Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.03.03

Alain Bresson, Raymond Descat (ed.), Les cités d'Asie mineure occidentale au IIe siècle a.C.   Bordeaux:  Editions Ausonius, 2001.  Pp. 294.  ISBN 2-910023-13-3.  295.18 FF.  

Contributors: A. Bresson, K. Sion-Jenkis, G. Le Rider, P. Baker, I. Savalli-Lestrade, J.-L. Ferrary, P. Herrmann, P. Gauthier, L. Migeotte, F. Delrieux, P. Debord, I. Papachristodoulou, G. Finkielsztejn, J. des Courtils, M. H. Sayar, P. Briant, P. Brun, E. Varinlioglu, O. Picard

Reviewed by Thomas Corsten, University of Oxford (
Word count: 2969 words

This important book is a collection of papers given at a conference at the University of Bordeaux, France. Its aim is to show the circumstances which distinguished the 2nd century BC, especially after the turning point of the peace of Apamea in 188, from the periods before and after by examining in particular the situation of the cities in Western Asia Minor and their relationship to the great powers (the Seleucids, the Attalids, Rhodes and Rome). To achieve this aim in as broad a way as possible, the papers address all possible fields (e.g. the military, economy, coinage, onomastics) from different points of view, without neglecting any kind of evidence (ancient literature, inscriptions, coins, archaeological finds).

The book is divided into three main sections, preceded by an introduction and followed by a conclusion. Each of the three main parts gathers together several papers which can be related to a common subject, indicated in their headings: I. Dynamics and Structures; II. The Cities; III. New Documents. A list of abbreviations (pp. 265-267), a full bibliography (pp. 269-280), an index of sources (pp. 281-289), a geographical index (pp. 291-292), and an index of names (pp. 293-294) provide easy access to ancient and modern literature and make the book of great value for further research. A good map, showing the area concerned (p. 9), as well as numerous illustrations in the text, allows the reader to follow the argumentation easily.

In the first paper of the first section, K. Sion-Jenkis offers some "reflections" on the supposed disappearance of mercenaries during the 2nd century (pp. 19-35). She examines the Seleucid army before 188, the armies of Pergamon and Rhodes after 188, the rôle of the cities regarding the recruitment of soldiers, and the provenance of mercenaries. She concludes that, despite a certain decline in the use and numbers of mercenaries for different reasons (depending on the situation of the recruiting power) and despite the lack of precise information, there was, after 188, not a general disappearance of mercenaries but merely various shifts: the Seleucids were no longer allowed to recruit in areas under Roman influence; the Attalids could rely on allies more than before; the cities lacked the financial means to recruit mercenaries but, as allies of the great powers, sent auxiliary troups; the Ptolemies, however, continued hiring mercenaries from the cities of Asia Minor.

G. Le Rider (pp. 37-59 with 3 plates) attempts to explain why cities in Asia Minor kept the Attic standard for their tetradrachms after 188, although the dominant powers, Pergamon and Rhodes, adopted a new standard. After observations about minting dates, the volume of emissions, the circulation of coins, and remarks about the monetary system of the Seleucids, he is obliged to leave the question of the end-date of minting open, but he sees the reason for using the Attic standard in commercial and other connections to the Seleucid empire.

P. Baker, in what he regards only as a preliminary study (pp. 61-75), examines the relations between the cities in the Maeander valley and their military institutions. His paper is based on the treaty between Miletus and Magnesia on the Maeander (I.Milet I 3 no. 148), which is, conveniently given in an appendix, with a translation. He states that there are quite different military offices in different cities, whose duties and significance are not always possible to determine. His conclusion, however, is certainly true: in order to appreciate how the cities functioned, it is important to try to understand the (military as well as civilian) offices.

