from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tetradrachm from Macedonia, minted under Alexander the Great (also posthumously), showing Heracles with lion skin

The Diadochi ( ancient Greek διάδοχοι diádochoi , plural of diádochos, successor, takeover) were commanders of Alexander the Great and their sons (also known as epigones ), who after his unexpected death in 323 BC. Divided the Alexander empire among themselves and fought each other with changing alliances in a total of six Diadoch wars . After that, a system of states was established that lasted until the appearance of the Roman Empire in the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd century BC. Should endure and provide the framework for the cultural development of Hellenism .

The terms diadochi and epigones were coined in historical studies by Johann Gustav Droysen . He called Diadochi only those military leaders who fought for power immediately after Alexander's death, while epigones were the following generations of Hellenistic kings. This also corresponds to the different Greek word meanings as "successor" or "born after".


Although some Diadochi already collected the works of contemporary authors in their libraries, hardly any historical or philosophical writings from this period have survived. Most of them were apparently lost in Byzantine times , as they did not correspond to the classical ideals of the language that were championed at the time. Also the writings of the Greek historian Hieronymos von Kardia (around 360-272 BC), who as a collaborator of the Diadochi Eumenes , Antigonos and Demetrios witnessed their disputes, and the chronicles of Duris of Samos (around 330– after 281 BC) . Chr.) Are only preserved in fragments.

It looks much better with the authors who wrote in Roman times. Even if some of them lived several centuries after the Diadochi, Diodor , Justin and Appian are important ancient sources. Also in Roman times wrote Plutarch , who wrote , among other things, Viten von Eumenes, Demetrios and Pyrrhus , and Pausanias , whose description of Greece contains the biographies of the most important diadochi. Diodor, Appian and Plutarch could still - directly or in an arrangement - fall back on the very reliable Hieronymos von Kardia.

The documentary evidence of the Diadoch period is quite extensive, but has not yet been collected centrally. Numerous inscriptions , including contracts, honors, epitaphs and the Parish Chronicle , have been preserved in whole or in part. In addition, Egyptian papyri from Oxyrhynchos and cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia of the first Seleucids, such as astronomical records, lists of kings or the Babylonian diadochic chronicle, are of particular importance for historiography. This is especially true for the period after 301 BC. BC, for which Diodor’s history is only available in summaries.

The comparison of the written sources with the archaeological findings is also important for our picture of the Diadoch period . Titles and portraits of the Diadochi are known primarily from coin images , and who the busts found represent can often not be determined with absolute certainty. The remains of many important cities of this time are rather sparse, not least because in Alexandria or Antioch , for example, large excavations are hardly possible due to modern settlement. More accessible are the Macedonian Residences Pella , Aigai and Demetrias , the later of the were thoroughly investigated, not least Attalids developed Pergamon and AI-KHANOUM in today's Afghanistan .


The collapse of the Alexander Empire

Alexander the Great died on June 10, 323 BC. In Babylon at the age of 32, after he had presented his signet ring to his friend, the military leader Perdiccas, and allegedly let it be known that he would hand over his kingdom to the strongest of his generals. Each of the combat-experienced commanders, who mostly came from the old Macedonian nobility and were partly related to the royal family, now had to ask themselves which of them should succeed Alexander.

The world empire that arose during Alexander's move and that he gave his successors in 323 BC. Left behind

Perdiccas and other officers wanted to see whether Alexander's heavily pregnant wife Roxane would give birth to a son. Perdiccas wanted to secure his father's inheritance, which he actually wanted to appropriate for himself. He found support for this project from the cavalry of the army , in which the nobility had the greatest weight. Resistance to this arose among the phalanx's rank and file . The Macedonian army assembly then called Alexander's weak-minded half-brother Philip III. Arrhidaios as king. When Roxane gave birth to a son, Alexander IV. Aigos, shortly afterwards, this was under pressure from Perdiccas and the leading commanders and with the consent of Philip III. also proclaimed king.

