The "land between the rivers" -- the Tigris and Euphrates -- has rightly been called the "cradle of human civilization."
But right behind that birthplace come a variety of civilizations and cultures in the lands surrounding the Great Sea -- the Mediterranean. These ancient cultures combined to play a vital role in the development of Western civilization as we know it.
So let's take a brief tour around the Great Sea and take a look at these various peoples and their cultures, starting with the (1) Minoans on the island of Crete; then north to (2) Greece and (3) Macedon; east to the (4) Ionian city-states along the west coast of Anatolia; then to central Anatolia and the (5) Hitite Empire & later the Persians; south to the (6) Levant, including (7) Phoenicia, (8) Lebanon, (9) Israel, the (10) Canaanites & the (11) Philistines; southwest to (12) Egypt; then further west to (13) Carthage and the Phoenician colonies in the Iberian peninsula; east to (14) Massalia/Massilia/Marseilles; then south to the (15) Etruscans and then the (16) Romans; further east to (17) Illyria on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea; and finally ending back in Greece. Whew!
Let's follow that course and see if it takes us to a better understanding of the cultures and contributions of the ancient Mediterranean that might help bring us to a better understanding of how we got to where we are now.
The Minoans on Crete
Let's begin in the eastern Mediterranean where the Minoan civilization arose between 2700 and 1500 B.C. during the Bronze Age on the mountainous, volcanic and earthquake-prone island of Crete, located about 55 miles south and slightly east of the Peloponnese in southern Greece and 455 miles northwest of the mouth of the Nile River in Egypt. The term "Minoan" comes from the mythic King Minos, who was associated in Greek mythology with the Labyrinth, an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary skillful craftsman Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it. But he was aided by Ariadne, who provided Theseus with a skein of thread, literally the "clew", or "clue", so he could find his way out again.
In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths, due to her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the Labyrinth where sacrifices were made and she would later help Theseus overcome the Minotaur and save the would-be sacrificial Greek victims. In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her being either a mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts.
The Minoans were traders, and their merchants reached far beyond their home island -- to Egypt, Cypress, Canaaan and the Levant coast and on into Anatolia. But the onset of the Iron Age and the decline in the use of bronze tools, along with an invasion by Myceaean Greeks, brought an end to the Minoans as a separate culture around 1500 B.C.
Greece is a mountainous country, shaped like an upside-down pyramid that, in turn, is connected by the Isthmus of Corinth to a large land mass to the south -- the Peloponnese. The Peloponnese was home to the city-states of Sparta, Argos and Corinth. The Mycenean civilization, which takes its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae in the Peloponnese, lasted from about 1600 to1200 B.C. Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in ancient Greece. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor and in the Levant, Cyprus and Italy. Crete also became a part of the Mycenaean world. Mycenaean civilization perished through a combination of the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization in the eastern Mediterranean and the advance of the Dorian Greeks from the north.
The Polis or Greek City-State
In the 8th century B.C., Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages that followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, modifying it with the addition of vowels to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century B.C. on, written records begin to appear. At this point, Greece was divided into many small self-governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography: Every island, valley and plain there is cut off from its neighbors by the sea or mountain ranges.
Beginning around 800 B.C., trade began to dramatically accelerate between the peoples of Greece. Marketplaces grew up in Greek villages and communities began to gather together into defensive units, building fortifications. On this foundation, the Greek-speaking people on the Greek peninsula, the mainland, and the coast of Asia Minor developed political units that were centrally based on a single city. These "city-states" were independent entities that controlled a limited amount of territory surrounding a city. The largest of these city-states, for instance, was Sparta, which controlled more than 3,000 square miles of surrounding territory.
Each city-state developed fairly unique and independent cultures and political organizations (notice that the word "political" is derived from the word polis or city-state). All the Greek city-states began as monarchies, ruled by hereditary kings. Some Greeks, however, soon tired of the kings, many of whom were overthrown in the 8th century B.C. A variety of political alternatives were put in place, the most common being an oligarchy, or "rule by a few." The oligarchs were almost always drawn from the wealthiest citizens. Even though these powers were diffused among a group (which could be surprisingly large), the power of the oligarchy could be remarkably totalitarian. Most of the early oligarchic governments and a few of the kings were overthrown by "tyrants," often swept into power by dissatisfaction or crisis; they were usually extremely popular leaders when they assumed rule. But these tyrants, who usually maintained power only by their hold on military force and fear, often fell apart quickly.
By the 6th century B.C., experiments in government began to settle around two alternatives. Although oligarchy became the settled norm of the Greek city-state, several were replaced by a second alternative: Democracy. The word democracy means, "rule by the people (demos)," but the Greek democracies looked nothing like modern democracies. First, they really did mean rule by the people, for the Greek democracies were not representative governments; they were governments run by the free, male citizens of the city-state. Second, all the people were not involved in the government: Slaves, foreigners and women were all disbarred.
This was a period of frenetic colonization for the Greeks. Pressured by growing populations around the city-states, they actively went looking for areas to colonize in Greece, the Aegean Sea, and elsewhere. Greek city-state colonies began to appear in Anatolia and on the Italian and Sicilian shores. The Greeks set up trading posts in the Middle East and Egypt. Greek culture was spreading across the Mediterranean, and Greek commerce was rapidly making the city-states wealthy and powerful.
Although there was no military, political, or cultural center of the Greek world in the Archaic Period -- and different city-states developed separate cultures -- the Greek culture became in many ways a national culture because of the dynamic interactions between the various city-states. The greatest flowering of culture occurred on the city-states of western Asia Minor, especially in Miletus, a port city on the southwestern coast of modern-day Turkey.
Greek philosophy begins in these city-states and soon spreads around the Greek world. Corinth and later Argos become great centers of literature. Although there were many Greek city-states, the two most powerful -- and most unlike in government and culture -- were Athens and Sparta. Sparta, in particular, dominated the political scene all during the 7th century B.C., and would remain a powerful force all throughout its history until the Macedonians under King Philip the II conquered Greece in the 4th century B.C.
Other major city-states included Argos, Corinth, Megara, Delphi and Rhodes. We'll take a look at each in turn to see how they contributed to Hellenistic history and culture. Even though they spoke the same language, people living in ancient Greece did not think of themselves as "Greek," but as citizens of their city-state. For example, people from Corinth considered themselves Corinthians and people from Sparta considered themselves Spartans.
Argos, located in the east-central part of the Peloponnese, was one of the oldest city-states in ancient Greece, but it first became a major power during the 7th century B.C. Argos introduced silver coins, which made trade much easier, as well as a standard system of weights and measures. The people of Argos were actively involved in the arts and their magnificent stone sculptures of athletes were the envy of many a Greek city-state. Argos was famous for its wonderful musicians and poets. Drama reached new heights in this polis. Like many Greek city-states, Argos was ruled by a king.
According to Greek mythology, it was founded by Argos, son of the god Zeus; and then Hera and Poseidon had an argument over the city. Hera won and became the patron of the city, but Poseidon got his revenge by drying out the land so it was very arid.
Corinth was a trade city in an ideal location on the south end of the Isthmus of Corinth betwen mainland Greece and the Peloponnese. This location allowed it to have two seaports -- one on the Saronic Gulf to the east and one on the Corinthian Gulf in the west. As a result, the city was one of the wealthiest in ancient Greece. The Corinthians developed their own coins and required that traders use them when in their city.
Corinth is perhaps most famous for its architecture. The Corinthians developed the Corinthian order of Greek architecture, which is the third major form of classical Greek architecture along with the Doric and Ionic. The government of Corinth was a monarchy ruled by a king. Corinth provided soldiers to the Greeks during the Persian Wars. It also allied with Sparta against Athens in the first Peloponnesian War.
Megara, which is located at the north end of the Isthmus of Corinth opposite the island of Salamis, was an early dependency of Corinth. But following a successful war of independence, Megara soon established a colony at Byzantium on the Hellespont in 667 B.C. Like Corinth, Megara had two harbors: Pegae, to the west on the Corinthian Gulf, and Nisaea, to the east on the Saronic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. The Megarians were proverbial for their generosity in building and endowing temples.
Thebes was a powerful city-state about 40 miles northwest of Athens that constantly switched sides in the various Greek wars. During the wars with Persia, it originally sent men to Thermopylae to fight the Persians, but later, it allied with King Xerxes I of Persia to fight against Sparta and Athens. During different times in history it allied with Athens against Sparta and then switched sides to ally with Sparta against Athens.
In 371 B.C., Thebes marched against Sparta and defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Leuctra, setting many of the Spartan slaves free and putting an end to the power of the Spartan city-state.
Thebes was famous in Greek legend and literature as well. It is known as the birthplace of the Greek hero Hercules and played a major role in the stories of Oedipus and Dionysus. Also, Pindar -- perhaps the most famous of the Greek poets -- lived in Thebes.
Delphi was the religious center of the Greek city-states. People from all over ancient Greece visited the city to receive guidance from the famous Delphic oracle Pythia. During the classical Greek period, the city became the shrine to the god Apollo after he slew the Python (in Greek mythology, an earth-dragon of Delphi).
Delphi was also a center of the arts, education, literature and trade. Located in the center of Greece a little less than 50 miles west of Thebes, it was often called the "navel (center) of the world." Delphi was also home to the Pythian Games, one of the most famous athletic competitions in early Greece.
The city-state of Rhodes was formed in 408 B.C. on the Greek island of the same name when three smaller cities decided to unite. The city was prosperous for hundreds of years due to its prime location as a trade port. The city was famous for its shipbuilders as well as for its giant statue near the harbor called the Colossus of Rhodes. This statue of the Greek Titan Helios -- the Colossus of Rhodes -- which was more than 100 feet high, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The city-state of Sparta was situated in the southern part of the Peloponnese. Sparta and Athens represented diametrically opposed concepts of the Greek polis and its relations with other city-states; they also represent diametrically opposed concepts of the individual's relationship to the state. The rivalry, then, between Sparta and Athens, which would erupt into a disastrous war for Athens, was also an ideological and cultural rivalry.
The single, overwhelming fact of Spartan history was the Messenean War. In the 8th century B.C., Sparta, like all her neighbors, was a monarchy with a limited oligarchy. However, in 725 B.C., needing land to feed a dramatically growing population, the Spartans marched over the Taygetus mountains and annexed all the territory of their neighbor, Messenia. The Messenians occupied a fertile plain and the Spartans soon found themselves with more than enough land to support themselves and their newly conquered neighbors. However, like all conquered people, the Messenians did not appreciate the loss of their independence. With the help of the city-state of Argos, the Messenians revolted in 640 B.C. This was no ordinary revolt, for not only did the Messenians almost win, they almost destroyed Sparta itself.
Thus, at the end of the Messenian revolt, Sparta found itself controlling the territory of a subject population that outnumbered it ten to one! Believing it was only a matter of time before they would be overrun, the Spartans invented a new political system as dramatically revolutionary as the Athenian democracy that would evolve in the north: They turned their city-state into a military state and the Messenians into agricultural slaves called helots who worked small plots of land on estates owned by the Spartans.
Spartan society itself changed. The military became the center of existence. The state determined whether children, both male and female, were strong when they were born; weakling infants were left in the hills to die of exposure. Although this was a common practice in the Greek world, Sparta institutionalized it as a state activity rather than an individual family choice. At the age of 7, every male Spartan was sent to military and athletic school. These schools taught toughness, discipline, endurance of pain, and survival skills. At age 20, after 13 years of training, the Spartan became a soldier. He spent his life with his fellow soldiers, living in barracks and eating all his meals with his fellow soldiers. If he married, he didn't live with his wife. Only at the age of 30 did the Spartan become an "equal," and was allowed to live in his own house with his own family -- although he continued to serve in the military. Military service ended at the age of 60.
How did the soldier survive? How did Sparta afford to feed young men who did nothing but soldier? Each soldier was granted a piece of land, which he probably never saw; this land was farmed, of course, by the conquered Messenian helots. These helots worked small plots of land on estates owned by Spartans; part of their produce went to the master of the estate, and the remainder went to the helot farmer and his family.
The Spartans viewed themselves as the true inheritors of Greek tradition. They did not surround themselves with luxuries, expensive foods or opportunities for leisure. And, although the ideology of Sparta was oriented around the state, paradoxically, this soldier-centered state was the most liberal with regards to the status of women. Unlike most Greek states, where women were supposedly required to stay indoors at all times, Spartan women were free to move about at will.
Spartan society was divided into three main classes. At the top was the native Spartan, who could trace his or her ancestry back to the original inhabitants of the city. He served in the army and was the only person who enjoyed the full political and legal rights of the state. Next were foreign people who served as a kind of buffer population between the Spartans and the helots. They carried out most of the trade and commerce in Sparta. At the bottom, of course, were the Messenian helots.
In the 6th century B.C., the Spartans began to set their military sights on neighboring states. However, when they conquered their neighbor, Tegea, rather than annex the land and people, they set up a truce. Under this arrangement, Tegea would obey Sparta in all its foreign relationships, including wars, and would supply Sparta with a fixed amount of soldiers and equipment. In exchange, the Tegeans could remain an independent state. This was a brilliant move on the part of the Spartans, and, in a short time, they had formed alliances with a large number of other city-states in the southern part of Greece called the Peloponnese. By the time the Persians invaded in 490 B.C., they had become the major power in Greece, eclipsing even their powerful neighbor in the north, Athens.
Unlike Sparta, the land around Athens was agriculturally rich and the city had a good harbor so it could trade easily with other city-states around the Aegean Sea. Situated on the northern coast of the Saronic Gulf, it was first settled about 5000 B.C. By 1000 B.C., Athens had become the leading city of ancient Greece; its cultural achievements during the 5th century B.C. laid the foundations of western civilization.
Athens began the same way so many of its neighbors did, as a city-state ruled by a king with a council of nobles. But by 594 B.C., faced with an intolerable disparity between the very rich and the poor, the council and the people of Athens agreed to hand over all political power to a single individual, Solon. In effect a tyrant, Solon's mission was to reform the government and set up a system to guarantee that Athens didn't slip into an exploitive situation again. Solon immediately dismissed all outstanding debts and freed as many Athenians as he could from slavery. The Athenians considered Solon the greatest hero of their city-state and pointed to his reforms as the basis of their state.
Solon's new state, however, lasted very briefly and, in 510 B.C., Athens was overtaken by Sparta, which, following their usual practice, entered into a truce with Athens and installed their own hand-picked Athenians to lead the government. But the individual they chose was a bitter rival of the family who had been the original allies of Sparta. Soon, Cleisthenes, a member of that family, rallied popular support and took over. Although the Spartans invaded a second time, Cleisthenes was soon reinstalled.
Known as "the father of Athenian democracy," from 508 to 502 B.C., Cleisthenes began a series of major reforms resulting in Athenian democracy. He enfranchised as citizens all free men living in Athens and the surrounding area. He established a Council with all executive and administrative control. Every citizen over the age of 30 was eligible to sit on this Council; each year the members of the Council would be chosen by lot. The Assembly, which included all male citizens, was allowed to veto any of the Council's proposals and was the only branch of government that could declare war.
So by 502 B.C., Athens had established its culture and political structure, just as Sparta had done earlier. By the beginning of the 5th century B.C., Athens was more or less a democracy. It had become primarily a trading and commercial center. A large part of the Athenian economy focused on cash crops for export and crafts. It had become a center of art and literature. The city also had become architecturally rich -- a richness that far outshone other Greek city-states. The next 100 years in the Greek world would be politically and culturally dominated by Athens. But the event that would really catapult Athens to the center of the Greek world was the invasion by the Persians in 490 B.C.
The Persian Wars
The Persian Wars were a defining moment in Greek history. The Athenians, who had dominated the Greek world culturally and politically throughout the 5th century B.C. and part of the 4th, regarded the wars against Persia as their greatest moment.
Other than Athens, the greatest flowering of Greek culture occured in the city-states of Asia Minor, especially in Miletus, a port on the southwestern coast of Anatolia that was responsible for the founding of some 90 colonies throughout the Mediterranean. However, in the middle of the 6th century B.C. those Ionian greek city-states came under the benevolent control of the Lydians -- an Iron-Age kingdom that at its height covered all of western Anatolia. But in 546 B.C., the Lydians -- along with their vassal Greek city-states, were in turn conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great.
The Persians required the Greeks to serve in the Persian army and levied steep taxes. Smarting under these new burdens, Miletus -- the leading Ionian city-state -- began a democratic rebellion in 499 B.C., asking for assistance from the Athenians, who supplied 20 ships. In 498 B.C., the Athenians conquered and burned Sardis, the former capital of Lydia, and all the Greek cities in Asia Minor joined the revolt. But by 495 B.C., after the Athenians had lost interest and gone home, the Persians restored control over the rebellious Greek cities.
But the Persians wanted to punish Athens for its role, so in 490 B.C., they launched an expedition against Athens. When the two armies met at Marathon in Attica east of Athens, the Athenians soundly defeated the invading Persians. Legend has it that after the battle, a messenger ran from Marathon to Athens, a distance of 26.2 miles to report the victory. When he arrived in Athens, he shouted "Nenikikamen" ("We were victorious") and then died.
The battle of Marathon is perhaps the single most important battle in Greek history. Had the Athenians lost, Greece would have eventually come under the control of the Persians and all the subsequent culture and accomplishments of the Greeks would probably have taken a different form. Thus, for the Athenians, Marathon was a tremendous achievement. They began to think of themselves as the center of Greek culture and Greek power. This pride, or chauvinism, was the foundation of much of their cultural achievements. The first great dramas of Aeschylus were a celebration of Athenian greatness. The great building projects in the latter half of the 5th century B.C. were motivated by the need to display Athenian wealth, greatness and power.
But while Marathon stands as one of the greatest of Greek military accomplishments, it was just a minor setback to the Persians who, after all, controlled almost all the entire civilized world: Asia Minor, Lydia, Judah, Mesopotamia and Egypt. So it wasn't until Xerxes (ruled 486-465 B.C.) became king that the Persians turned their attention back to the Greeks and launched another punitive expedition against Athens. In 481 B.C., Xerxes gathered an army of some 150,000 men and 600 ships, determined that the whole of Greece would be conquered.
Thus when Xerxes gathered his army at the Hellespont, the narrow inlet to the Black Sea that separates Asia Minor from Europe, most Greeks despaired of winning. Of several hundred Greek city-states, only thirty-one decided to resist the Persian army. They were led by Sparta, Corinth and Athens, with Sparta made the leader of all land and sea operations. The Greeks understood that the battle would be won or lost at sea and that the Persian army could succeed only if it were kept supplied by the fleet. They also knew that the Aegean Sea was a violent place, subject to dangerous winds and sudden squalls. So while the Athenian fleet was kept safe in harbor, many of Xerxes' ships were destroyed at sea during bad weather.
The key moment came in a sea battle off the island of Salamis. Compared with the Persians, the Greeks had slow, clumsy ships, so they turned their ships into fighting platforms. They filled them with soldiers who fought the opposing boats in hand-to-hand combat. It was a brilliant innovation and, after the Athenians managed to destroy the majority of the Persian fleet, most of the Persian army withdrew. Although one Persian general remained, in 479 B.C. he was met by the largest Greek army history had ever known and his army retreated back to Persia.
The Delian League
In 478 B.C., after the Persians retreated from Greece, representatives from the Greek city-states of Asia Minor and the islands of Aegean Sea met on the island of Delos to discuss an alliance with the Athenians; thus was born the Delian League. Although Athens was the leader, the League was essentially a democratic alliance between equals with each city-state having one vote.
The Delian League began fighting the Persians, freeing city after city until they achieved a decisive victory in 467 B.C. Athens itself grew tremendously wealthy during this time since part of the agreement of the League involved tax payments to maintain the Athenian fleet. With all that wealth, Athens began to invest in large building projects such as the Acropolis, as well as in drama, in art, and in crafts. The great flowering of Athenian culture had begun as wealth and power flowed to Athens as if it were the center of the world.
Democracy and the Age of Pericles
One figure in particular towers over this new democratic state: Pericles. The Age of Athens, which begins in the middle of the 5th century B.C. and lasts until 404 B.C., when Athens is defeated by Sparta, is also called the "Classical Age," or, after its most important political figure, the "Age of Pericles." Just about everything associated with Greek culture is squeezed into this half-century of Athenian wealth, energy, creativity and chauvinism. All the great works of Greek tragedy and comedy -- the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes -- were written during this fifty-year period in Athens. Most of the monumental works of architecture, built off the wealth that literally poured in from her imperial possessions, were built at this time: The Acropolis, along with the rebuilding of the Agora, or Greek market. Flush with wealth and at peace, the Athenians had nothing better to do then invest in a massive cultural flowering of art, poetry, philosophy and architecture.
