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This book is the first detailed study of the foundation, history, government, growth and decline of the cities founded in Syria by Seleukos I in 301BC shortly after the time of Alexander the Great. It throws new light on an important period in ancient history. In particular, Dr Grainger concentrates on the relationship between the kings and the cities in their kingdoms and reveals that former theories concerning such a relationship require drastic revision. Most importantly the relationship is shown to have been much more to the kings' advantage than previous discussions on Hellenistic states have supposed. He argues in fact that neither the kings nor the cities intended the cities to be autonomous or independent since they were far too reliant on royal support against the enmity of the surrounding population. Evidence for this can be seen in the actions of the cities on the collapse of the Seleukid dynasty in the first century BC; then they were forced to cast about for a new protector and eventually accepted Rome albeit reluctantly.
Dr Grainger discusses the differing fate of the cities during this process when some failed altogether, most declined, and only one, Antioch, prospered.