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The object on this page is part of a Hellenistic theatre mask (MU 3764).


This section of the site, developed by Dr Andrew Bayliss, provides some background information about the Hellenistic Period and is designed to assist teachers and students undertaking two topics in the Ancient History Stage 6 Syllabus: (1) Part III Option M: Greece: The Hellenistic Period from the death of Alexander the Great to Cleopatra VII, and (2) Part I Option I: Greece: Cleopatra VII.

The MAC has numerous artefacts from the Hellenistic Period, the most notable being a golden diadem from Macedon and numerous gold and silver coins from the Macedon and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms.

The main difficulty for any student of the Hellenistic Period is the lack of an ancient source that adequately covers the whole period. The only continuous source that has survived is Justin's Epitome of the Philippic Histories of Pompeius Trogus. Justin was writing some time around the second century AD, and his work is not sufficiently detailed or reliable to provide the basis that we need. We are forced to compile our information from a variety of sources. Plutarch's lives of Demosthenes, Phokion, Eumenes of Kardia, Demetrios Poliorketes, Pyrrhos of Epeiros, Agis IV and Kleomenes III of Sparta, Aratos of Sikyon, and Philopoimen, T. Quinctius Flamininus, L. Aemilius Paullus, C. Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius provide us with information from the death of Alexander down to the death of Kleopatra, but unfortunately do not provide us with a complete narrative. Diodoros of Sicily provides us with a narrative of events from 323 to 300 in his Library of History , and Polybios outlines events from the third and second centuries BC in his History . The Roman historians Livy and Dio Cassius provide us with some information, as do the geographers Strabo and Pausanias. All of these sources (which are often difficult to acquire) are available for consultation at the Macquarie University Library.

The best solution to the problem of sources has been provided by M.M. Austin's collection of ancient testimony, The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest , ( Cambridge , 1981). This collection includes 279 ancient Greek documents (literary sources and inscriptions) translated in to English.

The Ancient History Stage 6 Syllabus : (1) Part III Option M: Greece: The Hellenistic Period from the death of Alexander the Great to Cleopatra VII outlines several key issues that need to be examined by students, e.g. the aftermath and consequences of the death of Alexander the Great, and the role of significant individuals especially the Antigonid, Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings (most importantly Perseus).

This page includes essential background information in PDF format about the Seleucid dynasty, the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Attalid dynasty, and the different Macedonian and Thracian dynasties from the Hellenistic Period. This includes detailed genealogical tables, and short biographies of key individuals e.g. Perseus and Kleopatra, with links to relevant artefacts at the Museum of Ancient Cultures .

Note: It used to be the custom to Latinise the spelling of Greek names in English. For example the Greek name Alexandros became Alexander, Philippos became Philip, Kassandros became Cassander, Ptolemaios became Ptolemy, and Kleopatra became Cleopatra. This custom is reflected in the Ancient History Stage 6 Syllabus . In recent years the trend has been to transliterate such names, and this is how I have spelled names on this web page. It should be noted that I have not been entirely consistent. For reasons of clarity I have retained the Latinised spelling in some cases, e.g. Athens rather than Athenai , Cyprus rather than Kypros. Alexander the Great remains Alexander to distinguish him from other bearers of the name Alexandros, and the same applies for Philip II of Macedon, Ptolemy I Soter and Cleopatra VII.

Andrew J. BaylissMacquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures

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