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The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa$

Getzel Cohen

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520241480

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520241480.001.0001

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(p.403) II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt

(p.403) II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt

Source:
The Hellenistic Settlements in Syria, the Red Sea Basin, and North Africa
Publisher:
University of California Press

The situation regarding settlements in Syria and Phoenicia attributed to Alexander is similar to that in Asia Minor: there are numerous claims, both in (late) antiquity and in modern times, but—except for Alexandreia near Egypt and Samareia—very little confirmatory evidence. Consult the appropriate entries for further discussion and references.

ALEXANDREIA NEAR EGY PT. This is the first major settlement that can definitely be attributed to the Macedonian king.

ALEXANDREIA BY ISSOS. Ps.-Scymnus (923 = GGM, 1: 235 = Diller, MGG, 174) is the only extant ancient source who says Alexander was the founder. Herodian (3.4.3) and Strabo (14.5.19) both refer to the city but do not mention Alexander as the founder. Neither Arrian nor Curtius Rufus mentions it. The A recension of the Alexander Romance does not include it among Alexander’s settlements. On the other hand, the settlement is recorded among his foundations in the Armenian translation as well as the B recension and its derivatives. And the Excerpta Latina Barbari (34b.4, ed. Schoene) mentions an “Alexandria qui cabiosum” among Alexander’s foundations. Finally, among the seals found just outside Iskenderun one bears a portrait head of Alexander.

ALEXANDROSCHENE. The Itinerarium Burdigalense 584.4 (ed. Cuntz), which dates to 333 A.D., is the only extant source for Alexandroschene. It was located on the coast, south of Tyre. There is no evidence that connects Alexandroschene to the Macedonian king.

ANTIOCH NEAR DAPHNE. According to Libanius, Alexander planned to found a city on the site of what was later to become Antioch (Or. 11.72–76). Although he was prevented from doing this by the need to (p.404) continue his campaigning, Alexander nevertheless did establish a shrine of Zeus Battaios (76), named for the region in Macedonia whence he came. Libanius also says Alexander established an akra called Emathia after his homeland. What, if anything, Alexander actually did at or near the site of the future Antioch is unclear. Downey’s explanation—that this was an aetiological legend designed to glorify the origins of Antioch—is probably close to the truth.

CAPITOLIAS. A coin of Capitolias minted under Commodus bears the legend II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt. This is the only extant evidence for Alexander as founder of the settlement.

DION. According to Stephanos (s.v. “Dion 7”), Alexander the Great founded Dion in Coele Syria and Pella.

GAZA. In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great besieged and captured Gaza. After capturing it, Alexander sold the women and children into slavery, repopulated the city with people drawn from the surrounding region, and used it as a fortress (Arrian 2.26–27). There is no evidence, however, that Alexander actually refounded Gaza.

GERASA. According to a late tradition (in a gloss of Iamblichus’s commentary on the Arithmetica of Nicomachus), the toponym Gerasa was derived from Alexander having settled a group of veterans (II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt) at the site. The Etymologicum Magnum (s.v. “Gerasenos”) recounts that after Alexander took the city and killed the “young men,” he discharged the “old men,” who founded the settlement. Dismissing the fanciful etymology for the toponym, we are left with a (late) association of Alexander with the founding of a settlement at Gerasa. A coin of the early third century A.D. bears the legend II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt, and other coins minted under Elagabalus have a bust of Alexander on the obverse and the legend II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt on the reverse. And an inscription, dated palaeographically to the second half of the second century A.D., mentions certain “Macedonians.” On the other hand, a pedestal that bore a statue of Perdikkas, Alexander’s general, had a dedication that is dated palaeographically to the first half of the third century A.D. There is, however, no inherent contradiction between the claims of both Alexander and Perdikkas as “founder” of Gerasa; in fact, we encounter a similar situation at SAMAREIA. In short, it is possible that Perdikkas founded the colony at Gerasa on orders from the king. It is worth noting that the extant evidence for Alexander as founder of Gerasa is late. This is similar to the situation for various cities in Asia Minor that first laid claim to Alexander as their founder or discovered their “Greek” or “Macedonian” ancestry in the Imperial period (see, for example, EUMENEIA in Phrygia).

