THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD
Hellenistic is the term conventionally applied to the Greek world between 323 and 30 B.C. Although the period was as tumultuous as its predecessors, politically it was very different. Greek rule under absolute monarchs now extended far across the Middle East and, partly as a result, science and technology underwent a revolution. This chapter attempts to paint in something of the political and social background and to summarize the main achievements of the age in water technology.
Before the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek world essentially encompassed mainland Greece, the Aegean islands and coasts, and Cyprus, though it was extended by numerous if generally small colonies dotted around the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. To this compact world Alexander added, almost overnight, most of Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Persia, Bactria up to the Jaxartes and India as far as the Indus. On his death in 323 his generals partitioned his empire and spent forty years fighting each other before the political map began to assume a relatively stable shape. From their capital at Alexandria the Ptolemies ruled Egypt, Cyrenaica, and sometimes some possessions in Asia Minor and the Aegean. From Antioch the Seleucids ruled much of Asia Minor, Syria, Persia and Bactria. But their huge realm was eaten away at both ends: Parthia seized Mesopotamia and Persia, leaving Bactria isolated as a now independent Greek state, and the emerging Attalid dynasty of Pergamon expanded across Asia Minor. Macedon itself, from which all this had sprung, stayed relatively small. From our point of view, Egypt and Pergamon are the chief actors on the stage, for the Seleucid kingdom and Macedon seemingly played little part in the rise of technology. Alongside these new super-states there remained a bevy of small old-style city states, including the evershifting alliances of southern Greece and, of special relevance to us, Rhodes, Byzantium and Syracuse.
Around 200 B.C. the new power of Rome began to intrude into the convoluted politics of the Greeks, at first as mediator but before