|“||Holy shadows of the dead, I’m not to blame for your cruel and bitter fate, but the accursed rivalry which brought sister nations and brother people, to fight one another...||”|
—Alexander the Great
The 4th century BC is famous for the rise of both Macedon and Rome, who emerge from nearly total isolation to become major political players in their respective fields. In particular, the 4th century bears witness to the conquests of Alexander the Great, the man who unites the various Greek states, creating the first unified nation-state in the history of the Western world. He then goes on a campaign to conquer the world and nearly does so, creating the largest Empire the world had ever yet seen. His untimely death put an end to his unfulfilled imperial ambitions, leaving his successors and the rising powers of Rome and Carthage to battle for supremacy over the Mediterranean world. India saw the rise and fall of the Nanda dynasty as well as the rise of the Maurya, who moved to take advantage of Alexander's easternmost domains in its quest to expand the Buddhist faith. China entered into another period of stability for another two hundred years as the Xin Dynasty rose to take the place of the Kǎi Dynasty.
The Fall of Sparta
The city-state of Sparta stood strong following the war against Athens, becoming the dominant power of the Greek world. Despite this apex of Spartan authority, several factors were working against the Spartans, both within Greece and within Sparta itself. Reforms suggested by members of the Spartan military regarding the authority of the monarchy caused considerable tension between the two factions.
Tensions also rose with the other states of Greece, who, just as it had been with Athens, were uncomfortable with the notion of a city-state holding a hegemony over the others. By 395, open war had been declared between the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta, and the alliance of Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos. Ironically enough the alliance was supported by Lydia, who had experienced a rise of tensions with Sparta and was concerned they would go back on their deal over Ionia.
The Spartans moved first, sending a force against the Beoetian city of Haliartus. The battle there is inconclusive, and the Spartans withdraw shortly after one of their generals is killed by arrows from the city walls. The allies gather a significant force at Corinth to engage with the powerful Spartan army. The two forces met at the Battle of Nemea, where Sparta wins a critical blow against the allies.
In the Aegean, the Lydians take advantage of the situation in order to restrict growing Spartan influence as well as prevent any potential rebellion amongst the Ionian cities. A joint Athenian-Lydian fleet defeated the Spartans at the Battle of Cnidos in 394, ending Spartan influence there. The Athenians are soon forced to withdraw by the Lydians.
The Spartans meet the Thebans at the Battle of Coronea the same year, beating the Thebans from the field. However, the Spartans are unable to take advantage of the situation, and soon withdraw back to Spartan territory as Athenian fleets, now freed from competition by the Spartan navy, raid the southern Laconian coast.
Some parts of Laconia are conquered by the Athenian navy by 393 and the Spartans march south to drive the Athenians back. While they are doing so, the Corinthians successfully reclaim their city from pro-Spartan oligarchs with the backing of Argos and install a democratic system instead.
By 391, the Spartans have suffered several important defeats outside of Spartan territory and near the Laconian heartland, while Argos has effectively seized control of Corinth, becoming a powerful state between Sparta and the resurgent Athens. Several peace conferences were held within this time, however all fail and no treaty was drafted.
By 388, the tables had turned, as Sparta had effectively managed to ravage the Corinthian countryside unopposed and Lydia, fearing a resurgence of Athenian imperial ambitions, lends considerable monetary assistance to the Spartan cause. By the next year, the war had ended, with Corinth back in the hands of the Peloponnesian League, and the possibility of an Argive Hegemony ended.
Sparta had won the war and the threat of defeat appeared to be resolved. Sparta furthered its victory by isolating Athens and installing a pro-Spartan government in Thebes in 383, hoping to secure the northernmost Greek states against possible military action against Sparta. This effective coup generated considerable resentment amongst the Thebans, who revolted in 379 and established a democratic Boeothian League to counter Spartan aggression.
Such an action was tantamount to war with Sparta, and the Thebans prepared accordingly. Drawing upon the entire manpower of the Boeothian League, the Thebans under their general Epaminondas prepared a large army commanded by the best generals of the region. The Thebans quickly defeat a few Spartan offensives into their territory, and in 371, Epaminondas defeats the Spartans and breaks their power at the Battle of Leuctra. As a result of the war Sparta lost most of its military might and was no longer the leading force amongst the Greek city-states.
The Theban HegemonyEpaminondas had successfully broken the power of the Spartans in combat, but at first this had little practical affect on the affairs of the Greek city-states other than to turn them against Thebes itself. While Theban armies moved on Sparta and ravaged the Laconian countryside, in 369 Athens, hoping to restore its hegemony at the cost of Thebes, agreed to an alliance from the desperate Sparta. By now Thebes had effectively broken the Peloponnesian League and set free much of Sparta's Helot population, crippling their economy.
