Iran After the Death of Alexander & Its' Resistance to Foreign ideas


By Maryam Hedâyati



Artist impression of Alexander burning Persepolis


Alexander's victory at Gaugamela in 331 BCE was his third and final defeat of the armies of Darius III. A period of drastic political and social upheaval began for the Orient when the Macedonian warlord, looking for the consolidation of his conquest, settled Greek and Macedonian veterans in the Near East. Hellenic occupation meant the suppression of native rule and traditional kinship. Under Alexander's successors, Antigonos the One-Eyed, Seleucus, Ptolemy and Lysimachos began development of permanent Hellenic occupation of the region.

Oriental theology about kingship was the Kings were believed to be vice-regents of the great high gods, of Ahura Mazdah (Zoroastrianism, the Creator), of Yahweh, or of Marduk (Babylonian religion, the chief of the Babylonian deities), or even to be gods themselves, as in Egypt. The law these kings enforced was divine a therefore, Macedonian and Greek imperialism was an attack on the all-ruling gods of the East.1

The word "Hellenism" is used to cover all the facets of Greek culture, and therefore embraces not only philosophy, drama, and the rational view of life, but also other Greek and Macedonian values. Many Hellenes were deeply concerned with the maintenance of armies, the conduct of economic life, the business of the various departments of Hellenistic monarchies, or the pursuit of high personal status, than with philosophical schools, the theatres, or the empirical study of nature and human institutions in areas they occupied. The society of the Hellenistic world was very much diversified and extremely complex, and this was true for the Orientals as well as for the Greeks.2

When Darius III, King of the Medes and Persians, was defeated, killed and his army of once numerous and powerful, had been destroyed or dispersed in the fateful battles of Granikos, at Issos, and near Guagamela, the Persian Empire, which in its day had comprised by far the vastest and wealthiest parts of the ancient world, law in fragments un-mourned by its several nationalities. Iran, homeland of the Achaemenids and of the Empire's satraps, an Empire which once had sent out kings to vanquish most of Asia, had fallen almost without any resistance. Its roads had been run by foreign soldiers, and its palaces had been looted of the treasures that once had flowed in from all the countries under heaven of Ahura Mazda. The capital, Persepolis, had been despoiled, its sacred sculptures insulted and defiled, then burned and destroyed by that very element that was the holy manifestation of the Persian fire-Yazat, Atar, Atur (NPer. Azar).

The ravaging of Persis was inspired by the hatred that had burned in Greek hearts since the days of Cyrus the Great' conquest of Ionia, a hatred which had been fed by the first Darius' suppression of the Ionian revolt of 493 BCE and Xerxes' subsequent attempt to overrun Hellas itself. All those years the Greeks had felt the heavy burden of feeding the invading host and seeing some of its cities depopulated as a Persian policy against any mass resistance or revolt.3

The burning and destruction of Greek, or Babylonian temples by the Persians did not come out of the conviction that foreign deities were necessarily evil, but because temple spoliation was a source of easy treasure and because deity-kidnapping was universally practiced in the East to undermine the local will, and even the ability to resist. We know that Iranians on the other hand sometimes enlarged non-Iranian temples, as in the case of the Temple of Ammon at Hibis in Egypt. Nor did Iranians have any objection to specifically Greek rites or Greek religious personnel; for example, when Xerxes captured Athens 480 BCE, he ordered the restored Athenian exiles with him to offer Hellenic-style on the Acropolis.

The Iranians never ceased trying to recover the parts of western Anatolia that were taken from them by the Delian League of Greek city-states, nor did the Hellenes ever stop trying to create trouble for Iran in her Egyptian province. Because Persian gold frequently was a force in Greek international politics, the leaders in the city-states and later in Macedonia never were able to escape from a fear of Iranian meddling or aggression. Hatred of Iran was kept alive through warfare down to the time of Philip and more than a century's suffering, humiliation, and dread created in many Greeks a desire for violent revenge, which could hardly fail to colour their dealings with the conquered Iranians after Alexander.

To many Greek who witnessed the last years of the expiring Achaemenid empire, deceit and cunning seemed to have replaced manliness and courage, and the cares of state to have been abandoned for drunkenness and revelry. Not that a Greek would feel a fine moral shiver at this evidence of decadence; its significance to him was that a hard-bitten adventurer with well-sharpened weapons and under the proper leader could enrich himself without undue risk.4

This picture of Iranian weakness acquired the force of authority, a prestige which it retained even after the conquest and down to the time of Strabo.

