Hellenistic Period
Circa 323 - 31 B.C.

Following the death of Alexander the Great, his kingdom was split into three by his generals. The Antigonid dynasty maintained control of mainland Greece. The Seleucids governed the entire eastern empire, the largest portion of the territory, while the Ptolemies ruled the land of ancient Egypt.

The Hellenistic period was an international, cosmopolitan age. Commercial contacts were widespread and peoples of many ethnic and religious backgrounds merged in populous urban centers. Advances were made in various fields of scientific inquiry, including engineering, physics, astronomy and mathematics. Great libraries were founded in Alexandria, Athens and the independent kingdom of Pergamum. The old beliefs in Olympian gods were infused with foreign elements, especially from the east; "Oriental" ecstatic cults, such as those of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras, become popular in the Hellenized world.

The 3rd century BC saw the rise of ancient Rome. After securing most of the Italic peninsula, Rome entered into a protracted conflict with the Carthaginians for control of Sicily, Spain and the other regions of Punic domination in the Punic Wars. The former empire of Alexander was taken steadily and methodically into Roman hands. The great city of Corinth was destroyed (146 BC), Athens captured (86 BC), and Cleopatra and Mark Antony defeated at the Battle of Actium (31 BC). Their defeat marks the end of the Hellenistic Age.

Apulian Gnathian Squat Lekythos ca. 340-330 BC
On loan, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gnathian-style pottery appeared around the middle of the 4th century BC in the southern Italian region of Apulia. It takes its name from the site of Egnazia where the style may have originated, although various centers must have produced this type of pottery. The style is characterized by black-glazed surfaces with polychrome decoration in red, white and yellow comprising mostly floral and bird motifs. A similar style, called West Slope, appeared in Athens around the end of the 4th century BC.
H. 19.9; Dia. 7.0 cm. Photo by Maria Daniels for the Perseus Project (165k)

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