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The approximate core areas of distribution of hieroglyphic, cuneiform, alphabetic and syllabic scripts in the Eastern Mediterranean area (c. 12th to 7th cents. BC)

(1,492 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
In the history of writing systems, three different fundamental methods of recording the spoken word have been established: these are – in order of emergence – ideographic, syllabic and phonetic scripts. Any known writing system on this planet, including those of the Ancient World, is bound to use one of these methods or a combination of them, with the phonetic script – including the special case of the mostly oriental consonant script (e.g. Phoenician) – best suited to represent combinations of sounds. The Early Iron Age ( c. 12th to 7th cents.) was chosen as the most suitable era…

Trading routes in the Hellenistic period (4th–1st cents. BC)

(1,866 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
In spite of the many military conflicts, the Near East and the Mediterranean region formed an increasingly close-knit zone of economic and commercial activity in the Hellenistic period. Participants were the Hellenistic kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean, the Carthaginian thalassocracy, the Greek cities and leagues and, from at least the 3rd cent., the ascendant power of Rome. This process of integration was assisted by the increasing establishment of the money economy. The most important com…

Anatolia, 10th–7th cents. BC

(2,081 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The map covers the so-called Dark Ages, a time during which – as far as we know – at least western and central Asia Minor were scriptless until the 8th cent. This period saw the emergence of the Phrygian and Lydian kingdoms, the only verified major kingdoms in the western half of Asia Minor before the rise of the Persian Achaemenids. For Anatolia the two empires also marked the transition from the so-called prehistoric era to the historic one; they are mentioned in Assyrian source texts as well.…

The development of the Macedonian Kingdom from the 7th cent. until 336 BC

(1,459 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
Until its final political union under Philip II (360/59–336 BC), the region of Macedon was the contact zone between the non-Greek, Illyrian tribes on the Adriatic coast to the west (separated from Macedon by mountain ranges), the Thracian tribes to the east, the northern regions as far as the Istrus/Danube, and the Greek poleis to the south (also separated by high mountains). Politically speaking, Macedonia rose within just two generations from being little more than a scarcely-noticed peripheral phenomenon in the Greek north to becoming the leadi…

Egypt from the 4th to 1st cents. BC

(1,447 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
I. The Ptolemaic kingdom (323 BC–12 August 30 BC) (map A) The Ptolemies established themselves in Egypt, which Ptolemy I initially (323 BC) held as a satrapy, after the death of Alexander the Great (Ptolemy’s assumption of the royal title: 305 BC). They ruled with the help of the immigrant Graeco-Macedonian upper class (functionaries, colonists, esp. in the region of the drained Lake Moiris/Faiyum, and klerouchoi), who were socially and politically dominant, but they always had to fulfil the expectations of the indigenous elite (priests, later Egyptian klerouchoi and functionaries…

The Hellenistic world in the 2nd cent. BC

(1,658 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The 2nd cent. BC was the period during which the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean came under Roman rule. This came about not so much through a policy of aggression on Rome’s part (in fact, the Romans long sought to avoid involvement in the east, not least because of their commitments in the west, e.g. Punic Wars) as in consequence of the self-seeking prestige politics typically pursued, as throughout the preceding Hellenistic period, by the Hellenistic monarchs and the Greek cities and leagues. Ultimately, Rome established a presence in the Balkans and Asia Minor …

The Aegean area in the Bronze Age

(1,923 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
Far from separating the nations living on its shores, as is the case today, the Aegean Sea in Antiquity served as a medium of interaction to its coastal communities in Macedonia, Greece and Crete, along the shoreline of Asia Minor and in the Ancient Balkan region in the north. In the Aegean Bronze Age ( c. 2700– c. 1200 BC) and the subsequent Iron Age ( c. 1200– c. 900 BC), cultural assets and ideas spread along the sea routes to such a degree that we can speak of an ‘Aegean koine’, although interpretation of the surviving material and textual sources shows that…

The Arsacid kingdom in the 1st and 2nd cents. AD (to AD 224)

(1,917 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The Parthians, or to use the name of the ruling dynasty, the Arsacids, built a kingdom from the 3rd cent. BC in what is now Iran, taking the place of the Seleucids; it encompassed large parts of Mesopotamia, the south-eastern portion of Central Asia and some adjoining peripheral zones, and it formed the link between the Graeco-Roman world on the one hand and Central Asia (and China) on the other. Many details of its history remain obscure because of the poor state of the sources. The Parthians a…

The Peloponnesian War (431– 404 BC)

(1,634 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The theme of the map is ‘the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians’ (Thuc. 1,1,1) which was also called ‘the Peloponnesian War’ in subsequent ancient writings (Ephorus, the Hellenistic chronographers, Diod. Sic. 12,37,2 etc.; Cic. Rep. 3,44). Among scholars this term is also used for the so-called First Peloponnesian War (460/58/57–446), which means that this one would have to be termed the Second Peloponnesian War. It covers the military conflict between Athens and its Delian League …

The Hittite Empire, ‘Ḫattusa’, in the 13th cent. BC

(1,511 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
There is demonstrable proof that as early as the 3rd millennium BC, Hittites were living in the area bordering on the inside of the arc formed by the river Halys. From the end of the 18th cent. BC onwards, they succeeded in creating a territorial state which was already characterized by the specifically Hittite organization of government, in which the king and his clan shared an equal degree of responsibility. The Hittite Empire, particularly the so-called Great Empire (14th/13th cents.), repres…