On behalf of Alexander's son, Perdiccas began to reoccupy the satrapies , taking care to keep the military leaders as far away as possible from Alexander's capital, Babylon . Antipater , who gained influence over Perdiccas, retained the office of strategist of Europe and thus ruled Macedonia and Greece . Krateros , nominally Antipater's superior, was initially passed over, but was later appointed "representative" of both kings. Ptolemy received Egypt , Thrace fell to Lysimachus, Eumenes received the still-to-be-conquered Cappadocia and Lycia , Pamphylia and Pisidia went to Antigonus and Seleukos became the commander of the elite cavalry of the Hetaires .

The empire of Alexander was by no means divided, but remained formally a unit. Most military commanders should have realized that their settlement would not last long, but they first had to put an end to the unrest that broke out in his former sphere of influence after Alexander's death: They suppressed an uprising by Greek soldiers in Bactria as well as the revolt of Athens in Greece . The defeat of Athens also made it clear that the age of the politically independent poleis was finally over. The future should belong to the kingdoms of the Diadochi and the Greek confederations .

Soon after the distribution of the satrapies, the laboriously suppressed conflicts came to light. Perdiccas faced a coalition of Antipater, Kraterus, Antigonus, Ptolemaios and Lysimachus, who refused to accept his domination. Ptolemy, in particular, was already speculating on a separation of his territory from the empire. 321 BC Perdiccas, supported by Eumenes, attacked Egypt, but failed at the Nile crossing and was then murdered by his own officers, including Seleucus. At the subsequent conference of Triparadeisus Antipater, who was appointed guardian of the young king, received the satrapy of Babylonia . Antigonus was appointed military leader in Asia and tasked with eliminating Eumenes, who had defeated and killed Krateros.

In arranging his succession, Antipater passed over to his son Kassandros in favor of the general Polyperchon. Kassandros then joined the alliance of Antigonus, Ptolemy and Lysimachus. The subsequent battles, in the course of which the two "loyal to the king" generals Polyperchon and Eumenes cooperated, dragged on for years. At the end of the first phase of the very changeable fighting, 316 v. Chr. Most of the Macedonian royal family wiped out. Kassandros conquered Macedonia and left in 310 BC. Also kill Alexander IV. This increased the endeavors of the other Diadochi to become the successor to Alexander even more.

Meanwhile, Polyperchon had appeared in Greece as the alleged liberator of the Greek poleis, but had soon lost power. He is at an unknown point in time after the peace agreement between Antigonus and the other Diadochi in 311 BC. Died. Eumenes, one of the last advocates of imperial unity, could not hold out either. He was betrayed by his soldiers and handed over to Antigonus, who shortly afterwards had him executed. The fate of Eumenes made the new circumstances clear: the standing Macedonian army had in fact become mercenary units , which were only bound by oath to their respective commander.

Formation of the diadochin kingdoms

Antigonus now openly sought sole rule. He secured his position in Asia and sold 315 BC. Seleucus, who fled to Ptolemy. 312 BC BC these two defeated Demetrios, the son of Antigonus, near Gaza . Seleucus returned to Babylon, secured his power base in the following years and also brought the east of the empire under his control. The following battles between the Diadochi extended again over large parts of the collapsing Alexander Empire , but they did not bring any real decision. With the exception of Egypt, the boundaries of the respective spheres of power were constantly in flux and would only solidify decades later. The power of the Antigonids also grew again after the defeat of Gaza.

The Diadochin empires and their neighbors after the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. Chr.

Demetrios, the son of Antigonus, won a stable position of power at Salamis in Greece and Macedonia through the expulsion of the Macedonians from Athens, the restoration of Attic democracy and the destruction of the Ptolemaic fleet . 306 BC He and his father assumed the title of king of Macedonia, which meant a clear claim to leadership over the entire empire, which theoretically still existed. In the following year, the other diadochi also took on their own royal titles. As a result, a development began that would soon become a typical feature of the Hellenistic ruler's ideology: ritual honors were paid to the monarchs in several poles; some were later even proclaimed gods.

In order to increase his clout, Demetrios renewed on behalf of his father 302 BC. The Corinthian Covenant and took over its leadership. The two Antigonids now faced a coalition consisting of Kassandros, Lysimachus and Seleucus, while Ptolemy waited for the course of events. Fighting broke out again, which began with the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. Ended in the Antigonus fell. With him the idea of ​​imperial unity was in fact carried to the grave, since none of the other rulers had the power to unite the empire again.