There is no question that the democratic reforms of the Age of Pericles owe their existence to the energy of this political figure. He was a man of immense persuasiveness and an orator of great power. Although at one point he was ostracized by the Athenians (he later returned), he dominated the city's democratic government with his formidable capacity to speak and to persuade.
The Peloponnesian Wars
The First Peloponnesian War began in 460 B.C. after Athens formed an alliance with Argos, a long-standing rival of Sparta. The Athenians then allied themselves with Megara, the city-state that lay directly in the path of the route from Athens to Sparta. The Spartans, suspicious of these moves -- particularly the alliance with Megara -- began a campaign against the Athenians.
Under the leadershiip of Pericles, the most prominent and influential democratic Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during the Golden Age, Athens dominated the war in its early years. But a disastrous campaign against the Persians in Egypt decimated the Athenian navy and the Athenian empire began to fray at the edges. Thus when Megara rebelled against the alliance, Athens no longer had a buffer zone between it and the Peloponnesian states allied with Sparta. However, in 445 B.C., Pericles diverted disaster by making a 30-year peace with Sparta in which both sides got what they wanted.
Though the Delian League had made peace with Persia in 449 B.C., tribute money kept rolling in and the Athenians began to grew especially wealthy. The Spartans, in particular, grew increasingly distrustful of Athenian power and wealth. It was becoming apparent that even without the territory that Athens had given up, the Athenians were a major threat to Sparta and its influence.
Suspicious and fearful of Athenian power and wealth, the Spartans were not happy with the 30-year peace because the Athenians seemed ready to begin to reassert their power. So in 431 B.C., 14 years into the 30-year peace treaty, hostilities began anew. The Second Peloponnesian War would drag on for the next quarter century, with back and forth results. This horrendous conflict would also see the death of Pericles from the plague in its second year, and eventually witness the foolish destruction of the Athenian navy and thousands of its soldiers when it tried to invade Syracuse, an ally of Sparta, in 215-213 B.C. The defeat of Athens -- along with the end of Athenian democracy -- finally came in in 404 B.C., when it surrendered to the Spartans, who tore down the walls of the city and installed their own oligarchic government. By whatever name you want to call it -- The Age of Athens, the Age of Pericles, the Classical Age or the Athenian Empire -- it had come to an end.
Spartan Hegenomy (404-371 B.C.)
Sparta was now the undisputed power among the Greek city-states and it vigorously went about establishing a short-lived empire of its own. It entered an alliance with Persia, but this didn't last long; the Persians destroyed the Spartan sea empire in 394 B.C. Meanwhile, Athens began rebuilding its power and in 378 B.C., it formed a league of Aegean city-states to resist Spartan growth. In 371 B.C., Sparta was conclusively defeated by Thebes and its Boeotean allies. Thus, by 355 B.C., Greece had once again become a group of independent, unallied city-states. And in less than two decades, all these city-states would disappear forever as political units, to be replaced by a vast kingdom under Philip II, an ambitious king from nearby Macedon.
As a country surrounded by water, the sea always played an important role in Greek culture and history. The ancient Greeks were active seafarers seeking opportunities for trade and founding new independent cities at coastal sites across the Mediterranean Sea. From about 750 B.C., pressured by growing populations, the Greeks began 250 years of expansion, settling colonies in all directions. To the east, the Aegean coast of Asia Minor was colonized first, followed by Cyprus and the coasts of Thrace, the Sea of Marmara and the south coast of the Black Sea.
The first Greek colony in the western Mediterranen was in 750 B.C. in Cumae, near modern-day Naples on the western coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. In 734 B.C., Syracuse on the southeastern coast of Sicily was founded by the city-state of Corinth; it later eclipsed its mother-city ("metropolis" in Greek) in both power and wealth as it founded its own colonies across southern Sicily. The Greek-colonized zone encompassing Sicily and much of southern Italy later came to be known as Magna Graecia or "Greater Greece."
In 701 B.C., the Assyrians finished their conquest of Phoenicia, which had pioneered colonization in the Mediterranean. This curtailed the previous active colonization efforts of those Phoenician city-states and enabled Greek traders in city-states on the mainland and in western Asia Minor to gain supremacy throughout the Mediterranean; their only real competition now coming from Carthage in north Africa.
In 630 B.C., the first Greek colony appeared in northern Africa in Cyrene in eastern Libya directly south of Greece. The Greeks also established a trading post in Egypt. In 600 B.C., Massalia (Marseille) was colonized on the southern coast of France. Colonies were also established on the northeastern coast of Spain near the mouth of the Ebro River and in Illyria along the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea. Small colonies also made their appearance on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia. This colonization offered greater opportunities for increased trade, as well as for piracy and other conflicts among the Etruscans, Phoenicians and Greeks, all of whom were competing for control of seaborne trade of the area.
More than 30 Greek city-states had multiple colonies around the Mediterranean world, with the most active being Miletus, with 90 colonies stretching throughout the Mediterranean Sea -- all the way from the shores of the Black Sea and Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the east, to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the west, as well as to the Libyan coast of northern Africa. These colonies played an important role in the spread of Greek influence throughout Europe and also aided in the establishment of long-distance trading networks among the Greek city-states, which boosted their economies.
Hellenism and Greek Culture
In spite of the political turbulence and chaos of the 4th century B.C., Greece was poised to move into its most triumphant period: The Hellenistic age. This term comes from "Hellene," the Greek word for the Greeks. During this time, Greek culture and power extended itself across the known world. While the classical age of Greece produced great literature, poetry, philosophy, drama and art, the Hellenistic age, in essence, "made the world Greek." At the root of Hellenism were the conquests of Philip II of Macedon and his son, Alexander the Great. However, the Macedonians did more than control territory; they actively exported Greek culture in the form of politics, language, law, literature, philosophy, religion and art. This would deeply influence all the civilizations and cultures that would later arise.
During this "Golden Age," the Greeks excelled at philosophy, though science and the arts were not far behind, and often the three were intermixed. Greek culture was not so much the result of "what" but rather the product of "who." Famous contributors to the arts and sciences of the Greek city-states are many, but here is a brief list of the most famous individuals and their area of expertises.
The primary philosophers include Socrates (469-399 B.C.), who is generally regarded as one of the wisest people of all time, even though he actually wrote nothing. Our knowledge of him comes mainly from the works of Plato (427-347 B.C.), primarily "The Apology," an account of Socrates's defense at his trial in 399 B.C. In it, Plato outlines some of Socrates's most famous philosophical ideas: The need to do what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition; and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed. Plato's most famous writing is "The Republic," one of the single most influential works in Western philosophy. Essentially, it deals with the central problem of how to live a good life.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) was another famous philosopher and scientist of the ancient world. Although he studied under Plato, Aristotle fundamentally disagreed with him on just about everything. Above all else, Aristotle believed that the world could be understood through the detailed observation and cataloging of phenomenon. That is, knowledge (which is what the word science means) is something that is capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment. Aristotle literally wrote about everything: Poetics, rhetoric, ethics, politics, meteorology, embryology, physics, mathematics, metaphysics, anatomy, physiology, logic, dreams, etc. He later moved to Macedon and became the tutor of King Phillip II's son, Alexander.
But the ancient Greeks weren't just about philosophy. There were many famous Greek scientists as well as poets and dramatists. Here are some of the more well known, listed in chronological order:
- Homer (who lived about 850 B.C.) was a blind poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey.
- Sappho (7th century B.C.) was an ancient lyric poet on the island of Lebos.
- Thespis (6th century B.C.) was termed the "inventor of tragedy" and the word for actor ("thespian") comes from his name.
- Pythagoras (569-500 B.C.), a philosopher, was also active in the fields of mathematics, astronomy and music.
- Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), the first of the three great Greek writers of tragedy, was the predecessor of Sophocles and Euripides. He made dialogue the leading feature of a play.
- Pindar (522-443 B.C.) was perhaps the most famous of the Greek poets.
- Anaxagoras (499-428 B.C.), a mathematician and astronomer, taught that the moon reflected light from the sun.
- Sophocles ( 496- 406 B.C.) was one of the three great ancient Greek tragedians (together with Aeschylus and Euripides). His most famous plays are the three tragedies concerning Oedipus and Antigone.
- Phidias (493-430 B.C.), an Athenian sculptor, was known his Zeus at Olympia -- one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World -- and for his nearly 40-foot-tall statue of Athena in the Parthenon.
- Leucippus of Miletus (c 490-420 B.C.) was the first to introduce the idea of the atom, an indivisible unit of matter.
- Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), author of "The Histories," including an account of the conflict between Greece and Persia, is known as "The Father of History."
- Euripides (480-406 B.C.) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens.
- Myron of Eleutherae (480-440 B.C.) was a sculptor who worked chiefly in bronze and is best known for his Discobolus (the discus-thrower).
- Democritus of Thrace (470-380 B.C.) was a philosopher who expanded the concept of atoms introduced by his teacher Leucippus and showed that atoms are the basis of all forms of matter. He also recognized that the Milky Way consists of a number of stars and that the moon is similar to earth.
- Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), the greatest physician of antiquity, is regarded as "The Father of Medicine." One of his most important contributions was to set standards for doctors. The Hippocratic Oath has served as a guide for doctors for more than 2,000 years.
- Thucydides (460-400 B.C.), historian and author of the "History of the Peloponnesian War" between Sparta and Athens, is generally regarded as one of the first true historians.
- Polyclitus of Argos (450-420 B.C.) is a sculptor who is best known for his Doryphorus (spear-bearer) statue, which illustrated his book on ideal mathematical proportions for human body parts and on the balance between tension and movement, known as symmetria.
- Antisthenes (445-365 B.C.), an accomplished orator, a companion of Socrates, and a philosopher, was either a founder or a forerunner of Cynicism. He also was the teacher of Diogenes.
- Xenophon (434-355 B.C.), a soldier, mercenary and historian, wrote an account of the Persian king Cyrus the Younger, and the return of the 10,000 Greek mercenaries who had fought with him. Xenophon's record of this expedition and the journey home was titled Anabasis ("The Expedition" or "The March Up Country").
- Diogenes (412-323 B.C.), a cynic, philosopher and aesthetic iconoclast (his nickname was "dog" -- the Greek word for cynic -- and for many years he lived in a tub on a diet of onions), is perhaps now most well known for his quest in broad daylight through the Athenian agora or marketplace with a lantern or lighted torch "searching for an honest man."
- Eudoxus of Cnidus (408-355 B.C.), a geometrician and astronomer born in Asia Minor, developed formulas for measuring pyramids, cones and cylinders.
- Praxiteles of Athens (400-330 B.C.) sculpted a great variety of men and gods, male and female, primarily using marble, but sometimes bronze.
- Scopas of Paros (395-350 B.C.), an architect of the Temple of Athena Alea at Tegea in Arcadia, also was a sculptor. Scopas' sculptures are noted for heads with half-open mouths and deep-set eyes. He was one of four sculptors of the reliefs on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Halicarnassus was the capital of a small kingdom in southwestern Anatolia and Mausolos was the king buried there.
- Lysippos of Sicyon (370 [or 390]-310 B.C.), a metalworker, was the official sculptor for Alexander the Great.
- Herophilus (335-280 B.C.), a physician born in Chalcedon, is known as "The Father of Anatomy." He was the first to base his conclusions on dissection of the human body. He recognizing the brain as the center of the nervous system, distinguished the motor from the sensory nerves and accurately described the eye, brain, liver and pancreas and the salivary and genital organs. He was first to recognize that the arteries contain blood, not air.
- Euclid of Alexandria (325-265 B.C.) was the most prominent mathematician of antiquity and is best known for "The Elements," his treatise on mathematics.
- Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 B.C.), an astronomer often referred to as "the Copernicus of antiquity," laid the foundation for much of the scientific examination of the heavens. He was the first to propose a heliocentric universe (i.e., that the sun was the center of the universe).
- Callimachus of Cyrene, Lybia (305-240 B.C.), a poet and grammarian, opened a school in the suburbs of Alexandria, Egypt, with some of the most distinguished grammarians and poets as his pupils. He was appointed by as chief librarian of the Alexandrian library about 260 B.C., an office he held until his death. His critical and chronologically arranged catalogue of the library laid the foundation for a history of Greek literature. He wrote about 800 works in verse and prose, only a few of which are available today.
- Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) was a mathematician and inventor from Syracuse, Sicily, whose most famous invention was a machine for raising water, called the Archimedes' screw. He used levers to pull a fully loaded ship on shore, thus supporting his statement: "Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I can move the Earth."
- Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276-194 B.C.) was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer and poet, who used geometry to measure the circumference of the earth with extraordinary accuracy.
- Hipparchus of Nicaea (190-120 B.C.), a creative and talented astronomer and mathematician, founded trigonometry and scientific geography. He also estimated the size and distance of the moon and found a way to predict eclipses.
MacedonNorth of the Greek city-states lies Macedon, whose inhabitants, even though they spoke the same language, were regarded as "barbarians" by the Greeks. However, they served a useful purpose for the Greek city-states, serving as a buffer to tribes to the north. But all this changed in the middle of the 3rd century B.C. with the appearance of one man: Alexander the Great.
Alexander was the son of the Macedonian king, Phillip II, who came to power in 359 B.C. and promptly pacified all the European tribes to his north, seized gold and silver mines there and began to build new cities.
In 349 B.C., he turned his eyes to the south, systematically conquering each of the Greek city-states. The decisive battle of Philip's conquest came in 338 B.C. when he beat the Athenians and their allies. The military feat that won that day was a cavalry charge by Philip's 18-year-old son, Alexander. Philip then found himself in control of all Greece, except for Sparta. For all practical purposes, he had become king of Greece; the independent city-state, the polis, had ceased to exist. But Philip wasn't finished: The Persian Wars still festered in Greek memory. So in 337 B.C., he announced that he would attack Persia in revenge; a year later, he stood poised to prosecute his attack on the Persian Empire.
At this point, Alexander was a youth of infinite promise. Physically handsome, strong, brave, and nothing short of brilliant, he had been schooled by no less a person than Aristotle. With all these qualities, when his father died in 336 B.C. at the hand of an assassin, at the age of 21 Alexander was able to quickly consolidate his power and began readying himself to follow up on his father's intent to attack Persia.
Alexander The Great
In 334 B.C., Alexander began his conquest of Persia, which, in effect, was to conquer the world, for the Persian Empire sprawled over most of the known world, including Asia Minor, the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Iran. It was an ambitious project -- for his army numbered just 30,000 infantry and only 5,000 cavalry. He had no navy; he had no money.
But his strategy was superb: He would move quickly and begin with a few sure victories to gain money and supplies. He would focus on taking over coastal cities so the Persian navy would have no place to make landfall. Finally, he took the battle right to the center of the opposing forces, and he threw himself into the very worst of the battles. His enemies were stunned and his troops grew intensely loyal to this man who led both them and himself right into the teeth of the fighting.
He quickly overran Asia Minor and turned inland towards Syria in 333 B.C. There he engaged the main Persian army under the leadership of the Persian king Darius. As he had done against the Athenians, he led an astounding cavalry charge against a superior opponent and forced them to break ranks. Darius and much of his army ran inland towards Mesopotamia, leaving Alexander free to continue south. He seized the coastal towns along the Phoenician and Palestinian coasts. When he entered Jerusalem, he was hailed as a great liberator. He continued south and conquered Egypt with almost no resistance whatsoever; the Egyptians called him king and son of the god Re.
By this point, Darius offered a truce; Alexander said no.
In 331 B.C., he crossed the Euphrates river into Mesopotamia. Darius met him near the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. In the last battle between the two, Alexander again put the numerically superior Persian army to flight, and Darius also ran; later to be killed by Persian nobles.
In January of 330 B.C., Alexander entered Babylon: He had now conquered Mesopotamia and its greatest and wealthiest city. The Persians had amassed vast wealth, so Alexander, who had started with no money at all, now had one of the fattest treasuries that had ever existed. The Persian Empire officially came to an end.
At this point, Alexander had pushed his army to the very limits of civilization. But he wanted more. Alexander marched east, through Scythia (northern Iran), and all the way to Pakistan and India. He conquered Bactria at the foot of the western Himalayas, gained a huge Bactrian army, and married Roxane, a Bactrian princess. But then his army grew tired, and he abandoned the eastward conquest in 327 B.C.
In late 324 B.C., Alexander returned to Babylon; now, literally, king of the world. But in June 323 B.C., at the age of 33, he fell into a fever and died.
It's rare in history that human events become so focused on a single individual. It is even rarer when that focus is justified. Alexander, however, is a notable exceptions. In addition to his conquests, the age of Alexander would permanently stamp world culture with a Greek character. Hellenism spread thoughout the Mediterranean and beyond; Greek became the Lingua Franca of language and trade in the ancient Mediterranean until it was only partially supplanted by Latin centuries later at the height of the Roman empire.
He was in many ways a brilliant and selfless person, quite possibly the most brilliant military leader in human history. With a small army, little or no supplies, and no money, he conquered the greatest, wealthiest, and most powerful empire in the world. He never lost a battle -- not once -- and he flung himself into battle with intense physical bravery. He was also a tyrant and a bully, given to fits of uncompromising violence. He was certainly a drunkard and at times unstable. We will never know if he could have ruled or unified this huge empire; but his death guaranteed that the empire he had built would never last.
Alexander had made no preparations for his succession. He had married a Bactrian princess, Roxane, but their son was unborn. So the generals who had fought with Alexander divided the empire among themselves in order to preserve it for the future, as yet unborn, king. But like most powerful and ambitious men, they soon fell into conflict with one another. In two decades of conflict, several of the original generals were killed, along with Alexander's son and brother. By 300 B.C., all that was left of Alexander's empire were four smaller empires -- soon to be three -- each of which is controlled by military generals who declare themselves kings.
- Greece and Macedonia fell to Antigonus, who founded the Antigonid dynasty of Greek kings. This dynasty would eventually also control western Asia Minor, which originally came under the control of the Attalid dynasty.
- Mesopotamia and the Middle East came under the control of Seleucus, who crowned himself Seleucus I and began the Seleucus dynasty (every king in this dynasty would be named Seleucus).
- Egypt came under the control of Ptolemy, who crowned himself Ptolemy I and began the Ptolemid dynasty, which ended with Cleopatra. The Ptolemids maintained Greek learning and culture, but adopted several Egyptian customs surrounding the kingship.
These three empires periodically fought with one another, for none of their kings ever fully accepted the fact that the empire had fractured. Each believed they were the rightful heir. Despite the constant conflict, the Hellenistic world was an incredibly prosperous one. Alexander and his successors had liberated an immense amount of wealth from the Persian empire, and the standard of living rose dramatically. Each of the empires embarked on building projects, on scholarship, on patronage of the arts, and on literature and philosophy. For instance, Ptolemy I built the world famous enormous Alexandria Library in his capital city, and sponsored the translation of a host of religious and literary works there into Greek.
Anatolia or Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the west by the Aegean Sea, on the south by the Mediterranean Sea and Syria, and on the east by Armenia. The Hittites, an ancient Anatolian people, established an empire in north-central Anatolia around 1600 B.C. This empire reached its height from about 1350-1322 B.C. when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia.
The Hittites were known for the successful use of chariots in their armies. Although belonging to the Bronze Age, they were the forerunners of the Iron Age, manufacturing iron artifacts as early as the 14th century B.C. Hittite prosperity was mostly dependent on control of metal sources and trade routes, particularly in northern Syria where vital routes linked with Mesopotamia to the east.
Defense of this area was crucial, and was soon put to the test by Egyptian expansion under the Pharaoh Rameses II in 1274 B.C. at the Battle of Kadesh, which more or less ended in a draw. After this date, the power of both the Hittites and Egyptians began to decline because of the rising power of the Assyrians. In response, the Hittite king concluded a peace and alliance with Rameses II, presenting his daughter's hand in marriage to the Pharaoh. The "Treaty of Kadesh" is one of the oldest completely surviving treaties in history and was signed in the 21st year of Rameses' rule (1258 B.C.).
After 1180 B.C., amid general turmoil in the Levant associated with the sudden arrival of the mysterious "Sea Peoples," the Hittite Kingdom disintegrated into several independent "Neo-Hittite" city-states, some of which survived until as late as the 8th century B.C.
Between 900 and 600 B.C., most of Anatolia -- espcially the east, central, southwest and southeast regions -- fell to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, which in turn collapsed near the end of that period after being defeated by an army of Medes, Babylonians and Sythians.