City development and town planning in Greece

(2,021 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The layouts of Athens (Athenae) and Miletus typify two different types of Greek city structure, which would today be described as ‘naturally grown’ in the case of Athens, and as ‘planned’ to characterize Miletus. I. Athens (maps A and B) The overall map of ancient Athens (map A, overlaying the plan of today’s Athens) shows the ring-wall (no. 20) erected directly after the destruction of Athens by the Persians (480 BC), the connection with the ‘Long Walls’ (to the southwest, no. 23) which around the middle of the 5th cent. were built to provi…

The conflicts of the Etruscans and West Phoenicians with the Greeks (6th cent. to c. 400 BC)

(2,226 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
While (Western) Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans had arrived at an understanding about their areas of settlement and economic spheres of influence in the western and central Mediterranean in the 7th cent. BC, this balance was increasingly disturbed from the 6th cent. onward. The map shows the central Mediterranean region (Tyrrhenian Sea), i.e. the area of contact between the three most powerful trading nations and the theatre of war for the essential military operations from c. 540 BC onward. I. Causes of the conflicts One cause of the conflicts was the expansion of the Greek…

The Iberian Peninsula and its contacts in the Late Bronze Age and in the Early Iron Age (c. 13th to 7th/6th cents. BC)

(1,094 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
As reflected in Greek myth (the Pillars of Hercules), the cultures in the southwest and along the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula and its 200 km wide hinterland strip had been trading partners of the contemporaneous high civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean region from the Final Bronze Age. Nevertheless their cultures and the prehistoric cultures of the central plateau and the north-west have only in recent times been accorded appropriate interest in research. The choice of pe…

The extent of Mycenaean culture in the Aegean area (17th to 11th cents. BC)

(1,923 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The Mycenaean civilization has been named after its main site Mykenai/Mycenae, located in the Peloponnesian Argolid. In scholarly usage the term signifies the Late Bronze Age (late 17th–11th cents. BC) civilization of mainland Greece and the continuation of the Minoan palace system across the whole Aegean region under Mycenaean auspices (see map Map A – The Aegean area in the Early Bronze Age (c. 2700-2000 BC) — Map B – The extent of the ‘Minoan Koine’ in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (c. 2200-1400 BC)). Its essential manifestations are the finds and findings at the sites immort…

The Hellenistic world in the 3rd cent. BC

(1,538 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
I. Sources and the current state of research The source material on the development and formation of the Hellenistic states of the 3rd century is particularly sketchy for the period from the death of Pyrrhus of Epirus (319/18–272 BC), whose life is included in Plutarch’s collection of biographies, and 220 BC, the starting-point of Polybius’ Histories. All that has survived is some disconnected remarks by various ancient writers, such as the Latin excerpts made by Justin in the 4th cent. AD from a history written in the first cent. AD. There are also…

Commerce and trade in the Mediterranean world, 7th/6th cents. – 4th cent. BC

(1,479 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
In Antiquity, the most important sector of the economy was a type of agriculture which was essentially based on the social organization and labour form of subsistence farming, with crop farming and animal husbandry being largely practised as separate branches. The Mediterranean region is characterized by favoured areas suitable for rain-fed agriculture, situated mostly in the coastal zones and on certain basinal plains, both of which were targeted by Phoenician and Greek colonists. The stable cl…

Colonization: Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans in the Mediterranean area (c. 11th–6th cents. BC)

(1,203 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The term ‘colonization’ here encompasses various settlement movements in the Mediterranean region from the 11th cent. on, which had a significant impact on the political geography and history of the Mediterranean world. The peoples involved were the Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans. This definition does not include, for example, immigrations during the 3rd/2nd millennia, the Minoan and Mycenaean expansions, or the Celtic incursions into the Mediterranean region. In spite of the sometimes weak basis of literary and archaeological sources and considerable diffe…

Greece, the Aegean and western Asia Minor, late 9th – c. mid 6th cents. BC

(1,531 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
The main map is concerned with Greece, the Aegean and Asia Minor in the period following the ‘Dark Ages’, from the late 9th cent. to the middle of the 6th cent., a period which in art encompasses the Geometric ( c. 900–700 BC) and the Archaic ( c. 700–500 BC) periods. This era has not yet attracted sufficient attention from archaeological and historical research. Its politically most important events were the development of the polis structure in the Greek cultural area and the so-called Great Greek Colonization, which started around 750 BC. In Asia Minor, Greek citie…

The six Syrian Wars (275/74 –168 BC)

(1,769 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
Modern scholarship uses the term ‘Syrian Wars’ to denote the group of six conflicts that took place from 275/274 to 168 BC between the Ptolemies and Seleucids, over possession of southern Syria. The initial cause was the state of occupation following the partition of the kingdom of Antigonus in 301 BC. Seleucus I gave southern Syria, which had been allocated to him, to his ally Ptolemy I, who had recently (302/01) conquered the territory; however, Seleucus did not give up his claim to it (Diod. …

City foundations and educational establishments in the Hellenistic period (4th–2nd cents. BC)

(945 words)

Author(s): Wittke, A.-M.
‘The matter of whether one was a Greek or a “barbarian” was decided on the basis not of origin or race, but of education’ (H. Gehrke). The Greek term for education, paideia, denoted education as a process of ‘upbringing’ and, at the same time, as ‘cultivation’, as an attribute and result of the process of schooling. The Greek educational ideal in the Hellenistic Period was characterized by free personal development. The concept of schooling encompassed gymnastics, artistic and literary education, imparted through private tuit…
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