD

Hellenistic Philosophy overlaps the Hellenistic Period (from Alexander the Great, d.323, to Cleopatra, d.30 BC) and the Early Roman Empire (30 BC to the death of Alexander Severus, 235 AD). Plato's school at the Academy and Aristotle's school (the Peripatetics) at the Lyceum continued, joined by several other schools, including the Cynics and Hedonists,
The Big Four Hellenistic Schools of Athens
NameMembersFounderFoundedSource
the AcademyAcademicsPlato387/85Socrates
the LyceumPeripateticsAristotle335Plato
the GardenEpicureansEpicurus306the Hedonists
the StoaStoicsZeno of Citium292the Cynics
but especially the Stoics and Epicureans.

Although Antisthenes of Athens (c.450-360) was later credited with founding the Cynic school, Diogenes of Sinope (c.400-323) was the real founder, responsible for both the name and the popularity of the school. "Cynic" comes from the Greek word for "dog," kyôn, and was actually a nickname for Diogenes, since people thought that is how he lived. Diogenes, indeed, had nothing but contempt for conventional morality, mores, and manners. He lived much of his life in a large jar and carried on in such a way that a principle of the school became that one should do in public what other people would be ashamed to do in private. Since that seems to have included masturbation, there are limits to the practicality of this in the modern world. The two most famous stories about Diogenes are (1) that he would walk around Athens, hold a lamp up to people's faces, and say that he was looking for an honest man, and (2) that when Alexander the Great paid him a visit (outside his jar) and offered to grant any wish he might have, Diogenes merely requested that Alexander stand aside so as not to block the sunlight. I would love to see the kind of dialogue that might ensue between a modern judge and a Diogenes arrested for public lewdness (or, for that matter, between a modern judge and a Digambara Jain monk arrested for public nudity). The Cynic Crates of Thebes, who also taught at Athens, was called the "Door-opener" because he used to barge uninvited into people's houses and rebuke them for their moral failings. He may have gone one better than Diogenes by having sex in public with his wife and fellow philosopher Hipparchia, who herself wore male clothing and accompanied Crates to drinking parties. Male drinking parties were ordinarily only attended by women who were musicians, performers, or courtesans. Today "cynicism" can mean, not just contempt for conventional beliefs and motives, but a nihilistic willingness to manipulate them for self-interested purposes. That is contrary to the strong, anarchistic, ascetic ethic of the Cynics themselves. The asocial and antinomian but resolute attitude of the Cynics seems the match in many ways of the Taoists in Chinese philosophy.

The Stoic school, chronologically late but soon unmatched in influence and reach, was founded by Zeno of Citium (334/3-263), a man apparently of Phoenician descent from Cyprus, and was named after the kind of open building with a porch, a stoa, found in the Athenian marketplace -- in fact a particular stoa, the Stoa Poikilê or "painted" stoa, where Zeno taught and the school became established. After coming to Athens as the result of being shipwrecked on a trading voyage from Cyprus (304), Zeno became a student of Crates, but eventually broke away out of humiliation at the kinds of things he was expected to do [note]. Zeno started his own school at the age of 42, but by some accounts he had not compeltely abandoned his mercantile dealings. Stoicism, which became the dominant Hellenistic school of philosophy, emphasized that happiness depends only on goodness (rather as Socrates had thought) and that all external conditions of life can and must be endured apátheia, "without suffering" (our word "apathy"). Stoicism also continued the Cynic doctrine of the cosmopolis or "world state" as an ethical ideal. The word "cosmopolis" itself does not seem to have been used until the 19th century, but Diogenes himself is supposed to have said that he was a , kosmopolítês, "world citizen," introducing the elements of the term [Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, Volume II, Books VI-X, translated by R.D. Hicks, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard, 1925, 2005, pp.64-65]. That ideal seemed realized later in the Roman Empire, when the word that became popular in Greek for the universal community of the Empire was , oikouménê, "inhabited [world]," from the verb , oikéô, "to settle" in the passive participle that we see here. From this we get the term "ecumenical," which is roughly equivalent to "universal" (otherwise , katholikós, "catholic"). Two curiously representative Roman Stoics were Epictetus (55 AD-135), a slave (later freed), and Marcus Aurelius, an Emperor (ruled 161-180). Epictetus had to deal with being tortured by his owner, while Marcus was tortured by the rarer burdens of ruling the Roman Empire. Apart from ethics, the Stoics devoted considerable creative attention to logic, but their metaphysical doctrines were mostly derived from the teachings of Heraclitus.

The school of Hedonism was reputedly founded by Aristippus of Cyrene (c.435-360) and developed by his obscure grandson of the same name. Aristippus spent some time with Socrates but concluded -- in answer to the Socratic question, "What is the good?" -- that the good was simply pleasure (hêdonê). Today "hedonism" usually means pursuing pleasure as well as just believing that it is the good, and Aristippus seems to have advocated that kind of thing. This was later modified by Epicurus (341-270), who settled in Athens and taught from the garden of his house, where the school remained and from which it derived its name: the Garden. Epicurus remained a hedonist in the sense that he believed pleasure to be the good, but he thought that only pleasures which did not later produce pain should be sought. Excesses and disturbing affairs, like politics, were thus to be avoided. Even the gods were thought to live this kind of existence, paying no special attention to us. Epicurus derived his metaphysical doctrines from Democritus. The teaching of "atoms and the void" gave him less to worry about than other doctrines did. This was never as popular as Stoicism, but there were a few Roman Epicureans -- especially Lucretius (95-55 BC) and his poem De rerum natura ("On the Nature of Things") [note].

While the great emphasis of Hellenistic thought was on ethics, a critical attitude towards questions about knowledge was maintained by the Skeptics, who concluded that knowledge is impossible. There were two main types: Pyrrho of Elis (365-275 BC, hence "Pyrrhonian" skepticism), held that because knowledge is impossible, we should practice suspension (epochê) of judgment in all matters. This was later modified by skeptics who dominated Plato's Academy for a while, like Carneades of Cyrene (d.129 BC). This "Academic" skepticism eventually held that although there may be no certain knowledge, there is spontaneous, reasonable belief, and this is necessary for practical judgments in life. Problems about knowledge did not again so disturb philosophy until Descartes and Hume. Indeed, Hume explicitly regarded his views as a form of Academic skepticism -- though this has not always been understood in modern philosophy.

Pyrrho may represent a case of direct influence from Indian philosophy. He had traveled to India with his teacher Anaxarchus in the army of Alexander the Great, "with the result that he even associated with the Naked Philosophers (gymnosophistaî) in India and with the Magi" [Diogenes Laertius]. The most striking sign of this possible influence is how Pyrrho expressed himself in the actual form of the Four-Fold Negation, one of the fundamental and most characteristic principles of Buddhism: "...but we should be unopinionated, uncommitted, and unwavering, saying concerning each individual thing that it no more is than is not, or it both is and is not, or it neither is nor is not" [Aristocles]. The entire tradition of Hellenistic skepticism may thus have Buddhist roots.

An important aspect of Hellenistic thought was the degree to which Greek culture began to mix with that of the older civilizations in the Middle East. An important part of this were the books in Greek that were written in the 3rd century BC by the Egyptian priest Manethô on Egyptian history and by the Babylonian priests Sudinês and Bêrôssos on astronomy. Manethô introduced the system, still used, of numbering the dynasties of ancient Egyptian kings; and Sudinês, translating older astronomical texts, including those of the named astronomer Kidinnu, provided invaluable astronomical data all the way back to the beginning of the reign of the Babylonian King Nabonassar (Nabûnâs.iru) in 747 BC [note]. The works of both Sudinês and Manethô continued up through the Roman period to be of great interest to historians and astronomers, but unfortunately complete texts of neither work survive. The astronomical data was later preserved by Claudius Ptolemy.

Of a different order of importance was the fusing of Greek philosophical ideas with Judaism that was effected by the first Jewish philosopher writing in Greek, from whom a large corpus survives: Philo Judaeus (or Philo of Alexandria, c.25 BC-50 AD). Philo (a Greek name, Philôn) belonged to the prosperous and influential Jewish community in Alexandria, Egypt, and represented the Jews on an embassy to the Emperor Caligula in 39-40 AD. Philo may not even have read Hebrew. He was forced to rely on the translation of the Bible into Greek that had been done at Alexandria.

In Jewish tradition, related by Josephus, a friend of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Aristeas, wrote to Jerusalem, under Ptolemaic rule at the time, to ask the High Priest Elazar for permission to translate the Torah (the Pentateuch) from Hebrew into Greek. Elazar agreed, and selected 72 translators who then produced the Septuagint, , katà toùs Hebdomékonta, "according to the Seventy" (which also, although perhaps not right away, included the historical books and the prophets of the Bible). There are different versions of how this worked. One is that all the translators worked separately on a complete translation; but when the different results were compared, they were identical. While the "Letter of Aristeas" is sometimes said to be a Hasmonean, or later, forgery, Simeon ben Gamaliel, president of the Sanhedrin in the 1st century AD, ruled (according to the Palestinian Talmud) that the Torah could be written in Greek as well as Hebrew [cf. Alfred J. Kolatch, This is the Torah, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, New York, 1988, pp.46-49].

Familiar with the whole of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, Philo sought to reconcile it, indeed to identify it, with the meaning and teachings of the Bible. Most notable was Philo's theory that God creates and governs the universe through his Word, the Lógos, which (picking up Heraclitus's Lógos with all its implications) was a combination of Plato's Forms, Jewish Angels, and the Word of the Law itself. This could be worked into the text of the Bible only by careful allegorical readings, which Philo provided in detail. Philo also claimed that Heraclitus and Plato had actually gotten their ideas from the Bible. In much of this, Philo initiates the tradition that leads to Neoplatonism, as well as to much of Mediaeval Jewish, Christian, and even Islamic philosophical, mystical, and allegorical readings of sacred texts.

Philo's theory is also strongly reminiscent of the first words of the Gospel of John (1:1-14): "In the beginning was the Word (Lógos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; and all things were made through him.....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." The specifically Christian element in the Gospel is simply to identify the Lógos with Jesus Christ, the other elements mostly already being there in Philo. Indeed, Philo had already even referred to the Lógos as the "son of God," a very astonishing statement to make. The New Testament is itself, of course, a significant cross-cultural document written in Greek, recounting the deeds and teachings of a man who was speaking in Aramaic. It is a shame that no information survives about the learning and sources of influence on the evangelist John. Philo's influence seems unmistakable, but we can estimate it only through speculation. Meanwhile, the actual text of Philo was not preserved in the Middle Ages with Jewish literature, but at Constantinople, with Greek literature.

Hellenistic Science

What we now think of as "science" produced some stunning achievements during the Hellenistic period [cf. G.E.R. Lloyd, Greek Science After Aristotle, W.W. Norton, 1973]. In pure mathematics, nothing would equal Euclid for many centuries. Reducing geometry to an axiomatic system in The Elements, although certainly drawing on work that went back to the Pythagoreans and that likely owed much to Plato's Academy, Euclid completed a project that would stand without significant modification until the 19th century. Also, although modern philosophers have exulted over the replacement of Euclid by Non-Euclidean geometry in Einstein's physics, modern cosmology has now, curiously, returned to belief that space is Euclidean. Apart from geometry, we also find other proofs in Euclid, for instance that there is no largest prime number. The significance of such work cannot be exaggerated.

Euclid himself is a bit of mystery. We do not know where he was from, and we only hear of him in Alexandria under Ptolemy I, where he told the King, "There is no royal road to geometry." Of equal importance in pure mathemtics and beyond was Archimedes (287-212), who lived in the days of Hieron II of Syracuse and was killed when the Romans took the city in the Second Punic War. Archimedes was probably the greatest mathematician of antiquity (often said to have nearly invented calculus because of methods for determining lengths of arcs and areas of curved figures) and used his powers of invention to create engines that helped withstand the Roman siege for three years -- as he had previously investigated the powers of levers and pullies, famously claiming that he could move the world with a lever if given a place to stand. Before the city fell, the Roman General Marcellus instructed his men to respect Archimedes, but the great man was killed, for various legendary reasons, when a Roman soldier found him.

Curiously, Archimedes has a place in the history of California. Hieron was suspicious that a crown he had ordered was not made with the pure gold he had provided, but that some of the gold had been replaced. The weight of the crown was what it was supposed to be, so Hieron ordered Archimedes to figure out a test that could be performed on the finished object. Any base metal used would have a different density than the gold, so if the volume of the crown could be determined, this would show whether it was pure gold. Unfortunately, the crown, if it was like Greek royal crowns, was a construction of gold leaves, whose density could not be determined from a direct measurement of the volume. The story is that Archimedes, relaxing in the bath, realized that the density of the crown could be determined, like Archimedes in his bath, by submerging it in water, which would displace an amount of water equal to its volume. Archimedes leaped out of the bath and ran down the street naked, shouting Eureka, "I have found [it]." "Eureka" is now the motto of the State of California, shown on the Great Seal of the State just above the goddess Athena (of all people).