One of those surviving Neo-Hittite kingdoms was Lydia in west-central Anatolia. According to Herodotus, the Lydians were the first people to use gold and silver coins and the first to establish retail shops in permanent locations. This occurred around 612 B.C. under the reign of Alyattes (610-550 B.C.), one of the greatest Lydian kings. The kingdom of Lydia had remained on peaceful terms with the Greeeks who had established colonies in Anatolia along the eastern shore of the Aegean Sea and the southern coast of the Black Sea. However, during the reign of Alyattes, the western Anatolian coast was conquered by Lydia. But the Lydians admired the Greeks and treated the Ionian cities quite leniently.
Alyattes' son was Croesus, who ruled from 560 to 546 B.C. Sardis, Lydia's capital, was renowned as a beautiful city and gained the title of "Golden Sardis." Tax and tribute received from the vassals and territories under Lydian control, along with commercial revenue and rich gold mines were the main sources of the legendary wealth of King Croesus, whose name then gave rise to the phrase "rich as Croesus." This prosperity and political harmony within the kingdom contributed to the development of art, so that eventually Lydia became the center of Archaic Western Greek Art. Croesus, who gained ascendancy over fertile lands of Anatolia, as well as commercial and art centers, extended hospitality to scientists and artists who came to Sardis, which made him well known in the civilized world of that era.
Around 550 B.C., Croesus paid for the construction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus -- one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Depending on his wealth and his kingdom's prosperity, Croesus then began preparing a campaign against the Persian Empire to the southeast. According to legend, before setting out he went to see the Oracle at Delhi, where he was advised that if he attacked the Persians "a great empire would be destroyed."
So he launched his attack. But unfortunately, the great empire that was destroyed was his own! And Lydia was conquered by Cyrus the Great and the Persians in 546 B.C.
Greeks from around Athens started colonies around 1000 B.C. in the central region of Anatolia's Aegean Sea coast that came to be known as Ionia. More colonization followed and, in all, a dozen major city-states were founded by the Greeks, two of them on the islands of Chios and Samos, the rest stretching along the western Anatolian coast from Phocaea on the north to Miletus on the south. The latter grew to become the richest city in the Greek world and a great colonizer on its own, with its most notable colony being Sinope on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Another active colonizer in Anatolia was the mainland city-state of Megara, which founded Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople) on the Hellespont in 667 B.C. and then Heraklya on the south coast of the Black Sea in 585 B.C. By 600 B.C., Ionian cities were the intellectual leaders of Greece.
Early in the 6th century B.C., the Greek colonies in western and northern Anatolia fell to the Lydians, whose benevolent rule lasted until 546 B.C. when Cyrus the Great defeated the Lydian King Croesus. The Greek city-states suffered under Persian rule and revolted in 499 B.C. under the leadership of Miletus, gaining 5 years of freedom before the Persians again took over.
In 480 B.C., following the defeat of the Persians at the Battle of Salamis, the Ionian cities on the west coast of Anatolia once more became independent. But a century later, in 378 B.C., they again came under the control of the Persians until 334 B.C. when Alexandria the Great swept through Anatolia. Upon his death 11 years later in 323 B.C., his three top generals split his empire with the part in central Asia Minor, known as the Kingdom of Pergaman, eventually falling under control of the Antigonid dynasty of Greek kings. Two centuries later, Rome conquered Sardis in 133 B.C. and made the area part of its province of Asia, which was a very rich Roman province worthy of a governor with the high rank of proconsul.
The Levant is a geographical term refering to an area on the eastern shore of the Mediterraean between Anatolia (Turkey) and the Sinai Desert. The strategic history of this region stems from its geographic location, providing a land bridge between Egypt and Africa (to the south and west) and Syria and Asia (to the north and east). Around 70 to 100 miles from east to west, it stretches roughly 500 miles from the Taurus Mountains in Anatolia in the north to the Sinai desert in the south. Called the "Crossroads of the World," the area has known a variety of peoples, cultures and rulers over the centuries.
Egypt and the Mesopotamian empires to the east exerted control over all or a portion of the Levant off and on during ancient times. Egypt's greatest control came during the reign of Thutmose III (1479-1425 B.C.) when the Egyptian empire extended north from the Sinai almost all the way to Anatolia.
The early Iron Age (1200-1000 B.C.) saw major changes in the region. The Canaanite cities of the southern plain, roughly from Mount Carmel to the Egyptian border, were settled by the Sea Peoples, probably of Aegean or Mycenean background. Their arrival seems to have been violent, but they quickly adopted Canaanite culture, including Canaanite language and religion. To the north of Mount Carmel, the Canaanite cities continued without major disruption, developing into the Phoenician civilization, which consisted of city-states -- with Tyre and Sidon being the most prominent, along with Byblos, Berytus (modern-day Beiruit), Simyra and Arwad.
The area now known as Lebanon first appeared in recorded history around 3000 B.C. as a group of coastal cities and a heavily forested hinterland -- the origin of the famed "cedars of Lebanon." It was inhabited by Canaanites, a Semitic people. Known as "traders in purple," the Greeks called them "Phoenicians" because of the their monopoly on the precious purple (phoinikies) dye of the Murex snail that was used, among other things, for royal clothing. These early inhabitants referred to themselves as "men of Sidon" or "men of Tyre" or the like, according to their city of origin, and called the country "Lebanon." Because of their location, the Phoenicians soon turned to the sea, where they excelled in trade and navigation.
A good part of this trade was to the south with Egypt. But a migration/invasion of the Hyksos, a nomadic Semitic people from western Asia, would eventually change that. The arrival of the Hyksos, who originally settled in the eastern Nile Delta starting around 1800 or 1720 B.C., was less of an invasion than a gradual influx of people, backed, however, by new and improved weapons: Horse-drawn chariots, composite bows and superior bronze battle axes. Their superior arms, combined with weak Egyptian kings at the time, enabled them to eventually take over the territory east of the Nile delta and as south as far Hermopolis on the Nile River for almost 100 years. However, by 1550 B.C., the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt and retreated to Canaan.
Pharaoh Thutmose III (ruled 1470-1436 B.C.), who invaded Syria, also incorporated Lebanon into the Egyptian Empire. But toward the end of the 14th century, the Egyptian Empire weakened, and Lebanon finally was able to regain its independence by the beginning of the 12th century B.C. The subsequent three centuries were a period of prosperity and freedom from foreign control during which the earlier Phoenician invention of the alphabet facilitated communications and trade.
The Phoenicians were the first to make extensive use of an alphabet, which is generally believed to be the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets, although it did not contain any vowels. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of their alphabet to North Africa and throughout the Mediterranean, where it was adopted by the Greeks, who added vowels and later passed it on to the Etruscans, who in turn transmitted it to the Romans.
The league of independent Phoenician city-state ports, with others on islands and along other coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, was ideally suited for trade between the Levant area, rich in natural resources, and the rest of the ancient world. But around 1200 B.C., in the early Iron Age, an unknown event occurred that is historically associated with the movement of the Sea Peoples from the north. They weakened and destroyed both the Egyptians and the Hittites, respectively. In the resulting power vacuum, a number of Phoenician cities rose as significant maritime powers. The high point of Phoenician culture and sea power is usually placed from around 1200 to 800 B.C.
The Phoenicians also excelled not only in producing textiles but also in carving ivory, in working with metal, and above all in making glass. The city-state of Byblos was an exporter of the cedars of Mount Lebananon and also of papyrus (the name of the Bible comes from the Greek word "byblos" for "book," a reference to the city-state that supplied the surrounding nations -- especially Egypt -- with the papyrus on which to write).
Masters of the art of navigation, the Phoenicians founded colonies wherever they went in the Mediterranean Sea, particularly in the west. One would think that, with the mother cities on the east coast of the Mediterranean, colonization would have gone from east to west. Not so!
In fact, around 1100 B.C. two Phoenician colonies in the far west are among the first to be settled. One was Gadir (now Cadiz, thought by some to be the oldest city in Europe) on the southwest Atlantic coast of Spain. From here, Phoenicians traded in Baltic amber and British tin, as well as Spanish silver. The other was Utica in what is now Tunisia, founded as a port located on the trade route leading to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic, thus facilitating Phoenician trade in the Mediterranean.
The most famous and successful of Phoenician colonies was founded by settlers from Tyre in 814 B.C. and is known to history as Carthage. Situated in north Africa southeast of Rome across the Mediterranean Sea, the Carthaginians later founded their own colonies in southeastern Spain and elsewhere. Other Phoenician colonies were established on Sardinia, Corsica, the western part of Sicily and on Cyprus in the 9th century B.C. Outstanding trading posts that the Phoenicians had established included the cities of Genoa, where they went in with the Celts and established a flourishing colony, and Marseille, which they started as nothing more than a trading post before the Greeks took over around 600 B.C. and it later became fully Hellenized.
But from the time the Assyrians first began their assault on Phoenicia around 875 B.C., it was mostly downhill for these city-states. Although they rebelled from time to time, most revolts were crushed, and the Assyrians gained complete control over the area by 701 B.C. While they gained some degree of independence as Assyrian power waned, in 573 B.C., after a 13-year siege of Tyre, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II took over and stayed in power until the region was conquered by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 539 B.C.
In 332 B.C., Alexander swept through the Levant, first subduing Byblos and Sidon and then, after a 6-month siege, the city-state of Tyre, whose inhabitants he either killed or sold into slavery. He then marched through the rest of the Levant on his way to a victory in Egypt, where he was welcomed as a god. Following his death in 323 B.C., Phoenicia alternated as a vassal state between Egyptian and Seleucid control, with the latter taking over in 197 B.C. The last century of Seleucid rule was marked by disorder and dynastic struggles.
These ended in 63 B.C., when the Roman general Pompey the Great added Syria, Lebanon and Israel to the Roman Empire. Economic and intellectual activities flourished in Lebanon during the Pax Romana. The inhabitants of the principal Phoenician cities of Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre were granted Roman citizenship. These cities were centers of the pottery, glass and purple dye industries; their harbors also served as warehouses for products imported from Syria, Persia and India. They exported cedar, perfume, jewelry, wine and fruit to Rome.
Southern Canaan (meaning the area roughly covering modern Israel and southern Lebanon) in the Late Bronze Age was a collection of city-states under the authority of the Egyptians. The cities were very small; really no more than towns concentrated along the coast and in just a few inland valleys. The ultimate collapse of Egyptian power in Palestine occurred around 1175 B.C. at around the same time as the arrival of the mysterious Sea Peoples. One group of these Mycenaean Greeks -- the Peleset, who were possibly from Crete or elsewhere in the Aegean Sea -- settled the coastal region of southern Canaan, where they became known as the Philistines.
After the Egyptians withdraw, a new landscape emerges: The northern Canaanite cities still existed, more or less intact, and became the Phoenicians; the highlands behind the coastal plains, previously largely uninhabited, were rapidly filling with villages, largely Canaanite in their basic culture; and along the southern coastal plain a non-Canaanite people -- the Philistines, who would give their name to Palestine -- had taken over.
The Philistines soon began intermarrying with and adopting almost all aspects of Canaanite culture. Nearly two centuries later -- by the beginning of the first millennium B.C. -- the Philistines were using the general Canaanite language of the region. The Philistines ruled five main city-states called the "Philistine Pentapolis" -- Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod on the coast, and Ekronon and Gath, the home of Goliath, more inland. The areas ruled by the Philistines extended along the Palestinian southern coast stretching from Mount Carmel south to Gaza and beyond, but with no fixed border to the east.
The Hebrew Bible paints the Philistines as the main enemy of the Israelites with a state of almost perpetual war between the two peoples. Under the Israelite King David, they were pushed back to the coastal regions around 1000 B.C. The Philistine cities lost their independence to Assyria in 732 B.C. when they were conquered by Tilgath-Pileser II; revolts in following years were all crushed. Around 585 B.C., the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II conquered the Philistine cities along with the Kingdom of Judah. Cyrus the Great made the area part of his Persian Empire around 539 B.C. and the Philistines disappear as a distinct ethnic group by the late 5th century B.C.
Around 1250 B.C., a new factor enters the Levant equation. The Hebrews, having fled Egypt under the leadership of Moses around 1300 or 1290 B.C., and, according to their records, then wandering in the Sinai Desert for 40 years, were now poised to re-enter the homeland of their patriarch, Abraham.
Under the guidance of Joshua, who took over after the death of Moses, the Israelites cross the Jordan River from the east and, over the ensuing years, mount a highly successful invasion of this land of "milk and honey," first conquering the city of Jericho about 5 miles north of the Dead Sea and then taking over other areas. Early on the Hebrews held their own -- and mostly prevailed -- in their battles against the Canaanites living there.
But before the Israelite incursion, a new player had arrived on the scene: The Philistines. These warlike people were armed with chariots and iron weapons, and few could withstand these new technologies. They came from the north and had taken over the more fruitful coastal areas, establishing five major city-states.
So the Hebrews found themselves living in the worst areas of Canaan, spread thinly across the entire region. The balance of power constantly shifted as local kingdoms would grab and then lose territory, and some of the Hebrews would find themselves first under one and then another master. The Philistines regarded the Hebrews as a threat to their security and the two peoples were often at war with each other.
By 1200 B.C., the Israelites had mostly established themselves in their new homeland, but they were not a united people; each of the twelve tribes had its own local customs and laws. From 1200 to 1050 B.C., the only "central" government the Hebrews had were their judges; most notably remembered are Deborah, Gideon and Samuel.
And it was this same Samuel who anointed Saul as the first king of Israel in 1050 B.C. (some say 1030 B.C.). Saul was a warrior and he experienced many victories -- and some defeats -- at the hands of the Philistines. In one of those battles, the two armies were massed on opposite hillsides -- with neither willing to leave the security of their greater height, So the Philistines suggested that, to save lives on both sides, it would be better to have a combat between their champions: For the Philistines, a very tall man from Gath named Goliath, against someone of Saul's choosing.
That, of course, was David, a young shepherd boy who was delivering food to his elder brothers, who were in the Israelite army. Told that Saul has promised to reward any man who will defeat the Philistine champion, David volunteers to face the Philistine opponent, who has been taunting the Israelite army for the previous 40 days. Saul offers David his armor, which David declines in favor of his sling and five stones. The combat begins, and David quickly stuns Goliath with a shot from his sling that hits him in the forehead. Goliath falls forward and David grabs his sword and cuts off the giant's head!
Upon Saul's death around 1010 B.C., David was selected as the king of the Hebrews. David ruled for nearly 40 years and greatly enlarged the territory controlled by the Hebrews. It was under him that Jerusalem, one of the many cities he captured, was turned into the capital city of his kingdom. Protected by walls as well as by mountains on three sides, legend has it that David conquered this stronghold of a Canaanite people known as the Jebusites by sending his forces though a water shaft and attacking the city from the inside.
Known for his wisdom, Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, took the Hebrew throne in 970 B.C. upon the death of David. He also ruled for 40 years and maintained the kingdom with military strength while establishing Hebrew colonies outside his borders. At its height, his kingdom extended from the Euphrates River is the northeast -- including modern-day Syria and the ancient kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom east of the Jordan River -- south to the Sinai to the port of Elath on a finger of the Red Sea. It did not include Phoenicia or the Philistine city-states of Joppa, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gaza. The crowning achievement of Solomon's vast building projects was construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 960 B.C.
Upon's Solomon's death in 930 B.C., his son succeeded him as king, but ten of the twelve tribes of Israel refused to accept him. So Solomon's empire was divided into two kingdoms: Judah in the south, with Jerusalem as its capital, between the Dead Sea and the Philistine states on the coast; and Israel on the north, which included coastal areas and the port of Jaffa extending north to the Phoenician city-states, with Samaria as its capital.
The great empire of David and Solomon was gone forever. In its place were two kingdoms that, over the next 100 years, proceed to lose all the territory of the once proud Hebrew empire. What happened over the next two centuries was a succession of ineffective, disobedient and corrupt leaders, mostly in the north but some in the southern kingdom of Judah as well.
The bad news for the Hebrews, of course, is that tiny states never survived long in that region. Located between Mesopotamian kingdoms northeast of them and the powerful state of Egypt to the southwest, Israel and Judah were of the utmost commercial and military importance to both these warring powers. Being small and weak was a liability, and the Kingdom of Israel is the first to learn this lesson.
In 722 B.C., the Assyrians under their Emperor Sargon II conquered the Kingdom of Israel and, as was their policy, removed much of the population -- one source says 28,000 people -- and replaced them with settlers from other areas. Those evacuated Hebrews become known as the "Ten Lost Tribes of Israel."
A little more than a century and a third later -- in 586 B.C. -- it was the Kingdom of Judah's turn as Nebuchadnezzar II -- builder of the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon," one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World -- arrived as a conquerer. He destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and took a large number of Hebrews back with him to Babylon on several occasions as captives. Unlike the Ten Lost Tribes, the Hebrew captives in Babylon existed as separate and distinct group. But for nearly a half century, the Hebrews had only their sacred writings to rely on to preserve their culture. It was during this time that the Babylonian Talmud was written and -- since they had no Temple -- the Jews initiated the practice of using a synagogue to celebrate the Sabbath, a holy day during which they would gather to read from the holy books and pray, along with daily sacrifices and all the other Hebrew feasts. In fact, modern rabbinic Judaism starts at this time; these practices and others defined Judaism even after the temple was rebuilt.
Relief came in 539 B.C. when the Persian forces of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and emancipated the Hebrew slaves, encouraging them to return to Jerusalem, where they were able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem by 515 B.C. The Hebrews living in Judah -- now called the Persian province of Yehud -- were able to develop a distinctive Jewish identity. However, Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. But in the 2nd century B.C., the Judaeans under the Maccabees revolted against the Hellenist Seleucid Empire and created the Hasmonean kingdom.
This, the last nominally independent Judean kingdom, came to an end in 63 B.C. with its conquest by Pompey the Great of Rome and the the installation of a client kingdom under the Herodian Dynasty, most notably Herod the Great who ruled from 37 to 4 B.C. Among his many building projects, Herod constructed the port city of Caesarea and its fine harbor from 25-13 B.C. and greatly expanded Jerusalem's Second Temple from 20-18 B.C.
The oldest of these Mediterranean civilizations, of course, is Egypt, where people settled along the Nile River around 5000 B.C. From 3900 to 3100 B.C., the villages along the Nile valley grew in wealth and power, with two of these areas becoming particularly powerful and the region eventually was divided into two kingdoms known as Upper Egypt (in the south) and Lower Egypt (in the north). Around 3100 B.C., their rivalry erupted into war. Upper Egypt (the south) emerged victorious.
Thus Egypt did not become a real power in the ancient world until the uniting of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms under the warrior-king Menes of Upper Egypt, whose name in Egyptian was Narmer. He also founded the First Dynasty. (There were eventually to be some 31 Egyptian Dynasties before the installation of the Ptolemies following Alexander the Great's death in 323 B.C.) The symbol of this unification was a combination of the white crown (Upper Egypt) and the red crown (Lower Egypt), respectively.
In the Early Dynastic Period (3100-2686 B.C.), which included the 1st and 2nd Dynasties, Egyptians begin to measure time through a calendar based on the three natural cycles (the solar day, the lunar month and the solar year). During this same period, there is the earliest evidence of hieroglyphic writing, as well as the use of papyrus on which to write.
The Old Kingdom (2686-2181 B.C.), which includes the 3rd through the 6th Dynasties, is sometimes called the "Age of Pyramids." There were great achievements in art and architecture, including the completion of 20 major pyramids. The great pyramid at Giza (considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) was constructed for Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops) over a 20-year period ending in 2551 B.C. During this time, the kings of Egypt were totalitarian rulers. The strong centralized government of the king was broken down into provinces with appointed officials. Gradually these positions became hereditary and a class of nobles was created. The Old Kingdom ended in confusion as the centralized government lost power to provincial nobles who began to struggle against one another.
The First Intermediate Period (2181-2040 B.C.) was a time of great upheaval in political, religious and cultural structures. The 7th through 10th Dynasties are included in this time period.
Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 B.C.). During this time period, the king had less absolute power and more emphasis was placed on concepts of justice. Unlike the Old Kingdom, the Egyptian religion began to accept the idea that the afterlife was for common people as well as the king. The Middle Kingdom includes the 12th and 13th Dynasties. During this period, under King Amenemhet III (1860-1814 B.C.), Egypt began to greatly expand its trade and develop colonies south of Upper Nubia. Also, Thebes again comes into prominence, serving as the capital and artistic center during the 12th Dynasty.
