For a couple of centuries after 1000 BC the Phoenician city-states, particularly Tyre and Sidon, flourished as the leading trading powers of the Mediteranean Sea. To the south, the people of Israel inhabited a kingdom which, under kings David (c. 1006-965) and Solomon (c.965-928) became a leading regional power. After Solomon's death, however, the kingdom divided into two, the southern part centred on Jerusalem, the northern part on Samaria.
In both kingdoms, the Israelites continued to worship their one God, Yawheh, and their faith developed as a succession of prophets taught that it was not just a matter of belief and worship, but of ethical behaviour as well.
From the mid-8th century onwards, the small kingdoms of Syria and Palestine fell one by one under the power of Assyria. The Assyrians destroyed the kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, many of its people deported to other parts of the empire; and the kingdom of Judah became a vassal state.
With the fall of Assyria in 612 BC, Syria and Palestine came under Babylonian control. The kingdom of Judah, having unsucessfuly rebelled against Babylon, was destroyed in 586 BC. Thousands of Jews were sent into exile. Then Syria and Palestine, like most of the Middle East, passed into the hands of the Persians in 539 BC, who shortly restored the Jewish people to their homeland.
The coming centures would see Syria and Palestine come under rulers from outside the Middle East, for the first time in their histories. After a couple of centuries under the Persian empire, Syria was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and in the struggles for control of Alexander's empire after his early death, his generals Seleucus and Ptolemy divided Syria between them. They founded powerful dynasties. Under them, many Greek-style cities sprang up, which became thriving centres of Hellenistic civilization. Antioch, the Seleucid capital, was one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world.
Seleucid Kingdom. Antiochus VIII Epiphanes Grypos. AR Tetradrachm. 121-96 BC. Antioch Mint, first reign. 28mm, 16.42gr. HGC 9, 1197e. SMA 367. Obv: Diademed portrait bust of Antiochus VIII right. Fillet border. Rev: ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ Zeus Uranius (with crescent moon above head), wearing himation, standing left, holding star and resting on scepter. In inner left field, ΙΕ above Α and dot. The whole in laurel wreath. Brilliant, with a very sharp and well detailed striking. Wonderful, artistic portrait and perfectly appealing in every way. NGC MS 5/5, 4/5, Fine Style.
SELEUCID KINGDOM. Antiochus VIII Epiphanes. Silver Tetradrachm (16.12 g), sole reign, 121/0-97/6 BC. Antioch on the Orontes. Obv: Diademed head of Antiochos VIII right. Rev: Zeus seated left, holding Nike and scepter, in outer left field, two monograms; below throne, monogram; all within laurel wreath. SC 2309.2c; SMA 405; HGC 9, 1200. Toned. NGC grade AU★ 5/5, 5/5.
SELEUKID KINGS of SYRIA. Antiochos IX Eusebes Philopator (Kyzikenos).114/3-95 BC. AR Tetradrachm. 29mm, 16.52gr. Antioch Mint. Obv: Diademed head right. Rev: Athena Nikephoros standing left; to outer left, NT monogram above A; A to inner right; all within wreath. SC 2363a; HGC 9, 1228i . Exceptionally choice brilliant Mint State with a complete, sharp strike, strong detail, basically flawless surfaces and full luster. Very conservative grading. NGC graded MS★ Strike 5/5, Surface 5/5, Fine Style.