Plutarch, in the eulogy of his hero Alexander the Great (De Alex, fort.), made the foundation of cities the linchpin of the achievement of Alexander, who wished to spread Greek civilization throughout his realm.

Although we must be mindful of the predictable ideology which has structured Plutarch's argument, as well as distrustful of the number of cities attributed to the conqueror (70!), it is nevertheless true that Alexander's conquest opened the countries of the middle east to Greek immigration.

The Greeks, however, could only imagine life in cities with Greek-style houses, streets, public buildings, civic institutions, and a rural territory where the colonists could hold plots of land (kleroi).

Begun by Alexander, usually as military colonies rather than cities proper (Alexandria in Egypt is an exception), this policy was followed by his successors and developed further by the Seleucids.

Every region of their empire was included, but it is possible to distinguish four arenas in particular:

All the foundations received a Greek and/or Macedonian population, as the onomastic evidence shows; the Seleucids wanted, in effect, 'to create Greek colonies and to instal citizens of Greek cities in Phrygia, in Pisidia, and even in the Persian Gulf region' (L.Robert).

When Antiochus wanted to strengthen the city of Antioch-Persis, he asked Magnesia ad Maeandrum to send a contingent of new colonists. Even the most distant foundations remained in direct contact with their Aegean counterparts: we know, for example, that the philosopher Clearchus of Soli, a pupil of Aristotle, stayed at Ai Khanoum, leaving as evidence a copy of the Delphic maxims; the family of the Graeco-Bactrian king Euthydemus I (last quarter of the 3r century BC) came from Magnesia as Maeandrum, and influences from the Maeander valley are also detectable in a statuette found in the Bactrian sanctuary of Takht-i Sangin; the Greek inscriptions found in Arachosia use a language and syntax which imply regular links with the Aegean cities.

However, the Graeco-Macedonian dominance in the new cities implies neither an enforced Hellenization of the local peoples nor their marginalization.

In Babylonia, what is striking is the continuity and survival of traditional social, political, and religious institutions. Anu-uballit, governor of Uruk in the reign of Seleucus II, is a specially interesting case: he had received permission from the Seleucid king to add to his Babylonian name the Greek 'Nikarchos'; at the same time he continued to watch over and care for the Babylonian sanctuaries of the city.



Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed. (1996), p.363