The Second Intermediate Period (1640-1550 B.C.) featured a series of weak rulers, which causes a new breakdown in centralized authority during the 14th through 17th Dynasties. Around 1720 B.C. or earlier, foreigners from Asia began arriving in the Nile delta. They came as traders, merchants, winemakers, sailors, craft workers, doctors and artisana. As their population grew, these Hyksos from Asia took advantage of Egypt's internal conflicts, using horses, chariots, body armor and new types of bronze weapons -- none of which the Egyptians had. The effect of these chariots on the Egyptian army can be compared to that of the tank on 20th century warfare.
The Hyksos superior military weaponry, along with internal turmoil in Egypt, allowed them to conquer and rule for nearly 100 years, from about 1640 to 1550 B.C. They established a capital at Avaris in the eastern Nile delta and at one point controlled northern Egypt as far south as Hermopolis on the Nile River.
During the Early New Kingdom (1550-1300 B.C.), the Egyptians learn to use the same weapons and warfare as their captors and eventually the Hyksos are driven from the kingdom arpound 1550 B.C. by Ahmose I, who came to power at the age of 10 and reigned for 25 years from around 1560 to 1535 B.C. After expelling the Hyksos, Ahmose began campaigning in Nubia, where he restored Egyptian rule, and in Syria, where he went as almost as far as Byblos, a city-state in northern Phoenicia.
He then reorganized the administration of the country, reopened quarries, mines and trade routes and began massive construction projects of a type that had not been undertaken since the time of the Middle Kingdom. This building program culminated in the construction of the last pyramid built by native Egyptian rulers.
This period also featured the rule of one of the famous queens of Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut, who increases trade and begins building new temples and palaces. She rules jointly as co-regent with her young step-son and nephew, King Thutmose III, from 1479 B.C. until her death 22 years later. During this period, there is relative peace in the land. Queen Hatshepsut reestablished the trade networks that had been disrupted during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt.
She also oversaw the first recorded attempt to transplant foreign trees. This occurred after a mission to the Land of Punt, a major exporter of myrrh south of Egypt on the Red Sea. The Egyptians returned bearing 31 live myrrh trees, the roots of which were carefully kept damp in baskets for the duration of the trip. It is said that Hatshepsut had these trees planted in the courts of her Deir el Bahri mortuary temple complex.
When King Thutmose III becomes sole ruler in 1457 B.C., he begins a series of military campaigns, which extend Egypt's boundary's to their greatest extent in history. Widely considered a military genius by historians, Thutmose III conducted 17 campaigns over the course of his 32-year reign. Of the many battles he won -- he was never defeated -- one of the most significant was when he defeated the Hittite King of Kadesh at the battle of Megiddo in Caanan in 1457 B.C. This success in his very first campaign was the greatest military victory of his career, highlighted by his daring choice of the most difficult of the three approaches over the mountains to the city, thus surprising his enemies and allowing a great victory. Unfortunately, the Egyptian soldiers stopped to plunder the battlefield rather than pursue the retreating army, which fled to safety behind the city walls of Megiddo. Finally, after a 7-month siege, Megiddo surrendered.
This campaign drastically changed the political situation in the ancient Near East. By taking Megiddo, Thutmose gained control of all of northern Canaan, and the Syrian princes were obligated to send tribute and their own sons as hostages to Egypt. As they grew up, they were sent back to replace their fathers as "part-Egyptians" -- not enemies -- thus cementing Egyptian rule. Beyond the Euphrates, the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite kings all gave Thutmose gifts, which he alleged to be "tribute" when he recorded it on the walls of Karnak. The only noticeable absence is Mitanni -- a state in northern Syria and southeast Anatolia -- which would bear the brunt of the following Egyptian campaigns into Asia.
Sometimes called Egypt's greatest conqueror or "the Napoleon of Egypt," Thutmose III is recorded to have captured 350 cities during his rule. He is consistently regarded as one of the greatest of Egypt's warrior pharaohs, who transformed Egypt into an international superpower by creating an empire that stretched from southern Syria through Canaan and south of Egypt into Nubia. In most of his campaigns, his enemies were defeated town by town, until being beaten into submission. His preferred tactic was to subdue a much weaker city or state one at a time, resulting in surrender of each fraction until complete domination was achieved.
The Early New Kingdom period also features temple building, including the huge Temple of Karnak at Luxor, as well as initiating the burial of rulers in the Valley of the Kings outside of Thebes in 1493 B.C. It also featured a futile attempt to change the Egyptian religion. When Amenhotep IV becomes king around 1350 B.C., he changes his name to Akhenhaten and tries to drastically change Egypt's religion from a polythiestic worship of many gods to a worship of one: Aten the sun god.
He outlaws all other religions and for the first time Egyptians begin to call their king Pharaoh. During his reign, the outlying control over Egypt's far borders is lost and the Hittites take over portions of Asia formerly under Egyptian rule. When his son and successor, Tutankhamon -- King Tut -- becomes king at an early age, the priests force him to return the country to the worship of many gods.
In the Later New Kingdom (1300-1070 B.C.), also known as "Egypt's Golden Age," Egypt regains its lands in Asia and although Ramses II (rules 1279-1213 B.C.) begins with a very strong reign, by 1150 B.C. the country again begins to lose control of its outlying areas.
In 1258 B.C., he signs the first-known peace treaty between nations following the 1274 B.C. Battle of Kadesh between the Egyptians and the Hittites, which basically ends in a draw. The treaty, in both Egyptian hieroglyphics and Akkadian cuneiform script, is identical except for one part: The Hittite version claims the Egyptians sued for peace while the Egyptian version claims the reverse. Both versions survive today.
Ramses II, who died at the age of 90, also extended Egyptian power south of the first cataract into Nubia and expanded west about 190 miles along the Mediterranean coast. He moved the capital from Thebes to a new city in the Nile Delta called Pi-Ramesses, which was built on the ruins of the Hykos capital of Avaris. He built on a monumental scale to ensure his legacy, which includes the temple at AbuSimbel in southern Egypt. One of the most important and famous first queen of Ramses II was Nefertari, whose tomb was discovered in 1904.
In 1175 B.C., the mysterious Sea Peoples -- thought to be from somewhere in the Aegean -- mounted a land and sea invasion of Egypt. This great movement of people was well armed and desperate. They had, by now, desolated much of the Late Bronze Age civilizations along the Levant and were ready to make a move on Egypt. A vast horde was marching south, overrunning the Hittites, with a huge fleet at sea supporting their progress on land.
To counter this threat, Rameses III established a defensive line in southern Palestine and requisitioned every available ship to secure the mouth of the Nile. The clash, when it came, was a complete success for the Egyptians. Although the Sea Peoples were defeated and scattered on land (some, the Biblical Philistines, settled in Palestine), their navy continued towards the eastern Nile delta.
Although the Egyptians had a reputation as poor seamen, they fought with the tenacity of people defending their homes. Rameses III had lined the shores with ranks of archers who kept up continuous volleys of arrows into the enemy ships when they attempted to land. Then the Egyptian navy attacked using grappling hooks to haul in the enemy ships. In the brutal hand-to-hand fighting that ensued, the Sea People are utterly defeated.
Rameses III's death in 1156 B.C. marks the end of an era. He had ruled for 31 years and was the last of the great Pharaohs. Egypt now begins to suffer economic problems and is unable to exploit the revolution of the Iron Age because she had no sources of iron ore.
But the most important factor in Egypt's decline was a breakdown in the fabric of society. There were disputes between officials and governors and infighting between the north and south. The priesthood became overly powerful and eventually took control of the government. From this time onwards, others would determine the destiny of the Mediterranean world: The Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and the Romans were to become the lead players on the stage of international politics.
The Period of Invasions (1070-30 B.C.) first featured a take-over of Egypt's throne in 945 B.C. by Sheshonq I of Libya. Then the Nubians/Sudanese, Assyrians, Persians and then the Greeks take turns ruling Egypt. Alexander the Great's conquest in 332 B.C. and death 9 years later leaves a new dynasty -- the Ptolemies -- in control.
The great Library of Alexandria is founded at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. under the reign of Ptolemy I Soter (305-282 B.C.). Also, the world's first lighthouse, the Pharos of Alexandria, is constructed between 285 and 247 B.C. Standing between 380 and 440 feet high, it is the world's third tallest building (after the two great pyramids of Khufu and Khafra) and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Finally, the death of Cleopatra ends the reign of the Ptolemies as Rome takes control of Egypt in 30 B.C.
Originally established on the north coast of Africa by the Phoenician city-state of Tyre in 814 B.C. as one of the first of many stops these sea-trading people established to re-supply or repair their ships, Carthage grew to become the most powerful city in the Mediterranean before the later rise of Rome. Not even 100 years had passed after its founding before Carthage was the richest city in the Mediterranean. Along with its lucrative business in trade, tributes and tariffs regularly increased the city’s wealth.The harbor at Carthage was immense, with 220 docks and gleaming columns ornamented with Greek sculpture that rose around it in a half-circle. Carthaginian trading ships sailed daily to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea while their navy, supreme in the region, kept them safe and also opened new territories for trade and resources through conquest.
In 650 B.C., Carthage became politically independent, although still paying some tribute to Tyre, and also established its first colony on Ibiza, third largest of the Balearic Islands. During the ensuing centuries, Carthage would establish additional colonies, repopulate old Phoenician ones, come to the defense of other threatened Punic cities, as well as expand her territories by conquest. While some Phoenician colonies willingly submitted to Carthage and paid tribute, others in Iberia and Sardinia resisted Carthaginian efforts.
By the end of the 6th century B.C., Carthage had conquered most of the old Phoenician colonies (Hadrumetum, Utica and Kerkouane in today's Tunisia), had subjugated some of the Libyan tribes, and had taken control of parts of the North African coast from modern Morocco to the borders of the port city of Cyrenaica in eastern Libya. Carthage was also fighting wars in defense of Punic colonies and commerce -- most notably struggles against the Greeks in Sicily.
At its height, the Carthagian empire included the city-state itself and a large area around it. This included a band of colonies along the coast of north Africa extending west through the Strait of Gibralter and north and south on the Atlantic coasts of modern-day Spain and Morocco; a large area in southern Spain; the Balearic Islands; Corsica and Sardinia; and parts of western Sicily.
Over the years, Carthage had concluded treaties with several powers, but those with Rome are the most well known. In 509 B.C., a treaty was signed between Carthage and Rome indicating a division of influence and commercial activities. This is the first known indication that Carthage had gained control over Sicily and Sardinia. Carthage may have signed the treaty with Rome, then an insignificant backwater city, because the Romans had treaties with the Phocaeans in Massalia and with the Greeks in Cumae (near Naples), who were aiding a Roman struggle against the Etruscans at that time.
A little more than a century and a half later, Carthage and Rome (by now a significant power in central Italy), concluded a second treaty in 348 B.C. under which Romans were allowed to trade in Sicily, but not to settle there. Also, Iberia, Sardinia and Libya were forbidden to Roman exploration, trade and settlement activities, indicating that the Iberian Phoenician colonies were under the Carthaginian "Sphere of Influence" by that time.
The Sicilian Wars
While Carthage had a colony on the western side of Sicily, the Greeks had ensconced themselves on the eastern side -- in Syracuse and other city-states. Although there was almost constant struggles between Carthagian and Greek settlers, in 480 B.C. the first of three "Sicilian Wars" broke out. Carthage mounted a major expedition against Syracuse, but bad weather destroyed a good part of its fleet and the army lost the battle. Carthage then made peace with the Greeks after paying a large indemnity, but neither side lost any territory.
Eighty years later, the Second Sicilian War -- from 410 to 340 B.C. -- ended with a peace treaty that finally left Carthage in control of its territories in western Sicily. The Third Sicilian War broke out in 315 B.C. after Syracuse seized the city of Messene (present-day Messina). But the Carthaginians successfully launched a counterattack and by 310 B.C. controlled almost all of Sicily and had laid siege to Syracuse itself.
In desperation, Syracuse secretly sent an expedition of 14,000 men to Africa, hoping to mount a counterstrike against Carthage itself. The Greeks were successful: Carthage was forced to recall most of its army from Sicily to face the new and unexpected threat; and when the two armies met in battle outside Carthage, the Carthaginian army was defeated. The Syracuse forces then laid siege to Carthage, but its impregnable walls kept them out. Instead, the Greeks contented themselves with occupying northern Tunisia until they were defeated 2 years later in 307 B.C. A peace treaty was then negotiated with the Carthaginians, leaving Syracuse as a stronghold of Greek power in Sicily while Carthage lost of much of its power along with the strategic Sicilian city of Messene (Messina).
Between 280 and 275 B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus, a Greek state in the western Balkans, waged two major campaigns in an effort to protect and extend the influence of the Macedonians in the western Mediterranean: One against the emerging power of the Roman Republic in southern Italy, the other against Carthage in Sicily. Both were unsuccessful. Although he claimed victory in his battle against the Romans, his losses were so great that it gave rise to the term "Pyrrhic victory."
The Punic Wars
The series of three wars between Rome and Carthage were known to the Romans as the "Punic Wars" because of Punici, the Latin name for the Carthaginians, which was derived from Phoenici, referring to the Phoenicians who founded Carthage. The First Punic War lasted from 264 to 241 B.C. as the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the island of Sicily and its surrounding waters, but also to a lesser extent in North Africa. Carthage was the dominant Western Mediterranean power at the beginning of the conflicts with an imposing navy. However, the Roman Republic, with its superior army, eventually emerged as the victor in this struggle.
When the Second Punic War broke out in 218 B.C., Carthage controlled most of the coast of North Africa plus the southern two-thirds of the Iberian Penninsula, while Rome controlled most of Italy plus Sicily, Sardinia and Corsisca. The war's most notable event was the surprising crossing of the Alps by the Carthagian general Hannibal and his subsequent successful invasion of Italy from the north.
At this point, the Carthaginian army based in Iberia was one of the largest in the Hellenistic world and equal in numbers to any that the Romans had yet fielded. In the late spring of 218 B.C., Hannibal departed from New Carthage in Iberia (now Cartagena, Spain) northwards along the coast with 50,000 infantry, 9,000 cavalry and 37 war elephants. He took this army some 1,500 miles over the Pyrenees, then crossing the Rhone River in southern France, going over the Alps in bitter weather, where some of the elephants perished, and then into northern Italy, gaining support from local Gaulic tribes as he went. A Roman army that landed at Massalia (Marseilles) to intercept him was 2 days late.
After 5 grueling months, Hannibal's army had finally crossed the Alps and entered the Po Valley in northern Italy. His forces now numbered less than 26,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and 20 elephants. However two tribes from northern Italy, who were already at war with Rome, eagerly joined Hannibal's army and made up for the men he had lost. After a short rest, Hannibal began his assault on the Italian peninsula. There were three major battles during the Second Punic War, in all of which Hannibal was victorious.
Hannibal's first great success was a crushing victory over Roman armies in the battle of the Trebia in December of 218 B.C. This was followed in June 217 B.C. by a giant ambush by Hannibal, superbly carried out at the Battle of Lake Trasimene. In less than 4 hours, the Roman army was annihilated. Of the Roman force of 30,000, about 15,000 were either killed in battle or drowned while trying to escape into the lake. Another 10,000 made their way back to Rome and the rest were captured. Hannibal's losses were 2,500, along with many who died of their wounds.
Hannibal then headed south with his army to the Apulian Plain in southeast Italy where, in 216 B.C., his army defeated the Romans again, this time at the Battle of Cannae, one of the worst defeats Roman forces would ever experience. Thereafter, because of Hannibal's skill on the battlefield -- he is rightfully known as one of the greatest military minds in history -- the Romans deployed the "Fabian strategy," which involved harassment of Hannibal's forces, while avoiding a direct battle.
In the meantime in 210 B.C. in Iberia, which served as the main source of manpower for the Carthaginian army, a Roman expedition led by Scipio Africanus landed at the mouth of the Ebro Eiver and was able to surprise and capture Carthago Nova (New Carthage), the Carthaginian headquarters in Spain. After winning over a number of Iberian tribes, Scipio achieved a decisive victory in 206 B.C. at the of Battle of Ilipa (the city of Alcalá del Río, near Hispalis, now called Seville). This resulted in the evacuation of Iberia by the Carthage army. Scipio Africanus returned to Rome in 205 B.C. and 2 years later landed in North Africa with a large Roman army.
Hannibal occupied much of Italy for 15 years. But in 203 BC., Carthage, having lost its Iberian colonies and now threatened by a newly arrived Roman army in North Africa, recalled Hannibal, who sailed with his army from Italy back to Carthage. There Hannibal prepared for battle with Scipio Africanus.
Hannibal had a trained pool of soldiers who had fought in Italy, as well as 80 war elephants. He could boast a strength of around 40,000 men -- 36,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry -- compared with Scipio's 29,000 infantry and 6,100 cavalry. The two generals met on a plain about 50 miles south of Carthage on October 19, 202 B.C., at the Battle of Zama. Scipio knew that elephants only could be ordered to charge forward, continuing their charge in a straight line. Thus he opened gaps in his legionaries' ranks so the elephants would simply pass between them, without harming any of his soldiers, so they could be dealt with at the rear of the army.
Scipio also employed Roman trumpeters, which drove many of the beasts back out of confusion and fear. But in the end, the Roman edge in cavalry was too much for Hannibal and he suffered his one and only defeat in battle -- but it was a pivotal loss, removing Hannibal's air of invincibility. Soon after this defeat on their home ground, the Carthaginians sued for peace, which was given to them by the Roman Republic on rather humiliating terms, ending the 17-year war, but putting Carthage in a position where it could no longer battle for Mediterranean supremacy as its territory was reduced to the city and its immediate surroundings, and not much more.
The Third Punic War (149-146 B.C.) featured Rome as the aggressor. (It had offered nearly impossible terms for a peace treaty; i.e., a demand that the Carthaginians move at least 10 miles inland, while the city itself was to be burned.) This war was basically a 3-year siege by a Roman army numbering some 80,000 men and 4,000 cavalry under the command of Scipio Africanus the Younger, the adopted grandson of Scipio Africanus.
When Carthage finally fell in 146 B.C. after a breach in the walls and a bloody battle, the Roman army torched the city, and it burned for 17 days. When the fire died out, the Romans tore down all remaining buildings and sold the 50,000 survivors into slavery. (The story that the Roman forces then sowed the city with salt to ensure that nothing would grow there again is almost certainly a myth.)
The great city of Carthage was gone. Its remaining territories were annexed by Rome and became the Roman province of Africa. However, although a distinct Carthagian civilization ceased to exist, remnants of it contributed to later Mediterranean culture.
Marseilles, one of the earliest cities settled in southern France, did not have a specific culture, but it played an important role in the history of the Great Sea. Originally, it was a Phoenician trading post, but Greek settlers from Phocaea arrived in 600 B.C. and the city was eventually Hellenized and took on the Greek name of Massalia.
The Greek arrival in Massalia also has been recorded in a legend: Protis, a Greek from the Ionian city of Phocaea on the northeast coast of the Aegean Sea was looking for a new trading outpost. As he sailed along the northern shore of the Mediterranean, he discovered a cove fed by a freshwater stream and protected by two rocky promontories. After landing, Protis was invited inland to a banquet held by the king of the local Ligurian tribe. At the banquet, his daughter Gyptis was to choose a spouse from among a number of possible suitors. To the surprise of everyone (especially Protis!) she deserted the local Gauls and presented a ceremonial cup of wine to Protis, indicating he was her choice for a husband.
As a wedding gift, the king gave the newlyweds the land that would become Massalia. The city, located on three hills and overlooking the harbor, would become one of the first ports in western Europe and a center of maritime trade. The Greeks would also have a profound effect on the entire region in other ways. According to ancient sources, they taught the locals the "rule of law," how to cultivate the land, and, most of all, "civility."
The story of Protis and the founding of Massalia would, however, take a dark twist. After the Ligurian king’s death, his son and heir came to consider the city a threat. His plan was to sneak into the city at night, killing its inhabitants. However, the plot was spoiled when a relative of the new king (who had fallen in love with a young Greek) divulged the plan. As a result, the 7,000 participating Ligurians and the young king were all killed.
Due to its strategic location, Massalia would grow rapidly, enjoying a second wave of emigration in 545 B.C. After the fall of its mother-city Phocaea and other Ionian Greek city-states to Cyrus the Great, many of the Phocaean survivors fled to Massalia and its colony of Alalia on the island of Corsica.
The presence of Greek culture -- especially its architecture and art -- at Massalia had a lasting effect on both Gaul in the northwest and Spain to the far west; this influence became more evident with the arrival of Greek wine and olives as agricultural products. Massalia remained Greek in nature, complete with a theatre, agora, temples and docks.
