Over the course of hundreds of years, an advanced culture developed in Greece and accomplished a great deal in the realms of science, philosophy, literature, art, architecture, military strategy, and politics. Its power increased gradually. In defeating his adversaries, King Philip II of Macedon united the Greek city-states under his rule. He invited the great Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle to tutor his son, Alexander III, later known as Alexander the Great. When Alexander ascended the throne, he began a campaign of conquests, and within three years (3426-3429/ 334-331 BCE), his army had conquered vast expanses of territory – Asia Minor, Eretz Yisrael, Egypt, and the entire mighty Persian Empire as far as India.
After Alexander died, the generals of the Macedonian army began fighting over the throne. In the end, they divided the vast territory under their control into several Greek kingdoms.
As a result of the conquests, Greek culture spread throughout the world, consuming all other cultures and forming a single Hellenistic civilization. The system of government, language, culture, and sporting competitions in every country were Hellenistic. The upper classes and the nobility of every land assimilated into Hellenistic culture imitated its ways.
Judea was among the areas ruled by the Greeks, and there, too, Hellenism spread. The Jews, however, were different from all the other nations, and the process of Hellenization proceeded relatively slowly in Judea. Nonetheless, over the course of 160 years of Greek rule, the influence of the Hellenists grew increasingly stronger, mostly over the affluent. It reached the point where the High Priests, Jason and Menelaus, were leading supporters of Hellenization, working to increase Greek influence in Judea. Jason built a gymnasium near the Holy Temple, which caused the priests to prefer watching wrestling matches rather than performing their sacrificial duties in the Temple.