To the north, Macedon intervenes in Thessaly on the behalf of its people to remove its harsh tyrant but the action is viewed poorly by Thebes, who sends a military expedition to remove the Macedonians. The Macedonians withdraw rather than fight and the tyrant returns, but his tyranny continues and so Thebes removes him, establishing Thessaly as a Theban-aligned state. Macedon does not take kindly to this and aligns itself with Athens, hoping to drive the Thebans back. Thebes threatens to support dynastic squabbles in Macedonia and Macedonia once again backs off, surrendering several hostages to Thebes as part of the promise, including Philip, the future king of Macedonia.
By 367, Theban control over the affairs of Greece is mostly complete, with Thessaly and Macedonia pacified and Sparta and Athens only providing meager resistance. Theban expeditions to put down Sparta were only occasionally successful, and as soon as they left Sparta would rise up again. The next year, Thebes and Sparta make peace, as Epaminondas is now concerned more about Athens, which is trying to revive its hegemony and is regularly interfering with the affairs of the Macedonian kings, threatening the stability of northern Greece.
However it is not until 363 that Thebes has a navy strong enough to do so, and upon completion Epaminondas sails against the maritime allies of Athens, hoping to threaten them into revolt against the Attican state. However, the next year Sparta again joins with Athens and the two make a bold play to challenge Theban power. At the Battle of Mantinea, Epaminondas is victorious on the field at the cost of his own life. As a result of this battle Thebes and the other city-states agree to make peace amongst them, ending the period of strife for the time being. Most historians consider this to be the end of the Theban Hegemony, as it was no longer the uncontested power in Greece, but Thebes would remain the strongest city-state over the next decade.
The Rise of Macedonia
Macedonia had always been an outcast in the affairs of the Greek world but this was about to change. Mostly unaffected by the petty squabbling of the states of the south, Macedonia had the opportunity to develop unmolested for much of its history. Now, following the damage of the many hegemonic wars, Macedonia was poised to achieve greatness, only requiring a leader to seize it.
The first was Philip II, a noble and previous Theban hostage who came to the throne in 359 BC. Disposing of his nephew he consolidated his power and began to expand his state, pushing its borders against Thessaly and Thrace. By 357, only Thrace and the Greek states were left against him. The same year he married the Molossian princess Olympias. His marriage to her would affect the entire Mediterranean for centuries to come.
In 352, Philip II's efforts have earned him the conquest of Thrace as well as dominion over the Thessalian League, solidifying his position as the dominant force in northern Greece. However, this power begins to concern the southern Greek states, and Athens in particular begins to support resistance to Philip II's conquests. Gradually, as his power increased, other states like Sparta and Thebes became more and more concerned, and a climax was inevitable.
That occured at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, where Philip II and his son Alexander crush the opposing Thebans and Athenians. Philip II, hoping to continue his conquests with Lydia, is more merciful with Athens compared to Thebes, although both are brought under his direct control. Moving south, he successfully intimidates Sparta into backing down before consolidating his control over almost all of Greece the next year by forming the League of Corinth.
Philip II would die before he accomplished his dream of conquering Lydia, as he was assassinated by a disgruntled nobleman in 336. His wife Olympias was suspected to be behind the plot but nothing could be proven. What is known is that after the ascension of Alexander III as King of Macedonia, Olympias put the other wives and relatives of Philip II to death in order to solidify the security of her son. In this way, Alexander had no subversion that might interfere with his plan to obtain a glory greater than any had seen before.
Alexander, Hegemon of the GreeksAlexander became King of Macedonia at a time of power, and he swiftly began efforts to succeed his father's work. Feeling that Alexander was weak, northern tribes of Thracians and Illyrians rebelled against his rule and he crushed them. In 335, Athens and Thebes also revolted, hoping to cast off Macedonian control. Alexander defeated the Thebans and sacked their city as an example, and Athens surrendered shortly after.
Alexander had higher aspirations than his father, and desired control not only of the League of Corinth but all Greek areas. The same year he demanded the submission of Sparta, which promptly refused him. At the Battle of Tegea he defeated the Spartans and conquered the city. Leaving the mainland in the care of his regent Antipater, Alexander used the Athenian navy to sail to Crete, defeating an opposing force there. His victories prompted the state of Cyrene to join him rather than risk his wrath. By the end of 335, Alexander was the master of mainland Greece, but there were three communities that eluded him.
