History Pages - part 7

Alexander & the Hellenistic Period : 333 - 63 BC


Greek culture predominated throughout the Middle East. A form of the Greek language became the lingua franca for the whole region - the "Common Language" or the "Koine". Koine Greek was the language in which the New Testament was written. The land of Israel was in the path of the two main empires, Egypt and Persia, and became a pawn in the political struggles.

All dates are approximate.





General Time-Line

Alexander the Great

356 BC - birth of Alexander, to Philip II, King of Macedon, and Queen Olympia
336 BC - Alexander succeeded to the throne of his father Philip II of Macedon
334 BC - Alexander began the conquest of the Persian Empire with 30,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, no navy, and no money
333 BC - Alexander invaded Israel
332 BC - Alexander took Jerusalem and also founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt
331 BC - Alexander defeated Darius III of Persia
330 BC - Alexander entered Babylon
327 BC - Alexander invaded India
326 BC - his troops refused to go further, and his generals forced him to turn back
323 BC - Alexander died in Babylon

The empire was divided amongst his generals Seleucis, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and some others who were either killed or took smaller pieces of territory.
His mother, his wife and his posthumous son were killed in the struggle for power which ensued.
His general Ptolemy took his body to Egypt for burial.
Greek became the language of commerce throughout the Middle East


Persia and Palestine
Seleucid Dynasty
312-64 BC
Ptolemaic Dynasty
323-31 BC
Seleucis took Persia and parts of Asia Minor, founded the Seleucid dynasty with Antioch as the capital city. The Seleucid dynasty was marked by internal strife and a weakening of the kingdom until it was taken by Tigranes of Armenia, 83 BC and later annexed to the Roman Empire by Pompey in 64 BC Ptolemy Soter took Egypt and Syro-Phoenicia (including Israel/Palestine), founded the dynasty of the Ptolemies (I - IX), Cleopatra Bernice, Ptolemies X - XII, ending with Cleopatra VII - the one who had a couple of children by Julius Caesar, married Marc Anthony, and committed suicide when defeated by Augustus in 31 BC Antigonus took Phrygia (in what is now Turkey), but was defeated by Ptolemy and Seleucis in the battle of Gaza (312 BC).
312-301 BC Antigonus I ruled Judah until he was killed at the Battle of the kings (Ipsus, 301 BC)
Palestine then reverted to Seleucid rule

Antipater and his son Cassander took Macedon and Greece


Ptolemies Seleucids
323-283 BC - Ptolemy I, founder of the library of Alexandria 312-280 BC - Seleucis I Nicator, founder of Antioch
283-247 BC - Ptolemy II Philadelphus, murdered his brother, married his own sister, Arsinoe
Enlarged the Library at Alexandria; under his direction, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek - the Septuagint, "LXX", so called because of the tradition that 70, or 72, Jewish scholars worked on the translation
280-261 BC - Antiochus I Soter
261-246 BC - Antiochus II Theos
247-221 BC - Ptolemy III Euergetes (Benefactor) 246-226 BC - Seleucis II Callinicus
226-223 BC - Seleucis III Keroneos
221-203 BC - Ptolemy IV Philopater
203-181 BC - Ptolemy V Epiphanes
222-187 BC - Antiochus III The Great
198 BC - Antiochus III invaded Palestine, defeated Ptolemy V Epiphanes at the Battle of Paneas (Banyas). Antiochus was restrained from invasion of Egypt by Rome, which declared Egypt a Roman Protectorate. Antiochus and Ptolemy signed a treaty which transferred Palestine from Egypt to the Seleucid Empire; Ptolemy married the daughter of Antiochus
180-146 BC - Ptolemy VI Philometor 187-175 BC - Seleucis IV Philopator (murdered). Because he had to find money to pay tribute to Rome, he attempted to plunder the Temple in Jerusalem, and raised taxes throughout the land
175-163 BC - Antiochus IV Epiphanes, brother of Seleucis IV. Because of the terrors of his rule his description was changed from "Epiphanes" ("shining out", a divine title, to "Epimanes", "the maniac"). He attempted to impose Greek and pagan worship and practices on the Jews, and sparked the Maccabean Revolt
163-162 BC - Antiochus V Eupator
162-150 BC - Demetrius I
150 BC - Demetrius II vs. Alexander Balas
150-145 BC - Alexander Balas
145-117 BC - Ptolemy VII ( Euergetes II ) 145-139 BC - Demetrius II
139-134 BC - Antiochus VII