Another stunning achievement of Hellenistic science was the determination of the circumference of the Earth by Eratosthenes (of Cyrene, b.c.280). After a stay in Athens, Eratosthenes moved to Alexandria, probably around 246, in the days of Ptolemy III. Once there Eratosthenes heard an interesting story. On the day of the Summer Solstice, when the sun is the highest in the sky, it was said to shine directly down a well at Syene (the modern Aswan), at the First Cataract on the Nile -- this is, of course, true, since Aswan is on the Tropic of Cancer. At Alexandria, as Eratosthenes determined, the sun on the same day cast a shadow of 7.5 degrees from the vertical. Eratosthenes realized that this meant that Alexandria was 7.5 degrees of arc across the Earth's surface from Syene -- or exactly 2% of the circumference of the Earth (on a Great Circle). He understood the distance from Alexandria to Syene to be 5000 stadia, which made the circumference of the Earth to be 240,000 stadia.

Now, it is a matter of dispute what the length was of the stadium that Eratosthenes used. And, of course, it is unlikely that the distance to Syene would be exactly 5000 stadia, whichever one he used. Values of the stadium range from 148.8 meters to 186. If the one he used was 157.5 m, then that puts the circumference of the Earth at 39,690 kilometers, remakably close to the true value of 40,009 km. There would no better value for the size of the Earth until well into the Modern era. In fact, for centuries, geographers would have difficulty believing that the world was so large -- estimates for the extent of Europe and Asia (although actually too large themselves) encompassed far too little of the Earth. In the Middle Ages, Arab astronomers obtained a value for the size of the Earth much smaller than that of Eratosthenes. The only reason that Columbus left on his voyage is that he believed the Arab value, which would have put Japan right were he landed in the Bahamas. The discovery of America therefore hinged on the hope that Eratosthenes had been wrong.

That the Earth was round had already been established, probably by the Pythagoreans. Aristotle lists the reasons for thinking so, that ships disappear below the horizon when sailing away, that the Earth always casts a circular shadow on the Moon during an eclipse, etc. In the Middle Ages, that the Earth was spherical would be questioned by some religious writers, such as the Greek sailor, Cosmas Indicopleustes (c.550 AD), but no one properly informed of the evidence would ever be in doubt. The Patriarch Photius, writing in the 9th century, said that Cosmas "may fairly be regarded as a fabulist rather than a trustworthy authority" and that his cosmological theories were "absurdities" [Bibliotheca -- The Library of Photius, Volume I, Chapter XXXVI, Macmillan Company, New York, 1920, p.32]. The risk that Columbus took was not that he would fall off the edge, but that he would run out of food and water in the mid-ocean of the large world of Eratosthenes. The large world it was, and Columbus would never get to Japan, but he lucked out that there were unknown Continents in the way. It would have to wait until Will Adams before Japan was reached by sailing across the Pacific.

The Hellenistic Age was also a formative period in the history of astronomy. In retrospect, the greatest interest focuses on Aristarchus of Samos (active c.275), who, we are told, proposed that the Earth revolved around the Sun and also rotated on its axis, meaning that the stars do not move. The details of all this are now lost, and we don't even know if Aristarchus knew how to use his system to explain the retrograde motion of the outer planets. He did know, however, that if the Earth moves and the stars do not, there should be apparent motion, parallax, of the nearer stars as the Earth rounds the Sun. That no parallax is detectable would be an embarrassment to heliocentric theories from then on, and Aristarchus could explain it only on the hypothesis that the stars are too far away for any parallax to be visible. This seems like a very ad hoc explanation, and the fact that it turns out to be true adds nothing to its credibility at the time (or in the days of Copernicus). In fact, stellar parallax is measured in less than seconds of arc (1/60 of a minute of arc, which is 1/60 of a degree of arc), and instruments were not sensitive enough to detect this until about 1840. Most stars, let alone galaxies, are still too far away for their parallax to be detectable.

Thus, popular presentations of the history of science have difficulty understanding that there was no evidence for heliocentrism in Aristarchus' day and that in fact the evidence was against him. Only one other astronomer is mentioned in the records as agreeing with his theory, Seleucus of Seleucia (c.150), who may even have been a Babylonian. Otherwise the consensus of Ancient and Mediaeval astronomers was against it. The explanation for this commonly given now is that everyone held to geocentrism out of irrational, religious, or anthropocentric convictions. Indeed, the second Scholarch of the Stoa, Cleanthes (d.c.230), suggested that Aristarchus be indicted for impiety for suggesting that the Earth moved. If this was the reasoning of all Greek astronomers, then we can turn the history of science into a little morality play in which the forces of ignorance and superstition are defeated by, well, us. Unfortunately, such treatments reveal more that the ignorance may be as much in us as in the Greeks, for the better Greek astronomers, such as Hipparchus of Nicaea (c.150 BC), had reasons for geocentrism that are now rarely mentioned.

For, as it happens, it was not the astronomy that was decisive against (or for) Aristarchus -- apart from the problem with parallax -- but the physics. No one before Newton or Galileo had Newtonian or Galilean conceptions of motion. The Greeks believed that for something to move, it needed to be pushed. Otherwise, it comes to rest. Rest is the natural state of things. Also, lacking any modern conception of gravity, things fall to the Earth because that is where they belong; and they come to rest when they get there. Thus, if it feels as though something is at rest, it is. If the Earth were moving, or rotating -- a theory independently proposed by Heraclides of Pontus (d.310) -- we would feel that motion, and a rotating Earth would cause constant great winds in the air, with objects flying off the surface. So, since it feels like the Earth is at rest, and objects are at rest on its surface, it is not moving. By the same token, if the Heavens look like they are moving, they are, and to be moving, they must be pushed -- for which Aristotle provided "intelligences" for each planet and God for the whole.

The later proposal of Galileo, that there is a difference between velocity and acceleration, and that things can move with a constant velocity, and a feeling of rest, because of inertia, is a theory at once contrary to common sense, ordinary experience, and, indeed, any experience that even Galileo would have had. Before being launched into space, we simply do not see objects that continue in motion at a constant velocity. Now, theories were not unknown to the Greeks that were contrary to common sense and about things that could not be observed. Anaximander of Miletus (c.550 BC) was the first to suggest that the Earth was a finite body floating in space, which meant that there was "sky" under the Earth as well as over it, eliminating the need to explain where the Sun went at night. This was a stunning leap of imagination, something that I don't believe was achieved independently anywhere else, not even in India or China. Once we had such a conception of the Earth, it was possible to then see it as (1) round, and (2) moving like a planet. Both of these ideas are found with the Pythagoreans, although they did not think that the Earth moved around the Sun (they had their own "Central Fire," which could not be seen from our position on the planet). The difference, then, in the fates of the two concepts was that there was evidence for, and none against, a spherical Earth, while there was little evidence for, and serious objections against, a moving Earth.

Also overlooked in the moralistic histories of science is the progress that would later be made in physics by John Philoponus (d.570). Meanwhile, Hellenistic astronomy had enough on its hands. Hipparchus discovered the Precession of Equinoxes, which means that over time the axis of the Earth rotates through a small circle in space. We know now that this happens because, as the Earth spins like top, other gravitational forces, as from the Moon and Sun, cause the top to wobble. This phenomenon can be inspected in the behavior of any common gyroscope. Not familiar with the physics of angular momentum, the Greeks did not know why the Earth precessed, but now their astronomy became precise enough to detect it. By the same token, Hipparchus and others obtained increasingly accurate measurements of the length of the synodic month and of the year. This led to Ptolemy III proposing (in 238) the addition of leap days to the Egyptian 365 day year. Resisted by the Egyptians, the reform was effected by Julius Caesar at Rome (advised by Sosigenes of Alexandria) in 46 BC.

Other accurate measurements revealed the irregularities in the motion of the Sun, Moon, and planets. How to reproduce and predict these irregularities became the principal project of ancient astronomy. The first great theory was that of Eudoxus of Cnidos (408-355), who determined the motions of the planets with nests of concentric spheres, with one rotating upon another. This was elegant and clever but had difficulty with the irregularities that became increasingly apparent. Then, the mathematician Apollonius of Perge (c.210), who pioneered the theory of conic sections, proposed that smaller orbits, "epicycles," were attached to the principal spheres, which themselves were "eccentric," i.e. offset from the center of the Earth. This theory was taken up by Hipparchus and perfected by Claudius Ptolemy (c.90–c.168 AD), whose greatest work, appropriately known as the Megálê Sýntaxis, "Great Treatise," is ironically generally known as the Almagest, from the Arabic rendering of the first word. Ptolemy used the simple Egyptian 365 day year for dating, with an Era based on the Babylonian King Nabonassar, whom he dated with Babylonian historical and astronomical records in the Canon of Kings, still the basis of ancient chronology. This was the basis of astronomical dating until the introduction of Julian Day Numbers.

Since a great deal of this activity, and more, went on at Alexandria, where we also had the Great Library, it is hard not to see that place as intellectually one of the most productive in history. Where the work of the Hellenistic Schools of philosophy seems disappointing in the area of metaphysics, it is often not remembered just how brilliant the mathematics and science of the Age were, especially at Alexandria. It is thus fitting to commemorate the astronomer Carl Sagan (d.1996), who imagined visiting the Library in his video documentary Cosmos [1980]. It usually doesn't come in for quite that kind of attention in histories of philosophy.

Philosophy in Late Antiquity, 235 AD to c.600 AD

History of Philosophy

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Hellenistic Philosophy, 322 BC to 235 AD, Note 1


This was supposed to have included carrying a bowl of porridge or lentils through the marketplace in Athens. Why that would be improper or humiliating is unclear. Or it may just be that Crates then broke the bowl and spilled the contents on Zeno, taunting him that there was nothing morally wrong, or even bad, with being covered with spilled food.

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Hellenistic Philosophy, 322 BC to 235 AD, Note 2

Epicurus gained a curious hold over thinkers in the 17th and 18th centuries. A recent book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt [Norton, 2011], traces this back to the discovery by Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) in 1417 of the only surviving manuscript of De rerum natura. Greenblatt thinks that this inspired the entire "swerve" toward secular modernity, and he discerns its influence in Bruno, Machiavelli, and Montaigne. However, I do not recall any mention of Epicurus or Lucretius in Machiavelli. Montaigne does quote Lucretius and Epicurus, but no more often, I think, than Stoics like Cicero and Seneca, or other Classical authors. Both Bruno and the great Renaissance scientists seem more influenced by Neoplatonism and Mediaeval Physics than they were by the crude Atomism that Greenblatt mistakes for a predecessor to the Scientific Revolution. I expect that the discovery of Lucretius may indeed have been influential, but its effect was more after the manner of its own bleak and pessimistic moral and philosophical purport. Lucretius, after all, is said to have committed suicide.

Thus, Machiavelli and Montaigne may perhaps have been affected; but I don't think we see Epicurus come into his own until The Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton [1621]. This is an early, great, and formidable example of the Epicureanism that would become popular in certain quarters of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. Burton presents himself as "Democritus Junior" -- which sounds less silly if we remember than junior is simply Latin for "the Younger." Democritus, of course, is not necessarily Epicurus, but, as noted, he does have an Epicurean connection. Burton's association of melancholy with Democritus, or Epicurus, creates a connection that will survive through the next century. Indeed, the best example comes with Kant, in whose psychological typology the "melancholic" character is the one associated with rationality and the consciousness of moral duty -- "to refer all one's actions to this as to a universal ground." This is praise indeed from Kant. I don't think that Kant ever associates this with Epicurus, and perhaps it is an excessively oblique reference for me to note. We get other indirect references, such as the ending of Voltaire's Candide [ou l'Optimisme, 1759], which finishes with the famous conclusion, "we must cultivate our garden." The Garden, of course, evokes Epicurus. Since Candide is a satire of Leibnizian Optimism, we may also see its thrust as melancholic.

A long explicit tribute to Epicurus is provided by Hume, who devotes all of Section XL of An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding [1748] to him, "Of a Particular Providence and of a Future State," which includes a speech that Hume has constructed for Epicurus to defend himself before the Athenians. This apologia for Epicurus Hume ascribes to an unnamed "friend," so as to distance himself from the sentiments expressed; but, after the manner of Hume, it is pretty obvious that these are his sentiments.

An explicit and now unguarded tribute to Epicurus comes from no less than Thomas Jefferson. In a letter of 31 October 1819 to William Short, Jefferson says:

As you say yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us. Epictetus indeed, has given us what was good of the Stoics; all beyond, of their dogmas, being hypocrisy and grimace. [The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Modern Library, 1944, 1993, p.633]

Jefferson considered Epicureanism and Unitarianism sufficient doctrines for the governance of life.