In the period after 301 BC A certain equilibrium was established, a multi-year but unstable peace that began in 288 BC. BC ended. After Kassander's death, Demetrios tried to achieve a position of power comparable to that of his father. Lysimachus and Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded Macedonia, forced Demetrios to flee and divided Macedonia among themselves, whereby Lysimachus was soon able to assert himself as sole ruler. Demetrios later died in Seleucid captivity.

Seleucus drew against the now formed empire of Lysimachus, which also included large parts of Asia Minor , in 281 BC. In the war. Although he triumphed over Lysimachus in the battle of Kurupedion , he was shortly afterwards murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos , the eldest son of Ptolemy, who himself aspired to become the Macedonian king. 276 BC Finally, Antigonus' grandson Antigonos II Gonatas took over power in Macedonia. Both events mark the end of the age of the Diadochi.

As a result of the fighting, three great successor states had formed, which until the appearance of Rome in the 2nd century BC. Should endure: the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in Asia and the Antigonid Empire in Greece.


The four Diadochi presented here are meant to represent all of them. A complete listing of all diadochi can be found in the list of the diadochin kingdoms .


Antigonus (Ἀντίγονος) was a contemporary of Alexander's father Philip II. His power base was initially in Asia Minor, but he eliminated Eumenes and thus brought most of the Asian part of the Alexander Empire under his rule. In the following years Ptolemy and Seleucus became his main opponents. With Ptolemy he fought for Syria and the control of the sea in the eastern Mediterranean, with Seleucus for Babylon and the eastern satrapies . Antigonus rose and his son Demetrios in 306 BC. To kings, the remaining diadochi followed suit. With that the Alexander Reich was finally broken. Nevertheless, Antigonus is considered the last advocate of imperial unity.

The abundance of power of Antigonus was so great that the other diadochi feared to be subjugated by him one after the other. Ptolemy, Seleucus and Lysimachus allied against him and defeated Antigonus in 301 BC. In the decisive battle at Ipsos , in the course of which he was also killed. Despite this defeat, Antigonus became the progenitor of the last Macedonian royal dynasty, the Antigonids . His son Demetrios tried in vain to bring the Macedonian heartland under his control, his grandson Antigonus II. Gonatas finally secured the Macedonian throne for himself and his successors.


Ptolemy I Soter (bust from the Louvre in Paris)

Ptolemy I (Πτολεμαῖος) took over the satrapy of Egypt after the death of Alexander , where he later had Alexander's body transferred to legitimize his power. He participated in the Diadoch Wars, secured Egypt and took 306 BC. The title of king. He expanded his empire to include Cyrene and Cyprus and secured it externally through a clever marriage policy and internally through a good military and administrative organization. In addition, Ptolemy I promoted the sciences and arts. Among other things, he founded the famous Alexandria library . 285 BC Ptolemy abdicated in favor of his son Ptolemy II . The actual heir to the throne would have been his eldest son Ptolemy Keraunos . He fled to Seleucus' court with his mother, who had been cast out. Ptolemy I died in 282 BC BC, shortly before the end of the Diadoch Wars.


Lysimachus (Λυσίμαχος) was appointed governor of Thrace by Alexander . After his death in 323 BC At first he did not take part in the battles among the other Diadochi, but secured his rule over Thrace. Because of his brutal methods, Lysimachus was considered barbaric by many contemporaries . After the death of Eumenes, Lysimachus attacked Asia Minor and Macedonia and joined the coalition against Antigonus. After its end in the Battle of Ipsos, Lysimachos came into conflict with his previous ally Seleucus, whom he met in 281 BC. Was defeated at Kurupedion . Lysimachus' death at Kurupedion is considered to be the end of the Diadoch Wars.


