by Angelos Chaniotis
Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2018. Pp. xxxiv, 446.
Illus., maps, append., chron., references, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 0674659643
The Remarkable Endurance of the Hellenistic World
Prof. Chaniotis (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) presents a history of the surprisingly durable Hellenistic “oikoumene”. After an introductory chapter that explores Greek history and culture in the post-“Golden Age” era, he gives us an overview of the conquests of Alexander (336-323 B.C.). Then five chapters look at the emergence of the Hellenistic ethos out of the fusion of Greek and other – Persian, Egyptian, Bactrian, Indian – cultures during the age of the Successors.
Chaniotis devotes the next six chapters to the interactions between the Hellenistic states and the Roman conquest, during which, as Virgil put it, saw “conquered Greece conquer the conquerors", ending with the reign of the hellenophile Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). He concludes with four chapters dealing with various aspects of Hellenistic culture and society and their development through the period, with a particular look at the evolution of religious beliefs.
Of necessity, Chaniotis has from time to time to pay careful attention to dynastic relations, alliances and political ties among various powers, which he does remarkably well. Chaniotis continuously reminds us that the principal political unit of the Hellenistic world remained the poleis – the self-governing “city-state”, which endured under the Roman Empire as a mainstay of imperial rule.
A volume in the Harvard series “History of the Ancient World”, Age of Conquests is a valuable read for anyone interested in Greek, Hellenistic, or Roman history and culture, but is less useful for the military historian, as Chaniotis rather unfortunately neglects military trends in the period.