Epictetus and Epicurus give laws for governing ourselves, Jesus a supplement of the duties and charities we owe to others. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent Moralist, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems [Jefferson's note], invented by ultra-Christian sects, unauthorized by a single word ever uttered by Him, is a most desirable object, and one to which Priestly has successfully devoted his labors and learning. [ibid., p.634]

Jefferson's own note with examples of the "artificial" doctrines imputed to Christianity runs, "E.g. The immaculate conception of Jesus, His deification, the creation of the world by Him, His miraculous powers, His resurrection and visible ascension, His corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity, original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of Hierarchy, etc." [ibid.] In other words, to Jefferson, Jesus does not Save and is not the only begotten Son of God. This is not Christianity in any recognizeable sense. It is not surprising, however, in a self-professed Epicurean. It is also something to keep in mind whenever Jefferson is presented as a properly Christian Founding Father. Jefferson's own bizarre redaction of the New Testament preserves only the words of Jesus and leaves out everything of the miraculous or anything that provided the basis of traditional Christian theology and practice. Jefferson concludes his letter to Short with a summary of Epicurean metaphysics:

The Universe eternal.
Its parts, great and small, interchangeable.
Matter and Void alone.
Motion inherent in matter which is weighty and declining.
Eternal circulation of the elements of bodies.
Gods, an order of beings next superior to man, enjoying in their sphere, their own felicities; but not meddling with the concerns of the scale of beings below them. [ibid., p.635]

This may be the high water mark of the influence of Epicurus in 18th century thought. If Jefferson has translated the Epicurean deities into his own Unitarianism, then he is clearly a Deist, someone who does not believe that God inverteves, miraculously or otherwise, in human affairs or in the conduct of Nature. His reconstruction of the role of Jesus, as no more than a "Moralist," is certainly consistent with that.

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Hellenistic Philosophy, 322 BC to 235 AD, Note 3

Manethô's history is now often considered the first anti-Semitic document, since the Jews are said to have been expelled from Egypt -- not fled or escaped -- because they were lepers and the Egyptians didn't want them. It is not hard to imagine, however, why the Egyptians or Manethô would prefer such a story, since the Biblical account of the Exodus condemns the Egyptians for oppression and cruelty and dismisses their gods as weak and insignificant, if not non-existent, next to the power of the LORD. The Bible thus might appear to Manethô as a document of "anti-Egyptianism" (perhaps the feeling again of Anwar Sadat when Menachem Begin told him, with grotesque anachronism, that the Jews had built the pyramids). Pagan hostility towards the Jews tended to take a similar form, that, as the ritual purity required by the Torah prevented easy association with non-Jews and as the exclusivistic Biblical prohibition of the recognition of foreign gods prevented the kind of reciprocity common among ancient religions (so that Herodotus, for instance, was comfortable speaking of the "Egyptian Zeus," or Plato with the identification of the Greek Athena with the Egyptian Neith), the Jews were seen as misanthropic, and a hostility was returned which was seen as originating from their religion in the first place -- a characerization repeated by Nietzsche as part of his own anti-Semitism ("Rome viewed Israel as a monstrosity; the Romans regarded the Jews as convicted of hatred against the whole of mankind" [The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1956, pp.185-186]). Now, of course, that the exclusivism of Biblical Judaism has long been characteristic of both Christianity and Islâm, so that each excludes the other with equal vigor, it is harder to understand the mentality behind more syncretistic approaches to religion, such as survive in Japan, where people can be said to be "Born Shintô, Marry Christian, and Die Buddhist." However, Greek philosophy, with its emphasis on coherence and logical system, can be said to have cooperated with Judaism in the development of exclusivist domination in the Mediterranean world. Jews could argue, as Philo did (see below), quite correctly, that their critique of paganism was no different from that of Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, etc., for whom the ancient gods, in all their lusty immorality and conflicts, were an embarrassment.

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Philosophy in Late Antiquity

235 AD to c.600 AD

The Crisis of the Third Century (235-284), when the Roman Empire almost collapsed, resulted in deep political and spiritual changes. The old schools of philosophy disappeared and were succeeded by Neoplatonism, founded by the deeply ascetic and mystical Egyptian (or Greek) Plotinus (205-270). Plotinus revived the influence of Plato and Aristotle, whose teachings were combined in an original and surprising fashion. Since in epistemology and metaphysics Plato and Aristotle in many ways were more sophisticated than the Hellenistic philosophers who followed them, Plotinus in effect picks up again the mainstream development of Western philosophy, preparing the way for Mediaeval thought. Indeed, the epistemology and metaphysics of Plotinus look like the most original system in Western philosophy in all the time between Aristotle and Descartes. Its influence is incalculable, forming as it did the starting point for all subsequent philosophy and inaugurating the tradition of mysticism that led to Christian, Jewish, and Islâmic mysticism (Sûfîsm) all through the Middle Ages. Various people today interested in the Zohar or Kabalah in Judaism are still living in the shadow of Plotinus. While the Islâmic tradition evolved a more purified devotion to Aristotle, Plotinus emerged again in the Renaissance. We can see how strong Neoplatonism was in Mediaeval Constantinople when we find the 11th century historian Michael Psellus talking about his education:

Starting from these authors [Plato and Aristotle] I completed a cycle, so to speak, by coming down to Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus. Then, continuing my voyage, I put in at the mighty harbour of the admirable Proclus... [Fourteen Byzantine Emperors, Penguin, 1966, p.174]

After this roster of Neoplatonic philosophers, one is not surprised to encounter a powerful mystical tradition at the center of Greek Othrodox monasticism, Mt. Athos.

In the system of Plotinus, although all the old gods of paganism were preserved, beyond them was the One, an impersonal Absolute combining the One of Parmenides and the Good of Plato. The One was the source of all Being. Matter and the body were essentially Not Being, and evil. In between were Plato's Forms, the gods, and souls. All of existence was understood as analogous to light radiating from the sun, as in the simile of the Good as the sun in Plato's Republic -- though the image it evokes seems like nothing so much as the disk of the Aton shining on Akhenaton. This is the "Declension" of Being. The purpose of life was for the soul to return to union with the One, a process of mystical transport which, as noted, strongly influenced mystical traditions in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The Declension of Being is passed on to Christian theology as the "Great Chain" of Being. This is a Neoplatonic metaphor based on a passage in the Iliad. Zeus orders all the gods not to help the Greeks or the Trojans and challenges them to defy him:

Make ye fast from heaven a chain of gold [], and lay ye hold thereof, all ye gods and all goddesses; yet could ye not drag to earth from out of heaven Zeus the counsellor most high, not though ye laboured sore. But whenso I were minded to draw of a ready heart, then with earth itself should I draw you and with sea withal; and the chain should I thereafter bind about a peak of Olympus and all those things should hang in space. [Homer, The Iliad, Book VIII:19-26, translated by A.T. Murray, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. I, 1924, 1988, pp.338-341, boldface added]

This metaphysics of gradations of Being is allowed by Aristotle, whose theory of form and matter, with form representing actuality, means that beings can consist of varying proportions of the two, with those of greater form and less matter higher up the scale. This contradicts the principle of Parmenides, that something either is or is not (éstin ê ouk éstin); yet it still provides a premise for an argument for the existence of God in Descartes.

In many ways the impersonal One of Plotinus can be compared to the Brahman of the Upanishads. The idea that evil ultimately corresponds to Nothingness and is a mere privation of Being is one of the simplest solutions to the Problem of Evil in Western philosophy, and was strongly attractive to St. Augustine, even after he left Neoplatonism for Christianity. Plotinus's student and Boswell, Porphyry (233-c.300) edited, published (as The Enneads), and popularized Plotinus's work. His introduction to Aristotle's logical works, the Isagoge ("Introduction"), became one of the most important texts of Mediaeval philosophy, attracting commentaries by Boethius and Peter Abelard; and his Against the Christians began the long and futile rearguard action against the new religion on behalf of the old.

Plotinus's own teacher was a Christian, and Late Antiquity saw a revolution in religion. The Empire had been restored by Diocletian (284-305) but then began to be Christianized by Constantine I (306-337). Theodosius I (379-395) banned pagan worship; and Justinian I (527-565) both banned pagan belief and in 529 closed Plato's Academy, which had become the last refuge of Neoplatonism. It is not clear exactly what had been going on with the Schools of philosophy in Athens for several centuries. Many scholars now believe that all of the Hellenistic Schools had closed, including Plato's Academy. Certainly there is no information about any succession of Scholarchs or any scholarly activity at the Academy until the 4th and 5th centuries. Nevertheless, when the Neoplatonists suddenly come to light in Athens, we are not told what had been going on before them or even if there was any residence or activity at the actual site of the Academy. We don't know if it even was remembered where the site was -- although today, walking north-west out of the (ancient) Dipylon Gate in modern Athens, it is relatively clear what area the Academy would have been in.

There are several striking incidents in this decline. One was the murder by Christian monks in Alexandria in 415 of the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia, one of the few well attested examples of a woman in ancient philosophy [note]. While Hypatia is celebrated as a martyr and victim of Christian fanaticism by Edward Gibbon and modern feminists, and a feminist philosophy journal is named after her, she had, as a Neoplatonist, world denying sentiments that today would sound more religious and ascetic than otherwise:  She remained a virgin, and when one of her students professed love for you, she showed him a menstrual rag and said, "You are in love with this, young man, not with the Beautiful," which in Platonism or Neoplatonism would mean the Form of Beauty [cf. Mary Lefkowitz, Women in Greek Myth, Johns Hopkins U Press, 1986, p. 131]. Another incident was the brief exile to Sassanid Persia of the last Scholarch of the Academy, Damascius, and his colleague Simplicius, to whom we owe many of our fragments of Parmenides. They figured that the Persian King would be more tolerant than Justinian, which he was; and the King actually negotiated an exit for them in a treaty with Justinian. They seem to have returned out of homesickness, and were unmolested. Some scholarly opinion is that Simplicius returned only as far as Harran (Carrhae) in Syria.. That was essentially the end of ancient philosophy.

As with Hypatia, those searching for modern attitudes, and for science and rationality, among the opponents of the Christians, will be disappointed. Iamblichus (c.250-c.319), although a mathematician, became rather better known as a "theurge" ("divine worker") or "thaumaturge" ("wonder worker"), i.e. he is reputed to have performed miracles. We see competition between the more and the less rational Neoplatonists for the patronage of the Emperor Julian. According to the historian Eunapius (d.414), Julian originally was a student of Eusebius of Myndus, who would end his lectures by saying:

These are the only true realities, whereas the impostures of witchcraft and magic that cheat the senses are the works of conjurors who are insane men led astray into the exercise of earthly and material powers. [Philostratus and Eunapius, The Lives of the Sophists, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard, 1921, p.433]

Julian discovered that Eusebius was referring to Maximus of Ephesus (d.371). After witnessing some of Maximus' miracles, Julian fell entirely under his influence. The last pagan Emperor, Julian died with Maximus at his bedside. The jarring combination of first rate mathematics, mysticism, and thaumaturgy continued with Proclus (d.485), who ironically had been born in Constantinople but flourished as Scholarch of the Academy.

Meanwhile, characteristically mediaeval Christian philosophy had been developing, for instance with St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who himself had "converted" to Neoplatonism before becoming a Christian. Since Augustine wrote in Latin, he and some other late Western writers, like Boethius (480-525) and St. Isidore of Seville (c.560-636), exerted exclusive influence on Western Europe during the period when the texts of Greek writers were not directly accessible (c.750-c.1100). One of the few philosophers we find even writing during that period was John Scotus Erigena (or Eriugena, c.810-c.877). "Scotus" at the time meant "Irish," not "Scottish," and Erigena (which actually means "born in Ireland"), who seems to have known some Greek himself, is symbolic of the intellectual activity that for a time distinguished Ireland, which had never even been part of the Roman Empire, during the Dark Ages. Erigena, however, gained his fame after being called to the court of the Charles (II) the Bald, who was King of France (843-877) and crowned Emperor by the Pope (875). Erigena also illustrates the danger of original thought at the time: his works ended up condemned as heresy.