In Greek eyes, then, the Persian Empire was a place of fabled wealth of gold, silver, splendid horses, of amazing agricultural fertility, all possessed by weaklings. Poverty-ridden as Greeks were, their economy racked of continuing intercity wars, their society threatened by the presence of sporadically employed, hungry mercenary soldiers in the fourth century the Persian empire seemed an object that they with their military and technical superiority could easily convert into a source of booty. Contributing to this feeling was the fact that the Greeks, because of their competence, were holding an increasing number of military and professional posts in the Empire.5

Alexander thought that the empire that he wanted to consolidate could be ruled in peace and no arrogance was needed like some of his generals had suggested. The official treatment of the beaten Iranians was by ancient standards remarkably lenient and human. Not only Alexander continued to employ many of the provincial governors in his own administration in Asia, he also behaved according to the customs prescribed for an Achaemenian monarch, recruited noble Iranians for his army and gave them high rank and privilege, and undertook to marry his generals to aristocratic ladies of Iran. Alexander's policy of fusion of East and West found its most impressive expression expression in his celebration at Opis, where Greeks and Persians consummated together a sacrificial communion meal, while Alexander the Idealist prayed that, homonia, a "like-mindedness, concord," might be created and made to last between his European and Asiatic subjects. Greek seers and Persian Magi (a class of Zoroastrian priest in ancient Iran, reputed to possess supernatural powers) together conducted rites to solemnize this attempted marriage of East and West. 6

After Alexander's death, the old prejudices reasserted themselves. For example, out of eighty marriages with Iranian ladies, only one, that of Seleucus and Apama lasted. Seleucus by 312 BCE had begun the consolidation of an empire that covered most of Asia, including Iran. Many of the Greek immigrants were adventurous and self-reliant types, like Eumenes of Kardia, intent on making new lives for themselves in the conquered East, and determined to grow powerful through royalty to the Macedonian regime, cost what it might to the former overlords of Iran. As a result, however enlightened Seleucus I may have intended his regime in Iran to be, however human many of his officials, like Peukatas of Persepolis, undoubtedly were, still, many of the imperial rights had looked upon their holding positions in the satrapies and hipparchies of Iran as an excuse to grow rich, such men were Kleandros and Polymachos.

Iranian resistance to the Macedonians, therefore, never lacked for provocation, and in fact never stopped after the death of Darius. Some of the satraps Alexander had retained in service turned out to be half-hearted in their support of the new regime, and some actually rebellious to it. Those who remained loyal to the idea of native Iranian rule were gradually eliminated and replaced by Europeans. The failure of guerrilla resistance like that of Spitamenes of Sogdiana, however showed the Iranians that the immense technical and organization superiority of the Europeans made further attempts at open military resistance as vain as the deployment of the huge armies of the Great king. But if the physical resistance was impossible, religious resistance was not. It was even natural to the ideals of Iranian civilization.

Since the existence of a Iranian monarchy, preferably Achaemenian, was part of the right order of this world created by Ahura Mazda, hopes for resurrection of a specifically Iranian state were in part religiously inspired. Ahura Mazda, like Marduk or Ashur, was an imperial deity who having created the earth, set human beings to rule it as he wanted it ruled. As immortal and beautiful Ahura Mazda continued to live, so did his state continue to survive.

Two ideas, the displacement of the notables and the interruption of the divinely ordained state and kingship, underlined all the Persian religious literature of resistance. One example of that fascinating collection of protest is The Sybilline Oracles. The Sibylline literature was widely known in all the ancient world, and was revered for its authority and antiquity. The earliest Greek author to mention a Sibyl was Herakleitos of Ephesos in the late sixth century. A Sibyl was a divinely inspired woman who uttered prophecies of amazing and usually disastrous things to come. Prophecy by inspired women was extremely well known in the Near East. The witch of Endor was one of the mentioned in the old Testament; in the late Assyrian times the Assyrian kings themselves attached considerable importance to prophecy. A similar institution flourished among the Iranians. Strabo mentions water-diviners, dream-diviners, and the Magus, who prophesied in much the same way as Assyrian prophetesses.7