The first were the Greeks in Ionia and Cyprus living under the dominion of the Lydian kings whose liberation would be in due time. The second was the Greek communities in the northern Black Sea coast around the Taurican peninsula, whose distance shielded them from his immediate gaze. The third and most prominent community were the Greek cities of Epirus and the Western Mediterranean who were not as interested with the affairs of the eastern Greeks. Alexander, desiring their resources for his future campaigns, began planning an assault immediately after Cyrene folded.
Alexander used his familial relations with the leaders of Eprius and Molossia in order to gain their allegiance. From there Alexander used the Athenian navy to cross the Adriatic Sea with 10,000 men to put the cities of Taras and Syracuse under his command. Within three months he had shattered the forces of Taras and drove off the Lucanians and Bruttians, securing Southern Italy for his growing empire.
Syracuse and the island of Sicily was another matter and provided a stronger challenge to the new king. Faced with the oncoming threat, Syracuse made an alliance with the other city-states of western Sicily to oppose Alexander. This alliance did them little good because Alexander crushed their combined forces already weakened from concluding a massive war with Carthage. Following his victory over Syracuse in 334, the other states of Masillia, Neapolis, and Emporion recognized Alexander's authority. The states of the Black Sea did so as well soon after Alexander returned to Greece. Although his control wasn't absolute in all places, Alexander had become the recognized leader of all the Greek states by the age of twenty.
To Rule the WorldHowever, motivated by the affections of his parents, Alexander was not merely content with being the Hegemon of the Greeks. Alexander desired more, and thus began his campaign to conquer to the farthest border of the world. Leaving Antipater in Greece and at the advice of his mother left his uncle Aeacides in control of Epirus and the Italian areas, Alexander crossed the Dardanelles in order to invade the Lydian Empire. Hoping to pull off a repeat victory against an overwhelming force as they did with the Persians, the Lydians under King Ardys III fought the Greeks at the Second Battle of Thymbra. This time however, the Lydians were defeated and Alexander seized the capital of Sardis, putting it to the torch for decades of Lydian aggression towards the Greek city-states.
The conquest of Lydia increased Alexander's ego, and soon he desired to conquer the great Achaemenid Empire of Persia, the largest and most powerful state to have existed thus far. Despite offers of negotiation with the Persian King Darius III, Alexander declared war and soon marched into Persian Syria, defeating a Persian army at the Battle of Issus in 334. The loss of Darius III's family and much of his treasure after this battle was a major hit to morale for the Persians, who retreated to Babylon and left Syria to the Greeks. While Darius III attempted to gather his strength in Mesopotamia, Alexander turned south towards the Levant, hoping to shut down Persian naval power. He laid siege to the cities of Tyre and Sidon, hoping to deprive the Persians of their ports. After several months, the cities fell and Alexander's forces controlled land as far south as Gaza. With this done, he turned north once again and focused his energy on crushing the remaining Persian resistance.
In 332 Alexander defeated the Persians completely at the Battle of Gaugamela, forcing Darius III to flee once more. By this point Alexander had conquered everything up to the Persian heartland and occupied Mesopotamia, spending some time in the scientific capital of the world, Babylon, before pressing further. With some difficulty Alexander broke through at the Battle of the Persian Gates, occupying the main center of Persia in 330. Darius III continued to flee, hoping to gather enough forces in the rear areas of his empire in order to bleed the Greeks dry from continuous combat. Alexander continued to pursue him, not content to let up until the entire Empire was his. Alexander seized Ectebana and the rest of Media while following Darius to the farthest reaches of the Persian Empire in Central Asia.
Darius III's weakness was not endearing to the natives of Bactria and Sogdia and he was assassinated shortly after his arrival there. Alexander viewed this as a denial of his ultimate victory, and in his fury he brought war against the traitors. Despite all the forces and mountain strongholds in his path, Alexander would not be denied and the region bowed before him by 329 BC. At this point, two important things happened in Alexander's life that would change the fate of his empire. Persia had been conquered yet there were still the lands of India and the Hindu Kush ripe for conquest. However, many of Alexander's soldiers, some of them veterans from his Greek campaigns, desired to return home and refused to cross the Indus River into India. In addition, the pharaohs of Egypt were preparing to invade the Levant, hoping to take advantage of Alexander's absence. With little other option, Alexander turned his troops around and returned to Babylon by 327.
The other major impact on his life was Alexander's acquisition of a wife. So devoted to conquest, Alexander neglected to take a wife during his campaigns but this changed as he was finishing the conquest of Sogdia. His new wife was Roxana, the daughter of a prominent Sogdian nobleman. Supposedly the two fell in love at first sight and Alexander quickly married her and brought her back with him to Babylon. She would give Alexander two children who would play an important role in the empire to come.
