BMCR 2003.03.17

The Greek East in the Roman Context. Proceedings of a Colloquium Organised by the Finnish Institute at Athens, May 21 and 22, 1999. Papers and Monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens, VII

, , The Greek East in the Roman context : proceedings of a colloquium organised by the Finnish Institute at Athens ; May 21 and 22, 1999. Papers and monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens, v. 7. Helsinki: Bookstore Tiedekirja, 2001. ii, 217 pages, 13 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.. ISBN 9519880607.

In the closing months of 2001 and the first of 2002 four new books on the Greek East in the period of Roman rule were published: S. Goldhill (ed.), Being Greek under Rome. Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire (Cambridge 2001); T. Whitmarsh, Greek Literature and the Roman Empire. The Politics of Imitation (Oxford 2001); O. Salomies (ed.), The Greek East in the Roman Context (Helsinki 2001); E.N. Ostenfeld (ed.), Greek Romans and Roman Greeks. Studies in Cultural Interaction (Aarhus 2002). The first two of these volumes stand out in particular for the importance attached to the literary sources as research material and for the interest shown in models elaborated by scholars like H. Bhabha, active outside the field of Classics. However, while the papers edited by Goldhill and the pages by Whitmarsh include some successful attempts at defining Greek cultural identity in Roman times, they remain somewhat lacking in treatment of the characteristics and effects of Roman domination in the Greek world. The volume edited by Salomies, which comprises twelve papers originally presented at a congress held at the Finnish Institute in Athens in 1999, which we shall be examining here in detail, is the one that comes closest to traditional lines of research. The focus is mainly on detailed analysis of the documentary sources and, except for a few contributions, the authors set out to supply answers on single, concrete issues rather than address subjects of more general historical import. Finally, the chiasmus characterising the title of the volume edited by Ostenfeld can be seen as symptomatic of the need emerging in many of the contributions to address phenomena of cultural interaction, and it is in fact this very need that leads some of the authors to search out unfamiliar areas of study.

With no introduction (or conclusion) accounting for the aims and approaches of the volume, The Greek East in the Roman Context begins with a rapid survey of “The Eastern Roman provinces till Diocletian” (1-9) by Bengst E. Thomasson, illustrating the Roman provincial system in the eastern Mediterranean area. After a prologue dedicated to the republican period, the author analyses the interventions of Augustus and goes on to consider the rank of governors in the senatorial and imperial provinces. In the final part of his contribution Thomasson turns his attention to the later provinces, such as Galatia and Lycia, formed in the first half of the first century AD, or Cilicia, reorganised by Vespasian in 72 AD. He also considers the province of Caria-Phrygia, whose origins he traces back to the mid-third century AD, although he does not explain why. In this respect S. Dmitriev1 is convincing with his view of the formation of the double province as having been dictated by military necessity subsequent to the threat from the Goths in western Asia Minor in the 250s/260s. After this period, according to Dmitriev, the double province must have been dissolved and then revived in the late third century and early fourth century but not in direct continuation of the earlier status.

The most thought-provoking contribution to the volume, and thus worthy of close analysis, is next, Christopher Jones on “Memories of the Roman Republic in the Greek East” (11-18). Taking issue with Simon Swain,2 who favours the literary sources and pays more attention to the Greek identity of authors like Plutarch and Dio of Prusa than to their Roman contacts, Jones argues: “If we wish to study the Greeks under Roman rule, we cannot confine ourselves to the literary texts which Byzantine choice has preserved for us. We must use those texts in conjunction with all the available evidence, verbal and visual … ” (18). This is a viewpoint we cannot but share; of course, every type of evidence serves in historical reconstruction, but there is an important little point to be made about the position Jones seems to be asserting throughout his paper, namely that all the literary, epigraphic and numismatic sources are of an equal nature, “not in contradiction” (12), to be taken “in conjunction” (18), seeking solutions for the deficiencies of one area in the others or confirmation of one source in another. Here we must point out that, although all constitute contextualised types of material, the epigraphic, numismatic and archaeological sources on the one hand, and the literary sources on the other cannot be searched in quite the same way by scholars dealing with the Greek East in the period of Roman rule, and in any case they will not give the same answers. For example, concerning political life we are unlikely to get anything more than essentially administrative evidence from an inscription: the conflicts of political life — indeed the very existence of political life — are to be found rather in the writings of Dio of Prusa, say, or Aelius Aristides. Honorary decrees, issued by civic bodies that were certainly not looking for trouble with the Roman authorities, tend to convey an image of the “Greeks under Roman Rule” as fairly comfortably integrated in the context of empire, while the literary texts, by their very nature far more complex and argued out, allude to situations of conflict even while asserting the authors’ favourable attitude to ὁμόνοια. It is the literary texts that reveal how very far from monolithic were the Greeks’ attitudes to Rome. Thus inscriptions and literary texts fail to provide perfectly matching images.