There was other Iranian religious propaganda of presumably early date. While it has left not trace in classical authors, it has left traditions in the Avesta (a collection of sacred Zoroastrian writings, including the Gathas) and the Pahlavi (the Indo-European, Iranian language of the Zoroastrian literature of the third century to the tenth century, the script used in writing this language derived from the Aramaic alphabet) translations of Arsacid and early Sassanid times. Only two copies of the Avesta were then in existence, and Alexander destroyed one when he burned Persepolis and the other was stolen from a certain fortress and was taken to Greece for translation, never to be returned to Iran. However A.T. Olmstead and E.E. Herzfeld have maintained that this story was fabricated in late Parthian or early Sassanid times to explain the then lack of written sacred literature. H.S. Nyberg condemned literal belief in this tradition and called it a fantasy. On the other hand, it has been accepted as generally trustworthy by a number of scholars, among them K.F. Geldner, A.V.W. Jackson, and W.B. Henning that the latter view is correct, because there was evidence that a written Persian sacred literature existed, and can be safely supported that Persepolis contained copies of it.8

It would, after all, have been the usual thing for Persepolis, the religious center of the Persian empire, to have maintained a library of religious literature. And it could be safely assumed that this library was destroyed when Persepolis was burned and the buildings fell in, particularly if the writing had been done on perishable material. Alexander's conquest threatened to bring about the end of Iranian religion through the destruction of the religious capital and important archive, a destruction spectacular enough and sufficiently well known to be used as effective propaganda.

Iranian anti-Hellenic religious movement came to have great influence all over Western Asia. Certain Iranians prophesied that the hated European would be expelled from Iran and from Asia by divine intervention and the Orient would be restored to its former primacy. This is stated in the old Testament Book of Daniel; in fragments of an Oracle of Hystapes quoted by Lactantius as late as 300 CE and in a Medieval translation from Aryan (Old-Persian) into Pahlavi (Middle-Persian), the Bahman Yasht. The document Bahman Yasht stated that human history is moving, the advent of a savior who defeats evil and restores religion and the kingdom, was also a development over beliefs of Achaemenid times. The Bahman Yasht. is intimately connected with the Achaemenid period of Iranian religious development. It is vaguely parallel to a Bahman Yasht in Persian, a ritual invocation of Ahura Mazda against the power of daevas, who are led by Ahriman (evil spirit).9

Both in Bahman Yasht and the Oracle of Hystaspes is stated that the principal cause of the Iranian resistance was the loss of the Persian empire. However the Iranian resistance came from articulate elements of Iranian society, that is, from those people who had been a part of or close to the dynasty, the aristocrats of both the landholding military and religious classes. Their position of high status was in danger. As far as Iranian culture as a whole was concerned, there were far too Greeks in Iran seriously to modify it. Those Europeans who settled in Iran were in course of time entirely assimilated by intermarriage.

There is the possibility that Alexander destroyed the Avesta, which is to be understood as a symbolic of Iranian religion. Despite all the religious resistance the conditions in Iran in the Hellenistic period were different from what would be expected.

Iran in the third century was prosperous, and its sanctuaries remained wealthy. What it did reflect was the resentment of a dispossessed imperial nobility. The bare fact of European control in Iran threatened the dominance of not only the military but also the religious aristocracy. Hellenic customs did come into Iran with Greek settlers, armies, and government officials, and were practiced alongside the older Iranian customs. When some Iranians began to adhere to Hellenic customs in general and religious practices in particular, the most anti-Hellenic of the Iranians reacted strongly against this cultural treason. Ancient Oriental societies were conceived of people arising from religious causes and kingship who were involved with religious functions as well as political duties. Other phases of human activity were closely linked with religious belief.

The religious customs of the Greeks and Iranians differed and those differences were important to some Iranian people. The early Iranians, as known from both classical writers and from the results of archaeology, did not erect temples to house cult-statues nor use images themselves, and they condemned people who did so. Towards the end of the Achaemenid dynasty, Artaxerxes II set up cult-images of Anahita for the first time at Susa, Babylon, Ecbatana, Damaskos, and Sardeis. This was a break from the past.

A most important point of difference lay in methods of disposal of the dead. Greeks sometimes cremated, and usually interred their dead, customs that strict followers of Magian practices did not observe. It has been told both by Herodotus and Ktesias that the Iranians considered cremation unlawful, which indeed the Videvdad of Hellenistic date calls a sin without atonement, for cremation was the defilement of holy fire, Atar, with an unclean corpse.

The appeal of Hellenism stemmed from two sources. There was the intrinsic attraction of Hellenism as the culture of high civilization. It was also the way of life of a victorious ruling class, which occupied almost all the desirable, lucrative, and powerful positions in government, and in some cases, the wealthy parts of the country, being concerned with the efficient exploitation of agriculture and grazing. The Iranian aristocrats were subject to natural tendencies to imitate their new rulers' ways, both from a desire to ingratiate themselves and mark themselves more efficient, and from a fascination with the manners and customs of people who were obviously successful. While most remained hostile, many others at least collaborated, a few became cultural converts.

