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A Hellenistic Eden: One Ancient King’s Attempt to Create the Perfect City on Earth

Sunday, October 23, 2016 20:09
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A Hellenistic Eden: One Ancient King’s Attempt to Create the Perfect City on Earth

Sixteen hundred years before Sir Thomas More wrote Utopia, describing a near-ideal society, a Hellenistic king attempted to create his own real-life paradise. The monarch? Aristonicus, also known as Eumenes III, Roman-supported ruler of the city of Pergamum/Pergamon in Asia Minor. The utopia he wanted to build? Heliopolis (meaning “Sun City” in Greek).

The Romans started meddling in political affairs in Asia Minor in the third century BC, but it wasn’t until the second century that the reigning dynasty, the Attalids, kicked that up a notch. That came when King Attalus III of Pergamum died in 133 B.C.E. and decided to bequeath his realm to the Romans in his will. Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps he noticed Rome’s pattern of conquering former allies and enemies alike, so he realized the inevitable and tried to make the transfer of power as peaceful as possible. Or maybe he hated his rival and successor, a guy named Aristonicus, whom he wanted to deny control.

A bust of Aristonicus (Eumenes III).

A bust of Aristonicus (Eumenes III). Credit:

Either way, the Romans didn’t move right away to take power in Pergamum, since they were having some domestic troubles (yet again). But Aristonicus, who took the regnal name of Eumenes III, wasn’t going to wait for them. In 132 BC, he organized a rebellion against the Italian invaders and allied himself with numerous other cities in Asia Minor. The Romans tried to bribe the people of Pergamum by promising everyone Roman citizenship, a heady gift, but Aristonicus went one better.

Section: – Reconstructing the story of humanity’s past


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