With almost the entire known civilized world under his control, Alexander turned his gaze towards the troublesome Egyptians who had instigated rebellion and war in his absence. After a short rest in Babylon, Alexander departed with his army towards Gaza, the gate of Egypt. By mid 326 Alexander fell into ill heatlh and stayed in Syria to recover. His horse, Bucephalus, died while he recovered. Depressed, Alexander founded the city of Bucephala on the Orontes River and moved all the population from Alexandria on the Issus there instead. By 324, when Alexander had recovered, he continued his march towards Egypt.
Alexander soon defeated the Egyptian forces and marched down the Nile River, putting an end to the 28th dynasty and establishing his own family as the 29th dynasty. Alexander marched to the sacred oracle of Ammonium in the Lybian Desert where the priesthood declared him to be a god, the son of Zeus and Amun-Ra. Feeling confirmed in his belief that he was ruler of the world as divinely ordained, Alexander marched to his next conquest. With little challenge Alexander defeated the Arabs of Nabataea and forced them into submission. He planned to conitinue his campaign into Arabia but by this point his health began to fail him again.
What was Shall not RemainBy 322 Alexander was thirty-three years old. Falling ill once again, Alexander returned from Arabia to Bucephala where he hoped to again recover his strength. However Alexander also began to drink excessively with his friends and generals in celebration of his victories and conquests. Instead of recovering, his health soon began to take a turn for the worse. Shortly afterwards, Alexander the Great, the most powerful man in the world, had died.
Ancient scholars are divided as to his cause of death. Most believe that he died from a combination of overdrinking and illness, perhaps yellow fever or some other disease. A minority suggest that Alexander was perhaps poisoned because of his policies of population transfers and ethnic mixing as demonstrated by his wife Roxana. These policies were unpopular with his Macedonian generals and assassinations were not unheard of in the Macedonian court, as demonstrated by Alexander's own father.Alexander left his generals a will to carry out during the regency of his son. This will called for the creation of great tombs for his family and massive temples for the gods as well as expeditions to conquer India, Africa, and Europe. Alexander's body was sealed in a golden casket and carted away to Aegea, the traditional resting place of the Argead family. Out of all of Alexander's successors, only Seleucus tried to complete his testament with an invasion of India in 322. The others were much more interested with obtaining power in the regency that soon followed.
Alexander had two children, a daughter named Helen and a son named Alexander. Alexander IV was to take the reins of this empire but he was only a year old at the time of his death while Helen was two. The generals agreed that Perdiccas, the leader of the companion cavalry, would head the regency until Alexander IV came of age. Perdiccas only ruled for two years before being assassinated, forcing Roxana and her children to flee to Macedonia to gain support while the other generals soon split the empire in pursuit of power. Within a few years after his death his Empire was effectively split into five different regencies all claiming to be the true heir of Alexander's legacy while other states broke off and restored their independence like Nabataea or Cappadocia. Alexander's empire would never again be united.
Alexander's legacy was immense for his time and still affects the world today. He created the world's largest empire at the time and brought an immense number of diverse peoples under a single government. His policy of not looting significant or holy artifacts or works of art was largely followed by his followers as a means of maintaining local support. Alexander founded many cities in his effort to mix the peoples of his new empire together and the prominent ones such as Alexandria in Egypt or Bucephala in Syria remain as large population centers to this day. Alexander's conquests would be admired by the Greeks and Romans for generations and many amongst them attempted to repeat his success.
The Rise of Rome
The Roman Republic began substantial expansion in this time period. By 396 the Romans conquered the Etruscan city of Veii and instituted a salary for its miitary forces, expanding both its territory and the loyalty of the Roman forces. The loyalty, or lack thereof, between the Roman military and the state authorities would be a major driving force for much of Rome's history.
However, Rome would quickly face a major threat that temporarily ended its period of expansion and very nearly ended its existence. Its ultimate triumph would catapult the small city-state into a major rising power in the Italian peninsula and change the fate of Europe.
Invasion of the GaulsIn 390 the a tribe of Gauls known as the Senones began moving south through Italy, occasionally attacking and ransacking cities along the way. Failures in negotiation between the Romans and Brennus, the Senone leader, practically ensured that a violent confrontation would follow.
At the Battle of the Allia, the Roman forces were decimated by the Senones and nearly lost their entire city. The walls held, but the Senones would not be content with merely humbling the Romans, and as such resorted to sieging the city until the defenders were starved out. On their part the Romans hoped to hold out long enough for the main army, which was still at Veii, to return and put the Senones to flight and save the city. Their wish was eventually granted, and the Roman army returned and utterly crushed the Senones, with several recordings stating that they were completely slaughtered.
