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Kingdoms, Cities and Hellenization - 30 credits (HS3315)

Staff: Stephen Lambert, Laurence Totelin, Shaun Tougher

The unresolved conflicts of the fifth century BC left the Greek states struggling to adapt to a more fluid political landscape, while external powers exploited their divisions. Ultimately they lost their political independence to Philip II of Macedon. The astonishing career and conquests of his son Alexander won a huge Greco-Macedonian empire, which divided after his death into several large kingdoms, creating complex patterns of Hellenization and cultural adaptation. The module explores these varied and important themes, paying attention both to the characters and contributions of leading individuals and to the major political, social and cultural transformations of the period across the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East. The module introduces students to the particularly wide-ranging nature of the sources, including literary texts, inscriptions and papyri.

Optional for: all Ancient History degrees
Availability: autumn and spring semesters in alternate years
Teaching: 30 lectures and 6 seminars
Assessment: one essay (35%); two class tests (15%); one 2-hour examination (50%)

Syllabus content

  • the period of Spartan hegemony; the King's Peace; the Second Athenian Confederacy; the rise of Thebes; Common Peace agreements
  • the background to Macedonian history and society; Philip's consolidation of power and the expansion of Macedon; the conquests of Alexander, his relations with his army and his policies towards his newly created Empire
  • the wars of the Successors and the establishment of the Ptolemaic, Seleucid and Macedonian kingdoms; their policies, structures and interrelationships to c. 200 BC;. the nature of Hellenistic monarchy, cultural interaction within the kingdoms, and, social, military and intellectual developments


  • To consider a significant period in the history of the Greek world at a time (404–c. 200 BC) of shifting balances of power and rapid social change in Greece, followed by the rise to hegemony of Macedon, and the major transformations and expansion which followed the conquests of Alexander.
  • To foster understanding of the fourth-century changes in Greek political and social systems; the reasons for the growth of Macedonian power; the nature and consequences of Alexander's conquests, and the impact and extent of the resultant Hellenization, in the new kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East.
  • To understand and to use the sources for the period, both historians and other writers, and archaeological and documentary evidence.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, the student will demonstrate:

  • a knowledge of the events of fourth- and third-century BC Greece, and of the political and economic forces that shaped them.
  • an ability to assess critically modern interpretations of events such as the decline of Sparta and the rise of Thebes, the rise to power and hegemony of Philip, the nature of Alexander's rule and empire, and the political, economic and cultural policies of the Ptolemaic, Seleucid and Macedonian kingdoms.
  • an ability to assess the value of the main historical sources, including Xenophon, Demosthenes, Arrian and Diodorus, in the light both of their historical and literary aims and preoccupations, and of the other literary archaeological and documentary evidence.
  • an ability to discuss these issues in coursework and examinations with coherent and logical arguments, clearly and correctly expressed.

Primary sources (to be bought)

Xenophon, A History of My Times (Penguin Classics)
Greek Political Oratory (Penguin Classics)
Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander (Penguin Classics)
Plutarch, The Age of Alexander (Penguin Classics)
M. M. Austin, The Hellenistic World from Alexander to the Roman Conquest (second edition, 2006)

Preliminary reading

S. Hornblower, The Greek World 479–323 BC (1983)
L. Tritle (ed.), The Greek World in the Fourth Century (1977)
R. M. Errington, A History of Macedonia (1990)
G. L. Cawkwell, Philip of Macedon (1978)
J. R. Ellis, Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism (1976)
A. B. Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: the Reign of Alexander the Great (1988)
R. Lane Fox, Alexander the Great (1973)
F. W. Walbank, The Hellenistic World (1981)
P. Green, Alexander to Actium: The Hellenistic Age (1990)
A. K. Bowman, Egypt after the Pharaohs 332 BC–AD 642 (1986)
N. Lewis, The Greeks in Ptolemaic Egypt (1986)

Related modules

Prerequisite module: HS3101 Introduction to Greek History

Other modules to consider taking in conjunction with this one:

HS2389 Art and Archaeology of Classical Greece

HS3309 Greek Values

HS3314 Expansion and Conflict in the Greek Poleis

HS3330 Gods and the Polis

HS4351 Army and Society: Homer to Alexander

HS4356 Hellenistic Art and Architecture