Seleucus I Nikator (bust from the Louvre in Paris)

Seleukos (Σέλευκος) was the son of a general Philip II. He accompanied Alexander the Great on his campaign in Asia and distinguished himself in the fighting in India in 326 BC. Chr. From. After Alexander's death, Seleucus did not receive his own satrapy . 321 BC He was involved in the murder of the regent Perdiccas and received the satrapy of Babylonia during the second division of the empire. After conflicts with Antigonus he won Babylonia in 312 BC with the support of Ptolemy. Finally as a rulership.

306 BC Like the other diadochi, Seleucus took the title of king. Two years later he made peace with the Indian ruler Chandragupta , after he had subjugated eastern Iran and advanced into the Punjab . He ceded part of his dominion to them and received 500 war elephants in return that were killed in the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. Chr. Meant a decisive advantage. In this battle he defeated Antigonus together with Lysimachus. 285 BC He took Demetrios, son of Antigonus, prisoner. Four years later he defeated Lysimachus in the battle of Kurupedion. Seleucus now wanted to take possession of Macedonia and Thrace, but was murdered by Ptolemy Keraunos shortly after crossing to Europe. Seleucus left his son Antiochus I with the Seleucid Empire, the largest but also the most heterogeneous Diadochian Empire .

Sociocultural floor plan

Further information on this topic: Hellenism

Rule and administration

The kingship of the Diadoch rulers stood on two pillars, the succession of Alexander and the acclamation by the armies. The states did not exist independently of their form of government, the kings were not kings of Syria, but kings in Syria. The kingship was not a state office, but a personal dignity; the monarch saw the state, which was not conceptually delimited from it, as his affair . Theoretically, the whole conquered land was in the possession of the king, which is why he was able to transfer it to a foreign power like the Romans in his will.

The personality cult that had developed around Alexander was promoted by the Diadochi. The cultic veneration of the Diadoch rulers was at least initially not promoted by themselves, but brought to them from outside through the “free” poleis of Greece. The rulers were initially only called "godlike". It wasn't until 304 BC The Rhodians referred to Ptolemy I as god and called him Sōtēr ("Savior").

The Diadochi and their successors ruled with the help of written decrees. The ruler was advised by a committee of friends and relatives. The most important man next to the king was the property manager, who was responsible for economy, finance, administration, army and foreign policy. While one can already speak of an absolutist state at the time of the Diadochi, the typical Hellenistic ruler's cult only began under their successors. The form of rule of the Diadochi gained a decisive influence on the younger Greek tyranny , the Carthaginians and the Roman Empire.

The administration of the Diadochen realms was organized centrally and was led by professional officials. This apparatus of officials was in the tradition of the Achaemenid and Pharaonic empires. In ancient Greece there was something comparable only in private estate management. Like the employees of a property of its owner, the officials of the Diadochi were dependent on their ruler. The administration of the Diadochi laid the foundation for the labor-intensive bureaucracy of the Hellenistic period. Local officials were rarely admitted to higher offices, which were usually occupied by Macedonians or Greeks.

The territorial structure of the Diadochian empires goes back to Alexander the Great himself. Alexander had given the military powers of the local satraps to Macedonian strategists, who gradually took over the entire administrative work after his death. The strategists were now also responsible for the settlement system and the judiciary. The king could assign parts of the kingdom, which was divided into districts and villages, or the income from them as fiefs. The external estates that did not belong to the royal land formed a separate type of territory. These enclaves were not under the direct administration of the Diadoch ruler. Some of them became independent in the course of time, especially in the east of the Seleucid Empire and in Asia Minor.

Army and warfare

The army was of fundamental importance for the Diadochian empires. In addition to national defense, it performed four tasks in particular, which the Macedonian Army Assembly assumed:

  • the proclamation or confirmation of a king (acclamation) ,
  • the appointment of guardians for underage kings,
  • the recognition of royal wills and
  • the condemnation of political opponents as state criminals.

The size of the armies is difficult to determine because the ancient historians have often exaggerated in this regard. However, there can be no doubt that the Hellenistic armies were enormous compared to the armies of the classical period, numbering tens of thousands. The army's very great influence at the beginning of the Diadoch period, however, continued to decline, and later only the garrisons of the capitals were able to impose their will on the political leadership.