General Time Line of People and Events

336 BC
Zeno, Greek philosopher, founder of the Stoic school
335 BC
Aristotle returned to Athens and founded the Peripatetic (walking-about) School of Philosophy
323 BC
Euclid's "Elements" - fundamentals of geometry. Euclid was teaching in Alexandria
322 BC
Death of Aristotle at age 63
307 BC
Ptolemy Soter began building the Museum and Library of Alexandria
304 BC
Ptolemy captured Jerusalem
300-270 BC
Simon the Just - one of the last Men of the Great Assembly. Repaired the Temple and fortified Jerusalem
287-212 BC
Archimedes of Syracuse, Greek mathematician, studied in Alexandria
285 BC
Ptolemy Soter abdicated in favor of his son
285-247 BC
Ptolemy II Philadelphus, commissioned the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek - the Septuagint (ca. 255 BC)
281 BC
Seleucis won control of all of Alexander's Empire except Egypt
276-194 BC
Eratosthenes, Greek mathematician, postulated a spherical earth which moved around the sun, and estimated the circumference of the earth
264-241 BC
First Punic War (between Rome and Carthage) Carthage lost Sicily to Rome. ("Punic" is derived from "Poeni" the Latin name for the Carthaginians, referring to their Phoenician origins)
ca. 250 BC
parchment produced at Pergamum
247-221 BC
Ptolemy III Euergetes (Egypt)
247-182 BC
Hannibal, Carthaginian general, invaded Italy and fought against Rome
246 BC
Antiochus II Theos, killed by his wife, and succeeded by his son Seleucis II Callinicus
241 BC
Orias II, High Priest in Jerusalem, stopped paying taxes to Ptolemy III, thinking that Ptolemy was about to lose a battle with Seleucis. Ptolemy won the battle and transferred the priesthood to the House of Tobias who had settled in Jerusalem from Transjordan. The Tobiads were Hellenists; and remained in power for a century
239 BC
Rome seized Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily from Carthage.
233-183 BC
Scipio Africanus the Elder, Roman general
223-187 BC
Antiochus III, won the battles of Gaza (200 BC) and Banias (198 BC)
220 BC
Antiochus III regained Israel from the Ptolemies
218-201 BC
Second Punic War. Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants, won several major battles, but lost the war
215-146 BC
Macedonian Wars between Philip V and Rome, ended in the conquest of Greece
202 BC
Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal at Zama (Africa)
ca. 200 BC
Rosetta Stone inscription in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Demotic, and Greek (its discovery in 1799 made it possible for Champollion to decipher Hieroglyphics in 1821)
200 BC-135 AD
Essene Jewish community at Qumran
198 BC
Antiochus III of Syria seized Palestine and Judah from Egypt; submited to Rome, surrendered his son Antiochus Epiphanes as a hostage
191 BC
combined Roman and Macedonian forces defeated Antiochus' army at Thermopylai
190 BC
Battle of Magnesia - Scipio defeated Antiochus III
189 BC
Armenia broke free from Seleucid rule
185-129 BC
Scipio Africanus the Younger, Roman general (adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus the Elder), destroyer of Carthage
182 BC
Hannibal committed suicide or was killed (he disappeared in the Levant)
172-168 BC
war between Macedon and Rome : Rome won, put Macedon under Roman governorship. Rome set out to conquer the world
168 BC
Antiochus IV Epiphanes prohibited Judaism, sold the appointment to the High Priesthood, and desecrated the Temple, thereby touching off the Maccabean Revolt
165 BC
Judas Maccabaeus rededicated the Temple - commemorated ever since as Hannukah, the Festival of Lights
164 BC
death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes; succeeded by his son Antiochus V Eupator
162 BC
Demetrius I Soter (son of Seleucis IV) had Antiochus V killed
161 BC
Judas Maccabaeus killed in battle
161-144 BC
Jonathan Maccabaeus, brother of Judas, became leader, and was appointed as High Priest by Alexander Balas (contestant for the Seleucid throne). Murdered by Tryphon
150 BC
Demetrius I killed in battle
149-146 BC
Third Punic War ended in the destruction of Carthage by Rome