(p.405) LARISA SIZARA. Grainger (Seleukid Syria, 39–40) has suggested that Alexander (rather than Seleukos I Nikator or Antigonos I Monophthalmos) founded Larisa. He correctly noted that Thessalians played a prominent role in a number of Alexander’s battles (Arr. Anab. 2.9.1, 3.11.10; Plut. Alex. 24). N.b., however, that there is no extant evidence indicating Alexander actually settled any of them in Syria. Furthermore, Grainger allows that Antigonos or even Seleukos could have inherited them (40 n. 51). But this is moving into the realm of speculation. We know that (a) there was colony of Thessalians who settled at Larisa, and (b) Appian— who admittedly is not always reliable in his attributions—said Seleukos founded it. Probability, therefore, suggests Seleukos was the founder. More than that we cannot say.

NIKOPOLIS. Two pieces of evidence, neither convincing, raise the possibility that Alexander founded Nikopolis: (a) Stephanos (s.v. “Issos”) says Nikopolis was a II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt, and (b) a statue base found at Islâhiye and dated palaeographically to the Imperial period (“second century?”), is inscribed “Alexander son of Philip.” Note, however, that Stephanos does not specifically say Alexander founded the settlement. Furthermore, Stephanos is hardly a reliable witness without the support of other confirming evidence. As for the statue base, it is evidence that in the Imperial period Nikopolis claimed to be a foundation of Alexander (assuming—as is undoubtedly the case— the reference is to the Macedonian king).

PARAITONION. The assertion that Alexander founded a settlement on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt at Paraitonion is found in various late texts: the Oxyrhynchus Chronicle (P. Oxy. I 12, col. V.1–4), which probably dates to the first or second century A.D.; Hieronymus (124, ed. Helm2); and the Alexander Romance (1.31, ed. Kroll). The claim has been met with reserve or skepticism by most scholars.

PELLA in northern Syria. Strabo (16.2.10) says that Pella was so-named by “the first Macedonians.” There has been much discussion as to what Strabo meant by “the first Macedonians.” Droysen and J. Balty and J.-C. Balty suggested the reference was to Alexander.

PELLA in southern Syria. According to Stephanos (s.v. “Dion”) Dion was a II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt. As has often been noted, the words II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt are probably a gloss indicating that both Pella and Dion were founded by the Macedonian king.

SAMAREIA. According to Curtius Rufus (4.8.9), while Alexander the Great was in Egypt (332/331 B.C.) the Samaritans rebelled and assassinated Andromachos, the governor of Syria. Alexander punished the city (p.406) and settled Macedonians there. As far as we know, this was the first Mace donian colony established by Alexander in the course of his expedition.

SELEUKEIA ABILA. The usual legend on the reverse of the coinage of Seleukeia Abila reads II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt or variants there of. Meshorer has suggested reading II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt for the letters II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt : that is, the people of Abila considered Alexander the Great to be the progenitor of the city (City-Coins, 78). In addition, a coin dating to the reign of Geta that bears on the reverse the inscription II Settlements Attributed to Alexander in Syria, Phoenicia, and Egypt and a portrayal of the two kings shaking hands has been attributed to Abila. Unfortunately the coin lacks a city name or ethnic.

TYRE. In 332 B.C. Alexander the Great besieged and destroyed the city of Tyre. Subsequently he rebuilt and repopulated the city ( Justin 18.3). Tcherikover was understandably hesitant about considering this a new Hellenistic foundation. Nevertheless, Alexander apparently did rebuild Tyre on a major scale, as he later did at GAZA. Such large-scale rehabilitation of cities became quite common in the Hellenistic period; thus, for example, THEBES, LYSIMACHEIA in Thrace, SARDIS in Lydia, and AMYZON in Caria.