The use of war elephants goes back to Seleukos , who kept 500 Indian elephants in Apamea . In addition, camels, armored horsemen , scythe chariots and siege machines were used, with siege technology making enormous progress. Demetrios I. Poliorketes , the son of Antigonus , gave important impulses for the navy , who built huge capital ships with up to sixteen rows of rowers. The twenty-, thirty- and forty-row ships built later by the Ptolemies, on the other hand, were probably pure showpieces that were only built in very small numbers.

The Diadochi already had a standing army that was mobile and always ready for action. In times of war it was supplemented by a large number of military settlers, who were settled in cities by Seleucus and in villages by Ptolemy. The military settlers were mostly Greek immigrants and built the cities founded for them themselves. However, mercenaries were also recruited and a few local troops were integrated into the phalanx .

Economy and Infrastructure

Alexandria was the economic center of the Hellenistic world

The Diadochen empires pursued a planned economic policy. The elimination of corruption, economic idleness and often chaotic private initiatives made Egypt the richest country and the Ptolemaic king the richest man in the ancient world. He benefited not least from the inclusion of the rich temple districts, which previously formed a kind of state within the state. Its capital Alexandria remained the largest trading center in the then known world until the time of the Roman emperor Augustus .

The basis of the Hellenistic economy was agriculture, organized down to the last detail. The introduction of modern cultivation methods made Egypt the breadbasket of the eastern Mediterranean, the king received about a third of the income. The Macedonians introduced viticulture in Seleucid Babylonia . Private entrepreneurs remained more leeway in the commercial sector.

Staple foods such as oil, salt, fish, beer, honey and dates, the production of papyrus, textiles, glass and luxury items, as well as transport, banking and foreign trade were the responsibility of the state. This protected its own economy with tariffs of up to 50% and achieved considerable foreign trade surpluses, not least through an expansion of trade with the East.

Coinage and banking as a whole were also in the hands of the state. All banking transactions were documented in writing using the accounting system developed in Athens. The state revenue consisted of the proceeds of the royal warehouses, the proceeds of the crown estates, the customs duties and the taxes collected from tax farmers. The state budget comprised the most important items of keeping the court, the payment of soldiers and civil servants, and foreign policy expenses such as tributes. Tax evasion was punishable by imprisonment or sale into slavery .

Society and social structure

The diadochin kingdoms were characterized by two great contrasts: the division into social classes and the division into nationalities. The nobility only played a minor role. This was also in the interest of the Diadoch rulers, whose civil servants depended on the fact that offices were awarded according to efficiency and not according to birth. Therefore ranks awarded by the king were initially not hereditary.

The slaves were also less numerous than in other ancient states. The farm work in Egypt was carried out by fellahs who were legally not considered slaves. Marriages between free and unfree were relatively common. Apart from the temple slaves , there were slaves mainly in the private households of wealthy Greeks. They were considered luxury goods and were therefore subject to a special tax. However, prisoners of war in slave status were already among the Diadochi. These worked mainly in royal quarries and mines.

The greatest social problem was the contrast between Greeks and Orientals. Philo attests to the existence of a two-class society: Egyptians were punished with the whip, Greeks only with a stick. The proportion of Greeks in the total population was no more than one percent. Ptolemy and Seleucus soon made a separation between native and Greek officials. When setting up its administrative apparatus, the former completely renounced the use of locals, who were only allowed to bear political responsibility at the level of the village mayors. It fits into this picture of an apartheid society that mixed marriages were forbidden and each population group was subject to its own law. The contrast between immigrants and Orientals was therefore greater and more important than that between slaves and free.

The Diadochi and their successors wanted to strengthen the Greek element in their states and therefore encouraged their immigration. Greeks entered the service of the king as soldiers or officials and settled in the Greek cities of the east, in which they were immediately granted citizenship as private citizens, as traders, traders or farmers. Settled immigrants were exempt from military service. But Galatians and Jews were also accepted into the army, the cities also accepted Jews and Phoenicians . The differences among the immigrant Greeks soon leveled out, a kind of “unified Greek” emerged, local traditions receded, and an all-Greek lingua franca ( Koinē ) developed.