When the Macedonian satrap of Media, Nikanor, was sent by Antigonos to undo Seleukos' occupation of Babylon, the former's forces included a contingent of Iranians. They deserted to Seleukos when their commanding officer Evagora, satrap of Areia was killed, because they objected to Antigonos' regime in Iran. This episode shows that some Iranians were at least willing to cooperate with whatever Greek power seemed least likely to be a burden on them. When Antigonos was attempting a surprise attack on the forces of Eumenes of Kardia, the natives of Gabiene cooperated with Eumenes by warning him of the approach of hostile soldiers. Such loyalty was forced and half-hearted, yet this practice continued and in time must have led some Iranians to go further and to become independent of the Macedonian regime for the maintenance of their political, economic, and social status.

Those Iranians in the army had contact with Greek ways and Greek religion. Acceptance in part was inevitable. Europeans had adopted Iranian Gods and rites, too, and thus a Greco-Iranian class with syncretic religious practices came into being. The protests of the religious resistance were directed against this class, apostates from the true faith, and the new hinders-on from the Greek world. This cultural interchange was natural; there is no evidence that the Macedonians consciously sought to change the Iranians' religion or to diminish the authority of Iranian sanctuaries or persecute the priesthood, or in any way interfere with Iranian religious beliefs. Iranian holy places remained wealthy under Seleucid rule, and retained extensive estates and villages inhabited by their serfs who worked the land.

There is no evidence that resistance was a peasant movement against Hellenistic economic exploitation as was the case in Egypt and Palestine. The Seleucid regime hardly touch the peasantry at all, and probably no great change was apparent to them. The Macedonian kings theoretically owned all non-city and non-temple land in Iran; but it was actually held by aristocracy, in most cases the old families of Achaemenid times. These people continued their old methods of dealing with rural classes. Nor did the peasantry suffer from the oppression of a Hellenized bourgeoisie, as was the case in Syria.10

Iranian propaganda was directed, then, against cultural apostasy only in the highest level of society and had behind it people of the same class. The most important religious issue was the replacing of the Achaemenid dynasty by that of Alexander, and then of Seleukos. The fact of Hellenic kingship and rule itself was the issue. For in Iran, the dynasty of Cyrus and Darius I, through long custom and tradition had established its right to rule, which that right was a part of theology. The kingship carried with it certain sacral responsibilities and obligations which a Macedonian could not possibly fulfill, even if he had willed it, because Europeans simply were not Iranians. The king of the Medes and Iranians had to be of Iranian family, owning Iranian customs and religion, and submitting to a Iranian pattern of royal taboos. He had to be chosen by Ahura Mazda, and he could not be chosen to rule unless he fulfilled all prerequisites.11

A Macedonian, furthermore, whatever his character, his kindness, his solicitude for things Iranian may have been, could not in the eyes of Iranians strictly following his own tradition be Great King, because Macedonian was not an Aryan (Iranian), not a Persian, and not an Achaemenid.

Many Iranians were too deeply committed to the idea of the lordship of Ahura Mazda, not only as a ruler of Asia but also as inspirer of their own private lives. That is certainly the feeling of the Zarathushtrian Gathas and of the royal inscriptions. Therefore, in the Hellenistic period, many Iranians went on believing in Ahura Mazda, and in the theology about his kingship they had always believed, and the idea of a Macedonian's being his choice never took hold with the Iranians.12

However, it must be noted that there is no real evidence that the Achaemenids ever were Zarathushtrians. The use of a few similar words and phrases about the gods in the Gathas and the Aryan (Old Persian) inscriptions only shows that individuals of the same basic Iranian culture used basically the same concepts. We know that the use of the ritual intoxicant haoma by magos and king was well-attested at Persepolis, and this practice was hated by Zarathushtirans. The reason was because Zarathushtra and his folowers objected strongly to the royal and sacrificial aspects of Iranian religion.