The degree to which Greek metaphysics and the tradition of philosophical disputation affected Christianity can be seen in the Christological controversies, the debates over the nature of Jesus, that stretched from the 4th to the 7th centuries. The major doctrines condemned as heresies by the Ecumenical Councils (accepted by both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches) along by the way are:

Mediaeval Physics: The Scientific Revolution of John Philoponus

Although in general it may be comforting for some people to think that Christianity snuffed out the inquisitive instincts, scientific and otherwise, in Greek and Roman culture, a glaring exception to this occurs in Late Antiquity. A contemporary of Simplicius and Damascius was the Christian John Philoponus (or John of Alexandria, John the Grammarian, , Yah.yâ 'n-Nah.wî in Arabic, c.490-c.570). Philoponus produced a large body of work, including grammar and Monophysite and other heterodox theology, but especially commentaries on Aristotle, commentaries that were then commented upon in turn by Simplicius. While Philoponus was condemned as a theologian, his criticism of Aristotle and the novel ideas introduced in his commentary on Aristotle's Physics and related works were of considerable influence by way of Syriac and Arabic translations on the subsequent mainstream of Mediaeval thought. Until recently, little of this was available in English translation; but now the "international Ancient Commentators on Aristotle project," founded in 1987 by Richard Sorabji, has produced at least 23 volumes of Philoponus [published by Cornell University Press in the US and Duckworth in Britain]. Despite the monumental and ongoing nature of this work, Philoponus and the new physics he inaugurated has had little effect on the popular presentations of the history of science, which continue to spin a tendentious fairy tale of Mediaeval ignorance and bigotry.

It is now easy to forget how different ancient and mediaeval physics were from the modern physics that began with Galileo. Most important was the principle enunciated by Aristotle that an object will not move unless it is pushed. Since we are now accustomed to the idea that a thrown projectile continues in motion because of its own momentum, Aristotle's assertion sounds bizarre. But it really only sounds bizarre because of the work of John Philoponus. Not just Aristotle, but all the Greeks, believed that the projectile continues in motion because it continues to be pushed by the air behind it. Originally, it was believed that the pushing air was the air displaced by the motion of the projectile, which came around behind it (antiperistasis). Aristotle didn't like the notion in that form, but he still agreed that the air was pushing and that a medium (like air, water, etc.) was necessary for motion. He was then a little vague on how the air did that. It would have to become in a sense self-moving, a capacity that Aristotle otherwise reserved for living things or things in "natural" motion, i.e. the heavy falling or the light rising.

But Philoponus rejected all this, asserting that motion could even take place in a void, a vacuum -- at a time when it generally was believed that a vacuum was impossible. As an experiment Philoponus suggested setting up an arrow or a stone and blowing air on it. Of course, without modern equipment, or gale force winds, neither the arrow nor the stone are likely to stir. Yet even the stone can simply be tossed through the air. Philoponus argued, quite correctly, that a medium resists motion, not facilitates it and is quite unnecessary for motion. In fact, Aristotle had accepted that a medium will retard motion in proportion to its density, but he used this to argue that zero density, i.e. a vacuum, would imply an infinite speed. This was an argument against the existence of a vacuum, but the argument was inconsistent with the basic principle that ballistic motion in a vaccum, with nothing to push the object, was impossible.

Philoponus held that a ballistic projectile continues in motion through the air because there was imparted to it an immaterial and impressed force (vis impressa), an impetus (Greek , rhopé), that perpetuates the motion. There has been some controversy about whether Philoponus, writing in Greek and not using the later Latin term impetus, really originated the theory, regarded by Thomas Kuhn as a scientific revolution in its own right. But it now appears that Philoponus is indeed its source, later to be taken up by philosophers in Islam, like Avicenna, and then passed on to Latin Europe [cf. Michael Wolff, "Philoponus and the Rise of Preclassical Dynamics," Philoponus and the rejection of Aristotelian science, edited by Richard Sorabji, Duckworth, 1987].

The immaterial force that maintains ballistic motion (although it is now called "momentum") seems so obvious that it is hard to imagine that for a thousand years Greek and Roman thought subscribed to nothing of the sort. The impetus theory, however, was still not Galileo's theory of inertia. Although Philoponus realized that a medium resists motion, he still believed that the projectile otherwise loses its momentum because the impetus runs out and is "exhausted." Thus, without actively being pushed, all things will slow down and stop, even in a vacuum. For the next thousand years, this is what would prevent the theory of Aristarchus, that the earth is a planet that rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun, from being taken seriously. If the earth were moving, this requires the renewal of its impetus, an action that could be observed (or felt) and would be detectable.

If Philoponus represents a significant advance over ancient mechanics, something else is positively breathtaking. He anticipated Galileo's legendary experiment of dropping cannon balls of different weights:

For if you let fall at the same time from the same height two weights [dúo bárê] that differ greatly, you will see that the ratio of the times [hê analogía toû chrónou] of the motions does not correspond to the ratio of the weights [i analogíai tôn barôn], but that the difference in the times is a very small one. [Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, quoted by G.E.R. Lloyd, Greek Science After Aristotle, W.W. Norton, 1973, p.160; Greek text in Commentaria in Aristotelem graeca, XVI-XVII, Joannes Philoponus, In Physicorum libros tres priores/quinque posteriores commentaria, ed. Hieronymus Vitelli, Academia litterarum regiae borussicae, Berlin, 1887-1888, p.683 16 ff -- see the analysis of the Greek text and this translation elsewhere]

Galileo thus did not originate the experiment that would refute Aristotle's view that falling objects gained speed in proportion to their weights. Philoponus had already done it. Indeed, Galileo was well read in Ancient and Mediaeval physics, and he had read Philoponus himself and quotes him. Thus, not only was Galileo repeating the experiment of Philoponus, but he may have been consciously repeating what he had read of Philoponus doing. Or what he had seen done; for, as it happens, Galileo was not the first to do this experiment in his own era. One of his own teachers, Girolamo Borro (1512-1592), had already repeated the experiment of Philoponus [Charles Schmitt, "Philoponus' Commentary on Aristotle's Physics in the Sixteenth Century," Philoponus and the rejection of Aristotelian science, Duckworth, 1987, p.222]. This makes it all the more galling that scientists and philosophers and historians of science almost always treat Galileo's experiment as original and deign to neither notice nor credit Philoponus (or Borro).

The quotation used by G.E.R. Lloyd somewhat misrepresents what Philoponus observed; for the passage that he quotes immediately continues thus:

And so, if the difference in the weights is not considerable, that is, if one is, let us say, double the other, there will be no difference, or else an imperceptible difference, in time, though the difference in weight is by no means negligible, with one body weighing twice as much as the other. [A Source Book in Greek Science, edited by Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin, Harvard, 1948, 1975, p.220, boldface added]

So, although Philoponus says that "the difference in the times is a very small one," this passage makes it sound like what he observed was no difference. Thus, the Sixth Century Christian did not get the same result as Galileo, but only because he was not prepared to make the same conceptual leap that Galileo did. This illuminates the nature of Galileo's achievement. It was not the experiment as such, but the imaginative interpretation of it, that made the difference -- no less than as we might expect from Karl Popper's understanding of the nature of science. What distinguished Galileo's work was the leap of imagination that conceived constant acceleration. Other men might have dropped weights all day, or for centuries, without having achieved that moment of insight.

That Philoponus fell short is then to be blamed, not on the reverence for authority by which we dismiss the curiosity or good faith of Mediaeval philosophers, but on the unpreparedness of the mind to leap further than he did, having already swept away much of the "junk of history" from Aristotle. Or we may consider, as he may have himself, the imperfections of his experimental equipment, such as it may have been. Indeed, having watched and dropped various weights myself, it is not self-evident that they are hitting the ground at exactly the same time (with differences in drag through the air in fact making for different rates, as we see it now).

A valuable contribution to this issue now comes from the historian of science Alberto Martínez. In the "Galileo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa" chapter of Science Secrets, The Truth about Darwin's Finches, Einstein's Wife, and Other Myths [University of Pittsburgh, 2011], Martínez, although apparently unaware of Philoponus or Borro, has tracked down several references to contemporaries of Galileo who dropped weights, sometimes actually from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, who observed that the heavier weight fell faster, just as Aristotle had said. This was done by Giorgio Coresio in 1612, by Vincenzo Renieri in 1641, and Giovanni Riccioli in 1651 [p.10]. At the same time, Niccolò Cabeo and Giovanni Baliani had dropped weights, before Galileo, and observed them striking the ground simultaneously [ibid.]. Thus, dropping weights was in the air (as it were), and we may wish to infer that, like Borro, everyone got put on the task by reading Philoponus, who then somehow gets forgotten in the shuffle. But it is clear from these divergent results that simply observing the fall of weights does not result in self-evident or intuitively obvious truths.

The science of Philoponus, therefore, is extraordinarily critical and experimental, even hovering on the verge of a mathematical treatment of motion. Immediately prior to the passage quoted by G.E.R. Lloyd, Philoponus has said, "our view may be corroborated by actual observation more effectively than by any sort of verbal argument" [Cohen & Drabkin, p.220, bolface added]. But this should also remind us that the Aristotelian/Baconian conception of inductive science, that scientific knowledge is directly abstracted from experience, is fallacious. If that is what Philoponus was expecting from his experiment, this may be why his result was less illustrious than that of Galileo.

In legend, perhaps inspired by the other figures who actually did use the Tower, and as actually asserted by Vincenzo Viviani (1622-1703, though his book was not published until 1717), Galileo is supposed to have dropped his weights off the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I like to imagine Philoponus dropping weights off of the Pharos Lighthouse, which still stood in his day -- it was damaged by an earthquake in 797 and thrown down by one in 1303, in the days of the Mamlûks in Egypt. One good legend deserves another; and with so many treatments visually associating Galileo with the Tower, the great Lighthouse, itself symbolic of Classical Alexandria, is no less a visual symbol that deserves to be used for Philoponus.

As little progress as would be made for centuries in this area of physics, it is unfortunate that Philoponus generally receives so little credit for it. Indeed, Cohen & Drabkin remark in a footnote to these extraordinary passages, "It is not to be assumed that Philoponus originated his experiment any more than that Galileo did" [ibid., note 2]. Since in popular discourse and in all the common history of science I have ever seen, Galileo is presented as indeed the orginator of the experiment, which is used to expose the ignorance and bigotry of both Greeks and Christians, this is a curious remark to append to a text that so dramatically overthrows the popular impression. I almost get the sense that, having seen Galileo cut down a notch, the reaction of the editors is, "Well, Philoponus must not have been any better!" -- despite no evidence in the record that anyone before Philoponus had done this. The tone of the note is almost one of petulance or spite.

An example of how thoroughly Philoponus has been forgotten may be found in the 2011 book of the brilliant neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, The Tell-Tale Brain [W.W. Norton & Company]:

Once upon a time, it was so obvious that a four-pound rock would plummet earthward twice as fast as a two-pound rock, that no one ever bothered to test it. That is, until Galileo Galilei came along and took ten minutes to perform an elegantly simple experiment that yielded a counterintuitive result and changed the course of history. [pp.xviii-xix, boldface added]

No one, of course, except for John Philoponus, a thousand years before Galileo -- who, as we have seen, actually addressed, as it happens, the double weight of a four-pound rock in comparison to a two-pound rock. Since Ramachandran says that he had "voraciously" read about the history of science [p.xx], we must infer that the commonly available sources on the history of science are innocent of references to this key moment in the development of Mediaeval physics, which permanently altered the Greek theory of motion. Its loss in the narrative is certainly due to the kind of fairy tale of Mediaeval ignorance that I have previously considered in relation to Heliocentrism.

We find a more general condenmnation of Ancient and Mediaeval science from Derek Bickerton:

In the ancient world, indeed until the Renaissance, the empirical method didn't exist. You discovered things not by doing experiments but by sitting and thinking. It took centuries for people to begin to wonder, "If I actually did so-and-so, what would happen?" [Bastard Tongues, A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World's Lowliest Languages, Hill and Wang, New York, 2008, p.241]

As we have seen, Philoponus himself invokes observation over, as he literally says, "any demonstration through words" [from the Greek text, Vitelli, op.cit., p.683, lines 16-18]. He did not wait until the Renaissance to find out what would happen "if I actually did so-and-so"; but the philosophers and historians of science have apparently not been doing their job to get the word out. Ramachandran and Bickerton have inherited, like most people casually read in science, a false narrative that grotesquely distorts the progress and even the good faith of representatives of the Ancient and Mediaeval world.

The Grammar of Philoponus's Statement

Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD

History of Philosophy

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Philosophy in Late Antiquity, 235 AD to c.600 AD, Note

Hypatia is portrayed by actress Rachel Weisz in the recent movie Agora [2009], by Alejandro Amenábar. I have now seen this movie and am sorry to say that the story is neither accurate nor sensible. Amenábar had the bright idea that Hypatia anticipated the discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. I don't know if I he really believes this stuff or if he simply uses Hypatia as a device to talk about something that has nothing to do with her. It is sad to see such a wasted effort, especially when it ignores genuine discoveries in the era such as those of John Philoponus.

Besides Hipparchia, mentioned above, there were obscure earlier cases of women philosophers, as with one student of Pythagoras, Theano, two students of Plato, Axiothea of Phlius and Lasthenia of Mantinea, and a student of Epicurus, Leontion, who had been a courtesan.