Massalia became one of the major trading ports of the ancient world. Traders ventured into France on the Durance and Rhone Rivers and established overland trade routes to Switzerland and Burgundy -- even as far north as the Baltic Sea. They exported their own products: Local wine, salted pork and fish, aromatic and medicinal plants, coral and cork.
In the 6th century B.C., Massalia set up the first colony of its own at Agathe Tyche (now Agde) west of the city. In the ensuing years, they colonized both east along the Riviera and west along the south coast of Gallia and even into Spain. Massalia was noted for its excellent ships and the inhabitants' skill in constructing machinery. They carried on a large trade by sea, exporting the products of Gallia, for which they could give either foreign produce or their own wine, oil, domestic utensils and arms.
The city's naval force was so strong that, for a time, it limited the powerful Carthaginian navy in the sea area south of the Balearic Islands. There is also some evidence that sailors from Massalia even travelled beyond the Pillars of Hercules through the Strait of Gibraltar onto the western coast of Africa.
Naval Battle of Alalia
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, in 566 B.C., Phocaeans colonizing the western Mediterranean founded a city, Alalia, on the island of Corsica. Later, in Anatolia, Phocaea was the first city of Ionia to come under siege by the Persian army of Cyrus the Great in 546 B.C. This resulted in about half of the city's population sailing west, where many of them settled in the vicinity of Alalia, the others in Massalia.
To backtrack, in the 8th century B.C. the Etruscans had emerged as a local power, spreading their trade to Corsica, Sardinia and Iberia and creating a powerful navy to guard their interests. The Phoenicians and Etruscans became both trading partners and rivals, exchanging goods and opportunistic raids with each other. The situation changed with the arrival of the Greeks in the western Mediterranean after 750 B.C.
By the middle of the 6th century B.C., the Greeks in Corsica became so troublesome to the Etruscans and to the Carthaginians on Sardinia that the two powers sent a combined fleet of 120 ships to root them out. But this force was defeated by 60 Greek ships at the Battle of Alalia in the Sardinian Sea somtime between 540 and 535 B.C. Herodotus describes the battle as his equivalent of a "Pyrrhic victory" because the Greeks also had 40 ships sunk and the remaining 20 were damaged so badly that they were not battle-worthy. Now unable to defend themselves, the Greeks abandoned Alalia, took their remaining ships and sailed off to southern Italy, which then consisted of other Greek colonies. As a result of the battle, the Etruscans occupied Alalia and took over dominion of Corsica, while the Carthaginians took control of Sardinia.
The most famous citizen of Massalia was Pytheas, a 4th century B.C. Greek mathematician, astronomer and explorer who made a voyage of exploration to northwestern Europe around 325 B.C. His voyage included visiting a considerable part of Great Britain. He also visited Iceland, Shetland and Norway, where he was the first scientist to describe drift ice and the Midnight Sun. Though he hoped to establish a sea trading route for tin from Cornwall, his trip was not a commercial success; the Massalians found it cheaper and simpler to trade with Northern Europe over land routes. Pytheas also made mathematical instruments that allowed him to establish almost exactly the latitude of Marseille, and he was the first scientist to observe that the tides were connected with the phases of the moon.
Alliance With Rome
Early on, facing an opposing alliance of the Etruscans, Carthage and the Celts, Massalia allied itself with the expanding Roman Republic for protection. This arrangement would bring them aid in the event of a future attack and, perhaps equally important, it brought the people of Massalia into the complex Roman market. The city thrived by acting as a link between inland Gaul, hungry for Roman goods and wine (which Massalia was steadily exporting by 500 B.C.), and Rome's insatiable need for new products and slaves. While maintaining its independence, the city aided Rome (through the provision of ships) during the Second Punic War against Carthage (218-202 B.C.).
In 49 B.C., the city made the mistake of supporting Pompey in his battle against Julius Caesar. As Caesar marched to Spain, the people of Massalia closed the city gates to him. Leaving three legions to continue an assault upon the city, Caesar continued on to Spain. The city soon surrendered. Although Caesar chose to be merciful, the city still suffered, losing much of its surrounding territory and, most of all, its independence, becoming part (not by choice) of the Eoman Republic, and gaining the Roman name of Massilia.
Somewhere between 900 and 800 B.C., the Italian peninsula was settled by a mysterious people called the Etruscans. Some suspect that they came from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly Asia Minor. They brought civilization and urbanization with them, settling in northwestern Italy between the Appenine mountain range on the east and the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west. Their civilization stretched from the Arno river in the north to the Tiber river in the south and towards the center of the Italian peninsula. The Etruscans lived in independent, fortified city-states and they also had a strong military, which they used to dominate the surrounding peoples.
The Etruscans were a highly civilized people of northern Italy who thrived between about 750 BC and 500 B.C. They were a sophisticated people, with an alphabet based on the Greek alphabet, a powerfully original sculptural and painting tradition, a religion based on human-type gods that they had learned from the Greeks, and a complicated set of rituals for divining the future, which they handed down to the Romans.
The political domination of the Etruscans was at its height around 500 B.C., a time in which they had consolidated the Umbrian cities to the southeast and had expanded northward to the Po Valley. They controlled areas on both sides of the Po River, which flows across northern Italy, west to east, from Torino in the northwest until it empties into the Adriatic Sea on the northeastern coast of the Italian penninsula south of modern-day Venice. Their Roman name is the origin of the terms Tuscany, which refers to their heartland, and Etruria, which refers to a wider region.
During this period, the Etruscans were a great maritime power and established colonies on Corsica, Elba, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands and on the coast of Spain. According to legend, there was a period between 600 BC and 500 B.C., in which an alliance was formed between twelve Etruscan settlements, known today as the Etruscan League. It was founded by two Lydian noblemen: Tyrrhenus and his brother Tarchon. Tyrrhenus gave his name to the Tyrrhenians -- an alternative name for the Etruscans, while Tarchon lent his name to the city of Tarchna, or Tarquinnii, as it was known by the Romans.
While the Etruscans were busy building their power over Italy and engaging in active commerce with the east and with Africa, a city to their south began to grow precipitously, a city imitating Etruscans in many ways: Rome, capital of the Roman kingdom. According to tradition, for the first two-and-a-half centuries, Rome was ruled by only seven kings -- with reigns ranging from 43 to 24 years. The last three of these Roman kings, however, were Etruscans, who ruled from 616 to 509 B.C. when the Romans -- who bitterly resented these Tarquin kings from Etruria -- threw them out of power and formed a republic.
Around 540 B.C., the naval Battle of Alalia off the northern coast of Corsica led to a new distribution of power in the western Mediterranean Sea. The battle pitted a fleet of Etruscan and Carthagian ships against Greek ships from Alalia on Corsica and Massalia on the north coast of the Mediterranean. Though the battle had no clear winner, Carthage managed to expand its sphere of influence at the expense of the Greeks, and Etruria saw itself relegated to the northern Tyrrhenian Sea, along with full ownership of Corsica.
However, from here on it was mostly downhill for the Etruscans. After losing its southern provinces, Etruria's ally Carthage was defeated in 480 B.C. by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse on the island of Sicily. A few years later, in 474 B.C., Syracuse, which allied itself with Cumae near Naples, defeated the Etruscans at the naval Battle of Cumae in the Bay of Naples. Etruria's influence over the cities of Latium and Campania weakened, and they were taken over by Romans and Samnites. In the 4th century B.C., Etruria saw a Gallic invasion end its influence over the Po Valley and the Adriatic coast. Meanwhile, Rome had started annexing Etruscan cities, most notably the Etruscan city of Veii, located a mere 10 miles north-northwest of Rome. On the southern border of Etruria, Veii was the richest city of the Etruscan League. It was alternately at war and in alliance with Rome for more than 300 years, but eventually fell to a Roman army in 396 B.C. and continued to be occupied after its capture.
Thus, the centuries between 500 and 200 B.C. saw huge changes to the political map of Italy. The Etruscans, having reached a peak of power in around 500 B.C., had been pushed out of the Po Valley in northern Italy by Celtic tribes coming in from Gaul. The Celts settled there, and their raiding parties penetrated deep into the peninsula, even sacking Rome around 390 B.C. However, the Romans recovered from this disaster, and by the end of the 4th century, while Etruria was declining, Rome was expanding its power across central and southern Italy. The Etruscan cities were finally all conquered by Rome in the 3rd century B.C., marking the end of Etruscan power and civilization.
Legend has it that Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. They quarreled while building a wall around their settlement, and one killed the other. Which one? Well, the city isn't called "Reme."
It was, of course, on the Tiber river where a small village of Latins that would become Rome, was located. The city was founded by Romulus on the Palatine Hill, the centermost of the seven hills that would eventually make up the city. The Romans, who were in close contact with the Etruscans, their language, their ideas, their religion and their civilization, were greatly influenced by their neighbors to the north.
Romulus, the first king of Rome, created the Roman legions and the Roman Senate. He also added citizens to his mostly male new city by abducting the women of the neighboring Sabine tribes (the so-called "Rape of the Sabines"), which resulted in the mixture of the Sabines and Romans into one people. Romulus would become ancient Rome's greatest conqueror, adding large amounts of territory and people to its dominion.
According to tradition, for the first two-and-a-half centuries Rome was ruled by only seven kings -- with reigns ranging from 43 to 24 years. With rulers in place for such long spans, this brought great stability to this fledgling city. The early Roman government was a non-hereditary monarchy with the king ruling alongside a Senate and an Assembly. Very early in the city's history, Roman society was divided up into two groups: The Patricians -- the wealthiest members of society -- and the Plebeians -- the majority of the population, who were mainly small farmers, laborers and craftsmen. The Assembly was the governmental body that represented Plebeian interests, while the Senate was made up of Patricians.
During the monarchy, Rome greatly expanded its control over surrounding territories. As its territorial power grew, however, it attracted the notice of the powerful Etruscans to the north who, in 616 B.C., took over the government -- and the last three kings of Rome were Etruscan from the Etrurian city of Tarquinnii. The Romans bitterly resented their Tarquin kings and, in 509 B.C., finally rose up and threw them out of power.
When they had come to power earlier, the Tarquins had broken a Roman tradition that the king ruled only with the consent of the people and in conformity with the constitution. So after ousting the Etruscans, rather than reinstall a Latin monarch, the Romans established a new form of government -- a republic. This opened the age of the Roman Republic, an age that would see numerous wars and the greatest expansion of Roman power.
The 300-member Roman Senate (appointed for life), which was already in existence as an advisory body to the Etruscan kings, now chooses two from among its own number to become joint heads of state. Known as Consuls, they are elected only for 1 year and each has a veto over the other. To avoid stalemate in a crisis, the republic's constitution provides for appointment of a dictator, for a period not exceeding 6 months.
Note that this arrangement excludes the vast majority of the Roman people (the Plebs) and in 494 B.C., they mount a protest, eventually resulting in the creation of powerful new officials: The Tribunes of the people. Elected annually, their task is to safeguard Plebeian rights. The Tribunes were considered to be "sacrosanct," which gave them some unique and unprecedented powers. Their sacrosanctity meant that it was a capital offense to harm a Tribune, to disregard his veto, or to interfere with him -- so long as that Tribune was within the city of Rome. Tribunes could also use their sacrosanctity to order capital punishment against any person who interfered with their duties. Tribunes, the only true representatives of the people, had the authority to enforce the right of "provocatio ad populum," which was a theoretical guarantee of due process, and a precursor to the common law concept of habeas corpus. The degree of liberty afforded to Roman citizens by the Tribunes through the power of provocatio was unmatched in the ancient world.
One of the early heroes of the new republic was Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman aristocrat and statesman whose service as Consul in 460 B.C. and dictator in 458 B.C. served to cast him as a model of Roman civic virtue. Politically, Cincinnatus was a persistent opponent of attempts to improve the legal situation of the Plebeians. His son, Caeso Quinctius, often drove the Tribunes out of the Forum, thus preventing them from reaching a formal decision. In 461 B.C., these actions finally resulted in a capital charge against Caeso. After he was released on bail and escaped north to Etruria, he was condemned to death in absentia and his father had to pay an immense fine. This forced Cincinnatus to sell most of his lands and retire to a small 3-acre farm.
But the following year, in 60 B.C., Cincinnatus was elected Consul. The next year, declining to run for a second Consulship, he went back to his farm. Two years later, in 458 B.C., Cincinnatus was appointed dictator by the Senate for 6 mionths in order to rescue an army led by one of the Consuls that was surrounded by an Italian tribe -- the Aequi -- northeast of Rome on Mount Algidus. When the call to duty came up he was found behind a plough, working on his small farm. He accepted the request of the Senate to serve as dictator and led the Roman army. He defeated the enemy in a single day and celebrated a triumphant return to Rome. Cincinnatus maintained his dictatorial authority only long enough to bring Rome through the emergency -- a mere 15 days. He then resigned, giving up all his power as dictator, and went back to his farm.
Within his lifetime Cincinnatus became a legend to the Romans. Granted supreme power, he held onto it for not a day longer than absolutely necessary. Through his actions, Cincinnatus became a model of Roman virtue and simplicity and an example of outstanding leadership, service to the greater good, civic virtue, lack of personal ambition and modesty. The high esteem in which he was held is illustrated with an anecdote from later in his life: One of his sons was tried for military incompetence. The lawyer defended him by asking the jurors who of them would go to tell the aged Cincinnatus the news in the event of a conviction. The son was acquitted because the jury could not bring itself to break the old man's heart.
Over the years, a few Plebeian families grow in wealth and prestige, and from 367 B.C. on, one of the two Consuls each year is from the Plebs. One of the reasons for the Plebs' success was the fact that Rome's army, on which the city's success and survival depended, is a citizen army in which all citizens are liable for service, although the vast majority are from the Plebs. The Roman legions were a formidable force in which the long heavy spear of the Greek hoplite is replaced by a javelin. The Roman foot soldier flings this as soon as he is in close contact with the enemy. He then gets to work with his short two-edged thrusting sword, the most characteristic weapon of the Roman legionary.
A low point in Roman history came in 390 B.C. when Celtic tribesmen from northern Italy invade in search of booty. The Celts enter Rome and burn much of the city before returning to the north. From this point, the expansion of Roman power progresses more smoothly. An important element of this success is political; victories on the battlefield are reinforced by settlements that give the defeated towns an involvement in the success of Rome. The degree of involvement varies: Some nearby communities sharing the Latin language are granted full Roman citizenship, while more distant communities, with differing languages and cultures, are given the status of allies. While they must supply troops or ships to support Rome, they are left in charge of their own affairs.
Rome reinforces these alliances with a sound system of roads. In 312 B.C., the first of the great Roman roads, the Via Appia, is built to link Rome with an important new ally -- the city of Capua, north of Naples. The engineers of the Roman age created an unparalleled network of ancient roads. Some 50,000 miles of roads spread Roman civilization, influence and their mighty legions throughout the western world. The Roman engineers built strong arched bridges. They also mastered the concept of "running water" by using aqueducts that, among other things, supplied public baths that rival today's modern water facilities. It was in part because of this vast system of road and Roman engineering that the Roman Empire became one of the largest and most enduring in world history.
Early in the 3rd century B.C., Roman pressure begins to be felt as far south as the heel of Italy, where Tarentum is one of the oldest Greek colonies there. The inhabitants appeal for help from an ambitious ruler, Pyrrhus, who has been vigorously extending his kingdom of Epirus (modern-day Albania) on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. In 281 B.C., Pyrrhus sails to Tarentum with some 25,000 men and 20 elephants, the first to be seen in Italy. During the next 2 years he defeats the Romans in three battles, but with heavy casualties on both sides. When he finally returns to Epirus, in 275 B.C., he has only a third of his original force -- having achieved, in the phrase through which his name lives on, nothing but "Pyrrhic victories."
Pyrrhus had been the Romans' first adversary from overseas. Their dismissal of him, and their subsequent capture of the Greek city of Tarentum in 272 B.C., sends a clear message to the Mediterranean world: There is a major new power in the west. The two dominant colonial groups of the region are the Greeks and the Carthaginians. The natural flashpoint between Rome and these powers is the the island of Sicily, exceptionally fertile and later known as the "bread basket of Rome." The eastern part of is made up of Greek colonies, while its western part is Carthaginian. A dispute between them arises and the Romans intervene on the Greek side. In 264 B.C., this sparks off the first of three wars with the Carthaginians, known as the Punic Wars.
In the first Punic War (264-241 B.C.), Rome wins the whole of Sicily, which becomes the first overseas province of the Roman empire, with a governor and a supporting army to ensure that funds are collected and taxes paid to Rome. Sardinia and Corsica are added in 227 B.C., as the second Roman province.
In the second Punic War (218-201 B.C.), Rome drives the Carthaginians out of Spain, in spite of an earlier dramatic achievement during the conflict: Hannibal's crossing of the Alps and invasion of Italy, where he defeats several Roman armies and ravages the Italian penninsula for some 15 years. But after being recalled from Italy to face a Roman army in North Africa under the command of Scipio Africanus -- the successful general in Spain -- Hannibal loses the battle of Zama -- his first ever defeat -- and Carthage loses the war and ceases to be a power in the western Mediterranean.
Although the war has ended, animosity between the two powers has not. To illustrate, Marcus Porcius Cato, who was known as "The Censor," or later as "Cato the Elder" (to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger, who lived in Caesar's time), was elected as Consul in 195 B.C., some 6 years after the Roman victory. Yet he ended every speech he gave in the Senate with the phrase "and Carthage must be destroyed!"
His words were prophetic, for the third Punic War (149-146 B.C.) ends with the Romans completely destroying the city of Carthage and selling the surviving Carthaginians into slavery.
Roman Expansion -- East and North
By 200 B.C., the western Mediterranean is effectively under Roman control, but the east is still under the influence of Greece -- part of the empire created more than a century earlier by Alexander the Great. Descendants of his three surviving generals are now independent kings in Alexander's original homeland of Macedonia plus western Anatolia; in Syria and areas to the east; and in Egypt. The rulers of these empires are in almost constant conflict with each other and with their neighbors over territory in the eastern Mediterranean.
Rome becomes involved when independent Greek states in the Aegean appeal for help against aggression from Macedonia. In 197 B.C., a Roman expedition defeats the Macedonians, leaving the Greeks to enjoy their freedom, which they do in their usual manner with a rapid return to armed conflict. Although the Romans intervene on several occasions, by 148 B.C. their patience is at an end and Macedonia is annexed as a Roman province. From that base, the Romans maintain a loose control over mainland Greece and the islands in the Aegean Sea.
During this time frame, Roman territories are also being greatly extended in the north of the Italian peninsula, pressing back the Celtic tribes who have settled in the Po Valley. A colony is established at Rimini on the Adriatic Sea in northeastern Italy in 268 B.C.; by 220 B.C., a road known as the Via Flaminia links it with the capital in Rome. Bologna becomes a colony in 189 B.C., followed by Parma and Modena in 183 B.C. Subsequent Roman campaigns bring more territory under control as far north as the Alps and westward along the Mediterranean coast. The south of France is made a Roman province in 121 B.C., as Transalpine Gaul. Northern Italy in 91 B.C. becomes the province of Cisalpine Gaul.
Long, fierce wars ended with Sabine, Samnite and Umbrian hill tribes, along with Etruscan and Greek city-states, all falling under Roman domination. Pursuing a far-sighted policy, Rome did not treat defeated opponents as conquered peoples, but formed them into a confederation of allies under her leadership. A network of roads and colonies underpinned Roman control of the Italian peninsula. Rome's Italian allies provided troops for the great wars Rome fought with Carthage in the 3rd century B.C. (264-241 and 218-202), and mostly held firm in their loyalty to the Romans in the face of Hannibal's devastating invasion of Italy.
Success on the frontiers of the expanding empire is accompanied by increasing unrest at its center. In 133 B.C., there is a scene of horrific violence in Rome when a Tribune and 300 others are clubbed to death by a party of reactionary Senators and their supporters. This unprecedented event ushers in 100 years of intermittent civil war.
Tiberius Gracchus, the murdered Tribune. had put forward a program of land reform under which territories owned by the state, but largely rented and farmed by the rich, would be distributed to the urban poor. The prospect of his being elected Tribune for a second consecutive year, contrary to precedent, provoked his killing.
The land reforms of Tiberius Gracchus were nevertheless enacted by a commission that includes his brother Gaius. In 123 B.C., Gaius Gracchus himself becomes Tribune and puts into effect many policies of reform, including the provision for a subsidized grain allowance for all Roman households. Rioting breaks out in 121 B.C. during a debate on one of his measures and the Senate declares a state of emergency, the first in Rome's history. An armed party, led by a Consul, attempts to seize Gracchus. In the fighting Gracchus is killed and subsequently 3,000 of his supporters are executed.
