BMCR 1997.02.06

1997.2.6, Kallet-Marx, Hegemony to Empire

, Hegemony to empire : the development of the Roman Imperium in the East from 148 to 62 B.C.. Hellenistic culture and society ; 15. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. 1 online resource (xiv, 428 pages).. ISBN 9780585160382 $55.

Dynamic argument with the great historical interpretations of our predecessors is one of the defining characteristics of the practice of history. Surely this project is nowhere clearer than in recent revisions of our views of the imperialism of Republican Rome. The great interpretative structures raised by the most eminent historians of the nineteenth century, especially Theodore Mommsen, have come under increasing attack in the twentieth century. Mommsen’s vision of Roman “defensive imperialism” marked by equivocation in “annexing” conquered territories can now be seen (in part, of course) as a reflection of late nineteenth century European preoccupations with their own imperialist projects: an India divided up into districts administered directly by Britain and districts left in the hands of local dynasts, whose loyalty to the Queen was assured by a complex web of treaties, agreements, and obligations guaranteed by the might of the Indian army; or the Europeans’ decision to deliver Africa to direct imperial administration to prevent destructive European competition and, of course, to undertake the “burden of civilization.”

In recent years no books have been more influential in stimulating a rethinking of our understanding of Roman imperialism than William Harris’s War and Imperialism in Republican Rome and Erich Gruen’s The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome. 1 Harris argued that Roman imperialism was governed by a consciously expansionist policy; if the Romans sometimes failed to annex territory, it was not for lack of interest or will, but because their aims could be achieved through other means. Harris’s arguments provoked a great reaction, still being worked out in the literature, to which Gruen’s book made a fundamental—and itself controversial—contribution. Gruen argued that the Romans were drawn into the Greek East largely in response to Greek concerns, and at Greek invitation; and that the mechanisms the Romans used to control that world were, at least initially, those the Greeks themselves had developed in the Classical and earlier Hellenistic periods. Roman imperialism resulted, one might almost say, from an acculturation of the Romans to the political folkways of the Hellenistic Greeks. Now one of Gruen’s students, Robert Kallet-Marx, has added his contribution to the debate in a study that takes up where The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome left off, by examining the ways in which Roman involvement in the East evolved from 148 to 62 BC. Unlike A.N. Sherwin-White’s Roman Foreign Policy in the East 168 B.C. to A.D. 1, 2 with which this new book might be compared, From Hegemony to Empire does not attempt a full narrative reconstruction of the events of Roman conquest of the East, nor does it seek to explain the behavior of individual commanders or elucidate the shifts of Roman policy. Kallet-Marx’s goals are at once narrower in chronological scope and broader interpretatively; he aims “to depart from the old tradition which focuses narrowly on the legal structures assumed (often without good evidence) to have been erected by Roman conquerors after the various eastern wars, and to turn attention rather toward the evolution of imperial structures both as an ongoing process of mutual adaptation on both the Greek and Roman sides and as a reaction to specific historical events” (1).

Kallet-Marx approaches his subject via a careful study of the sources, stripped of accumulated supposition and interpretation; he is therefore willing to challenge, or at least question, virtually all received wisdom. Moreover, despite his general agreement with his teacher Erich Gruen that the construction of a Roman imperium in the East remained very much ad hoc even after 148 and that established Greek interstate practices like arbitration conditioned the character of Roman authority, he attributes an important role to some specifically Roman institutions in that process.

The nature of Kallet-Marx’s method and his results can be illustrated by taking two interventions long offered as classic examples of Roman “annexationism”: Mummius’ settlement of Greece after Akhaian war and the creation of the province of Asia. Beginning with the aftermath of the wars against Andriskos (“Philip”) and the Akhaians, Kallet-Marx shows that Roman interest in Makedonia was conditioned largely, even exclusively, by the need to defend the northern frontier. The region therefore remained a provincia in the technical sense of a military command whose incumbent’s eyes looked continually north. (Here the role of a specifically Roman institution is crucial.) Kallet-Marx argues vigorously and convincingly that in Greece after the war with the Akhaians the arrangements imposed by Mummius, known largely through Pausanias’ potted description (7.16.9-10, quoted in full in translation and in Greek at 58 with n. 2), did not result in a wholesale revision of the constitutions of the Greek cities to create “timocratic” regimes, in the permanent imposition of tribute, or even in the suppression of Greek leagues. Kallet-Marx weaves close reading of Pausanias with deployment of the epigraphical material to yield a picture of Mummius’ activities that follows the typical Roman response to troublemakers: having beaten them up, the Romans settled matters in a way that tried to guarantee no one would cause trouble again, and extracted money to make the troublemakers pay for the trouble they had caused. 3 This is very different, Kallet-Marx argues, from reducing Greece to a province.