Arsinoë II with Ptolemy II

The Macedonians remained culturally independent the longest. However, the term “Macedonian” soon became a class term and was later used by Jews themselves. Overall, the desire to belong to the Greek culture was great among the Orientals. Even the Romans invoked an alleged consanguinity before Seleucus through their legendary Trojan ancestors. In this way, despite the rigid separation of the ethnic groups, it was ultimately easier to mix Greeks and Orientals. In the Nile Valley the Greeks were Egyptized and the Egyptians Hellenized. Ptolemy showed himself to be particularly accommodating towards the Fellahs, probably above all to prevent possible uprisings. In any case, the prosperity of the Egyptian peasants in the Diadoch period increased so much that a Fellache earned more than a Greek worker on Delos .

The situation of women in the Diadochian empires was also relatively good. They gained the right to testify in court in their own name and to run businesses independently. All levels of school education were also available to them. Women attended the gymnasium , worked as poets or philosophers and organized themselves in their own associations. In Delphi and Priene women officiated as archons . In addition, important women had access to the citizenship of foreign cities. Women from the royal family like Arsinoë II , the daughter of Ptolemy, even actively intervened in politics. However, newborn girls were still far more exposed than boys. But this fate only seldom met the daughters of female slaves, unfree people were generally coveted as luxury goods.

Religion and cult

The diadochi allowed their subjects to worship native gods. But while Seleucus allowed their places of worship to self-govern, Ptolemy tried to integrate the rich sanctuaries of Egypt into his administrative apparatus. The Ptolemies allowed themselves to be worshiped in the temples and also appointed the priests. Greek inspectors took over the supervision of the temple economy , even Greek priests were present. The temples' income was taxed and their right of asylum restricted, but the cult itself was largely preserved in its pre-Hellenistic form.

Not only in Egypt did the diadochi themselves enjoy divine honors. Already in 324 BC Alexander ordered His own deification. The Diadochi continued the cult of Alexander, the center of which was Alexander's tomb in Alexandria. They also promoted legends about their own divine ancestry. While there was no cultic worship of the ruler in Macedonia, it was soon practiced on a large scale in the other two realms. The sons of the Diadochi ordered their fathers and their own person to be worshiped and built their own temples for this. In each Gau a high priest supervised the ruler's cult, in honor of the Diadoch rulers festivals were held regularly, which attracted guests from all over the world.

Judaism took off among the Diadochi and their successors. The spiritual center of this Hellenistic Judaism was no longer Jerusalem, but Alexandria. Towards the end of the Diadochian period, work began on the Septuagint , the Greek version of the Old Testament . Overall, the Jews were subjected to a Hellenization process, which, thanks in part to the support of Seleucus and the first Seleucids, led to extensive equality with the Greeks.

New oriental religions of salvation became more and more important in the Diadochian kingdoms. The Olympian gods of the Greeks lost their importance. Religion became a private matter, only the ruler's cult remained as a connecting element. In addition, the most momentous innovation in religious politics was the introduction of the Sarapis cult by Ptolemy. Sarapis was a fusion of the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis and the Greek father Zeus . In addition, Greek and Oriental gods were increasingly equated, for example the harvest goddess Demeter with Isis , the wife of Osiris.

Science and culture

The philosopher Epicurus was a contemporary of the Diadochi

The Diadoch period initiated the upswing in science and technology of the Hellenistic period, from which the modern age was to benefit. The Alexanderzug was already accompanied by surveyors whose records were of great importance for geography . Some of the most important philosophical currents emerged in Hellenism (see, for example, Stoa , Epicureanism and Peripatos ), but mathematics , art and medicine were also able to develop further during this productive period.

Since the time of the Diadochi, Alexandria with its Museion and the well-known library became the center of Greek scholarship . The Museion, located in the palace district of the city, can best be compared with a modern university . In addition to philosophy, science and medicine were also taught there. The doctors of Alexandria, namely Herophilos and Erasistratos , were probably the first to venture into a comprehensive study of human anatomy and to dissect those who were executed for it. The library attached to the Museion contained up to 700,000 rolls. Ptolemy II, the son and successor of Ptolemy, had the writings of the Greeks, Chaldeans , Egyptians, Romans and Jews collected, acquired the library of the philosopher Aristotle, who died at the beginning of the Diadoch Wars, and bought other books, especially in Athens and Rhodes. Callimachus wrote the first library catalog, the first head of the library was Zenodotus of Ephesus .

