The Hellenic Period Of Palestine

ruin palestineThe Hellenistic period covers the tumultuous time between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire.

Alexander the Great conquered the region in the late 330s; however, after his death, control of the region changed hands several times during the Diadochi wars between the rulers Laomedon of Mytilene, Ptolemy I and Antigonus I. Ptolemy I eventually proved victorious in 312 BCE by defeating Antigonus’ son, Demetrius I, at the Battle of Gaza; however, he withdrew from the region shortly thereafter.

Ptolemy I re-captured the region after Antigonus I was killed at the Battle of Ipsus, which Ptolemy did not take part in. This left the victors, Seleucus I and Lysimachus, to divide up the Antigonid Empire between them. Ptolemy then decided to make a pre-emptive strike against Seleucus I, which initiated the Syrian Wars, during which the northern portion of Palestine fell to the Seleucid Empire in 219 BCE. The Seleucids then advanced on Egypt, but were defeated in 217 BCE at the Battle of Raphia. In 200 BCE, Southern Palestine also fell under the control of the Seleucid Empire following the Battle of Panium.

During this period, the region experienced significant growth and development such as urban planning and the establishment of well-built cities. Trade and commerce also flourished in areas such as Ashkelon, Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Gaza. While the Persians did not interfere with the internal affairs of their subjects, the Greeks followed a strict policy of Hellenization, which encouraged the adoption of Greek culture. The continued pressures of Hellenization by the Seleucids resulted in the Maccabean Revolt, an uprising in the Judean Mountains.
Although this revolt was quashed in 160 BCE at the Battle of Elasa, the Seleucid Empire began to rapidly decline, beginning with the overthrow of King Alexander Balas by Demetrius II in 145 BCE at the Battle of Antioch, which was the empire’s capital.

A civil war then erupted in 116 BCE between Seleucid’s half-brothers, Antiochus VIII Grypus and Antiochus IX Cyzicenus. This led to a breakup of the kingdom and certain principalities being granted independence, including Judea. This allowed the leader of Judea, John Hyrcanus, to carry out a military conquest in 110 BCE against the independent Hasmonean kingdom by raising a mercenary army, which significantly increased Judea’s regional influence over Jerusalem.

The Hasmoneans gradually extended their authority over a large part of the region and forced the populations of the neighboring regions to convert to Hellenism. This created an alliance between the Judeans, Samaritans, Galileans and others who fought for control over the region, which gradually became known as Judaea. During the Third Mithridatic War of 73–63 BCE, the Roman Republic established its influence in the region.