Monday, August 19, 2013

The Hellenism of Syria and its historical decline

Map with the sites of the Greek settlement in Syria

The presence of Hellenism in the area of historical Syria and middle East starts from the 4rth century BC, after the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was boosted by the founder of the Seleucid kingdom Seleucus I who was son of Antiochus the general of King Philip of Macedon.There are some references though about Greek presence in Syria earlier than the 4rth century BC. Philosopher Livanius stated that the Greek town of Ione which was located near Antiochia of Syria was a Greek colony that was established since the times of the Assyrian empire.Ione was founded by Greek people from Argos and later it was settled by Cypriots and Cretans too.
 As a memorial for his victory against the Persians in the battle of Issus, Alexander the Great founded a city called Nicopolis and a city called Alexandria over Issus.One of the diadochi of Alexander called Antigonus founded a city called Antigoneia and settled it with Atheneans.Later Seleucus, according to Libanius founded many Greek cities in Syria to create a Greek core in his multinational empire. Libanius exaggerated by saying that Seleucus founded so more Greek colonies than Athens and Miletus did during the big colonization of the Mediterranean.
 According to the chronographies of Malalas and Pausanias, Seuleucus founded 75 cities in Mesopotamia and Persia. The area of Syria was colonised and many cities were created and promoted Greek culture.The most famous of these was Antioch.It was founded in 300 BC and was colonised by Atheneans,Cretans,Macedonians and Cypriots. It became the center of the Hellenism and later of Christianity in Syria.
Palmyra. The ruins the findings by archaeologists suggest a strong Hellenistic presence in this ancient city.
 Antioch became a metropolis considering the city sizes of antiquity.It became a center of Greek arts,philosophy and rhetorics.Near Antioch there was an another Greek city called Apameia. Apameia was the name of the wife of Seleucus.Its citizens were also calling it Pella. According to Strabo near Apameia were also built several Greek towns like Megara, Larisa and Apollonia.
The coastal city of Laodicea took its name from Seleucus' mother.It was a prominent city in Syria just like Seleukeia over Orontes which was the port city of Antioch.Other famous Greek cities in Northern Syria were Arethousa,Epiphaneia,Ierapolis,Veroia,Herakleia,Poseidion,Herakleion, Germanikeia,Doliche,Nikopolis ,Kiristine and Seleukovilos.
Damascus was not founded by Greeks but during the Seleucid rule it was colonised by Greeks. Historians refer that Olympic games were taking place in Damascus.Another famous Greek city was Chalkis over Velus which was the hometown of philosopher Iamblichus.Homs which during the Hellenistic times was named Emessa was the hometown of the Stoic philosopher Poseidonius. Palmyra was also settled by Greeks. There are numerous of Greek inscriptions that were excavated by archaeologists.
Representation of how Antioch would look like in Antiquity
 Some of the most renowned Greeks who were born and lived in Syria were the historian Apollodorus of Artemita, the physician Apollonius of Antioch, the philosopher Apollophanes from Antioch,the son of Iamblichus Ariston, the poet Archias from Antioch, the rhetor Demetrius the Syrian, the stoic philosopher Diogenes from Seleucia and the historian Selecus from Emessa.

Antioch was the city were the terms Christians and Christianity were coined.The language of the Antiochian church was Greek. Paul the apostle who founded the church in Antioch wrote his letters in Greek.The Greek orthodox christians of Syria descend from these first christians. There are many christian text authors that were born and lived in Syria. All of the them had Greek education.

Seleucus I founder of the Seleucid kingdom which streched from Syria to India but later it would be confined only in the Hellenized region of Syria.
Until the 7th century and the rise of Islam Syria was primarily a christian country with a Greek speaking population.Antioch was the gate of Greek culture in the middle east.When the Arabs took the city, Hellenism and christianity bagan to dwindle.After 1453 and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans the Orthodox patriarchs of Antioch were found in a position fighting the Catholic propagnada and the massive conversion of Christians to Islam due to their persecution and for economic reasons.