146 BC
Rome conquered Greece and destroyed Corinth. Roman society became Hellenized - influenced by Greek culture and customs
144 BC
Jonathan Maccabaeus assassinated
144-135 BC
Simon Maccabaeus became leader of the Jews; drove the Syrians out of Jerusalem
142 BC
Simon Maccabaeus gained independence from the Seleucids. Jerusalem became the capital, with three administrative regions : Judea, Galilee, and Transjordan
141 BC
formation of the Sanhedrin to interpret and enforce the laws of Judaism. The Great Sanhedrin with 71 members met in Jerusalem. Other towns had local courts (small sanhedrin) with 23 members each
140 BC
Simon Maccabeus took the titles of High Priest, Commander-in-chief, and Ethnarch of the Jews
140-63 BC
The Hasmonean Dynasty of ruling High Priests, founded by Simon Maccabaeus
ca. 139 BC
Jews in Rome erected public altars to God, hoping to spread their religion
134 BC
assassination of Simon Maccabaeus and his sons Mattathias and Judas, by Simon's son-in-law, Ptolemy
134-104 BC
John Hyrcanus, son of Simon Maccabaeus, ruled for 30 years as Jewish High Priest; forcibly converted the Idumeans (descendents of the Edomites) to Judaism; destroyed the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim. Pharisees and Sadducees emerged as distinct parties, disagreed with one another. John Hyrcanus sided with the Sadducees, Joshua Perachyah, head of the Sanhedrin, fled to Egypt
133 BC
Attalos II bequeathed Pergamos in Asia minor to Rome. Romans started to settle in Pergamos. Romans started to take over other Greek city states
123 BC
Carthage rebuilt
ca 120 BC
Babylonia had developed as a secondary center of Judaism. Jews lived in large settlements, governed by Exilarchs, chosen from the House of David, who remained in Babylon after the return of the Exiles
Parthians controlled trade routes from the Middle East to China (the Silk Road)
112-105 BC
African wars between Rome and Jugurtha of Numidia
106-43 BC
Cicero, Roman orator and politician
105 BC
Sulla and Marius defeat Jugurtha of Numidia
104-103 BC
Aristobulus I succeeded his father John Hyrcanus, killed one brother, imprisoned three other brothers, let his mother starve to death in prison. Married Alexandra Salome, conquered Galilee
103 BC
Aristobulus I died. His widow, Alexandra Salome, freed his brothers, married his brother Alexander Jannai and appointed him king and high priest. This offended traditionalist Pharisees. Shimon Shetach, a Pharisee scribe, strengthened Pharisee control of the Sanhedrin
103-76 BC
Alexander Jannai quarreled with Pharisees and provoked 6-year civil war
102 BC
Germanic tribes from Scandinavia settled near the Rhine
100-44 BC
Julius Caesar
96 BC
Tigrames, King of Armenia
90 BC
civil war in Rome, Marius vs. Sulla. Sulla won
89-88 BC
King Mithriades VI Eupator of Pontos massacred 80,000 Romans in Asia Minor and freed most of southern Greece from Roman rule
87-86 BC
Roman general Sulla defeated Mithridates, burnt Athens, stripped Greek shrines and demanded reparations for rebellion
82 BC
Sulla defeated Marius the Younger, and was made "Dictator for life" (resigned in 79 BC)
ca 79 BC
Lucullus imported the first cherry trees from Asia Minor to Rome
76-66 BC
Alexandra Salome, widow of Alexander Jannai, succeeded him as ruler and appointed her son Hyrcanus II as high priest. She reinstated the Pharisees' ordinances and their control of Temple practices and calendar
72 BC
Germanic tribes invaded Gaul
71 BC
revolt of slaves and gladiators in Rome, led by Spartacus, put down by Pompey and Crassus
70-19 BC
Virgil, Roman poet
66 BC
death of Alexandra Salome. Her sons were Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II. They commenced a struggle for power, which involved Antipater (also called Antipas, the militray commander of Idumea) and the Romans. That was a mistake - Rome took all
66-63 BC
Aristobulus II, younger son of Salome, wrested kingship and high priesthood from his brother Hyrcanus II: allied with Sadducees
65-8 BC
Horace, Roman poet
63 BC
Roman occupation of Palestine
