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It has been argued that the most influential contribution of Gandhara (modern Pakistan and southern Afghanistan) was its role in the creation of several works of art centered around Buddhist themes, including the first known depictions of the Buddha in human form. However, the Gandharan artists also drew a great amount of inspiration from the tradi…
 
In the wake of Alexander the Great, the traditions of Hellenism and Buddhism thought came into close contact in Central Asia and India. Lee Clarke, a PhD student in cross-cultural philosophy at Nottingham Trent University, joins the show to discuss the idea of “Greco-Buddhism”, tracing the origins of the Buddha and the establishment of his teaching…
 
In antiquity, Gandhara was one of the most deeply-rooted hubs of Buddhism, and scholars have attempted to search for any possible encounters between Buddhists and the Greeks who settled in Central Asia and India. Fascinating pieces of evidence hint at these connections: the Pali text known as the Milindapañha ("The Questions of King Milinda") portr…
 
With the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, the rulers of Greco-Bactria would seize the opportunity to invade India in approximately 185 B.C. Famous conquerors like Demetrius and Menander would campaign throughout the subcontinent, seizing the lands of Arachosia and Gandhara (southern Afghanistan and Pakistan) as their new domains, the so-called "Indo…
 
In 128 B.C., an explorer and diplomat named Zhang Qian had arrived in the Ferghana Valley in modern Uzbekistan. As the first known Chinese visitor in Central Asia, he was originally tasked by the Han Emperor Wudi to seek an alliance with the Yuezhi nomads, who migrated to Bactria in the 130s and contributed to the collapse of the Greco-Bactrian Kin…
 
With the discovery of the city of Ai Khanoum in northeastern Afghanistan, the idea of a strong Greek presence in the makeup of Hellenistic Bactria was reinforced. At the same time, they also demonstrate a reliance on local Bactrian traditions and the formation of brand new identities. Dr. Rachel Mairs, a historian of Hellenistic Central Asia and au…
 
The conquests of Alexander the Great resulted in tens of thousands of Greek colonists settling in Central Asia. While excavations of places like the city ruins of Ai Khanoum hint at a flourishing Hellenic culture, local Bactrian and Sogdian traditions continued to hold a powerful influence. In this episode, we take a deeper look at Greco-Bactria by…
 
Coins are the most enduring symbols of the Greco-Bactrian and the Indo-Greek kingdoms, considered to be invaluable tools in reconstructing their chronologies in absence of a written history. Joining our series is numismatist Dr. Frank Lee Holt, author of books such as "Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria" and "Lost World of the Golde…
 
In the first of several episodes on the "Hellenistic Far East", we will cover the history of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which controlled the lands of Central Asia stretching from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan during the third and second centuries B.C. As one of the most fascinating yet poorly understood regions in antiquity, we will try to piece toget…
 
Despite the defeat at Raphia, Antiochus III was not discouraged from further conquests. After dealing with his final rival Achaeus in 213, the Seleucid king would lead a massive expeditionary force into Asia, an anabasis, intending to assert his authority over the wayward satrapies and kingdoms that splintered away during the troubled reigns of his…
 
Only a few short years after his coronation, Antiochus III would invade the kingdom of Ptolemy IV in 219 B.C., intent on reclaiming the lands of Coele Syria as part of his birthright. To stem the tide, the Ptolemaic government tries to rejuvenate the now-rusty Egyptian army by ordering a massive recruitment drive and issuing reforms, and the two ki…
 
In 222 B.C., two of the world's most powerful kingdoms saw the coronation of two young monarchs: Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire, and Ptolemy IV Philopator of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. As Antiochus tries to keep his realm from falling apart in the face of rebellions and the assassination of his older brother, the laziness of Ptolemy allo…
 
In this episode, we bring the Second Punic War to a close as Hannibal tries to conquer southern Italy, while the Scipio and Barcid families clash over control of the Iberian Peninsula. During the Spanish campaigns, Publius Scipio (the future Scipio Africanus) becomes the premier general of the Republic, bringing the fight to Africa itself as he cla…
 
