Beginning with the year 323 BCE, this course chronicles the disintegration of Alexander the Great’s empire following his death in Babylon at age thirty-two.
When he was quitting life in Babylon and at his last breath [Alexander] was asked by his friend to whom he was leaving the kingdom, he said, “To the best man; for I foresee that a great combat of my friends will be my funeral games.” (Diodorus XVIII.1)
When Alexander the Great bequeathed his empire “to the strongest” (or so legend has it) he set off a funeral contest that shook the world for decades. Murder, marriage, intrigue, and drama all feature prominently in the story.
The Diadochi (Successors) were no mere plunderers, however. Alexander had left things in great disarray at the time of his death, with no guaranteed succession, no administration in place suitable for such a large realm, and huge untamed areas both bordering and within his empire. It was the Successors– the battle-tested companions of Alexander such as Ptolemy, Perdiccas, Seleucus, and Antigonus the One-Eyed– who consolidated Alexander’s gains. Their competing ambitions eventually leading to the break-up of the empire.
This period of brutal, cynical warfare was also characterized by brilliant cultural achievements, especially in the fields of philosophy, literature, and art. A new world emerged from the dust and haze of battle, and, in addition to chronicling political and military events, this course provides ample discussion of the amazing cultural flowering of the early Hellenistic Age.
To tell the history in full, this class will draw upon a wide range of historical materials, offering the first pre-college course that makes complete sense of this highly complex period. Students will develop their critical thinking skills as they engage a wide variety of primary sources that offer valuable insights into this history on the cusp between eastern and western civilization and the Greek and Roman worlds.
OUR APPROACH TO HISTORY
Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn history best by doing what professional historians do.
This class is taught in a cliffhanger storytelling style designed to increase effective observation and critical thinking skills and to encourage lots of learner interaction. We encourage rigorous (but not ad hominem) discourse, questioning textbooks and teachers alike, and tirelessly trying to improve what we do. We believe in creating a truly welcoming space, where learners can come together with understanding, dignity, and compassion, and where diverse backgrounds and life experiences are embraced.
Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying history involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.
The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.
1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.
1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 0 – 1 hours per week outside of class.
Meets once a week for 8 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-17
Week 1 March 11
[ MARCH 18 – NO CLASS ]
[APRIL 8 – NO CLASS ]
Most of our information about these conflicts is preserved in Books 18 to 20 of the Library of History by Diodorus Siculus, a universal history written in the last century of the Roman republic; Diodorus is not normally regarded as a very reliable source, but for much of this period immediately after Alexander’s death he was drawing on a contemporary writer of the highest quality, Hieronymus of Cardia, who was connected both to Eumenes (former secretary to Alexander) and Antigonus. There are limited fragments, preserved in Byzantine summaries, of the second‐century CE history Events after Alexander written by Lucius Flavius Arrianus (Arrian), and a brief narrative in Books 13–17 of the summary of Pompeius Trogus’ universal history made by Justin, perhaps in the late second-century CE. Additional information is provided by the Roman biographers Nepos (Eumenes) and Plutarch (Lives of Eumenes and Demetrius), and in the Stratagems of Polyaenus, a second‐century CE Macedonian writer.
Anson, E., 1992, “Craterus and the Prostasia,” Classical Philology 87, 38–43.