There is a reference to Theano by Anna Comnena, daughter of the Roman/Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118), in her biography of her father, the Alexiad. Speaking of her mother, the Empress Irene, Anna says:

Whenever she had to appear in public as empress at some important ceremony, she was overcome with modesty and a blush at once suffused her cheeks. The woman philosopher Theano once bared her elbow and someone playfully remarked, 'What a lovely elbow!' 'But not for public show,' she replied. [Penguin Books, 1979, p.375]

It is not clear how Anna is aware of this anecdote. The Penguin edition note says of Theano that "several books were ascribed to her in antiquity." These may well have survived to Anna's day, before the sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade and the other disasters of the Roman decline -- after all, of the almost 300 works in the Bibiotheca by the Patriarch of Constantinople Photius (858-867, 877-886), about half are now lost. Or she might simply know of it from the Christrian Patristic Clement of Alexandria (c.200 AD):

What shall I say? Did not Theano the Pythagorean make such progress in philosophy that when a man, staring at her, said, "Your arm is beautiful," she replied, "Yes, but it is not on public display." [Paidagogos 1.6; quoted by Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage Books, 1979, p.68]

This simply puts the problem back one step, since we would like to know how Clement knew about the matter.

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Philosophy in Islâm

c.800 AD to c.1300 AD

Read Sin[d]bad and you will be sick of Aeneas.

Horace Walpole

There is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace,
and as much knowledge of the world.

Sherlock Holmes [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, "A Case of Identity," 1891]

After the death of the Prophet Muh.ammad in 632, Arab armies rapidly overran Syria and Palestine (638), Egypt (642), the entire Persian Empire (646), and later North Africa (696) and Spain (711). When the Caliphate was established at Baghdad (763), stability, prosperity, and Persian cultural influence led to a great intellectual revival. The Caliph al-Ma'mûn (813-833) became interested in philosophy and mathematics and founded the , Dâru l-H.ikmah, or "House of Wisdom," as a center for translation and study. Greek philosophy, medicine, and mathematics were translated into Arabic. "Philosophy" in Arabic becomes falsafah, . A philosopher is a faylasûf, (pl. falâsifah, ).

The CategoriesKitâbu l-Maqûlât
the Book of Words
On InterpretationKitâbu l-'Ibârah
the Book of Interpretation
Prior AnalyticsKitâbu l-Qiyâs
the Book of Deduction
Posterior AnalyticsKitâbu l-Burhân
the Book of Proof
TopicaKitâbu l-Jadal
the Book of Debate
On Sophistical
Refutation
Kitâbu s-Safsat.ah
the Book of Sophistry
RhetoricKitâbu l-Khit.âbah
the Book of Rhetoric
PoeticsKitâbu sh-Shi'r
the Book of Poetry
At left are the titles in Arabic of the works grouped by Islamic philosophers in Aristotle's corpus on logic, the Organon (the last three titles are usually not included in the Organon today). Nearly the entire corpus of Plato and Aristotle and of the physicians Hippocrates and Galen was translated by a single (Aramaic speaking) Nestorian Christian, H.unayn ibn Ish.âq (or Johannitius in Latin, 808-876). Although learning Greek (and Arabic) only as an adult, he could recite Homer from memory. H.unayn had followed the Nestorian Patriarch Timotheus I (Mar Timothee, 780-820/23), who earlier had translated Aristotle's Topica and other works. Since Greek philosophical works had already been translated into Syriac, the Aramaean language of the day, there was already a precedent and a tradition that made translation into the closely related Arabic easier. H.unayn's father, Ish.âq, was a pharmacist, and H.unayn himself initially studied medicine under Yuhanna ibn Masawayh, the Christian physician of the Caliph al-Ma'mûn himself -- Yuhanna, exasperated with his own son's stupidity, proposed that he be vivisected for study, but the Caliph prohibited this. H.unayn ended up as the physician of the Caliph Mutawakkil, but his son Ish.âq (d.910) was in turn a translator also.

There is a unique Arabic manuscript at Leiden, called the "Baghdad Physics," that is Ish.âq ibn H.unayn's translation of Aristotle's Physics [Fritz Zimmermann, "Philoponus' Impetus theory in the Arabic Tradition," Philoponus and the rejection of Aristotelian science, edited by Richard Sorabji, Duckworth, 1987, pp.124-125]. The text of Aristotle is accompanied by a large amount of annotation, much of which consists of items of the commentary on the Physics of John Philoponus. Philoponus was known in Arabic as Yah.yâ 'n-Nah.wî, , "John the Grammarian" -- although he is sometimes confused with another "John," the contemporary Jacobite Christian philosopher Yah.yâ ibn 'Adî (d.974). Later glosses on the text, from the Nestorian Abû 'l-Faraj ibn al-T.ayyib (d.1043), are not subject to such confusion. This edition of the Physics consequently became the means, not only for access to Aristotle in Arabic, but for access to Philoponus also, which promoted the impetus theory of motion in Islamic Philosophy -- by which it was subsequently carried to Europe, even before Philoponus was directly available to philosophy in the Latin tradition. Even the great scholar and traveler al-Bîrûnî (d.c.1050), who studied Sanskrit and described India, knew that sharp criticisms of Aristotle were put forward by Philoponus [note].

Much original work that was then done in Arabic in astronomy, mathematics, and medicine is still commemorated in words from Arabic like algebra, zenith, azimuth, or alcohol. The word algorithm, describing what a computer program does, is actually the name of al-Khuwârizmî (c.780-850), whose book, Hisâb al-Jabr w'al-Muqabâlah, introduced algebra (the al-jabr of the title) and also passed on from India the method of decimal counting with the number zero. What we call Arabic numerals are still called "Indian" (Hindî, ) numerals in Arabic. Most of the named stars in the sky still have Arabic names, e.g. Betelgeuse, from , Baytuljawzâ', "House of the Twins [Gemini]," or Algol, Al-Ghûl, , "the Ghoul."

Philosophy revived through the adaptation of the Neoplatonism of Late Antiquity to Islam:  the One became God, and the lesser gods became angels. This helped spark the movement of Islamic mysticism, later called Sufism (from s.ûf, the woolen garment that some mystics wore). Traditionally, the first philosopher in Islam is considered to be al-Kindî (c.796-873), who also shares the distinction of being very nearly the only classical Islamic philosopher who was an Arab [note]:  Although all wrote in Arabic, the language of religion and scholarship, most were Persians, and one of the greatest, al-Fârâbî (c.873-950), was Turkish. The greatest of the Islamic philosophers in this Greek tradition is usually considered to be Ibn Sîna (980-1037), commonly referred to by his Latinized name Avicenna. Like most of these figures, Avicenna was a physician as well as a philosopher, and his work on medicine survived for centuries in Europe as a standard text.

Although the Islamic philosophers in the Greek tradition did very substantial work, some of the more original ideas are found in Islamic theology, called Kalâm, ("Talk"). The theologians (mutakallimûn, ) were not tied to Greek ideas and were concerned to achieve characteristically Islamic answers to traditional religious questions. Kalâm, to be sure, started with a Hellenizing and even Christianizing tendency in the form of the Mu'tazilite school, which defended human free will and regarded God in the Greek sense as reasonable, just, and good. Although this appealed even to the great Caliph al-Ma'mûn, it did not last long. The Caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-861) turned against such Christianizing doctrines. Islamic orthodoxy became the systematization of the omnipotence of God, which eliminated human free will [note] and produced novel doctrines like what has been called "Occasionalism":  the idea that every event in the world, including our own acts, and the world itself at every moment in time, is directly caused and created by the agency of God. What look like causes in the world are merely the "occasions" for the action of God. I have cited what is used as a proof text for Occasionalism in a note to "Zen and the Art of Divebombing." The simplest text in the Qur'ân for the unlimited Will of God is verse 3:40:  , Allâhu yaf'alu mâ yashâ'u, "God does what he wishes" [note].

The definitive form of orthodoxy was established by al-'Ash'arî (873-935). In time this led, interestingly, to the greatest Islamic philosopher, al-Ghazâlî (or al-Ghazzâlî, 1059-1111). Al-Ghazâlî was not really a theologian (mutakallim, ), but he wasn't strictly a "philosopher" (faylasûf, ) either, since the word in Arabic implied adherence to the Greek tradition: In his famous Tahâfut al-Falâsifah (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) al-Ghazâlî denounced most of Neoplatonic Greek philosophy as incompatible with Islam, since philosophers had taught, among other things, that the world was eternal and not created in time by God and that God (like Aristotle's God) only knew universals, not individuals. Al-Ghazâlî considered much of this not just heresy but actual apostasy, which under Islamic law would have been punishable by death. Although in refuting the philosophers al-Ghazâlî produced some of the most original philosophy of the Middle Ages, including a critique of causality that would not be picked up again until David Hume (1711-1776), this denunciation effectively ended the growth of philosophy in the Greek tradition in the central Islamic lands. Unlike Hume, however, Al-Ghazâlî's critique of causality was in support of Occasionalism, as above, without an implication of a general Skepticism.

Even while attacking philosophy, however, al-Ghazâlî produced, at the same time, a definitive vindication of Sufism, and the S.ûfî tradition continued to produce thinkers of strength and originality, like Suhrawardî (1153-1191), 'Ibn 'Arabî (1165-1240), and Jalâl ad-Dîn Rûmî (1207-1273). The Sufis, however, often ran the risk of offending the Orthodox Islamic sense of the transcendence, separateness, indeed Otherness, of God. Mystical transport and the "extinction" (fanâ') of self tended to imply union with God, which was fine as Neoplatonism, but threatening as Islam, which rebelled against any hint of a Christianizing "incarnation" (h.ulûl) of God in some mere human. An early embarassment in this respect was the Sufi al-H.allâj, who was executed in 922 by the Caliph al-Muqtadir, for having said things like Anâ lH.aqq, "I am the Truth" (one of the Ninety-Nine Names of God), and:

I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I,
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me, thou seest Him
And if thou seest Him, thou seest us both.
[Kitâb at.-T.awâsîn, L. Massignon, Paris, 1913]

While Ghazâlî defended al-H.allâj, statements like these could not be accepted at face value. Al-H.allâj must have become confused because of the sense of his own nothingness over and against God's unique existence. This kind of trouble continued, since Suhrawardî later was himself executed by the otherwise tolerant Saladin. Nevertheless, Islam was less threatened by mysticism than Christianity was, since there was no Church or Pope whose authority would be directly challenged by private visions of God.

Meanwhile, Islamic Spain (centered around the cities of Cordova and Seville [note]) had been flourishing. There the Greek tradition of Islamic philosophy prospered for a while longer, together with the greatest Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) [note] and Moses Nahmanides (1194-1270) -- though by the time Nahmanides was born, his part of Spain had been recovered by the Christian Reconquest.

Starting with their received Neoplatonism, Islamic philosophers had gradually been unraveling the teachings of Plato and Aristotle from each other. That process culminated in Spain with Ibn Rushd, or Averroës (1126-1198). Averroës made a living as a physician (in part with the Court of the Almohads), as did many Muslim and Jewish philosophers (including Maimonides), but he was also an Islamic judge (a qâdî) and tried to protect philosophy by handing down a formal legal judgment (a fatwâ) against al-Ghazâlî's condemnation. That didn't help; but his critique of Ghazâlî in the Tahâfut at-Tahâfut, The Incoherence of the Incoherence, secured the Aristotelian case, not in Islam, where there was no successor of the philosophical stature of Ghazâlî to ever answer Averroës, but in Europe. The heritage of Averroës and his principle influence then lies in the great commentaries he wrote on Aristotle's works. Aristotle became THE philosopher, and this impression was conveyed to a reviving Francia as Averroës, with Aristotle himself, Avicenna, Maimonides, and many others, were soon translated from Arabic into Latin.

The last philosopher of stature in Mediaeval Islam was not a metaphysician in the Neoplatonic or Aristotelian tradition, but a social and political philosopher, also of Spain (after the fall of the Almohads) and the Maghrib (North Africa). This was Ibn Khaldûn (1332-1406), who, born in Tunis from a Spanish family, ultimately died in Damascus. He met both Peter the Cruel of Castile and Tamerlane. While there was nothing new about Islamic historiography, Ibn Khaldûn went one step further, looking for explanations and causes of events, especially long term trends, like the rise and fall of dynasties. His analysis was presented in the Muqaddimah, the Introduction, which was in fact the Introduction to Ibn Khaldûn's larger historical work. This is often said to be the origin of sociology, but the focus was both broader, historically, and narrower, socially. In many respects Ibn Khaldûn's insights remain relevant in the modern era, such as his statement that "at the beginning of a dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments....at the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments," which, anticipating the Laffer Curve, was quoted by Ronald Reagan. What Ibn Khaldûn did not anticipate, however, was that, despite the contemporary rise and success of the Ottomans, the Islamic World culturally had peaked and would within a couple of centuries begin to lose its geopolitical race with the West. When Muslims later began to wonder, "What went wrong?" [cf. Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, Harper Perennial, 2003], it is a shame that Ibn Khaldûn could not have had a go at it.