 Since the 16th century when a latin bishop settled in Sidon many Orthodox christians converted to catholicism.In 1837 the Uniate church was acknowledged by the Ottoman Sultan and acquired many of the assets of the orthodox church.The Patriarchs of Antioch had meagre economic means to confront the Catholic influence.Afterwards a Russian called Porphyrius Uspensky appeared in 1843 and founded the Palestinian company which would promote the interests of Russia in the area.The Russians who wanted to take the primacy of the Orthodox world from the Greek orthodox patriarchate in Constantinople incited the Arab issue. They compelled the Syrians to abandon the Greek language as their church language and change it with the Arab language.
This scandalous intervention of the Russians caused the resignation of the Patriarch of Antioch in on April the 15th 1897 and the election of an Arabic speaking patriarch, excluding the Greek speaking candidates.
"Convent of our lady" Greek orthodox church in Syria
In the end of the 19th century the area of Syria was populated by Ansari, Chriastian and Islamic Arabs, Amenians,Bedouins,Druze(people from Libanon,Greeks,Jacobites,Ismailites(shiite Persians),Israelites,Circassians,Kurds,Latins,Maronites(people who settled there hunted by the Byzantine as heretics who adhered Monothelitism),Melkites(christianized Arabs),Syrians,Turks,Turkomans,Chaldeans,Roma people and Persians.
Byzantine Emperor Justinian and Theodora in an Orthodox church fresco.
We can say that generally these populations were descended from Ancient
 Syrians(Aramaeans),Ancient Greeks,Arabs,Turks and Western Europeans.Regarding the religion the Greek speaking populations which were under the jurisdiction of the Antioch patriarchate were located in Tarsus, Adana, Erserum and Diyarbakir.All these areas were out of historical Syria and this illustrated the general demise of Hellenism in Syria.According to unofficial statistics of the Patriarchate there were 500,000 Greek speaking people in the area that streched from Syria to Lebanon and Iraq.
The current events in Syria attract now the global attention.It's a country that traditionally had many antitheses concerning its populations that lived there.Among these populations still continue to live the remnants of the once dominant Hellenism of Syria and they are also endagered by this ongoing civil conflict. 

source: American-Greek newspaper "Hellas"(page 32)
translation of the Greek text done by the blog owner.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Celts in the heart of the Hellenistic world

Continuing from: and
The regions of Asia Minor during the Hellenistic era

The Celts were unsuccesful at their campaigns in Greece. Although they plundered many of the riches of Macedonia and Thessaly, they were not able to settle down somewhere as they intended to do(They brought their families with them)

As we were saying in the part 2, one part of the Gauls returned  to the Danube,  a second one went northeast where they established the kingdom of Tylis in Thrace(Nowadays Bulgaria) and a third one was cut off from Brenus' army to join the pretender of the throne of Bithynia Nicomedes I who was fighting against his brother.

                                            Tylis: The Celts in Thrace

The Celts failed to find a new homeland in Greece but achieved it temporarily in Thrace.Comontorius found a city called Tylis and estalished a short lived realm in 279 BC. The reason for this was that later the Celts would migrate once again towards Asia Minor where they would later establish Galatia.Tylis was destroyed by local Thracian tribes in 212 BC. 

Crossing the Hellespont into Asia minor

The dying Gaul. A famous statue that was displayed in Pergamum the capital of the Attalids after their victory of the Gauls.
In the 270s three Celtic tribes numbering 10.000 men able to fight and 10.000 women and children,crossed the Hellespont under the leadership of Leonnorios and Leotarios, responding to the invitation of Nicomedes I.The Gauls settled in the area were Phrygia was located in the central Anatolian plateau. Since then the area would be called Galatia.With the use of the Celts Nicomedes I defeated Zipoetes II and was able to unite the whole of Bithynia under his rule. 
As it is aforementioned the Gauls settled in Galatia and were also reinforced with new Celtic populations that migrated from Thrace.They made their living by raiding nearby areas in Asia minor. This caused frictions and war with the powerful Seulecid empire.Eventually the Gauls were defeated by the Seleucid king Antiochus I who used war elephants in the battleground.The Gauls also sided with a pretender Seulecid King  who wanted to overthrow the rule of the Attalids in Pergamum. The Attalids however defeated the false king and his Celtic allies confining them finally back to their original territory in Asia minor.
Galatia was the Easternmost settlement of Celts in antiquity. Another feature was that this settlement was completely isolated from the Celtic world. It was like a Celtic islet within the Hellenistic world.