After the losses at Trebia and Trasimene, the strategies of Fabius Maximus Cuncutator ("the Delayer") manages to give the Republic some valuable breathing room. Despite Fabius' best efforts, Hannibal manages to deliver Rome its most devastating defeat on the plains of Cannae in 216. Meanwhile, Marcus Claudius Marcellus leads a campaign in Sicily ag…
 
With the destruction of the Celtiberian city of Saguntum in 219, much of the Mediterranean world was plunged into a state of warfare for nearly two decades, as the Roman Republic would once again battle Carthage for dominance, and face their greatest foe to date: Hannibal Barca, son of Hamilcar. To the surprise and horror of the Senate, Hannibal wo…
 
Fellow history podcaster Tristan Hughes (The Ancients Podcast) joins the show to discuss his new book, "Alexander's Successors at War: The Perdiccas Years, 323-320 BC", which covers the first tumultuous years of the Wars of the Successors. Though framed around the career of Perdiccas, the standing regent of Philip III Arrhidaeus and Alexander IV, t…
 
The period from the signing of the Treaty of Lutatius in 241 until the siege of Saguntum in 219 is often passed over by those learning about the Punic Wars, but it is integral to understanding how the Romans and Carthaginians went to battle once again. Rome fought to stem the tide of Celtic warbands invading from Northern Italy, whereas Carthage fa…
 
Thanks to his role in the Maccabean Revolt, Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire played an important part in the history of Judaism. From the prophecies of Daniel to the histories of Josephus, Dr. Joseph Scales joins the show to talk about the perception of Antiochus IV in the Jewish literary tradition, viewed as both an incompetent ruler …
 
At only 18 years of age, Philip V was crowned with the diadem following the death of his uncle Antigonus III Doson in 221. Many believed that the boy was going to be a pushover, easy prey for the machinations of his courtiers and for the many belligerent powers of the Greek Peninsula. Philip however proved to be a king in the mold of Pyrrhus and Al…
 
Despite the failure of Agis IV to reform a weakened Sparta, a more politically astute (and ruthless) successor could be found in the rival Agiad house, Cleomenes III. Under his reign, Sparta would be restored to a level of power capable enough to bring the Achaean League to its knees during the Cleomenean War (228-222). In a moment of crisis, Aratu…
 
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and the 240s and 230s saw several shakeups in the political order of Greece. Macedonia under Demetrius II Aetolicus struggled to deal with an onslaught of Greek Leagues, Illyrian tribes, and the premature death of a monarch. Meanwhile, the long-since impotent Sparta sees a potential rejuvenation …
 
The proliferation of the Greek Federal states, those such as Achaean and Aetolian Leagues, was a major political development in the Greek Peninsula during the 3rd century. Despite being in an age of kings, several poleis were able to present a unified front against the Successor dynasties, allowing them to act as allies or rivals depending upon the…
 
As the power couple of the Mediterranean, Ptolemy III and Berenice II Euergetes (Benefactor)would oversee the apogee of Hellenistic Egypt. Ptolemy's successful blitzkrieg against the Seleucid Empire during the Third Syrian War would see a near-total conquest of Syria and Mesopotamia, and brought their northern rivals to their knees. As one of the m…
 
The conquest of Egypt by Alexander and establishment of the Ptolemaic dynasty differed from previous foreign invaders like the Hyksos or the Persians. While the Ptolemies would very much present themselves as traditional pharaohs, they would bring thousands of Greek immigrants, founded poleis, and imported Greek culture en masse. For the indigenous…
 
The Seleucid Empire's vast geographic spread made it the heir to a wide variety of cavalry traditions, with the fighting style of each region being incorporated into an army of Macedonian origin: units like armored cataphracts and horse archers from the steppes, scythed chariots from the Near East, and even war elephants acquired from distant India…
 