Meanwhile, in Romania, Greek philosophy was being preserved and read, particuarly Plato and the Neoplatonists. Not much original was done with this, and we might compare the situation in Constantinople with that in Islâm after al-Ghazâlî, right down to the displacement of interest into mysticism. However, the maintenance of Platonism was strong enough to produce profound effects, as we shall see, through its influence on the Renaissance. At the same time, Greek scholars were aware of the development of philosophy in Islâm. There was contact, and even some Greeks did not feel that a comparison was to their advantage. Thus, the historian and polymath Michael Psellus (1017/18-1078/96), who provides us a vivid account of his own reading of Plato and the Neoplatonists, describes the realization of his own student, John Italus, that the Saracens have usurped the Classical heritage of the Romans:

Having made it his purpose to praise the wisdom of the Hellenes he regrets, with good reason, that aliens and barbarians have inherited the wealth of this wisdom, which does not belong to them, whereas the legitimate heirs of philosophy should be the successors. Almost all Greece and its colonies in Ionia have been entirely cut out of the family property, the inheritance has passed to the Assyrians [Aramaic speakers, as in Modern usage, or simply Iraqis in Baghdad?], Medes [contemporary Persians?] and Egyptians. There has been such a reversal of roles that Hellenes are now barbarians and the barbarians Hellenes. Suppose a Hellene goes to Susa [long abandoned by the time of Psellus] or Ecbatana [i.e. Hamadan], the ancient palace of Darius, to talk to the inhabitants of Babylon [which will mean Baghdad in the time of Psellus]:  he will perhaps then learn for the first time that wisdom has directed their affairs. But if a pretentious barbarian visited us and talked to people in Hellas or any part of our continent, he would treat the majority of men not as asses but as of mulish stupidity... Some claim to be philosophers and a great many more are anxious to learn. But the teachers sit with smug faces and long beards, looking pale and grim, with a frown, shabbily dressed. They dig up Aristotle from the underworld, from the depths of Hades, and give the impression of passing judgment on everything that he covered in a cloud of obscurity... Our barbarian visitor is convinced that this is a childish game, gloats over our incompetence, and departs, with no addition to his knowledge but reduced to a state worse than ignorance. [N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, Duckworth, London, 1983, pp.155-156]

The style of Psellus, typical for the time, was to use names from Classical literature of places and peoples. Hence, we get anachronistic references to "Medes" and "Susa," which are uninformative about contemporary realities. Most Islamic philosophers were in fact Persians, but since all Islamic philosophers wrote in Arabic, we might expect some acknowledgement of that. Since "Hellene" in Mediaeval usage meant a "pagan," and John's enthusiasm for Plato and Aristotle was so extreme, it may not be too surprising that his teachings ran afoul of the ecclesiastical authorites. He may have been in more danger from the aroused citizens of Constantinople than from the Church; but, with several of his teachings condemned for heresy, he was banished to a monastery. There does not seem to have been much burning of heretics in Romania, and John himself was often protected by supporters, not the least of which being Psellus. Nevertheless, we see again something of the dangers that heterodox thought might encounter in Christian Europe, even as in Islâm itself the conformity of taqlîd, (following precedent), began to clamp down after al-Ghazâlî.

Islâmic Fascism and Satyagraha in Palestine

Philosophy in the Christian High Middle Ages, c.1100 AD to c.1400 AD

History of Philosophy

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Copyright (c) 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved

Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 1


The Philoponus annotations in the "Baghdad Physics" have now all been translated in PHILOPONUS On Aristotle's Physics 5-8, with SIMPLICIUS On Aristotle on the Void, translated by Paul Lettinck & J.O. Urmson [Cornell University Press, 1994]. This volume unfortunately does not also include the other passages from the surviving Greek text of this part of the commentary of Philoponus. In the preface, the editor of the series, Richard Sorabji, refers to part of the text that is only sourced to the the 1887-1888 Berlin Philoponus edition, In Aristotelis physicorum octo libros commentaria, edited by H. Vitelli. This situation is revealing of the specialized nature of this scholarship and the degree to which all of the material is not readily available to the public in translation. The text to which Sorabji refers fortunately otherwise is available in A Source Book in Greek Science, edited by Morris R. Cohen and I.E. Drabkin [Harvard, 1948, 1975].

My own project of examining key passages in the Greek text of Philoponus may be found at "The Grammar of Philoponus's Statement."

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Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 2


Some sense of the material and surprises waiting to be found in Middle Eastern libraries can be derived from the discovery only in 1987 of an unknown treatise by al-Kindî in a collection in Istanbul. Astonishingly, the treatise is about cryptography and proves to be the first known discussion of how a substitution cipher, where the letters of the alphabet are scrambled or replaced with unknown symbols (as in the Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Dancing Men"), can be broken. Kindî correctly understood that letters could be identified, given a large enough sample, by their frequency of occurrence. (Cf. Simon Singh, The Code Book, The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary Queen of Scots to Quantum Cryptogrphy, Doubleday, 1999, p.17.)

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Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 3


A revealing passage in the Qur'ân is Sûra 39, Verse 23:


[Waman yud.lili llâhu famâ lahu min hâdin.]
And whom God leads astray, there is for him no right guide.

"Leads astray" is sometimes now translated "leaves to stray" or "allows to go astray," which doesn't make it sound like God is actually causing people to "stray"; but the form of the verb in Arabic is a causative, and God abridging the free will of people is not only consistent with the rest of the Qur'ân and with 'Ash'arite theology but even with the story of God "hardening the heart of Pharaoh" in the Old Testament. This is recalled by St. Paul:  "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth" [Romans 9:18]. This leads to Christian doctrines of predestination, as in Calvinism. Belief in predestination is common in Islâm.

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Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 4,
The word "Allâh" in Arabic, with Cognates in Hebrew & Babylonian

While the Arabic word , "Allâh" (or Allâhu), is often said to be the "name" of God, it is not. It is the word in Arabic for "God," and is used as such by Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims. Allâh is a contraction of , al-'ilâhu, "the god," where , 'ilâhun, is the simple word for "god" in Arabic. What's more, this is a word with a cognate in Hebrew, , 'elôahh, which is the simple word for "god" in Hebrew. In the Bible, God is often called , 'Elôhîm.

Distinguishing "God" from "god" with a definite article, where there are no capital letters in Arabic, is a phenomenon also seen in Greek, where we get , ho Theós, "the God," for "God." We see this in the first sentence of the Bible:  , en archê epoíêsen ho Theòs tòn ouranòn kaì tèn gên, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1, in the Septuagint Greek text]. Before the 9th century AD, however, there was no difference between capital and lower case letters in Greek either. This circumstance has been a cause for confusion in translating older Greek texts. Socrates, for instance, often speaks of "the god," , and there was a time when this was simply rendered as "God," implying that Socrates was a monotheist. The original Greek texts of Plato did not distinguish between upper and lower case letters. But Socrates, as far as we can tell, was not a monotheist. Saying "the god" in Greek just means "the god with whom we are dealing now." In the Apology, it becomes abundantly clear that "the god" is actually Apollo of Delphi, whom Socrates cites in explaining his mission of asking questions. Socrates never does name Apollo, which is characteristic of much ancient religion, including Judaism. You do not use the name, but refer only indirectly, to the deity with whom you are the most concerned. The actual name of God in Hebrew is the mysterious Tetragrammaton, , YHWH.

The use of the definite article with "God" in Greek does follow the pattern of using articles with proper names. English does not do this, except with the names of ships, buildings, and some other items. Other languages, like those of the Polynesian family, use definite articles with proper names extensively, sometimes with an dedicated article for such names. This may be the most familiar in the expression 'O Hawai'i, which is simply the name of Hawai'i with its article. In origin, however, the Hawaiian 'o comes from a particle for nominal sentences (Mâori ko). Otherwise the definite article in Hawaiian is ka or ke.

The Hebrew word 'Elôhîm has perplexed people for centuries. It looks like a plural, "gods," since -îm is the regular plural suffix in Hebrew. However, -îm is a very ancient suffix in Semitic languages, whose use and meaning have varied. This is called "mimation." In Arabic, the "m" has become an "n," so the device is called "nunation." In that language, the vowel before the "n" indicates grammatical case, with "u" for nominative, "a" for accusative, and "i" for genitive. If the vowel is short, the nunation is interpreted as expressing an indefinite quantity (e.g. 'ilâhun, "a god"), since there is no indefinite article in Arabic. With a long vowel, the nunation is used for regular plurals.

In Hebrew, and in Modern Arabic, mimation (or nunation) with short vowels has been lost (except for a few expressions in Arabic), along with the case system, so we simply have -îm to indicate plurals. In Babylonian, where there was a full system of mimation, it is used extensively; but it is unclear what it is always used for. In Old Babylonian it regularly marks nouns in the singular, but then its use tended to die out. The original system also had cases as in Arabic. This is like what we see in the name of the city of Babylon, , Bâb-Ilim, the "Gate of [the] God." Here , bâb, still means "door" or "gate," , in Arabic. Ilim, is from , il, "god," which is a variant that occurs even in Hebrew (el) and Arabic (îl) without the final vowel and "h." The mimation in Bab-Ilim may be a genitive, but it is evidently neither a plural nor an indefinite. The "god" in question is Marduk, the patron deity of Babylon. The mimation looks like it indicates little more than emphasis, or even definiteness [see further discussion of the name Babylon under the history of the City].

What we see in Hebrew with , 'Elôhîm, therefore may be from an earlier stage of the language where we have a situation something like in Babylonian. The mimation may just be used for emphasis or definiteness and has survived in the later language despite changes in grammar. There are many parallels from other languages, e.g. the expression pater familias in Latin, "father of the family," where the genitive of "family" in Classical Latin is familiae, not familias -- that is a fossil that looks like a genitive ending in Greek.

Although the origin, meaning, and appropriate use of Allâh has been obvious to all for centuries, some Islamist radicals have now made the proprietary claim that it is a term only to be used for God in Islâm. As we have unfortunately come to expect, death threats against Christians, just for saying "God" in Arabic, have followed. Indeed, as of 2013, a court in Malaysia has ruled that only Muslims can use Allâh. The complacency of "moderate" Muslims for this sort of thing does not reassure anyone else of their benign intentions or good faith.

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Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 5


The Arabic versions of the names of these cities were Qurt.ubah and 'Ishbîliyah; and the river that runs through them, the Guadalquivir, retains a Spanish version of its Arabic name: Wâdîlkabîr, "Big Valley." There are many such names in Spain. Some have even been transferred to Mexico, like Guadalajara, which in Arabic was Wâdîlh.ijâra, "Valley of the Boulders." (Guadalajara in Spain was actually the home of the Jewish mystic Moses ben Shem Tov, the author of the Zohar, the most famous work of Spanish Jewish mysticism.)

Islamic Spain

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Philosophy in Islâm, c.800 AD to c.1300 AD, Note 6


Although both were born in Spain, both Maimonides and 'Ibn 'Arabî spent the last part of their lives in Egypt and other central Islamic lands. In Cairo Maimonides was associated with the Ezra Synagogue, which was founded in 882 and still exists today, though most of the former Egyptian Jewish community has moved to Israel.

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Philosophy in the
Christian High Middle Ages

c.1100 AD to c.1400 AD

Western Europe, sunk in the poverty of the Dark Ages and knowing only the philosophers whose works or translations had been handed down in Latin, began to revive through the experience of the First Crusade (1096-1099) and Christian advances in Spain and Sicily. Shipping goods to and from the Crusaders, to and from Constantinople, and their own experience of the civilization of the Middle East, opened both trade and horizons. Things Western Europe had not much seen, like money and cities, began to revive. Through border areas where Christians, Greeks, Muslims, and Jews mixed with some freedom, as in Spain, Sicily, and Southern Italy, a whole world of Greek, Jewish, and Muslim knowledge began to intrude on the long insularity of Western Latin learning.

The fall of Toledo to Christian Castille in 1085 led in the next century to the establishment of an actual school of translation there, where many of the translations from Arabic into Latin were done by the Spanish Jew Ibn Dâwûd or Avendath. Something similar happened in Italy, where the Normans retrieved Sicily from Islam in 1091. Under them, and the German Emperors who followed them, like the thrice excommunicated "Wonder of the World" (Stupor Mundi) Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen (1212-1250), who spoke Arabic himself and scandalized Christendom by negotiating instead of fighting on the Fifth Crusade (1228-29), Sicily and its capital of Palermo briefly became centers of European civilization. There another Jew, Farragut of Girgenti, translated, among other things, the medical work of ar-Râzî (or Rhazes, 865-925), which became, like that of Avicenna, a standard text in Mediaeval and Renaissance Europe.