In this argument I resist only two minor propositions. When, a propos of the temporary imposition of a property qualification for officeholding, Kallet-Marx writes that “political office had in Hellenistic Greece long been the preserve of a class that no qualification of wealth is likely to have excluded” (67), he forgets the bouleutai who, in some cities anyway, had continued to be drawn from the citizen body as a whole even as late as the later second century. Even a temporary exclusion of part of the citizenry may have helped along the development of the boule into something more like the Roman ordo decurionum. 4 Kallet-Marx’s explanation for Mummius’ reserving offices for the wealthy is that bribes had been a problem, and the rich could be expected to refrain from taking them. This strains credulity. Bribery had always been a problem in the poleis, and wealth never an innoculation against greed. Surely it is more reasonable to suppose that Mummius, successful scion of a timocratic system, felt more comfortable dealing with men of his own class. He also had Flamininus’ practice, attested by Livy, as precedent.

Kallet-Marx deploys a similar panoply of argument against the standard interpretations of the creation of Asia Provincia. The Romans, he argues, were overtaken by events. Leisurely debate in Rome over how to respond to Attalos III’s unexpected bequest paralleled the emergence and initial success of Aristonikos in Asia. His threats against cities outside the boundaries of Pergamon aroused Greek opposition and interest in Roman intervention. Most particularly, Aristonikos’ military successes undermined the basic prop of Roman hegemony: its reputation for invincibility. Kallet-Marx emphasizes Aristonikos’ activities outside of Pergamene territory: “The significance of Aristonicus’s attack on Ionia and Caria has never been sufficiently stressed: it was this that transformed the attempt of a perhaps questionable heir to win the Attalid kingdom into an offensive war against its neighbors. The parallel with Andriscus is striking” (102). Even so, Roman response was slow, and only once Roman officials arrived on the scene, and realized how desperate the situation was, did Rome feel compelled to act.

In the settlement after the war Kallet-Marx stresses the territories freed by the Romans or distributed to client kings. The latter of course consisted largely of territories that had been subject to the Attalids and were now given out as rewards. Karia and Lykia, mentioned in this context by Kallet-Marx, are not relevant, since both had been released from Rhodian control by the Romans themselves in 167 and neither had any recent history of Attalid domination. 5 In this section the argument that will surely occasion the most surprise is the contention that Roman publicani did not arrive to exploit the province till about 100. The case rests on reinterpretation of Diodoros 34/35.25.1, cited often as evidence of Gaius Gracchus’ intentions, the silence of Appian and Plutarch about the lex Sempronia de censoria locatione, the absence of attested instances of tax-collection abuses before about 100, and the “surprising picture of smooth and cordial relations” (120) drawn from new texts from Kolophon. 6 The value of this evidence is uneven. Kallet-Marx points out, reasonably, that equestrian opposition to Gaius does not square easily with the notion that he delivered lucrative tax-farming contracts into their hands, and his proposal that Diodoros, following Poseidonios, has retrojected the results of Gaius’ legislation to its origins, is appealing. 7 At the same time, Kallet-Marx recognizes Gaius’ interest in “extract[ing from Asia] the full sum to which the populus Romanus deemed itself entitled” (120). The absence of complaints against publicani before 100 cannot prove that they were not in Asia in full force long before, and Kolophon, freed from tribute since 188 (Polyb. 21.46.4 [45.4 Loeb]) and victim of Aristonikos (Florus 1.35.4), cannot stand in for the situation of the territories incorporated into the province. In this instance Kallet-Marx has modified, but not refuted, the standard view.