We must consider the fact that all this opposition were only coming from a specific class and not from the masses of people in Iran. The common people were peasants far removed from these struggles and pursued their usual religious practice. It became evident that there was no complete unity among religious groups in Iran. This became an important factor because it showed that in Hellenistic Iran the various sects could not work together to oppose the Greeks wholeheartedly.13

Another feature of Hellenistic effect in Iran was that they struck a series of coins beginning about 275 BCE Like the fire temple inscriptions, the coins show a mixture of Hellenistic and Iranian ideas. The reverse usually display a fire temple, which could be a picture of the shrine at Naqsh-i-Rustam, the cemetery of the great Achaemenid kings. At the same time the coinage is executed in very fine Hellenic style under the first of the dynasts, and occasionally had pictures of a deity, probably Ahura Mazda, modeled and tricked out as a Grecian Zeus. The dynasts did not assume the title of king, but called themselves fratadara, "Keeper of the Fire," and bagan, "Divine." The last should be taken in the sense that the Achaemenids were divine: not gods but men charged with supernatural powers.

The portraits of the first kings were quite Hellenic, indicating the presence of Greek engravers at Istakhr and orientation of policy towards the Seleucids. The first fratadara, Bagadates, appeared around 275 BCE on Attic-standards tetradrachms wearing a Persian headdress but without the Oriental beard. The reverses show the prince enthroned with a scepter like a European ruler or European god; his local coinage, drachmas (the principal silver coinage of Ancient Greece) and obols (a silver coin of Ancient Greece, the sixth part of drachma) has an Iranian fire temple. The reverse has an engraved symbol almost certainly of the labarum before a Iranian fire temple over which floats the old symbol of Ahura Mazda.14

It is important to look at other regions in the Persian empire that were non-Persian and have an understanding of why this once rich and powerful region handed the Empire over to the Greeks and Macedonians with no major resistance.

There was no evidence of Oriental religious resistance to Hellenism in the non-Iranian parts of ancient Iran. None of the important parts of it, Parthia, Bactria or Media resented the Macedonian occupation to such a degree that people resorted to active propaganda. The only major conflict that existed was the rivalry of the Hellenes and Iranians over economic and strategic advantage. There was no feeling of intense cultural rivalry at all, and no resort to religious propaganda. In each of those threat areas, local circumstances made the specific attitude towards the European vary. Each had its own unique cultural tradition. Therefore, when confronted by the exact variant of Hellenism, each responded in an individual way. All three accepted Hellenism better than the Iranians did. None of them had, like Iran, an immediate memory of world rule. Only Media had ever been the seat of eastern empire, and that not since 559 B.C, Both Parthia and Bactria had always been subject and tributary Iranian provinces of either Median or Persian empire. Hence, if the victories of Alexander were in one sense a conquest, in another they were a liberation.

The Parthian dynasty ruled in a state in which there was no cultural unity, such as was to be found in Iran or Egypt. Waves of migration into central Iran had effectively prevented any such unity. The historic Parthians themselves were part of a nomadic, barbarous horde called Dahai by Greek writers. The Parthians were never connected with the Achaemenid Empire.

The Parthian royal court included Greek elements. The titles philos, "friend," and suggenes, "Kinsman," were used by Macedonians. Furthermore, love of Hellenism was consciously and overtly advertised by the dynastic coinage. The term philhellenos (friend or supporter of the Greeks) makes its first appearance under Mithradates I around 140 BCE Since this king did a great deal to diminish the area of Seleucid control in Western Iran and eastern Mesopotamia, his propaganda can not be taken at full face value. Nonetheless, the use of the term itself means that the Parthians did not undertake a campaigning of anti-Hellenic propaganda as the Iranians did.

The Greek language also held its own in Parthian Mesopotamia. Greek methods of finance, Greek law, Greek culture in general continued to flourish in Parthian controlled cities, both in Dura in north-western Mesopotamia and at Avroman in Kurdistan. Greeks still held honoured positions in Babylonia and western Iran and so did the Hellenized Iranian.

The positions of the Parthian kings in respect to the religious of Iran is incompletely known. They were neither Magi nor Zoroastrians. They had themselves buried, practiced blood sacrifice, and supported the rise of Anahita to a more prominent place in the pantheon which differed from h normal practices of other groups.15

A peculiar set of circumstances influenced the relationship that existed between Bactrian and Macedonian. As with the Parthians, there is no evidence for an anti-Hellenic movement. Indeed, scholars have been in general agreement that of all parts of Iran, Bactria was the most willing to cooperate with the Greco-Macedonian regime.

The occupation of Bactria-Sogdiana by the Greeks, while it represented a victory for non-Iranian forces, was more a change of master than an eclipse of empire. Alexander not only married Bactrian Roxane (Roxana, NPer. Roshanak), he also destroyed a settlement of Iranians at Kyra, established by Cyrus as a garrison to consolidate his conquest. Diodorus says plainly that the Macedonian regime at Satrap Stasanor was popular locally because of his consideration for local interests. Hellenic penetration of Bactrian, furthermore, was very slight. The settlement of the Europeans in northeastern Iran was on a very small scale, and the cities that Alexander founded were heavily populated with Bactrian. Thus, there was no threat of economic, social or cultural upheaval, such as occurred in Hellenistic Palestine.