While the Romans were ultimately victorious and the city spared, the very close defeat demanded that Rome reform aspects of its military and adopt a defensive posture for some time. The setback riled up several of the peoples that had thus far become subject to Roman rule and the Romans had to spend several years putting them down before it could expand further. New walls were constructed to prevent any enemy from coming close to taking the entire city.
These reforms ultimately enable the city to protect itself better, and when another band of Gauls returned in 360 the Romans were able to defeat them with relative ease. By 358 the Romans are back in control of the Latin League and by 350 the Gauls are easily beaten again following an alliance with the Samnites.
Domination of Central Italy
Following Alexander's death, the control of his generals over the Greek states in Italy diminished. While they maintained control further south in Taras, other cities further north that relied on Greek protection such as Capua and Neapolis began ruling themselves and started being targeted by the native peoples of the area.
Rome begins to take a more assertive stance by the 340s, as the physical and mental trauma of the Senones had passed. Once more in control of the Latin League, Rome began to make treaties with Carthage regarding trade and spheres of influence while closer to home, tensions between the Samnites and the Romans began to erupt. The invasion of Campania by the Samnites in 343 forced the city of Capua to call for Roman aid, which was provided. The Romans soon defeated the Samnites, pushing its influence south over Campania.
However, the two powers would join forces during the Latin War, where Latin subjects of both groups would rise up against them. Lasting from 340 to 338, the Romans and Samnites were successful and the Latin League was dissolved, with most of the Latin city-states being absorbed into the Roman Republic. While this cooperation eased tensions between the Romans and Samnites, it did not eliminate them, and the two powers would fight again.After this war the Samnites sought to expand further south against the Greeks, as the Romans effectively blocked their expansion further north. Following their failure with Capua, the Samnites succeed in capturing Neapolis in 327. While the Samnites march further south to deal with Taras and the substantial Greek garrison there, the Romans intervened and evicted the Samnite garrison from the city, establishing a friendly government of their own.
The following year, outraged at the betrayal by the Romans, the Samnites declare war on Rome, starting the Second Samnite War. The war, while beginning in Rome's favor, soon turns against them as several Roman generals overestimate their chances and are crushed by Samnite forces. More than once various allies of the Republic desert such as the Etruscans and very nearly Capua. However, by 304 the war concludes with generous peace terms for the Samnites while at the same time confirmed Roman control over Campania and Neapolis. The war confirmed the control of the Romans over central Italy and one of the rising powers of the Western Mediterranean.
The Kingdom of Carthage had long coveted the island of Sicily and desired to exert its control over the entire island, yet for the longest time the Greek city-states of eastern Sicily fiercely resisted any attempt of Carthaginian hegemony. Shortly before Alexander arrived and absorbed the entire region within his empire, Carthage made a bold play to take over the island. While this attempt was a costly failure, it did pave the way for Alexander's eventual success, but this was of little solace for Carthage, which had lost considerable wealth and mercenaries and gained a powerful new rival over Sicily.
Carthage originally planned to take advantage of Alexander's campaigns in Persia and use his absence to take the island, but Alexander did not trust the Carthaginians to adhere to their former peace with Syracuse and stationed a garrison in the area under the command of his relative Aeacides of Epirus in order to ward off potential aggression. Furthermore Carthage was weak and needed time to recover from its previous failure, but it would soon get its chance.
Alexander the Great soon died and his empire was in disarray as the many generals and governors all sought to seize power for themselves. Aeacides was no exception and he spent the majority of his time focused on Macedonia and the rest of Greece, specifically ensuring that Alexander's family made their way to his care so he could bolster his claim to power. With so much attention in the Greek mainland, little was done to maintain the western dominions of Alexander's conquests. Cities like Masillia and Emporion broke off relations with Aeacides while Taras and Syracuse were only barely maintained through military force. When the Samnites seized Neapolis in 327 and began to put pressure on Taras, Carthage lept at the chance to capture Sicily once and for all.
Collecting a powerful army of 40,000, composed of domestic soldiers and mercenaries from Libya, Numidia, and Spain, the Carthaginian king Bomilcar departed for the fortress of Lilybaeum on the western edge of the island. A Carthaginian navy departed from Malta and began a campaign of raiding and blockade against the major port of Syracuse, the Greek capital of the island, while Bomilcar moved along the southern coast, capturing towns and temples along the way. The local commander of Syracuse, Agathocles, rallied his men and marched west to meet his foe. He hoped to defeat the Carthaginians decisively, as his predecessars had done in the past, but his forces, deprived of reinforcements from Greece and Italy, were not sufficient. At the Battle of the River Himera in 316, Bomilcar crushed Agathocles, scattering much of his military and forcing him back into Syracuse, which was soon put under siege from both land and sea. With no aid from the mainlands, Syracuse soon fell early the next year, removing the major obstacle to Carthaginian control of the island.
