Seleucids and Greek Contribution to Ancient Persia

  February 24, 2021   Read time 1 min
Seleucids and Greek Contribution to Ancient Persia
The real Hellenization of Iran began only after the end of the Seleucids; when the Iranian rulers, beginning with Mithridates I of Parthia, the " Philhellene", as he called himself, needed bright men of Greek education to manage the Seleucid inheritance.

Unlike Oriental civilizations, Greek civilization was neither sacerdotal nor tribal. The Greeks were no racists, and everybody was free to choose the Greek way of life. When Alexander founded his military colonies on the Syr Darya, he enrolled Iranians among the settlers. Antiochus I transferred Babylonians to "the royal city" of Seleucia on the Tigris. Some noble families from Stakhr were settled by Seleucus I in Karka (Upper Mesopotamia). Further, the Greek polis invented naturalization. An alien could not be made Persian, but a Persian could become a citizen of a Greek polis. Naturalized, he would have to pay homage to the gods of the city, but he was not expected to abandon his ancestral gods. The conversion required was to the Greek language and the Greek way of life. As Plutarch tells us, children of the "barbarians" in Gedrosia (Baluchistan) learned to read Homer. (Some verses of Euripides were engraved in the Seleucid period on a rock near Armavir, in Armenia.) They and their fathers had also to exercise naked in the gymnasion, an abomination to the Orientals (and to the Romans). A man who went through this initiation rite either was or became alienated to his native environment. He became Greek not only in his language but in his soul. Thus, Greek society was an open and changing society. There was no hereditary nobility of big landowners as in Iranian Iran. The Seleucids, did not have dynasties of viziers, like the Barmakids of Baghdad. This open society was governed by the spirit of adventure and greed. It believed that all that is held in honour and admiration among men is achieved by toil and venture, experience and intelligence. This society of adventure was open to the Iranians if they were ready to become Greek; they could become citizens of a Greek polis in Iran, or even generals in the Seleucid army. Herodotus observes that of all men the Persians were the readiest to adopt foreign customs.