Media, on the other hand, reacted uniquely against the Greeks. She was both hostile and docile. Part of the country surrendered to Hellenism; the other eventually rebelled and established its independence. Media in 334 BCE was a province of Darius III. Media, however, had once held the hegemony of the East. Her imperial dynasty had been ousted by Cyrus the Great and Media was made into a province of his empire. Twice the Medes staged obstinate revolts against the Achaemenids. Both times the revolts were put down. The attitudes of different members of the Median gentry towards the Empire were thus divided: some were imperial and some were patriotic. The history of Media in the Macedonian period resembled the history of Media in the Achaemenid period in that the loyalty of the country towards the central government was divided.

Looking at the non-Iranian parts of Iran shows that in these areas, the lack of a tradition of world rule, the lack of cultural uniformity in some parts, and a dependence on the Greeks in one way or another, either as military allies against some kind of alien domination or as technical experts, made opposition to Hellenism unnecessary or undesirable.17

The western Asians lived in the region where Mesopotamian culture or a form of it predominated. This area included Babylonia, as well as Elam to the east, Syria to the west and Kilikia to the northwest. When Alexander overran it, religious resistance to foreign occupation was a weapon already familiar to the Babylonians as a result of their having been earlier conquered by the Iranians. The victory of Cyrus the Great in 538 BCE had finished Babylonia's world power. To the Babylonians of the period, then, the victory of the Iranians under Cyrus was in theory the victory of Ahura Mazda over Marduk, a victory made almost total by Xerxes' deportation of of the rebellious god of Babylon.

From the middle of the fifth century many Iranians settled in Babylon, held extensive tracts of land, and occupied positions in local government. This large and influential colony must have had a good deal to do with the continuing tranquillity of the province. The Iranians did not attempt a complete restoration of the city or of damaged E-Sagila, so that when the Macedonians entered Babylon the ruins that Xerxes had made could still be seen. The ruins served not only as a reminder of the strength of the Iranians, but also a continuing source of anti-Iranian feelings.

The Babylonians remained generally passive under the Hellenic regime, although they did continue to tell stories about an heroic age, and protested feebly against what they considered wrong. While it was true that the Babylonians had reason to rejoice over the end of the Iranian rule, still, more than any other of the great people of the ancient near East, they regarded Alexander's coming as a good in itself, and gave the least trouble to the conquerors.

In comparison with the Iranians the Babylonian propaganda was much less vigorous and aggressive. The Iranians looked forward to the destruction of the Greeks, and optimistically believed that after they had been destroyed and rule of the East had been restored to them, the world would be a much pleasanter place. This degree of hate is not apparent among Babylonians. The survey of Western Asia had showed that in the third century and in the first years of the second there was only the slightest resistance to Hellenism, and that was almost entirely in the old imperial capital of Babylon.18

In summary what effects the Iranian propaganda had in the whole Hellenistic period are hard to assess. In Iran, itself, it did not lead to a grand revolt against the full tide of Hellenism. But it likely had something to do with the gradual third century break with the Seleucids. Archaeological and numismatic evidence are showing that Iran remained essentially Iranian as stated earlier. While Hellenism is apparent here and there in matters of detail, nonetheless the Iranian element remained essentially heavily predominant and Hellenism made no great impression. After five centuries of struggle, in Iran the Persians created the strongly nationalist Sasanian Persian Empire (226-651 CE), consciously trying to continue Achaemenid Persian traditions. The resistance with no doubt served to help keep alive native traditions, and by opposing Hellenism it helped to keep it from deeply touching Iranian life. The Macedonians except in Bactria, never succeeded in persuading the Iranians to cooperate with them. And in the East as a whole, the propaganda made no impression which has left traces in the religious beliefs of others. And also the Hellenism in the East itself eventually faltered and died, overcome by a revival of the Orient. But it should be noted that the traditional culture of Babylonians died earlier on its own native ground. Their wish to retreat into the past was unavailing, for there is always the present to live in and the future to be prepared for.




1. Alexander to Actium, by Peter Green, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1990.

2. The King is Dead, by Samuel K. Eddy, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1961.

3. Flames over Persepolis, by Mortimer Wheeler, Renal & Co. Inc., 1968.





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