The specific subject of Jones’s paper is the memories of the Roman republic in the Greek East, and it is addressed in opposition to Ewen Bowie, who argued in a well-known paper that in the centuries of the empire the Roman republican period was “of no interest” to the Greeks, who “only admired the Greek past which could exhibit great men or great deeds.”3 Jones’s study begins with mention of the biographical and historical works of such Greek authors as Plutarch, Appian and Cassius Dio, to whom we owe much of the information we have on the late republic as a whole. Attention then turns to the local dimension of the Greek East and some inscriptions of the second and first centuries BC commemorating eminent figures. Finally it comes to a series of inscriptions from cities like Mopsouhestia in Cilicia and Aphrodisias in Caria recording concessions received from and grateful relations with Roman generals and governors, above all in the course of the first Mithridatic War. These concessions and relations, it is stressed, were long a part of the collective memories of the cities, often serving as the basis upon which the cities would set out to defend their rights or acquire new ones in the imperial age. Thus Jones is able to demonstrate some interest in the Roman republic being taken in the Greek East, although it might be defined as a professional interest in the case of historians like Appian and Cassius Dio, and an interest with ulterior ends in the case of the cities; moreover, as far as I can see, neither admiration nor regret came into it in the imperial age.

So much also emerges from the first two chapters of the Lives of Cimon and Lucullus, cited by Jones, where, full of gratitude to Lucullus, Plutarch recalls the statue raised to him in the agora of Chaeronea to thank him for having saved the city from the accusation made against it “of having murdered a Roman citizen” (12). Jones goes no further, but actually the story is a bit more complicated. As Plutarch himself wrote, it was in fact a young man of ancient descent, Damon, who killed the Roman citizen, who happened to be the commander of a Roman cohort and had been paying excessive attentions to him. After the murder Damon took to the bush with a group of friends who had helped him. Eventually, however, he was tricked into making for Chaeronea, where he was killed while anointing himself. Now, the important point about how the whole story was remembered at Chaeronea in the imperial period is not only, as Jones seems to believe, that the inhabitants of the city were profoundly grateful to Lucullus for having lifted the taint from them but also that at least until the beginning of the second century AD, as we can read in Plutarch, some members of the population thought they could hear confused noises and see apparitions coming from the place where Damon had been killed, thus revealing misgivings about the death of the young man.4 In short, at over a century’s distance the late republic was not a period the people of Chaeronea had particularly fond memories of. This also seems to have been the case with various other cities of the Greek East that had known serious internal conflict in the period between the Mithridatic wars and the battle of Actium. Information about such strife is usually to be found in the literary sources, excellently represented by Strabo in the case of Asia Minor,5 although Jones does not take him into consideration in his contribution. Over and above all this, however, what is certain is that during the imperial age it was not, as Bowie well demonstrates, the late republic that was “admired” in the Greek world, but Athens, Sparta and the classical period.