Gaulish art. The face of a Gaul. The hellenistic influence is obvious.
Even though afterwards the area was named after them, the Gauls never formed a majority in Galatia. They rather formed a military aristocracy which governed the Celtic tribes in the area. The other populations in Galatia like the native Phrygians were left to control their own affairs undisturbed as long as they would pay tribute to their overlords.
A Gallic chieftain kills his wife and commits suicide. After their defeats y Antiochus I and Attalus Soter, the Gauls had to retreat back to Galatia.

The Gaulish tribes were frequently fighting each other and a Gaulish kingdom was never formed.However they were able to keep control of the region until the arrival of the Romans.
Contemporary historians called the Galatians GalloGraeci and the area Gallo-Graecia. It seems that they had adopted some aspects of Greek/Hellenistic culture.Consequently the Galatians were hellenized to a degree of almost full assimilation. During the Roman conquests of Galatia, Roman writers were marking that many Galatians were of mixed race. This suggested that there were a lot of intermarriages during the previous years.

The Organisation of tribes in Galatia.
  1. the Tectosages in the centre, round with their capital Ancyra,
  2. the Tolistobogii on the west, round Pessinus as their chief town, sacred to Cybele, and
  3. the Trocmi on the east, round their chief town Tavium. Each tribal territory was divided into four cantons or tetrarchies. Each of the twelve tetrarchs had under him a judge and a general. A council of the nation consisting of the tetrarchs and three hundred senators was periodically held at Drynemeton.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Greek captain of the early U.S navy.

 George Colcovoresses

George Colvocoreses (Γεώργιος Κολβοκορέσης) was a Greek-American officer of the US navy.He was born on 22 October 1816 in Chios, descended from a noble family.During the Chios massacre by the Ottomans he was caught by the Turks along with his 2 sisters and his mother.His remaining 6 simblings were all killed.His family's property was destroyed and confiscated.

His father,with the assistance of American missionaries,achieved to release him when he was 8 years old and sent him to Baltimore in U.S.A.There he was adopted by the lieutenant Alden Partridge who was the founder of the American scientific and military academy(nowadays university of Norwich) which was the first private military educational institute in U.S.A. In 1831 he graduated and was accepted in the ranks of the American navy.In 1832 he was appointed as a recruit and in 1836 he served in the frigate "United States" which was part of the U.S naval unit of the Meditteranean which would later become the 6th fleet.From 1838 until 1842 he served in the research team of the U.S.A in the Pacific Ocean.His impressions were illustrated in a book that he wrote bearing the title:Four years in a Government Exploring Expedition.
The outbeak of the American civil war found him fighting for the North.On January 29,1862. He was captain of the frigate USS Supply and achieved to capture a transport ship of the South which was carrying war supplies.In 1864 as captain of the warship Saratoga he was distinguished  in many naval missions.In 1867 he retired with the rank of the captain.
George Kolkovoresis was assassinated on June 3,1872  at Bridgeport of Connecticut while waiting for the ship for New York.Initially his death was attributed to suicide. The case is still unsolved today.He got married twice and had 4 children.
Three of his descendants followed a military career. His son George Colcovoresses reached the rank of admiral and his great grandson Alden  Colcovoresses became a colonel.
In his honor a sea strait in the Piugit canal of Washington state was named Kolvos passage and a gulf in Antarctica was named Colcovoresses bay

 George Colcovoresses' grave

Προς τιμή του, ένα θαλάσσιο στενό στον Πορθμό Πιούτζιτ της πολιτείας της Ουάσινγκτον ονομάστηκε «Πέρασμα Κόλβος» (Colvos Passage), καθώς κι ένας κόλπος στην Ανταρκτική (Colvocoresses Bay).

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