However, even with Syracuse defeated, the island was still not pacified, and Carthage would struggle for the next twenty years to exert its control over its new possession. Native Sicilians were as rebellious under Carthaginian rule as they were under Greek dominion and punative raids into the hilly center did little to put a stop to their raids. Syracuse and much of the Greek population was continuously restless, and after a sustained revolt in 314 the walls of the city were torn down to prevent any potential threat in the future. The possibility of Greek forces arriving from southern Italy or Epirus was another concern and Carthaginian fleets patrolled the neighboring seas heavily. Carthage began to reach out to potential allies such as Rome who might help put a stop to the Greek threat. As a result, Carthaginian control over the island figured very heavily in Carthage's foreign policy for decades to come.
Pyrrhus, Diadoch of the Occident
Aeacides continued to rule as the Diadoch of the Western Greek lands, but his constant focus on the affairs of Macedonia and Greece soon sapped his support in southern Italy. While Sicily fell to Carthaginian dominion and Taras was threatened by Samnites and Romans, Aeacides was more concerned with the assassination of Perdiccas and the safety of Roxana and Alexander's heirs. This did not endear him to some of his subjects and upon his death in 313 BC, the entire western edge of Alexander's successors nearly fell into infighting and chaos. His son Pyrrhus was only five years old and not yet fit to take the throne, leaving his uncle Alexander to rule as regent. While perhaps resentful at Pyrrhus for Alexander the Great choosing Aeacides over him, it did not appear to show. Perhaps he hoped to control Pyrrhus as he grew.
Alexander was able to keep the other provinces of Southern Italy under control as well as continue the claim to best represent the heirs of Alexander the Great in his crumbling empire, although he failed to reconquer the island of Sicily from the Carthaginians. When Pyrrhus reached the age of 16 in 302 BC he formally took the throne and his uncle Alexander moved to a more advisory position. Whether he hoped for more direct influence and whether he was able to obtain it is not known. Shortly after coming to power, Pyrrhus wed Helen with Roxana's blessing, hoping to boost his claim to Alexander's Empire. In order to facilitate this claim, Pyrrhus soon began preparations to conquer much of Macedonia and Greece from the other Diadochi and reunify the Empire in its entirety. That being said, he did not forgo his claim to Neapolis and Sicily and vowed to return to Italy to reclaim what he considered rightfully his, but that would have to wait.
As mentioned above the death of Alexander the Great and the fragmentation of his empire gave Carthage a golden opportunity to push back Greek influence and seize the island of Sicily for themselves, which they were successful in doing. While the Greek forces were defeated on the field and Carthaginian control was established, the countryside was considerably more unstable than some of the major colonies. Native Italic peoples also didn't subscribe to Carthaginian rule and sizable garrisons were required to maintain order.
Meanwhile, back in the colorful streets and vibrant courtyards of Carthage, tensions were rising between the traditional Carthaginian monarchy and the state council and its supporters. Similar to the revolution in Rome so many decades before, the monarchy was descended from the founder of Carthage Queen Dido while the state council held more to the oligarchical traditions of Republican Rome and the Greek city-states. Over time, while Dido's lineage continued to reign as shophet, the state council and its coalition of merchants and traders soon sapped most of their power. Increasingly, a vicious cycle would develop, where Carthaginian monarchs would lead expeditions to Sicily in order to restore their power by delivering wealth and prestige unto their city. While they campaigned, the council would further leech their power, and to avoid losing more power the monarchs would need either success or death. Often, it was the latter.
This changed with the reign of Bomilcar, who seized the opportunity and launched an invasion of Sicily while the Greek Diadochi were pre-occupied with their own squabbles and the local commanders were focused with the more potent Samnite threat to the north. With a powerful army, Bomilcar easily swept aside Greek resistance and conquered much of Sicily by 316 BC. His triumphant return in Carthage strengthened his position considerably and restored some strength to the monarchy. However, this was not to last, as the state council would not accept this new equilibrium and would soon act against it.