Drawn by the prospects of providing service to the Ptolemaic government in either the bureaucracy or the army, or perhaps seeking to settle and farm some of the most productive land in the world, tens of thousands of Greeks would immigrate to Egypt in pursuit of a better life. Thanks to the abundant papyrological record, we are able to get an intim…
 
Alexandria, or Alexandria-by-Egypt as it was called, was the easily the greatest city of the Hellenistic Age. Founded by Alexander the Great in 332/331, it became the pet project of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who turned it into the capital of their mighty empire. Through the dynasty's direction and enormous amounts of money, the city was endowed with m…
 
After facing decades of civil wars and invasions following the death of Alexander, peace was restored in Macedonia by the capable Antigonid king Antigonus II 'Gonatas', who strengthened the kingdom's hegemony over the Greek Peninsula in a reign that lasted an impressive 40 years. Despite this, we know very little about the man and his exploits. Aut…
 
Herodotus described Egypt as the gift of the Nile River, and without a doubt the Ptolemaic rulers took full advantage of the land’s agricultural prosperity. In addition to their exploitation of the Nile’s annual inundation, the Ptolemies would introduce the most rigorously developed (or exploitative) taxation system ever seen in Egypt, and would en…
 
Throughout the three centuries of Ptolemaic control over Egypt, their dynasty can be best described as having a split identity. Ruling from Alexandria, the new intellectual and cultural capital of the Greek-speaking world, the Ptolemies were very much Hellenistic kings and queens. But Egypt was an ancient land, and they needed to come to terms with…
 
Among the many colorful characters of the Wars of the Diadochi, Demetrius I Poliorcetes ("the Besieger") stands out as one of its most prominent, portrayed by the likes of Plutarch as a skilled commander and larger-than-life personality. Dr. Charlotte Dunn, who recently co-authored a biography entitled "Demetrius the Besieger", joins the show to di…
 
The troubled reigns of Seleucus II Callinicus and Seleucus III marked over 20 years of instability for the empire. A 3rd Syrian War led by a vigorous Ptolemy III Euergetes would penetrate into Syria and Mesopotamia, Parthia saw the invasion of the nomadic Parni, and rebellious officials in places like Pergamon would test the limits of the Seleucid …
 
Alexander the Great is easily one of the most popular subjects for writers and artists throughout antiquity. In addition to the many biographies that present wildly different views on the man, there are a dazzling number of depictions of the conqueror in coinage, statues, and various other works of art. Joining us is Meg Finlayson who discusses her…
 
The relatively brief reign of Antiochus II Theos is noted for his conflict with Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his controversial marriage with Berenice Phernophoros (“the dowry-bringer”). But the true focus of this episode is the convoluted yet critically important events that took place in the eastern satrapies of Parthia and Bactria. The rebellions …
 
Though the longest-lived and most wealthy of the Hellenistic "Big 3", the Ptolemaic rulers in Egypt have never really held the distinction as a major military player in the violent struggles of the Hellenistic period, instead often seen as decadent and lazy as per the writings of those like Polybius. Dr. Paul Johstono joins us to discuss his new bo…
 
As the most prolific of city-founders, the Seleucids sought to dramatically reshape the lands of the Near East and most especially North Syria, which would become the dynasty's new imperial heartland and something of a stand-in for their ancestral homeland of Macedonia. We will cover the creation of these sites, but we'll also assess the impact of …
 
The 1st and 2nd Illyrian Wars, fought between the Roman Republic and the peoples of Illyria (approximately modern Albania to Croatia) in 229-228 and 220-219 BC respectively, are often neglected in favor of the more famous 2nd Punic War. The conflicts with Teuta, the "Pirate Queen" of the Ardiaei, and the unscrupulous Demetrius of Pharos marked the …
 