Next is an important contribution concerning the reputation of the Attalid kings in the "free" Greek cities (pp. 77-91). I. Savalli-Lestrade starts from the puzzling observation that, despite the fact that the Pergamene kings were largely regarded as being friendly towards the Greek cities, the latter did not support the pretender Aristonicus. Having reviewed briefly ancient and modern views on this topic, she scrutinizes especially three recently published inscriptions;1 and from these she infers that the kings introduced a new type of administration in their newly conquered territories, which was presumably not always to the advantage of the cities. It is in those circumstances that S.-L. sees the reason why the Greek cities were opposed to a re-establishment of royal rule by Aristonicus.

A similar kind of problem is presented in the next paper, in which J.-L. Ferrary discusses the relations between Rome and the Greek cities (pp. 93-106). The development seems to have taken a course comparable to that examined in the previous paper, since eventually the Greek cities did not stand on Rome's side against Mithridates VI. After a brief but critical summary of modern views on the growth of Roman influence in Asia Minor, F. makes clear from the outset that his position is between those who regard Rome as an imperialistic power and those who argue that she had no interest in the affairs of Asia Minor. In the beginning, the Romans did not wish to get involved in the quarrels of Asia Minor. They freed those states which had stood against Antiochos and put those who had been on his side under the power of Rhodes or Eumenes. When they later similarly punished Rhodes on the grounds of a supposed attempt at mediation between Rome and Perseus, they dissolved the already existing Lycian League and supported synoecisms in Caria. In this situation, it is understandable that the free cities did not support Aristonicus; since little support came from slaves, only the Macedonian colonies thought to gain from the pretender's victory. The establishment of the province--although there are still a number of unanswered questions--seems to have changed little for most cities, but the entire country was affected by the behaviour of the publicani. F. does not, however, see this matter as the only source of trouble, and he is prudently reluctant to give a clear-cut answer to the reasons for Mithridates' success. There seems rather to have been a general discontent on the part of the cities with Roman policy in Asia, which made them only all too willing tools for the king.

P. Herrmann's paper is a case study of the large city of Miletus and its complex political relations (pp. 109-116). Although Miletus is one of the most important ancient Greek cities in Asia Minor, and despite its rich epigraphical record, there are still serious gaps in the extant documentation, making it impossible to write a continuous history of the city. What is clear, however, is that the Milesians started a new list of their eponymous magistrates (the stephanophoroi) after 188 BC. In the absence of other sources concerning the effects of the war against Antiochos, this is an important document, testifying how crucial the outcome was for the city. By adducing three major inscriptions, H. shows how Miletus, by a sophisticated system of treaties and alliances, was able to maintain its independence and even to extend its territory during these troubled times.

One of the inscriptions studied by P. Herrmann, the treaty of sympolity between Miletus and Pidasa (I.Milet I 3 no. 149), is also the subject of the two following papers. In the first of these (pp. 117-127), P. Gauthier makes clear that this was not a case of a smaller city (Pidasa) being absorbed by a large one (Miletus), but that the Pidaseis, who were experiencing trouble, asked the Milesians for a sympolity. This did not, however, mean that all Pidaseis had to move to Miletus, although some certainly did, and Pidasa did not become a demos of the larger city, but retained some autonomy that is hard to define. Also, Miletus installed a garrison at Pidasa for the security of the remaining citizens. Only much later, did Pidasa cease to exist and became a part of Miletus.

L. Migeotte examines the financial clauses in the treaty (pp. 129-135), especially certain provisions which privileged the Pidaseis on becoming citizens of Miletus. The clauses under investigation not only provide valuable information about the economy of Pidasa, but also show that the economies of neighboring cities can be different enough to make a period of transition necessary until the inhabitants of the smaller community have adapted their fiscal system to that of the larger one. But even after that point, some exceptions were allowed which took the special situation of Pidasa into account in order to avoid disadvantages. The most important conclusion of this paper, however, seems to me to be that there was regular direct taxation on goods and income, a feature which is generally believed not to have existed in a Greek city at all.

