Hellenistic Diplomacy
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Categories: Ancient

Hellenistic Diplomacy

a pale mosaic with a red white brown colour scheme of the head of a bug-eyed brown-haired woman with a hat shaped like a war galley, a cloak buttoned at the shoulder, and some kind of tunic or corselet
This Ptolemaic queen of Egypt is decked in a naval crown, an anchor brooch, and a military cloak fastened at the right shoulder. One school of thought is that she is boasting about a victory at sea over one of the Seleukid kings of Asia, because their symbol was the anchor. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mosaic_of_Berenice_II,_Ptolemaic_Queen_and_joint_ruler_with_Ptolemy_III_of_Egypt,_Thmuis,_Egypt.jpg

Hellenistic diplomacy, like all Hellenistic rulership, was fundamentally personal: agreements and alliances were not struck between abstract states or nations, but between individuals. When a monarch died, previous agreements no longer stood, and new agreements with the next monarch had to be negotiated. The contemporary purpose of these marriage alliances at the time was to create a direct and personal link two monarchs, symbolized and meditated by marriage to a royal woman. In other words, the marriage of Stratonice I to Seleucus created a direct bond between her husband and her father that, in turn, united their two families.

Alex McAuley, “Weaving the Dynastic Web: Hellenistic Marriage Alliances,” Ancient History 49 p. 22 https://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/en-ca/products/ancient-history-magazine-49

Ten years ago Canadian Armed Forces members had to take an oath or affirmation to “Elizabeth II the Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors according to law” (the exact wording may be different). Getting people to pledge loyalty to an abstract monarchy rather than a specific king or queen is really unusual in world history.

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