To rule over the largest and most diverse empire of the Hellenistic realms, the Seleucids needed to deal with serious logistical and administrative challenges. The identity of the Seleucid kings can be viewed through either a Macedonian-Greek, Near-Eastern, or Iranian lens. Its administrative system of satrapies and local power holders were kept in…
 
Straddling the Strait of Kerch in the Northern Black Sea, the Bosporan Kingdom provides an unusual case study within the Hellenistic period. Originally settled by Greeks during the 6th century BC, the Cimmerian Bosporus would become host to a powerful kingdom backed up economically by its massive grain exports to the Mediterranean. For most of its …
 
Though they viewed themselves as the civilized center of the world, the Greeks had always expressed a curiosity for what lay on the periphery. The conquests of Alexander the Great had thrown open the doors of Asia and Africa, lands that were only the stuff of legend and hearsay, to hordes of Greek explorers, scientists, and diplomats. Many would be…
 
The world of the nomads who lived upon the Eurasian Steppe would face a radical transformation between the 4th-2nd centuries BC. Originally dominated by the Scythians and Saka, the Pontic-Caspian and Central Asian Steppes saw the migration and invasion of new tribes, sending them on a collision course with the likes of the Seleucid Empire and Greco…
 
With 49 episodes published, I decided to celebrate by making episode 50 a question and answer session, where I respond to topics fielded by listeners of the show. We dive into discussions on favorite history books, how to get into podcasting, and more historical topics like "who was the greatest of Alexander's Successors?" and "who would win in a w…
 
In this episode, we will be looking at two regions of Asia Minor and the Black Sea: the first is Galatia, home to the descendants of the Celtic tribes who marauded their way through Greece before being settled in central Anatolia, remaining an enclave of Celtic culture while serving as mercenaries (and foes) to the Hellenistic kingdoms. The second …
 
The conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire by Alexander the Great and his Successors did not spell the end of Iranian civilization. During the early Hellenistic period, several Iranian dynasties manage to establish themselves as independent rulers in their own right, propagating and transforming Iranian traditions and cultures in a changing envi…
 
Concluding our look at the philosophies of the Hellenistic Age, we take a round tour of three other important schools: the ascetic and often times crass Cynics, the hedonistic predecessors of the Epicureans known as the Cyrenaics, and the Peripatetics, the heirs of Aristotle and the Lyceum.Title Theme: Seikilos Epitapth with the Lyre of Apollo, pla…
 
Questions on the existence of true knowledge had plagued many Greek philosophers, but it was during the Hellenistic period when Skepticism, divided between two competing branches, emerged to openly cast doubt on the possibility of knowing anything at all. The disciples of Pyrrho of Elis, a contemporary of Alexander the Great, sought to achieve inne…
 
From the super galleys of the Hellenistic monarchs to the engagements of Cape Ecnomus and Drepana during the First Punic War, the Hellenistic Age was the epoch of naval warfare in the ancient world. Joining us is nautical archaeologist and PhD student Stephen DeCasien to talk about the intricacies and evolution of the navy during the period, the pr…
 
With an Egyptologist’s perspective, PhD student Henry Bohun joins the show to help explore the complexities of the relationship between the Greco-Macedonian rulers of the Ptolemaic Dynasty with that of their native Egyptian subjects. Despite being Macedonian to the core, the Ptolemies nevertheless saw themselves as heirs and continuators of the Pha…
 
The legacy of Cleopatra, the last independent queen of Ptolemaic Egypt and arguably the most famous figure of the Hellenistic period, is not just limited to the works of William Shakespeare. Joining us today is Yentl Love, creator and writer of the website "The Queer Classicist", who talks about the reception of Cleopatra (Qalūbaṭrah) in the Islami…
 
In this episode we are joined by historian and Cornell PhD student John McTavish to discuss the Wars of the Diadochi, where the Successors of Alexander the Great fought over a period of 40 years to carve apart his empire and found their own kingdoms, giving birth to the Hellenistic World as we know it. We discuss the problems of early Hellenistic s…
 
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