Pompey invaded Judea, made Palestine part of the Roman province of Syria; Temple Mount besieged and captured
Pompey decided in favor of Hyrcanus II, but deposed him from kingship and appointed him High Priest. End of the Hasmonean dynasty
Aristobulus II and others were marched as captives in triumph through Rome, then became part of Rome's growing Jewish community
63-40 BC
Hyrcanus II, High Priest at Jerusalem
63 BC - AD 14
Gaius Octavius (later became the Emperor Augustus)
59 BC
first Triumvirate (Three Man Rule) of Rome (Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey)
58 BC
Caesar conquered Gaul
55 BC
Caesar led the Roman invasion of Britain
51 BC
Caesar wrote "De bello Gallico" (account of the Gallic War")
51-31 BC
Cleopatra VII, last ruler of the Ptolemeic dynasty
49 BC
Caesar won battle against Pompey near Thermopylai in Greece
Caesar brought his army across the Rubicon river in northern Italy, into Rome. "Crossing the Rubicon" with an army was equivalent to declaring war on Rome. Caesar's statement "Alea jacta est" - the die is thrown
48 BC
birth of a son, Caesarion, to Julius Caesar of Rome and Cleopatra VII of Egypt. They set up house together in Rome, although Caesar already had a Roman wife
47 BC
As a reward for support of his Egypt campaign, Caesar appointed Hyrcanus as Ethnarch of Jews, and Antipater as procurator of Judea
Cleopatra of Egypt had Pompey murdered. She later tried to persuade Mark Antony to have Herod assassinated, so that she could take Judea, but Mark Antony refused
Library of Alexandria burned (by accident ?)
Herod made governor of Galilee
46 BC
the Julian Calendar - leap years introduced
45 BC
Caesar adopted his nephew Gaius Octavius (Octavian) as his heir
44 BC
Julius Caesar assassinated in Rome, March 15 ("the Ides of March"). The assassins were led by Cassius and Brutus. Caesar's last words were "και συ τεκνον" - "kai su, technon?" (You too, child?) to Brutus. (These are the words reported by eye-witnesses and historians of the time. Shakespeare may have been the first to use the Latin translation which has became famous "et tu, Brute?")
43 BC
Founding of the Roman town of Lundinium (London) on the site of earlier settlements at fords across the River Thames
43 BC - AD 18
Ovid, Roman poet
42 BC
Caesar's adopted son Octavian joined with Mark Antony to defeat Cassius and Brutus in Macedonia. Cassius and Brutus committed suicide. Mark Antony took control of the eastern regions, and made Athens his capital
40 BC
Herod (the Great), son of Antipater and friend of Mark Antony, went to Rome and got himself appointed as a vassal king under Roman authority, called "King of the Jews" although he himself was of Edomite descent
40-37 BC
Antigonus II (son of Aristobulus II) power struggle with Herod the Great; got help from Parthians and ruled until he was executed by the Romans on behalf of Herod
37 BC
Herod the Great captured Jerusalem, had Antigonus II executed
40-4 BC
Rule of Herod I (Herod the Great). Married Mariamne I (a Hasmonean princess, granddaughter of both Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II), and styled himself "King of the Jews". Eventually killed Mariamne and the sons he had by her. Romans joked "I would rather be Herod's pig than his son" (Herod passed himself off as a Jew, and would not eat pork)
38 BC
Mark Antony returned to Egypt (and Cleopatra)
32 BC
Mark Antony and Cleopatra invaded Italy to fight Octavian
31 BC
Battle of Actium (in Greece) : Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian and committed suicide. This was the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Egypt was made a Roman province
30 BC - AD 14
Octavian took the name Augustus and founded the Roman Empire
construction of the system of straight Roman roads to facilitate movement of the army throughout the Empire began
20 BC
Herod the Great started to rebuild and extend the Temple in Jerusalem. The project continued until AD 62

Main Sources : Smithsonian Timelines of Ancient History, The Timetables of History (Bernard Grun)

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