Kallet-Marx extends this picture of the relative lightness of the Roman hand on Asia down to the years right before the First Mithridatic War. He rejects the standard view of the massacres of Romans by the Greeks of Asia at the start of that war as a “spontaneous expression of a latent but bitter hostility” and argues instead for seeing this action as the cold-blooded policy of a Mithridates “determined to secure his hold on the rest of the Greek cities of western Asia Minor and remove all possibility for time-serving prevarication by demanding of them an act that would place them irrevocably in the control of his partisans and preclude all rational hopes for accommodation with Rome in the near future” (157). 8 This seems to me to go too far in the other direction. No doubt the massacres served Mithridates’ purposes, but it seems disingenuous to dismiss the sources—even if we rely on Appian—that express the Greeks’ enthusiastic cooperation in his plans. That some cities resisted Mithridates’ order and saved Romans, as the Koans later claimed, suggests that those which did obey did so at least partly out of agreement with the aim. Nor should we forget that the Romans punished cities like Ephesos, Pergamon, and Kaunos which had massacred Romans and that in the immediate aftermath of the war cities that had helped the Romans were quick to stress their loyalty, especially in cases where internal differences of opinion on that score might have existed. 9 The willingness of both sides later to whitewash the incident is perfectly understandable, but has no bearing on attitudes in 88.

The central chapters that deal with the institutional mechanisms of Roman hegemony are to my mind the best in the book. Kallet-Marx’s treatment of Roman intervention in Greek interstate arbitration is sure-footed, careful, and surely right. On the matter of treaties between Rome and Greek states, Kallet-Marx demolishes the views that see an historical development behind the requests for, and Roman accession to, the granting of “equal” alliances; those that can be dated are late in the second century, at a time when their purpose is likely to have been not to create an alliance but to display closeness on the part of the Greek cities to the protecting power of Rome. In the absence of “provincialization” and the Roman officials and administrative structure that it entails, this may help explain why some apparently insignificant states sought out alliances with the Romans. An alliance with Rome would serve to guarantee the freedom and autonomy of a little island polis like Astypalaia 10 in the face of predatory neighbors: Samos, for example, colonized Ikaros and Minoa on Amorgos in the later second century, and Naxos Aigiale on Amorgos in the first. 11 As Kallet-Marx reminds us, interstate warfare and conflict did not cease with Roman intervention; indeed, the humbling of greater powers, from the Seleukids and Ptolemies down to regional hegemons like Rhodos, without the erection of a new, controlling authority in their place, may have given freer rein to smaller states with expansionist ambitions.

For Kallet-Marx, important changes in Roman attitudes toward their relations with the East begin in the first century. For example, the emergence of Roman authority in “Kilikia” is examined in the context of M. Antonius’ assignment in 102 against the pirates there. Though Kallet-Marx emphasizes that this campaign was intended to sustain Roman imperium in the East (236), he nevertheless detects a new, “nascent sense of imperial responsibility” (230) that can also be seen elsewhere. The beginnings of the shift from “hegemony to empire” that appear here accelerate with the First Mithridatic War, which for Kallet-Marx is the turning-point in Roman attitudes: “It is a central argument of the present study that it was not one of the various ‘annexations’ of territory after 148 but the long, intermittent clash with Mithridates of Pontus that was the decisive event for the consolidation of a concrete and intrusive Roman empire in the Hellenistic East” (7).

The first war with Mithridates undermined that fundamental prop of Roman policy in the East, the reputation for invincibility. If the Greeks had massacred Romans only because Mithridates pushed them to it, they now had in Mithridates concrete proof that it was possible to resist Rome and survive. The implications of these realizations were worked out in the two decades that followed the war. Annexation, and more particularly the conversion of provincia as a purely military assignment into “province” as a permanent, exploited, and taxed administrative unit, sound the new theme through the activities of Sulla 12 (though his “constitution” for Athens is rejected) and especially Pompey. That is to say, for Kallet-Marx annexation becomes Roman policy, as he belatedly joins the company of the communis opinio he has rejected up till now.