Even if the capital of the Ptolemies was systematically developed by them into the cultural center of the Hellenistic world, the other cities did not miss out. The Greek mother country in particular was repeatedly given donations by the Diadochi ( euergetism ). In order to influence the Greek public in their favor, the Diadochi supported the Poleis financially through foundations and buildings such as the Olympieion in Athens. This ostensible support of the cultural life and the financial situation of the cities contrasted with their far-reaching political disempowerment. Foreign policy, the military and taxes were now a matter for the Diadoch rulers, who, despite everything, treated the cities relatively cautiously. In this way, in the Hellenistic period, culture and science could develop in them in a way that made Hellenism the modern age of antiquity.

Menander renewed the comedy

The astronomical work of Eudoxus of Knidos was continued in the 3rd century by Aristarchus of Samos , who founded the heliocentric worldview and recognized the rotation of the earth. Already in the time of Alexander Pytheas sailed the North Sea and discovered Britain . Ptolemy II sent envoys to India and had the interior of Africa explored. Many advances were also made in the field of technology, for example Demetrios I Poliorketes had a siege engine known as the Helepolis constructed with which he attacked Rhodes .

But the literature of this time also experienced an upswing: Callimachus, the most important Alexandrian poet, as well as his students, among them Apollonios of Rhodes , who wrote his famous work on the Argonaut saga. In general it can be stated that Hellenistic literature moved within the framework of already known genres, but developed and reorganized them. Menander was especially important in the field of comedy . The transformation process in literature was encouraged by public schools and the extensive library system of the Hellenistic period. Thanks to these libraries, for the first time scientists and writers were able to draw on and deal with material that had already been analyzed on a broad basis.


From antiquity to the 19th century, the time of the Diadochi was generally viewed quite negatively. For Plutarch , freedom ended with the death of Demosthenes in 322 BC. And thus at the beginning of this time. The Diadoch period marked the end of the Greek classical period and thus the beginning of Hellenism, which was perceived as a process of decline . However, it was mostly overlooked that the canonization of the so-called Classics did not take place until Hellenism and that the term itself only emerged in Roman times.

The positive appreciation of the time of the Diadochian empires goes back above all to the historian Johann Gustav Droysen in the 19th century, who described Hellenism as the modern age of antiquity . Droysen turned against the idealization of the classical period and said that the Diadochen undertook a successful attempt to particularistic Polis system to overcome and capture large countries politically and economically really by central planning. The assessment of the Diadochian states as parts of a comparatively modern, urban world civilization, which was characterized by an economic upswing, technical progress, mobility, individualism and the encounter of different cultures, goes back to Droysen. In the 20th century, this assessment found general acceptance.

In general, it can be said that no real agreement has been reached to date. Even the American historian Peter Green comes to a rather negative assessment in his study From Alexander to Actium, in contrast to Graham Shipley or Hans-Joachim Gehrke . Even Alexander Demandt champions Droysens assessment and emphasizes the similarities between Hellenism and modernity. According to him, the time of the Diadochian empires is in a similar relationship to classical and archaic times as the modern age to the Middle Ages and antiquity. He sees similarities in the expansion of living space, the establishment of colonial regimes over technically less developed peoples, scientific and technical progress, the emergence of a world market and urbanization .

The importance of the Diadoch period in the field of foreign policy is largely undisputed. During this time, a foreign policy system of rules emerged that fixed interstate relations. However, this regulation was accompanied by an instability in the Diadochian states, which was due to the fact that almost every Diadoche wanted to become a great conqueror in the style of Alexander the Great.

In the time around 300 BC The Diadochian empires were almost exclusively involved in battles with one another, with the weaker being able to defend themselves against stronger ones through alliances. Later, individual Diadochi empires also entered into alliances with the Romans, who had meanwhile become the dominant power in the Mediterranean, whereby the balance of power increasingly shifted in their favor and these - and not the Diadochi - finally became the executors of the great Alexander by being able to establish a world empire, that lasted for several centuries.