While at the apex of his power, Bomilcar would not reign forever and upon his death in 312, shortly after crushing a considerable revolt against Carthaginian rule in Sicily, the state council moved into action. His son, Malchus II, was too young and inexperienced in order to actually rule effectively. With several adroit actions the state council stripped him of much of his power and when he tried to resist they had him murdered in 309. However, while they now had all the power, the state council realized that they still needed a monarch to head off some of the more autocratic nobles and to offer a counterweight to anti-council activities. As such they installed a member of the minor Barca family, Hasdrubal, as king of the new dynasty and married Malchus II's daughter to him to instill a sense of legitimacy.
During this time period and the few centuries before Arabia had been dominated by two separate powers. Nabataea ruled the north while Saba was the main power in the south. Both based their power on trade routes between Africa, India, and Europe and became wealthy and powerful as a result. While Saba had to deal with other rivals in the south such as Qataban, Ma'in, and Hadramout, Nabataea had no such opposition despite being surrounded by powerful states like Egypt and the Babylonian and Persian Empires. Other than a short conquest by Alexander the Great, Nabataea's independence was not seriously threatened.
However, the wars further north did put a strain on such trade and Nabataea's prosperity declined for a bit. Back down south Saba remained the dominant power in the area thanks to its advanced dam and irrigation methods but rivalries with other states, most notably Qataban. While Saba maintained its effective control over the region by the end of the century, cracks had begun to emerge in its power structure and its ability to limit Qataban's rise was increasingly diminished.
Age of Empires
For a long time in India no single kingdom or state dominated the subcontinent. The Magadha Kingdom was the strongest state in northern India but its influence did not extend much further than its borders. This kingdom would eventually fall by 345 BC and give way to the Nanda Empire, which stretched across the Ganges plain from the Punjab to Bengal. The Nanda Empire was built upon a powerful military with no regional rival and immense wealth that enabled them to construct sophisticated public works. When Seleucus launched his invasion of Punjab in 322 BC, the Nanda Empire was eager to face him, but he was unable to penetrate too far into the Indian homelands.
However, two things quickly turned against the Nanda Empire that accelerated their downfall. First, the increasingly oppressive and tyrannical rule of the Nanda Dynasty began to alienate some of its subjects, in particular the prominent statesman and strategist Chanakya. As a result of a perceived insult, Chanakya vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. Second, the Greek invasion left a power vacuum in the Indus Valley. Macedonian attempts to maintain order were dashed when Chandragupta Maurya, a local man of humble birth, advised by Chanakya, and familiar with Macedonian strategy, defeated them in battle. As a result, Maurya was the strongest man within the Indus Valley.
Despite now being a powerful ruler, neither Maurya nor Chanakya were content and both viewed the Nanda Empire with disdain. After a brief period of consolidation, the two leaders led an attack on the center of Nanda power at Pataliputra in 320 BC. When they were victorious, Maurya established the Maurya Empire at only 22 years of age.
The Maurya Empire
Upon becoming Emperor Maurya and his main advisor Chanakya instituted many different reforms designed to improve life for all subjects of the Empire. Much of the early Maurya Empire was built upon the foundations that the Nanda Empire had first constructed. Maurya expanded the previous capital of Pataliputra continued many public works. Many other nobles considered Maurya's efforts extraordinary considering that he knew no writing and rejected the level of luxury that the previous Nanda rulers enjoyed.
However, Maurya was also a warrior, and he did not shirk from military action whenever it was required. Once he had consolidated his western border against the Ptolomaic Dynasty, Seleucus launched yet another invasion of India, ready to fulfill Alexander's will and avenge the previous failed expedition. He was also concerned with the rising power of Maurya and wanted to put an end to his empire before it became too much of a threat. In 305 BC a large army of Greek troops under Seleucus' command crossed the Indus once again.
However, as experienced before, Maurya knew Macedonian strategy. Furthermore, Seleucus was far from his base of power in Persia and Media and could not count on any reinforcements. After several pitched battles, Seleucus was unsuccessful in breaking Maurya power. The two sides sent emissaries and began negotiations and after the two rulers met, a deal was hashed out and signed in 303 BC. The two kings entered into an alliance as Seleucus' daughter married Maurya and turned over portions of the Indus Valley and Bactria as her dowry. In return, Maurya would support Seleucus' future efforts to reunify Alexander's empire by providing a supply of trained war elephants. With the alliance with the Seleucids established, Maurya could turn his attention to the other lands of India that lay outside his rule.
Prosperity and Expansion
Still unified under the Kǎi Dynasty China remained in an era of prosperity and success. Trade blossomed between the different regions of China thanks to a unified currency, standardized writing system, and improved infrastructure. Technology advanced like the development of better metalurgy and the crossbow. Regional identites from the Warring Period diminished as the Dynasty enabled relatively free movement amongst its provinces and crushed any movements for greater autonomy.
