From time immemorial the Hebrew race, with all its conservative tendencies in religious matters, has been amenable to the influence of foreign culture and civilian. Egypt and Phoenicia, Babylonia and Assyria, Hellas and Rome have exercised an immense influence over it. It still is and always has been endeavouring to bring into harmony the exclusiveness of its national religion, with a desire to adopt the habits culture, language, and manners of its neighbours; an attempt in which it may be apparently successful, for a certain period at least, but which must always have a tragic end. It is impossible to be conservative and progressive at the same time, to be both national and cosmopolitan. The attempts to reconcile religious formalism and free reasoning have never succeeded in the history of human thought. It soon led to the conviction that one factor must be sacrificed, and, as soon as this was perceived, the party of zealots was quickly at hand to preach reaction. In the times of the successors of Alexander, the Diadochae and Epigones, the Seleucidae and the Lagidae, who had divided the vast dominion among them, Greek influence had spread all over Palestine. Greek towns were founded, theatres and gymnasia established; Greek art was admired and her philosophy studied. The Hellenic movement was paramount, and the aristocratic families did their best to further it. Even the high priests, like Jason and Menelaos, who were supposed to be the guardians of the national exclusive movement, favoured Greek culture and institutions.
In the mother country, however, the germ of reaction was always very strong. A constant opposition was directed against the influx of foreign modes of life and thought, which effaced and obliterated the intellectual movement. It was different, however, in the other countries of Macedonian dominion, and especially in Egypt. Alexander the Great, who seems to have been favourably inclined towards the Jews, settled a number of them in Alexandria. His policy was kept up by the descendants of Lagos, that great general of Alexander, who made himself king of the province which was entrusted to the care of his administration. Egypt became the resort of many refugees from Judaea, who gradually came under the influence of the dazzling Greek thought and culture, so new and therefore so attractive to the Semitic mind. Hellenism and Hebraism had known each other for some time, for Phoenician merchants and seafarers