Marius: 107-99 B.C.
Unlike the aristocratic Gracchi, the next of the people's heroes is the son of a farmer who became wealthy -- mainly through tax-collecting in Rome's eastern provinces. Gaius Marius, elected Consul in 107 B.C., immediately solves the army's recruitment problem by abolishing the property requirements. The poorest Romans eagerly join up and Marius's army soon develops a special personal loyalty to him. Their trust is well placed: He proves to be a brilliant general as well as an extremely able politician.
From 107 to 105 B.C., Marius wages a successful campaign in North Africa. His next task is in the north of Italy where two German tribes -- the Teutones and Cimbri -- have defeated several Roman armies. Marius overwhelms both tribes in decisive victories in 102 and 101 B.C. in southern France and northern Italy.
Neither from the city of Rome nor a pedigreed Patrician, Arpinum-born Marius still manages to be elected Consul a record-breaking seven times and to reform the army (as well as marry into the family of Julius Caesar). But his success as a general and the changed nature of his army bring new problems. His soldiers expect favours from him.
Soldiers retiring from the army at the end of a campaign want somewhere to settle, for most of them are no longer farmers with a place to which they can return. Many of his African veterans have already been found places to settle in Africa. So after his successful northern Italian campaign, proposals are put before the Senate to grant land in southern France and other regions to these veterans. The Senators are reluctant to agree as it brings with it the peril of private armies. But they are persuaded by another dangerous innovation: The political allies of Marius use gangs of thugs to organize violence.
When a state of emergency is again declared by the Senate in 99 B.C., Marius disowns his riotous colleagues and helps to restore order. But once his Consulship comes to an end (and he becomes legally liable for his former deeds) he flees into exile in Africa. But Marius is not finished. The Social War (91-89 B.C.), which saw much of Italy in chaos, saw his return as an active participant.
But a pattern has been set that will prevail through much of the century. Events have made it clear that the Senate is powerless if confronted by an unscrupulous general who has the support of a powerful army. This point is soon rammed home. In the next 15 years, three Roman armies will march against the city: Sulla in 88 B.C.; Marius in 86 B.C.; and, finally, Sulla again 3 years later. But more of this later.
The Social War: 90-87 B.C.
The bloodthirsty struggle between contenders for power in Rome is now matched by continuing disorder within Italy. One restless group is very close to home. The people of the peninsula's central mountain range are known as the Italians, in contrast with the Latins who occupy the regions directly south of the capital city. The Italians have long had the status of socii (allies), but without the benefit of Roman citizenship.
For some years there has been political pressure in Rome to grant citizen status to the allies, but in 91 B.C. the proposal is rejected by the Senate. Shortly after, the Tribune who championed that legislation is assassinated. In response, the Italian tribes declare independence, set up a government and strike coins bearing the name Italia. Soon they have 100,000 soldiers in the field -- soldiers of high quality, for these men have fought in Roman legions.
The ensuing war (known as the Social War, because it is between Rome and the socii) lasts 3 years (90-87 B.C.), costs a great many lives, and ends with the concession that would have prevented it. Rome restores order by granting citizenship even more widely than had been demanded. And, by 42 B.C., everyone in the entire Italian peninsula becomes a Roman citizen.
Sulla: 88-82 B.C.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman who served as an able lieutenant to Marius in both his African and northern Italy campaigns. Sulla also served exceptionally as a general during the Social War and was awarded a Corona Obsidionalis, also known as a Corona Graminea (Grass Crown). This was the highest Roman military honour, awarded for personal bravery to a commander who saves a Roman legion or army in the field. Unlike all other Roman military honours, it was awarded by acclamation of the soldiers of the rescued army, and consequently very few were ever awarded. The crown, by tradition, is woven from grasses and other plants taken from the actual battlefield.
Sulla was elected Consul for the first time in 88 B.C. and is then appointed to lead a campaign to the southern coast of the Black Sea against King Mithridates VI of Pontus. Just after his departure from Rome, a Tribune uses a populist vote to have the command transferred to Marius, now a neglected 69-year-old veteran. Sulla receives news of this at his camp in the south of Italy while waiting to cross to Greece.
His soldiers stone the envoys who announce that the command of the Mithridatic War has been transferred to Marius. Sulla then takes six of his most loyal legions and marches on Rome -- an unprecedented event for no general before him had ever crossed the city limits, the Pomerium, with as army. After capturing the city and killing the hostile Tribune, Sulla returns to his camp and proceeds with his original plan of fighting King Mithridates in Pontus on the southern coast of the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, Marius has escaped to Africa where he assembles an army and plots his return, determined that he will hold a seventh consulship, as was foretold by the Sibyl decades earlier. Thus in 86 B.C., when Sulla is far away in the east, Marius returns with his army to take Rome, where he is, indeed, elected Consul for the seventh time. However, after only 13 days in office, he dies of natural causes.
Sulla has considerable military success in Anatolia, but the followers of Marius in Rome declare him a public enemy. His return in 83 B.C., with an army of 40,000 men and much treasure, leads to a brief but full-scale civil war, which is won by Sulla in 82 B.C. at the battle of the Colline Gate, just outside the walls of Rome. This time the butchery surpasses all previous excesses.
It begins with the slaughter of some 3,000 prisoners whose cries can be heard by the Senate as they are butchered. Then rewards are offered for the murder of anyone who can be shown to have assisted Marius and his colleagues. To guide would-be assassins, a "proscription" list is published of 4,700 suitable names. But in the orgy of killing that follows, these are not the only victims, for the land of those who die is declared to be forfeit. Sulla uses some of it to settle his soldiers, but in other cases it is awarded to those who "carry out" the proscription; i.e., the murderers.
By now neither the popular Assemblies of Rome nor the Senate are in a mood to disagree with anything which Sulla might suggest. They vote that he should become dictator -- but not, as the constitution declares, for a maximum of 6 months. but rather he is declared dictator for life. This unusual appointment can be seen as setting the precedent for Julius Caesar's later dictatorship, and the eventual end of the republic under Augustus.
Finally, in a demonstration of his absolute power, Sulla expands the "Pomerium," the sacred boundary of Rome, untouched since the time of the kings. Near the end of 81 B.C., Sulla, true to his traditionalist sentiments, resigns his dictatorship, disbands his legions and re-establishes normal Consular government. He also is elected Consul for the following year, after which he dismisses his lictors and walks unguarded in the Forum. In 79 B.C., after he has made the changes he thought necessary to Rome's government to bring it back in line with the old values, Sulla simply steps down. He dies a year later.
The Slave Revolt: 73-71 B.C.
Soon after the Social War, another violent uprising within Italy shakes Roman confidence. This time the rebels are slaves. In 73 B.C., certain slaves being trained as gladiators at Capua (north of Naples) break free and take refuge on the nearby slopes of Mount Vesuvius. As word of their rebellion spreads, other runaway slaves join them. Under the brilliant leadership of one of their number, Spartacus, the slaves maraud through southern Italy and defeat a succession of Roman armies. These initial successes swell their numbers to some 70,000. In the spring of 72 B.C., two legions are sent to combat them, again with initial success -- this time by the legions -- but then they are defeated by Sparticus.
Finally the Senate charges Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome, with ending the rebellion. In command of eight legions comprising some 40,000 men, Crassus moved southward, putting the rebel slaves under siege by the end of 71 B.C. The final battle saw the slaves routed completely with the vast majority -- including Sparticus -- killed on the battlefield. The end is grisly, like so much in Roman history. Crosses are erected along the Appian Way, the main road south from Rome, and the remaining 6,000 captured slaves are crucified.
Pompey and Caesar: 81-44 B.C.
The public life of Rome in the middle years of the 1st century B.C. is dominated by two men. Both were outstanding examples of a relatively new trend in Roman history -- that of an individual career pursued with unflinching single-mindedness, an approach that had its roots in Marius and Sulla. Their natural successors are Pompey and Caesar.
For much of this time the two men are allies, manipulating the political life of Rome for their benefit and the benefit of Crassus, the third member of their "triumvirate." But by the end of the period, they are bitter enemies.
Pompey, later known as Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus or "Pompey the Great," is 6 years older than Caesar and the first to make his mark. While an excellent military leader, Pompey fell short of real greatness, lacking Caesar's genius, his dynamism and panache, and his geniality in personal relationships. But Pompey was circumspect and thorough -- the perfect administrator.
Pompey was initially called Magnus (the Great) by his troops in Africa after he recovered Sicily and Africa from the followers of the exiled Marius in two lightning campaigns in 82 and 81 B.C., after which he ruthlessly executed Marian leaders who had surrendered to him. To his enemies he was Sulla's butcher; to his troops he was "Imperator" and "Magnus."
Arguably, Pompey's greatest military achievement was his campaign in the Middle East from 66 to 62 B.C. against King Mithridates of Pontus, followed up by spectacular successes in Syria and Israel that brought those areas under Roman control.
For Caesar, the equivalently important campaign abroad is his 8 years (58-50 B.C.) in Gaul. Born into a Patrician family that claimed descent from the goddess Venus, Caesar found himself on the wrong side of things as the star of Marius (his uncle) faded and that of Sulla rose. While Marius and his ally, Lucius Cornelius Cinna, were in control of the city, Caesar was named the new high priest of Jupiter and then married Cinna's daughter Cornelia.
But following Sulla's final victory over supporters of Marius in 81 B.C., Caesar's connections to the old regime made him a target. Although stripped of his inheritance and his priesthood, he refused to divorce Cornelia. Forced to go into hiding, the threat against him was finally lifted through the intervention of his mother's family, which included supporters of Sulla.
Ironically, the loss of his priesthood allowed him to pursue a military career, since the high priest of Jupiter was not permitted to "touch a horse, sleep three nights outside his own bed or one night outside Rome, or look upon an army." So Caesar left Rome and joined the army, where he won the Civic Crown in Anatolia for his part in an important siege. Following a mission to Bithynia to secure the assistance of King Nicomedes's fleet, rumors of an affair with the king arose, which Caesar would vehemently deny for the rest of his life.
Hearing of Sulla's death in 78 B.C., Caesar returned to Rome, where he turned to legal advocacy and became known for his exceptional oratory and ruthless prosecution of former governors notorious for extortion and corruption. In 75 B.C., he sailed to Rhodes to study to improve his rhetoric under a teacher of the famed orator Cicero, but enroute he was captured by pirates, who, as was the custom, demanded a ransom from important Roman citizens. They set the price at 20 talents of silver; but Caesar insisted he was worth 50!
The pirates, of course, agreed and Caesar sent some of his associates off to gather the silver, which took 38 days. In the meantime, nearly alone with the pirates, rather than cower, he instead treated them as if they were his subordinates. He also joined in with playing various games with the pirates and participating in their exercises, generally acting as if he wasn’t a prisoner, but rather, their leader. The pirates quickly grew to respect and like him and allowed him the freedom to do more or less as he pleased on their island. While friendly, he also swore to them that he would hunt them down and have them crucified once the ransom was paid.
After the ransom arrived, Caesar left, raised a fleet, and pursued and captured the pirates. He then had them crucified on his own authority, as he had promised while in captivity -- a promise the pirates had taken as a joke.
Two other notable Romans of this era deserve special mention: Namely Cicero and Cato the Younger. These two men played important roles in the lives of Caesar and Pompey -- both when they were allies and when they were enemies, although both Cicero and Cato ended up opposing Caesar.
Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators. During the chaotic latter half of the 1st century B.C., Cicero championed a return to the traditional republican government. Though he was an accomplished orator and successful lawyer, Cicero believed his political career to be his most important achievement. During his Consulship, Cicero suppressed the second Catilinian conspiracy by executing five conspirators without due process of law.
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis, commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor) to distinguish him from his great-grandfather (Cato the Elder), was a politician and statesman and a follower of the Stoic philosophy. A noted orator, he is remembered for his stubbornness and tenacity (especially in his lengthy conflict with Julius Caesar), as well as his immunity to bribes, his moral integrity, and his famous distaste for the ubiquitous corruption of the period. During his political career, he aligned himself with the Optimates, the conservative faction of the city, while Caesar was a long-time champion of the Populares, the party of the people.
Pompey’s military career started in the Social Wars (91-89 B.C.) when he served under his father’s army at Asculum. In 83 B.C., Pompey raised a private army of three legions to fight for Sulla. After this, he was sent to Sicily and then to Africa to put down dissidents. In 77 B.C., Pompey was sent to assist in the struggle against an opponent of Sulla in Spain. In 71 B.C., he came back from Spain and assisted in ending the Slave War. Pompey tried to take credit for this, when, in fact, it was Crassus who had been the main Roman general in the war.
Nevertheless, in 70 B.C., Crassus and Pompey teamed up to take the Consulship, even though Pompey was too young. But the rules were waived. Neither of these men had any great ability as politicians. But Crassus, on account of his great wealth, had influence with the capitalists; and Pompey, because of his military successes, was a popular hero, as Marius had been before him. The chief event of their Consulship was the complete overthrow of the Sullan constitution -- with power given back to the Tribunes.
Two years after his Consulship ended, Pompey was selected to deal with with the increasing problem of piracy in the Mediterranean. Since the decline of the Roman navy, the Great Sea had become infested with pirates. With bases in Crete and in Cilicia in southern Anatolia, these pirates had control of practically the whole Mediterranean, preying on shipping commerce and plundering the cities of nearly every coast. They even cut off Rome’s corn supply so that Italy was threatened with a famine.
To meet this emergency, the Senate passed a law in 67 B.C. giving Pompey extraordinary powers to deal with this problem. For 3 years he would have supreme control over the Mediterranean Sea and its coasts for 50 miles inland. He was given 500 ships,120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. The public treasuries and all the resources of the provinces were placed at his disposal. Such extraordinary power had never before been given to anyone except Sulla. But Pompey fully satisfied Roman expectations.
Within a mere 3 months, he cleared the whole Mediterranean Sea of its pirates. He had captured 3,000 vessels, slain 10,000 of the enemy, and taken 20,000 prisoners. Recognizing one of the sources of piracy, Pompey settled the prisoners and their families in southern Anatolia so they would have an opportunity to earn an honest living, offering them life as farmers as an alternative to piracy.
The splendid success of Pompey against the pirates led him to be designated to close a long and tedious war against Mithridates, who ruled Pontus on the southern shore of the Black Sea and who had continued to be a menace to Rome. In 66 B.C., Pompey was given supreme control over all the Roman dominions in the East.
Armed with this extensive authority, Pompey soon succeeded in defeating Mithridates and in driving him from his kingdom. He then invaded Syria and next entered Judea, capturing Jerusalem in 63 B.C. All of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean was now subject to Rome. When he returned to Italy in 61 B.C., Pompey had completed as successful and brilliant a record as any Roman general had ever before achieved. As a result, he was awarded his third triumph, which was one of the most spectacular in Roman history.
During the absence of Pompey in the East (67-61 B.C.), the politics of Rome were mainly in the hands of three men -- Marcus Porcius Cato, Marcus Tullius Cicero and Gaius Julius Caesar.
Cato was the great-grandson of Cato the Censor; and, like his great ancestor, he was a man of firmness and of the strictest integrity. He was by nature a conservative, and came to be regarded as the leader of the Optimates -- the aristocratic party -- working to reestablish the power of the Senate as it existed in the days of old.
On the other hand, Julius Caesar was coming to the front as the leader of the Populares. Though born of Patrician stock, he was related by family ties to Marius and Cinna, the old leaders of the people. He was wise enough to see that the cause of the people was in the ascendancy. He aroused the sympathies of the Italians by favoring the extension of the Roman franchise to cities beyond the Po River. He also appealed to the populace through the splendor of the games which he gave -- at great expense -- as curule aedile, an official in charge of public works and Roman games. In 66 B.C., Caesar became curator of the Appian Way and, after taking out massive loans, began a reconstruction project of the ancient road. This was a gamble as it placed him in deep debt but allowed voters to see the work he had done. He allied himself to Crassus, whose enormous wealth -- and average ability -- he could use to good advantage.
Between these two party leaders stood Cicero, who, in spite of a streak of vanity, was a man of great intellect and of excellent administrative ability. He was also what was called a "new man" (novus homo); that is, the first of his family to obtain senatorial rank. Cicero was made Consul in 63 B.C. and rose to his highest distinction during the absence of Pompey. Cicero stood for law and order, and generally for constitutional government.
If Cicero had done nothing else, he would have been entitled to the gratitude of his people for two acts -- the impeachment of Verres and the defeat of Catiline. By his impeachment of Verres, a corrupt governor of Sicily, he brought to light, for the first time, the infamous methods employed in the administration of the provinces and also brought to justice one of the greatest offenders.
Then by the defeat of Catiline during his Consulship, Cicero saved Rome from a most infamous plot. Catiline was a man of most abandoned and depraved character. It is said that his plot involved killing the Consuls, massacring the Senators, and burning the city of Rome. The plot was discovered by Cicero and he delivered an oration in the Senate against Catiline, who was present and attempted to reply. But his voice was drowned out with the cries of "traitor," and he fled to his camp in Etruria. Here a desperate battle ensued; Catiline was defeated and slain in 62 B.C., along with 3,000 of his followers. The people then hailed Cicero as the savior of Rome, the "Father of his Country." In the meantime, Cicero had identified five of the conspirators and condemned them to death without a trial -- despite an eloquent protest by Caesar.
Meanwhile, Caesar, after holding various high offices from 69 to 65 B.C., ran for election in 63 B.C. for the post of Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of the Roman state religion. Although there were accusations of bribery by all sides, Caesar won comfortably against two powerful Senators. In 61 B.C., he is appointed to govern Spain. But he is still in considerable debt and needs to satisfy his creditors before he can leave. He turns to Marcus Licinius Crassus, the richest man in Rome -- and perhaps the richest man of all in ancient times. In return for political support opposing the interests of Pompey, Crassus pays some of Caesar's debts and acts as guarantor for others.
In Spain, Caesar conquered two local tribes. Hailed as imperator by his troops, he completed his governorship in high esteem. As imperator, Caesar was entitled to a triumph. However, he also wanted to stand for Consul in 59 B.C. If he were to celebrate a triumph, he would have to remain a soldier and stay outside the city until the ceremony, but to stand for election he would need to lay down his command and enter Rome as a private citizen. He could not do both in the time available. So he asked the Senate for permission to stand in absentia, but Cato blocked the proposal through a filibuster. Faced with the choice between a triumph and the Consulship, Caesar chose the Consulship.
In 61 B.C., Pompey had returned to Italy from his victories in the East and was given a magnificent triumph, his third. To allay all suspicion of generals returning to Rome with their armies, Pompey disbanded his army as soon as it touched the soil of Italy, hoping that because of his great services, the Senate would at least reward his veterans by grants of land; but in this he was disappointed. Pompey thus had a serious grievance against the Senate. The Senate had also offended Caesar by thwarting him in his desire to have a triumph. But Caesar was beginning to feel his power, and was not a man to put up with petty annoyances. Accordingly, he entered into a coalition with Pompey, to which Crassus was also admitted.
This coalition, known as the "first triumvirate," was formed both to oppose the Senatorial party and to advance the personal desires of each of its members. By its terms, Pompey was to have his veterans rewarded; Crassus was to have an opportunity to increase his fortune; and Caesar was to have the Consulship, and afterward a command in Gaul. Pompey was ostensibly at the head of the trio, but Caesar was its ruling spirit.
The first fruit of the new alliance was the election of Caesar as Consul in 59 B.C. He immediately went faithfully to work to fulfill his obligations to Pompey and to strengthen his hold upon the people. Caesar first obtained passage of an agrarian law that provided for the veterans of Pompey; it also gave estates in Campania to needy citizens of Rome.
These laws were bitterly opposed by the Senate, but without success. Pompey was now satisfied; the people were pleased; and the capitalists were reconciled. The Senate was thus outgeneraled by Caesar, losing any temporary advantage gained during the Consulship of Cicero. So completely did Julius Caesar overshadow his weak colleague as Consul that his joint term was humorously called the "Consulship of Julius and Caesar."
At the close of his Consulship, the provinces Caesar were given to govern for the next 5 years included Cisalpine Gaul (the valley of the Po River), Illyricum (a strip of territory on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea) and Narbonensis (part of Transalpine Gaul lying near the mouth of the Rhone River). In selecting Gaul for his province/governorship, there were three or four things that Caesar saw clearly. He realized that the power that would hereafter rule Rome must be a military power, noting that Sulla had succeeded with the help of his army, while Pompey had failed by giving up his army. Next he saw that no other province afforded the same political opportunities as those in Gaul.