Of great importance for an understanding of the development of the idea of Hellenism between the first century BC and the third century AD is the contribution by Jean-Louis Ferrary, “Rome et la géographie de l’hellénisme: réflexions sur ‘hellènes’ et ‘panhellènes’ dans les inscriptions d’époque romaine” (19-35). He takes as his starting point two inscriptions found at Claros: in the first, the city of Colophon honours Q. Cicero, brother of the orator and proconsul of Asia (61-59 B.C.), as εὐεργέτης τῶν Ἑλλήνων and πάτρων τοῦ δήμου, while the second pays homage to Octavian (between 31 and 28 BC) for, among other things, the benefactions he bestowed εἰς τὴν πόλιν and κοινῶς εἰς τοὺς Πανέλληνας. Having stressed the extreme ambiguity of the expression οἱ Ἕλληνες, and having contested the myth of the Pan-Hellenism of the Delphic Amphictyony, the author goes on tentatively to suggest we might see in the Ἕλληνες and Πανέλληνες (all the Greeks) of the two inscriptions the members of the koinon of the province of Asia ( κοινὸν τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀσίας Ἑλλήνων) which, he holds, took shape with this denomination after Sulla had reorganised the province. Essentially, as he sees it, once the process that began with Alexander and saw Hellenisation of the area covered by the province of Asia had been concluded in the early first century BC, upon the suggestion of the provincials the term Ἕλληνες was extended to all the inhabitants, regardless of their origins.

In the face of application of the term Ἕλληνες spreading beyond the centre of the Greek world, reaching also into Bithynia and Cyrene, Ferrary sees a reaction in favour of the “true Greece” in the imperial age when Nero addressed the Greeks in Corinth without any further qualification, but accorded freedom only to those living within the limits of the province of Achaia and of the Peloponnese. A form of distinction between central and peripheral Hellenism is, I believe, also to be seen between the late first and early second century AD in an author like Dio of Prusa, and perhaps also in Plutarch. Ferrary concludes his contribution with some reflections on the Panhellenion, created under Hadrian in response to the request of certain Greek cities, as Christopher Jones aptly pointed out a few years ago.6 Looking beyond the limits of Greece itself in the choice of its members, the Panhellenion proposed a rigorous conception of Greekness, tending to exclude the marginal areas devoid of tradition but ready to accept those able to demonstrate their ties with the motherland. Thus the way was paved to the Hellenism of the Byzantine period.

The paper by Athanasios Rizakis, “La constitution des élites municipales dans le colonies romaines de la province d’Achaïe” (37-49), opens a section in the volume consisting of five contributions dedicated to the “true Greece”. What marks out Rizakis’s contribution from the others, which deal with individual monuments or precise points, is the interest in broad reconstruction in terms of economic and, more particularly, social history, while at the same time approaching the issues with rather more attention to institutional aspects and epigraphic material than Susan Alcock shows in Graecia Capta. The Landscapes of Roman Greece (Cambridge 1993). Rizakis immediately brings the focus to bear on the ability to modify the political geography of the Greek world revealed by the Roman colonies, as appears in Achaia and Macedonia at the end of the republic and the beginning of empire. These colonies brought about nothing short of revolution in the demographic and social balance of the cities receiving them, evidenced above all in the process of formation of the new elite (magistrates in office and decurions). One characteristic common to Corinth and Patras, the two major colonies of the province of Achaia, and marking them out from the colonies of the West is to be seen Rizakis finds, in the virtual absence of local notables in their ruling classes, to judge by the sources available to us. Apart from this, however, there appear to be no more affinities between Corinth and Patras as far as the constitution of their elites is concerned. Corinth, a colony created by Caesar, included among its magistrates and decurions in the first place the dictator’s freedmen, and the freedmen and clients of Anthony and his deputies and in the second place negotiatores from families long settled in the East and possibly connected with rich equites and senators. We have no sure evidence of the presence of military elements in the ruling class of the colony, while it does seem to have included notables from centres not far from Corinth, attracted by the opportunities it offered also as main city of the province.7 In comparison with the developments in Corinth, the process of formation of the elite of the colony of Patras, created by Augustus, appears decidedly more straightforward. Here the leading role seems to have been played by the veterans sent by the emperor as first colonists, and scores of years later their descendants still had Patras firmly under their control. Thus, although they belonged to the same province Corinth and Patras show two different patterns in the formation of their respective elites, well reflecting the complexity of the Greek world that Rome had to contend with.