The Comneni Emperors of Romania solicited the Crusades and, initially, welcomed Italian traders like the Venetians in Constantinople. Their web of foreign marriages both attest to closer ties and increasing traffic, and not just of Crusaders, between Constantinople and the West. Even as Greek literature was being translated from Arabic into Latin, actual Greek manuscripts were beginning to make their way to the West. For instance, the Emperor Manuel (1143-1180) made a gift of a copy of Ptolemy's Almagest to King William I (1154-1166) of Naples and Sicily. Thus, even as we still use the Arabic name of the work, the Greek text itself became available already in the 12th century. It apparently was conveyed on a diplomatic mission by Henricus Aristippus (d.c.1162), who saw to the translation of the work, while he himself tried his hand at translating the Meno and Phaedo.

The manuscript of the Almagest was inherited by Charles of Anjou, who conquered Naples and Sicily from the Hohenstaufen, and who then donated his library to the Papacy in 1266. It subsequently ended up in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. While interest in Greek and in doing translations may not be too surprising in the South of Italy, we see the first signs of it further north. Thus, James of Venice (c.1130/70) and Burgundio of Pisa (c.1110-1193) acquired manuscripts, traveled to Constantinople, and began turning out translations. This is still 300 years before the Renaissance proper, when such activities went into high gear, with much greater interest, Greek refugees, and the aid of the printing press. People like Burgundio and their pioneering efforts thus tend to be forgotten, but the later work probably owes them a debt that is now hard to estimate.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Cruasde in 1204, the destruction and theft effected by the Crusaders was probably a greater loss to civilization than almost anything that had happened to Romania during the Dark Ages. Yet there are two sides to the story, which we see in the account of Michael Choniates (c.1140-1220), the last Orthodox Archbishop of Athens before the city was taken by the Crusaders in 1205. He was forced to abandon his library, which then seems to have mostly been destroyed. We know that he had copies of Aitia and Hekale by Callimachus, which otherwise now only survive in fragments. Thus, Michael said, "Sooner will asses understand the harmony of the lyre and dung-beetles enjoy perfume than the Latins appreciate the harmony and grace of prose" [N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, Duckworth, 1983, 1996, p.205]. But some of the library seems to have been dispersed rather than destroyed, as a friend of Choniates wrote him about some books he had recovered. But the most interesting comment is a complaint from Choniates that the price of books has been rising because "booksellers were doing a great trade with Italians" [ibid.]. The Latins buying the books were probably not the same ones who had been destroying them, and we have already seen that Italians were beginning to acquire and translate Greek literature in the 12th century.

Indeed, we know something of the Latins who were buying books. The Dominican friar William of Moerbeke (c.1215-c.1286) traveled around Romania, acquiring manuscripts and translating them himself. In 1280 he became the Latin Archbishop of Corinth, which placed him in the middle of things. His buying and translating activities may have even been at the personal request of his fellow Dominican Thomas Aquinas. This was after the time of Choniates, but it does mean that the buying about which he was complained continued through the century. At the same time, we know that King Manfred (1250-1266) of Naples and Sicily was actually commissioning translations of Aristotle from Bartholomew of Messinia. The translations are supposed to have been sent to the University of Paris, where Aquinas might have inspected them himself. Otherwise, we think of Aquinas using translations of Aristotle that were made from Arabic editions.

Many of the Greek manuscripts acquired in the 12th and 13th centuries may have simply gone into libraries and then temporarily been forgotten. Thus, the Secret History (Anekdota) of Procopius is derived from a single manuscript that was discovered in the Vatican Library in 1623. The book cannot have been there since the time of Procopius, since the library didn't exist at that time and later Papal collections were dispersed before the Renaissance library became permanently established. The manuscript thus had been brought in at some point, perhaps even as late as the 15h century, from Romania, where its existence is attested in the Suda, the great 10th century encyclopaedia. As with the Venetian manuscript of the Almagest, part of the work of the Renaissance therefore may simply have been to take advantage of the work that had begun even two centuries earlier. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine that the onset of the Little Ice Age (1315 in France) and the Black Death (1347 at Constantinople) made the 14th century unpropitious for leisurely scholarship.

The flood of learning from the East was a challenge to Latin Europe that was unwelcome but could not be long ignored. Some Christian scholars went so far as to become "Averroists" themselves. But a good range and variety of thought was already in full flood in the 12th century. St. Anselm (c.1033–1109), born at Aosta in Burgundy but best known as the Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109), originated what Kant called the "Ontological" argument for the existence of God, a version of which later turned up in Descartes and which remains a matter of curiosity and dispute in recent philosophy. The most personally intriguing and romantic career of the age was probably that of Peter Abelard (Petrus Abaelardus, 1079–1142). Abelard spent his career at various locations in France, including Paris. In the classic dispute about Universals between Nominalists and Realists, Abelard was already trying to find a compromise position, since called "Conceptualism." Although this Conceptualism was at the time no more than a variation on Nominalism, and would not be popular in its own right, it had the potential for a more Realistic and comprehensive formulation, as in Kant. With Abelard we also get the interesting Mediaeval phenomenon of stacked commentaries, as he wrote a commentary on the commentary of Boethius on the Isagoge of Porphyry, which was itself an introduction to Aristotle's logical corpus, the Organon. With Boethius' translation of the Organon itself into Latin, he had supplied much of the material available to Latin philosophy before the translations from Arabic and Greek became available.

In general culture, Abelard attracts the most attention for the irregularities in his personal life. His love affair with Héloïse violated his monastic vows, as the affair would have violated the proprieties of most ages. After producing a child, whimsically named "Astrolabe," Abelard and Héloïse secretly married; but without public acknowledgement of this, Héloïse's guardian, her uncle, ran out of patience and had Abelard seized and castrated. They both spent the rest of their lives in the monastic vocation that probably had never been suitable for either of them in the first place. Without secular universities or a lay professoriate, however, it is hard to know how Abelard could have pursued his intellectual career otherwise.

The challenge of disturbing ideas from outside the bounds of the Latin Church and the lands of Francia was fully met through the great synthesis produced by St. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274). Coming from the South of Italy himself, even as Frederick II was patronizing unorthodox ideas and Islamic learning, St. Thomas took the doctrines of Aristotle refined by Islamic and Jewish philosophy and made them acceptable as Christian theology. This achievement, customarily called "Thomism," continues to ground Catholic theology, as in Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), and still appeals to modern secular Aristotelians, such as Mortimer Adler (1902-2001).

However, St. Thomas faced the difficulty, still a problem for modern Aristotelians but not always acknowledged by them, that Aristotle's metaphysics was in some ways, as it had been in Islâm, incompatible with Christian doctrine. Aristotle's universe was eternal and his God had not created it in time. Neither Islâm nor Christianity found this agreeable. Yet to make Aristotle God a Creator God involved a further difficulty. As pure actuality and an immaterial being, Aristotle's God is strickly speaking without potential or power (Greek dynamis -- which is found in matter). Theistic omnipotence is not a characteristic of Aristotle's God -- he is already doing everything he ever does and literally cannot do anything else. While St. Thomas might find some ground in Aristotle's metaphysics to quibble over the implications of this, it is quite obvious, for instance, from Aristotle's writings that his God works no miracles or in any other way abridges the regularity of the laws of nature. Subsequent theistic rationalists, like Leibniz, would find it offensive that God, with his foreknowledge, would need to arbitrarily intervene in the course of nature. It is then one such as Leibniz, not St. Thomas, who reflects the principles and the spirit of Aristotle. The difficulties that plague St. Thomas in forcing a Greek God into Christian shoes are examined elsewhere.

St. Thomas also faced the difficulty that Aristotle did not believe in personal human immortality. There his solution was on firmer ground, since Aristotle himself had decided that God was not the only being of pure form (i.e. pure actuality). The Intelligences that moved the planets, corresponding to the Greek gods for Aristotle and to angels for Muslims and Christians, were rather arbitrarily made pure form also. So St. Thomas could very reasonably reflect that, if so for the Intelligences, why not also for the human soul? That it is an arbitrary modification of the system is a fault that owes to Aristotle, not to St. Thomas. Nevertheless, the problem of pure form, that it is without potential, arises again for the soul as pure form -- we expect the human soul, inside or outside the body, to retain the power of free will. That would not be a problem in Aristotle as it necessarily becomes, but is overlooked or dismissed, by St. Thomas.

This period saw the building, not just of the new Gothic cathedrals -- although the Goths had all been dead for about 500 years -- but also of the universities of Europe.
Typical Faculties of a Mediaeval University, with modern academic colors & highest degree
Faculty of Philosophy, Ph.D., Philosophiae DoctorFaculty of Theology, Th.D., Theologiae Doctor
Arts, M.A., Magister ArtiumSciences, M.Sc., Magister Scientiarum
Faculty of Medicine, M.D., Medicinae DoctorFaculty of Law,
J.D., Juris Doctor
Students from anywhere only needed to know one language to go to any university: Latin. Often that is the only language students had in common; and they used to it to sing drinking songs or to rob travelers -- which students, perennially short of money, occasionally did. The highest graduate in physics, history, French literature, or any other "art" or "science" still becomes a Ph.D. -- philosophiae doctor (doctor="teacher"), just as all secular knowledge was "philosophy."

A cross current of thought to St. Thomas may be found later in the Englishman William of Ockham (1295-1349). St. Thomas believed, with Aristotle, that universal natures or essences (like Plato's Forms) are real and present in individual beings. This was called "Realism." William of Ockham, on the other hand, argued that only individual beings are real and that universals do not have objective existence. Universals are just names -- nomina in Latin. This position was therefore called "Nominalism." The dispute over universals was the Great Debate of mediaeval philosophy, and the contrast between St. Thomas and William of Ockham may presage the later contrasting traditions of Continental Rationalism and British Empiricism in modern philosophy. William of Ockham is now best known for "Ockham's Razor," or the principle of "economy" or "parsimony," that a simpler explanation for something is better, and more likely to be true, than a more complicated one.

The 13th Century also gives some hints of the later development of modern science. The Franciscan Roger Bacon (c.1214-c.1294) was interested enough in the workings of nature that he was suspected of heresy, magic, or of intercourse with the Devil. Someone might have thought of this alone from the formula he gives for gunpowder (sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate), the first in Europe, in 1242 (or between 1248 and 1261). However, his principle work with his results, the Opus Maius of 1267, had been requested by Pope Clement IV, for his own use, in 1266. It was about this time that it was discovered that hemispheres of glass could magnify images. These were soon reduced and rendered into spectacles, which for the first time in history could treat presbyopia, the inability of older eyes to focus properly. Since the pieces of glass looked a bit like the lentil bean, lens in Latin (lentilis is the adjective), the Latin word stuck to the glass. Bacon himself described wonders that could be accomplished with mirrors and lenses, but since none of the instruments he described survived or were otherwise used, it is not clear where speculation ends and things that he built himself begin. He writes as though he knows about telescopes and microscopes, but there is no evidence of such things until the 17th century.

Of equal portent was the somewhat earlier work of Leonardo Pisano (c.1175-1250), known by the nickname Fibonacci (from Filius Bonacci, "son of Bonaccus," the family of the Bonacci -- see the device of "filiation" in Roman names). As al-Khuwârizmî had introduced zero and decimal counting from India, Fibonacci brought it to Europe in his Liber Abaci of 1202. Fibonacci was personally familiar with al-Khuwârizmî thanks to a sojourn in the Pisan colony of Bugia (Bejaia) in Algeria, where he obtained instruction in mathematics from a Muslim teacher. Fibonacci is still remembered for the Fibonacci Numbers, discussed here in relation to the Golden Ratio. At least pure mathematics was not something to open one to charges of heresy. Indeed, far from being in danger, Fibonacci was already honored in his lifetime, and around 1225 he was personally introduced to the Emperor Frederick II himself.

The Renaissance, c.1400 AD to 1527 AD

History of Philosophy

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The Renaissance

c.1400 AD to 1527 AD

The "Rebirth" meant the return of a general knowledge of Greek and a revival of Classical learning, in great part because of Greek refugees from the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Romania, i.e. Greece and the Balkans, and then especially when Constantinople fell to them in 1453. Thus, Manuel Chrysoloras arrived to teach Greek at the University of Florence in 1397; and Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) organized a group of scholars to translate all of Greek literature. At Venice, Aldus Manutius (Teobaldo Mannucci, d.1515), founded the Aldine Press and with help of a large staff of Greek expatriots created printed editions of a large part of Greek literature, often in the convenient octavo pocket editions that he popularized. The refugees of course brought books with them. We also get phenomena such as the the Fleming Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522-1592), who was the Imperial Ambassador to Constantinople, 1554-1562, and who returned to the West with 264 Greek manuscripts. Busbecq is otherwise memorable for the information he obtained about speakers of Gothic from the Crimea.