F. Delrieux tries to interpret the presence of foreigners, mostly metics, at Iasos in Caria (pp. 137-155). To this end, she divides the period considered into three parts, among which she discovers significant differences regarding the number and provenance of the foreigners. The first period (c. 200-160 BC) witnesses difficult beginnings, with only a few people present, mostly from south-west Asia Minor; the second (c. 160-140 BC, the "golden age") sees the highest number of foreigners; and in the last period (c. 140-100 BC), their numbers decline sharply. D. offers an explanation for most of this: for the periods with few foreigners, she cites wars or economic problems in Iasos and environs, or in the regions from where the men originated; and economic stability and economic connections for the other periods. However, she is aware that these explanations should be regarded as mere suggestions. There are, moreover, some problems. Firstly, the dates are often not certain; and secondly, the number of foreigners in Iasos is altogether not very high. D. admits these difficulties but at one point seems to be in danger of using a circular argument: whereas she usually starts from certain dates to establish the number of foreigners and the reasons for their presence at Iasos at that time, she argues the other way round when placing one particular inscription of disputed date in the mid-second century rather than to about 200 because of the provenance of the persons mentioned (pp. 140-141).

Next, P. Debord examines the foundation and early history of Stratonikeia in Caria (pp. 157-172). The city seems to be a combination of a polis and Macedonians settlers, but the date of its foundation is not clear. Possible founders are Antiochos II or III, but also--in comparison with Stratonikeia on the Caicus--Eumenes II, who named the latter after his wife Stratonike. D. surveys the history of Stratonikeia in the 2nd century and concludes that, despite the wealth of information (inscriptions, architecture, coins), the question of its foundation remains unsolved. A brief disgression is devoted to two recently published inscriptions, one of which mentions a κοινὸν τῶν λαοδικέων, a community of the Laodikeis. Contrary to other explanations that have been brought forward, he believes that it is the city of Laodikeia on the Lykos that is meant here; lying south of the Maeander, it was given to the Rhodians after 188 BC, who then reduced it to a "koinon". However, the existence of the tribe "Attalis" in Laodikeia seems to me to speak against this, as it clearly shows that the city must have belonged to the Pergamene kingdom, presumably immediately after 188 BC.2

In the short paper which follows and which concerns geographic and personal names from Asia Minor in the Rhodian inscriptions of the advanced Hellenistic period (pp. 173-179), I. Papachristodoulou deals mostly with funerary texts from the different cemeteries of Rhodes. He states--not surprisingly--that there are more people from Asia Minor in Rhodian texts than from most other regions. The reason is, of course, the close relationship of Rhodes to the Peraia and the hinterland.

G. Finkielsztijn uses the evidence of Rhodian stamped amphora handles to establish a picture of Rhodian politics and commerce during the 2nd century (pp. 181-196). He proceeds on the basis of the--partly modified--chronological system established by V. Grace. By applying statistical methods-- made comprehensible with the help of graphs--for a comparison of the production of amphorae and the quantity of export into different regions, he concludes that the explanation for the fluctuation of export numbers is not always as straightforward as one might assume. For example, war did not necessarily mean that commercial relations were interrupted--quite the contrary, in fact, which F. proves with the example of wine export to Israel: the periods of apparent increase in amphora finds in Israel correspond to phases of occupation or siege, when wine consumption--by Greek soldiers--must have been at its peak; Jewish laws of purity at this time, on the other hand, were not in favor of alcohol.

Next is A. Bresson's examination of the personal names of the so-called "mint-masters" on Rhodian coins (pp. 197-211), which occur from the 2nd quarter of the 3rd century onwards. As usual, we do not know in what capacity these men are mentioned, and B. therefore tries to establish a connection with names and persons known from other sources, mostly inscriptions. His survey is based on the "Lexicon of Greek Personal Names" and is also an indication of the importance and use of onomastics and prosopography. The greatest problem, however, is that there was no space for patronymics on the coins so that an identification is often hard to make. He divides the coins into five groups and then gives a list of names attested on the coins, the amphora stamps and elsewhere in the onomastic material from Rhodes. Whereas on the coins of the first three groups the names correspond to those of the "onomastique civique", there is an interesting change with the fourth group (group D): suddenly, names appear for the first time, and many of them seem to come from a lower social class. B. tries to explain this by means of temporary access to higher social strata which allowed freedmen too to act as "mint-masters".