The series of contributions on the “true Greece” continues with Maria Kantiréa’s “Remarques sur le culte de la domus Augusta en Achaïe de la mort d’Auguste à Néron” (51-60). The author shows how, while the dynastic cult had in fact existed in official forms under the first emperors in the province of Achaia, it took on a truly institutional nature under Claudius, when a certain number of buildings were also raised ad hoc. Kostas Buraselis, in turn, draws on ample documentation in the first of his “Two notes on Theophanes’ descendants” (61-70) to reconstruct the cult paid by the city of Mytilene to its benefactor Theophanes, friend and historian of Pompey. Even in c. 35 AD he and his wife seem to have been the only gods exhibited on the city’s coins. Given this particular state of affairs, the descendants of Theophanes, including Q. Pompeius Macer, praetor in 15 AD, had automatically to take on a condition of absolute pre-eminence at Mytilene, and this, according to Buraselis, was the real reason for the suspicions and accusations of the emperor Tiberius, which eventually drove the ex-praetor and his father to commit suicide (Tac., Ann. 6.18.2). In the second note the author deals with a descendant of Theophanes, M. Pompeius M.f. Macrinus, consul suff. in 115 AD, who was apparently awarded the honorific byname of Neos Theophanes by Mytilene for his concrete commitment in aid of the city at a time of political difficulty, of the type adumbrated in an oration by Aelius Aristides (or. 24. 54-56 K).

Mika Kajava opens his contribution, “Vesta and Athens” (71-94), with a survey of the attestations of the cult of Vesta in the Athens of the early imperial age, and goes on to demonstrate, convincingly, that the cult place must have been the temple of Roma and Augustus, raised on the Acropolis almost certainly in 19 BC as a memorial to Augustus’ victory over the Parthians.8 However, according to the author, the date of Vesta’s arrival in Athens as a divinity worshiped in the temple of Roma and Augustus — round in form like the temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum — must have been later than March 12 BC, when Augustus became pontifex maximus. This brief summary of Kajava’s contribution hardly does justice to a text offering a wealth of documentation and penetrating analysis. One aspect we must stress here is the special attention the author dedicates to the mirror-like play at work in cults between Rome and Athens under the reign of Augustus.

A straightforwardly epigraphic type of approach is to be seen in the contribution by Simone Follet and Dina Peppas Delmousou, “Les dedicaces chorégiques d’époque flavienne et antonine à Athènes” (95-117), presenting the text complete with translation and annotation of fourteen choregic Athenian inscriptions of the imperial period. Apart from the information they provide on the performance of choral competitions in imperial age Athens, these inscriptions — which adopt the formulary or orthography and style of the corresponding inscriptions of the fifth and fourth century BC — are extremely significant, as already noted by S. B. Aleshire,9 as evidence of the ‘archaizing’ taste current in the Attic city under the Flavians and Antonines.

The contribution by Petros Themelis, “Roman Messene. The Gymnasium” (119-126), sets out the results of excavation on an important building carried out by the author for about fifteen years at Messene. Forming one architectural unit with the stadium, the gymnasium was still well-preserved in the second century AD, in the times of Pausanias. Themelis provides a fairly thorough description of it, but with no plans. Particularly interesting is the epigraphic material retrieved with excavation, among other things highlighting, on the evidence of a list of ephebi coming from other centres of Messenia, the role played by the city as regional pole of attraction.

Following on the section dealing with imperial Greece, Maurice Sartre takes us to Syria with a paper constructed on solidly historical lines, “Romains et Italiens en Syrie: Contribution à l’histoire de la première province romaine de Syrie” (127-140). Far from being originally Greek, the area had only been recently, and incompletely, Hellenised at the time of Pompey’s conquest. The author’s interest here lies not so much in retracing the process of Hellenisation in Syria as in identifying the lines followed between 64 and 31 BC in the organization and administration of the Roman province created there. This province was characterised by absence of geographical continuity and the presence of a variety of forms of political aggregation, both being the heritage of prolonged disaggregation of the Seleucid kingdom before it came to an end. Within the province Sartre sees Rome as represented mainly by (not very many) publicans, i.e. tax collectors, and a certain number of negotiatores, while no colonies are recorded for the period in question, nor are there any signs of occupation of the land by individuals or groups from Italy. In fact, the Romans chose other ways of asserting their presence in the local environment in the first province of Syria. Pompey, in particular, sought support in the Hellenised cities, but the most effective form of relations, according to the author, was practised by personages such as Cassius or Anthony, who accorded their favour to local dynasts who then represented the foundations for their power in the region. After Actium there appears to have been some change in the form of Roman presence in Syria, when Berytus became a Roman colony in c. 15 BC.