This emphasis on the Classics, although to good effect, had a negative side. The Renaissance is responsible for much original art, architecture, literature, science, and political thought but knowledge of much of classical learning, at least in philosophy, had returned in the 12th and 13th centuries already. Some Greek works known from Arabic translations never would be found in Greek -- for instance, books V-VII of Apollonius of Perga's On Conics (which introduced the terms "ellipse," "parabola," and "hyperbola") only exist in Arabic. But to Renaissance scholars, all of mediaeval philosophy was tainted by the bad Latin it was written in, i.e. not the same Latin as that of Cicero -- an attitude that appears to survive today in the lack of attention of Classicists towards Mediaeval Greek literature, which itself is sometimes

Most terrible evils has Romania suffered from the Arabs even until now.

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (d.959) quoting The Chronicle of Theophanes (c.815) [De Administrando Imperio, op.cit., p.94]

condemned for its archaism (so unlike [!] the disdain of Classicists even for koine or New Testament Greek), if notice is taken of it, but then ignored in any case. The absurd (indeed reactionary) preoccupation with the pure and ancient languages may reveal why not much original philosophy was written during the Renaissance.

What many people might think of as the great exception to that statement would be Giordano Bruno (1548–1600). Burno was burned at the stake in Rome for heresy and thus earned a special place in history as a martyr to reason and free thought. Just how original he was in his thought, however, is the question. He is mainly remembered now for his belief that there are an infinite number of worlds in an infinite universe, all inhabited by rational beings like ourselves. His inspiration for this idea, of course, was Copernicus, but he cannot be said to have added any evidence to the theory of heliocentrism or have otherwise advanced it in substantive ways (as Kepler, for instance, would do). So Bruno was not a martyr to science, since he wasn't a scientist and made no real contribution to the advancement of science. His ideas were speculative, and his thought is a tribute to his imagination rather than to much in the way of helpful results. Beyond the astronomy, Bruno looks like a Neoplatonist and, in general, a securely Mediaeval thinker. That he was executed for unorthodox beliefs like reincarnation, magic, and pantheism is no tribute to the illiberal attitudes of the Church, but it also fails to distinguish Bruno from many other free thinkers condemned for heresy in the Middle Ages. It makes his martyrdom a retrospective on Mediaeval intolerance rather than a persecution of the coming Modern spirit. In 1616, when Galileo was brought before the same Inquisitor as Bruno, Cardinal Robert Bellarmino (1542–1621), to be informed that the Church now condemned the Copernican teaching, the matter would begin to develop much differently.

Noteworthy in the Renaissance, however, was the movement that came to be known as Humanism. This, in the first place, merely meant an appreciation for Classical learning. In the second place, however, it meant a revival of the concerns of Classical learning, meaning those which were humanistic in the Greek sense, and a turning away from what was seen as the obscurantism and irrelevant abstraction of Scholasticism. There was actually a Platonic Academy founded after the Council of Florence (1438-1439), under the influence of Plethon, by the 15th century Florentine ruler and patron of the arts Cosimo de' Medici (Cosimo the Elder, 1389-1464). The Platonism of this academy was really a form of Neoplatonism, with a Platonic/Christian twist which emphasized love as the avenue through which the individual could return, in the Neoplatonic sense, to God. One head of the Academy, Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), himself translated from Greek all of Plato and Plotinus, a telling combination. That the combination was not accidental we see in the Neoplatonism of Ficino's On Love and the Platonic Theology. This was of great cultural and historical significance, and was one of the last hurrahs for Neoplatonism, but, again, was not very original as philosophy. Nevertheless, there is the coincidence that the Platonic regard for mathematics now turns up in Kepler and Galileo. It then reasonable to think that this enabled them to break through Aristotelian conceptions of induction and found the new, modern mathematical physics.

At Venice in 1502, Adlus Manutius also founded a "New Academy," devoted entirely to Greek, with its business, rules, titles, etc. all conducted or rendered into Greek -- which was also the case in Manutius' own household. Indeed, the members, who would include Erasmus, even adopted Hellenized names.

Mistra and Athos

Many of the Greek scholars who influenced Renaissance Italy had come, not so much from Constantinople, as from Mistra. This was a complex of buildings in the hills above Sparta in the Peloponnesus (which in the Middle Ages was called the "Morea"). After being seized by the Crusaders, the area around Sparta, Laconia, was retrieved by the Palaeologi (from the Princes of Achaea) in 1261. By 1348 it became a kind of viceroyalty of the Empire, with the capital at Mistra, ruled by its own Despot, who were sons or brothers of the reigning Emperor -- thus, the last Emperor, Constantine XI, began as one of the Despots. The centerpiece of Mistra was thus the Palace of the Despots. Around it grew a political and monastic establishment, as the viceroyalty itself expanded to cover the entire Peloponnesus.

The intellectual life at Mistra in effect was the beginning of the Renaissance. Most representative was George Gemistus Plethon (d.1452/4). At the Council of Ferrara and Florence (1438-1439), Plethon deeply impressed the Italians with his Platonism, which was so thoroughgoing that he urged the Palaeologi to establish something like Plato's Republic in the Morea and was himself hardly even much of a Christian -- or not one at all, since he advocating worship of the Olympian gods. Since this was disturbingly heterodox, if not apostacy, the Despot Manuel II later confined him to Mistra. Nevertheless, he was held in such respect that he was otherwise not molested, and his works were not even condemned until after his death. In Italy, his advocacy of Plato over Aristotle sought to undo both the Neoplatonic fusion of the two and the later Mediaeval promotion of Aristotle, begun in Islâmic philosophy, over Plato. The Platonic, and not just Neoplatonic, vogue of the Renaissance was thus the conscious aim of Plethon. With the Turks advancing on Mistra in 1465, a local Venetian commander, Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, delayed his retreat until Plethon's body could be exhumed. By 1466, it was reinterred in Italy, in the Tempio Malatestiano church in Rimini, where it remains.

Mistra, in ironic contrast to the ancient intellectual poverty of nearby Sparta, was thus perhaps the very real source of Renaissance Humanism -- and through the Platonic regard for mathematics, as noted, modern mathematical science -- the Platonic inspiration is especially obvious in Kepler. This did not go uncontradicted in the Greek world. The Platonists of Mistra had opposition from the Orthodox Mt. Hiei, the great complex of monastaries on the Holy Mountain, Mt. Athos. The rationalism of the Humanists was opposed by the mysticism that was more characteristic at Athos. There had recently been a controversy over "Hesychasm" at Athos, a practice of mystical prayer by which the monks believed they could perceive "the light surrounding God himself" [cf. Warren Threadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Stanford, 1997, p.764]. Accusations that this was heretical were rejected by a Council in 1341. After the Turkish conquest, the last of the Humanists left for Italy and the influence of Athos was triumphant. Since the mysticism was very unworldly and had no political implications, it was probably safer from any hostile response by the Ottomans. Its influence, however, extends well into the 20th century.

That is because the theology of Athos spread far into the Orthodox world, including Russia -- where, of course, its lack of political dimension suited it equally to the regime of the Tsars. Just how this influence then worked in the long run we can see in the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). Russia is conspicuous for having few philosophers but many philosophical novelists, stretching at least from Dostoevsky all the way to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (and Ayn Rand). Dostoevsky was a very serious Christian, but no rationalist -- characteristics still evident in Solzhenitsyn (though not, of course, in Rand). Today, this orientation tends to get classified as a theistic Existentialism. Although a theistic Existentialism may be said to have begun with Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Dostoevsky has had equal or greater influence and certainly beats Kierkegaard in prescience. Thus, the character Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment (1866) plays out the story of Leopold and Loeb long before Nietzsche had expressed his theory of action "beyond good and evil." Unlike his more modern counterparts, however, Raskolnikov in the end is redeemed by the love and religion of a woman -- something that would have held no attractions for Nietzsche. Through the novel format, Dostoevsky provides thorough examinations of religion, psychology, nihilism, even utilitarianism -- a broad mix of issues fully as significant today as in his own time.

A single life visits some of the most important sites of Renaissance Humanism and Orthodox mysticism, all the way to Russia. This was the life of Michael Rivolis (c.1470-1556). Rivolis had been born in Epirus; but his parents had come from Constantinople, and because of their connections, he traveled to Florence in 1492 with the humanist John Lascaris. Rivolis became familiar with all the scholars and activities of Renaissance Florence, but his concerns began to turn towards more rigorous religious practice. In 1502 he renounced the rationalism of secular learning and entered the Dominican monastery of San Marco in Florence. Breaking with humanism, he was not destined, like some other Greek scholars, for Catholicism. By 1505 he had moved on to the Vatopedi (Batopediou) Monastery on Mt. Athos. There he became the monk Maximus. And from there, in 1516, he was recommended for a mission to the Grand Duke Basil III of Moscow -- though the recommendation still noted his familiarity with "Hellenic," i.e. Classical, knowledge. In Russia, Maximus became Maxim Grek, "Maxim the Greek." Imprisoned for six years by Basil, whom he had criticized, and then kept under a kind of monastic house arrest for much of the rest of his life, Maxim postumously grew in stature for this treatment and for the resolute mind that provoked it. Living to old age in the days of Ivan the Terrible, Maxim helped implant the mystical, Hesychast tradition of Athos in Russia (also showing that it need not always be non-political).

The opposition of Mistra and Athos, although long concealed by the eclipse of Mediaeval Romania under the Ottoman Conquest, emerges again, with its origins obscured, in the 19th and 20th centuries. The influence of the Orthodox world, both through the Humanism of Mistra and the mysticism of Athos, tends to be overlooked in most treatments of the Renaissance, but that of Athos, being more indirect, by way of Russia, hardly gets noticed at all. As much recent intellectual opinion, however, has tended to irrationalism, Dostoevsky's Existentialism now seems more "modern" than what remains of liberal humanism. It is certainly not without opposition from the nihilism that Dostoevsky himself combated, but its human (indeed) depth holds the promise of greater durability.

The Reformation

Something rather like the tension that we see between Mistra and Athos occurs in Western Europe between the great Dutch Humanist Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536) and the fount of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546). Since the two were, each in their own way, concerned with the reform of the Church, they actually corresponded for a while. They discovered, as we might expect, that they were not quite on the same wavelength. The Humanistic rationalism of Erasmus meant little or nothing to Luther, while Luther's own religious daimones, whether angels or demons, were from a realm of experience evidently invisible to Erasmus -- who said of Protestants, returning from hearing a sermon, that "their faces of all showed a curious wrath and ferocity." This is an important point. We do not see in Luther anything like the mysticism of Athos. He therefore is an excellent illustration that religious piety can be neither rational nor properly mystical.
Martin Luther, 1529/1531
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
The power of Luther's
Hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," still echoes down the centuries -- while we later see that this sort of thing, i.e. music, still held no appeal for the Humanistic, or perhaps Calvinistic, Kant.

Protestantism now in general looks like a fairly tepid form of spiritualism, unless, of course, we bother to notice the Baptists, Pentacostals, Evangelicals, etc. whose religion tends to be either ignored or despised by intellectuals. When not beneath notice, this kind of religion gets dismissed as the refuge of ignorant or bigoted rubes, victims of ministers who are manupulative and predatory hypocrites, people who should, in trendly opinion, know that their better interest and self-fulfillment would be found in (Marxist) political activism.

Sometimes, however, an icon of the bien pensants catches some of the infection of the unwashed, as with the Christian period of Bob Dylan (b.1941). In his music that began in 1979, but we already had the scene of Abraham and Issac in "Highway 61 Revisited," where we find the paradox of a just God (?) ordering unjust obedience, the sacrifice of Issac, as examined in classic form by Kierkegaard and Rudolf Otto. Subsequently, Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman) seems to have drifted towards Jewish rather than Christian observance, which earns less contempt from elites but is no more comprehensible. Indeed, Jewish mysticism (the Kabala, etc.) enjoys a certain vogue, but this is often unaccompanied by strict Orthodox practice, or any practice, of Judaism.

Thus, elite culture has lost any proper understanding of religion, even while the backlash from religious culture wastes its energy and destroys its credibility attacking Charles Darwin. This is an exercise in fultility for all concerned. That Erasmus is himself all but forgotten is a clue of the ongoing difficulty of Humanism in recognizing the realities of religion. That the most secular and politicized left seems to have discovered an ally in radical, fundamentalist Islam and terrorism holds a bitter irony of almost unbelievable incoherence. There is therefore a great cost to pay in the estrangement of Erasmus and Luther.

Machiavelli and the Moral Dilemma of Statecraft

Machiavelli's View of Government

The Beginning of Modern Science

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