With its internal stability on the rise, the Kǎi Emperors turned their attention to consolidating their realm through both establishing borders and expansion. Towards the middle of the 4th century the Kǎi Dynasty sent most of its military south to pacify the Yue kingdoms of what is now Southern China. Southern China was known as a region of fertile land and a center for the production of jade and elephant ivory and as such was desirable for conquest. Hundreds of thousands of men were sent south but the conquest was slow, as the jungle terrain impeded progress and the Chinese troops were not experienced with the guerilla combat used by the Yue soldiers. Despite this, the region was largely pacified by 330 BC.
Around the same time the Kǎi Dynasty began a series of earthen fortifications along its northern frontiers in order to forestall any possible attacks from nomadic tribes. While the threat was not as significant as it was, several miles of fortifications were constructed and most historians consider these structures to be the beginning of the Great Wall of China, which would be vastly expanded by successive dynasties over the next 1,500 years.
While the Kǎi Dynasty was successful in its efforts to expand south and maintain internal Chinese stability, it would not last forever. In 316 BC Emperor Sun Bin was assassinated by one of his generals, Pang Juan. With no heirs able to take the throne, the Kǎi Dynasty collapsed into civil war as different warlords tried to claim the throne in Tianjing and southern Yue loyalists attempted to restore their independence. Pang Yuan tried to claim the throne as his own but he was unsuccessful and he also was assassinated by his own disgruntled troops. China would remain in chaos for over a decade before the establishment of the Xin Dynasty by the Ying family in 301 BC.
The Zapotecs entered into undisputed dominance in the Anhuac region ever since it defeated the time ravaged Olmec forces at the Battle of Manatl in c. 403 BC. Rather than annex the Olmecs, the Zapotecs instead reduced them to vassalage, as the technology, infrastructure, and social attitudes were not yet developed enough to maintain large imperial systems. However, the Zapotec state, centered on its capital city of Danibaan and the Oaxaca Valley, continued to expand and do battle with other nearby peoples, in particular the Mixtec city-states to the west. While the state of Danibaan was the strongest Zapotec city, it did not form an exact comparison to some of the Empires of Europe, Asia, and Serica. If anything, a closer comparison would be the various hegemonies formed by Greek city-states.
While the Olmec had jumpstarted much of Anhuac's cultural traditions such as blood sacrifice and ball courts, it was the Zapotec who took much of that culture and expanded upon it. The Zapotec constructed great stone pyramids for their rulers and high priests to spill the blood demanded by the gods. Their scribes constructed the first complete writing system after drawing inspiration from the Olmecs' previous incomplete experiments. The influence of this writing system was apparent as other groups like the Olmecs and later the Maya would adopt similar systems for their own languages. As a consequence of the Zapotecs' military ambitions, new developments such as cotton armor became a mainstay for regional conflicts. Because of the Oaxaca Valley's fertile farmland for maize, the Zapotec would maintain their regional dominance for several hundred years.
Emergence of the Maya
Further south another area began urban and cultural development. The Maya peoples who had long inhabited the southern highlands began to establish cities based on largescale cultivation of maize, beans, squash, and chilis. Cities like Nakbe, Tikal, Komchen, and Kaminaljuyu emerged as major population centers and, just like the cities further west or even the Greek city-states, there was no single nation as of yet, only competing cities and their spheres of influence. It would be several generations before a single city emerged to be the dominant city amongst its rivals and establish the infrastructure required to reach the power that Danibaan and the Zapotecs had.
However, there is considerable evidence for cross-cultural contact between the Mayans and the more centrally located cities of Anahuac. The Mayans began to develop their own writing script, with some evidence for Zapotec or Olmec inspiration. That being said, the Mayan adopted their script for their language and if it was based on western designs it rapidly diverged. Historians are still not sure to the extent of such influence, if indeed there was any. In addition the Mayans practiced a brand of blood sacrifice, albeit to a different pantheon than the western cities and with some different practices such as the cutting of tongues and genitalia. To some later observors, the Maya blood sacrifice was perhaps more tame compared to what was practiced by the western cities.
By this point the influence of the Chavin culture within the Peru region was perhaps at its greatest, reaching the north of Peru and stretching south to influence the still nascent culture of the Nazca peoples. While this remained the case, and much of the Chavin's culture remained preeminent in the region, the Chavin cities entered into a decline shortly after. While the cause of this decline is unknown, it is speculated to be something related to either the environment or the social pressures exerted as the result of such damage, perhaps war or a disintigration of political and social authority. While the cause is not known, the Chavin culture was in clear peril by the end of the century, and would only linger on a few decades more.