But this communis opinio has itself already come under attack, notably in the work of P.M. Freeman on the first century BC. His study of Kilikia, published in 1986 but unfortunately missed by Kallet-Marx, proceeds along much the same path as Kallet-Marx’s analysis of Makedonia to deny “annexation” and argue that essentially all the pre-Pompey “governors,” and some of the later ones, were there for purely military reasons. He also rejects Roman interference in internal affairs of the cities. 13 Freeman has recently applied the same approach to Pompey’s “settlement” in the East, 14 which Kallet-Marx sees as in fact creating provinces and an empire, and “hence the terminus of the investigation at Pompey’s return from his extensive campaigns in the East in 62” (7). Freeman I think has it right here, or at least raises the right questions, to which indeed Kallet-Marx’s own analysis, taken as a whole, points as well.

Freeman’s discussion of Pompey depends as much on an analysis of the general’s activities in Syria as in Asia Minor. This points up a drawback to Kallet-Marx’s decision to limit his discussion to Makedonia, Greece, and (mostly) western Asia Minor, in what is in effect a regional study (though Kallet-Marx does not call it such explicitly). Roman expansionism was ongoing in the entire Mediterranean basin throughout the period. One might defend cutting off the Greek world from the rest of the Mediterranean by arguing that the preconditions in the Greek East had been set by a different dynamic than in (say) the Iberian peninsula or the Middle East, with their very different political traditions. Yet I am not so sure that some matters are not clarified, rather than obscured, when viewed in a pan-Mediterranean context. For one, decisions in Rome about commitment of resources were made in such a context, often in the face of simultaneous crises. Kallet-Marx occasionally notices this, as when for example he speculates that the Senate might have been reluctant to commit troops to Asia in 133 with the slave war still undecided in Sicily and the Spanish war barely completed (105), or when he suggests that Pompey may have applied his Spanish experience to his eastern settlement (330). In this context it is interesting (for instance) to consider the rhythms of troop commitment in Spain and Asia between 77 and 62 BC. 15

Moreover, similar dynamics seem to have prevailed in Spain, a very different ground from the Greek East for Roman imperialism. A recent study by J.S. Richardson of the growth of Roman control in Spain emphasizes the importance of relatively independent decisions by commanders in the field in shaping the direction and character of Roman imperialism there. This situation flowed in part from the fact that “The assignment of a provincia marked out an area of military responsibility, and as such was not an act of annexation but an act of war.” What Richardson goes on to write is worth quoting at length:

[W]hat the Romans were doing in Spain was essentially the same as what they were doing in the Greek east, that is, using all means available to ensure that the peoples of the Mediterranean did what the Romans wanted them to do…. The difference between the treatment of Macedonia and Spain was that, in the opinion of the senate, the latter required constant warfare in order to achieve this end, whereas the former could be controlled by a combination of continuous diplomacy and occasional open war. Consequently in the case of Macedonia, as with the rest of the eastern Mediterranean, the senate was deeply involved in receiving and making decisions about a never-ending stream of embassies from the kings and cities of the Greek world through the first half of the second century, while they had relatively little to do with Spain. 16

The tone, approach, and conclusions echo Kallet-Marx’s.

As regional studies pile up that come independently to very similar assessments of the nature of Roman imperialism, the time seems ripe for a new review of this phenomenon taken as a whole. A new synthesis will take the skepticism of William Harris about claims of disinterested expansionism, the focus of Erich Gruen on Roman adaptation to Greek practices, and the careful analysis of our sources that distinguishes Kallet-Marx’s book (and much of the other detailed, regional work) and apply them to the Mediterranean world as a unit to seek an explanation for Roman expansion. In such a project From Hegemony to Empire will help to point the way toward new understandings of the development of Roman imperialism by bringing the detailed evidence into sharp focus, subjecting it to scrupulous interrogation, questioning the standard interpretations, and working to sort out the influences of the center from those of the grounds where the great game was played out.

1. Oxford 1979, reprinted with corrections 1985; 2 vols., Berkeley 1984.

2. Norman, Oklahoma, 1983.

3. For a similar reading of this passage and the famous parallel of Flamininus (Livy 34.51.6), also reinterpreted by Kallet-Marx, see now Friedemann Quass, Die Honoratiorenschicht in den Städten des griechischen Ostens (Stuttgart 1993) 384 with n. 150.

