The country of Greece we know nowadays was once very different and more complex. It was a land divided. The mainland of Greece as it is now, was split into five city-states called Athens, Corinth, Delphi, Sparta, and Thebes. Each state was ruled independently.
Each Greek state operated under its own laws. They had their own armies and government systems. These Greek states may have lived side-by-side, but they often fought each other. One of the most well-known; Sparta called themselves Spartans instead of Greeks. In their eyes, they were spartan first above all else.
Occasionally, however, the five states were forced to join together to fight other invaders, countries who tried to lay claim to Greece and invade the country. The most well-known of these invaders was the Persian Empire, and these wars became knowns as the Greco-Persian Wars.
The Greco-Persian Wars started in 492 B.C and lasted around fifty years. Two main invasions of Greece took place in 490 B.C. and 479 B.C., but the combined armies of the Greek State forces fought the invaders off to reclaim their Greek and Spartan States once more.
There have been many great Greek rulers throughout time. The most famous was Alexander the Great (Alexander III), who ruled from 336 B.C. to 323 B.C. Originally from Macedonia, Alexander the Great was a ruler and warrior who led numerous war campaigns including; The Balkans Campaign, The Battle of Granicus, the Battle of the Persian Gate, Siege of Halicarnassus, Battle of Issus, Siege of Gaza Siege of Miletus, Siege of Tyre.
Alexander the Great is also a ruler surrounded by mystery. The details of his death are conflicting. No one knows exactly what happened and the location of his tomb/grave is still a mystery. Many think the tomb still in Alexandria in Egypt, but no one knows for sure. This mystery is still the focus of archaeological investigations today.
After the death of Alexander, the most famous Greek rulers were the Ptolemy Dynasty who reigned strong in Egypt. This dynastic rule came about when Ptolemy, a Macedonian bodyguard, was made governor of the state of Egypt. After Alexander the Great died, Ptolemy intercepted Alexander’s body as it was being taken to Macedon for burial. Ptolemy took Alexander’s corpse to Memphis in Egypt before he was again then moved to Alexandria in Egypt.
Ptolemy joined the fight against Perdiccas, a royal regent over Philip III of Macedon. Philip had invaded Egypt, but his victory was short-lived, and was assassinated in 320 B.C. by his men. Ptolemy seized his opportunity and took control of the country of Egypt. The Ptolemaic rule of the country was officially born.
This interesting Ptolemaic rule lasted just over 250yrs, eventually becoming a melting pot, merging with the Egyptians and Romans. The most famous of the Ptolemy’s was the last ruler of Egypt, Queen Cleopatra. The Ptolemy dynasty died out in 30 B.C. with Caesarion (Ptolemy XV).
Other Greek ruling dynasties were: Seleucid Dynasty who ruled in Asia Minor, the Attalids of Pergamon, Ruler of Pontus, Ruler of Baktria. Greece’s many and varied ancient rulers eventually died out between 129 B.C. and 30 B.C.
The rulers of Greece were famous, brave, and numerous. Their stories were legendary, and they paved the way for a truly great country filled with a complex history of their ideas, thoughts, and actions. Many mysteries remain about these ancient rulers, their lives, and their deaths, but it only makes it more fascinating.
If you missed the first article in our series of posts about Ancient Greece you can read it here:
Ancient Greece by Geddes and Grosset
Ancient Greece, Utopia and Reality by New Horizons
An Introduction to Greek Mythology by David Bellingham
Greek Mythology by Katerina Servi, Archaeologist
The Encyclopaedia of Greek Mythology by Guus Houtzager
Department of Greek and Roman Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art