Another plus was the fact that the tribes of Gaul were, for the most part, civilized and wealthy. Most had been in contact with Roman merchants. Because of the financial burdens of his Consulship in 59 B.C., Caesar was still deeply in debt. And there was much money to be made as a governor. He also saw that the conquest of Gaul would establish a barrier to prevent invasions by northern barbarians -- the Gauls, the Cimbri and the Teutones had twice already threatened Rome with destruction. Moreover, he knew that Rome needed new and fertile lands for colonization; Italy was overcrowded.
Caesar began his term as governor by first conquering the Helvetii, a tribe lying on the outskirts of his province. He then met and drove back a great invasion of Germans, who had crossed the Rhine and threatened to overrun the whole of Gaul. He then pushed into the northern parts of Gaul, conquering the Nervii and neighboring tribes in Belgium. He overcame the Veneti in Normandy on the Atlantic coast, and conquered Aquitania in southwestern France.
He also made two invasions into Britain in 55 and 54 B.C., crossed the Rhine into Germany, and showed Roman soldiers countries they had never seen before. After subduing the various tribes of Gaul, Caesar was finally called on to suppress a general insurrection, led by a powerful leader named Vercingetorix who was defeated in 52 B.C. at the Battle of Alesia in east-central France near the source of the Seine River.
Throughout his campaigns, Caesar sent regular messages back to Rome recounting his exploits and many successes in expanding Rome's control of Gaul. His dispatches, which were masterpieces of war reporting, served not only to keep his name before the people but also enabled them, as Roman citizens, to experience vicarious pride in Caesar's accomplishments and bask in his reflected glory.
After the Battle of Alesia, the conquest of Gaul was now complete. A large part of the population had been either slain in war or reduced to slavery. The new territory was pacified by bestowing honors upon the Gallic chiefs, along with self-government for the surviving tribes. Roman legions were distributed through the territory and Roman arts and manners were encouraged. Thus Gaul was brought within the encompassing arms of Roman civilization.
Before Caesar departed for his provinces, he had taken steps to insure that his interests would be looked after in his absence. With mixed results, he chose the Tribune Publius Clodius Pulcher, an unscrupulous politician whose hostility to the Senate could be depended upon. His tasks were to keep the support of the people and eliminate the power of the two most influential men in the senate -- Cicero and Cato.
The first he easily accomplished by passing a law that grain should hereafter be distributed free to the Roman people. But removing the chief leaders of the Senate was not so easy. Nevertheless, he managed to neutralize Cato by appointing him governor of Cyprus, which had been annexed by Rome under a new law.
And, after a law was passed providing that any magistrate who had put a Roman citizen to death without a trial should be banished, Cicero -- knowing the law was aimed directly at him because of his actions during the Catilene conspiracy -- retired to Greece in 58 B.C. and devoted himself to literary pursuits. With their leaders thus removed, the Senate was for a time paralyzed.
But after Caesar left for Gaul, Clodius -- feeling his own importance -- began to rule with a high hand. Pompey as well as the Senate became disgusted with his regime and together they recalled Cicero from exile. At the same time, Cato returned from Cyprus. So it looked as though the Senate would once more regain its power, and the triumvirate would go to pieces.
But the watchful eye of Caesar detected these symptoms of discontent, and a conference of the leaders had taken place in 56 B.C. at Luca, a town in northern Italy, where a new triumvirate arrangement was agreed to: Caesar was now to be given an additional 5 years in Gaul, and to be elected Consul at the end of that time; Pompey and Crassus were to receive their Consulships in 55 B.C. and at the close of their term Pompey was to have the provinces of Spain and Africa and the money-loving Crassus was to receive the rich province of Syria. In this way they would divide the world among them. Caesar now felt that matters at Rome were safe, at least until he could complete his work in Gaul and fortify his own power with a devoted and powerful army.
But while Caesar was absent in Gaul, the ties that bound the three leaders of the triumvirate together were becoming weaker and weaker. In 54 B.C., Pompey's marriage to Caesar's daughter Julia ended with her death during childbirth. The position of Crassus had tended to allay the growing suspicion between the two great rivals. But then Crassus went to his province in Syria in November 55 B.C. and later invaded Parthia. In 53 B.C., he was badly defeated at the Battle of Carrhae in southwestern Anatolia and was himself killed there in one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history. A story later emerged that after Crassus was killed, the Parthians poured molten gold down his mouth in mockery of his unquenchable thirst for wealth. The death of Crassus in effect dissolved the triumvirate; and the relations between the two leaders was now one of mutual distrust -- and the 56 B.C. agreements in Luca became null and void.
The growing estrangement between Pompey and Caesar was further increased following a real emergency -- continual street fights between the armed bands of Clodius, the demagogue, and those professed to be defending the cause of the Senate. In one of these fights, Clodius was killed. His body was burned in the Forum by a wild mob and the Senate house was destroyed by fire. In the anarchy that followed, the Senate conferred extraordinary power upon Pompey. Cato called for him to be "Consul without a colleague." Under this unusual title, Pompey restored order to the city. He then became more and more closely bound to the cause of the Senate, which recognized this by prolonging his upcoming command in Spain for 5 years.
Part of the agreement made at the conference of Luca was that Caesar was to receive the Consulship at the close of his command in Gaul. Naturally, he wished to retain the control of his army until he had been elected Consul, but the Senate was determined that he should present himself in Rome as a private citizen before his election. Caesar, however, knew that he would be helpless as a private citizen in the presence of enemies who were seeking to destroy him. Cato had already declared that he would prosecute him as soon as he ceased to govern in Gaul.
The Senate then demanded that Caesar must give up his province and his whole army by a certain day, or be declared a public enemy -- thus offering him a choice between humiliation or war. Caesar chose war, and in 49 B.C. he crossed the Rubicon River with his 13th legion. The Rubicon separated his province of Cisalpine Gaul from Italy and was the stream marking Rome's northern "Pomerium" -- or sacred boundary -- that had been set by Sulla 32 years previously.
Reportedly, as his army crossed the small stream, Caesar uttered the now-famous phrase, "The die is cast!"
The contest was now reduced to a struggle between two of the greatest soldiers that Rome had ever produced. Caesar knew the value of time; he quickly invaded Italy with just a single legion. Pompey, unprepared for such a sudden move, withdrew his forces to Brundisium in southern Italy. Besieged by Caesar, he took his army his to Greece, leaving Caesar as master of Italy.
But Caesar -- now between an army in Spain under Pompey’s lieutenants and Pompey's army in Greece -- must defeat each before they can unite against him. With no fleet to follow Pompey into Greece, he dispatches his legions in Gaul across the Pyrenees to Spain while he goes to Rome and quickly dispels the fear that the horrors of the first civil war might be repeated. Showing that he was neither a Marius nor a Sulla, a general amnesty was proclaimed; friend and foe were treated alike. Rejoining his legions in Spain, he soon defeated Pompey’s lieutenants. Back in Rome, he found that he had been proclaimed dictator. He resigned this title and accepted the office of Consul.
In the beginning of the next year, with the few ships that he had collected, he transported his troops from Brundisium across the Adriatic to meet the army of Pompey. In a first conflict, he suffered a nominal defeat after which he retreated across the peninsula toward Pharsalus in central Greece. The two generals met there in battle in 48 B.C. and Caesar, with about 20,000 men, completely defeated the army of Pompey, which numbered more than 40,000. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was treacherously murdered. Special honors were then conferred on Caesar in Rome, where he was made Consul for 5 years, Tribune for life, and dictator for 1 year.
Caesar now embarked upon the task of pacifying the provinces. When he arrived in Egypt, where he had planned to pardon Pompey, he became fascinated by the charms of Cleopatra, and settled a civil war between this princess and her younger brother Ptolemy, both of whom claimed the Egyptian throne. Caesar defeated the forces of Ptolemy and assigned the throne to Cleopatra, supplying her with the protection of two Roman legions.
On his way back to Italy, Caesar passed through Asia Minor. Here he found that Pharnaces, the son of the great King Mithridates, was stirring up a revolt in Pontus. In 47 B.C., he destroyed the prince's armies and reclaimed the Asiatic provinces, recording his speedy victory in the famous words, "Veni, vidi, vici" -- I came, I saw, I conquered.
The armies of Caesar had now swept over all the provinces of Rome, except for Africa. Here the Pompeian leaders, assisted by the king of Numidia, made a last stand under Cato, who held Utica, and Metellus Scipio, who commanded in the field. In 46 B.C., Caesar destroyed the last hope of the Pompeian party at the Battle of Thapsus near modern-day Tunis. The republican forces were defeated and Cato, the chief of the senatorial party, committed suicide at Utica. On hearing of his death, Caesar commented: "Cato, I grudge you your death, as you would have grudged me the preservation of your life." Caesar's power was now supreme, except for a brief revolt in Spain, which was soon put down in 45 B.C.
When Caesar returned to Rome after the battle of Thapsus, he came not as a servant of the Senate, but as master of the world. He crowned his victories with four splendid triumphs, one for Gaul, one for Egypt, one for Pontus, and one for Numidia. His victory was attended by no massacres, no proscriptions, no confiscations and he made no reference to the civil war. Caesar was, in fact, the first Roman emperor.
As generous in peace as he had been relentless in war, Caesar was great enough to forgive his enemies. The titles he received included Consul, dictator, controller of public morals (praefectus morum), Tribune, pontifex maximus, and chief of the Senate (princeps senatus).
Although Caesar held his great power for only a short time, his reforms were significant. First, Caesar drastically changed the Senate, which had hitherto been a comparatively small body drawn from a single class. Caesar increased its number to 900, filling it with representatives of all classes, not simply nobles. It ceased to be a legislature, instead serving as an advisory body. Next, he extended Roman citizenship north to inhabitants beyond the Po River and to many cities in the provinces, especially in Transalpine Gaul and Spain. All of these political changes tended to break down the distinction between nobles and commoners, between Italians and the provincials, and to make one nation of all the people of the empire.
The next great need of Rome was improved conditions for the lower classes. Caesar well knew that the condition of the people could not be changed in a day; but he worked to afford better means for the poorer classes to obtain a living. And he also reformed Rome's provincial government by making the governor a responsible agent of the emperor; the collection of taxes was also placed under a more rigid supervision. The provincials found in Caesar a protector.
Perhaps the most noted of Caesar’s changes was his reform of the calendar, which has remained as he left it, with slight changes, down to the present day. He had many other changes in mind, which if he had lived, would have resulted In significant changes in Roman life.
If Caesar failed, it was because he did not adjust himself sufficiently to the conservative spirit of the time. There were still men living in Rome who were blindly attached to the old republican forms. To them, the reforms of Caesar looked like a work of destruction, seeing in his projects a scheme for reviving the kingship.
The leading conspirators, Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius, had both served in Pompey’s army; had been pardoned by Caesar; and had been given offices in his government. Joined by some 50 other conspirators, these men plotted to kill Caesar in the Senate house. On the Ides of March in 44 B.C., Caesar was struck down by the daggers of his treacherous friends, and he fell at the foot of Pompey’s statue.
It has been said that the murder of Caesar was the most senseless act that Romans ever committed. In essence, he was "the noblest Roman of them all" and his death deprived Rome of the greatest man she ever produced. But the work of the conspirators did not destroy the work of Caesar.
Following Caesar's death, his right-hand man and cousin, Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), joined forces with Caesar's nephew and heir, Gaius Octavius Thurinus (Octavian), and Caesar's friend, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, to form the second triumvirate of Rome, which immediately began proscribing their enemies and potential rivals. Cicero and all of his supporters were numbered among the enemies of the state, even though, reportedly, Octavian argued for 2 days against Cicero being added to the list.
Cicero was finally caught in December 43 B.C. as he left his villa in a litter, hoping to reach the coast and sail to Macedonia. Cicero's last words are said to have been, "There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." He bowed to his captors, leaning his head out of the litter in a gladiatorial gesture to ease the task.
His head was cut off and, on Antony's instructions, his hands were cut off as well. These were nailed along with his head on the Rostra in the Forum just as both Marius and Sulla had displayed the heads of their enemies. According to a well-circulated story, Antony's wife Fulvia took Cicero's head, pulled out his tongue, and jabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin in final revenge against Cicero's great power of speech.
The following October saw the end of the war as Antony and Octavian's legions defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius in 42 B.C. at the Battle of Phillippi in Macedonia The triumvirate later lost one member as Lepidus was quickly and effectively neutralized when Antony and Octavian agreed that he should rule over Hispania and Africa. This kept him from any power play in Rome. They then agreed that Octavian would rule Roman lands in the west and Antony in the east.
However, Antony's involvement with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra upset the balance Octavian had hoped for and the two went to war. Antony and Cleopatra's combined forces were soundly defeated at the naval Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. on the Ionian Sea between the heel of Italy and Greece. After sailing to Egypt, both later took their own lives.
Octavian thus emerged as the sole power in Rome. In 27 B.C., he was granted extraordinary powers by the Senate and took the name of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, calling himself Princeps or "first among equals." Historians agree that this is the point at which the history of Rome ends and the history of the Roman Empire begins.
The term Illyria is sometimes used to define an area east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea (now modern Albania). The most notable Illyrian kingdoms and dynasties were those of Bardyllis of the Dardani and of Agron of the Ardiaei, who created the last and best-known Illyrian kingdom. Agron, who ruled over the Ardiaei, had extended his rule to other tribes as well. As for the Dardanians, they always had separate domains from the rest of the Illyrians.
The Illyrian kingdoms were composed of small areas; only the Romans later ruled the entire region. The south Illyrian kingdoms imitated their neighboring Greek kingdoms and the Hellenistic world in the growth of their cities. Their monarchies were established on hereditary lines and Illyrian rulers used marriages as a means of alliance with other powers.
Mystery enshrouds the exact origins of today's Albanians. Most historians believe they are in large part descendants of the ancient Illyrians, who, like other Balkan peoples, were subdivided into tribes and clans. The Illyrians were Indo-European tribesmen who appeared in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula about 1000 B.C., a period coinciding with the end of the Bronze Age and beginning of the Iron Age. They inhabited much of the area for at least the next millennium. The name Albania is derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe -- the Albanoi.
Archaeologists associate the Illyrians with an Iron Age people noted for production of iron and bronze swords with winged-shaped handles and for domestication of horses. Illyrians occupied lands extending from the Danube, Sava, and Morava Rivers to the Adriatic Sea and the Sar Mountains. At various times, groups of Illyrians migrated over land and sea into Italy. The Illyrians also mingled with the Thracians, another ancient people with adjoining lands on the east. In the south and along the Adriatic Sea coast, the Illyrians were heavily influenced by Greek trading colonies founded there.
The Illyrians produced and traded cattle, horses, agricultural goods and wares fashioned from locally mined copper and iron. They also carried on commerce and warfare with their neighbors. Feuds and warfare were constant facts of life for the Illyrian tribes, and Illyrian pirates plagued shipping on the Adriatic Sea. Councils of tribal elders chose their chieftains, who, from time to time, extended their rule over other tribes and formed short-lived kingdoms.
The Illyrian kingdom of Bardhyllus became a formidable local power in the 4th century B.C. In 358 B.C., however, Macedonia's Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, defeated the Illyrians and assumed control of much of their territory. Alexander himself routed the forces of the Illyrian forces in 335 B.C., and many of their tribal leaders and soldiers accompanied him on his conquest of Persia. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., independent Illyrian kingdoms arose again. By the end of the third century B.C., an Illyrian kingdom controlled parts of northern Albania, Montenegro and Hercegovina. During the reign of a queen of the Ardiaei from 231-227 B.C., Illyrians attacked Roman merchant vessels plying the Adriatic Sea, giving Rome an excuse to invade.
In the Illyrian Wars of 229 and 219 B.C., Rome overran Illyrian settlements in the Neretva River valley. In 168 and 165 B.C., Romans made new gains when they captured Illyria's King Gentius and brought him to Rome. More than a century later, Julius Caesar and his rival Pompey fought their first battle in Illyria near the city of Dyrrachium on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Travels With a Saint
Well, we've come full circle: All the way from Crete and Greece around the Great Sea to Rome and Illyria. Now that we hopefully have a better picture of the geography, culture and history of the ancient Mediterranean Sea, let's retrace the journey of a famous traveler of the Mediterranean in that era.
At the beginning of the 1st century A.D., a series of events would occur in the eastern Mediterranean that would make the events of other ancient cultures pale in comparison. I refer, of course, to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, his growing up in Egypt and Nazareth, and his 3-year revolutionary ministry following the preaching of his cousin, John the Baptist, who said he was "preparing the way for one greater than I."
But the individual who perhaps contributed most to the expansion and adoption of Christianity was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin named Saul who was born in the port city of Tarsus on the Mediterranean Sea in south-central Anatolia. Saul (who is also called Paul) was a Roman citizen through his father, and he used this dual status to advantage in his ministry to both Jewish and Gentile audiences.
Fourteen of the 27 books in the New Testament have traditionally been attributed to Paul, and approximately half of the Acts of the Apostles deals with Paul's life and works. Seven of his letters are undisputed by scholars as being authentic, with varying degrees of argument about the remainder. The ones that are undisputed include 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians and 1st Thessalonians -- all letters to churches -- and Philemon, a letter to an individual. The ones where there are questions are Ephesians, 1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus, Colossians and 2nd Thessalonians -- plus Hebrews, almost universally rejected as being Paul's authorship.
Today, his epistles continue to be vital roots of the theology, worship and pastoral life in the Roman and Protestant traditions of the West, as well as in the Orthodox traditions of the East. Among the many other apostles and missionaries involved in the spread of the Christian faith, Paul's influence on Christian thought and practice has been characterized as being "as profound as it is pervasive." His preaching of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus 3 days later in accordance with Jewish scriptures was key to the acceptance and spread of Christianity.
St. Paul wrote or dictated his letters in Koine or common language, the Hellenistic Greek of his day. This was the international language needed by any man in public life or one traveling or writing. However, St. Paul's Greek was not as distinguished as that of St. Luke, the author of Acts, and, in accordance with the practice of the time, professional scribes were invited to help.
Although born in Tarsus, he was raised and educated in Jerusalem. There he studied in the school of Gamaliel, an outstanding Jewish teacher of his day, and became a Pharisee, a class of Jews who were distinguished by their strict observance of the written and traditional law. Pharisees generally were regarded as having pretensions of greater sanctity.
He later went on to persecute the followers of the crucified Jesus, dragging off men and women and committing them to prison. Especially zealous in his persecutions, he gave approval for the stoning of Stephen and was present at his martyrdom.
Sent by the High Priest from Jerusalem to Damascus -- a 130-mile journey -- to continue his work, as he neared that city, he had a vision in which he saw a great light. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
But when he got up, he could not see. So his companions led him into Damascus where he did not eat or drink for 3 days. Meanwhile, Ananias of Damascus, a disciple of Jesus, had a divine revelation instructing him to minister to Saul. Though reluctant because he knew about Saul's persecutions, Ananias nevertheless went to Saul and laid his hands on him -- after which he could see again. After being baptized, and eating some food, Saul regained his strength.
Following his conversion, Saul immediately began preaching "the Way" in Damascus synagogues. As this was very disturbing to the local Jewish congregations, Saul was forced to flee the city by night, traveling to somewhere east or south of Damascus. Some 3 years later, he returned, and from there retraced his steps to Jerusalem to meet the disciples. They, however, feared him -- with good reason, considering his past -- but thanks to Barnabas, a Jew from Cyprus who had become a Christian in Jerusalem, Saul told them of his conversion and finally was accepted by the eleven.
After Saul's preaching in Jerusalem, he was faced with another threat on his life, so the disciples -- who now accepted him -- helped him escape to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. He then returned to his home in Tarsus for 3 years, during which time the Gospel began to spread rapidly throughout Judea and Samaria. The church in Antioch, in particular, had notable growth among Grecians and others.
When Barnabas, a Cypriot Jew and one of the earliest Christian disciples from Jerusalem, realized that the church in Antioch had grown too big for him to handle alone, he went to Tarsus to see Saul, who returned with him to Antioch and remained there a whole year with the church. Next came a relief mission to Jerusalem, after which Saul and Barnabas returned to the church at Antioch. From there began St. Paul's first missionary journey -- to Barnabas' home in Cyprus, a large island in the eastern Mediterranean that came under Roman control in the 1st century B.C. Salamis, where they landed, was one of the island's major cities.