The volume closes with two contributions in the epigraphic field by two well-known Finnish specialists: “Honorific Inscriptions for Roman Senators in the Greek East during the Empire” (141-187) by the editor of the volume, Olli Salomies, and “Latin Cognomina in the Greek East” (189-202) by Heikki Solin. The former will undoubtedly long stand as essential reference work regarding honorary inscriptions for Roman senators in the Greek East. Close analysis of the formal aspects is followed by detailed listing with distribution of the material according to province and distinction between Latin and Greek, with and without cursus. Here we see that among the Latin inscriptions — found mostly in colonies or the capitals of provinces — a clear majority are with cursus, while the Greek inscriptions tend to be without cursus. As for the chronology, Salomies notes that, while the inscriptions of the early imperial period appear mostly to honour the governors, they tend to celebrate the local senators after the Antonines, due in part to the fact that from the reign of Trajan onwards the entry of Greeks from the Eastern provinces into the Roman Senate was firmly established. The author has many more points to make, all very precise, but we have no room here to discuss them. There is, however, a limitation to the scope of the paper in that it fails to take account, in the wake of Paul Veyne, of the aspects concerning mentality; it would have been enlightening to have some considerations of the concept of honour which was typical of the Greeks in the imperial period, together with analysis of the sense of loyalty senators from the Greek East had towards their cities of origin — loyalty reciprocated with the carving of an honorary inscription.

In his contribution Solin deals with the use of Latin praenomina, gentile names and cognomina in the Greek East, above all in Athens and central Greece. For Athens in particular he presents an annotated list of the most widespread Latin cognomina ( Πρῖμος, Ῥουφος…) and shows how use would also be made in the city of praenomina such as Γάιος, Μᾶρκος or Πόπλιος. Moreover, Solin has something significant to say about the not infrequent appearance, again in Athens, of the gentile name Μουσώονιος in the second century AD, taken to have derived from the fame enjoyed in the Greek world by the Roman eques and Stoic philosopher C. Musonius Rufus, who lived in the latter half of the first century AD.

In conclusion, the approach in these contributions on the Greek East in the Roman context is to favour use of the documentary and in particular epigraphic sources without neglecting the literary sources where relevant. Precise, detailed and, in some cases, innovative as these papers are, at the level of content they are only loosely linked, if at all. Outstanding for the historical interests and scope of the themes addressed are the contributions by Jones, Ferrary, Rizakis and Sartre. The Index at the end of the volume, arranged in various sections, is extremely useful.


1. S. Dmitriev, “The End of Provincia Asia”, Historia 50 (2001), 468-489.

2. S. Swain, Hellenism and Empire. Language, Classicism, and Power in the Greek World, AD 50-250, Oxford 1996.

3. E.L. Bowie, “The Greeks and their Past in the Second Sophistic”, P & P 46 (1970), 3-41 (repr. with some changes in M.I. Finley (ed.), Studies in Ancient Society, London 1974, 166-209).

4. See J. Thornton, Lo storico, il grammatico, il bandito. Momenti della resistenza greca all’Imperium Romanum, Catania 2001, 215-247, and with a different perspective C.S. Mackay, “Damon of Chaeronea. The Loyalties of a Boeotian Town during the First Mithridatic War”, Klio 82 (2000), 91-106.

5. See e.g. Strabo 14. 2. 24, 14. 5. 4, 14. 5. 14.

6. C.P. Jones, “The Panhellenion”, Chriron 26 (1996), 29-56.

7. On the lure a Roman colony exerted on the nearby centres in the Greek world it is illuminating to read or. 41 by Dio of Prusa with reference to Apamea in Bithynia.

8. For a different point of view, see H. Whittaker, “Some Reflections on the Temple to the Goddess Roma and Augustus on the Acropolis at Athens”, in E.N. Ostenfeld (ed.), Greek Romans and Roman Greeks. Studies in Cultural Interaction, Aarhus 2002, 25-39.

9. S.B. Aleshire, “The Identification of Archaizing Inscriptions from Roman Attica”, in XI Congresso Internazionale di Epigrafia Greca e Latina, Preatti, Roma 1997, 459-467.