Alexander & after

Alexander & after
Persian control of Anatolia continued until 334 BC when a new force stormed across Anatolia. Alexander and his Macedonian adventurers crossed the Dardanelles at Çanakkale, initially intent on relieving Anatolia of the Persian yoke. Sweeping down the coast they rolled the Persians at Granicus, near Troy, then pushed down to Sardis, which willingly surrendered. After later successfully besieging Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum) Alexander ricocheted ever-eastwards disposing of another Persian force on the Cilician plain. In the former Phrygian capital of Gordion, Alexander encountered the Gordian knot. Tradition stated that whoever untied the knot would come to rule Asia. Frustrated in his attempts to untie it, Alexander dispatched it with a blow of his sword. Asia lay before him; he and his men thundered all the way across Persia to the Indus until all the known world was his dominion. Alexander was seemingly more disposed to conquest than to nation-building, and when he died in Babylon in 323 BC he left no successor. The enormous empire he had created was to be short-lived – perhaps he should have been more patient with that knot – and was divided between his generals in a flurry of civil wars. However, if Alexander’s intention had been to cleanse Anatolia of Persian influence and bring it within the Hellenic sphere, he had been monumentally successful. In the wake of Alexander’s armies, a steady process of Hellenisation occurred, a culmination of the process begun centuries earlier that had so provoked Cyrus, the Persian king. A formidable network of municipal communities – the lifeblood of which, as ever in the Hellenic tradition, was trade – spread across Anatolia. The most notable of these was Pergamum (now Bergama). The Pergamene kings were great warriors and governors and enthusiastic patrons of the arts. Greatest of the Pergamene kings was Eumenes (r 197–159BC) who ruled an empire extending from the Dardanelles to the Taurus Mountains and was responsible for much of what can still be seen of Pergamum’s acropolis. As notable as the building of Hellenic temples and aqueducts was the gradual spread of the Greek language, which came to extinguish the native Anatolian languages over a period of centuries. All the while the cauldron of Anatolian cultures continued to bubble, throwing up various typically short-lived flavour-of-the-month kingdoms. In 279 BC the Celts romped in from southeastern Europe, establishing a kingdom of Galatia centred on Ancyra (Ankara). To the northeast a certain Mithridates had earlier established the kingdom of Pontus, centred on Amasya, and the Armenians, long established in the Lake Van region, and thought by some to be descendants of the earlier Urartians, re-established themselves having been granted autonomy under Alexander. Meanwhile, across the Aegean Sea, the increasingly powerful Romans were casting covetous eyes on the rich resources and trade networks of Anatolia.