Kings and Kingship in the Hellenistic World 350-30 BC, John D Grainger

Kings and Kingship in the Hellenistic World 350-30 BC, John D Grainger

The Hellenistic world is famous for the three main dynasties - the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, the Seleucid rules of a vast empire centred on Syria, and the rules of Macedon. However these were only the largest and most powerful of a surprising large number of dynasties, some ruling on the fringes of the larger empires, and some that achieved effective independence from them (in particular from the often ramshackle Seleucid empire). This book looks at all of these dynasties, and attempts to discover what made a king in this period, what their role was, and how successful they were.

The thematic arrangement works well, allowing a direct comparison between the various dynasties. The main differences between them were normally matters of scale, with the three main dynasties ruling much larger areas and having much greater resources at their disposal than the many smaller rules, but they all had many features in common, almost all having to deal with powerful cities within their kingdoms, rival family members, periodic outbursts of warfare and the problem of keeping the dynasties alive.

One does wonder why anyone was willing to become a monarch in the Seleucid dynasty - of the around 40 monarchs of the dynasty, only two weren’t deposed, murdered or killed in battle! This also helps explain why there were so many rulers in this particular dynasty, helped by the tendency towards the end for reigns to overlap. At least to start with the Ptolemaic dynasty was more stable, although this was partly achieved by each new monarch murdering many of their potential rivals within the family, making life as a younger child rather nervous!

This is a fascinating study of this period, viewing these monarchs as significant rulers in their own right, and not just a bridge between Alexander the Great and the Romans. They generally emerge as rather more sensible and successful rulers than they are often portrayed, at least when the various dynasties weren’t being pulled part by civil wars, but in the end almost all of them failed to turn their personal monarchies into stable countries with their own identity, helping to explain why almost none of them outlived the dynasty.

1 - Becoming a King
2 - Kings and the Gods
3 - Kings and Kings
4 - Kings, Wives and Children
5 - Kings and Palaces
6 - Kings and Governing
7 - Kings and People
8 - Kings and Cities
9 - Kings and War
10 - Kings and Death
11 - Kings and Intellectuals
12 - Usurpations, Legitimacy and Extinctions
13 - Kings and Rome

Author: John D Grainger
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2017

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