Overview works

Single diadochi

  • Richard A. Billows: Antigonos the One-eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State . University of California Press, Berkeley 1997, ISBN 0-520-20880-3 (first published 1990).
  • Christian A. Caroli: Ptolemy I. Soter. Ruler of two cultures . Badawi, Konstanz 2007, ISBN 978-3-938828-05-2 (also dissertation, University of Konstanz 2007).
  • Walter M. Ellis: Ptolemy of Egypt . Routledge, London / New York 2003, ISBN 0-415-10020-8 (first published 1994).
  • Janice J. Gabbert: Antigonus II Gonatas. A Political Biography . Routledge, London / New York 1997, ISBN 0-415-01899-4 .
  • John D. Grainger: Seleukos Nikator. Constructing a Hellenistic Kingdom . Routledge, London / New York 1990, ISBN 0-415-04701-3 .
  • Helen S. Lund: Lysimachus. A Study in Early Hellenistic Kingship . Routledge, London / New York 1992, ISBN 0-415-07061-9 .
  • Andreas Mehl : Seleukos Nikator and his empire. Seleukos' life and the development of his position of power (=  Studia Hellenistica . Volume 28 ). Universitas Catholica Lovaniensis, Leuven 1986 (also habilitation thesis, University of Stuttgart 1982/1983).
  • Michael Rathmann : Perdiccas between 323 and 320. Administrator of the Alexander Empire or autocrat? (=  Austrian Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-historical class. Meeting reports . Volume 724 ). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-7001-3503-3 ( scientific review ).
  • Christoph Schäfer: Eumenes von Kardia and the struggle for power in the Alexander Empire (=  Frankfurt ancient historical contributions . Volume 9 ). Clauss, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-934040-06-3 .

Web links


  1. See Droysen's History of Hellenism .
  2. General on the Hellenistic sources and the problems associated with them Graham Shipley: The Greek World After Alexander, 323–30 BC . Routledge, London / New York 2000, ISBN 0-415-04618-1 , pp. 1-32 . Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Geschichte des Hellenismus , p. 159, and in detail Jakob Seibert, Die Zeit der Diadochen , pp. 1-69 as well as Rudolf Schubert: Die Quellen zur Geschichte der Diadochenzeit , especially on the time of the Diadochs . Scientia, Aalen 1964 (reprint of the Leipzig 1914 edition).
  3. On Hieronymus von Kardia see Felix Jacoby : Hieronymos 10). In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume VIII, 2, Stuttgart 1913, Sp. 1540 ff. More detailed Jane Hornblower: Hieronymus of Cardia . Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 1981, ISBN 0-19-814717-1 .
  4. For a more comprehensive presentation, see the article History of Hellenism . With a detailed discussion of the research problems Jakob Seibert, The Age of Diadochi , pp. 70–167, easy to read Hans-Joachim Gehrke, History of Hellenism , pp. 30–46 and Jürgen Malitz : From Alexander to Cleopatra. The political story . In: Gregor Weber (Ed.): Cultural history of Hellenism. From Alexander the Great to Cleopatra . Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-608-94126-5 , p. 22-35 . An important recent work on the chronology of the Diadoch period is Tom Boiy: Between High and Low. A Chronology of the Early Hellenistic Period (=  Oikumene. Studies on ancient world history . Volume 5 ). Verlag Antike, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-938032-20-6 ( review by R. Malcolm Errington ).
  5. See Polybios 5, 41.
  6. See Philo, In Flaccum , 10.
  7. See Peter Green: Alexander to Actium. The historical evolution of the hellenistic age . University of California Press, Berkeley 1990, ISBN 0-520-05611-6 , pp. 80 ff .
  8. Plutarch, Demosthenes 3.
  9. ^ Gellius 19, 8, 15.
  10. ^ Droysen, Historik , 1843, p. 384.
  11. Alexander Demandt, Ancient Forms of State , p. 318.
  12. Hans-Joachim Gehrke: The victorious king. Reflections on the Hellenistic Monarchy. In: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte , Volume 64, 1982, pp. 247-277.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on May 11, 2005 in this version .