A very interesting and important paper demonstrating the significance of archaeological finds for historical research is next (pp. 213-224). J. des Courtils, skilfully linking archaeological evidence with historical information, attempts to establish the date and the circumstances of the two phases in which the cult-buildings in the Letoon near and belonging to Xanthos were erected. As the remains are scanty, he has to work with assumptions, which nonetheless seem quite reasonable. In this way, he opts for the time around 400 BC for the first stage, when three small temples (for Leto, Apollo, and Artemis) were built. At this time, under the rule of Arbinas, the sanctuary, which had been up till then only a city-sanctuary of Xanthos, gained importance for Arbinas' entire realm (comprising the whole valley of the river Xanthos). Whereas there is not much evidence for the following two centuries, a great renovation program is discernible in the middle of the 2nd century. Most probably, all three temples were enlarged in such a way that the old buildings were included in the new ones. At this time, the temple of Leto extended to an ancient spring-sanctuary of the Nymphs, which therefore had to be moved and was then turned into a nymphaeum with a porticus added. These works were much too expensive to have been carried out solely by Xanthos, which had lost its political and economic power by that time (facts which fit well when one considers that there was nothing comparable being done in the city itself). A subscription list from the same time could mean that the construction works were financed by all Lycian cities, which would make sense given the importance that the sanctuary had as a cult center for the Lycian League. C. therefore rightly concludes that the renovation of the Letoon was a religio-political act on behalf of the League.

The third part of the book is concerned with new documents, and starts with two short papers. Firstly, M. H. Sayar traces the route Antiochos III took from Cilicia to Thrace to regain Asia Minor (pp. 227-234). His arguments are based on two newly discovered inscriptions, one from Aegeae in Cilicia, the other from Perinthos in Thrace. The first may testify to the role of Aegeae as harbor for the king's enterprise, and the other appears to be a treaty between Antiochos and Perinthos. A. Bresson publishes a new votive inscription for Antiochos III, put up by the Xanthians (pp. 235-240). As another text shows, the king granted asylia to the city, a status which was often connected to exemption from certain taxes, and by the new inscription the Xanthians seem to have expressed their gratitude.

The last paper is the collaborative work of P. Briant, P. Brun, and E. Varinlioglu (pp. 241-259). They publish a honorary inscription for an Apollonios, found at a location in the interior of Caria which cannot be assigned to an ancient city. This document is to be dated in the time of the war against Aristonicus, but the editors regret that it does not add much to our knowledge about this troubled period. However, it shows at least that the war affected regions much farther inland than is usually thought and that the capture of Aristonicus did not put an end to it.

The conclusion by O. Picard (pp. 261-264) summarizes the main conclusions of the conference. He rightly stresses the importance of and gain achieved by bringing together scholars with different approaches and using different kinds of evidence, which results in seeing the 2nd century BC not as a time of decline for Hellenism and the Greek city but as a "golden age". This is especially true for the cities which, after the elimination of the Seleucids in Asia Minor and under the domination of Rome, could play a much greater role.

To sum up, this book is an important and well-balanced contribution to the history of (western) Asia Minor at a crucial time in the Hellenistic period.


1.   H. Malay, Arkeoloji Dergisi (Izmir/Turkey) 3, 1996, 83-86 from Tralleis in Caria; R. A. Kearsley, Anatolian Studies 44, 1994, 47-57 from Olbasa in Pisidia.
2.   I.Laodikeia (IGSK 49) no. 49.

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