4. On the evolution of the role of the boule in the Hellenistic period, see now Helmut Mueller, “Bemerkungen zu Funktion und Bedeutung des Rats in den hellenistischen Städten,” in Stadtbild und Bürgerbild im Hellenismus, eds. Michael Woerrle and Paul Zanker (Munich 1995) 41-54.

5. It is possible that Herakleia by the Latmos and Magnesia had been briefly under Attalid suzerainty in the 230s; see B. Haussoullier, Rev. phil. 23 (1899) 283-284 no. 5-6 and Inschriften von Magnesia 89.7 and 98.3. Kallet-Marx is a bit inconsistent about the degree of involvement of Karia in the war. At 113 n. 71 he writes that judgment on this matter “depends … on the identity of the Stratonicea where Aristonicus was captured … and whether actual operations [in Karia] accompanied the Roman requests for troops and supplies…” But (as Kallet-Marx knows at 114) the Stratonikeia was the Lydian city on the Kaikos, not the Karian, as argued long ago by T.R.S. Broughton, “Stratoniceia and Aristonicus,”CP 29 (1934) 252-254, and accepted by Louis Robert, Villes d’Asie Mineure 2 (Paris 1962) 261-271. The only text that unequivocally gives operations in Karia is Florus 1.35.4, attesting to Aristonikos’ capture by force of Myndos. Inscriptions from Halikarnassos and Bargylia supporting Roman operations confirm that any threat was confined to coastal towns ( CIG 2501 with A. Wilhelm, JAOI 11 [1908] 69-70 and IK Iasos and Bargylia 612).

6. Jeanne and Louis Robert, Claros I. Decrets hellenistiques 1 (Paris 1989). The two important inscriptions published here provide crucial evidence for many of Kallet-Marx’s arguments.

7. For a somewhat different assessment of Diodoros’ use of Poseidonios, see Kenneth S. Sacks, Diodorus Siculus and the First Century (Princeton 1990) 142-154, 211-212.

8. The same view was expressed, though contaminated by the “modern tradition of emphasizing Greek emotion” that Kallet-Marx resists (157), almost fifty years ago by David Magie in Roman Rule in Asia Minor (Princeton 1950) 1.217: by means of the massacres “the cities of Asia were now irrevocably bound to [Mithridates’] cause.”

9. See, for instance, Joyce Reynolds, Aphrodiasias and Rome (London 1982) 11-16 no. 2 with col. I, line 6 for disloyal Aphrodisians, 16-20 no. 3, and Reynolds’ remarks at p. 16; or, for Thasos, Robert K. Sherk, Roman Documents from the Greek East (Baltimore 1969) 20 col. I C lines 1-6.

10. IG XII 3.173 (Sherk, Documents 16). A small note: this treaty is a renewal (see line A3: ἀνανεώσασθαι) and its original date is not known.

11. For references see P.M. Nigdeli, πολίτευμα και καινωνία των πόλεων των κυκλάδων κατά την ἑλληνιστική και αὐτοκρατορικη ἐρόχη (Thessalonike 1990) 14 with n. 11 and IG XII 3.50.

12. A minor note: discussion of the date of the inscription from Alabanda published in BCH 10 (1886) 299-306 no. 1 (treated at 268 n. 32) should now start from the study of Christian Marek, “Karien im ersten Mithradatischen Krieg,” in Alte Geschichte und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Festschrift für Karl Christ zum 65. Geburtstag, eds. Peter Kneissl and Volker Losemann (Darmstadt 1988) 294-302.

13. P. Freeman, “The Province of Cilicia and its Origins,” in The Defence of the Roman and Byzantine East, eds. Philip Freeman and David Kennedy, BAR International Series 297(i) (Oxford 1986) 253-275.

14. P.W.M. Freeman, “Pompey’s Eastern Settlement: a Matter of Presentation?”Latomus 227 (1994) 143-179. And see now also “The Annexation of Arabia and imperial Grand Strategy,” in The Roman Army in the East, ed. David L. Kennedy, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplement 18 (Ann Arbor 1996) 91-118.

15. Conveniently, P.A. Brunt, Italian Manpower 225 B.C.-A.D. 14 (Oxford 1971) 449 Table XIV.

16. J.S. Richardson, Hispaniae. Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, 218-82 BC (Cambridge 1986) 178-179.