Cyprus had a significant Jewish population in Paul's time. Jews from Cyprus, who joined the Christian community in Antioch, were instrumental in extending the gospel to non-Jews there. Paul's companion on his first missionary journey was Barnabas, who was originally from Cyprus.
The Acts of the Apostles records four missionary journeys of St. Paul and his companions. During these journeys, his modus operandi was to establish a church and then, after leaving, send letters back to keep up the convert's spirits, answer their questions and resolve their problems.The fourth missionary journey was done by St. Paul alone as a prisoner in chains from Jerusalem to Rome, where he eventually met his death.
All told, St. Paul covered some 9,150 miles over a period of around 32 years in a highly effective missionary effort to spread the Gospel of this new religion, now known as Christianity.
St. Paul seems to have regarded himself as responsible, in addition to the churches he established, for "all the churches he knew." He corresponded with them and may have also visited most of them once or more. This was a period during which, except for the military postal service, people had to rely on other people going in the direction of their letters to correspond with others. In the social and commercial world of the 1st century A.D., there seems to have been no shortage of such people. The famous "Roman roads" and the "Pax Romana" helped maintain this correspondence web.
St. Paul's First Missionary Journey - 46-48 A.D. (1,400 miles)
It is interesting to note that this first journey sets off not from Jerusalem, the mother Church where all the apostles were gathered, but from Antioch, a newly established Church that had been founded by believers who were escaping from the persecution in Jerusalem. It was in Antioch that evangelization of Gentiles had begun on a large scale.
Antioch was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. On the Mediterranean coast in the Levant in what was then Syria, the main street was paved with marble and flanked by colonnades. Antioch's population was made up of many peoples, including Greeks and Jews. St. Peter may have baptized Gentiles at Caesarea, but the first sustained efforts to bring non-Jews into the Christian community took place at Antioch and it was there that the followers of Jesus were first called "Christians."
After Saul and Barnabas had been actively working in this Church for a year, they felt the call to be missionaries. Following fasts and prayers, the leaders of the church placed their hands on them and sent them off. A young boy -- John Mark, who was Barnabas' cousin, joined this missionary journey as their helper, but, as it turned out, was later the cause of a major dispute.
The evangelization strategy used by the two apostles was to first address the local Jewish community and afterwards evangelize the Gentiles. At this time, Jewish communities were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Paul and Barnabas used the Old Testament as the starting point to lead the Jewish audience to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies. "We tell you the good news," they said. "What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus." With this missionary spirit, they preached from town to town from west to east across the entire island of Cyprus.
They also preached to the Gentiles, including a well-educated, high-ranking Roman official, the proconsul Sergius Paulus. "A man of considerable insight and understanding, he invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God." After hearing them, he accepted the word of God and believed in the Lord. Many other Gentiles were converted as well.
In the book of Acts, Paul is called by his Hebrew name, Saul, until his visit to the island of Cyprus. As a Roman citizen, he was probably called by both names, which was common for Jews during this time. The change from the Hebrew "Saul" to the Greco-Roman "Paul" was appropriate for his mission to the Gentiles. Paul's upbringing as a Jewish Pharisee made him respected among the Jews and his Roman citizenship, likewise, made him esteemed among the Gentiles.
From Cyprus, they then sailed north to the Asian mainland in what is today southern Turkey, traveling a short distance up the river Cestrus to Perga in Pamphylia in south-central Anatolia, where John Mark suddenly left them and returned to Jerusalem.
Paul and Barnabas then continued inland for about 100 miles to the central Anatolian city of Antioch. Many were converted by Paul when he made his first address there. Not long afterward, however, they encountered persecution from certain people who refused to hear them. After being expelled from the region, they traveled southeast to Iconium, where they again made many converts among Jews and Gentiles. But they were again persecuted and would have been killed if they hadn't discovered the plot and quickly fled the city.
From there they continued southward to Lystra, where they again made converts. Unfortunately, the people of the city, who were accustomed to idolatry, went too far in their esteem for Paul and Barnabas, who they proclaimed as "gods." The missionaries tried to explain that they were merely men sent to teach, but some of the persecutors from Antioch and Iconium had followed them and incited the crowd. Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city and decided to go to Derbe, where he made numerous converts. From there, he returned to Antioch, revisiting Lystra, Iconium, Antioch in Anatolia and Perga before sailing back from the port of Attalia.
St. Paul's Second Missionary Journey - 49-52 A.D. (2,700 miles)
The second missionary journey of St Paul and his team again starts from Antioch. Paul said to Barnabas, "Let's return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord to see how the new believers are getting along." Barnabas agreed and wanted to take his cousin John Mark along. But Paul disagreed strongly because John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and returned to Cyprus.
So Paul chose Silas, a convert from Jerusalem, to accompany him. For this journey -- and the next two -- St. Luke, a physician and author of the Acts of the Apostles -- about half of which is devoted to Paul's travels -- was also a member of Paul's missionary team. St. Luke recorded much of what happened on their next three journeys.
The first part of Paul's second missionary journey was spent in revisiting the churches throughout Syria and in Cilicia in south-central Anatolia that were founded during his first journey. Paul's evangelical plan was to establish a strong local Christian community in each place he went, and then later revisit these communities or keep in contact with them through letters.
Paul, Silas and Luke first revisited Derbe and Lystra, where they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul asked him to join them on their journey.
First the team went to the city of Troas, a port in northwestern Anatolia. That night Paul had a vision in which he saw a man from Macedonia pleading with him, "Come over here and help us." So they decided to leave at once; and thus began the evangelization of Europe.
Paul and his team boarded a boat at Troas and eventually reached Philippi, a major city and Roman colony in eastern Macedonia. At Philippi there was a Jewish community, but they had no synagogue for their Saturday meetings so they used an open air space near a river. According to Luke, Paul says, "On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we supposed that some people met for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had come together."
Luke noted, "Women are more open to accept faith, and usually are more devoted to it. Many women played an important role in the work of Evangelization." He went on to describe the conversion of Lydia. "Lydia" -- originally from Thyatira in east-central Anatolia -- "was a merchant of expensive purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. 'If you agree that I am faithful to the Lord,' she said, 'come and stay at my home.' And she urged us until we did."
In the early years of Christianity, the houses of believers became the Churches of Christians. They had no temples or special buildings for their meetings, so they met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared meals. But the test of persecution is always close. Leaders of the city started accusing the missionaries, saying, "The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!" they shouted. "Their teachings are against Roman customs."
A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods, after which they were thrown into prison. Luke reports, "Then Paul and Silas shared the word of the Lord with the jailer and all who lived in his household. That same hour the jailer washed their wounds, and he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. Then he brought them into his house and set a meal before them. He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God."
The next morning, after being released from prison, Paul and Silas returned to the home of Lydia, where they met with the believers and encouraged them once more before leaving town. Then they traveled to Thessalonica, a Macedonian port on the northwestern coast of the Aegean Sea where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was Paul's custom, he went to the synagogue service and for three Sabbaths in a row he "interpreted the Scriptures to the people." Many believed; one of them welcomed the missionary team into his house.
But soon the same pattern of events repeats itself: City leaders form a mob and start accusing the missionaries. They are taken before the city council where they are accused of "treason against Caesar" because they "profess allegiance to another king, Jesus."
That very night, the Thessalonian believers send Paul and Silas to Berea, which is north of Mount Olympus. When they get there, they go to the synagogue, where they find that the people of Berea are more open-minded than those in Thessalonica; they listened eagerly to Paul's message. As a result, many Jews believed "as did some of the prominent Greek women and many men."
Once again, some people stir up trouble again against Paul and Silas. Concerned about the safety of the missionary team, Paul was sent to Athens on the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. Athens was known for its temples honoring many deities. Paul brought the gospel to the public places of Athens, where his preaching met with mixed results. Some were curious, others were skeptical. Philosophy flourished in the city. Athens had lost political importance by Roman times, but continued to manifest the ideals of Greek culture.
Paul has a clear evangelical plan. He wants to form strong Christian communities in each major city of the Roman Empire. Athens was the cultural center of Europe; Rome was the center of power. Paul aims to visit both.
Paul then left Athens and then went to Corinth on the south side of the isthmus connecting mainland Greece with the Peloponnese. Seeing good prospects for evangelization in Corinth, Paul remains there.
Luke states very simply, "Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God." In Corinth, the model of the "house-church" spreads rapidly. The first house offered as such was the house of Aquila and Priscilla. Luke tells us that in Corinth, Paul became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus on the south coast of the Black Sea, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had been expelled from Italy because of Claudius Caesar's order to deport all Jews from Rome. Luke says, "Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was."
Paul preached often at the synagogue, where, according to Luke, "Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, and all his household believed in the Lord. Many others in Corinth also became believers and were baptized." But, as usual, opposition arose and some Jews brought Paul before the governor for judgment, accusing him of "persuading people to worship God in ways that are contrary to the law." The Roman governor, though, refused to judge what he considered to be a mere religious dispute.
In Corinth, Paul had a special vision, which gave great strength to all the members of his missionary team. When Paul says good-bye to the brothers and sisters there, he leaves behind a strong and well-organized community. He keeps in contact through letters and communication with its leaders, who, in turn, keep him informed about the Church.
Paul then sailed for the coast of Syria, taking Aquila and Priscilla with him. When they arrived at Ephesus, Paul left the others behind, saying, "I will come back later, God willing." He then sailed to the port of Caesarea on the west coast of the Levant from where he went to the Church at Jerusalem and then back to Antioch. After the usual reporting to his sending Church, Paul and his team are ready for the third missionary journey.
St. Paul's Third Missionary Journey - 53-58 A.D. (2,800 miles)
After leaving Antioch, Paul and his team travel to Ephesus, where for the first few months, they concentrate on delivering their message in the synagogue, but with very little result. So Paul began preaching daily at one of the city's lecture halls. Ephesus was a multi-racial, multi-religious prosperous Roman colony with many schools or lecture halls. For more than 2 years he and his team teach "the Way" in this school.
But then serious trouble develops in Ephesus. It begins with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis, keeping many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in related trades, and told them, "Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. This man Paul has persuaded many people that these handmade gods aren't gods at all. And this is happening not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province!"
The silversmith's words hit a chord with his listeners as he noted that Paul's message not only damaged their business, it also "robbed the magnificent goddess Artemis of her prestige." A crowd began to gather and, after hours of shouting and confusion, the mayor, who feared that the Roman soldiers would take action against the riot, convinced the crowd to disperse.
As noted, the evangelization plan of Paul included visits to two important centers: Athens and Rome. This is what Luke writes: "Afterward Paul felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia (a province on the north coast of the Peloponnese) before returning to Jerusalem. 'And after that,' he said, 'I must go on to Rome!'"
When it was all over, Paul met with the believers in Ephesus and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia, where the team boarded a ship at Philippi and 5 days later sailed east to Troas, where they stayed a week. Luke reports, "On the first day of the week, we gathered to observe the Lord's Supper." The first day of the week is Sunday, so this is one of the first recorded time of the Christian custom of celebrating the Eucharist on Sunday, a custom that spread very quickly among the Christian Greeks, who were not accustomed to a Saturday (Sabbath) celebration.
On the return to Jerusalem, Paul decided against stopping at Ephesus because he was hurrying to get back to Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. But when they landed at Miletus in southwestern Anatolia, he sent a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus, asking them to come down to meet him. Paul had spent almost 3 years at Ephesus and the Church there was well established. The Miletus meeting was a farewell and his last recommendations to the leaders of that Church -- "a meeting of friends and brothers." They wept aloud as they embraced him in farewell, sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again.
Then Paul and his missionary team sailed to the harbor of Tyre in Syria, where they stayed with the local believers for a week. These disciples prophesied that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. The next stop was Ptolemais, also known as Acre, and from there they went to Caesarea, where many believers also prophesied that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. Luke adds, "When we heard this, we who were traveling with him, as well as the local believers, begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." Nevertheless, the group went on to Jerusalem, where they were welcomed cordially.
Although Jerusalem was not the sending Church, Paul nevertheless provided a detailed account of his journey on his return. Paul knows very well that the believers in Jerusalem were mainly Jewish people, who were very attached to the law of Moses. So he must not have been surprised when he heard these words: "They said to Paul, 'You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all take the law of Moses very seriously. Our Jewish Christians here at Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews living in the Gentile world to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They say that you teach people not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. Now what can be done? For they will certainly hear that you have come.'"
They then invite Paul to go to the Temple and take part in a Jewish purification ceremony, so "then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws." But as Paul does so, he is dragged out of the Temple and, as the crowd is trying to kill him, word reaches the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem is in an uproar.
It was A.D. 58. Less than 30 years has passed since Jesus had been accused and condemned in Jerusalem. Luke's description of the location and the circumstances is very similar to that of Jesus' trial: "Crowds followed shouting, 'Kill him, kill him!'"
At this point, Roman authorities intervene and there is a short dialogue between Paul and the Roman commander, who doesn't understand what is happening and is surprised to hear Paul speak Greek. "Do you know Greek?" the commander asked. Greek was the common language of cultured people in the Roman Empire.
The Roman commander later asked Paul, "Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?" "Yes, I certainly am," Paul replied, whereupon the attitude of the commander changes, because under Roman Law, every Roman citizen had the right to be properly judged before any punishment can be inflicted.
Paul, who always grasped any occasion to evangelize, asked the Roman commander to let him speak to the crowds. The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence came over the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.
Paul explains that he was educated in the Jewish law in Jerusalem and became a very staunch defender of the Law of Moses. "I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, binding and delivering both men and women to prison." Then Paul shares his experience on the way to Damascus: How the risen Lord appeared to him and showed him the new Way to follow.
The crowds were listening to Paul, until he mentioned that Jesus had sent him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. When they started shouting again, the Roman commander took Paul to prison. The next day, he brought Paul before the Jewish high council to try to find out what the trouble was all about.
Paul defends himself before the Sanhedrin (the high council) very cleverly. He realized that some were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were all my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!" This divided the council -- Pharisees against Sadducees -- for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these.
So a great clamor arose. Finally, the commander, fearing they would tear Paul apart, ordered his soldiers to bring him back to the fortress. Luke reports that that night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, "Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have told the people about me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome." Paul slowly understands that his imprisonment is the way to get to Rome.
The Roman commander, fearing that the presence of Paul in Jerusalem can cause new riots, then orders Paul to be sent under escort to Caesarea, where the governor Felix (whose wife Drusilla was Jewish) would make a final judgement. In Caesaria, Felix listens to the accusers of Paul and to Paul's defense. Luke notes, "Felix, who was quite familiar with the Way, adjourned the hearing and said, 'I will decide the case later.' He ordered an officer to keep Paul in custody but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to visit him and take care of his needs."
Two years went by in this way, but then Felix is succeeded by a new governor, Porcius Festus. A new trial is organized, and Paul has to defend himself again. At the end of this trial, Paul resorts to his right, as a Roman citizen, to be judged directly by the Emperor in Rome. Luke tells us, "Paul said, 'I appeal to Caesar!' Festus conferred with his advisers and then replied, 'Very well! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you shall go!'"
Finally Paul has the chance of going to Rome -- although in chains! But before Festus can arrange to send Paul to Rome, King Agrippa (a puppet king in Judea for the Romans) comes to Caesaria to pay his respects to the new governor. King Agrippa is interested in meeting Paul and understanding why he has been accused by the Jews. Festus gladly brings Paul before King Agrippa. After the meeting, Luke reports, "When they left, they all agreed, 'This man hasn't done anything worthy of death or imprisonment.' And Agrippa said to Festus, 'He could be set free if he hadn't appealed to Caesar!'"
Thus St. Paul's third missionary journey, which started at Antioch and ends in the prison of Caesarea, where Paul after 2 years of imprisonment will finally begin his fourth missionary journey (in chains) to Rome.
St. Paul's Fourth Missionary Journey - circa 60 A.D. (2,250 miles)
Thus after 2 years of relatively loose captivity at Caesaria, Paul starts his voyage to Rome. Luke, who accompanied him, provides many details of this adventurous voyage. "When the time came, we set sail for Italy," Luke writes. "Paul and several other prisoners were placed in the custody of an army officer named Julius, a captain of the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was also with us. We left on a boat whose home port was Adramyttium; it was scheduled to make several stops at ports along the coast of the province of Asia."
Adramyttium was located on the northwest coast of Anatolia on the Aegean Sea. The Roman province of Asia comprised most of western Anatolia.
The voyage is very difficult from the very beginning. Once the ship reaches the port of Myra, in the province of Lycia in southwestern Anatolia, the Roman officer decides to put the prisoners on another ship. "At Myra the officer found an Egyptian ship from Alexandria that was bound for Italy, and he put us on board," Luke reports. After many days of rough sailing and great difficulty, the ship finally arrives at Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea on the south coast of the island of Crete.
Luke says, "We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for long voyages by then because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship's officers about it. 'Sirs,' Paul said, 'I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on -- shipwreck, loss of cargo, injuries, and danger to our lives.' But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship's captain and the owner than to Paul."
They decided to leave Fair Havens and look for a safer port to spend the winter. Luke then reports, "The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even threw out the ship's equipment and anything else they could lay their hands on. The terrible storm raged unabated for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone."
Everyone now realizes that Paul's words were wise and should have been followed. His wisdom, common sense and his ability to communicate all mix together and make him a true leader. Luke writes,"Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, 'Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Fair Havens. You would have avoided all this injury and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, `Don't be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What's more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you. So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.'"
Luke continues, "About midnight on the fourteenth night of the storm, as we were being driven across the sea, the sailors sensed land was near." When morning dawned, they saw a bay with a beach. After some more difficulties, the ship started to break apart, and all 267 aboard jumped overboard and reached shore safely.
Luke reports, "Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us and warm us."
Luke seems to forget that Paul is a prisoner and he writes as though the warm welcome is for the missionary team as in previous missionary journeys. "Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us courteously and fed us for three days." According to Luke, while on Malta Paul performed some miracles and cured a number of people.
Three months after the shipwreck, the group set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island -- an Alexandrian ship, whose first stop was at Syracuse on the island of Sicily. From there they sailed north to Rhegium, located at the tip of Italy's "toe." A day later, a south wind began blowing, so they sailed up the coast to Puteoli, some 170 miles south of Rome, where Alexandrian grain ships docked with their cargoes. After 7 days, they sailed on to Rome, where Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.
At last Paul is in Rome, the dream of his life. It is amazing to notice (as Luke does), that long before Peter and Paul -- the apostles/founders of the Church of Rome -- even put foot on Roman land, Christian communities were already scattered all over Italy. These communities had been evangelized by other Christians, who had come there for commercial or political reasons.
Once in Rome, although a prisoner, Paul uses the limited amount of freedom still allowed to him by the Roman authorities to continue evangelical work. Luke tells us, "Three days after Paul's arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, 'Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, for they found no cause for the death sentence. But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could tell you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel -- the Messiah -- has already come.'
"They replied, 'We have heard nothing against you. We have had no letters from Judea or reports from anyone who has arrived here. But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about these Christians is that they are denounced everywhere.'"
So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul's house. He told them about the Kingdom of God and taught them about Jesus from the Scriptures -- from the five books of Moses and the books of the prophets. He began lecturing in the morning and went on into the evening. According to Luke, "Some believed and some didn't."
As was Paul's custom, after having addressed the Jewish community, he concludes, "I want you to realize that this salvation from God is also available to the Gentiles, and they will accept it."
Luke then says, "For the next two years, Paul lived in his own rented house. He welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the Kingdom of God with all boldness and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him."
At this point, accounts from the Acts of the Apostles end. We do not know when or whether there was a trial. We know, however, that both Peter, who became the Bishop of Rome, and Paul, were killed during the fierce persecution by the Emperor Nero between the years of 64-67 A.D. Historians believe that Peter suffered death by being crucified upside down, while Paul, who was a Roman citizen, was beheaded.
To summarize, St. Paul was a charismatic leader and missionary whose untiring efforts played a key role in the growth and expansion of the Christian Church. "Indefatigable" is perhaps the best term to describe St. Paul: His four missionary journeys to the Levant, Cyprus, Anatolia. macedon, Greece and Italy covered more than 9,000 miles over a 14-year span and included most of the eastern two-thirds of the Mediterranean Sea. Starting from Antioch in the Levant and Jerusalem, he visited Cyprus; various parts of Anatolia, Macedon and Greece; and finally Rome. Along the way, he established numerous churches, laying the groundwork for the emergence of Cristianity in the Near East and its establishment as the primary religion throughout Europe; a religion that eventually spreads throughout the world.
But why not let Paul sum up the saga of his travels and his his life in his own words as contained in 2nd Timothy, Chapter 4, Verses 6-7:
"As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
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